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Liberal MP for Yukon (Yukon)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 54% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 November 14th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question, because it allows me say something else. As I said, I did not have time to get in a couple of other things from the budget that were so exciting for us, which were pan-Canadian.
First of all, of course, the middle-class tax credit goes to so many people in the north. It helps us more than anything else, because the cost of living is so much higher.
One of the reasons I got into Parliament was to fight poverty. We have increased money for low-income students, for the poorest of seniors in the OAS supplement, for women's shelters, and for services for veterans. There are also the categories for people in the housing strategy and poverty work, as well as money for the people who really need it, which is very important to me.
Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 November 14th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. However, I think the member is preaching to the converted on this side. He might talk to his colleagues to the right.
For a long time, I have been supporting investment in mitigation, because, as I said earlier, it is hurting us more than anyone else. Therefore, I am certainly in support of this type of funding, and, in fact, even internationally. I tabled a bill about eight years ago for those people who had lost their country because of this type of disaster and had no place to live as their homes were inundated, and that would make them eligible for a category under immigration as refugees.
I certainly support the direction the member has suggested, but I do not know the technical details.
Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 November 14th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to start the debate today on Bill C-29.
Rather than getting into the technical tax elements of it, I would like to go on about my riding. People know from when I spoke about the budget previously how delighted I was at the number of things that were in it for the north. An unparalleled number of things were put in for my constituents. I could not even get to them all in a 10-minute speech and my colleagues were asking me what was left for their ridings. Nevertheless, I am very happy for everything that was received by my riding.
I will start with the huge increase to the northern allowance, from $16.50 a day to a maximum of $22 a day. This is a huge emphasis on the people of the north. We can see our northern strategy is based on helping the people of the north in a very high cost-of-living area, where poverty could easily occur. This is the type of support we need and it was wonderfully received, of course, by the people of the north.
Our two biggest sectors are mining and tourism. Mining is the biggest gross territorial product, basically, since the gold rush; and tourism is the biggest private sector employer.
In mining, we continued in the budget the mineral exploration tax credit and the flow-through share regime. These are very important, especially, for exploration companies. There may be only one or two hard rock mines operating, and they have a limited number of employees. Those mines have a product that they can get loans against and get financing against. Exploration companies really have no credit, they do not have buildings, they do not have product, and it is very hard for them to get financing.
The METC and the flow-through share regime are very important for them. I would certainly like to thank the Minister of Natural Resources for lobbying for this and the finance minister for putting it in place.
With respect to the tourism sector, my riding has the highest percentage of our gross territorial product related to tourism of any province or territory so that a cut to tourism marketing in Canada would hurt my riding more than anywhere else. That is why I am delighted with the $50-million increase to that this year.
With respect to infrastructure, once again, as everyone knows, the fact that the government planned to have the largest amount of infrastructure in history is music to the ears in our riding. First, we have kept the building Canada plan that was in place for 2014 to 2024, we have accelerated the approvals, and we added some categories such as recreation, which is very important to my communities. They really wanted to build recreation facilities out of that fund, and now they can.
At the same time, phase two of the new infrastructure funding is going on. We have already announced the entire amounts of money for projects for most of my communities for the next three years. A lot of them are based on water and waste-water improvements, which is very important infrastructure. The minister has done extensive consultation. When phase two starts, we will be able to get more money for our transit. We do have a transit system in Whitehorse and it has already received money.
The green infrastructure fund is very forward-thinking.
I have been saying for a couple of decades, and everyone I think now knows, that climate change is affecting the north more than anywhere else in the world. It was very perceptive to allow funds to be put in the budget for mitigation and for preparing infrastructure to withstand the effects of climate change, which can be seen in the foundations of our buildings, under melting permafrost, and on our highways. Those funds will be welcomed.
Another thing is the social infrastructure. I visited some of the day cares that would like to expand the number of spots. That money will be very welcomed.
Then there is affordable housing and the national housing plan. I have been on the anti-poverty coalition for years. We hope that the infrastructure bank will work; I will talk about that a bit later. The AIDEA bank in Alaska is very successful in an economy like ours.
Finally, I would like to talk about the recently announced $2 billion for rural and northern regions for roads and bridges, green infrastructure, and Internet connections. Earlier in the day today, the opposition brought up how important the regions are. This is a massive signal. It is the biggest amount of money for the region.
For all those reasons, I am very excited about the budget and its initiatives. However, I do not want to let the finance minister off that easily. I want to now morph into our wishes for the next budget, based on consultations I have had in the riding. Some of these things could already be funded under the various programs I have just mentioned.
First, homelessness and the national housing strategy is very important to the people who gave me input on the upcoming budget. Affordable housing for employers is very important. They hire people. They come to the north and cannot find affordable housing, so have to leave again.
There is the suggestion of the electrification of transport routes so electric vehicles can be used. Of course, in the cities they can plug in and recharge. Along the Alaska Highway, for instance, we could have that all electrified.
Another suggestion, which happens to also be eligible and already announced, is the retrofit of old buildings and higher standards for new buildings.
Renewable energy of course is something people in my riding want to invest in, and it is a big part of the government's plan. There is a way of storing energy in off-peak hours, so a storage mechanism is also important. Certainly, that is eligible, and there are keen proponents of that in my riding.
Also, local food production in the north, rather than shipping things thousands of miles, and funding for social enterprises are suggestions.
A redundant fibre is very important for us. The Yukon has one Internet line cable going in and every time a backhoe cuts a line it shuts everything down. We would like to make a loop through the Dempster Highway through Inuvik. In fact, part of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories also only access through our hub, or only have one route. This would put a redundancy in place for a lot of people in the north so they could have access similar to what we have. These would be eligible under these new infrastructure programs, and I hope their funding is included.
We have one area where a hydro line needs to be replaced. We could go to several mines that would otherwise use LNG, and they would then contribute to greenhouse gases.
The IT sector is flourishing in the north now, because we do not need to transport heavy things. It is all done over the lines. We certainly appreciate the support for that.
We want the mining supports that I talked about earlier to continue. We would like the tourism marketing supports to continue. We would like support for business incubators. Once businesses have started, in many ways they have a record and they can get financing. They have partners, but when they are first starting up the costs for mentoring and cheap infrastructure, just getting going, is a hard part in the life cycle of a small business. We would like to support that.
There is room to support IRAP. It has been an incredible program for the last three decades at least. It is very instrumental for innovation. We would like to continue with that.
I said about 20 years ago, we need research in the north, by the north, and for the north. We have great research up there. We would like that to continue.
Yukon College has a plan, with the other three northern colleges, to take adults who may not be literate and upgrade them to the next stage. It is about $56 billion for the three colleges that cover half of northern Canada. That would be a great project to fund in the new budget.
Premier of Yukon November 14th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, early last week there was a momentous election with a changing of the guard. I am sure everyone will join me in heartfelt congratulations, to the new premier-elect of Yukon, Sandy Silver, and his colleagues in the new majority Liberal government.
This is remarkable in that in the last sitting of the Yukon Legislature, Premier Silver held the only Liberal seat. I believe this was partly a result of his remarkable team of knowledgeable candidates, his ongoing campaign for respect and decorum in the legislature, and his commitment to building a strong economy while protecting our environment.
The opposition parties have elected experienced members of the legislature, which bodes well for a very productive session, given Premier Silver's commitment to taking good ideas from all parties.
I congratulate all who put their names forward, win or lose, to improve our Yukon community. It is a very immense sacrifice for which all of us Yukoners are truly grateful.
Criminal Code November 3rd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I, the correctional investigator and the member for Charlottetown all spoke at a conference on this. The investigator is quite supportive and understands the correctional system and those needs very well. It is good that the member mentioned it was reflected in his report. It is pretty obvious to the people who work in the jails that there are special needs.
Criminal Code November 3rd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I listed some of the concerns. There is excellent research now, so it is speeding up a lot more. Some of the reasons have been more political as opposed to research. I tried to address any legislative concerns people might have with the bill.
That is a good question and it gives me an opportunity to say something brand new. There is some very fascinating research going on now. By testing genes and chromosomes and their reaction to alcohol, there may soon be a way of doing biological testing, which there never was before. This would be a huge advance if that research, which is taking place somewhere the Prairies, is successful. It would be great for all of us.
Criminal Code November 3rd, 2016
Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes and no. I think it depends on what part of Canada one comes from.
The member mentioned a very good point, which is that it is in certain parts of Canada. In certain areas like mine, where people are used to it, the judges and lawyers understand this and they make those special provisions. Sometimes the judges will go out on a limb without any legislative backdrop to do that and use it as a mitigating factor when maybe they should not.
However, there are parts of Canada where they do not understand this yet, even though people drink and have babies, so it is just as prevalent. They do not know it and do not realize this could be a factor. If they put it right in the system, it gives them the authority so that they are not stepping outside their bounds. Also, it educates those who do not understand that these people need to be treated in a different way.
Criminal Code November 3rd, 2016
moved that Bill C-235, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fetal alcohol disorder), be read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
I am moved today to start the debate on my bill, Bill C-235, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fetal alcohol disorder).
We have all seen television episodes of someone wrongly imprisoned and how that devastates their lives and how heart breaking it is. I am sure that has moved many members to tears. We have it in our power with Bill C-235 to end a number of cases of needless suffering of innocents. It is not one, not two, not three, but potentially over 2,000 cases a year. In fact, for people alive in Canada today, it could potentially affect 180,000 Canadians. This is an immense challenge and humanitarian opportunity.
First, I will explain the bill briefly. FASD, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, is permanent brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. In a vast majority of cases, unlike other ailments, it is an invisible affliction. Among the symptoms of the resulting defects in the central nervous system are impaired mental functioning, poor executive functioning, memory problems, impaired judgment, inability to control compulsive behaviour, and impaired ability to understand the consequences of one's actions. These distinct set of attributes are capably diagnosed by today's modern assessments. Through no fault of their own, those born with this have brains that do not have the ability to keep them from committing crimes or understanding the consequences. Therefore, normal sentencing, normal incarceration, normal release do not make any logical sense in their regard, and do not fulfill the purposes for which they were created.
The bill comprises four recommendations from the Canadian Bar Association, which represents the thousands of lawyers and judges who deal with this affliction every day. First, it would allow the court to order assessments of an offender to see if they have FASD. Second, if they have FASD, it would allow them to use that as a mitigating factor in sentencing. Third, when a person with FASD is in custody, the bill directs that they be treated specially for that. It would be added to a list of other conditions and groups of people treated specially in the correctional system. Fourth, when a person with FASD is released they would have an external support plan so they do not miss probation, for example, and end up, as judges say, through the revolving door and back in prison.
While prima facie, it is a simple bill, many bills can be improved in committee and I would welcome any logical amendments to it.
My goal is to reduce unnecessary, tragic human suffering, but some may want to know the financial savings. Assessments cost in the order of $5,000. If Ontario were to keep one-half of the early potential 840 FASD offenders out of jail for just one year, at $100,000 a year, it would provide the province with over $40 million a year for more logical, just, humane, effective ways of dealing with these offenders and their afflictions.
It is important to note that in the last Parliament, similar bills to this were twice before the Parliament. One was Conservative and one was Liberal. However, there was not enough time for them to complete the legislative cycle. We will shortly hear some of the excerpts from that debate. Speakers from all parties supported and spoke in favour of that bill.
It is important to recognize that this bill is only a small piece of the much larger puzzle of steps needed to alleviate the suffering, and sometimes tortured existence, of people with FASD. Other steps that need to be taken include prevention. This is a totally preventable condition. They include steps to prevent contact with the justice system in the first place, further research, special services, restorative justice, information sharing, targeted interventions, and supportive living arrangements.
These are important tasks for others, but this bill only deals with FASD sufferers who are involved with the justice system. That is about 60% of them. Yes, I said 60%.
As I outlined at the beginning, and as we can see, the need is staggering. It is estimated that one in 100 Canadians is afflicted with FASD and studies have indicated that, minimally, between 10% and 30% of inmates in today's prisons have FASD, costing us tens of millions of dollars.
This is perhaps why in its call to action No. 34, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on the governments of Canada, the provinces, and the territories “to undertake reforms to the criminal justice system to better address the needs of offenders with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)”.
As I said, I am open to amendments, and I will just give members four questions that people might want to debate in committee.
First, should the judge have the power to make assessments mandatory?
There are mixed views on this. There are already precedents in the criminal justice system for ordering assessments, but if parliamentarians feel that these should not be mandatory, then it would be easy to amend the bill. We do have to protect the offender from self-incrimination during these assessments. If parliamentarians wanted, they could expand the assessment section to clarify Criminal Code assessment powers in general, and that would also include FASD assessments. To the credit of the territories and the provinces, assessments are much more widely available now than in the past.
Second, what about people with other inflictions who are not included in the bill?
First, they are not filling our jails in the thousands like the FASD offenders are; second, if there were a big need in other identified afflictions needing special conditions that could be prescribed, someone would have proposed legislative remedies for that situation; and third, most other conditions are visible and otherwise known to the judge, while FASD is known as the invisible affliction because, until diagnosed, many people, including judges, would not know the offender had FASD and impaired brain and central nervous functions. Indeed, some have high IQs but still have the interaction deficiencies that I outlined at the beginning of my speech. Fourth, if another condition and its deficiencies and special provisions were presented to the committee, these could easily added to the bill now or to the Criminal Code at a later date. To date, no serious evidence has been presented to us of another condition with near the magnitude of a problem that FASD poses in our present day justice system, as identified by lawyers, judges, and FASD workers across Canada.
A third question that members might want to debate in committee is the following. What if, in the rare violent offender FASD cases, the assessment results in the offender being put in protective custody for a longer time than would have occurred without the assessment, for the safety of both himself and the public?
I say, so be it. As an evidence-based government, it is better to have more evidence to make a decision.
A fourth question is, should the external support plan be approved by the judge or the probation officer, and should it be voluntary, after the time of a normal sentence of a person who does not have FASD?
Those are four items we could discuss. As I said, I am open to amendments.
We can save thousands if we act now, from injustice and needless suffering. Perhaps, in the future, we could even add a few more if a condition and its legislative remedies are identified and documented. However, there is no reason to delay. If in fact someone launched and won a challenge and were added to the criminal justice system, then our pioneering efforts would have paved the way for that to happen, for that person or that group to have justice, too.
There is a huge desire on the part of MPs on all sides of the House to improve greatly our dealing with mental health issues in Canada. What a great humanitarian advance it would be if we could improve the lives of thousands with this mental deficiency. It goes without saying that in Canada, and in fact around the world, there is great support for legislative assistance for people afflicted with FASD who come into contact with the legal system. When a similar bill was before Parliament, the Conservative proponent said he had 1,500 stakeholders supporting his efforts. I have my own large network of support.
The Conservative member also said, on June 5, 2014, in Hansard:
I would also like to extend my gratitude to the legislators of the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories, both of which recently passed unanimous motions calling on the Government to support Bill C-583.
Some FASD workers in other countries applaud Canada for these pioneering efforts and want to use them as models in their own nations.
However, it is not only FASD experts in the field who are so passionate and excited about the bill. We must remember that the bill is different from a lot of normal private member's bills that may not have a legislative background. The bill is comprised of only the four recommendations from the Canadian Bar Association, and crafted by its president at the time Rod Snow, thousands of its member lawyers, legal experts, and judges who deal constantly in the courts and corrections system with offenders who suffer with FASD. Who better to craft the legislative improvement?
The purpose of sentencing is to protect the public by presenting a deterrent to offenders so that when they get out, which virtually all of them do, they do not reoffend. However, the damaged brain of FASD offenders often do not connect the crime with the punishment. Therefore, if they do not know why they are being punished, why would we continuously, cruelly, and senselessly incarcerate them, at the cost of tens of millions of dollars, instead of treating and supervising them appropriately on the basis of the reality of the sad truth of their physical brain deficiency?
I want to quote again from the Conservative speech from Hansard, when the bill was before Parliament on June 5, 2014. It is a quote about a young FASD woman speaking at a conference. It states:
She talked about going to work in the morning and forgetting her keys and then returning home to get her keys, but then forgetting why she had come home. Then, when she finally realized what she was looking for, her keys, she forgot what she needed her keys for. She had to slow down and calm herself and deal with that confusion and frustration of not being able to really grasp exactly what she needed to get done.
Imagine this young woman being tasked with making a number of probation or court appearances or appointments. What happens if she misses an appointment? She would go back to jail because of an administrative breach. These people have a damaged nervous system and little concept of timing, and we are irrationally and unjustly sentencing them to a painful and personal purgatory.
Our current federal justice minister said it as well as anyone I have heard, when she said this to the Canadian Bar Association last February:
The truth is that many offenders have some combination of mental illness and addiction....
Imagine if we could change the system to better align it with the needs of all Canadians. What if an offender's first interaction with the criminal justice system did not become the first in a series? What if it triggered mechanisms designed to address the factors that inspired the criminal behaviour in the first place?
It has been a long day. Let us imagine we are going home. However, what if after we have walked a couple of blocks from here, to our horror, we are picked up by the police and put in jail for a couple of years, far from our friends and family, and we did not know why? Then, when our time was up and we got out of this horrible situation, we were picked up by a police car again and told that we missed an appointment and we were thrown back in jail. We would wonder how people could be so cruel.
Colleagues, let us show what it means to be Canadian and end the suffering of thousands who, through no fault of their own, cannot help themselves.
Petitions October 24th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I stand to present two petitions, one signed by 27 Yukoners and the other by 160 other Canadians.
Both petitions state that Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline that consists of meditation and moral teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. Canadian lawyer David Matas and the former secretary of state for Asia-Pacific, David Kilgour, conducted an investigation in 2006, which suggested that tens of thousands of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience were killed and their organs seized involuntarily for sale at a high price.
The petitioners ask the Canadian Parliament to amend Canadian legislation to combat forced organ harvesting, and publicly call for an end to the persecution of the Falun Gong.
Committees of the House October 19th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The Committee advises that, pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(2), the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business met to consider the items added to the order of precedence as a result of the replenishment of Friday, September 30, 2016, and recommended that the items listed herein, which it has determined should not be designated non-votable, be considered by the House.