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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is regard.

NDP MP for London—Fanshawe (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Defence April 4th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the military ombudsman has reported that DND retaliates when reports critical of the department are released by his office. DND has also called the ombudsman “low influence, low interest” in initiatives to fix the failed transition process. It is unacceptable for a department to interfere with the work or be dismissive of the ombudsman. Will the minister honour the ombudsman's request and make the office independent from the department so he reports directly to Parliament to fulfill the mandate and effectively serve the military and veteran communities?

National Defence April 3rd, 2017

Madam Speaker, I would like to share at this point the propositions from It's Just 700, because it has the critical insights into how to begin to address military sexual trauma.

First, we need more women in the military. Like in politics, we need a critical mass of women in order to change the culture and ensure that women are heard.

Second, “A lot of people see things going on and say nothing.” The best way to stop assaults and abuse is to be a witness. When we see or experience something wrong, we have to report it. That provides a statement and it provides a witness. Sadly, many people choose to say nothing because they are afraid or are worried about their own careers.

I hope the government is listening and that we can uproot the problem of military sexual trauma from our Canadian Forces so our veterans do not continue to suffer.

National Defence April 3rd, 2017

Madam Speaker, the minister, in his response to my question regarding sexual misconduct in the military, seemed to indicate that with the results of the Operation Honour survey, the military now had a handle on the scope of the issue of military sexual trauma and could now root it out. The problem is that the data gathered did not take into account those who left the military or were in the process of leaving. It also left out both recruits and those on course, which I might point out, according to American research, is the time sexual misconduct is most likely to occur.

The minister is working with incomplete information and expects to fix the problem. That is very problematic and needs to be addressed. Even if we take the information from the report and start addressing sexual misconduct, I think the minister will find that the problem is deeply rooted. I remain concerned that the minister's plan will not even come close to addressing the issues.

The struggles of many suffering from military sexual trauma are on the public record, but I think it is important to share some information this evening.

The veterans affairs committee heard testimony from the founder of It's Just 700, an organization that is advocating for and supporting those with military sexual trauma. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary knows the origins of the name. It comes from the reaction of the military community to the 2015 external review of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces. The hostility towards those facing military sexual trauma was made clear when MST survivors were dismissed as “only 700 making complaints”.

The problem is deeply rooted. The testimony heard at the veterans affairs committee included statements from MST survivors. I am going to read some now so that the House can truly understand how difficult this issue is.

My military doctor started pushing for a medical release at my first appointment with her, following the assault, before I had even seen a psychiatrist, started meds, started seeing a psychologist, or even wrapped my head around the fact that I had been raped.

Another survivor said:

The medical personnel told me that rape victims were not sent to see psychologists and that the priority was given to soldiers with combat-related trauma.

These men and women are struggling, and when they do speak up, it becomes more difficult for them. As we heard from It's Just 700:

There are still a lot of people being penalized for talking, and the retaliation part has not been set yet. We've pushed people to report, but we haven't actually provided support when they do....

The witness also pointed out that spouses of those who report military sexual trauma also face retaliation within the military if a spouse comes forward with claims of MST. This leaves the family vulnerable. Not only are they dealing with a sexual trauma and the potential loss of one military career, but the spouse may also be targeted. This impact on their careers, either in the short or long term, could really harm the family's ability to manage financially and emotionally.

My question to the minister is as follows. What action is the government taking now to make changes at DND and VAC? Will those groups excluded from the initial report be included in the subsequent report so that we can have an accurate picture of the problem and properly address the issue of sexual misconduct in the military with those serving and with our veterans?

Veterans Affairs March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, last night I met with a number of veterans who are angry and frustrated. Sadly, not a single MP from the government side bothered to attend, and it was a message from our veterans the government needed to hear.

Key issues included pensions for medically releasing veterans; the need for a transition that ensures that no CF member is released from the military until all benefits, pensions, and supports are in place; more support for families of veterans; and that Veterans Affairs use evidence of successes in allied countries to approve beneficial treatments here in Canada. We also heard that those with military sexual trauma are still fighting for access to benefits that other veterans receive.

Enough is enough. We need the political will to make changes. What veterans are calling for is not expensive. It is common sense, and they have been asking for years. Tragically, the budget does not ensure that any of these simple requests will honoured.

Points of Order March 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the point made by my hon. colleague in the Conservative caucus is one that we need to consider.

Very clearly, the government promised that it would be transparent, it would be different, it would be above board. We have some concerns in regard to this particular situation. I would indeed support the need to look at it carefully, in light of the fact that Bill C-24 is before the House.

Health March 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister claims to be a feminist, but on International Women's Day, he is content to merely re-announce old promises. If equality truly matters to the government, it should fund women's reproductive health. The best way is to ensure all women have access to birth control. Such access reduces unintended pregnancy, abortion, is cost saving, and a cornerstone to women's human rights.

Will the government take a stand for women and support my motion to make birth control free for women in Canada?

Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of sitting on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, and we are currently studying mental health and suicide prevention.

I have heard considerable evidence of the toll that PTSD takes on veterans and their families. It is clear that action is needed, and increased services are desperately needed. I am sure that the bill was created with positive intentions. However, I remain concerned that there is nothing here to actually increase services for PTSD.

With nearly one in 10 Canadians experiencing post-traumatic stress at some point in their lives, it is time for federal leadership, to ease the suffering of those struggling with PTSD. I believe it is important to hear from veterans themselves about the impact of PTSD on their lives. I want to share with the House some testimony that was heard at the veterans affairs committee, and informal discussions I have had with veterans that highlight the struggles of so many veterans.

First, Mr. John Kelley Mcleod told the VAC Committee the following:

We're driven. We're fit people when we serve. There isn't anything that we wouldn't do for this nation, including giving our lives. I've often said, having suffered PTSD after serving in Somalia and Rwanda, it would have been easier for me to have lost a leg or two, or to lose two arms. People understand that.

When you come back, they do not understand when you tell them “Well, I have nightmares every day. I can't cope with day-to-day living. I don't like being in crowds.” For me, being a medic in those trades, everything I did at that moment was life and death. People die on the decisions you make, and you sometimes can't do anything.

I deal with that every day, and there are things that still stay with me today that are as clear as they were 20 years ago. That will never go away for me. Then, on top of that, because I served in Somalia and Rwanda, I spent over a year on mefloquine.

l'm getting older now. PTSD should be mellowing for me. I should be getting better, but l'm not getting better. l'm getting worse. I also have a terminal illness. I don't know how much longer I have, but every day I wake up and make a decision, do I live today or do I kill myself today?

Many of the veterans I spoke to said that their PTSD was triggered by financial insecurity, pensions and benefits delayed for months by an inept and dysfunctional veterans department. This is the reality of PTSD. It is terrifying and it is disabling our veterans. I also want to share with the House the words of Mr. Kurt Grant, a veteran who has been involved in the military his entire life. He came from a military family and became an air cadet at 13. He was in uniform for 41 years and deployed eight times. Kurt told us:

According to Veterans Affairs l'm now officially 136% broken; government math. I spent 15 years fighting with my PTSD before I wrote off my car and went into treatment. It's a tough thing to look at the back end of another vehicle and not realize how the hell you got there.

The stigma surrounding PTSD is huge. As much as we want to deny it and as much as we want to sit back and say, guess what, we're going to fix this, it's not going to happen. A cultural change has to take place.

...PTSD is not something that hits you right away. It took me 15 years before I finally collapsed under it.

It is clear that we desperately need to improve services for those with PTSD, and we critically need more supports for veterans specifically. We have heard testimony in veterans affairs committee that group therapy works very well for PTSD. However, there is a catch. It does not work well for veterans when therapy is in a group with civilians. Veterans have gone through traumatic experiences that civilians will never encounter. While they both may have PTSD, their experiences are not relatable. We need to make sure that veterans are able to access therapy with other veterans who understand what they have experienced and what they have lived.

We also need special supports for those living with military sexual trauma, many of whom also live with PTSD. Group therapy is very helpful for healing, but again our veterans are best served when with their peers. They not only need support from other veterans, but also those who are dealing with military sexual trauma. They may not get the support they need by being grouped with veterans or CF members with PTSD, and may not relate as well to sexual assault survivors without a military background. We need to bring men and women with MST together for healing.

Ultimately, that is what this is about. This is about healing those individuals who have given everything. This is about those who have set aside their lives and gambled on the promise that government was going to be there when they needed it, that government was going to somehow make sure their service was respected and honoured, that their suffering was understood, and that support would be there until the end of their lives.

However, we have military veterans in court against this government and the previous one for failure to make sure they have financial support. We now have a government that is making deals with the provinces and health ministries across this country. The government is saying that it will give them some money, but they have to accept that there will be less. “Oh yes, we'll give you a little bit of money for mental health, but the saw-off is that there is not going to be enough money to make sure that all Canadians are cared for.”

We are in this place to make sure and be absolutely confident that every Canadian who has given something important to this country has the support, services, and respect that we owe them. Our veterans are special, and we all know that. They are unique individuals. They go into the field and they are fearless, because they believe in this country. Let us not take away their hope when they return home. Let us not take away their families. Let us not take away the prospect of coming back to us with a place in our communities that is safe and secure. We have to make them safe and secure.

To conclude, I thank the member for bringing forward this private member's bill. However, again, I want this to be genuine. I am tired of the games. I am tired of playing. I am tired of having to beg for what should be there. We owe it to these folks.

Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act February 24th, 2017

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-339, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act (death benefit).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill today that will allow more flexibility for veterans who do not have a spouse or dependent children. As it stands now, no death benefit is awarded at the time of a veteran's death if there is no spouse or dependent children. This means that older children or parents caring for a veteran are ineligible to receive the benefit. This bill will allow veterans to appoint a family member or members as the beneficiary of their death benefits should they pass away without a spouse or dependent child. This bill will make it more equitable for veterans and their families whose family makeup may not reflect the traditional family model.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Veterans Affairs February 24th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the backlog veterans face waiting for their pensions is a disgrace. Our veterans are going into debt just to make ends meet. This needs to stop now.

There is a simple fix. Follow the military ombudsman's advice and do not discharge a veteran until all pensions, benefits, and services are in place and are understood. When is the minister going to get his house in order so that veterans are not left struggling to survive?

Veterans Affairs February 14th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, today is Valentine's Day. We have heard a lot about the importance of love and caring for one another. I know that the parliamentary secretary cares very much about veterans and their families. For many months last year, she sat with me on the veterans affairs committee and heard the same testimony, the same struggles, the same pain that our veterans and their families deal with on a daily basis.

The issues and problems plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs are many. The struggles of veterans and their families are real.

However, an important question remains. What is the government going to do about the barriers that veterans face? What actions, what changes will it make to ensure that veterans and their families will no longer struggle to access services and receive the support that they so desperately need?