House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Surrey North (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act September 19th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-4, the Conservative government's bill to address human smuggling.

We in the official opposition and key stakeholders from across Canada from all walks of life are very concerned about the approach the Conservative government is taking with the bill.

The Conservatives claim that the bill cracks down on human smuggling, but in reality, as the bill has been written, it will concentrate too much power in the hands of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and unfairly penalize the would-be refugees.

New Democrats would rather attack the criminals, the smugglers and the traffickers. Instead of doing that, the bill will hurt legitimate refugees and people who try to help them. The proposed process is unclear. It is arbitrary and it is very unfairly discriminatory.

The House approved a strong and balanced refugee law in the last sitting. Instead of the new, flawed approach proposed by the bill, we need to have better enforcement of the old bill that was passed in the last Parliament.

Conservatives should be less focused on photo ops and more focused on enforcing the laws that we already have against human smuggling. The government's approach to human trafficking and human smuggling should be focused on providing law enforcement agencies and the Immigration and Refugee Board with the resources they need to get the job done instead of playing politics with refugees.

Bill C-4 takes the wrong approach in a number of ways. I would like to highlight some of the concerns of the official opposition today.

First, regarding designated claimants, the bill allows the minister to designate a group of refugees as irregular arrivals in a fashion that creates two classes of refugee claimants. This poses a possible violation of charter equality rights and the refugee convention.

Second, designated claimants, including children, will be mandatorily detained for a year on arrival or designation, without even a review by the Immigration and Refugee Board. This is an even more clear violation of the charter, as the Supreme Court of Canada has already struck down mandatory detention without review on security certificates. It seems that this could imply that indefinite detention is on the basis of identity, with no possible release until the minister decides that identity is established.

As I am sure members are aware, arbitrary detention is also a violation of a number of international treaties to which we are signatories.

There is also a concern with the release conditions imposed by Bill C-4, as the mandatory conditions set out in regulations will be imposed on all designated claimants released from detention. It is very troubling that the conditions are not specified, making this very unclear. On principle, though, mandatory conditions would be unfair, as they are unable to take into account individual cases.

The problem also extends to the appeal process, since under Bill C-4 decisions on claims by designated persons could not be appealed to the refugee appeal division. This is discriminatory and again risks violating provisions and the refugee convention.

The government has tried this approach before, and all parties opposed the previous bill that was introduced in the last Parliament, Bill C-49 when it was brought to Parliament because there were concerns about the undue amount of power it handed to the minister and because it would likely contravene Canadian and international law. Those concerns are still part of the new Bill C-4.

We can look at other international examples. My colleague from Vancouver Kingsway pointed this out earlier, and I will highlight it again.

When we look at what has happened elsewhere in the world, similar laws have been met with opposition by Amnesty International, which has started a campaign to tackle the same misinformation surrounding refugees who arrive by boat. The campaign highlights the fact that it is legal under international law to arrive by boat and that the vast majority of those who go to another country by boat are in fact legitimate claimants. This bill ignores this information.

There was a high court ruling in November 2010 in Australia that ruled in favour of two Sri Lankan refugees who claimed that laws barring them from appealing in Australian courts were unfair. The approach taken by the Conservative government in this bill makes it very possible that the same situation could arise in Canada if the bill is passed.

What is really happening is that the Conservatives are playing politics with refugees. That is the real optic of this bill. They are claiming this is a public safety issue and the bill was introduced by the public safety minister, but the issue is clearly one that primarily deals with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This is an immigration and refugee issue, not a public safety issue.

The official opposition recognizes and respects responsibility for refugees, unlike the Conservatives who have taken an approach that would damage Canada's standing in the international community and violates its commitment under the conventions relating to the status of refugees and the rights of the child. The process proposed by Bill C-4 is unclear, arbitrary and, ultimately, very discriminatory. Even more telling is that research and studies from other countries have shown that the bill would not curb human smuggling at all.

It is not just the official opposition that has concerns about this bill. There are many key stakeholders across our country with questions and concerns on this issue. They are outright worried about the approach that the government is taking to tackle this problem. The Canadian Council for Refugees has called for this bill to be scrapped entirely. Amnesty International Canada says that Bill C-4 falls far short of Canada's international human rights and refugee protection obligations and will result in serious violations of the rights of refugees and migrants. A program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has issued a very scathing attack on the Conservative government's attitude toward refugees generally and Bill C-4 in particular stating that there was no need for this draconian measure contemplated by the Conservative government.

Another organization that has spoken out against this particular bill and the one previous to this, the Canadian Bar Association, stated that it did not support the legislation in its previous form as it violates charter protection against arbitrary detention and prompt review of detention, as well as Canada's international obligations respecting the treatment of persons seeking protection. An expert panel at the Centre for Refugee Studies has called this proposed bill draconian.

As we can see, many organizations that come from various walks of life have spoken against this bill being proposed by the Conservative government.

It is clear that the bill takes the wrong approach. I will speak more specifically to why the bill is a wrong approach for Canada to take. First, current legislation already allows for a life sentence for human smuggling. Bill C-4 may be contrary to section 15 of the charter regarding equality under the law. Bill C-4 would create new second-class refugees who are denied permanent residency, temporary resident permits, denied on humanitarian and compassionate grounds and denied applications for permanent residence.

Many legal scholars and constitutional experts argue that this would create inequality under the law simply because the minister has designated immigrants due to their mode of arrival.

Bill C-4 may be contrary to section 9 of the charter, “arbitrary detention”. Bill C-4 would also impose a mandatory detention on designated foreign nationals for up to 12 months.

Bill C-4 is contrary to the UN convention relating to the status of refugees. In particular, Article 31 states:

The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.

In summary, given all the information, the official opposition, key stakeholders and many concerned Canadians across this country are asking why the Conservatives are taking this approach. What answers does the government have for questions about the unconstitutionality of this bill, in particular the arbitrary detention measures? Even more concerning is how the government can justify the mandatory detention of children.

My friend across the aisle talked about how Canadians have been compassionate about our immigration and refugee policies over the years. I would have to agree with that because I am an immigrant myself. I came here 31 years ago and it was this country's generosity that allowed me to migrate here.

However, I would ask my colleagues across the aisle if they are changing the definition of “compassion”. How can they justify putting children in detention? In my dictionary, the dictionary that Canadians have, compassion is not defined by putting children in detention centres. That is very troubling to me. Surely the Conservatives cannot justify putting children in detention.

This summer, I had an opportunity to attend a soccer tournament in my riding. I saw a program where new immigrant students were playing soccer matches with one another. The program was helping youth integrate into society. That is the kind of Canada that I envision. I do not envision a Canada where we put children in detention centres before we allow them to prosper in this country. Canada's compassion is why I am proud to be a Canadian. We need to ensure that children who come here from different countries where they were persecuted are treated with compassion and not put into detention centres.

I cannot understand how the government can justify the detention of children for over a year without any review at all. Refugees often arrive by plane. Does the government have any explanation as to why it is targeting the refugees on board boats? It is totally unclear what criteria the government would use to designate irregular travellers. Is arriving by plane possibly irregular or is it only by boat? It is even more unclear what would be defined as a group. Could two or more people be considered a group? This would mean that nearly all refugees would be designated simply because they do not travel alone. Is that fair?

The bill would block family reunification. As we heard previously, it would take five years after refugees have come here for them to be reunited with their family. That is not acceptable. It prevents some refugees from applying for permanent residency for up to five years. Why prevent family reunification? That is the question I have for my colleagues opposite in this House.

Bill C-4 would give the government the power to arrest and detain any non-citizens, including permanent residents, based on mere suspicion of criminality. Why is the government attacking the rights of newcomers?

The final question I have for the government side is as follows. In view of all the information, the concerns from key stakeholders, refugee groups and so many Canadians from all walks of life, would the minister tell us why the government did not decide to go after just the criminals and not the legitimate refugees?

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act September 19th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway for highlighting some of the draconian provisions in this bill. One of the things I am really concerned about is the detention of children. As a father of two children, one 5 and the other 15, I cannot imagine kids being brought up in a war-torn country, then travelling a month or two on a very crowded boat, and on top of that being detained for over a year in Canada. That is not acceptable.

Is my colleague aware of the long-lasting impacts it can have on children being detained for a year in Canada?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, this morning I received a number of calls from constituents from my area. One of the things they are telling me is they want to get their mail on time. They asked me to tell the government to unlock the doors so they can get back to work. Has my colleague been getting any calls like that?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, again, the government is not listening to the people.

The government has a choice. The government can unlock those doors and the postal workers would be back at work within hours.

It is also my understanding that the union had proposed that they would continue to work under the old agreement, but the government chose to lock them out.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that this is a lockout.

The government has a choice. It can unlock the doors and get the postal workers back to work and get those cheques to the seniors.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the government could start the mail in two hours.

All the Prime Minister has to do is pick up the phone and unlock those doors.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the member from the Northwest Territories spoke here last night. I believe the member from the Conservative side was probably not here. I think she needs to check Hansard to see that the member for the Northwest Territories was here.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want start by thanking the people of Surrey North for giving me the opportunity and privilege to be their voice in this House today.

I also want to wish a joyous day to my friends from Quebec on this national day for Quebec.

I want to commend my colleagues for working so hard in the last 24 hours and being here around the clock. They have done a wonderful job of standing up for the hard-working people of Canada.

I have been hearing from government members across the aisle that owners of small businesses have been calling them. Small business owners have also been calling me. They are telling me they want the government to unlock those doors, let the workers go back to work and get our postal service working.

I stand here as a new MP for Surrey North. As the owner of a small business and as a person who believes in our charter rights to collective bargaining, I also believe in good-paying jobs that support our local economies and the small businesses in our communities.

I had a chance to meet a couple of postal workers during the election. In the conversation I had with them, they said they were worried about their pensions and about their wages being clawed back. They were afraid. They wondered what they were going to do.

Lowering wages is basically a race to the bottom that the government seems to support. It will hurt us all in the long run.

When I moved to this beautiful country 31 years ago, my brother had a very good-paying job. He worked in the sawmills. He was a unionized worker and he helped me to go to university because he had that good-paying job.

I have talked to many people in the last years and months who are working in the sawmills. I am mindful that the government and the Government of British Columbia do not want to support secondary manufacturing. They would rather ship raw logs abroad. That is a discussion for another day.

With this lowering of wages, I bet there are people earning $12 an hour now, working in the same sawmills my brother worked in as he helped to support me. What are these people going to do? How are they going to be able to afford an education for their children?

The extra money that is earned in good-paying jobs is spent in our communities, in small businesses. In this House we talk about small businesses being at the heart of our economic engine. If we are not supporting our small businesses, how can the economy prosper?

I own a small restaurant in Surrey and I know how this impacts our communities. This money is being taken out of our local businesses, out of the pockets of small businesses that are already being hurt by the HST that was introduced by the Conservative government and by the B.C. Liberal government. I know how it hurt the small businesses in British Columbia when it was introduced by the Conservative government and the B.C. Liberal government.

I read this in the paper yesterday. The Prime Minister and the former premier of British Columbia had cooked up this deal in secret. Can we guess who has been appointed high commissioner to Britain? It is the former premier of British Columbia. That is for another day.

We need good jobs in our communities. The Conservative government does not believe in this idea.

The government has a choice. It can unlock those doors and let the workers go back to work.

I am speaking today in the House under very difficult circumstances. The government has introduced a piece of legislation that will take away the right of workers to bargain in good faith. That to me is unacceptable. It is impossible for me or for any person who values the legal right to strike, a right that is in our constitution, to support this legislation.

The government has chosen to violate the rights of the workers to negotiate a fair agreement. It is highly unusual for a government to force back-to-work legislation on locked-out employees. It is highly unusual because it seems to most people to be completely unreasonable. It is clear to most reasonable people that locking out workers is not fair collective bargaining.

Again, collective bargaining is our charter right. I wonder what the government is trying to say to Canadian workers by taking this unreasonable course of action. What is the government trying to say to hard-working families? Is it that the right to collective bargaining does not really exist in Canada? It does not seem to exist under this government.

This intervention by the Conservative government, this imposition by the Conservative government, is something I simply cannot support. I find it very troubling that the government would throw out our rights with such ease. It does not seem to be the Canada that I came to 31 years ago. In my Canada, hard-working people are respected. Their rights are respected, not ignored or trampled upon by government.

I am disappointed by the actions of the Conservative government. These actions are not acceptable to me or to the people of my riding of Surrey North.

The proposed back-to-work legislation to end the postal dispute sets out a wage settlement that is actually lower than Canada Post's last offer. We know that. We have talked about it in the last day or two. The legislation outlines a wage settlement of 1.75% in the first year, 1.5% in the second year and 2% in each of the final two years. However, at the bargaining table Canada Post had offered 1.9% in each of the first three years, followed by 2% in the final year.

Basically, this legislation offers the postal workers lower wages than what they had bargained for in good faith before the Conservative government locked them out. The difference works out to about $860 to $870 for a full-time employee over the course of the agreement.

Yesterday we heard our labour minister talk about 45,000 people against 33 million people. Let us remember that those 45,000 people who work in the postal service have families behind them. They have many small businesses behind them.

The Conservative government has made it clear that it is opposed to workers trying to improve their working conditions and to families making a living wage in our country.

The G20 Summit June 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it has been a year since the G20 summit in Toronto. It was not only a mismanaged boondoggle, it was the largest mass arrest in Canada's history and Canadians are now shocked to learn that it was completely unnecessary. Well over half of those detained had their charges dropped. Only a handful have been convicted. Clearly something went wrong.

Can the minister explain why so many Canadians were arrested without cause?

Public Safety June 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, while the Conservatives talk tough, today's AG report reveals that the RCMP is crippled by underfunding and it does not have enough resources to fight organized crime.

Communities across Canada, both urban and rural, are struggling against organized crime and gang violence. I have seen it in my own community. The RCMP is supposed to be there to protect Canadians and stop these criminals.

Could the minister explain how underfunding the RCMP is making communities across Canada a safer place for families?