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

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North. This is an important bill that we are debating today. Bill C-44 amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other acts.

I remember getting up in the House during second reading of the bill. I actually supported it at second reading, along with other members. We were hoping that the government would allocate proper debate on the bill in committee and allow for very detailed scrutiny of some of the changes being proposed. It is a very serious matter. When we are dealing with public safety and civil liberties, we need to ensure that all angles are looked at so that any bills or laws passed in the House take into consideration those two core Canadian values of public safety and civil liberties.

What did we see from the government? I was hoping it would entertain some of the expert testimony. We had four hours on the bill at committee. Two of those hours were taken by the members of the staff and two hours were allocated for so-called scrutiny. That is not acceptable to Canadians. They expect us to scrutinize and to look through bills for any holes, to ensure that we thoroughly go through important bills that increase the powers of our spy agencies. That was not done.

We had two hours. There were a number of amendments introduced at committee stage. I have seen this movie before where we come up with some insight and some amendments that would improve a bill and the Conservatives somehow do not want to see any changes, whether from the NDP, the Liberals, or anyone else. I have seen this over the last three and a half years. Surely, of the thousands of amendments we have offered as suggestions to improve bills, the Conservatives would accept some. No, not even one has been accepted. If it is really straightforward, they may entertain it, but they do not want to see any suggestions by the opposition to improve any of the bills.

In this case, the government did not accept any of the amendments we had proposed. Basically, Bill C-44 is making significant changes to expand the powers of CSIS, but instead of giving the bill the careful study it deserved, it was rammed through in four hours. That is not enough time. Giving CSIS new powers without providing adequate oversight presents real dangers; rather than clarifying things, this will only lead to more legal problems and may ultimately be struck down by the courts.

We have seen this movie before too. There are many bills passed by the government that have been struck down by the Supreme Court. It seems to be a regular occurrence where things are rushed through the House without proper oversight or debate. Whether it is in the House or committee, we are forced to rush. We have had over 84 closures on a number of bills that have been rammed through the House. Closure basically shuts down debate. That is not what Canadians expect us to do; they expect us to debate in the House.

Agriculture and Agri-Food December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this weekend it was confirmed that a fifth farm in the Fraser Valley has been infected by the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain of avian flu. This outbreak has the potential to devastate Canadian poultry farmers, but years of neglect and Conservative budget cuts have reduced the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to a skeleton staff. It has lost 300 employees, and 54 positions in animal health have been left unfilled.

My question is, what is the government's containment plan?

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in 1987, the thalidomide task force was formed and it made a number of recommendations with regard to how we could work together with the victims in order to provide adequate compensation.

My colleague talked about the daily challenges of people with effects of the thalidomide drug. The daily challenges are enormous. To provide proper help that will allow them to lead normal lives, they need assistance. They need money, compensation. I believe the Canadian government is morally responsible to ensure that victims are adequately compensated.

The motion says the government should provide support to survivors in co-operation with the thalidomide survivors task force. Again, let us work with victims and have the government negotiate in good faith so that victims who have been damaged by this tragedy are helped properly.

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Laval.

I would like to take this opportunity to speak to this motion on behalf of my constituents in Surrey North. This very important motion was put forward by the NDP member for Vancouver East, who has been advocating on this terrible Canadian tragedy to ensure that the victims of thalidomide are properly compensated. I would like to thank the member for Vancouver East for bringing this particular issue to the floor of the House to have a proper and long overdue hearing for the victims of the thalidomide tragedy.

In 1961, a drug was prescribed to pregnant women for morning sickness. The results were tragic. A number of babies had to be aborted. A number of babies were killed. A number of babies became disabled. There are are about 91 survivors currently living in Canada.

The Government of Canada approved thalidomide as a safe drug to treat nausea in pregnant women in 1961, although sample tablets were available in 1959. In 1961, thalidomide was withdrawn from the West German and United Kingdom markets, but it remained legally available in Canada until March of 1962, a full three months later. Some groups are saying that it was still available even after it was taken off of the market by Health Canada. In some pharmacies, it was available until May of 1962.

The government has never apologized for the devastation it caused. After decades of discussing compensation, it provided an inadequate one-time payment to survivors. The motion calls on the government to right the wrong and commit to supporting thalidomide survivors.

It makes me proud to speak on issues such as this in the House, especially when we get approval from all parties in support of the NDP motion to support thalidomide victims. Days like today give me a reason to come to the House to work on behalf of Canadians who need our help. Today, with the approval of the House, we will see action that is long overdue. This action should have been taken many years ago, but it was not, and the victims have suffered for far too long.

Thalidomide was a drug marketed in the early 1960s as a safe treatment for nausea during pregnancy, as I pointed out. Instead, the drug caused miscarriages and severe birth defects, including missing limbs, organs, deafness, and blindness. In 1961, as we know, it was approved by Canada. Again, there are about 100 survivors who are still here.

Decades of dealing with the consequences of thalidomide have left survivors dealing with very severe and debilitating pain. In many cases, the health care needs exceed what provincial health care systems are able to provide. Some 50 years of attempting to work around around their limitations have taken a toll on survivors. Many are now suffering from nerve damage and painful wear and tear on their bodies. This has created enormous challenges for them, including spine and joint damage that severely limits their mobility and many other things.

The victims were born back in the 1960s. They would be in their 50s now, and they may have had care provided by their parents, who may have passed away. Although compensation or help should have been provided a long time ago, now is the time that they need that help, because they may no longer be receiving care from their parents.

There was a one-time lump sum payment provided by the federal government to the victims back in the 1990s. However, it was inadequate. It was a small amount that could not possibly allow them to live life with dignity. With respect to the history of compensation for thalidomide victims not only in Canada but also across the world, there were lawsuits launched in Germany, Britain, the United Kingdom, and also in Canada in the late 1960s and 1970s. The victims in Germany and the United Kingdom were able to settle with the pharmaceutical company, and the government also pitched in to ensure that there was long-term funding available. It was awarded on a monthly or yearly basis as compensation based on the severity of the damage that was done by thalidomide.

However, there was no such settlement in the courts in Canada. Most of the settlements were done outside of the courts. There was no class action lawsuit. The payments the victims received were small and only one-time payments. That has been the issue. There have been court settlements and government-assisted settlements, but they have always been one-time, small payments. These could not possibly provide all of the help these individuals need to live a healthy life and to do what we are able to do on a daily basis, something we sometimes take for granted.

Therefore, the call from victims and victims organizations is with respect to the inadequate compensation, which should have been based on long-term monthly or yearly funding that would provide care for them on an ongoing basis, so that they can live a dignified life.

Germany and the United Kingdom provided funding on a monthly or regular basis, whereas the funding we provided was a lump sum, which has been inadequate. I could talk about this for a few more minutes, but I know my time is short.

I am proud to be in this House to support this motion. I want to also thank the other parties who are supporting this motion to provide adequate compensation for the victims of thalidomide, so that they can live life with dignity and be provided the things they need on a daily basis. I urge the government to support the will of this House, which it has indicated it would, and negotiate fairly and in good faith with the victims so they can live the rest of their lives in dignity.

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would be very excited too if the government actually introduced the bill in the House to get approval of it.

I find the topic of trade agreements with the European Union and other countries very engaging. However, I have seen the record of the government on producing good trade agreements over the last three years.

The member talked about how the farmers are excited and how they want these trade deals. However, the wheat is rotting in the farmers' fields in Saskatchewan and Manitoba because the current government has failed to get that wheat to the ports. The Conservatives have failed to provide the rail service. We have been pushing the government to pressure the rail companies to take that wheat to the ports, but the government has failed to do so.

Will the Conservatives stand up for prairie farmers and dairy farmers when it comes to getting their product out to the ports and pressure the rail companies to deliver the product on time?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, defending public safety and civil liberties are both key responsibilities of any government. What we have seen from the Conservative side over the last three years have been cuts to Public Safety to the tune of more than $688 million. Of that, $24 million in cuts have been made to CSIS.

If we are going to ensure safety for Canadians, how can the government justify cutting the very tools needed to provide that safety? Can the member respond to this question?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the wonderful question from the member for Malpeque. I have had the chance to work with him on the public safety committee.

One thing is very clear. What we currently have is not independent. It is not civilian oversight. It is a committee that is appointed. It is a part-time committee. Not only that, but we only have three members when we should have five. In addition, the head of this interim or part-time committee is actually a former member of Parliament from the Reform Party.

What Canadians expect us to do is come together as a multi-party committee to ensure that we have proper oversight of these intelligence agencies, to ensure that the course they are following does not infringe on Canadians' rights and civil liberties, and to ensure that somebody is watching over them.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, of course this is being rushed through. The government just moved time allocation on this bill this morning. I am glad the member has given me the opportunity to explain to Canadians what time allocation is. It is basically shutting down the debate. There are many members on this side of the House, as well as on the Conservative side of the House, who will not have the opportunity to represent their citizens. This is one aspect of it. When we look at the recommendations that were made by the Maher Arar commission, none of them have been implemented by the current government over the last eight or nine years.

We have been screaming and yelling on this side of the House and were nudging the Conservatives in committee to ensure that there is proper civilian oversight of the intelligence agencies, and the Conservatives have failed on that.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am mentioning this because this is a critical piece of legislation that deals with Canadian civil liberties and also deals with Canadians' safety.

I am asking Parliament to consider fact-based, evidence-based arguments to ensure that we go through this legislation, Bill C-44, with a fine-toothed comb, to ensure that we as parliamentarians take our responsibilities seriously, to ensure that the legislation we pass is protecting not only Canadians but also civil liberties. It is fair to lay out the record of what the government has done in the past and, absolutely, what I am talking about is related to this bill.

Let us talk about what has been lacking when we think about giving broad powers to intelligence and security agencies, but equally Canadians expect us to look at the other side, the oversight of these agencies, how much power they have, and whether we have a civilian and parliamentary oversight of these agencies.

Let us take a look at CSIS. The oversight for CSIS is being provided by SIRC, which is a part-time committee not made up of parliamentarians, but the current chair is a former member of the Reform Party, which was the Conservative Party. It has an additional two members. Two of the seats are vacant. Those are the facts of what the committee is made up of today.

Not only that, but the inspector general, which was an internal position that used to look at the activities of CSIS, was eliminated by the Conservative government. Therefore, when we give more powers to these agencies, Canadians expect us to ensure that there is proper oversight. The oversight of CSIS is already lacking. The NDP has been calling for more civilian oversight of these agencies, yet the Conservatives have stonewalled on this issue many times. This is one of things that Canadians expect us to debate in the House to ensure not only their safety but equally the civil liberties component.

In the Maher Arar inquiry there were a number of recommendations brought forward by the committee for the government to implement an oversight of these civilian organizations. Yet, we have seen over a period of time that basically the Conservatives have failed to deliver on those recommendations that Canadians expect us to implement to make sure that not only do we have these agencies protecting us but there is also some sort of oversight to ensure that they are within the law and ensuring Canadians' safety in a manner that is expected of them.

There are many concerns with the bill, one of which I have just talked about. The Conservatives could have brought in better oversight, especially when bringing in additional powers. It is equally important that we have oversight to make sure the work is being done properly.

The other aspect of the intelligence and security apparatus is that we have seen unspent money in the last three years. Not only that, but we have seen budgets being cut for these intelligence agencies that are supposed to be protecting Canadians. We have seen budget cuts under the current government. Conservatives pretend they are concerned about the safety of Canadians, yet when it comes to actually delivering resources for these agencies, they have failed to do that.

I am talking about millions of dollars to ensure that security agencies have the proper tools to protect Canadians, which have been cut.

I will quote some of the validators for the particular position that New Democrats are taking with regard to oversight. The privacy and information commissioners of Canada, while attending their annual meeting, noted the events in Quebec and Ottawa, and stated:

We acknowledge that security is essential to maintaining our democratic rights. At the same time, the response to such events must be measured and proportionate, and crafted so as to preserve our democratic values.

To sum up, Conservatives want to give additional powers to CSIS and other security intelligence agencies, and Canadians expect us to equally protect their civil liberties. Previously the Liberals and now the Conservatives have failed to deliver on that.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to represent the citizens of Surrey North and to speak on their behalf on this particular bill, Bill C-44, which makes some amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act.

Basically, this bill would broaden the powers of our intelligence agencies, CSIS and others, so that they have additional powers to carry out their work.

Defending public safety and civil liberties are key responsibilities of any government. I hope the Conservative government will take these responsibilities seriously when it comes to Canadians' safety and, equally, will carefully examine the civil liberties we have as Canadians.

Moving forward, we must do the hard work of ensuring Canadians' safety while guarding our values of freedom, tolerance, and inclusive democracy. As parliamentarians, as elected officials from our communities, we also have an equal responsibility to carefully review laws, security procedures, and legislation to make sure that we get them right the first time.

However, we have seen the government rush things through a number of times. This particular bill is under time allocation, and I will talk about that in a second.

The government tries to rush these things through, but as representatives of Canadian citizens, we have a responsibility to ensure that we go through any legislation that passes through this House with a fine-toothed comb. We are going to make sure the work is done responsibly and that there is careful study and evidence-based decision-making.

My friends across the aisle do not like to make evidence-based policy. We have seen that over and over. It is not only that a number of court cases and legislation have been thrown out by the Supreme Court, but sometimes the government picks numbers out of the air. We have seen the census eliminated by the government because it does not believe in actual numbers that will show Canadians what is happening.

The Minister of Employment and Social Development and his department have used numbers from Kijiji. For those who may not be familiar with Kijiji, it is—