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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was fact.

Last in Parliament April 2010, as NDP MP for Winnipeg North (Manitoba)

Won her last election, in 2008, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Access to Medicines Regime November 27th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, night has already fallen in much of Africa. Another day has passed and another 14,000 people have died needlessly from infectious diseases for which medicine is readily available, just not for them.

It is mostly grandmothers who care for the dying and who are left to piece together the shattered lives that remain. They tell us through the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, Canadian women devoting incredible energy in solidarity with their African sisters, that Canada's access to medicines regime, which was supposed to make more drugs available, is not working.

UNICEF, Oxfam, Canadian Crossroads International, Results Canada and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network all agree and have called for the changes set out in my private member's Bill C-393. I urge all members to vote for this bill to ensure that we fix Canada's access to medicines regime and get Canadian drugs moving to save lives.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation) November 27th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my Conservative colleague across the way. I want him to know that the NDP absolutely supports the bill and we will help to ensure its quick passage to Parliament. However, we also want our colleagues in the House to know that we are dealing with a very serious and pervasive problem, and it takes a multifaceted approach.

We hope the government may see its way clear to look at other ways to crack down on the spread of child pornography through the Internet. We also hope the government might look at ways to help change attitudes at the earliest stages so we do not end up with people engaged in this kind of activity, which is so harmful to others.

I want him to know that we are here because we believe in this and in the past introduced similar initiatives in the House. Someone just reminded me that the NDP had introduced a bill about Internet luring back in 2006. My colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, introduced that bill, the intent of which was to prevent the use of the Internet to unlawfully promote, display, describe or facilitate participation in unlawful sexual activity involving young persons. That was in 2006, so we are glad we finally have a bill in 2009.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation) November 27th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for a very important point. We absolutely must have a comprehensive strategy for something as serious as child pornography and sexual exploitation of women and children. It is not good enough for the government to stand and say that it has $40 million, we are not sure from where, to enforce this bill, yet it takes away money from women's organizations and organizations that stand and say to all citizens, especially young boys and men, that the treatment of women as sexual objects is wrong, that child pornography has dire consequences and they should be aware of their actions, even if they make comments or gestures that are inadvertent.

We have to start from square one in terms of education and awareness, and that takes money and support from the government.

My colleague also mentions the point about other tactics, shutting down sites, other strategies used in other jurisdictions that have proven to be effective in ending these rings that produce and spread child pornography. Surely the government can come forward with a more comprehensive approach than simply this one measure in this one particular bill.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation) November 27th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the NDP Status of Women critic, for her ongoing work in Parliament, raising these fundamental issues and questions.

I agree with her that there are too few resources and too little acknowledgement of some deep-rooted problems in our society and of the limited ability of organizations to fight back when government does not take them seriously.

Whether we are talking about cracking down on date rape and stopping date rape drugs or trying to work with young people and with organizations that try to dispel this notion of stereotyping and conditioning that is so pervasive in our society, or whether we are looking at more funding for organizations that provide services and programs to fight back against violence in the home or violence on the streets, or whether we are looking at organizations that simply work to create awareness and understanding about the vile impact, the horrific fallout from any kind of materials that treat people as second-class citizens or sexual objects, all those issues must be on the table. They must be addressed. In fact, this is a pervasive, serious problem that creeps up in every aspect of our lives, and we need to be there to deal with it.

I want to reference other organizations that work to end child sexual exploitation. Recently some of the celebrities in Beverly Hills started to get involved in this whole campaign. Maybe this will help in terms of bringing some awareness, when we see actors like Jason Priestley and race car driver, Jacques Villeneuve, among high-profiled Canadians involved in a campaign to end sexual exploitation of children.

This along with the work that I mentioned earlier of Beyond Borders is so important for getting the message out. Public awareness campaigns have to focus and be ever present. To do that, they need resources, money and support to do that.

Beyond Borders, which I mentioned earlier in my remarks, shows that 90% of those charged in terms of sexual exploitation of children or the use of children for sex or the perpetuation of child pornography are men. This goes back to reasons for their man-to-man campaign.

We need to be out there saying, “It's important for boys and men to hear that using children for sex and profit is not OK”. Those are the words of Roz Prober, president of Beyond Borders.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation) November 27th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill which deals with child pornography and to put on the record the concerns, comments and support of my caucus.

This bill is roundly supported by all parties. We are here today to acknowledge the work of those in our community who have been fighting for decades to stop the curse of child pornography and more recently to put restrictions on the spread of this vile propaganda by the Internet.

I want to spend a few minutes reminding Canadians how we all have to work together on this issue. I want to reference the work of an organization in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that is headed up by Roz Prober, who has been working on issues of the sex trade and child pornography for many years. In fact, just this past week in Winnipeg a number of sessions were held and media awards were presented to organizations and individuals in our country who have been outspoken, vocal, and ever present on the issue of child pornography.

Roz Prober and her organization, Beyond Borders, have started a campaign called “Man to Man”. The reason for that campaign is that it is recognized that in most instances regarding child pornography and the use of the Internet to spread child pornography, the main propagators of this offensive material are men.

The idea of the campaign is to persuade other men, who know the importance of stopping the spread of child pornography, who know where it can lead, and how harmful it can be to our whole society, to encourage those men to speak to other men whether it be in terms of how they treat women generally or how they view women and children as sexual objects.

However, the importance of the campaign is to start at the very beginning with that notion that somehow women and children are the sexual property of men. If we can get at that root cause, if we can understand what drives people to produce, promote and spread child pornography, then we will have won half the battle.

Many in the House have worked for years trying to convince the present Parliament and previous ones to take tough stands and take serious legislative steps to crack down on anything that promotes the use of violence, violence against women, violence against children, and violence against any vulnerable members in our society, as a way to exercise power over others.

Many in the House have worked for years, and I think about previous members of Parliament: Margaret Mitchell, Dawn Black, Audrey McLaughlin, Alexa McDonough, and the list goes on and on. These women have stood in this place to say that we as a society, as a Parliament, and as a country have an obligation to get to the roots of pornography and violence against women and children. The only way to do that is to recognize it for what it is, which is the exercise of power over others.

The House will remember Rosemary Brown, who was a prominent member in Canadian politics, who was the first black woman to seek the national leadership of any political party. She worked as an NDP MLA in British Columbia for years and was well known renowned feminist across this country. I remember her words to this day, acknowledging that she passed away a couple of years ago and we lost a great heroine and a great fighter, but she always said, “If we do not challenge the notion that might is right, [that competition is the basis to survival,] then there is no point to this struggle after all”.

What we are talking about in this debate is power over others, how it is wielded, how it degrades people, how it makes them second-class citizens, and how it puts people on a life cycle of dependency, hopelessness and despair because the victims of child pornography are faced with formidable challenges in trying to overcome that humiliation, that sense of no identity, that feeling of being dirty and second class.

That is something that takes years and years to overcome. Sometimes it is never overcome and the victims of violence, child pornography, sexual degradation, or the sex trade, if they can escape it, they will fight for their whole lives trying to regain their sense of self worth and purpose in life.

This debate is pretty fundamental to our notion of a civil society, our notion that everyone among us, no matter whether we look at people through the prism of sex or race or ability can contribute to society. It is absolutely clear that our job as parliamentarians is to ensure that everyone, regardless of sex, race or ability is able to be who they are and contribute on the basis of their unique talents their individual potential and contribute that to our society. When they become pawns in a massive trade regarding child pornography, we demean not just those who are the victims who are portrayed in child pornography but we, in fact, demean an entire society and reduce it to its lowest common denominator.

Our job must be to use every strategy at our fingertips, every mechanism available to crack down on child pornography. This is not a time for anyone among us to debate the whole issue of freedom of speech because we all know that there is no freedom of speech when that freedom is used to take someone else's freedom away. That is what child pornography does. That is what pornography does generally. It takes away the freedom of that child or woman, or any other victim of pornography and sexual degradation, to be who they truly are as individuals.

Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to ensure that we move the bill as expeditiously as possible through all levels and all processes in this place to honour the work of those who have come before us and to recognize those members in our communities everywhere, whether it is in Winnipeg with Beyond Borders, whether it is a national organization in terms of child protection, or whether it is the women's movement, where feminists have been speaking out for decades to end violence against any individual and sexual degradation of any individual. We need to honour that work and bring it to fruition, entrench it in law, and crack down on the production, dissemination, and the spread of this vile propaganda that degrades and humiliates people and lowers the whole level of civilization in our country today.

I think it is an offence to the very notion of a civilized society that child pornography is allowed in any shape or form. It is contrary to any notion of what we believe in, in terms of a society where everyone is treated with decency, equality, dignity and respect.

I think it is incumbent upon each one of us to do what we can in our respective constituencies and communities, so that we are not just here promoting laws that will actually make a difference but we are on the streets, in our neighbourhoods, at the community level, in the grassroots of our communities, speaking out every time there is any sign, any sense, any whiff of material or actions or activity that shows and reveals children as sexual objects or women as second-class citizens.

So, what I am saying is this debate is more than just about the law. It is about government policies, in general, and whether or not we are there to support those organizations, those non-governmental community organizations, the women's movement, the cross-borders organizations of the country,and whether we are there supporting them through resources and through acknowledging the validity of their work.

While I know the government is very supportive of cracking down on pornography, as witnessed by this legislation, we sometimes wonder if the government is really there, prepared to get at the roots of the problem, and support organizations that need resources of the government to fight, to speak, and to act. We have had huge debates in this place about whether or not government funds should be used to do such things, to advocate on behalf of others. Many organizations have lost their funds because they are seen as advocates, as speaking out for a purpose, as fighting against something.

I know we have disagreements in this place sometimes about the end goal and our very notion of what is a civil society. However, I would implore government members today to think about the wisdom of that kind of approach and decision, and to, in fact, reconsider supporting women's organizations, which are the leaders on this issue, through core funding.

Most of the organizations I know that fight on these terms, on this basis, spend half their time trying to figure out how to keep going as an organization. They spend half their time making applications and trying to fit their program into a government-sponsored initiative, trying to fit a round peg into a square box, trying to be as creative and as imaginative as possible, in order to access a bit of resources just to keep going.

The women's movement has been drastically hurt in its ability to keep being that voice in our communities against child pornography and violence against anyone because it is spending most of its time trying to figure out how to stay alive, if it is still alive. In fact, many important organizations have had to be silenced, have had to terminate their existence because there is no support from a government that should support such organizations since they get to the very roots of the problem that we talk about today. We cannot just do it with the heavy hand of the law.

We support the bill because it takes a multi-disciplined and a multifaceted approach, but we have to fight at the community level, too. We have to deal with the very fundamental attitude that people can overpower others and do so in the most vilest of ways, through the degradation we have seen in some of the most horrific child pornography cases anywhere, as we know recently from the news in terms of pornography rings that have been broken and individuals charged.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. Pornography is everywhere. The way in which we treat women and children is rooted in a society where the powerful are given licence to overcome the more vulnerable, given licence because we do not stop them from repressing women and children and making them victims.

I hope, through this legislation, we crack down on child pornography on the Internet, that is spread electronically, at the speed of light, everywhere and is so readily accessible to everyone in society. At the same time, I hope, in the process, we recognize that we also have to change attitudes.

Every time there is an act of violence against another in our society, any time women are treated as sexual objects or children are seen as pawns in this game of trading pornographic material, anytime individuals in society are not allowed to be who they are on their own terms, then we have to act and we have to support community groups to do that.

We cannot sit back and allow cultural conditioning to overwhelm us, sex stereotyping to be pervasive, second-class status to be attributed to children. We have to recognize every one as an individual who should be unencumbered and free to pursue his or her life's dreams without being defined, stereotyped and placed in precarious situations because of a society that needs to make money off the treatment of others as second-class citizens.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today and to recognize community groups that have been there for us. In turn, I would ask Parliament to be there for them.

Consumer Product Safety November 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we have complaints about crib safety going back 14 years. Canadians are wondering if the list of safety complaints not acted on by Health Canada now really goes back 40 years. For 40 years, the government has had the tools to protect Canadians, to investigate complaints, to issue warnings and advisories. Yet after 43 incidents and dozens of complaints, it failed to use those tools. Canadians are wondering what other dangerous products the Conservatives know about but are not telling them.

Consumer Product Safety November 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, Canadian families with newborns cannot test all of the products for safety. They rely on the government to protect them.

Three entrapments and 43 incident reports should be enough to set off all the alarm bells in the department and to give lots of warning to Canadians. We took the government at its word when it said a year ago that it had tightened its complaint protocol, but the government knew about unsafe cribs for 14 long years.

Could the minister have lived with herself if one of our children had died because the warnings came too late?

Consumer Product Safety November 25th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House also want to see Bill C-6 passed and we want mandatory recalls. However, that does not explain the fact that the government could have issued voluntary recalls, at least going back to August, when the Americans informed it.

So, my question is, why is the government not exercising the authority it has right now? Where was the follow-up to the complaints? What products were tested? Why were public warnings not issued? Why was there no hint of concern given to parents? Why should Canadians trust the government to proactively protect them under a new law when it has failed so miserably to protect them under the old one?

Consumer Product Safety November 25th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health said she would not use a drop-side crib for her own family. She decided not to let Canadians know about the dangers of this product until yesterday.

These are the facts. There have been 43 incidents in Canada with 3 entrapments, going back several years. The government did not even look into it until August 20 when the United States came to it with information. The government decided not to even investigate for a voluntary recall until October 8. It did not put a notice out to Canadians and issue a voluntary recall until yesterday.

What if the Americans had not called? Why did the minister keep Canadian families and children in the dark?

Petitions November 19th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to present yet another petition from Canadians who want to see changes to the Canadian access to medicine regime, so we can return to that noble goal of sending drugs as quickly and as cheaply as possible to sub-Saharan Africa and other countries.

The petitioners call upon the House to support my private member's bill, Bill C-393, a bill which is also similar to the one in the Senate being debated today, Bill S-232, a bill which just heard representation from experts showing, in fact, how nothing in these two bills contravenes the World Trade Organization, and is totally in compliance with everything we stand for in this country.

They call upon Parliament to help ensure access to affordable medicines wherever they are needed throughout the world as quickly as possible.