House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was kind.

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

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 26% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Drug-Free Prisons Act April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, today, to rise to speak in support of Bill C-12, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, as it has been labelled, the drug-free prisons act, though I am often confused how the bill would make our prisons drug free. However, at the same time, we are supporting it.

At this time, I would like to take a minute to acknowledge the amazing work being done by the critic in this area; that is, the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who has done an absolutely thorough and very detailed analysis of this piece of legislation, and the work done at the committee to try to strengthen the legislation so that it would actually do what it purports it would. As we know, our colleagues across the way are not really up to listening to any experts or advice as to how to improve bills. In any event, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, on this whole file of public safety, has put in, I would say, a gargantuan amount of work in order to deal with real issues for Canadians and to ensure Canadians' safety in a real way.

It is interesting that we are debating the bill on the day the budget will be presented. We know that the budget has been delayed. I do not know if it has been delayed because the minister just did not know what to put in the budget or whether they were busy developing their communications or free advertising plan on the tax dollars, but the budget has been delayed. In any event, we look forward to seeing it today. I really hope that when we look at the budget today we will see a significant investment in what the current government purports its agenda to be.

My colleagues across the way often like to see themselves as the champions of public safety but often what we have is a lot of rhetoric with very little funding that goes along with the programs they announced, or lack thereof, or has often been accompanied by cuts as well.

This particular piece of legislation, despite its title, “drug-free prisons act”, I would say is a baby step that we do support. Let me tell members that it would not have the kind of impact that my colleagues across the way seem to think it would because this particular bill would not tackle the real issues that our prisons are facing.

Bill C-12 would add a provision to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that would make it clear that the Parole Board may use positive results from urine tests, or refusals to take urine tests for drugs, in making its decisions on parole eligibility.

Let me assure members that my understanding is this is already being done. Therefore, what we would do is take a practice that is already in play into legislation, and that is a good thing. What it would do is give clear authority to an existing practice, a practice that we do support, but this practice by itself and on its own would not address the serious issues we do have to tackle, which are drug addictions, mental illness and the very fundamentals that lead to more and more people ending up in prisons rather than in treatment.

The title of Bill C-12, as I have mentioned a few times, is misleading. We know the current government has a penchant for coming up with some pretty outrageous, all-encompassing titles for bills, but when we actually dig into the bill we find there is very little substance. That is what we are finding with this bill. The title sounds great but when we get into the bill, all we have is the government codifying a current practice of the Parole Board.

The Parole Board right now retains its discretion as to what use it makes of this information, which is actually how it would remain.

It always makes me proud to sit on this side of the House with my colleagues, because we have been steadfast in our support for measures that will make our prisons safe, while the Conservative government has ignored recommendations from corrections staff and the Correctional Investigator that would decrease violence, gang activity, and drug use in our prisons.

We are not the only ones. We know that the current government is allergic to data and experts. However, most of us know that when we are dealing with the complexities of drug addiction, we have to pay attention to what we know and to the knowledge acquired by the experts in this area. The stakeholders agree with the NDP that this bill would have a minimal impact on drugs in prisons.

This bill is about granting parole and what the Parole Board would take into consideration. It has very little to do with what is actually going to be happening inside the prisons. Once again, the Conservative government is using legislation to create an opportunity to pander to its base and to pretend that it is doing something with no real solutions to the issue of drugs and gangs in our prisons. I would go so far as to say that the government is actually making our prisons less safe by cutting funding to correctional programs, such as for substance abuse, and by increasing the use of double-bunking, which leads to more violence. Our priority as parliamentarians should be ensuring community safety by preparing ex-offenders to reintegrate into society once released, addiction-free and less likely to reoffend.

I looked very carefully at this legislation, because as a mother and now a grandmother and as a life-long teacher and counsellor in a high school and for the school district, I know what a difficult task we have ahead of us as a society as we try to tackle drug addictions. There are no simple solutions.

In my city of Surrey, in beautiful British Columbia, in the last 38 days we have had 23 shootings. On Sunday, what we all feared happened: a fatality, with a 22-year-old losing his life. People in my community of Surrey, like in other communities across Canada, care very deeply about addressing the issues of violence, gangs and drugs. No parents out there want to see their young daughter or sons engaged in the use of drugs or involved in any kind of criminal activity. When these kinds of tragedies happen in our communities, it shakes us to the core and makes us want to hug those around us. Right now, my heart goes out to the family—the parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters—but also to the whole community as it deals with this latest round of gun violence.

It is because we want real solutions that we want to tackle the real issues. We want to starting looking at the underlying issues.

We need a real strategy and action on mental health, not just talk, that happens in a multi-faceted way. Many people will say that it has nothing to do with this topic. We know that the majority of people in our prisons are there because they were convicted of crimes related to drugs and many of them because they suffer from mental health issues. Unless we start tackling mental health issues in a serious way, I do not think this baby step is going to help us achieve a safer society or make our prisons any safer.

It is like the current government wants to see how many more people it can put into prisons, even if it has to double-bunk them, and the mandatory sentencing has led to more people being sent to prison. I absolutely believe that we need policies that mete out punishments that fit the crimes, but we also need to make sure that there is rehabilitation.

Before we even talk about crimes and people ending up in prison, we need to look at our communities, school systems, and the kind of programming needed. When I look at the public school system, I would say that it has been under attack for many years. When I look specifically at British Columbia, a lot of the preventive work that used to be done on drug addictions in high schools is very difficult to do today, because a number of counsellors have been removed and a lot of the money that used to be available for prevention is no longer there. I look at Surrey and the kind of support system for youth in our community. I look at how many students per counsellor there are today compared to when I came to B.C., when there were 250 students to a counsellor in my district Nanaimo. Now I am hearing that the number can be as high as 800 to 1,000 per counsellor.

If we look at all the pressures on our children through social media and the Internet, and we know, because we have dealt with many pieces of legislation in the House, at the very same time that is happening, they are cutting a lot of the support systems that used to be available. In my school district in B.C., we used to have some of the most progressive, stellar programs to engage youth in a positive way. One was called action Nanaimo. There was also a steps to maturity program, which actually dealt with kids' self-esteem, communication skills, and the issue of bullying and how to deal with that. None of those programs exist today.

This is where we have to have all levels of government and communities working together to provide young people with the kind of supports they need so that they do not end up getting into trouble, whether it is due to mental health or drugs, and do not end up joining gangs and engaging in trafficking drugs. We need to make sure that youth have the scaffolding they need to steer through the many challenges they face in our society today.

I would say that the same is true of those people who are in our prisons today. It is very easy to sentence people to prison, but if once they are in prison we do not provide them with rehabilitation, we are not doing a service to society.

Let me throw out a figure that will be absolutely shocking to most people. The cost to send a person to prison and keep him or her in confinement has risen to about $80,000 to $90,000 a year. We are prepared to spend that as a society. On the other hand, we are not prepared to put even 10% or 20% of that money into education and prevention programs so that our young people do not end up in prison.

If mandatory sentences and putting more people into prisons would get rid of drugs and crime, then the U.S. would have no crime and no drug problem. What we are good at, under the government across the way, is following examples that we know are not good. Instead of looking at evidence, we would rather just blindly copy the U.S. and keep putting people in prison, while the U.S. is sending experts up here to learn about rehabilitation from us.

Once people are in prison, we do not provide them with the resources they need to not reoffend. I find it quite outrageous to sit in this House and listen to the rhetoric of the government across the way when it has failed. It has not only failed to increase funding, it has cut funding to programs that would provide support for those in prison, and in hospitals too. I have a 90-year-old mother who I was recently visiting in hospital. Despite the amazing work being done by the staff at the hospital, I would say that they are facing major challenges as well.

To truly address the issue of drug use in prisons, we need to do a proper intake assessment of an inmate's addiction and then provide the proper correctional programming for that offender. Without treatment, education, and proper integration upon release, a prisoner will likely return to a criminal lifestyle and possibly create more victims. What we have then is what has come to be known as the revolving door.

With mandatory minimums, our prison population is increasing while at the same time both federal and provincial governments are closing institutions. It is quite disconcerting how mental health services are being impacted.

Correctional Service Canada's directive 55, which establishes procedures to normalize double-bunking, is kind of weird to me. When I was young and I went to youth hostels, double-bunking was kind of fun, but I cannot imagine double-bunking in prison.

Let me once again say that we support this. It is a baby step. However, without investments in prevention, education, treatment, and rehabilitation, all we have are words. Our communities deserve far more. I hope that in the budget presented today we will see a real infusion of funds to address prevention, education, mental health issues, rehabilitation, and real support for an effective reintegration policy that will make a real difference and lead to safer communities.

I would say there is no better investment than in the education of our children. I urge governments at the provincial level to please make it a top priority, because our children are our future and they are worth every penny we invest.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, what we are seeing is a prime example of speaking notes that are being read out just to convince themselves of this reality.

It would be very hard for my colleagues across the way to actually acknowledge that the response was far less than satisfactory and nowhere near world class. The minister came out saying that, despite the fact that everybody who was on the ground was actually saying the opposite, including the mayor and the premier of the province.

I put a lot of weight on what I hear from citizens. I have talked to many people who live in English Bay, and they are still disturbed because they are still convinced it is not as clean as it should be.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am flabbergasted and almost speechless for the first time in this House to hear the minister make up Kijiji data again.

My colleagues across the way are not really known for knowing the data too well. They even have difficulty knowing how many people live in Canada.

Here we are now, being told that less than a litre of oil was actually out there. The former Kitsilano base commander, Captain Fred Moxey, who is not an NDPer and who does not sit in our caucus, was very clear about what would have happened if the Kitsilano coast guard station was open. He said:

The crew was trained and the ship was ready around the clock for a first attack. Had the base been open and the crew on duty, they would have been out into English Bay in a matter of minutes.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hard-working member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine today.

It is my pleasure to stand in the House and it is an honour and a privilege to support the motion put forward by the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, an ardent and passionate champion for our waterways. I know that he has done an incredible amount of work, whether for the Fraser or Burrard Inlet, and now for our pristine coastline. We really appreciate his advocacy.

The motion we have brought forward today is being brought forward as a result of a recent oil spill and a tanker leaking into our beautiful British Columbia, just off the coast of Vancouver. It is an area I know well. I lived there for well over a decade, in English Bay, and I can tell the House that the huge number of people I have talked to from the English Bay area do not feel that the response has been world-class or made up of world-class science.

Just repeating that and hearing the echo from the Conservatives that this response was world-class and science-based does not make it so. Reading out the same phrase over and over again, when they know that it is not so, seems a bit more like electioneering and trying to bury the truth than actually dealing with what really happened.

The oil spill in itself is alarming. It is alarming for those of us who live on the coast, but it is also alarming for those who work on the coastline and for people from coast to coast to coast. What it pointed out was how seriously inadequate our response is and that we are not ready, despite warnings from the Auditor General. The government has had the time to fix it. Instead of blaming a previous government, what it should have done was fix the response. Instead, it has started to make things worse.

Closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was a major mistake. Here we have one of the busiest ports for tanker traffic. It is a commercial port. There is high tourism in that area. Taking away the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was ill thought out. Now, with this oil spill, we have seen the consequences.

We have also closed down B.C.'s oil spill environmental response centre and shuttered three of the five Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres, all while marine traffic is increasing. Now there is a call centre in Montreal. Those of us who know our beautiful country know that Montreal is a little bit of a distance away from Vancouver. Even flying across, it takes about five hours. Here we are, allowing our pristine coastline protection to be sent off to Montreal and not having any eyes on the ground right there in B.C.

As I said, the Auditor General was very clear.

I also want us to imagine that this happened on a fairly calm day. There were not those beautiful B.C. storms that we know so well and love to watch, yet it took hours for the response. Imagine if this had been an oil tanker spill or an issue with the refineries in the Burrard Inlet, and imagine the devastation that would have occurred on our coastline.

It is because of all of that that the NDP is asking for some very simple steps for the government to take. Number one is to reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. Number two is to reopen the recently closed Ucluelet Marine Communication and Traffic Services centre. Number three is to halt plans to close the Vancouver and Comox Marine Communication and Traffic Services centres.

We are not alone on this. Other groups are calling for this and are supporting the motion we are debating today 100%. The International Transport Workers' Federation and the CMWC, representing all of Canada's marine workers, are very clear about what is needed. This is what Peter Lahay had to say:

Typically, the captain of the MARATHASSA tried to deny his ship was leaking. Every day, Seafarers' Representatives in Canada claw at the corporate veil shielding Flag of Convenience ship owners.

Then he goes on to say:

This is exactly why domestic shipping must remain a Canadian industry. In our hands, such a catastrophic event is unlikely to occur, and if it did, the owner of the ship is right down the street. They have a stake in their community. Most importantly, we know who they are. They are not some slippery numbered company in the Cayman Islands, Panama or Cyprus.

The other thing that is absolutely shocking to me is that we have an oil spill, and which is the company that is now in charge of the cleanup and responding to the cleanup? Kinder Morgan. I think all Canadians must be giving their heads a shake. It is not as if oil spills are unique and do not happen very often.

It is inevitable that accidents will happen. I was quite shocked to find out that the International Tankers Owner Pollution Federation has recorded nearly 10,000 accidental oil spills globally since 1970. We are not talking about small numbers, and we are not talking about something that has happened once and will not happen again, so we need to make sure we put systems in place.

I hear my friends across the way talking about polluter pays for the cleanup. It is exactly that, for the cleanup, but what happens to our beautiful, pristine B.C. coastline? What happens to our tourism industry, which generates $1.55 billion per year? What happens to our seafood sector in B.C., which generates close to $1.7 billion each year?

We are not talking about small numbers. We are not talking about thousands. We are talking about industries that generate over $3.2 billion per year, and that goes right back into our economy. That is people working at decent paying jobs, and that is also ongoing. It is year in and year out.

These sectors provide permanent sources of income for around 45,000 Canadians. Nobody across on that side, or maybe they could after what I have heard today, could argue that they could guarantee that those sectors would not be affected by oil spills.

The other thing is that in terms of the world-class response we have, it is absolutely the Conservative government that has to wear it. The people who responded were doing the best they could with what they had, but really, it is the government that has to take responsibility, because it has been cutting. Some Coast Guard staff in B.C. have been cut by 25%.

We are not the only ones saying that. The mayor of Vancouver stood up and said that it took not one hour, not five minutes, not ten minutes, not even five hours, it took 13 hours to inform the mayor of the city where a major oil spill has occurred.

There is a Conservative-Liberal coalition in B.C.; that is how they govern. I do not often agree with the premier of my province on many issues, but even she was forced to acknowledge that the response was far below what is satisfactory and expected.

I urge my colleagues in B.C. and the rest of the Conservative caucus to do the right thing and support this motion.

Taxation April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of Employment and Social Development tweeted “Hundreds of millions of families at risk of not getting money” because they do not know about the tax credit. The fact is that Canada's population is about 35.5 million.

We know that Conservative ministers struggle with numbers. The previous employment minister thought that Kijiji was a legitimate source for job vacancy data, but this recent blunder surprised even those with the lowest expectations. Perhaps now we can convince Conservatives to bring back the long-form census, even if it is just to save them from themselves?

The real numbers show that after a decade of Conservative mismanagement, middle-class families are working harder but falling further behind. Canadians are ready to replace the Conservative government and repair the damage it has done. That is precisely what New Democrats intend to do.

Child Care April 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, talk about being out of touch.

Canadian families know they will not be getting the help they desperately need from the Conservative budget. Instead of moving forward with the NDP's plan for affordable child care available to all families, the Conservatives are happy to push forward their income splitting scheme that will only see the wealthiest families in the country benefit.

Will the Conservatives drop their regressive income splitting plan and put forward in their budget a solution that helps all Canadian families?

Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act April 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I think it is no surprise to anybody that we are in another time allocation, another attempt by my colleagues across the way to shut down debate. They cannot say that they are short of time because, as my colleague just said, they have had since October and have not been in a hurry to bring this legislation forward.

However, yesterday in the House, I began to understand why this legislation was brought forward when my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca asked a question of the minister and received a non-reply. The question was whether this is payola to the gun lobby for not testifying on Bill C-51. It was going to oppose it, and it then withdrew from that; so we have this legislation here.

Also, as we know, there is an election in the air. My colleagues across the way love wedge politics and want to drum up this kind of fear, to divide and conquer. New Democrats are not going to be silenced when we have serious concerns about ill-thought-out legislation.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act April 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I find the defence really amazing for giving a six-month grace period for a licence to hold a gun. I do not see how one could actually defend that in any way, because once a licence expires, it expires, and that is when, as I said previously—and maybe my colleague did not hear me—a mental health assessment is done, a psychological assessment is done, and a licence is renewed. Surely, we are not saying that all of those things are unnecessary.

Let me read a quote from a gun group, which actually agrees with the NDP. It reads:

Turning a blind eye to gun owners who do not comply with the licensing requirements will put police officers and the public at risk. It will also hamper police investigations and in some cases hamper prosecution of gun crimes.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act April 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I am rising today to oppose Bill C-42 at second reading. I listened very carefully to the arguments being presented by the government, especially to my colleague who just spoke. I have not been persuaded by any arguments I have heard to date to support this piece of legislation, because I do not believe the bill would do what is being said it would do.

I am from the beautiful city of Surrey and my riding of Newton—North Delta over the last number of years has seen innumerable incidents of gun firings. Many times these are gang related. Just a few weeks ago over a 28-hour time frame we saw five, six, and then seven gang-related shootings. One can imagine that we are very sensitive when it comes to gun control, gun licensing, et cetera. We are also very concerned that the government has failed to deliver on its commitment for additional policing. We are not saying additional policing would take care of a lot of issues in my riding, but it is one of the components that would help, to have more men in serge out on the streets, keeping our streets safe.

As I was going through the bill, one of the first components that hit me was that we are looking at a grace period of six months when someone's licence expires. This seems so bizarre. For a gun owner it would still be perfectly okay for six months after one's licence expires. That would be legalized in this legislation. When my driver's licence expires, it expires on that date and I have to get it renewed beforehand. When my car insurance expires, I have to do that on time or there are huge fines. Here we have something unique being built in for firearms's licensing, a grace period of six months.

Also, we know that, when people go for renewal of their licence, we are not just talking about paperwork. Firearm owners are screened for mental health issues, which we know are fast growing in our country right now across all the age groups. It is also a way of gauging any potential risks to themselves or others, yet the government sees fit to give a six-month grace period. I am just so shocked by that.

Then I looked at firearms transportation. With the firearms licence, the government would be authorizing automatically, without any special permission having to be sought, which it was before, the transportation of prohibited or restricted firearms to and from any gun club, shooting range, police station, gun shop, gun show, and any point of exit from Canada. This measure alone could make it more difficult for police to crack down on unauthorized firearms and transportation of firearms. This is happening at the same time that the government is reducing the 2014-2015 Canada Border Services Agency operational budget by $143.3 million a year. At the same time that the government is cutting resources for the CBSA—and by the way to the police by $195.2 million—it is also relaxing the rules around the transportation of guns. This just seems totally bizarre.

The other concern I have is over the classification of firearms. I absolutely believe that this process needs to be depoliticized. It should not be in the hands of politicians. I love all my colleagues in the House. I have a great deal of respect for the work done by many, but really, do we want to give cabinet the final authority as the decision maker on classification of firearms? Should that not be done by experts and people in the field who know a lot more? Should it not be done by the RCMP, et cetera?

Once again, there is a great deal of concern that we have a government that is trying to put more power into the hands of cabinet ministers and therefore escape scrutiny. We have seen this in other pieces of legislation as well. This bill would basically transfer authority over definitions and classifications to cabinet rather than putting an emphasis on public safety.

Another power that would be limited is that of the provincial chief firearms officers. This bill would limit, by regulation, the powers of the provincial chief firearms officers to attach conditions to a licence or to the authorization to transport; in other words, local provincial officers' hands would be tied behind their backs. This would also prevent provinces from setting their chosen standards in the implementation of firearms legislation.

As we can see, this is just not good enough. My fear is that all of these changes would put at risk not only our communities but also our men and women in uniform who serve us. We have seen the government do this time and again. It does not put public safety first; rather, it puts political pandering to its lobby groups ahead of what is good for Canadians.

I would now like to talk to members about Inspector Garry Begg, who lives in Surrey, and who has done an amazing job of serving our community. His son served in our community as well. At this point, I would like to recognize the remarkable patriotism displayed by RCMP Corporal Shaun Begg, the commander of the RCMP detachment in Kaslo, B.C.

One day last week, Corporal Begg, who plays recreational hockey on a Kaslo team, journeyed with his teammates by helicopter high up into the Purcell Mountains to play a game of shinny 8,000 feet up. It was a spectacular day and Corporal Begg, who describes himself as a proud Mountie and an even prouder Canadian, donned his regimental red serge and famous stetson for a few shifts of the game. A teammate snapped a picture of Corporal Begg in full dress uniform bearing down for a shot on goal, and the rest is history. The picture was tweeted and is now being described as the “most Canadian photo ever”. Being viewed around the world, it now shines a bright light on all that is Canadian. I am sure that most members of the House have seen the photo and will join me in saluting Corporal Begg, a proud Mountie and a proud Canadian.

I want to reiterate that it is disturbing to me to have a government that is pandering to its lobby groups while failing to do the right thing, which is to protect Canadians. We know that the number of people who own handguns has increased incredibly. I understand the need with respect to hunters and farmers. We are not saying that no one should have guns, but we are saying that the kind of changes we are seeing in this legislation would do harm and would not bring peace to the streets of Surrey or to other communities.

The more I reflect on this piece of legislation, the more I am puzzled as to why a government that purports to be—and often states that it is—a crime-fighting kind of government would now bring in legislation that makes it easier for guns to be on the streets, while at the same time cutting resources to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency so that we would have even less control over guns entering the country and have more relaxation with respect to the movement inside the country of weapons that can kill people.

Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act April 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind members of what we are here to debate. What we are debating is a time allocation motion. The reason many people are trying to make points about the legislation itself during this debate is that after two speakers, the government has once again moved time allocation to shut down debate.

I was not planning to speak right now, but it is very difficult to sit here and listen to ministers saying that we need to send the bill to committee where we can have an in-depth study and do the hard work and have amendments. That has not been my experience. I did not find that was the case when I was on the immigration committee and wrong-headed policies were changed.

Bill C-51 is a critical bill, yet I did not get an opportunity to speak to it. Today I am ready to speak to this bill, but once again the other side decides to shut down debate.

What are the Conservatives so scared of?