House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was infrastructure.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Parkdale—High Park (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House March 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, that is exactly what needs to happen if the government has any credibility at all.

In fact, it is otherwise not just showing its character in the cuts to come, but that it is prepared to wage a full-out attack on Ontario. It is abrogating the agreement unilaterally. It is not negotiating with Ontario in good faith. Most of all, it is hurting the very people for whom it was intended.

Again, this is the first chance the government has had to show what it will do for new immigrants but so far it has been unilateral cuts and unilateral changes to the policies and saying that Ontario no longer matters to it.

Committees of the House March 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, the consequences of the decision are a mess because it is not only volunteers, but it is expertise and trust relationships as well. For example, the South Asian women have a co-operative for sewing. They have managed to get all kinds of community volunteers to donate sewing machines. They have actually created an employability level among women, in particular, who are unable to be part of the workforce. That will all disappear.

The volunteers will try to fill the gap and the government will try to take advantage of that. The relatively small amounts of money work out to be $250 to $400. While the government talks about much larger numbers, it is really only for the first three years that people are here. Those things are going to disappear. It is truly a foolhardy decision from an economic standpoint.

Committees of the House March 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, I was very proud to be part of an Ontario cabinet that sat down with a federal Liberal government and arranged the very increases for which the member has the temerity to stand in the House and try to take credit. He had nothing to do with the extra money coming, and he knows it, yet still he stands there with that fake kind of responsibility taking.

I want the minister to take the responsibility for his decisions. Yes, I helped to negotiate that and, yes, we helped to bring that about, but there was a willing government that knew we should not have to pay for all the settlement services as we did in the past before the Mike Harris government cut them in Ontario. The Conservatives take away services for new immigrants. The first chance he had to make a difference is now, when that agreement with the Liberal government of Ontario and the Liberal government in Ottawa expired. What did he do? He cut the money and—

Committees of the House March 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, this is perhaps one of the most callous, calculating acts the government has yet shown us, revealing its character, taking advantage of people who are, by definition, the most vulnerable, new Canadians who are not yet official Canadians, people who do not belong to the economic class to which the government wishes to talk.

Just before the holiday season, the government snuck in these cuts. It handed some agencies their walking papers after 25 years in business. It is effectively shutting down 33 agencies with no fair evaluation. None of the information has been released to justify the cuts. On one hand, the government brags that immigration is up. On the other hand, it quietly cuts the money to help new immigrants to become successful.

It is incredible that the minister opposite does not have the temerity, the class or the character to stand behind what he has done. He will not release the information to show how much money he has cut, what agencies will lose and what kind of replacement plan is in place to help people.

The 78,000 people, in the course of following the path that every family represented in the House has followed, require some level of support to go forward. These are not benefits or money in their pockets. This is language training, assistance to connect and be successful.

Suddenly the party in power, faced with the choice of wanting to look like phony good managers at the time of the budget, has decided to go after these people, to take away their language training and their chance to become successful in our country. There is no champion over there. No one over there will stand up for people's right to be part of our country. The same advantages that they, their families and earlier generations had are being denied these people. There are 78,000 people in the GTA alone who will lose services and no one in the government will stand up for them.

The government has come forward with cuts that are compounding an earlier bias it has had. The character of the government resonates through what it has put forward. It took away the money that was put forward by the previous government. The Canada-Ontario immigration agreement, a five-year agreement, forced the government to increase funding and the first chance it had, it cut that funding.

Even worse, when the Conservatives had the money, they decided to funnel it to their own ridings. They decided not to be fair with people, not to help people but to help themselves. In the analysis available, their own figures, we see that the dollars going to the city of Toronto are 40% less than the rest of Ontario because the electoral fortunes of the government always outweigh the interests of average Canadians, every time.

There is 23% less money going to the city of Toronto than the rest of Canada. That is before these cuts. Then the Conservatives have the gall, the callousness to cut these agencies off, in summary fashion, just before Christmas. About 1,000 settlement workers were laid off, many of them representing communities, having earned the trust of people to help them pull themselves together and become self-supporting.

The unemployment rate in Toronto, because of new immigrants, is 19%. It has almost doubled in the last year. We can all understand that people who have recently arrived often get the new jobs, last hired and first fired. The government, the minister and that group of people, who will not take up any accountability or responsibility for their actions, are pulling the rug out from under these people. It is the most callous thing possible and it is utterly unfair. There is no way to justify taking money away, shuttering the doors of these agencies, firing 1,000 people and cutting off the routes for success for people. This hand up for people has been taken away.

Advanced language training so engineers can get out of cabs and start helping to build this country, doctors, nurses and other professionals receiving this help are going to be kicked out of classes on March 31, and every member opposite is going to sit there and do nothing about it. No government member will speak up for this ahead of the budget and will not speak up today for the very idea of Canada having an official welcome that stands up to scrutiny.

It is not generosity. It is not money from the dresser or the pockets of the people opposite. This is what we provide in our country. It is respect. It is to let people know they do not struggle by themselves. They can come to this country, even if they have a different language or need educational equivalency, and we will help them because it makes sense to do that.

There is a big divide opening up between the party that runs the government today and other people in the House, and certainly our party. We believe people, with a little help, can make it tremendously well on their own. The people opposite believe there are some people blessed and some people who are not. It is a fundamental issue.

There is an absence of sincerity. When the Conservatives come forward to say that they want to do something for new immigrants, they mean the new immigrants they will get to vote for them. However, the Ethiopians, Eritreans, South Asian women and other agencies are carefully selected by the government as the agencies to be defunded.

There are some 1,300 or 1,500 Afghan translators who supported our troops in pursuit of their mission. They will be coming to Canada because it is not safe for them in Afghanistan. They are supposed to be acclimatized to Canada largely by the Afghan Association of Ontario. On the one hand, this is what the government says it is going to be doing. On the other hand, it is cutting almost all of the funding to the Afghan Association of Ontario.

There is only one way out for the government and that is to cancel these cuts and follow the intent of this motion. If the Conservatives have strength of conviction, if they believe they can justify this, then postpone the cuts for three months. Let us see if the government can justify ripping the heart out of immigrant services in the city of Toronto.

The message the government is sending is not just to the people who live in the 416 or 905 areas, where Conservatives put out press releases from candidates before the last election saying that they would put welcome programs into the Peel School Board. Now the government is ripping them out and has decided it is better to look like a big fiscal manager.

The government is taking away the language programs for parents and their kids. One of the smartest things is to expose children and their parents to the English language before they go to school. That was being done and the government is taking them away from people.

I challenge the minister and any member opposite to stand and show where those 80,000 people will go for their services. Do they just end up in confusion and get pushed onto other levels of government, social assistance and endure personal suffering simply because the government has its priorities wrong?

The Conservatives thought they could get away with it. They think new immigrants will be quiet and complacent. However, I have news for them. Those new immigrants are people who want to build Canada. They have a sense of themselves. They are the ones who set up a website at where everyone can see the damage that has been done to our communities. All people are asking for is a fair start for new immigrants to succeed. This has been widely supported. It has gone from the small immigrant groups to the larger immigrant groups and I think pretty soon it will go to the mainstream.

The government is showing its character. It is not something that is done in front of the cameras when people are watching. It is what it does when no one is watching. Just before Christmas the government showed its character by cutting funding to the groups that help some of the most vulnerable, and it cannot justify that. It took money from parts of the country where it was needed to fund its electoral fortunes in other parts of the country. The government will be exposed for that because there is no other answer.

I would be happy to table, for the benefit of all members of the House, the figures, the cuts, that are happening in the city of Toronto. Again, I challenge anyone opposite to table anything that contradicts this. Every figure comes from the government. Every fact is what the government put forward, and it is devastating to see.

The government had an opportunity to show if it stood for a fair start and a hand up for new immigrants, or just propaganda. Instead it made the choice against the success of the wide swath of people coming forward.

People chose Canada and we selected them to come. That is a contract. That is a trust. What is happening today is a breach of trust. It is taking away from that.

There are perhaps two or three weeks left to the budget and we intend to make the government come to terms with the character it has shown in its reckless attack on people who it thinks cannot speak for themselves. It is the quiet noises that matter—

Abolition of Early Parole Act February 16th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would like to raise something which people have been nibbling on the edges of, and that is the whole idea of what this House is for when it comes to matters of justice and not vengeance. Who in this House has the right to delight in those emotions that do not belong to us when we can never offer the answer?

I would like to ask the member if he would comment on what he sees happening in this House as it tries to move toward improving this law without those studies, without that consideration. What does it say about us as legislators who should tell victims what we can really do for them, what we can really accomplish and make happen versus what we cannot and what this bill means instead?

Business of Supply February 10th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I talked about developing a sustainable development philosophy, which is something that the members of our party share. Increasing respect for nature is now part of our Canadian identity. We can take such an approach. For example, we are contemplating the idea of recognizing the value of nature in our national accounts. We should recognize that there are always benefits related to nature, wildlife and the environment. Moreover, there must be a core reason for dealing with the issue, correcting it immediately and recognizing the value of our choice.

I hope there is a way to change the whole way we approach these problems. I hope a shift in philosophy will not be restricted to any one party but that it can be shared by all around sustainable development. Things like natural capital and so on are concepts other countries are adopting. We need to admit our mistakes, pay for them in real time and then we become a better society because of it.

Business of Supply February 10th, 2011

Madam Speaker, that is an important objective today and, indeed, it should be a unanimous decision. Each member should do some soul-searching. We have an official government and it is very important to enlist its support today. I am asking all hon. members to recognize the message sent a long time ago. What will the children and grandchildren's reaction be if we are not all prepared to support this request? I hope that, all together, we can assume our responsibility today.

Business of Supply February 10th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member at least coming part way to the invitation to non-partisanship.

I am not totally familiar with the efforts that were made to bring the issue to this place. As I was not a member of this House at the time, I literally do not have a good answer for the member. In absence of that, the member could stand in some kind of condemnation but I do not think it helps us today.

I think we are here today, each of us elected in the old British parliamentary system, to stand in our place and do what is right. It is not convenient that this happens to be the Liberal governments, provincial and federal, but we are, many years later, being asked to apply and are applying our perspective. I only ask the same of the member and of every member of this House. I hope I did that in a way that did not infer any moral superiority to this generation over that. However, we should know the perspective and, if we have a chance to exercise it, we should do it in a way that gives honour to this place and to that loss that took place. That is what I am recommending.

Business of Supply February 10th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I am just saying that it was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now. I do not pass judgment on the motivations of the people involved. It is possible to do that today because there are no other considerations constituting a kind of barrier.

It is a moral issue having to do with the power the government exercised over some of our fellow citizens. It is certainly unacceptable and inexcusable, both then and now. However, it is possible to have a clearer perspective today. I encourage all members of the House to embrace this perspective in a spirit free of all other interests. I hope that all the people living in that area will be freed from the suspicion that someone may be opposed to their interests or their full participation in society.

Business of Supply February 10th, 2011

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour for me to participate in this debate on a historic event, but it is also our duty because of the government's actions and our philosophy on the environment. We used to think that we had to choose between the environment and the economy. Now, in modern days, everyone understands that we have to achieve a balance and solve this problem without having to make this type of choice.

The way people in the Forillon Park region were treated, unfortunately, is unacceptable and hard to understand today. As the Liberal Party's official environment critic, I want to say that our party will definitely be supporting this motion.

The government also has to have a clear understanding of the new approach to a challenge like this. Families and the community have suffered greatly and we have to express our empathy. We are not asking that the House make only a simple gesture, but rather a meaningful gesture. I repeat the request or invitation from the other members in the House of Commons, to all the members here, to make a unanimous gesture towards the people affected by the creation of Forillon Park.

It is very important for us today to reflect on how things were done in a different era and what that means. It should not be done in condemnation in the sense of not understanding some of the context where there were laws and executions by the provincial government. Things were done by the two governments of the day that created an outcome, which I do not think anyone in this place would say was intended. However, everyone in this place can say that this was not acceptable and should not stand on the historical record without some kind of recognition that is sincere, rooted in an understanding of what people have gone through in being displaced in that fashion by their official governments.

Most people in this place have difficulty relating to that. There have obviously been experiences around the world with that, but, luckily, few in our country. It led to a change in policy by the government of the day shortly thereafter, or at least in the years that followed, but only after a great deal of difficulty for the families. It is incontestable that we would years later, with the benefit of the perspective we have today, let this stand.

It is not just sustainable development; it is really about how we come together fundamentally around preserving the environment and then looking at the benefits and the impacts on people. We cannot do just one or the other.

In this case, it was the thrust, an honourable thing, I suppose, in its intention, to create a park and so on. Without doubt, that somehow went awry and caused the degree of hardship, both actual, in the sense of buildings being destroyed, tensions between authorities and citizens and so forth, and also in terms of the sense of isolation and grievance the people affected feel. That reaches forward even to today.

On the tenor of this debate, for this to be an official apology, for this to give respect to the suffering of the people, which is real, which we can relate to it and which may touch a few members of the House, we cannot and should not try to take away or say we can excuse it. To do that, we need to minimize the amount of partisan advantage we try to take in being able to bring this forward.

If I were a family member reading the transcripts of what came forward today, I would want to know that this was put in a context that actually told me something genuine took place, that this was not political football or somebody trying to make points on the backs of what was a terrible thing to have happen, having a government take something away from us in a manner with which, by all the reports of the day, people fundamentally did not agree, did not understand and did not have perhaps the rights of recourse. They had to seek those in the courts and only received some kind of compensation years later.

We are here today for a different kind of compensation. It is not about financial compensation; it is about respect. Respect cannot be offered if we simply go around the House pointing fingers at our respective past administrations or at the moral superiority we might all have in hindsight. I do not think it is about condemnation so much as it is there is a learned experience, that whatever the reluctance have been of governments or of parliamentarians or houses of commons in years past, that we will get over that today. Again, that legacy does not belong to us. It belongs to the families that are affected.

Going forward, we need to see a parks policy that not only gets rid of the egregious things that happened there. I believe that was taken care of in 1979 around the expropriations, negotiations and all those kinds of things. The law of the day that required people to not have any commercial businesses in the park and so on has been changed and modified so we are less prone to have these kinds of problems. However, beyond that, there has to be something meaningful about what we are doing today.

I want to believe that is the intent of bringing this forward, and I believe it is. To have it turn into anything else would be a bit sad, a bit more of a reflection on us than on any of the actual events of the day. There are very few of us who can say that we were part of those decisions. I have had occasion to hear from a few of the people who were involved before, at least peripherally. I think no one intended this to take place.

However, we are not here to offer any excuses for it, only to say that we have learned from it for parks going forward. Our ability to try to reconcile our desire to have a certain amount of nature protected and available in perpetuity for our children and our grandchildren, and those noble purposes, cannot be done on the backs of local citizens who have not had adequate means to access their rights.

To me, this is at the heart of the change that has to happen. Certainly our party thinks we are closest to it, where sustainable development is really a principle. It is something to use in every decision we make. It is not, as we sometimes hear, that we have to choose one over the other and then there are losers and winners. I guess that is what formed the standoff, unfortunately, in the case of Forillon Park.

I have heard at least a good degree of openness in the House today, but we have to understand the sensation, the honest experience that people have gone through. I do not think it takes a lot for us in 2011 to reach back and know what it must have felt to have the weight of official organizations working against average citizens in this fashion. That is not to say there was not a perspective on both sides, but that the preponderance of what happened is something we do want to identify. It is the only way to give honour to that experience. We have to walk in the shoes of the people, their children and so on.

I appreciate the government saying that it would continue or expand some of the access rights of people and their families. I think we have to look at practical expressions going further than that. It is perhaps not the purpose of the motion, but it would be consistent with it. This is not just about free access so people can visit gravesites, but about some honouring of the people for the sacrifice they made, recognizing that they lost in a couple of ways. They not only lost the territory they made their homes on but also a sense of belonging.

Both levels of government were there and seen to be hostile to them. That is something we have to heal. We have to be part of that. I think that is the main reason we are discussing this today.

What has been requested is neither money nor material things. It is simply an honest and sincere and, hopefully, widely shared and unanimous apology to say that those events were regrettable and that we have a sincere regret in this House for their having taken place, because we represent that same officialdom today that seemed to have abandoned the folks there before. The sensation felt by the people is something we can all relate to. It still informs some of the things people feel today and we rightfully owe it to people to be able to express that in our discussions here today.

We know that the government has talked somewhat about parks and having new ones established. It would behoove whoever sits on the government side to make sure that before we go forward with the establishment of other parks, we deal with this much less admirable part of our heritage, the manner in which this park was created. We have an anniversary that has passed, but one that we are still in a position to recognize 40 years after these events took place.

I believe it is in the capacity of everyone in this House not to see this as any kind of political jousting or exciting of old animosities, or even a condemnation, but one where have the benefit of seeing what happened. We are not superior, we are not having a better outlook, but we have learned. We have the benefit of mistakes. A very great part of what happened with Forillon Park was a mistake, and that is why we have to be here today in this House in explaining this to the families that were affected and the children and grandchildren of the people who were disrupted in that way. This disruption took up many years of their life.

Once we have an apology from this House, then there are other things that could be contemplated and concrete things that could be done to effect a better reconciliation between the park that is there on our behalf and the people who were expropriated. When we create a public park, it is similar to our forcing kids to go to school and our doing other compulsory things, in that we are trying to do these things for the greater good. However, that benefit to the many cannot be at the expense of the rights of any small number of people. In hindsight, that is clearly what happened with Forillon Park. There is a management plan in place, and some of it reflects outreach to local citizens and people nearby, but while it acknowledges what happened, it does not quite jump the gap that exists.

It acknowledges the sensation that has arisen from the expropriation of the use of forests and so on, which has meant that the people who are living next to the park and who should have the most benefit from the park and who should feel the most sense of ownership instead have this lingering sense of loss and of displacement and injustice. The number of people affected does not matter. This the only body they can come to for redress. So it is a good way for us to move forward, if there is consensus.

In another vein, the government was supposed to create many more parks. The Government of Canada was in Nagoya, Japan and was a signatory to an agreement to put aside 15% of our land mass, a 50% increase over what we have today, and 10% of our coastal areas. We have less than half of one per cent in marine parks today, far behind those of other areas.

The pledge that every party and every member needs to make, in the spirit of non-partisanship, is that we will work to ensure that we find ways to reconcile local populations and the interests and rights of people in these areas in a way that honours the bad experiences that took place in Forillon National Park and the Gaspé.

The establishment of these parks will be a challenge. We have made some progress over the years. In Canada we think of ourselves as having infinite amounts of space and people sometimes bristle that we would put a park so close to other people, but there is that need, too. We have to form a stronger sense of stewardship with nature in Canada.

We are the largest per capita stewards of nature anywhere in the world. I know that other members of the House were in Nagoya, and I know that Canada has not maintained its reputation as a green country. Members know that the Canadian government was given a booby prize in Nagoya, a type of backwards award as the dodo, the government least likely to conserve plants, animals and nature simply because of the way it behaves.

This entire episode causes us to contemplate some fundamental principles. We could treat this as an unfortunate incident, but it arose out of the attitudes of the day, where if one wanted to make something in the public interest, then everything else became secondary. We need to find a better way of going forward.

The environmental issues of today are, if anything, quite a bit more urgent. There is pressure on us that no one in the House can really escape when it comes to climate change. I say biodiversity and climate change are very much linked. Dealing with how much nature we can conserve so we can do the good job of keeping the atmosphere clean and safe is very important, but we have to deal with questions from the past like those prompted by Forillon, including, how are we going to move forward?

None of us can duck those questions, not if we believe that part of the reason for our being here as representatives and for being people with privilege and power is to make sure that the next generations will be in better shape than we are. We have to be able to do that using methods that are quite a bit more effective and more amenable to nation-building than the ones used at Forillon.

However, we need to make progress. We have not done that lately and, hopefully, this debate will cause people to reflect on why we are not in a position of having learned and having been able to move things forward and having the possibility of consensus. If we size up the issues, whether they be the creation and setting aside of parks or dealing with people in a way that is honourable and just, we would think those things would supersede any other interests we would have, because they are now recognized as fairly fundamental.

We are going to have to create a lot more parks in the future and do a lot more things to change the way we use nature: it is not disposable. We are seeing the impact not just of carbon use but also of a whole range of things that we in this country have taken for granted. Somewhere in that attitude is what informed the mistakes that were made in Forillon. It is an attitude that is well recognized, and I think that many people in the House are open to adopting something quite different, an outlook that will move the country forward.

I look forward to hearing from all members of the House who are going to speak in this debate. I say this not out of partisan entrapment but with sincerity from having looked at this issue, which is not one that I was very familiar with in advance.

I feel that it is crucial that all members of the House make both a unanimous and a sincere gesture towards those people. Otherwise, this will continue to be a black mark for everyone.

The people of this region were failed once, at least. It would be very important not to fail them again. I do not hear from the government side any legal or other barriers to this, nor from this side, even though there were Liberal governments in place at the time.

We are not reaching back and saying that we have to defend every action at all costs, especially when we have the benefit of hindsight. There are many rooms that have to be made here, if we are to find a really good expression toward the people of Gaspé who were affected by the Forillon Park expropriation.

I look forward to seeing the outcome of the debate over Forillon Park and, even more, to seeing whether we take it in the spirit that is intended and find more common ground on how to approach our very big challenges when it comes to the environment, to protecting nature, and dealing with climate change. Not only the people of Forillon but also the people of Canada are looking at this chamber and wondering where the capacity for that is. Do we have the capacity to rise above partisanship? Will everything here be seen as partisan?

Whether members like it or not, everything we do for our partisan stripes is seen as self-interest. It is not seen as being done for the glory of a greater cause; it is seen as our being unable to put aside partisanship for the public. The public out there is hungry for us to move forward on these issues. It is not about big or small government, but at some level about integrity. We are asked not to make up for a lack of integrity but to assume the integrity that is available to us today.

Certainly, it is well within our bounds to ensure that we give a sincere and fulsome apology to the people affected by the Forillon Park expropriation. I am very happy to support this bill on behalf of the Liberal Party.