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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was justice.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Liberal MP for Mount Royal (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Qausuittuq National Park of Canada Act June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this Parliament has admirably adopted a number of religious and cultural heritage months. Therefore, there have been consultations among the parties and I trust that there will be consent for the following motion: That the House recognize the month of November as Jewish heritage month in recognition of the important contributions of Jewish Canadians to the settlement, development and growth of Canada; the cultural diversity of the Canadian Jewish community; the present significance of the Canadian Jewish community to this country; and the importance of creating opportunities for Canadians to learn more about each other in order to foster greater awareness, cohesion and mutual respect.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act June 19th, 2015

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-701, An Act to establish the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill to establish the office of the commissioner for children and young persons. This legislation is inspired by a bill previously introduced by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie. I thank him for the excellent work he has done to promote the well-being of children and youth in Canada and around the world.

Indeed, the true measure of a nation's standing is how well it cares for its children. Especially after the recent report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into the experiences of the survivors of Indian residential schools, we understand now more than ever the dire consequences of failing children.

Accordingly, a children's commissioner would advocate for children and examine law and policy with a view to ensuring children's rights and welfare, including their health, their education and simply their sense of being loved.

The legislation is inspired as well by my daughter, who when she was a child herself told me, “Daddy, if you want to know what the real test of human rights is, always ask yourself, at any time, in any situation, in any part of the world: Is what is happening good for children? That's the real test of human rights.”

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

Iran June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Iran tragically executes more people per capita than any other country in the world. Moreover, Iran is engaged in a horrific execution binge that has resulted in 120 executions in May alone, while this month has seen an unparalleled wave of executions, with one execution every two hours.

All this is occurring while Iran is otherwise engaged in massive domestic repression, including the criminalization of dissent, the persecution and prosecution of ethnic and religious minorities, violations of women's rights, and the imprisoning of over 1,000 political prisoners.

Regrettably, the nuclear negotiations have not only overshadowed but sanitized this massive domestic repression, as witnessed by the deafening international silence surrounding it. The fact that a country is massively violating the rights of its own people, and lying about it, raises serious questions about the validity and veracity of its nuclear undertakings.

As negotiators seek a legal framework for the nuclear issue, the Iranian regime is in standing violation of its human rights obligations under international law.

It is time to sound the alarm and to hold the regime to account on both the nuclear and human rights concerns, to the benefit of both the international community and the Iranian people themselves.

Privilege June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege out of respect for the integrity of Parliament, as you yourself have put it, and I want to join in the commendation to you, your staff, and the clerks for all that has been done. I join in the referencing of that by my predecessor speakers.

I am rising, I must say, somewhat hesitantly because of the lateness of the period, but I am doing so in the hope, as even the House leader mentioned, of the enhancement of the democratic process. In particular, I rise today on a question of privilege related to the government's response to a question on the order paper, Question No. 1229, which became accessible online only on Tuesday. I gave notice to the chair yesterday, and thus I am raising this matter at the earliest opportunity and regret that it is close to the end of our proceedings.

Mr. Speaker, I know that you and your predecessors have often made clear that the Chair is not empowered to adjudicate the quality or accuracy of responses to written questions. Indeed, that is not the issue I am raising, despite the fact that the government's response to Question No. 1229 all but ignored the question it purported to answer.

Indeed, the issue I raise is the violation of a Standing Order of the House, namely, Standing Order 39(1), which clearly states the following in reference to questions on the order paper:

...in putting any such question or in replying to the same no argument or opinion is to be offered, nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain the same; and in answering any such question the matter to which the same refers shall not be debated.

This is a Standing Order to which you, Mr. Speaker, have yourself referred on previous occasions, such as on January 29, 2013, when you said, “as Speaker, I have a duty to remind the House that our written question process is intended to be free of argument and debate”, and it is in that context that I rise on this question of privilege.

This point, indeed, is emphasized in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which states, on page 522:

The guidelines that apply to the form and content of written questions are also applicable to the answers provided by the government. As such, no argument or opinion is to be given and only the information needed to respond to the question is to be provided in an effort to maintain the process of written questions as an exchange of information rather than an opportunity for debate.

Indeed, the only particular constraint placed by the Standing Orders on the content of responses to order paper questions is that they may not contain opinion or debate, yet the answer I received this week to Question No. 1229 was comprised almost exclusively of opinion and debate.

Hon. members rely on the written question system, and I have been pleased to be able to use it, to obtain the information we need to represent our constituents, to hold the government to account, and to engage subsequently in informed study of legislation and policy. Thus, the violation by the government of Standing Order 39(1), which has become a regrettable pattern, undermines the written question system and impedes the ability of hon. members to do our jobs.

On page 84 of O'Brien and Bosc, a list of instances found by the United Kingdom Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege to constitute contempt specifically includes, “acting in breach of any orders of the House”. Thus, I am asking to regard the government's response to Question No. 1229 as constitutive of contempt of Parliament.

With Question No. 1229, I sought detailed information regarding the funding of programs that facilitate the reintegration of offenders into society after they have served their sentences. The government's response, which, as I say, hardly deals with the question at all, begins, “Mr. Speaker, the government believes”. This construction necessarily leads to a statement of opinion, and the very inclusion of the government's beliefs in response to a written question contravenes the Standing Order. Therefore, the Standing Orders have been violated five words into the response.

The response goes on to make claims about the importance and efficiency of government measures, but regardless of the accuracy of those claims, they constitute debate and are thus not permitted in the context of an order paper question response.

As private members, if we include a statement of belief in the text of a written question, or if we engage in debate, we are quickly contacted by the private members' business office and instructed to amend the text and limit our inquiry to a request for factual information, which is, of course, the express purpose of the written question system.

In fact, as O'Brien and Bosc note on page 520 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, not only are members barred from including expressions of opinion in our questions, we are prohibited from requesting the government's opinion, and the Clerk of the House “has full authority” to ensure our compliance.

It is the Speaker, however, who is vested with the authority to ensure that the government complies with the Standing Orders when responding to questions, and in fact, if the government includes its opinion in its answer, it is providing material that members are specifically prohibited from seeking, again in violation of Standing Order 39(1).

Briefly, it is important to note that this use or misuse of the written question system is not so much a personal breach on the part, in this instance, of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who provided the response to Question No. 1229 and for whom I have a great deal of respect, as it is a regrettable pattern on the part of the government in general.

For example, the government's recent response to Question No. 1093 includes the phrase, “The Government of Canada rejects the argument”, and if one is rejecting an argument, one is, by definition, engaging in debate. The response to Question No. 773 again featured the construction, “The government believes”, and the response to Question No. 721 references the government's lack of “desire” to reinstate a particular program.

While the government's desires and beliefs are undoubtedly a matter of interest to Canadians and to hon. members, they do not belong in responses to order paper questions, just as the desires and beliefs of us as private members do not belong in the written questions we pose.

As you noted in your ruling on January 29, 2013, Mr. Speaker:

it is expected under our practice that the integrity of the written question process be maintained by avoiding questions or answers that stray from the underlying principle of information exchange.

I know, and with this I close, that at this late date in the parliamentary calendar, there may not be time for a prima facie finding of contempt to be referred to committee and for such a referral to proceed according to usual practice.

However, I raise this matter, and admittedly regrettably so at this late date in Parliament, but without an option otherwise, because we only received the answers recently, out of concern for the health of our parliamentary process, out of respect for the Standing Orders of this House, and out of concern for, as you yourself have put it, “the integrity of the written question process”, which is an essential tool for us as parliamentarians.

I ask that you protect the integrity of this process by finding that the government's response to Question No. 1229 is in breach of Standing Order 39(1), and I hope that when the House returns in the fall, hon. members from all parties will work together to strengthen parliamentary processes, such as the written question system, which underpin the vitality of our democracy.

Petitions June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is signed by Canadians who are concerned about the situation of Seyamak Naderi, an Iranian citizen and former political prisoner and resident of camps Ashraf and Liberty, currently living as a refugee claimant in Albania and who is in urgent need of medical care.

The petitioners are concerned about the grave dangers he would suffer if returned to his native Iran. His sister Saeideh, the only member of his family who can provide the needed ongoing care that he requires, is a Canadian citizen seeking his reunification with her here in Canada.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada and the House of Commons to do everything in their power to expedite the recognition of Seyamak Naderi as a refugee and reunite him with his sister here in Canada as soon as possible.

Petitions June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to present three separate petitions today.

The first is a petition on behalf of Canadians who are calling on the Government of Canada and members of Parliament to take note of the human rights violations perpetrated in Venezuela by the government of President Nicolás Maduro, including the criminalization of dissent, the shuttering of independent media and the imprisonment of opposition leaders.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to further study the human rights situation in Venezuela, including a mission to conduct first-hand evaluations of the situation there.

This is a particularly timely petition as opposition leader Leopoldo López and former San Cristobal mayor Daniel Ceballos have embarked upon a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment and that of other opponents of the regime.

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is on behalf of Canadians who wish the government to apologize to Dr. David Shugar for the human and civil rights violations he suffered, including serious damage to his reputation and loss of employment as a result of false accusations that he was a Communist spy in 1946.

The petitioners call on the government to submit a letter of apology to Dr. Shugar who, as a result of these civil rights abuses, and despite being exonerated of all the accusations against him, was summarily dismissed from his position with the federal Department of National Health and Welfare, unable to secure employment and forced to emigrate to Poland where he resides today. He is close to 100 years of age.

Global Centre for Pluralism June 17th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege related to the government's responses to two questions on the order paper, which became accessible only online yesterday. Thus, I am raising this matter at the earliest opportunity.

I know that you and your predecessors—

Human Rights June 17th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of four heroic political prisoners and their respective cases and causes.

They are Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi; Venezuelan democratic leader Leopoldo Lopez; Iranian freedom of religion advocate Ayatollah Boroujerdi, as well as the persecuted leadership of the Baha’i community; and Mauritanian anti-slavery advocate Biram Dah Abeid.

Each political prisoner is a case study of the criminalization of fundamental rights, the deprivation of liberty, and torture in detention. Each is a looking glass into their respective oppressive regimes and their standing violation of international obligations, including obligations to us here in Canada.

We say to these courageous prisoners of conscience that they are not alone. We stand in solidarity with them. Their cause is our cause and we will not relent until their liberty is secured.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 16th, 2015

With regard to designated countries of origin (DCO): (a) what is the process for removing a country from the DCO list; (b) does the government conduct regular reviews of countries on the DCO list to ensure that they continue to meet the criteria for designation; (c )if the government does not conduct regular reviews of countries on the DCO list to ensure that they continue to meet the criteria for designation, (i) how is a review triggered, (ii) who decides whether to conduct a review, (iii) based on what factors is the decision to conduct a review made; (d) since the inception of the DCO list, has the government conducted any reviews of countries on the list to ensure that they continue to meet the criteria for designation; (e) for each review in (d), (i) what was the country, (ii) when did the review begin, (iii) when did the review end, (iv) how was the review triggered, (v) who decided to conduct the review, (vi) who conducted the review, (vii) what documents were consulted, (viii) what groups or individuals were consulted, (ix) what ministers or ministers’ offices were involved in the review, (x) what was the nature of any ministerial involvement, (xi) what was the outcome, (xii) based on what factors was the outcome determined; (f) based on what factors does the government decide whether to remove a country from the DCO list; (g) in what ways does the government monitor the human rights situation in countries on the DCO list to ensure that the countries continue to meet the criteria for designation; (h) who does the monitoring in (g); (i) what weight is given to the situation of minority groups in countries on the DCO list when evaluating whether the countries continue to meet the criteria for designation; (j) what weight is given to the situation of political dissidents in countries on the DCO list when evaluating whether the countries continue to meet the criteria for designation; (k) what type or extent of change in the human rights situation in a country on the DCO list would trigger a review of whether the country continues to meet the criteria for designation; (l) what type or extent of change in the situation of one or more minority groups in a country on the DCO list would trigger a review of whether the country continues to meet the criteria for designation; (m) what type or extent of change in the situation of political dissidents in a country on the DCO list would trigger a review of whether the country continues to meet the criteria for designation; (n) what type or extent of change in the human rights situation in a country on the DCO list would lead to the removal of the country from the list; (o) what type or extent of change in the situation of one or more minority groups in a country on the DCO list would lead to the removal of the country from the list; (p) what type or extent of change in the situation of political dissidents in a country on the DCO list would lead to the removal of the country from the list; (q) in what ways does the government discourage refugee claims from countries on the DCO list; (r) since the inception of the list, how much money has the government spent outside Canada to discourage refugee claims from countries on the DCO list, broken down by year and country where the money was spent; (s) since the inception of the list, how much money has the government spent within Canada to discourage refugee claims from countries on the DCO list, broken down by year, province or territory where the money was spent, and DCO country in question; (t) since the inception of the list, how much money has the government spent on advertising outside Canada to discourage refugee claims from countries on the DCO list, broken down by year and country where the money was spent; (u) since the inception of the list, how much money has the government spent on advertising within Canada to discourage refugee claims from countries on the DCO list, broken down by year, province or territory where the money was spent, and DCO country in question; (v) what evaluations has the government conducted of the advertising in (t) and (u); (w) for each evaluation in (v), (i) when did it begin, (ii) when was it completed, (iii) who conducted it, (iv) what were its objectives, (v) what were its outcomes, (vi) how much did it cost; (x) for each year since the inception of the list, how many refugee claims have been made by claimants from countries on the DCO list, broken down by country of origin; (y) for each year since the inception of the list, broken down by country of origin, how many of the claims in (x) were (i) accepted, (ii) rejected, (iii) abandoned, (iv) withdrawn; (z) for each year since the inception of the list, broken down by country of origin, how many of the failed claimants in (y) sought a review of their claim in Federal Court;(aa)for each year since the inception of the list, broken down by country of origin, how many of the claimants in (z) were removed from Canada while their claim remained pending in Federal Court; (bb) for each year since the inception of the list, broken down by country of origin, how many of the claimants in (z) left Canada while their claim remained pending in Federal Court; (cc) for each year since the inception of the list, broken down by country of origin, how many refugee claimants from countries on the DCO list have been deported; (dd) has the government monitored the situation of any failed refugee claimants from countries on the DCO list after they returned to their countries of origin; (ee) broken down by DCO country, how many failed claimants have been the objects of the monitoring in (dd); (ff) broken down by DCO country, regarding the monitoring of each failed claimant in (ee), (i) when did it begin, (ii) when did it end, (iii) who did it, (iv) what was its objective, (v) what was its outcome; (gg) broken down by year and country of origin, how many refugee claims by claimants from countries on the DCO list were accepted by the Federal Court after having been denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board; (hh) broken down by year and country of origin, how many of the claims in (gg) were accepted by the Federal Court after the claimant had left Canada; (ii) broken down by country of origin, how many of the claimants in (hh) now reside in Canada; (jj) what evaluations has the government conducted of the DCO system; (kk) for each evaluation in (jj), (i) when did it begin, (ii) when was it completed, (iii) who conducted it, (iv) what were its objectives, (v) what were its outcomes, (vi) how much did it cost; (ll) since the inception of the DCO list, what groups and individuals has the government consulted about the impact of the DCO list; (mm) for each consultation in (ll), (i) when did it occur, (ii) how did it occur, (iii) what recommendations were made to the government, (iv) what recommendations were implemented by the government?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 15th, 2015

With regard to the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Program (the Program): (a) what is the Program’s most recent report on its activities; (b) where can the report in (a) be accessed; (c) has the Program produced any reports on its activities since the 12th Report on Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program; (d) where can the reports in (c) be accessed; (e) has the Program produced any annual reports on its activities since the 11th annual report on Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program; (f) where can the reports in (e) be accessed; (g) if the Program has not produced any annual reports on its activities since the 11th annual report on Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program, what accounts for the lack of any such reports; (h) if the Program has not produced any reports on its activities since the 12th Report on Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program, what accounts for the lack of any such reports; (i) is the Program currently producing a report on its activities; (j) when will the report in (i) be publicly available; (k) what were the objectives of producing annual reports; (l) how have the objectives in (k) been achieved since the publication of (i) the 11th annual report, (ii) the 12th report; (m) for each year since the Program’s creation in 1998, what funds have been allocated to it, broken down by department or agency; (n) for each year since the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court entered into force in 2002, what funds have been allocated by Canada to the International Criminal Court; (o) for each year since the Program’s creation in 1998, how many employees were assigned to the Program, broken down by department or agency; (p) regarding the consideration of future funding options referred to in the government’s response to Q-478, provided on December 7, 2009, (i) when did it begin, (ii) when was it completed, (iii) what were its objectives, (iv) what were its outcomes, (v) who in the government was involved, (vi) who outside the government was consulted, (vii) what did it cost; (q) if the government has undertaken any considerations of future funding options since the consideration in (o), (i) when did they begin, (ii) when were they completed, (iii) what were their objectives, (iv) what were their outcomes, (v) who in the government was involved, (vi) who outside the government was consulted, (vii) what did they cost; (r) for each year since 1998, how many investigations has the Program initiated; (s) for each year since 1998, how many arrests have resulted from investigations initiated by the Program; (t) for each year since 1998, how many prosecutions have resulted from investigations initiated by the Program; (u) for each year since 1998, how many convictions have resulted from investigations initiated by the Program; (w) for each year since 1998, how many extraditions have resulted from investigations initiated by the Program, broken down by country to which the individual was extradited; (x) for each year since 1998, how many deportations have resulted from investigations initiated by the Program, broken down by country to which the individual was deported; (y) what measures does the government take to ensure that individuals extradited or deported as a result of investigations initiated by the Program face prosecution; (z) what measures does the government take to ensure that the individuals in (w) are treated fairly and humanely; (aa) broken down by country of origin, how many investigations initiated by the Program are ongoing; and (bb) when did each investigation in (y) begin?