House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was manitoba.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as NDP MP for Elmwood—Transcona (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply February 17th, 2011

Madam Speaker, the Liberal opposition day motion specifically calls for the government to produce the costs of its crime agenda, specifically the costs related to the individual crime bills it has introduced.

The committee dealt with Bill C-59 just two nights ago. In response to questions by Liberal and NDP members, the deputy minister specifically informed the committee that she knew what the costs of implementation were for Bill C-59, but she was not prepared to provide the information because she did not have the government's approval. She basically said she was being muzzled by the government. This was the Deputy Minister of Public Safety at a committee hearing being asked a direct question by the member for Ajax—Pickering and others about this, and she is being muzzled by the government.

She has the information, the government has the information. Why will they not release it?

Business of Supply February 17th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, when we were debating the bill to end the two-for-one remand credit, the Minister of Public Safety, when pressed, admitted that his estimate was that the bill was going to cost the system $90 million. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated it would be between $10 billion and $13 billion. That is one huge difference.

The Conservatives have been asked repeatedly on debate on Bill C-59 over the last couple of days, and every single one of them has avoided and hidden from responding to that question. At committee the other night on Bill C-59 the deputy minister of public safety, when she was asked if she knew the answer, said she did know the answer. She knew the cost of each one of these crime bills, including Bill C-59, but she could not tell the committee. She could not tell the committee because the government will not let her tell the committee.

Would the member like to comment further on what happened at the committee the other night?

Business of Supply February 17th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, yesterday and the day before, during the debate on Bill C-59, speaker after speaker asked government members to give the costing for the proposed new prison system. Not a single Conservative speaker would provide that information. Yet in committee the other night the deputy minister was asked the same question several times and admitted that she did know what it would cost the government to pass Bill C-59. She was not at liberty to give the information because the government had not given its approval for her to do so.

It is totally outrageous that the government actually knows the true cost of the bill, but refuses to provide it. As in the case of an earlier bill on the two-for-one issue, the government misrepresented the amount by deliberating saying that it would cost $90 million. The Parliamentary Budget Officer later indicated it would cost between $10 billion and $13 billion.

The government is deliberately stretching the truth or hiding the information. Why would it want to hide the information? I am told that in the United States legislative initiatives automatically include a costing. The same is true in Canada, except the government is hiding the costs.

Petitions February 17th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, my petition demands an end to Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.

In May 2008, Parliament passed a resolution to withdraw the Canadian Forces by July 2011. The Prime Minister, with agreement from the Liberal Party, broke his promise to honour the parliamentary motion and, furthermore, refuses to put it to a parliamentary vote in the House.

Committing 1,000 soldiers to a training mission still presents a danger to our troops and an unnecessary expense when our country is faced with a $56 billion deficit. The military mission has cost Canadians more than $18 billion, money that could have been used to improve health care and seniors' pensions right here in Canada.

Polls show that a clear majority of Canadians do not want Canada's military presence to continue after the scheduled removal date of July 2011. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to honour the will of Parliament and bring the troops home now.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, I was happy to hear the member talk about the Baha'is. I recall being in Israel in 1979 and visiting the Baha'i Temple in Haifa, which is the world headquarters for the Baha'is.

There is some very disturbing information about how the Baha'is are treated in Iran. Two hundred and two Baha'is have been killed since the Islamic revolution. Many more were imprisoned, expelled from schools and workplaces, denied various benefits, and denied registration for marriage. Their homes have been ransacked. They have been banned from attending university or holding government jobs. Several hundred of them have received prison sentences for their religious beliefs.

I saw some other statistics which indicated that when the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power the number of imprisonments mushroomed. Under the Shah's regime, fewer than 100 political prisoners had been executed between 1971 and 1979, but the Ayatollah Khomeini took power in 1979, and 7,900 were executed between 1981 and 1985 as the prison system was expanded.

During the Shah's era some prisoners who were interviewed talked about boredom and monotony, but prisoners typically used the words “fear”, “death”, “terror” and “horror” to describe the Islamic republic's prisons. People revolted against the Shah of Iran but they received something worse. That is an interesting observation.

I have run out of time to ask my question but I am sure the member will be able to provide a response.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, I wanted to ask the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas and Consular Affairs earlier about consular services in Iran. She talked about there being consular services in 260 locations and over 600 cases per day. I am trying to find out how many cases there would be in Iran on a daily basis over the past year. I do not expect the member is going to be able to provide the answer tonight, but if he could get it in the next day or two, that would be fine.

The parliamentary secretary is probably aware of the report from the Subcommittee on International Human Rights on Iran. The report has been out since December 2010 and has a list of 24 recommendations on what the Government of Canada should be doing regarding the Iranian situation. As we know, the situation is changing on a daily basis.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary whether the government has fulfilled these recommendations, which ones it has accomplished and which ones it is currently working on?

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, I thought, and I could be wrong, that in 1979 in Iran after coming off the years of the Shah, that once the Ayatollah Khomeini came back from France that country went through the process of consolidating power, but its power was consolidated as a theocracy. More importantly, the revolution became an export. I remember being in Athens, Greece one day and there was a big demonstration in favour of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

In many respects some revolutions are insular to the country and that is how we hope they would be. But other revolutions that develop on an ideological basis actually become beacons to the world and are exported.

That 1979 revolution in Iran seemed to be an exported revolution. The country spent as much time exporting its ideas to other countries and fomenting activities to support other revolutions and revolutionary efforts as much as it did trying to satisfy its own people. But there did not seem to be as many demands from its own people in those days. I see it a little different now. Never having been there it seems to me that the people have local demands. We cannot forget that the people went through a war for a number of years with Iraq and that was a very consuming war between Saddam Hussein, who started the war, and Iran.

At a certain point the people will want to see improvement in their own lives, not a degradation of their lives. Even today in Iraq people have not achieved the standard of living they had before Saddam Hussein started to take the country down. The people were higher but they have gone lower. People in Iran right now expect things to get better. Hopefully they will become more insular and will not try to export the revolution and their foreign policy as they are right now.

I hope that answers part of the member's question.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, I am very pleased to continue my speech on the take note debate on Iran.

I found that the report of the subcommittee on Iran by the House of Commons committee was quite substantial and made very important recommendations, which I hope to deal with in my speech. Unfortunately, I was unable to get through a lot of the recommendations.

One of the recommendations I was dealing with was the one that Radio Canada International be allowed to consider programming in Farsi over its worldwide shortwave service, over conventional FM broadcasting to the gulf region and over the Internet. I want to make certain the government did follow through on that and did not just pay lip service to it and not do it.

Another recommendation was to ensure that Iranian foreign offices, bureaus or media outlets in Canada would not used by the Iranian regime as a source of threat and intimidation of the Iranian diaspora in Canada. We have seen in a number of other situations, in Canada and elsewhere, where regimes will go abroad to hunt down and threaten former citizens of their country who are involved in demonstrations and so on against their government.

In addition, the subcommittee recommended that, in communicating its condemnation of the human rights violations of the Iranian regime against its own people, the Government of Canada should use all available tools already authorized under Canada's existing immigration and visa legislation to ensure that high-ranking members of the regime would not able to access direct or indirect support from within Canadian territory.

In addition, it recommended the reduction high-level interaction with Iranian government officials and to make any invitations extended to Iranian officials conditional upon effective actions taken by the Iranian government to improve the human rights situation in Iran.

In addition, there was a recommendation that the Government of Canada, in communicating its condemnation of the human rights violations perpetrated by members of Iran's state security agencies against the Iranian people, use all available tools authorized by existing immigration and visa policies and legislation to deny entry into Canada to members of Iran's security agencies, including members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Also there was a recommendation that the Government of Canada institute targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes against those individuals within the Iranian government and the state security forces who were known to have committed human rights violations.

In the case of Egypt, Mubarak and his family have a reported $70 billion. The question now is where is the money and can the current Egyptian authorities track it down and get it. In the case of Tunisia, some of the ruling family are in Canada. The question is what we can do to try to track down these assets and return the people and the assets to the new authorities in Tunisia.

A very important recommendation of the committee is the idea of the targeted sanctions. I mentioned what happened in Libya number of years ago when countries took action against Libya and froze Libya out of world affairs and froze its economic opportunities. Libya suffered a lot for a number of years until Colonel Gaddafi came forward and renounced terrorism and promised not to be involved in any more state-sponsored terrorism activities. Only then did the sanctions get lifted and the restrictions removed. Now we see a new tourism industry developing there, much more activity in the oil fields and other activities.

If a country like Iran can look out in the world and see what is the worse possible situation that could develop and happen to it, if it continues violating human rights and if it also sees what happened when Libya gave up participating in state-sponsored terrorism, then it will see it is very short-sighted to continue to do what it is.

It has been reported by several speakers tonight, in a lot of very interesting speeches, that the Iranian population is very young, well-educated and highly motivated. It is only a matter of time before the theocracy and the current government starts to crumble. That just leads to increased repression. However, at the end of the day that will not overcome mass actions on the streets. We saw that in 2009, after the Ahmadinejad re-election. We see it happening right now. It is possible that if things work out the way we hope they will, conditions may change, as they did in Egypt and in Tunisia.

Once again, we talked about this being a moving target, that we do not know what will happen at the end of the day. Members will remember that in 1979, after the Shah of Iran was overthrown, people were hoping for the best for Iran. It was only a matter of time, I am just not sure how long it was, but I think it was just a matter of weeks or months before the theocracy took root and the Ayatollah Khomeini came back from France and assumed power.

I am sure all of us here hope that will not what will happen in Egypt, or in Tunisia, or in any other of these countries.

I know we sit back, in Canada, with our democratic ideals on our chests, and we recommend those ideals and do what we can to promote those ideals. However, we are dealing with different countries and they do not necessarily always think the way we do. There are a lot of competing interests.

I remember being in Morocco in 1970 and then going back 10 years ago. I saw tremendous changes in that time. I do not know how democratic the government is, but the education level of the population is much higher than it was in 1970. In 1970 it was a relatively poor agrarian country, with most people wearing djellabas and very few people wearing blue jeans. Today, almost anybody younger than me wears western dress. Also, the country was trying to get into the European Union.

Looking at that, Morocco would be a good candidate for the type of democratic reforms that we would be trying to pursue. However, I cannot say the same thing about Iran because I have not been there. However, if we assume that it has a young, educated population, it is a very good sign that it may be willing to adopt a democratic approach.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, one example that I can think of is North Korea where it keeps its people in state of poverty and under control by using that kind of threat that they are about to be invaded. It is very common for repressive regimes to conjure up imaginary enemies to keep their people in line. Once that is broken, they do not have a very good argument for staying in power.

I am still interested to know about the air situation, because with any country that is shut off, sanctions work. Libya was a really good example that faced sanctions because it too was put on the Americans' list as a country of state-sponsored terrorism. It was shut out of a lot economic ventures because of its status. There was really no tourism investment from the United States or Europe. Once Colonel Gaddafi got out of the situation he was in and renounced international state-sponsored terrorism and his continuing role in it, then Libya opened itself up to a large development of tourism and oil development. That was a good reason for him to stop doing what he was doing before. That situation did work and I am sure we will have to look at some sort of isolating tactics like that against Iran.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to speak to the take note debate tonight on the situation in Iran sponsored by the member for Mount Royal. I know he has a very good command of the issues in this area. We spoke a couple of weeks ago on the situation in Egypt.

As members know, the situation is very fluid and has developed just in the last few weeks. The government fell In Tunisia and then the government fell in Egypt, which I believe was a bigger surprise. Now we are talking about recurring protests in Iran and other countries in the region. I do not know how much of it is facilitated by the up-to-date information that is available today through networks such as Al Jazeera because people can access that information. We are being told that new technologies, such as Facebook, the Internet and so on, have been big facilitators, whereas maybe 50 or 100 years ago we would not have had these types of activities. I do not know that we can actually be 100% sure of that but suggestions have been made that this has been facilitated by these modern mediums. If that is the case, it is important and incumbent upon the friendly support of governments across the world to take action and support the protestors for the purposes of establishing democratic regimes to the extent that is possible in some of these countries.

I must admit that I am impressed with the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights which produced the report on human rights in Iran. Our member and members from other parties are on the committee that produced its report in December 2010. The report contains 24 fairly excellent recommendations that came out of that committee and I think it would be a travesty if those recommendations were simply not followed up on.

I have been around governments for a long time, 26 years as an elected person but a number of years before that working for the political apparatus. I can say that governments of all stripes operate more or less on a boiler room day-to-day crisis management basis. They do things when they have to do them. Often times we find that the follow up is not there. Promises are made by governments, which is why we have a press out there that regularly follows us around to ensure that we are actually doing what we said we would do.

Earlier on tonight, I had an opportunity, which I may have missed, to ask the new minister a question. I would also like to congratulate her on her long overdue appointment. I believe she talked about consular services in 260 locations having to deal with 600 cases a day. I would like to know from her or any other member of the government, should one be around later to speak to this, if perhaps someone could provide me with the number of consular service cases the government has been dealing with on a daily basis over the past year to give us a longer term view of that.

I also would like to know where the government sits regarding the 24 recommendations that are mentioned in the report. I had not intended to but I will go through some of those recommendations because some of them are fairly good.

As we indicated, the situation is changing and is very fluid so perhaps different recommendations that may be relevant today or were relevant in December may not be relevant in a few months. Maybe some more accelerated or extreme measures might need to be taken if the situation gets further out of hand.

Recommendation number one reads:

The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to provide moral support and should increase, if possible, its financial support for Canadian and Iranian civil society organizations and other human rights groups that document and report on human rights abuses committed by the Iranian regime.

Once again the committee has to do a follow-up to ensure these recommendations are adopted. The government member just indicated to us, and I am not sure whether all members of the committee are even aware, that the government has not even adopted this report yet. Assuming that we are all on the same page, the government should get this report adopted tomorrow and then start laying out a plan as to how it will implement these recommendations.

The report talks about providing moral and diplomatic support to the democratic movement in Iran. The government is willing and able to do that, and it has been doing that.

The report suggests that the government consider funding a research chair at a Canadian university dedicated to the study of Canadian Iranian relations, including the human rights situation in Iran. The documentation of cases is really vital to successful cases long term. So much of history's atrocities have not been documented and, without proper documentation, it is hard to prove at the end of the day. If we could get cases documented, then we could move forward and get results through international courts and other adjudication bodies. The documentation is really the worst enemy of the tyrants because they thrive on being able to hide in the shadows, use force whenever it suits them and basically run and escape. It is only when the cases can be documented and the light is shone on those cases that proper results will be made.

I recall a police person telling me a number of years ago that while he really could not tell what would happen in certain situations, he knew that if the light was shone on it things might develop and people would start scurrying around. Sure enough, that is one of the approaches that it takes.

If world attention is drawn to a problem, then tyrants will not be very happy with that development, particularly if some sanctions are attached.

Another recommendations reads:

...Radio Canada International to consider programming in Farsi over its worldwide shortwave service, over conventional AM/FM broadcasting in the Gulf region, and over the Internet.

This is another excellent idea that must be followed through on and initiated.

We talked about all the modern technological advancements like Facebook, Twitter and the Internet to the extent that we can work around those issues and use those issues. That would be a positive thing to put these tyrants in their place. That is one of the things that we can use against them to try to get results.

There is talk about a prohibition of Canadian registered ships from docking in Iran and Iranian registered ships from docking in Canada. I was wondering about the airline issue. Maybe someone knows about the issue of airline service to Iran and what is happening there.