House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was housing.

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

Aboriginal Affairs December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the evidence is very thin on that action.

What we do need are serious policy initiatives and programs to support women fleeing violence at home and in their communities, to create a culture where women will feel unafraid to report sexual violence, to stop the tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and to eliminate the inequalities that make women more vulnerable to gender violence.

I will ask the minister again. Will she commit today to addressing gender inequality in Canada, and support the motion by member for Churchill for a national action plan to end violence against women?

Respect for Communities Act December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, what absurdity. Neither the NDP nor anybody else is saying that the member should have a safe injection site in Cambridge. What utter nonsense.

This is about a local community itself feeling that it is an appropriate situation for an injection site, and yes, it should then have to go through a process for approval. Nobody is saying there should not be public consultation, but it should be consultation within that local community. I should not be able to weigh in on an application in the member's riding. It is up to the public health officials and so on in his riding to look at the appropriateness in that riding.

There is so much information being put out here. In terms of medicalized heroin, again, people had to go to the court system to uphold their right to have what was given under the special access approval. It was given under the current government's process and then overturned by the minister. I am glad that they did go to court and got it upheld, because now at least it is helping people.

Respect for Communities Act December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, InSite has now been up and running for 10 years, so it does have quite a long record that can be examined. I think members would be hard pressed to find any organization in Vancouver that would not say that InSite is part of the solution. It is not part of the problem. In fact, testimony at committee from the Vancouver Police Department representative made it very clear that InSite is very well known to the Vancouver police and that they actually refer people to it.

In regard to public health and safety, when we had a recent spat of bad heroin on the streets in Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department put out a public advisory urging injection drug users to go to InSite, where they could at least inject safely and not die of an overdose, and could go into treatment if they so chose.

InSite has been very important, and not just in terms of saving lives and improving the health of people who are at the very edges of society and sometimes very hard to reach; it has also been shown that InSite has not increased crime and is a resource that has actually become a very important response to drug policy in the Downtown Eastside.

The record is there and it is very clear, yet with the Conservative government and the bill before us, unfortunately no other premises of this nature will likely be able to be set up in Canada.

Respect for Communities Act December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I feel so disgusted by the parliamentary secretary's completely misleading comments in the House in regard to Bill C-2. We would not be opposing the bill if it actually lived up to the decision that was made by the Supreme Court of Canada. We would welcome the bill if it lived up to that decision, but Bill C-2, now at report stage, is an absolute travesty.

As I will point out in my remarks, this is so far away from what the Supreme Court of Canada said on safe consumption sites and the right, under the charter, for people to have access to those medical services that were provided in the safe injection sites. It is really quite shocking that the Conservatives have gone to such lengths in Bill C-2 to stack the deck and make it virtually impossible for any applicant, in good faith, who does all the work required to get an application in, to ever be approved by a minister as it is laid out in this bill.

I wish I was not speaking today at report stage on this bill, but I am afraid we have to because it has come back from the committee. It really bothers me that we have moved so far away from an evidence-based public policy and that this political mantra from the Conservative Party has now taken over.

As I pointed out, when the Conservatives first introduced this bill, within hours they set up a website called “No heroin in our backyards“ to raise money. It is the politics of fear. It is the politics of division. It is the politics of exploiting people's concerns instead of dealing with something in a rational way and looking at serious issues in various communities across Canada, not all communities, where they feel it is warranted to have a safe consumption site for injection-drug users so they can uphold good public health and stop the spread of HIV-AIDS, stop people from dying and get people into treatment. That is what safe consumption sites do.

The Canadian Nurses Association summed it up for me, when it said:

Evidence demonstrates that supervised injection sites and other harm reduction programs bring critical health and social services to vulnerable populations — especially those experiencing poverty, mental illness and homelessness...A government truly committed to public health and safety would work to enhance access to prevention and treatment services — instead of building more barriers.

I would wholeheartedly agree with that.

When the bill was at committee, we were only allowed two meetings to hear witnesses on a bill that was so important. The boom was lowered. Censure was brought in and two meetings were held to hear from witnesses. We heard from maybe 13 witnesses overall.

The NDP brought forward 23 amendments to this bill. These amendments were reasonable, based on trying to ensure that the bill actually did meet the terms set out by the Supreme Court of Canada. Many of our amendments, for example, responded to concerns that had been put forward by provincial and territorial officials and were designed to ensure that during the application process, as laid out in the bill, when officials brought forward information about an application, it would be based on evidence and research and not opinions, as is laid out in the bill.

Imagine any other health facility being approved in Canada, first with such an incredible number of people who have to weigh in on the matter. I do not know of any other health facility that would require that. However, in this case, not only is there a lengthy list of officials who have to weigh in on it, they are only required to give their opinion, so it is not actually based on evidence or research.

The other thing we are very concerned about, as has been pointed out earlier in the debate, is that the so-called public process in this bill is absolutely absurd. It is proper to do public consultation. Again, the parliamentary secretary in his comments just now was entirely misleading and incorrect when he said that the opposition did not believe there should be public consultation. Of course we do, but we believe that public consultation should be done in the community where the application intends the site to be.

Yes, in the little town about which he spoke, of course there should be public consultation. As an MP, he can weigh in on it and say whatever he thinks, but in this bill the public consultation can be right across Canada. It can take place for 90 days. There is absolutely no suggestion in the criteria as to how the minister should weigh that so-called public consultation. If there was an application in Toronto, she could take public consultation or opinions from people who live in Calgary or northern Alberta and say that people are opposed to this, so she had better turn it down. It is an absurdity and a travesty of process.

I would like to put on the record some of the key witnesses who appeared before the committee.

For example, Adrienne Smith with Pivot Legal Society, the Health and Drug Policy staff lawyer, said in her testimony that she believed:

It will likely not withstand constitutional scrutiny, and it invites an expensive and pointless charter challenge.

As a representative of the Pivot Legal Society, an organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and marginalization... this bill will restrict access to a proven health care service, which will result in needless human suffering for some of the most vulnerable Canadians.

What a waste. This bill has come all this way. It is now at report stage, it is going to be approved, it is going to go to the Senate, and it is likely going to then go through another expensive course of litigation. Maybe it will go back to the Supreme Court of Canada because it is so flawed. I find that a travesty.

Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, said in his testimony:

We are very sorry that this legislation is not coming before the Standing Committee on Health. After all, the primary purpose of supervised consumption services is to intervene in urgent public health contexts where vulnerable citizens are at high risk of serious and sometimes deadly consequences of injection drug use. Consumption services can mitigate this risk, including improving the health and safety of the communities where they might appropriately be located.

I know that commentary from Mr. MacPherson is based on his extensive experience as the city of Vancouver's drug policy coordinator. I know it is based on his review of probably more than 70 studies worldwide now, but at least over 30 in Canada about InSite in Vancouver's downtown eastside. He is entirely correct that these consumption services are about a very urgent public health intervention to save lives and improve the health and safety of the communities in which the facilities are located. In fact, that has very much been the evidence about InSite.

A third witness who I would like to quote for the record is Dr. David McKeown, Toronto Board of Health, medical health officer. He said:

My perspective is somewhat different from that of my law enforcement colleagues, because I come at it from a public health point of view. Toronto is one of several cities in Canada looking to implement supervised injection services as part of an evidenced-based, comprehensive approach to health services for people who inject drugs.

He went on to say that the Toronto Board of Health:

—also feels that the proposed bill is not consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada... If Bill C-2 is will be a significant barrier for any community...

The New Democrats put in amendments at report stage to delete all sections of the bill. We had no other choice. We tried to bring in amendments at committee to improve the bill so it would meet the test of the Supreme Court of Canada. I hope members of the House will oppose this bill. It needs to be shut down, rewritten and it needs to uphold the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Respect for Communities Act December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the parliamentary secretary very carefully and I find it so astounding. On the one hand, he says that if the issue of a safe consumption site is so supportable, then public opinion should not be a problem.

The problem is that within hours of introducing the bill in the House, the Conservative Party put out a huge propaganda machine and used it as a fundraising tool. What it was called? “Keep heroin out of our backyards”. How is that a level playing field? How is that an environment whereby we can have any confidence or faith that the government is willing to look at applications in a serious, meritorious way?

The fact is that it does not care about public opinion. In fact, the public opinion process that the government has laid out is contained to the local community where an application would be situated. That is fair, and extensive public consultation did happen at InSite. Under the bill, the public consultation can be all across Canada and the minister can weigh that however she wants.

I take serious objection to the parliamentary secretary somehow saying that if it is supportable, that public opinion is not a problem when the Conservatives have so manipulated this process and have used it as propaganda to their own base to raise funds. How despicable is that?

I would like the parliamentary secretary to answer that.

Respect for Communities Act December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her comments. I know she was at the committee. Like us, she tried to move a number of amendments but was shut down. I wonder if she would agree with me that really, our only goal has been to establish a level playing field and set out criteria, guidance, and fair rules around safe consumption sites.

The way this bill is currently written, it is so stacked that it would make it virtually impossible for any organization in Canada to successfully have an application approved. I do not know if the hon. member recalls the criteria, literally from a to z, an applicant would have to meet. Even if those criteria were somehow, amazingly, met, it would still be at the minister's discretion whether an application were approved. I wonder if the hon. member would comment on that.

World AIDS Day December 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of World AIDS Day, we remember the countless victims of the AIDS epidemic, while paying tribute to the many who have devoted their professional work to advancement in treating HIV-AIDS, like Dr. Julio Montaner, whose groundbreaking “treatment as prevention” method has helped turn the tide on the global fight against HIV-AIDS.

As we celebrate the many medical advances in combatting AIDS worldwide, it is strangely ironic that on this day, Bill C-2 also comes back to the House. This is the government's anti-safe injection site bill. If passed as written, this bill has the potential to undo a decade's worth of stemming the spread of HIV and hep C among injection drug users. Research has clearly demonstrated that harm reduction prevents the spread of HIV-AIDS, and we in the NDP will continue to uphold the rights of individuals to health and well-being.

On this World AIDS Day, we salute the many organizations and advocates who work tirelessly for a world free of AIDS, both in Canada and globally.

Petitions November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to present petitions from Vancouver regarding a fair electoral system.

The people who have signed the petition point out that our winner-take-all voting system results in a House of Commons where the number of MPs a party supports does reflect the number of voters who cast ballots for that party. They call upon the House of Commons to immediately undertake public consultations across Canada to amend the Canada Elections Act to ensure that voters can cast an equal and effective vote to be represented fairly in Parliament.

Aboriginal Affairs November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, he said nothing about the 50 years.

The Minister of the Environment, the member for Nunavut, said in the House that stories about her constituents eating out of a garbage dump were “untrue”. However, it did happen as anyone who watches APTN can see.

Could the minister confirm that her office contacted Rankin Inlet and demanded an apology for making public the fact that people in her riding were eating out of a landfill?

Veterans Affairs November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that answer is simply not accurate. While the minister is failing to stand and answer questions, his office confirmed yesterday that $159 million of the money announced would be spread over 50 years.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs ignored the Auditor General's recommendations from 2009, closed the offices of veterans and targeted veterans who criticized him. After all that, did the minister really think that misleading the public over this funding announcement would help him out?