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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was regard.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Windsor—Tecumseh (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

41st General Election March 2nd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, Elections Canada is reviewing 31,000 complaints into election fraud. The CBC reported last night that the Conservative Party was reviewing tapes related to illegal calls that came out of Thunder Bay.

Why are the Conservatives now themselves reviewing these tapes if they do not think they are involved? What exactly are they doing to these records before they are given over to the authorities? Why not give to the records to the Elections Canada personnel who are investigating it and do that immediately, today, right now?

Business of the House March 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, as you can tell from my voice, I am going to be very brief this week, as opposed to some other weeks. At the outset I would like to note that we have now gone five full sitting days with no time allocation by the government. I want to encourage the House leader on the government side to continue to follow that pattern, perhaps maybe even give us some assurances today that he will follow that pattern.

I have to say, however, that his colleagues in the other House have not been quite so willing to follow that pattern, since I understand that either today or yesterday they began to move a motion for time allocation in the Senate on Bill C-10. I was expecting that we would see Bill C-10 on Tuesday next week. Will that still be the case or will it be coming later?

In addition to that bill, we have had indications from the government that Bill C-30 would be sent to committee before second reading, and I wonder if the House leader could advise us as to when the motion to send it to committee prior to second reading will be coming back to the House.

Privilege February 28th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to the question of privilege that the Minister of Public Safety raised in the House yesterday.

I will begin by saying that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons presented a well-researched, cogent argument in support of that. I do not think there is anything I can take issue with in regard to that presentation. However, I do have some concerns about the points that were made by the minister himself.

With regard to the material that did come from the parliamentary secretary, it was quite clear that in each case, when one is looking at the question of privilege, the facts of the case must decide whether in fact privilege has been breached. I believe that is again true in this case.

With regard to the points that the Minister of Public Safety made, he basically had three arguments supporting his position that his privilege had been breached. I will just do a quick summary.

First was that parliamentary resources had been used to attack his position with regard to some incidents in his personal life and with regard to Bill C-30 that was the issue of contention, but it was more that parliamentary resources had been used in that regard that his argument was made.

Second, he argued that the threats that were coming at him, and there can be no dispute over that part of it, that is very clearly a breach of his privilege and the privilege of any member of this House faced with those types of threats, that he either withdraw the bill or additional information would be released, is a clear breach of his privilege and one that would cause us to very strongly agree that his privilege had been breached on the facts of this case.

His third point was on the opposition to Bill C-30, that the people who were opposed to it were clogging up his office. That is the part that most disturbed me. The position that we would be taking as a party is that that is not a valid argument in support of an argument for breach of privilege.

In that regard, Mr. Speaker, I would draw to your attention a ruling by your predecessor, Mr. Milliken, on June 8, 2005. There was a similar type of situation where the member was claiming that his office was being intentionally clogged, that his email and phones were being intentionally clogged on an issue of some import to whoever was doing the work.

The key point for Speaker Milliken was, I believe, the same as in this case. It is not the question of whether in fact that is occurring, although that is a factual matter that should be determined, the important point is whether it is the intent of the people who are trying to contact the minister or the member of Parliament to clog up his office and make it inoperable and impossible for other constituents to have access to the member of Parliament.

The test is: What is the intent of the calls coming in, the emails coming in and the faxes coming in? Intent is the key component.

With regard to this situation, it is quite clear that Bill C-30 is very contentious. We as an official opposition party have been adamantly opposed to it. The third party in the House is adamantly opposed to it. Lots and lots of Canadians are adamantly opposed to it. One of the ways of expressing that opposition is to attempt to contact the minister's office and tell him that this is a bad bill and give reasons for opposing it.

If you make a ruling, Mr. Speaker, that says that if the effect of what one is doing in trying to contact the member of Parliament, in this case the minister, is to clog up his office, it will significantly impact the ability of individual Canadians to express their democratic voice in opposition to legislation.

In this case, it is clear that the bill is so contentious that it is almost impossible to envision that that many calls, those many emails and faxes were coming in with the intent of clogging his office. The intent behind those was that Canadians were expressing their democratic right to oppose the bill. Canadians were telling the minister that they were opposed to the bill and they were giving their reasons.

It is quite clear that relying on that ruling from Mr. Milliken, the Speaker of the day, would not be a basis on which to make a finding of breach of privilege in this case. The facts speak to that quite clearly.

I want to repeat that we have no problem with the finding of breach of privilege because of the second point that the minister made with regard to the threats. That is not tolerable behaviour in our society, in this Parliament and in Canada as a whole. It is just not the way Parliament and our democracy function. Ministers and members of Parliament cannot be threatened in that way, so there is no question that there is a breach of privilege on that point.

On the third point, with regard to clogging his office, that clearly is not a basis for a finding of breach of privilege. I would invite you, Mr. Speaker, to make it specific that that is not a basis on which you could make a finding of breach of privilege, as did Mr. Milliken in that particular case of June 5, 2008.

The minister's first point is more problematic. He is arguing that the use of parliamentary resources to, as he put it, attack him surreptitiously, is more problematic. It is a grey area. The anonymity is the part that bothers me. If this had been done by one of my staff who had simply sent the minister a message using the resources that we have here on the Hill saying “At a personal level, I'm opposed to the bill”, there is no question that is permissible because the individual is just doing his or her job.

The grey area is the anonymity in the way this one was done. That one, Mr. Speaker, I will throw back into your lap and not make a suggestion. However, I do not think it is clear as to whether, because parliamentary resources are being used to communicate to a member of Parliament or to a minister, that automatically means a breach of privilege. I do not think that follows. It is the anonymity part of it that would be of concern.

Elections Canada February 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among all parties and I believe that if you seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That this House call on all members to provide Elections Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with any and all information they have on voter suppression and illegal phoning during the last election;

offer its full support to both the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the RCMP in their investigations into these despicable practices;

and call on all parties to immediately hand over any and all documents requested or required by the authorities to assist in their investigation.

Privilege February 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reserve the right to come back to the House in the next day or two to speak to this in more detail. I do not think I heard anything from the deputy House leader on the government side that I would take issue with, but there were a couple of comments from the Minister of Public Safety on which I may want to make some comments, so I would reserve that right. I will get to it as quickly as possible.

Privilege February 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult for us to get on our feet at this point and be at all sympathetic to some of the requests from the Minister of Public Safety. On the other hand, the vikileaks30 type of approach, that type of politics, is totally offensive to this side of the House and to my political party. I want to be on the record as saying that to the minister.

However, on February 10 the Minister of Foreign Affairs stood in the House and accused my party repeatedly and unequivocally, using offensive terminology and terms like “sleazy practices”, of exactly what we have now heard came from a staffer from the Liberal Party. We had nothing to do with that.

On this question of privilege that I have to raise for my party, I have to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to compel the Minister of Foreign Affairs to come back into the House at the earliest opportunity and apologize to my party and the members of my caucus.

Canadian Human Rights Act February 14th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, we need these two tiers. I am absolutely convinced of that. The Criminal Code, our criminal justice system, is, like the mace, too harsh a tool to be used in the vast majority of cases.

I want to address some of the problems with section 13. This section has been in the act since 1977. It is not a new section. It has been amended on a couple of occasions. It really became a problem with the advent of the Internet, the amount of hate literature that was on the Internet and the attempt by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to intervene and try to shut some of that down, if not all of it. Society, as a whole, needs to tell the bigots and hate-mongers they cannot do it and we have a mechanism we are going to use to shut them down. This is not about a debate over free speech. This type of speech, like slander, defamation and libel, we have recognized historically people cannot do.

I want to make one other argument in terms of addressing what we are hearing from the government side. Conservatives say this is a major interference with freedom of speech. That was the same type of argument that I heard repeatedly throughout the 1960s and 1970s as society moved to prevent discrimination in hiring and residences. I could go down the list. We heard usually from right-wing people that they had a right to discriminate, that they did not want someone whose skin was a different colour living next door to them. We heard that they had a right to do that, that they did not have to employ people because of the colour of their skin. We have said that is not acceptable in our society. Now, if we keep section 13, we are saying the same thing about that kind of language being used against those identifiable groups.

Canadian Human Rights Act February 14th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to speaking on Bill C-304. I have a great deal of experience with this in a number of ways, both here as a parliamentarian and at one period of time in my professional career as a lawyer.

In its simplicity, although Bill C-304 has other sections in it, it is really about the repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Members have heard this from a number of speeches so far. Clearly on the part of the mover, and I would say generally by the Conservative Party, it is an attempt to appease some of their right-wing ideologues, in the media in particular. It is also in keeping with their right-wing ideology of a society that has no government intervention.

For those of us who support section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is about recognizing the nature of what Canada is, what it always has been. At its best, section 13 is what Canada is really about.

We hear demeaning comments from the right wing in this debate that it is really about minor sensitivities that are being offended. However, that is not what section 13 is about. It is about giving the Canadian Human Rights Commission the right to regulate and impose sanctions against people who are prepared to make statements in public, and the big debate more recently has been around telecommunications, statements that are on, and I quote from section 13(1):

...any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

It is talking about statements in writing, over the Internet and electronically communicated that will identify groups and draw hatred and contempt to those groups. That is what section 13 is about. It is about prohibiting that type of behaviour.

We hear from the Conservative side that we can deal with this by the hate propaganda sections of the Criminal Code, specifically section 318. I know that section very well. To my knowledge, there has only been six cases that were ever prosecuted under that section. I successfully defended one of the charges.

I have to say that it is relatively easy to use section 318 in defence of all sorts of heinous types of conduct. However, depending on that section to protect vulnerable groups who are the subject of contempt and hatred is like using the mace to tap in a small nail. It is a gross overreach.

Section 318 came into effect sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It has been in existence for over 40 years now, but has only been used six times, and the penalties are quite severe. It requires that every case be approved by the attorney general of the province to allow it to be used.

In defence of section 13, it is a mechanism to help protect vulnerable groups in our society. I think of members of the Jewish community who have historically been a target for anti-Semitic attacks. More recently, members of the Islamic community has been subject to attacks because of their faith. I think of members of Afro-Canadian communities who have a lengthy history of being attacked because of the colour of their skin or continent that they come from. We can go down the list.

There are problems with the Canadian Human Rights Act, but they can be fixed. Amendments could be brought forward that would reform it. We need to develop the jurisprudence around this section. We have not done that very well up to this point, I will admit, but that can be remedied.

We need two levels. We need the Criminal Code for the more severe types of hate propaganda and so section 318 should remain. It is working for the purpose for which it was designed. However, it is not designed to deal with this type of hatred or contempt brought against identifiable groups. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is to be used for that purpose. We should be supporting it, maybe with some reform.

We need two tiers in order to have a free society for individuals who are regularly targeted by anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic people. We can include homophobia as well. There are a number of areas where the language used draws hatred and contempt to an identifiable group. Canadians as a society are saying no, that it not the kind of society we want. We want an organization or tribunal to be able to express our contempt for those who are prepared to do that, put a stop to the use of that kind of material and impose some type of penalty to express the revulsion that society feels for people who are prepared to use discriminatory, hateful language against other identifiable groups in our society. We need both tiers.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I am finding it very distracting.

Financial System Review Act February 14th, 2012

Madam Speaker, on the point of the government praising the banking system, the reality is that before the 2008 great recession started, it was about to undertake some major deregulation processes and was stopped only because of what happened at that time.

I want to go back to the point that the government House leader is raising. He is beginning to breach the confidentiality that we are supposed to be abiding by with regard to House leaders' meetings. His characterization of those meetings is not at all accurate. I want to say that and will not say anything further because I do not want to breach confidentiality.

I want to go back to the point about the regular process. This is the 16th time the government has put closure and time allocation on bills. This is an all-time record. No other government in the entire history of this country has used it that often in such a short period of time. Is he saying the NDP is the only official opposition party that has ever demanded its right to speak in the House?

Financial System Review Act February 14th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I am just amazed that the House leader of the Conservative party thinks I have that kind of control or sway over my caucus. The reality is I have a number of members of our caucus who want to speak on this bill. Madam Speaker, you have the list in front of you today. They want to address this bill. Part of the reality is, we have a large new caucus here. Maybe the Conservatives could have asked us why we have that large new caucus, rather than spending $16,000 on it. Caucus members want to communicate to their ridings what their positions are on any number of bills, including S-5.

I want to go back to the point that my colleague from the Liberals raised. This really is about the incompetence of the government House leader. The government knew the April 20 deadline was there since Parliament came back. It is there. It is the reality. By moving the bill at a much earlier stage, the government House leader could have accomplished what he needed to accomplish in order to meet that deadline. Therefore, why do we see this bill at the last minute, forcing us to be confronted with a time allocation motion? That is not the way to be the general manager in the House. The fact that we are faced with this is his responsibility, not that of the opposition. Not at all.