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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was going.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Yellowhead (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 72% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Records Act June 6th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I have mixed emotions. Expungement would be a quick and simple way of doing it. However, I was a police officer for 35 years. Many times when I charged an individual with possession for the purpose of trafficking, that charge got reduced. There may have been other charges. When that person went to court, the Crown and the defence lawyer would decide to plea bargain and, a lot of times, it went down to the simple possession charge. Therefore, I have a hard time with that.

We need to have a way to clarify if the is the only thing relating to the charge of simple possession. I personally have dealt with hundreds of cases over the years, where I may have made the charge simple possession but it may have been a lot more serious. If the guy was polite and co-operative, I would give him the benefit of the doubt. The chiefs of police have brought that concern forward.

I know that technically we could do it with the press of a button, but I do not know if that would be right. We need to really look in-depth at that aspect. We need some way of clarifying it. It is not as easy as a simple possession. In many cases, there are a lot of other things relating to that charge.

Criminal Records Act June 6th, 2019

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives' stand was that we were trying to run an efficient government, with a balanced budget. Sometimes, governments must take hard measures, realizing that certain expenses may have to be passed down to the public. It is obvious that not many people are receiving the benefits of our parole program and pardon system.

We would be naive if we did not look at ways of modernizing it. Bill C-93 tries to do that. It should have gone further. It should have been more forceful in looking at electronic means to make it simpler, less costly and more efficient for the government.

Criminal Records Act June 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak once more to Bill C-93, an act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis.

I will be splitting my time with the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.

As I said last week, this is a terrible bill. It reminds me of the NAFTA bill. However, sometimes a bill is better than no bill.

As I have said many times in the House, I was never in favour of the legalization of marijuana, Bill C-45, which was another typically ill-conceived bill brought in by the Liberal government.

I will support the Bill C-93 because there is a common-sense element to it.

Although I did not support legalization, I am not naive enough to say that it was not right to look at the whole cannabis strategy in Canada. Let us face it, we are not the only ones. Many other countries have legalized or decriminalized marijuana. We only have to look at our closest and best trading partners, the good old U.S.A.

The use of marijuana has been legalized and decriminalized in Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia, Mariana Islands and Guam. Many of these jurisdictions are looking at or have commenced programs to get rid of the old cannabis-related charges for simple possession. There are several different programs being looked at. Some are similar to this bill, Bill C-93. Some are similar to what the NDP has been pushing, which is expungement.

We have heard from many of my colleagues in the House about the injustices that have taken place with respect to Canadians who have records for simple possession of marijuana. Stories have been told about people being turned back at the U.S. border. However, in my research, I have found the same things are happening in the United States. I will provide two cases. We have heard this before with respect to our people, just not south of the border. I will not to give their names to protect their identity.

A 70-year-old retired carpenter in the United States, who once ran for the Senate, was convicted back in 1968 for simple possession. His conviction caused him to be refused entry into Canada and he is unable to purchase a firearm in the United States.

Another gentleman, a professional lighting technician, worked for Willy Nelson for a time. Because of a misdemeanour drug charge as a youth, he was unable to accompany the band on tour to Canada.

Therefore, I strongly believe we need to remove the records for Canadians who were charged with simple possession of marijuana. Clearing people's records can remove barriers to employment and housing.

Many groups in Canada have become victims because of the area they live in and the environment around them. Many are good people who made the wrong choice at the wrong time. That is why I support Bill C-93, although I feel the bill did not go far enough. It should have, and could have, looked at many minor Criminal Code offences, such as public mischief and wilful damage, offences we call misdemeanours in the Criminal Code. There is always room to fix things. Maybe sometime in the future Bill C-93 coanbe fixed.

I spoke about this last week. In California, Code for America has brought out a program called “Clear My Record”. It is a computerized program that allows for the expedient removal of simple criminal code records, such as the simple possession of marijuana.

From the list of states I mentioned previously, nearly every one has passed laws that allow people to clear or change their criminal records. Those states recognize the impact on the economy and on the lives of families when millions are shut out of the workforce or unable to fully reintegrate into their communities because of criminal records from their past. I was shocked to learn, in my research on Bill C-93, that one in three people had a criminal record in the United States.

I also discovered that those states that had a cumbersome, overly complicated system of removing one's record failed in their goals. Only a small fraction of the tens of millions of eligible Americans benefited from these laws, which was directly related to being over-complicated, costly and took too much time to do.

“Code for America”, a computerized system that was adopted by California, is a modern 21st century technology that is quick, efficient and benefits the recipients. “Clear my Record” is a free online tool that assists people in California to navigate the complicate process of clearing their records. People can fill out a short, easy to understand application online that typically takes 10 minutes to get connected to a legal authority.

Jazmyn Latimer and Ben Golder, who co-developed the program, realized there was a problem when they looked into how many people were taking advantage of getting their records expunged. They found that less than 8% of the people who qualified accomplished it, simply because the system was opaque, hard to understand and navigate and costly, both for the people with the records and for the government. Does this sound like Bill C-93? It very much does.

I made recommendations to Bill C-93 during committee that the Canadian Parole Board look at electronic means of modernizing the way we do business. We are still following 20th century technology, trying to do too much by hand. Why? I could not get an answer for that.

The state of California, which has implemented the electronic process, has plans to try to clear over 250,000 cannabis-related convictions by 2020. That is probably as many as we have in Canada, and if not, a lot more. I hope it succeeds.

As well, I hope our Parole Board looks at an electronic process for Canadians with all possession charges and to expand in the future to look at other minor Criminal Code offences. We owe it to Canadians to make this system simple and free so they can get rid of their records, live better lives and be less of a burden on society.

Petitions June 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from petitioners who draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following: Whereas at one time Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan numbered in the hundreds of thousands, but today less than 5,000 remain, and whereas a recent bombing in Afghanistan that killed leaders from both communities demonstrates their ongoing vulnerability, especially since these leaders were on their way to meet the president, and whereas the Minister of Immigration is already empowered by legislation to allow vulnerable minorities to come to Canada as privately sponsored refugees directly from the country where they face persecution, and whereas the Sikh and Hindu communities are ready to sponsor Afghan minority refugees, therefore the undersigned urge the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenshipto use the powers granted to him to create a special program to help persecuted minorities in Afghanistan.

Further, they urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to raise the issue of the persecution faced by these communities with her Afghan counterpart and strongly advocate for more to be done to protect them.

Petitions June 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The petitioners draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following: Whereas increasing concerns about international trafficking in human organs removed from victims without their consent have not yet led to legal prohibition on Canadians travelling abroad to acquire or receive such organs, and whereas there are currently two bills before Parliament proposing to impede the trafficking of human organs obtained without consent or as a result of financial transactions, and whereas Bill C-350 is in the House of Commons and Bill S-240 is in the Senate, therefore the petitioners urge the Parliament of Canada to move quickly on the proposed legislation so as to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to protect Canadians from travelling abroad to acquire human organs removed without consent or as a result of a financial transaction and to render inadmissible to Canada any and all permanent residents or foreign nationals who have participated in the abhorrent trade in human organs.

Members Not Seeking Re-Election to the 43rd Parliament June 5th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, as most of you know, I will not be running in the upcoming fall election. Tonight I will be saying goodbye to all my colleagues in this House on all sides. It is hard to say goodbye to fellow workers, to a job or a career that you really enjoy.

Retirement: this is not my first kick at the can. Over 50 years of public service have been very rewarding to me. Am I ending it now? I do not really know. I am not sure yet. I was blessed to be born in a great country and a prosperous province, Alberta. Life has been good to me. For me to give back was just natural.

I am a second-generation Ukrainian who grew up on a farm near Chipman, Alberta. After graduation, I joined the RCMP in April of 1968. I took a train and headed to Regina to be a Mountie. I think most of the farm boys did that back in the 1960s. It was a good choice for me. I served 35 years and had nine postings and five detachment commands. I went from a constable to staff sergeant and finished my career in the city of Fort St. John in B.C. Fort St. John is a great community in northern British Columbia.

I met my first wife, Stephanie, in 1968. We had two daughters, Kim and Susan. Stephanie was with me throughout my service. I lost her to cancer a month after I retired.

In 2002, municipal politics called me. I was elected to council and three years later re-elected as the mayor. This was a great place to learn about politics. I think it is the best politics. In 2004, I married Nancy, my current wife, who has been my strongest constituent, my right arm, my adviser and my critic. She loves politics. She gave me so much: time, love and support.

Nancy and I decided to move from B.C. to Edson, Alberta, in 2011. I was home again. My stepdaughter, Summer, her spouse, Brad, and grandchildren Kaylynn, Jenessa, Brayden and Tyler lived there. They live there today. We built a new home on the McLeod River, just outside of Edson, to retire.

Then we met Rob Merrifield, who was the member of Parliament for Yellowhead. The next thing I knew, he asked me to join his EDA. Then I ended up being president. I never could say “no”. I have to learn that one day.

In the fall of 2014, Rob called me on a Sunday and said, “Jim, put together a special EDA meeting for tomorrow at 6 p.m.” I asked why and he said he could not tell me. He wanted to meet with Nancy and me at 4 p.m. before the meeting. I asked why. He said he could not tell me. Was I confused? I was. As the EDA president, he was telling me nothing and I had to phone everybody.

At 4 p.m. the next day, Rob and his wife, Brenda, met with Nancy and me and Rob told us he was retiring. When? Immediately. Nancy said, “What are we going to do?” Rob replied, “Jim, I think you should run. I spoke to Prime Minister Harper and it will be a great honour for you to serve as the federal MP for Yellowhead”. I said I could not, and to look at me, I was older. “No,” he said, “You're great. You have lots of experience.” I asked how long I had to make up my mind. He answered, “Two hours” because he wanted to tell the EDA. Forty-five days later, I was the MP for Yellowhead riding.

I was so proud to serve the Yellowhead riding, and I want to thank all my supporters in Yellowhead for electing me in 2014 and again in 2015. What a year it was, with two elections and opening an office in Ottawa and an office in Edson.

I remember my first week in Ottawa, when I was walked down the corridor here by Prime Minister Harper, being sworn in. The administration gave me a set of keys and said my office was 301 Justice. I asked where that was and was told, “Down the hill”. I met with finance and was told I could only spend this, could not spend that and to be careful. I was told to hire someone to work in my office. When I asked where I would find someone, they said to look around and that I would find somebody. Then I was told, by the way, I was on the immigration committee and it sits on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so to make sure I was there tomorrow. Then it was, “Goodbye and good luck.”

How many of us did that happen to? That was day one. From there we learned as we went. I love challenges, but I have to say, thank God the men's washroom was across the hall from 301 Justice.

In politics, time quickly flies. I have flown back and forth about 100 times. I have spent around 800 days on the Hill, approximately 1,000 days in the Yellowhead riding, and 15 hours every weekend, transitioning back and forth between here and there. Will I miss it? You bet. It has been an honour to serve my riding of Yellowhead, my province of Alberta, and my country. The friendships we develop here, from all parties, I will always cherish.

The people Nancy and I met in our riding, the friendships we made, they are such great people. Yellowhead riding is large, 77,000 square kilometres. As an MP, I could not have represented this great riding if it were not for my staff in Edson. I was lucky that Rob's staff stayed on when I was first elected: Jude, Annette and Theresa. If Jude is listening, she was the nerve centre of the riding, the type of person who knows everyone and everything. She was a great help. I thank the staffers who are there today, Annette, Marsha and Sandra, and those who have moved on, Amy, Sylvie and Jude.

In Ottawa, I was lucky. I hired Jeannette. What a find and what a knowledgeable staffer. She trained me, guided me and kept me in line, and that was difficult. Her knowledge and wisdom on the Hill is awesome and I thank her. Through her, I became so much better. I hired her as an employee, but I consider her a friend. I thank Jamyn, a former staffer in my Ottawa office, and Volodymyr, who is there now, for their service to me and the Yellowhead riding. I thank the four Ukrainian interns I had during the summers.

I thank my Conservative colleagues. I have learned so much from them. It has been an honour to serve with them in the government and in opposition. I will always cherish the friendships we developed. I will miss them, all of them.

I will miss the Hill, the security people, the drivers, the people in the cafeteria, the personnel around here. I stop and talk to as many of them as I can in a day. I will miss my staff. I will miss my constituents. However, I will not miss that weekly flight riding from Ottawa to home and back.

I have been so lucky that Rob Merrifield asked me to run. I have been so lucky that my constituents supported me. I have been so lucky to have had a great campaign team. I am so lucky that my replacement candidate, Gerald Soroka is a great guy, a friend and, hopefully, he can have a good office, at 301 Justice, after the federal election when he joins our prime minister, Andrew Scheer.

I could not have done any of this if it were not for my wife Nancy. I know she is listening. I thank “Beebs” for travelling back and forth across the Yellowhead riding with me, for helping in speeches, counselling me, campaigning, etc. She is special. She represented me so many times in the riding when I was here in Ottawa, giving speeches and doing all those other things. I was getting worried because people were telling me that they were starting to like her more than me. Nancy is my soulmate, a friend, and I thank her so much.

People ask me what I am going to do when I retire. There is that word again: retire. I have my health, thank God. My motor home wants to travel. My motorcycle wants to be ridden. My restoration projects are begging to be finished. My grass continues to grow. There are fish in the McLeod River that need to be caught. My deer need to be fed; I have a herd of about 15 of them.

However, mostly, I look forward to visiting my three sisters, my sister-in-law, their husbands and our four children, and spoiling our 11 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter who needs to see me more.

Canada is a great big country and I am about to hit the road, folks. Yes, I will go back to boring holes in the sky, enjoying the freedom of flight.

Criminal Code June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the message I want to get out to all Canadiana is that vulnerable people must be respected regardless of their vulnerability, whether it is age, a disability, the way they were brought up or lifestyle. If people choose to perpetrate crimes against vulnerable persons, I want to get the message out that they are the worst types of criminals and we need to deal with them in a more severe manner than we do today.

Criminal Code June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, it is different in two ways.

First, it would make it mandatory. Right now is at the discretion of the prosecutor or the judge to look at the aggravated sentencing. Let us take that away. Automatically, people will be punished greater if they assault a vulnerable person than if they assault someone else, just as if someone defrauds, steals or takes advantage of a vulnerable person.

The second part that comes into play is the fact that there are criminals out there. There are people who prey upon the vulnerable. The public needs to know that if people prey on a vulnerable person, they will pay a greater penalty if caught than if they were to prey on another person.

Criminal Code June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, any committee that is formed to assist seniors in any capacity will definitely help. However, my bill does not only stick with seniors; it is anybody who is in a vulnerable position. We need to ensure that in our courts, when people are found guilty, they will dealt with more severely if they have assaulted a 95-year-old man or a person in a wheelchair

What I am trying to get to with Bill C-206 is that there have to be consequences if someone picks on vulnerable people just because they are vulnerable.

Criminal Code June 4th, 2019

moved that Bill C-206, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (abuse of vulnerable persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about seniors and vulnerable persons in our society, whether they are physically handicapped, have a mental condition or other. Bill C-206 focuses on the sentencing of individuals who perpetrate crimes against people specifically because of who they are: vulnerable.

The bill would amend section 718.2 of the Criminal Code by bringing further protection to seniors and other vulnerable persons to ensure that they live in safety, dignity and without fear.

As a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer for many years, I have seen many horrific crimes, brutality, theft and suicide. Fortunately for me, I have been able to take all the bad, the ugliness and the violence and push it to the back of my mind and I can forget about it. How much good we did and the people we helped save and set on the right course in life is very important to me.

However, there was always one type of crime I felt I could not accept, the lack of appropriate penalties in our Canadian Criminal Code, specifically for crimes against vulnerable persons. My bill would introduce tougher penalties for those who consciously use the weakness of vulnerable groups to financially, physically, sexually or emotionally abuse them.

It is difficult for the abused to admit to people that they are victims of abuse, especially at the hands of someone they know and trust. When trust is abused, the penalties should be severe. Perpetrators should be held to account with firm punishment. We must have harsher sentences for these types of perpetrators.

Criminals who target the elderly should know that they will not get away with it. Older people should not have to fear being targeted. We need stronger penalties to deter and tackle criminals who target the elderly and the disabled. There are hundreds of cases of abuse in which the offenders did not, in my opinion, receive fair punishment for their actions.

We should not tolerate or express any sort of sympathy toward conscious cruelty against seniors and other vulnerable groups. Their security should be of concern to us in Canada and their abuse should be treated as a human rights issue of the utmost importance.

I must point out that technically a judge already considers the vulnerability of a victim, including age and disabilities, when deciding on a sentencing term. It is just not specifically stated on paper or in the act. The bill would simply add it on paper as a requirement.

As people grow older, they become more isolated, so the risk of abuse increases. Punishment fails to deter would-be abusers who see older people as a soft target and we must do more to protect older people and vulnerable people. Bill C-206 would change that.

A large part of the Canadian population is either a senior or will soon be one, including me. I am already there. The demographic data released by Statistics Canada in the 2016 census shows there are approximately 5.9 million seniors in Canada.

According to government statistics, by 2031, around eight million people will be aged 65 or older. That will be almost a quarter of Canada's population. Many Canadians require care and assistance, and that number is only growing.

Offenders who exploit their weaknesses for their self-benefit and decrease the self-worth and dignity of vulnerable adults and seniors must face greater punishments in law. Statistics provided by the Department of Justice state that approximately 24% of disabled persons were victimized at least one in their lives and about 45% of seniors aged 65 and older reported experiencing some form of abuse. This is scary, especially when a quarter of our population will be in that age bracket very shortly.

However, according to the Canadian Association for Retired Persons, only 20% of elder abuse comes to the attention of responsible authorities. Why? Because many of the victims do not want to report the abuse for various reasons. These reasons include the dependence upon a caregiver who is abusive, fear of not being believed or even deep shame and humiliation because of what happened to them.

Moreover, in 32% of the reported elder abuse cases, the offender is related to the victim as a child or an extended family member. That is shocking. We can only imagine how many cases of such abuse remain unreported as the elderly are reluctant to bring charges against their family members or relatives.

It is therefore the responsibility of all of us in the House of Commons to protect those who cannot stand up for themselves by adopting measures that would deter potential offenders from committing these crimes. This is exactly what my bill is designed to do. Adopting it would mean two things: prescribing tougher penalties for the offenders and justice for the victims.

Bill C-206 covers four forms of abuse: financial, physical, sexual and emotional. I will speak about each to show how they affect vulnerable people.

The first is financial abuse, one of the most common forms of abuse against vulnerable groups.

In 2014, CBC News reported that Toronto police arrested a wife and husband who defrauded a 94-year-old woman, within four years, of $25,000 in cash, jewellery and furniture. The wife was hired as a housekeeper and became involved in the everyday activities of this victim. At some point, she forced the elderly lady into a smaller room and moved into the apartment with her husband. If it were not for a courier from a local pharmacy who, during his weekly deliveries, noticed that something was wrong when an unknown person answered the door, the consequences for that woman could have been more grave than just the money.

Under the Department of Justice, not a single reported Canadian case contains a definition of “elder abuse”. In fairness, there are some cases where the extreme age of the victim was taken into the sentencing factor, which is very good. However, my bill, Bill C-206, would take away the use of discretionary decisions and make it mandatory for the sentence to be increased due to the fact the aggravated crime was committed against a vulnerable person. This is not new in Canadian law. It is missing in certain parts of the Criminal Code and I want it to be used more broadly, especially for the crimes about which I have been talking.

In another example in the same year, 3,000 kilometres away in Edmonton, Global News wrote an article on a man who was accused of defrauding his grandmother of $265,000. He acted as his grandmother's attorney under a power of attorney agreement.

Fraud and financial abuse in general can occur not only among family members, but also with people who the victims trust the most. These cases are connected to the victim's trust and dependancy on the caregiver who is abusing the victim and, due to the simple fear of being physically abused, the victim will not report the caregiver. This is not acceptable today. These abuses are happening because offenders do not get fair punishments. They rely on the vulnerability of others and take advantage of them.

Physical abuse is the second form of abuse I want to address.

Statistics show that people with disabilities are more likely to be assaulted compared to people with no disabilities. Another disturbing case happened in Ottawa involving a personal support worker who pleaded guilty to assault charges for an incident at a retirement home. He delivered 10 punches to an 89-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

In my many years in law enforcement, this is one of the worst types of crimes I have ever encountered. Should such offenders be treated equally to those assaulting healthy and capable people? I do not think so. Their punishments should reflect the gravity of their crimes. Currently, those abusers, even if convicted, rarely get punished.

Advocates for people with disabilities have confirmed that vulnerable groups are often abused. If we look back at the report that came out yesterday, people who are vulnerable are being picked on.

In October 2014, the CBC posted a story about a 19-year-old mentally disabled woman being sexually assaulted on a bus in Winnipeg, while her support worker was sitting a couple of rows ahead. I am a father and a grandfather. To me, a 19-year-old is still a child. What this child experienced was traumatic for both her and her parents. She has a right to be safe. That is why we need a stronger law.

In the spring of 2017, a support worker in Ontario walked away with a guilty plea for only one count of assault and no criminal record in exchange for the court withdrawing 13 counts of sexual assault.

We need to be stiffer in our penalties. This is where my bill, Bill C-206, would come into play. The vulnerable in our society should enjoy an increased level of protection. They need to be confident in our legal system and must be assured that those who would try to use their vulnerability will always get a fair punishment.

The last but not least form of abuse I would like to cover today is the emotional or psychological form of abuse. I would like to add that all previously discussed forms of abuse are very much connected to emotional abuse in the sense that they have a great psychological effect on the victims.

There is no dignity in disrespecting a vulnerable person. There is no dignity in taking advantage of a vulnerable person. It is a crime and it must be punished in a greater way than it is being punished now. The cases I have talked about are not single cases; there are hundreds of them out there.

How do we change this? Canada needs harsher penalties for those who exploit vulnerable people and take advantage of their weaknesses. Tougher penalties for the abuse of vulnerable persons would make abusers think twice before committing these kinds of offences and would provide more safety for those who cannot protect themselves.

My bill would ensure that those criminals who would disrespect and use the weakness of others would not be able to get away with a simple conviction or a guilty plea, leaving the families and friends of victims desperate and disappointed in our criminal justice system.