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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament November 2010, as Conservative MP for Calgary Centre-North (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 57% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply April 7th, 2005

There are many suggestions emerging from the House as to who some of these eminent Canadians might be.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Canada puts forward the proposition that we will not have a public inquiry, we will not have an investigation, we will not have it in public. Rather, we are going to have the spectre of her seeking the independent advice of an undetermined person who will identify the public interest questions and give her advice so that we, collectively she says, can all move forward.

It is a remarkable proposition that a public interest question would be resolved in private by the Deputy Prime Minister. What is wrong with a public inquiry? That is what the Indo Canadian families and the victims' families have been demanding for some time. That is what this House should be sensitive to. That is what all Canadians are interested in.

It is very noteworthy that in other circumstances this government and this Deputy Prime Minister have been prepared to embrace a public inquiry as exactly the way to get to the bottom of things. I quote the Deputy Prime Minister from February 16, 2004, speaking about the Gomery inquiry. She said:

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the government have been absolutely clear. We want to get to the bottom of this matter for the Canadian public. That is why we have instituted what can only be described as the most comprehensive action plan that probably any government has ever put in place: a public inquiry...

On that same day she said:

That is why we called for a public inquiry. We want to get to the bottom of this. We all want to know what happened here. We believe that is what the Canadian public deserves to know.

By parity of reasoning, that is what the Canadian public wants to know in this case. That is what the Indo Canadian families of the victims want to know in this case. They want a public inquiry. They want sunlight as a disinfectant in this miscarriage of justice. They want to know what happened. They do not want to see someone described as an eminent Canadian meeting in private with the Deputy Prime Minister, investigating the very people who report to the Deputy Prime Minister, to conduct a review outside of public scrutiny, not in public.

Returning to the motion, there is really only one question before the House today, and that is whether we strike an independent judicial inquiry into the investigation itself, the bungled investigation. There is a real question that emerges from all of this. What is the Deputy Prime Minister, and her agencies, seeking to withhold from public scrutiny? What is the difficulty with a public inquiry?

There are many questions which remain unanswered. Why was this investigation bungled? What investigative errors of the government is the government attempting to hide from public scrutiny? What errors were made? Who made them? What steps have been taken since that time to ensure that those sorts of errors are never made again? Who was responsible? What has been done to change the situation?

Why were the working relationships between the RCMP and CSIS so strained that individuals destroyed investigative evidence, specifically tape recordings, wiretap evidence, as I understand it, of witnesses who were taped or in some cases interviewed? We are not speaking, as I understand it, of the inadvertent destruction of small portions of evidence. We are talking about the wholesale erasure of hundreds of hours of investigation, destroyed by the very agents who were supposed to be responsible for the investigation and the protection of Canadian public security.

What kind of law enforcement agency would take it upon itself in the context of the worst terrorist act in Canadian history, and at that time one of the worst in the world, to destroy the evidence? All Canadians are puzzled by that and ask themselves that question. The court described the destruction of the evidence as “unacceptable negligence”.

Returning to the eminent Canadian, the Deputy Prime Minister points out to the House that we need the assistance of an eminent Canadian to find out what questions we need to investigate. There is no need to hire anyone, eminent or otherwise, to determine what the questions are. The questions have been put right before this House by another eminent Canadian, Mr. Justice Josephson, who said very clearly that one of the reasons for acquittal was unacceptable negligence on the part of the investigative agencies.

That is the issue, that is the question and that is the matter that should be before a judicial inquiry. It has nothing to do with all the other matters that have been brought before the House today by the Deputy Prime Minister and the parliamentary secretary.

In addition to the questions surrounding the bungling of the evidence itself, there are, not surprisingly, accusations of a cover-up on the part of some of those who are involved, an intentional cover-up to make sure that this matter was not investigated. What we need to know is whether that is true.

The purpose of the inquiry would be to get to the bottom of that. Perhaps we will find that much of this has been put to rest. Perhaps we will find there has been no cover-up, but that in itself is of importance because these are important law investigative agencies. CSIS, in particular, is very important to the safety of Canadians. We need to go forward in the future knowing that sunlight has cleansed the situation, that Canadians have confidence in CSIS in its capacity to do its work and that there has not been a miscarriage of justice in this case.

Why is the government not prepared to convene a public inquiry? What is the issue? The Deputy Prime Minister's spokesperson says that cost is not an argument. Several weeks ago the minister's own spokesperson said publicly that the question of cost was not a consideration and not the reason for not having a public inquiry.

Several weeks ago the Deputy Prime Minister said that the reason we were not having an inquiry was that it was not possible for her to say that there would be any benefit from a public inquiry. If there is no benefit from a public inquiry, why is the Deputy Prime Minister hiring an eminent Canadian to investigate the situation? What is the benefit of hiring an eminent Canadian if there is no benefit to having an investigation or inquiry to begin with? The bottom line is that the government does not want to see a public inquiry. It does not want to see sunlight as a disinfectant getting to the bottom of this issue.

Justice Josephson, in his acquittal of the accused, said that there had been unacceptable negligence in the investigation. Those facts demand and cry out for some sort of investigation. The best way to get to the bottom of this for the sake of the victims, for the sake of the families who remain, for the sake of all Canadians and, indeed, for the sake of the law enforcement agencies, is a public inquiry, which is what the motion put forward by the member for Newton—North Delta is asking for.

Supply April 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged that the Deputy Prime Minister will be meeting with the victims' families. This is an important step following upon the same steps taken by the member for Calgary Southwest.

However, the issue before the House today is why the government has no further plans to investigate the Air-India case in the context of a public forum or a public inquiry. This morning the Deputy Prime Minister put forward a number of propositions that really do not bear directly on the question before the House.

I will not comment on much of what she said this morning, but I will debate the motion and I will, in a non-partisan way, address several propositions which I consider to be quite remarkable and which have been put forward by the Deputy Prime Minister and by the parliamentary secretary here today.

Let us return for a moment to the specific motion before the House, which reads as follows:

That, in light of the fact that the Air-India bombing was the largest mass murder and terrorist act in Canadian history, and evidence that errors were committed by the investigative agencies involved, this House calls for an independent judicial inquiry into the investigation of the Air-India bombing of June 23, 1985.

The motion before the House calls for an independent judicial inquiry into the investigation. This is not a motion to investigate many of the questions, matters and issues which the Deputy Prime Minister and the parliamentary secretary spoke about this morning. This is not an inquiry into air transport issues or public safety issues in respect of air transportation. This is a specific inquiry into a bungled investigation.

Specifically, the motion calls for a public inquiry to determine how and why the agencies that report to the Deputy Prime Minister bungled their investigation into the largest mass murder and terrorist act in Canadian history. The issue really is that simple, lacking a lot of the complexity which has been introduced in the House this morning by the government.

The facts, simply stated, are these. Canada's worst terrorist incident, mass murder, occurred on Air-India flight 182 approximately 17 years ago. Last month, the judge who heard the criminal trials held that those who had been charged should be acquitted in part because of unacceptable negligence on the part of CSIS in destroying evidence. CSIS reports to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Those are the facts. Those are the only facts which are completely germane to the motion before the House. In any western democracy, these questions and these facts cry out for public scrutiny.

Our hearts go out to the families of the victims today. All Canadians, especially the victims' families, are confused and disappointed. There is no closure. There is no sense of justice. There is no sense of completion. Most significant, as many of the families of the victims have said, there are no assurances that this type of incident cannot be repeated again.

This incident happened on June 23, 1985. It resulted from two bags which were loaded onto flights at the Vancouver International Airport. One of those bags exploded in transit at the Tokyo airport, killing two baggage handlers. The other bag exploded as the Air-India flight approached the coast of Ireland at 31,000 feet. Three hundred and twenty-nine people were killed on flight 182 and two were killed in Tokyo. A total of 331 innocent victims died in this act of terrorism. Eighty-two of them were children and the vast majority were Canadian citizens.

To return to the fundamental issue before us today, the question is whether a public inquiry should be struck to determine why the investigation into the Air-India bombing has been bungled.

In a non-partisan way, I would say at the outset that the Deputy Prime Minister is conflicted in her ability to address this question. I say this with all due respect and with no desire to be partisan in any way. The question before us, simply stated, is whether the agencies that report to the Deputy Prime Minister and which bungled the investigation should themselves be investigated.

Sunlight, as Justice Brandeis notes, is the best and only disinfectant.

As I listened to the debate this morning, there were a number of very remarkable propositions that were put forward.

First, I refer to the commentary of the Deputy Prime Minister, who referred to a number of investigations, trials and hearings which have been conducted in the past 20 years. The proposition which she put forward, as I understand it, is that because these other inquiries have taken place there is no need at this point for this House to pass a motion calling for a judicial inquiry into the bungled investigation. She referred to several inquiries, I would note, first, the Seaborn report, and a report of the Canadian Aviation Safety Board.

Let me note right off the top that those reports have nothing whatsoever to do with a public inquiry into the bungled investigation. Those inquiries related to air transport issues, and fair enough, those issues have been dealt with. That is not the question before the House today.

Second, and quite incredibly, really, the Deputy Prime Minister put forward the proposition, through some reasoning and some leap of logic, that because there have been inquiries conducted in other countries we should not have a judicial inquiry in Canada into the bungled investigation, because there has been a previous investigation in Ireland or in India.

I cannot follow the logic of why the Canadian public should be satisfied and why their fears should be alleviated with respect to a bungled investigation in Canada on the premise that there has been an investigation in Ireland or in India. Since when do we, as Canadians, look to other countries to investigate the activities of our own law enforcement agencies to reassure Canadians that we are safe? It is a proposition that makes no sense.

Equally hard to imagine is how, as the Deputy Prime Minister put forward, because there have been criminal proceedings in Canada this has led us closer to resolution of the issue before the House. Again, the issue before the House arises directly from the comments of Justice Josephson in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on the very matters that the Deputy Prime Minister is referring to. In his acquittal decision, he stated clearly that one of the reasons for the acquittal, in part, was the bungled investigation of CSIS and the destruction of evidence.

It just does not follow logically that because we have had his finding somehow there is no need to pursue it further. His finding that the evidence was bungled cries out, demands and pleads for some sort of further step in terms of a public inquiry.

If I may, I will examine this question in another context, but before I do that, let me note that we have another remarkable proposition which was put forward today and that is the emergence of the eminent Canadian, the eminent person. It is not clear who the eminent person, the eminent Canadian, is. The last time we heard of eminent Canadians, they were engaged in a circumpolar expedition with the Governor General. I assume they are back. I do not know who these eminent Canadians are.

Supply April 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment the member for Newton--North Delta. He is an outstanding advocate on behalf of both his constituents and members of the Indo-Canadian community. This matter is before the House because of the leadership he has taken. He is a respected member of this House and I am proud to call him my colleague.

The motion put forward by my friend from Newton--North Delta follows upon a well known adage of Mr. Justice Brandeis, one of the western world's most respected jurists. It, stated simply, was this: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”. Our leader, Stephen Harper, has repeatedly called for a government probe into the Air-India disaster. He has called in effect for the exposure of the truth. Sunlight and sunlight alone will cleanse this miscarriage of justice.

All Canadians want to know what happened. They want to know what happened in public and they want to know what happened through an inquiry. I am pleased to see that the Deputy Prime Minister is taking the lead of our leader, Stephen Harper, and will be meeting with the victims' families.

Food and Drugs Act March 9th, 2005

Madam Speaker, the Government of Canada did not protect the aboriginals in this case.

My hon. friend says that 1,300 cases are being resolved through the adjudication process. I have just received the numbers directly off the government's website and it refers to a total of 72 cases being resolved through the ADR process after the expenditure of over $125 million. That is 72 cases out of a pool of 86,000 people. Even his 1,300 person figure is less than 1.5% of the cases that exist.

Let me put this in comparison. Some 15 years ago a Conservative government dealt with a similar program in relation to the Japanese internment situation. That government resolved over 15,000 cases within one year. Within one year over 65% of the cases had been settled and within five years the entire program was opened and shut.

The present government, by contrast, after one year has expended over $125 million and it only has 1.5% of the cases in the process. That is paltry and pathetic and the Auditor General needs to find out what is really going on.

Food and Drugs Act March 9th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I rise with respect to a question that was posed in the House on November 17, 2004. At that time I asked the Deputy Prime Minister why dozens of contracts had been issued suspiciously, each in the amount of $88,460 for management consulting services. I believe it would be fair to say that there were close to 100 contracts issued by the Government of Canada in relation to the residential school controversy.

To this point in time, the government has not come clean with Canadians on why those contracts were issued, who they were issued to, what the amounts of the services related to, or how those contracts related to the paltry sums of money which aboriginal victims are receiving under the residential school project.

The House was horrified in November to learn that 80¢ on each dollar which is spent on the residential school program is not going to victims. It is making its way to bureaucrats, lawyers, and experts, but not finding its way to the aboriginal victims who deserve these moneys.

At this point the Government of Canada has expended somewhere close to $125 million on this program, most of that spent on the ADR process which the Deputy Prime Minister takes so much pride in and which she displays to the House of Commons.

This program is a complete, unmitigated disaster. There are approximately 86,000 victims in this country who qualify under the aboriginal residential school program. After the expenditure of over $125 million, the ADR process, of which the Deputy Prime Minister speaks so fondly of, has accounted for something in the order of 27 settlements. That is 27 settlements out of 86,000 victims. The numbers are paltry. The settlements have been extraordinarily low. Canadians are asking how the government could possibly justify a continuation of this program.

The committee of the House that is dealing with this matter has been investigating this question over the last several weeks and has received no answers. The AFN is critical of the government's program. It calls the ADR process abusive. It will take 53 years to resolve these claims and will cost $2.3 billion in bureaucratic costs alone, let alone the costs of the settlement.

The Canadian Bar Association has recently waded in and published a report relating to this matter. Its report is a scathing condemnation of how the Government of Canada has handled this matter.

At this point it will take generations for these issues to be resolved. Billions of dollars will be spent on bureaucrats and lawyers. I am told that the Department of Justice has entire floors of lawyers at work in Ottawa, Saskatoon, and some other major Canadian cities. Those costs are not even accounted for in the dollars to which I have referred.

Our party has asked that the Auditor General be asked to investigate this matter. We have asked that she specifically inquire into the contracts that were issued for $88,640 to determine where they were issued, why they were issued, to whom they were issued, and for what services. We have also asked that the Auditor General investigate other questions of nonfeasance and malfeasance surrounding this program.

I would ask my friend to explain to Canadians why more than 100 contracts have been issued in the amount that I have referred to for these services.

The Budget March 9th, 2005

Madam Speaker, my hon. friend comes from a particularly beautiful part of the country. He speaks of everyday working Canadians. I speak of everyday Canadians.

I wonder if he would be prepared to join cause with us, at least this far, in terms of tax cuts. What is clear is that in Canada today, productivity, although increasing, runs into the fact that tax cuts have stalled, real disposable income is slipping and the overall tax burden on Canadians has been increasing.

Canadians make about 78% of what Americans do on a pre-tax basis and only about 70% of what Americans make on a post-tax basis. Even though our economic output rose by 25% between 1989 and 2004, our after tax income has increased by only 9.3%.

The budget is scandalous in the sense that the Liberals in the last election committed to an expenditure program of $28.3 billion. The spending promises contained in the budget over five years are $75.7 billion, three times what they said they would do in the election. This is classic tax and spend liberalism.

The lost opportunity is that if we had kept our spending in this nation since the year 2000 to annual increases of approximately 3%, today we could justify a tax cut for Canadians of close to $30 billion, almost a 20% to 25% tax cut. Instead, we have a profligate government that is spending more and more money on bureaucrats and on social services and not helping everyday Canadians.

Would my friend be prepared to join cause with us in saying that the budget does not help everyday Canadians with tax relief?

The Budget March 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, in the limited time available to me, how can the hon. member possibly defend the budget and the absence of any tax cuts for regular Canadians? It is correct that we have made progress in Canada in the reduction of debt, but this has been done at the expense of taxpayers. The budget does absolutely nothing for taxpayers of Canada.

Tax freedom day in the country is on July 1. By comparison, in the United States it is April 30. How could the member possibly defend this budget in relation to tax cuts for everyday Canadians?

Aboriginal Affairs February 23rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, why is the Deputy Prime Minister of this government so incapable of managing the residential school abuse file? Some 20 years ago a Conservative government settled 65% of all of the Japanese internment claims within one year and the entire program was completed within five years.

The Deputy Prime Minister has been responsible for this program for a year and a half. She has spent $125 million on bureaucracy. She has settled less than 3% of the possible claims. When is she going to abandon this disastrous program?

Civil Marriage Act February 21st, 2005

Madam Speaker, I wish to pose a question to my friend with respect to the subject of freedom of religion. I note that the bill in clause 3 states that it is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs. As we all know freedom of religion is referenced in section 2(a) of the charter.

I would ask my friend if he could elaborate on freedom of religion and how it relates to this legislation with respect to not only what is in the Constitution but also to what the Supreme Court of Canada has said about freedom of religion. It stated:

The right to freedom of religion...encompasses the right to believe and entertain the religious beliefs of one's choice, the right to declare one's religious beliefs openly and the right to manifest religious belief by worship, teaching, dissemination and religious practice...The performance of religious rites is a fundamental aspect of religious practice.

The protection of religious freedoms is one of the fundamental aspects of Canadian society. If one does historical research, it is clear that one of the very first statutes that was passed with respect to the British North America was in fact the freedom of worship act passed in 1774.

Therefore, protection of freedom of religion has always been a fundamental aspect of our constitutional arrangements. I think it is an important aspect of this debate. It is important that we all stand in defence of religious freedoms. I wonder if my learned friend would be able to address that subject in the context of his remarks.

Civil Marriage Act February 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I leave aside the fascinating subject of procreation and ask the hon. member for Vancouver East questions concerning democracy.

The Conservative Party is the only party that is allowing a free vote on this issue. Our leader has had the courage to allow every member of the party to stand up and make a decision, a decision of conscience on this issue.

Could the hon. member address the circumstances in her particular party and why a free vote will not be allowed? It would seem to me this is a very important issue. It is one in which individual members should be allowed, as the Conservative members are, to vote with their conscience. I am very puzzled why the NDP would not allow a free vote of their members.