House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was military.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as NDP MP for St. John's East (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 2019, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Offshore Health and Safety Act April 30th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary explained the importance of this legislation and we agree with speedy passage, but he has not explained why it has taken six years since the government has been in power to actually develop these permanent regulations. He certainly has not explained why they were not keeping their eye on the ball and allowed the regulations to expire. There are no enforceable safety regulations in the offshore since January 1. That is a shame and the minister needs to explain why nobody had their eye on the ball. We cannot blame that on the pandemic.

Reduction of Recidivism Framework Act April 29th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-228, an act to establish a federal framework to reduce recidivism, presented by the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac.

Let me first commend the member for bringing forth this bill. He is a first-time member, and it is to his credit that he has gotten his private member's bill to this stage so early in his political career. He has spoken with great passion and empathy about this issue in the House from his experience in his community and the extraordinary work done by a friend of his, Monty Lewis in assisting ex-offenders.

It is also notable that the bill is coming from a Conservative member of the House. That is because we often hear from Conservatives, who see themselves as so-called “tough on crime”, seeking stiffer punishment, mandatory minimums and lengthier sentences for crimes in hopes of protecting the public, but which have not proven to do so.

It is not very often we hear from them of the importance of rehabilitation and reintegration into the community for an offender when released from prison. This does serve to protect the public and is an important element in the improvement of society. The rehabilitation of an offender is a significant principle of sentencing and must be considered by a judge, along with other elements.

What we want to avoid is an offender reoffending. That is probably the simplest definition of recidivism, which is not a commonly used word outside the field of corrections. The bill calls for the development of a national framework to reduce recidivism to be developed within a year by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and reported to the House of Commons.

This is to be done in consultation with the provinces, with indigenous governing bodies and organizations, and other stakeholders, including NGOs, such as the John Howard and Elizabeth Fry Societies, and other organizations and groups that work with ex-offenders.

It recognizes the need for the framework to include measures to ensure that those who are released from prison have adequate and ongoing resources, as well as employment opportunities to aid their transition and reintegration back into the community, all with the goal of reducing the likelihood of reoffending but also helping the person become a productive and contributing member of society along the way.

Employment is extremely important and basic to rehabilitation. Having a job and the opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency and the independence that comes with that is crucial and gives people some control over their life and future. A representative of the John Howard Society in my riding of St. John's East has recently stressed the need for employment skills development programs pre-release as a means to help ex-offenders get more quickly on their feet as they seek to reintegrate and build a better life.

It is hoped that consultations coming from this bill will result in productive recommendations for measures to assist in aiding rehabilitation and thereby avoiding recidivism and in helping individuals overcome the obstacles that may have contributed to their being incarcerated in the first place.

This could include helping those with a lack of access or with barriers to education and training, or those dealing with drugs and other addictions, which can be a huge factor in the lives of some of those who have been incarcerated. The bill provides an important opportunity to focus on the needs of ex-offenders and enhance the programs and resources that could be made available.

The preamble of the bill also recognizes that the purpose of the correctional system is, in part, to assist in the rehabilitation of offenders, both in the penitentiaries and in the community. One factor that is now well known is that there is a shocking over-representation of indigenous men and women, Black Canadians and persons of colour in our prisons. In 2020, according to the correctional investigator, indigenous people accounted for 30% of the prison population but only 5% of the Canadian population. Black inmates were 10% of the prison population but only 4% of the Canadian population.

What has been revealed recently is that there is also a racial bias in the tools used to assess inmates on their rehabilitation potential and their security standing when they serve in the prison itself, whether they had to serve in minimum, medium or maximum security. Black and indigenous inmates are more likely to get maximum security ratings and be assigned the worst scores on a potential for rehabilitation assessment.

The result is that they have restricted access to programs for rehabilitation within the prison, less access to parole, thereby serving a longer portion of their sentence in prison. Having fewer opportunities for programs is obviously detrimental to those incarcerated.

An amendment to address this now included in the bill was proposed by me and accepted, most graciously, at the committee stage by the member for Tobique—Mactaquac and supported by the committee. It is a provision that the framework must, “evaluate and improve risk assessment instruments and procedures to address racial and cultural biases and ensure that all people who are incarcerated have access to appropriate programs that will help reduce recidivism.”

I believe this will enhance the framework on recidivism and hopefully eliminate at least one element of systemic racism in our society, which has such negative consequences. I want to once again commend the member for this legislative initiative and offer my support for its adoption at third reading.

Reduction of Recidivism Framework Act April 29th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni. I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-228 today, an act—

Reduction of Recidivism Framework Act April 29th, 2021

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I will say once again how impressed I am. I recognize the member's compassion and passion for this issue, coming out of his own experience and that of his friend, Monty Lewis, who took a great deal of interest in making sure people had an opportunity to be rehabilitated.

I have to say, though, his party in the past has done a disservice to the programming in prisons by reducing and closing, for financial reasons, many of the programs and services that were available to inmates to assist in their rehabilitation. I do not want to go through the list, because it is a very long one, and it is very disheartening, to say the least.

I wonder whether the hon. member would care to comment on that and whether he is prepared to acknowledge that cutting these programs has had a lasting impact on rehabilitation in our federal prisons.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act April 27th, 2021

Madam Speaker, we all know that it is easy to say we have a target for 2050 of net zero, which is a long way away, but we have had experience in the past. The Conservatives have already let people down. The Harper government got rid of the Kyoto accord targets. The members talk about 2050, but we do have a scientific imperative standing in front of with 2030 coming up.

Does the member agree that there needs to be a firm target of at least 40% for 2030? We can argue about how to get there, but do the Conservatives agree to that kind of target?

Criminal Code April 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, I am not sure that the hon. member and I are talking about the same thing.

The proposed red-flag legislation indicates an opportunity for a court to have guns or any firearm removed from a particular individual because of the individual's circumstances, which is something the police have access to now, but it would include a friend, neighbour or associate being able to make a similar application.

Criminal Code April 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, it is surely an interesting question, but I will have to take it under advisement, because I was not present for that discussion. In fact, I am not fully apprised of the matters that were being discussed.

As sometimes ministers say, I will take the question on notice and get back to the member later.

Criminal Code April 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, I think the idea is fairly well understood. I believe there is no real room for doubt about the nature of these weapons, which are capable of rapid fire in a very short period of time, and they are designed to do that very thing. That is the nub of the matter.

Criminal Code April 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, I personally would be supportive of that. As to the Government of Quebec wanting to pass regulations in relation to handguns within its jurisdiction, I would be happy to see that as well. That is something that is certainly permissible.

The method being used in the legislation, we would have to talk about it, but it may well be workable. It attaches the bylaws to the firearms certificate, and that is what makes it enforceable under federal regulations. It is a possibility of doing both of those things, and I would welcome any moves by the Province of Quebec to assist in that within its jurisdiction to go beyond municipalities.

Criminal Code April 23rd, 2021

Madam Speaker, it is a good question if one is looking for a specific, exact, legally applied definition. However, it is there in the list of types of weapons that are being specifically banned. If there needs to be an improvement in the specific definition, that is something that could be handled at committee. I would welcome any suggestions for opening up the areas of ambiguity so that we could look at them and perhaps amend them to ensure that the definition is accurate.