House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Vancouver East (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House June 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised to hear the Minister of Health today in the House defend a report that is so clearly biased.

The report that we are debating today only looked at health risks and harms. If the minister has read the testimony, she will know that approximately 50% of people who use medical marijuana do so to relieve chronic pain, according to Dr. Perry Kendall, who is a medical health officer in B.C. The research on medical marijuana is very limited because of prohibition and yet when we look at the government report, none of the recommendations would allow, call for or urge the government to do research on medical marijuana.

I would like to ask the minister why she is taking such a biased political stance, because it is very clear it is not based on evidence, and why she is so opposed to legitimate research on medical marijuana that would actually give us the information that is required. Why is she so opposed to that?

Committees of the House June 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I was on the Standing Committee on Health when this study was done as well. Therefore, I am interested in hearing the member's comments about the study. I think the member is aware that one of the witnesses we heard from told us that Veterans Affairs Canada pays for the cost of medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD in veterans.

This study was completely biased and one-sided. In fact, we were extremely disappointed that the study was so one-sided. It serves no useful purpose other than to bolster the already-held political Conservative views that are not based on evidence.

I would like to ask the member this. Why did the study only consider health risks and harms? Why were the Conservatives not willing to hear about some of the advances that have been made in medical marijuana and the fact that it is actually used by a federal agency to help veterans?

Port State Measures Agreement Implementation Act May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for his outstanding advocacy and work in protecting fisheries on the west coast. He is a well-known champion and advocate, and his activism in response to the recent oil spill in English Bay was just outstanding. I know he spoke for thousands of people in metro Vancouver who have so much concern.

I would like to ask the member a question on his comments about the importance of coastal protection and how this, as he has pointed out, is really just a housekeeping bill, but the issue that underlies this is coastal protection. It seems incredible that three out of five of the marine communications control centres were closed. Is there anywhere else in the world that would have that kind of lack of oversight in and environment where so much of a complex coast would be unprotected, particularly in metro Vancouver where there is, of course, so much marine traffic? I wonder if the member would just expand upon that a bit more.

Petitions May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join many of my colleagues from the NDP today as we rise to present our petitions from men and women across the country who have participated in a campaign to draw attention in the House, through petitions, to ceasing the taxation of menstrual hygiene products. As has been pointed out, these are essential products to Canadians and there is a disproportionate financial burden.

New Democrats are very happy to present these petitions today from right across the country. The signators of the petition I have are from Toronto. We think it is a very important campaign and hope this petition will be visible and accepted and that the GST will be zero for menstrual hygiene products.

Respect for Communities Act February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this is the 89th time that the government has put closure on debate on a bill. It really is a very shameful record. It is an historic but shameful record in the history of this Parliament.

This bill, Bill C-2, is a particularly grievous one and is fundamentally flawed. I find it very ironic that the government itself sat on this bill for months and months—in fact, the better part of a year—before it brought it forward for debate. Now, all of a sudden, it decides it wants to rush it through at report stage and third reading at the last minute.

I want to ask why it is cutting off debate, why it sat on this bill for so long, and why members of Parliament, who have the right to a thorough debate at report stage and third reading of this bill and to discuss all of the arguments that came out of committee, a legitimate process, are now being limited and foreclosed in the House.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I do not know all of the reasons that the Supreme Court of Canada justices laid down one year. I could possibly speculate that they felt this was such a compelling issue affecting the dignity of people, their right to life, and their own decision-making process that they really wanted to make sure that Parliament did not just wander off and do nothing, or do whatever over whatever period of time. Therefore, the specific timeframe of a year, which I do not think is too short, is very important because it is now moving us to do something. It has been somewhat disconcerting that we have not seen anything proactive from the government on what it wants to do. If it has ideas, then let it bring them forward. Right now we have this motion that lays out a particular cause.

I would point out that if a special committee gets going relatively quickly, there is nothing to prevent it from meeting during the summer. We have committees that meet throughout the summer all the time. Therefore, from a logistical point of view, this is very doable. If we do not start now, then we are just delaying it further.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the member's memory is better than mine. I now remember that it was a hot day and that it was during the Calgary Stampede. What I remember most about that meeting is that people were so surprised that we were there, that a member from the government side and a member from the official opposition could be at the same meeting and have a respectful discussion. It spoke clearly to me as to how people in this country are so cynical about politics. They see us in question period and that is the view they have of us and they do not know that there are many instances where MPs do work together.

The motion by my colleague from Timmins—James Bay on palliative care is another very fine example of how the House can come together on the wording and approve a motion on the importance of palliative care and the need for a federal strategy.

Therefore, I would like to see us go further, to take that up and say that we are willing to work together on this issue and are willing to make sure that there is a genuine, meaningful, democratic consultation that will lead to the necessary legislative framework.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.

I am very pleased to participate in this debate today. I want to begin my remarks by reflecting on the importance of this issue and on it really being a non-partisan issue.

I want to thank the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia for the bills he has presented in the House. I know that there are also two members in the Senate, from two different parties, a former Liberal and a Conservative, who have presented a bill. I think it reflects the deep feeling that individual members of Parliament have on the issue of medically assisted dying.

In fact, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and I attended a forum in Calgary in August of last year. We did a forum together with Dying with Dignity Canada and other organizations. People were a bit taken aback that a Conservative member and an NDP member would be at the same meeting talking about the same issue. Yet I think it was a good discussion, and we shared very similar viewpoints on what needed to be done.

I also want to remember the incredible work that was done by a former member of Parliament, who is well known to us, Svend Robinson. He rose on many occasions in this House and spoke about medically assisted dying. In fact, he was one of the key people who worked with and helped Sue Rodriguez in her battle, both legal and medical. She had tremendous courage. Svend was someone who was by her side to support and assist her. He never gave up on that issue.

I also remember Francine Lalonde, who was a wonderful member of Parliament from the Bloc Québécois. She brought forward a private member's bill in the House on medically assisted dying. I voted for the bill. In fact, I voted twice for it, because she brought it back again. Ms. Lalonde has since passed away, but she was a tremendous advocate on this issue. We again thank her for her work.

Right there, members can see that this is a very non-partisan issue. I think it reflects the feelings on this issue in Canadian society.

I also want to pay tribute to my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for the hard work he has done on palliative care, because it is part of the debate in terms of ensuring that there is a continuum of care. To me, the issue of palliative care and medically assisted dying are not things that are mutually exclusive, where it is either/or. It is something that is part of a process and a choice people need to have. We need to have much better access to palliative care in this country.

Even with the passage of Motion No. 456 by the member for Timmins—James Bay and the debate that took place in this House, the fact is that we have made very little progress. I think there are some very serious questions as to why we have not seen the follow-through from the government, whose members actually voted for the motion.

I also want to point out the organizations in this country, such as Dying with Dignity Canada, and others. They have done incredible work, not just on the legal front but also in education and working with local communities and people who are interested in this issue.

I did a forum in Vancouver with Dying with Dignity Canada about six weeks ago. It was a very interesting meeting. There was a diversity of people who came to the meeting. We had presentations. This was before the Supreme Court of Canada decision. It was a serious discussion that reflected the seriousness with which people look at this issue. What really stood out for me was that people were very clear that this is an issue about consent and choice and that the state, and I think it is very well reflected in the Supreme Court decision, should not be in the position of making a decision for adults in terms of what they decide to do about the end of their lives, the care they have, or when they need to end their lives based on their unique and particular circumstances.

I passionately believe that members of Parliament can be opposed to medically assisted dying, but can still support the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada and the premise that this is about an individual's decision. That is not something that I or anyone else in this place should be able to pass judgement on.

I do believe that we have an incredible responsibility to follow up the decision by the Supreme Court, which was unanimous, to make sure that we do not drop the ball and we do not somehow push this somewhere to the back, because we consider it to be controversial, or for some other reason. This is an issue about here and now. This is about people now who are suffering and who have very compelling situations where they need to be able to make a decision about their own life and what happens. For that reason, I thank the Liberal members who brought the motion forward today.

I agree with the last person who intervened. If we do not start now, then when will we? I have heard arguments that there will not be enough time and that an election is forthcoming. We can always come up with 1,001 reasons why this is not the appropriate time or why we should not begin our work now. I can think of one compelling reason why we should start now, which is that for some people time is running out. Unless we do our job, we are completely abdicating the responsibility that has been given to us by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Like my colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, I wish that we were not following on the heels of the Supreme Court of Canada. I wish that we, as Parliament, had been able to arrive at this in our own way and through our own process, as happened in Quebec. The process there was really quite incredible. They went through the proper consultations and eventually came forward with their legislation.

There is a vacuum now. Unless we begin today or next week, we are letting down an awful lot of people. We are copping out, and we cannot afford to cop out on this issue.

Maybe this special committee is not perfect. Maybe someone thinks that it should be slightly different. I certainly agree with my colleague from Timmins—James Bay that we wish it included the issue of palliative care in a more formal way. Should this motion pass, we will do our best to ensure that these issues are also covered.

However, the fact is that this is the motion before us today and that we will be voting on today. I cannot see any reason why we would not support it, because it is about a process. It is about us as parliamentarians doing our job to uphold this very historic landmark decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In the name of Sue Rodriguez and all the people who have suffered and brought forward the current legal action and sacrificed so much, I really feel that we are compelled to take action here. It will be very disappointing if we do not meet that goal and if we do not meet that responsibility and we somehow just slough it off and say there is this excuse and that excuse. There are no more excuses.

This is a day for us to recognize what we are here to do as members of Parliament for our constituents. It is a day for us to get above partisan politics. In that way, I find the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada very affirming. It affirms what we need to do. Let us make sure that we take it up and affirm our responsibility to work with each other and set up a process to ensure that this consultation does take place, so that within a year, we can do the job that has been set out for us.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia for his very thoughtful comments and for tabling the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. I know that he has done a lot of work on this issue with his two private members' bill that he spoke about, as well as the bills in the Senate.

I think the member's point is well taken that we need to ensure that there is a parliamentary process that is non-partisan. It is too bad that it did not happen earlier, but now we have the Supreme Court decision, and it is critical that it be followed up in a timely way and that we not just let the year go by.

I would like to ask the member how he sees that process unfolding. We have a motion before us today that would set up a special committee that would do consultation. I wonder if he would tell us whether or not he thinks that is the general direction we should go to make sure that Parliament itself is engaged with this issue.

National Anthem Act February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Ottawa—Vanier for bring forward this important bill. He made wonderful comments in support of the bill, and I agree with everything that he said.

I am proud of the fact that over the years several former members of the NDP, including Svend Robinson and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, and myself in the 40th Parliament, have had exactly the same bills. The bills tried to change the wording of our national anthem.

As I stand here today, I have to ask myself if it is 2015. As I was getting ready for this speech, I noted that a Conservative member would be speaking to the bill before me. I wondered what Conservative members would say in opposition to the bill. What could it be? This is totally a no-brainer. This is about gender equality. This is about a minor word change in our national anthem that would reflect our whole country.

I thought this would be a unanimous situation and that the bill would go through, which would have been great, but lo and behold, the parliamentary secretary stands up on his principle that no government could vote against the will of the people. Then I think back to that terrible omnibus bill on voter suppression; that bill was certainly against the will of the people.

The Conservatives say they cannot vote for this legislation because it would mean that the opinion of Canadians does not matter. That is just utter nonsense. This is about reflecting the present-day nature of our society.

I presume that the Conservative member is reflecting the general view of the government, although maybe not the view of individual members. What I find really disturbing is that the Conservatives seem to be resting their argument on upholding tradition, even though the original version from 1908 of our national anthem, as the member sponsoring the bill has pointed out, states “True patriot love thou dost in us command”. Even though the original version was gender-neutral, the Conservatives are stuck on the idea that when the wording was changed in 1980 to “True patriot love in all thy sons command”, those words suddenly became tradition, and they do not want to variate from that tradition.

What is tradition? Tradition is something that we value, and it is important, but tradition also evolves. Tradition evolves based on the diversity of society. Some traditions are really bad. If we rested on tradition and we use that as the principle of an argument as to why we would vote against the bill, we would not have seen same-sex marriage or racial intermarriage. God help us, we would not have seen women or aboriginal people voting. That would have been sticking with tradition at the time when those issues were debated.

This idea that somehow we cannot deal with this issue because it is about tradition and a legacy is absolute nonsense. I would hope that Conservative members, or at least every woman on the other side of the House, will support the bill before us today. It is offensive that the national anthem that we treasure, the national anthem that we sing on so many occasions, does not reflect who we are.

O Canada is sung many times in my community in East Vancouver at community events. It is sung many times on Canada Day. I already incorporate this change, as do many other people. We heard from the member for Ottawa—Vanier about some of the choirs that already do that, which is wonderful. This practice is already taking place. This idea that Canadians are not behind this idea does not reflect what is taking place in practice across the country.

We have noted that the change would not affect the French version and that this is a debate about the English version of our anthem, and I happen to think that the symbolism of the national anthem is important in this country. If we recognize the role and sacrifice of women in the Canadian Armed Forces and we recognize, support, and uphold the role and the value of women in our society generally as Canadians, then this kind of symbolic change is very important.

I want to appeal to the Conservative members to stick to the plan they had in 2010 when this issue was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne by the Prime Minister. I appeal to them not to suddenly retreat from what was a good position, a logical position, a position of respecting tradition while also respecting diversity. They are not mutually exclusive. I want to encourage members of the Conservative side to look at the bill and to think about history and who we are as a society, and to remember that we are approaching the 150th year of this country. This is a very timely and appropriate debate as we approach that very important anniversary.

I am very proud to say that members of the NDP get this. We understand that it is a very important symbolic but simple initiative, and it needs to be undertaken by this House. What are we here for? We are here to display leadership.

If we listen to what our Conservative members are saying, at least the parliamentary secretary, every time there is a poll and somebody says, “I am not sure about that. Do not do that. It is about tradition”, we would just do nothing, is that it? We would just all pack it up and go home and do everything by poll, which I really have to wonder about, being from B.C., where polls have become pretty suspect when we look at elections, for example, and even here in Ontario.

This is not legislation by poll. This is not about being a member of Parliament by poll. This is about reflecting on what our country is about and reflecting that it is 2015 and not 1980, and that women are not only prominent in this country but also need to be more prominent. If the national anthem cannot reflect us as women, then heck, we really have not come very far.

Let us get rid of the illusions. Let us get rid of the smokescreen of these polls and the idea that the Conservatives do not wish to go against the will of the people. We can all think of examples of the Conservatives throwing in the face of the Canadian people anything that they believed in to motivate their own political agenda.

I want to end on a positive note and say thanks to the member for Ottawa—Vanier for bringing this matter forward again. The fact that it has come forward on a number of occasions means that it is an enduring issue. It means that it is something that needs to be dealt with, and it will keep coming forward until the folks on the other side, or those who are nay-sayers, understand that we need to be in a modern-day society and that this change in our national anthem is long overdue.

I really hope, because it is a private member's bill, that individual members from all sides of the House will think about the bill, think about who they are, think about women in this country, and think about what this national anthem actually says. On that basis, they will come to what I think is the only conclusion that one can come to, which is that we should be supporting this change. We should be going out and celebrating that change. We should be talking to our constituents and the people who are worried about tradition. We have so many arguments to show how tradition itself evolves and can represent the diversity of Canada.

I thank the member for the bill. I look forward to hearing from other Conservative members and I hope very much that they will accept a modern-day bill and not be stuck in a sexist and discriminatory frame of mind. I hope that they will support the bill.