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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was regard.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for London—Fanshawe (Ontario)

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

Statements in the House

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act May 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats support progressive crime and justice legislation that seeks to reduce instances of violent crime and offer chances to increase rehabilitation for those convicted, all the while upholding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In our 2018 policy paper, adopted by democratic convention, New Democrats clearly stated absolute support for the following: investment in crime prevention, with a focus on at-risk youth and gangs; support for community and not-for-profit organizations active in crime prevention; emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration wherever possible, particularly for treating addictions; maintenance of a youth criminal justice system that is distinct from adult courts; support for restorative justice initiatives, including redress and restitution whenever possible; safeguards for the rights, health and dignity of prisoners; adaptation of sentencing rules to allow, under judicial discretion, more severe sentences for violent crimes; strengthening the rules for sentencing dangerous offenders; and the prohibition of reinstatement of the death penalty.

Legislation like Bill C-266 tries to create the appearance of a tough-on-crime stance without addressing the issues at the heart of the matter, and that is the reason we will not be supporting this bill. How could we, when it misses the entire point of protecting the public and does nothing to prevent recidivism?

In contrast to Conservatives, who believe in tough-on-crime policies that please their base and do little to reduce crime, and in fact cost so much more, New Democrats believe that our criminal justice system should be structured around the principles of restorative justice. Canada's justice department defines restorative justice as a strategy that “focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime, while holding offenders responsible for their actions. A restorative approach is being used in different criminal justice cases across Canada. When effectively used [and supported by governments], restorative justice can lead to better outcomes for victims and offenders and reduce the number of cases that go to trial.”

The Conservatives may be able to fundraise by claiming that progressives are soft on crime, but restorative justice is not soft on crime. It is effective, both in terms of costs and in terms of reducing the potential for traumatizing victims. We know, for instance, that there is empirical evidence to prove that when a restorative justice framework is applied in a conviction, the victims are more satisfied with the outcome than when restorative justice is not employed. Restorative justice substantially reduces repeat offending for many, many offenders. It helps reduce post-traumatic stress symptoms in victims and the related public and private costs. It often results in a reduced desire for revenge on the part of victims against their offenders, and it helps reduce the cost of administering the criminal justice system.

Bill C-266 is not based on the principles of restorative justice. It proposes to increase the period of parole ineligibility from 25 years to up to 40 years for those who are convicted of abduction, sexual assault and murder of an individual in a single event or a series of events. While we absolutely understand that this bill is designed to protect the victim's loved ones from appearing at parole sentencing, it removes any foreseeable chance of release and therefore reduces the potential for rehabilitation. It is an approach that stubbornly refuses to take into account any and all circumstances regarding the offending individual.

There is also the question of whether this bill would stand up to a charter challenge. As life sentences are currently viable only with parole to 25 years, and with the abolishment of the faint hope clause, any longer sentence may fall under inhumane and degrading punishment. The Harper government fulfilled its 2011 election promise to abolish the faint hope clause, which allowed prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment with a parole eligibility period greater than 15 years to apply for early parole once they had served 15 years.

To compound this situation, the legislation before us serves to remove good behaviour as an incentive in correctional facilities, which of course increases the potential of violence toward other inmates and correctional workers. We should absolutely be concerned about the safety of correctional workers.

In Canada, the constitutionality of indefinite detention imposed by life sentences is based on the potential for eventual release on parole. This has resulted in the 25-year maximum before eligibility for parole. In the past, courts have allowed, on a case-by-case basis, sentences where eligibility exceeded 25 years. This gave the courts the needed discretion in the most serious crimes involving dangerous offenders and in situations where the full 25-year sentence was not appropriate. However, this was prior to the abolishment of the faint hope clause. Now that the faint hope clause is no longer in effect to mitigate increases in eligibility periods beyond the 25 years, any increase beyond that would likely be deemed unconstitutional and cruel and unusual punishment.

Harper's Bill C-48 passed in 2011 and was used only four times to issue 75-year parole ineligibility. All four of these cases are currently under appeal. One has been challenged in Alberta's court of appeal because of constitutional concerns. Legal experts expect to see the case appear at the Supreme Court of Canada in the coming years due to the length of sentences that could be unconstitutional.

As I am sure members will recall, the rationale for the faint hope clause was to incentivize offenders to participate in programming and work towards rehabilitation. This, in turn, leads to reduced violence and better behaviour towards other inmates and our correctional workers. Inmates with nothing left to lose are more likely to resort to violence and to be more difficult to manage in the prison population. In 2010, internal studies by the justice department found that this was precisely the case, with lower recidivism rates among faint hope offenders and better behaviour in the community.

The faint hope clause was not a free pass to parole. Canada is very selective in who is granted parole. It is very rare for those who are convicted of the most serious crimes to ever be granted parole. Those who are granted parole have shown good behaviour and are less likely to offend than the general population of Canada. It is fascinating that the rates of offence are below those in the general population.

It is more humane and much cheaper to release those who qualify for parole than to keep them behind bars. Those who were given life sentences who are paroled are still supervised until their deaths, with regular reporting to parole officers.

It is also worth pointing out that despite opposition from Canada's defence lawyers, the repeal of the faint hope was supported unanimously by Conservatives and Liberals alike. The NDP and the Bloc opposed it, of course.

Much like the abolishment of the faint hope clause and the introduction of consecutive periods of parole ineligibility, Bill C-266 would remove the incentive for good behaviour in correctional facilities and thwart any possibility of rehabilitation. It would create tension in Canada's prisons, and prisoners and correctional officers would be endangered.

The Canadian Bar Association said:

[it] does not believe that Canadians would benefit from a system where individuals are condemned to spend their entire lives behind bars, with no hope of ever being released. Even those convicted of homicide, the most serious of all crimes, should know there is some slim possibility, after serving lengthy periods of their sentences...of being released into the community and contributing to society, provided that their behaviour while incarcerated makes them deserving of such a privilege.

We understand the trauma that victims' loved ones face when an offender is eligible for parole, but we cannot support legislation that will do more harm than good. We must take into consideration the fact that this legislation proposes a solution that is likely to be deemed unconstitutional.

We believe that our justice system should be structured for the best possible outcomes, and this particular bill would not achieve that.

Health May 7th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, while the government announced free menstrual products in federally regulated workplaces, product cost and access in remote and northern communities are prohibitive and unacceptable. Because of that high cost and lack of government action, organizations like women's shelters are left to collect donations of products to distribute to women and girls in the north and in our communities. In fairness to disadvantaged women and girls in the north and everywhere, when will the Liberal government extend the provision of free menstrual products to women and girls?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 18th, 2019

With regard to the statement made by the Minister of Transport before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on November 27, 2018, that 87% of routes dropped by Greyhound Canada have been picked up by private carriers: (a) what is the total number of routes covered to date; (b) which routes have been covered; (c) what date did Greyhound end service for each of these routes; (d) what date did coverage for each of these routes resume; (e) which private carriers are covering each route; (f) what are the departure and end points of each route; (g) what are the schedules for each of these routes; (h) what are the stops along each of these routes; (i) which Canada Post outlets exist along each of these routes; (j) which routes remain uncovered; (k) what date did service end for the uncovered routes; and (l) which Canada Post outlets exist along each of the routes that remain uncovered?

International Women's Day February 27th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, gender equality requires strong social programs that help women thrive, such as affordable housing, health care and pharmacare. It means access to affordable quality child care so that women do not have to choose between having a family and having a career. Gender equality means pay equity for women who can participate in all aspects of life free from the threat of gender-based violence and free to make decisions about their own bodies.

As we celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, let us commit to continuing to work for real and lasting change for women. That is what New Democrats work for each and every day.

Foreign Affairs February 25th, 2019

Madam Speaker, it is an arms export system that is totally inadequate. What about the millions of other victims of the Saudis?

I repeat my question of October 25. Freedom, equality, justice and peace are Canadian values. We have a deal with the Saudis that enables them to wage war, silence dissidents and harm innocent civilians, a deal signed by the Conservatives and upheld by the Liberals.

Canadians do not want to be complicit with Saudi Arabia’s war crimes. The current government has a responsibility to fundamental human rights and an absolute obligation to stand up for Canadian workers.

We need to protect our communities. If the Liberals can protect bank profits and tax haven friends, they can protect the hard-working men and women of London, because they are worth it.

What is the Liberal plan for protecting workers and their families in light of this mess?

Foreign Affairs February 25th, 2019

Madam Speaker, Londoners remain haunted by the indecision and lack of clarity on the part of the government surrounding the Saudi LAV contract at General Dynamics. While some believe it comes down to a choice between sustainable jobs and respect for human rights, I believe there is a third alternative.

Instead of his typical spin, why does the Prime Minister not research his commitments under the contract, determine whether financial penalties exist, calculate the number of vehicles remaining to be shipped and on what platforms the LAVs are built. The Prime Minister must be clear as to what protections he will provide to Canadian workers and the community caught in this mess, which was created by his Liberal government and the previous Conservative government.

None of this is the fault of workers, and workers should not suffer in the fallout. The Prime Minister should be able to find alternative reliable customers for the contract. Canada plans to buy military trucks from the United States, so why not call upon General Dynamics to fill this $2-billion order instead?

Our military is not properly equipped for foreign and domestic missions. The government can change that by purchasing any remaining LAVs for our military and selling or leasing the surplus to countries engaged in peacekeeping. Bulgaria, for instance, is in need of the kind of world-class vehicles produced by General Dynamics.

If there are any substantial financial penalties imposed by the Saudis, the Prime Minister can invoke the Magnitsky act and target Saudi assets to minimize reprisals or recoup the lost funds. The Prime Minister also has the ability to create a transition fund for General Dynamics workers and others affected by this contract.

Southwestern Ontario needs a manufacturing strategy that will return people to work and restore abandoned factories to full production. Canada lags far behind the rest of the industrial world, with no substantive digital high-tech communications strategy. The government must make investments in technology, innovation and training for workers to be competitive in the world market.

My community of London, Ontario, has the high-tech manufacturing infrastructure to advance a manufacturing strategy, one that is long overdue, and the intellectual infrastructure of Fanshawe College and Western University to support it.

The government's lack of leadership has created anxiety and uncertainty for Londoners, workers and their families at General Dynamics, and the satellite industry of suppliers providing General Dynamics with goods and services. It is long past time for the Liberals to announce a clear plan to protect the jobs and futures of our workers and the broader community. Canadians deserve workable federal action now.

We know that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its crown prince are unreliable customers who have committed human rights offences, bombed Saudi citizens, committed brutal executions and imprisoned and tortured human rights advocates. They have created a war-induced famine that threatens the starvation deaths of 14 million people in Yemen, murdered critics and discontinued diplomatic relations. They have withheld payment of $1.8 billion for the Canadian-built LAVs.

The Prime Minister and the government have indicated that they will sign the Arms Trade Treaty, which precludes Canada from selling or exporting armaments to human rights abusers. In August 2015, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the media that Canada must stop arms sales to regimes that flout democracy, such as Saudi Arabia.

Given our international obligations to defend human rights and plan to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, the government may be forced to cancel the LAV contract. Sadly, the Prime Minister has failed to show the leadership to deal with this problem. Saudi human rights abuses are not going to end any time soon. This controversy is not going away. The government must be proactive and provide solutions to this crisis.

National Defence Act February 22nd, 2019

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague for the very fine work he does in veterans affairs.

In addition to Sheila Fynes, who said that section 98(c) did constitute a barrier to servicemen and women who were asking for mental health support, the judge advocate general also testified that section 98(c), though rarely used, was a problem and if used as a disciplinary measure, would cause harm.

The minister cited the fact that he was concerned about self-inflicted wounds being used as an excuse. Is a self-inflicted wound not indicative of a serious mental health issue?

Petitions February 22nd, 2019

Madam Speaker, I am presenting a petition in support of protecting the Thames River system. These petitioners wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Conservative government stripped environmental regulations covered in the navigable waters act, leaving hundreds of rivers, including the Thames, vulnerable. It is ecologically diverse and a very special heritage river.

Unfortunately, the Liberals, despite their promise to reinstate environmental protections, failed to do so. Therefore, the petitioners are calling on the government to support my bill, Bill C-355, which would commit the government to prioritize the protection of the Thames River by amending the Navigation Protection Act.

Pat Chefurka Award February 22nd, 2019

Madam Speaker, it was my great pleasure to award the first annual Pat Chefurka Award on February 11 at the annual general meeting of the London—Fanshawe NDP. Pat was a proud New Democrat, a trail-blazing feminist and a relentless advocate for social justice who left us just over a year ago.

I cannot think of a better recipient of this honour than trailblazer Dirka Prout, a successful geotechnical engineer and the first Afro-Canadian female president of the London North Centre NDP. Dirka is a mentor for young women of colour who knows that until all of us have made it, none of us have.

In the spirit of Rosemary Brown and Pat Chefurka, Dirka is seeking the NDP nomination to challenge the member for London North Centre in the next federal election. I know without a doubt that she will represent her constituency well, and I look forward to watching her rise.

I congratulate Dirka. This is just the beginning.

National Defence Act February 22nd, 2019

Madam Speaker, I heard the member say very clearly that we need to restore the rights of victims, and I did listen very carefully.

Given the reality of PTSD and mental health issues among Canadian military personnel and the failure of the Liberal government to strike paragraph 98(c), which makes self-harm a disciplinary offence that could mean life imprisonment for a victim of PTSD who attempts suicide, will the member continue to support NDP efforts to remove paragraph 98(c)? Will he support the private member's bill, Bill C-426, that seeks to finally do the right thing and remove paragraph 98(c)?