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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was fact.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Davenport (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

St. Clare's School September 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, Davenport is known for its rich history and deep community roots. That is why my community is honoured to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Clare's School.

In 1908, a resident of the then mostly rural community wrote to Archbishop McEvay informing him of the numerous Catholics who had settled in the area and that they were in need of a school and a church.

Within two short years, land had been purchased and a school built.

Several years ago, I met with children from that school when they were collecting hundreds of teddy bears for children in Beslan, Russia, following a terrorist attack.

This event, like many others in the past, shows the compassion, the care and the incredible empathy of the St. Clare's School community.

I would ask all of the members to join me in wishing the students, staff and members of the community the very best as they celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Clare's School.

Day of Conscience June 15th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, for 21 days, beginning on June 17, 1940, Portugal's consul general in the French city of Bordeaux issued visas to over 30,000 refugees fleeing the Nazis, in defiance of his own government's orders and at great personal sacrifice. His courage and commitment to conscience saved those who would have otherwise perished and gave life to their descendants who today live in all corners of the world.

When asked about his decision, he would answer, “I would rather stand with God against man than stand with man against God”. In Israel, Aristides de Sousa Mendes is known by the revered title, “Righteous Gentile”.

The same courage and commitment was shown by the Brazilian diplomat Luiz Martins de Sousa Dantas.

I encourage all parliamentarians to recognize this devotion to conscience by supporting my motion to designate June 17 each year a day of conscience, consistent with the international efforts of Joao Crisostomo.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2010

Madam Speaker, before asking my question, I would like to congratulate the Portuguese community because today, June 10, is Portugal's national holiday. I would also like to congratulate a number of people, including Joe Eustaquio, who has organized a festival, a very big feat in my neighbourhood. I would also like to congratulate Frank Alvarez, who was honoured by the City of Toronto. He has had a street in Toronto named after him. It is a very important holiday for Portuguese communities around the world.

I would simply like to point something out to my dear colleague. The Bloc motion indicates that it is very much against the idea of a national system wherein each province has the right to a strong presence in the system, as the government is proposing.

Could my colleague clearly explain why the Bloc is against a system whereby the province would maintain its own jurisdiction as well as the right not to participate in this system?

Canadian Human Rights Act June 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, in this House and across this country, we are privileged to be able to express ourselves freely and to live to our fullest potential as citizens of Canada. It is important, however, that we remain forever vigilant in our work to ensure that all Canadians enjoy the human rights which our citizenship rightly bestows.

I am reminded of a statement by Nobel prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, who said, “Please use your freedom to promote ours”. These are simple words, but they are invested with tremendous meaning and substance. Several of my colleagues have noted during these debates that this bill, dealing with equality and human rights protection for transgender and transsexual Canadians, lacks the benefit of first-hand experience. This is true. There are indeed no transgender or transsexual people currently serving as members of Parliament.

However, in keeping with the spirit of the words of Aung San Suu Kyi, we are given the unique opportunity and privilege to promote the freedom of others as outlined in the provisions of this bill. Human rights are precisely as the term states. What the bill is addressing is a right, not a privilege. Canadians are, by virtue of our democratic traditions and our commitment to equality, protected with respect to our most basic human rights and freedoms.

When contemplating the provisions of this bill, it can be reasonably surmised that what has been proposed should really not require debate. In essence, this bill ensures that transgender and transsexual Canadians are afforded protection under the law with respect to their basic human rights in a manner consistent with that which is enjoyed by every other Canadian. It is simply a reaffirmation that all Canadians share the same rights and opportunities, and that these require equal protection under the law.

Indeed, it is remarkable, if one were to think about it, that in this day and age we continue to find ourselves in a position of having to debate the need to include a specific group under the umbrella of human rights law as well as protection under the Criminal Code. One cannot help but reflect on similar debates over the past several hundred years, when people like those who are transgender or transsexual were the subjects of discriminatory practice and indeed victims of hate crimes.

Like parliamentarians of years past, we are called in our time to embrace and support the inclusion of transgender and transsexual Canadians in the most fundamental of our laws, those which protect the most basic human rights and which also offer protection from criminal acts of hate and discrimination.

In debates of this kind, we are often tempted to resort to statistical data to make our case. We may, at times, focus too much on these numbers. Indeed, several members have referred to statistics when speaking about the actual number of Canadians who are transgender or transsexual and living in Canada.

I believe that while it is important to reflect upon the statistics, we must also be vigilant when doing so. Human rights do not need to be measured in numbers simply because they are universal in character. As someone who has held a long and abiding commitment to human rights issues, I recognize that there is little currency to be found in debating numbers. The reality is simply this. All human beings, regardless of their numbers, are invested with basic human rights, freedoms and protection under the law, which are inalienable and non-negotiable.

I recognize that there are those who may argue about the need to amend our laws to specifically protect transgender and transsexual Canadians. The reality is that there is a clear and pressing requirement for such action. There is ample evidence, both statistically and anecdotal, that confirms that transgender and transsexual Canadians experience disproportionate discrimination and even violence based on who they are and how they choose to live their lives. This is unacceptable.

The bill we are debating today may not eliminate these realities, but it will most certainly offer greater protection to those who are victims of such discrimination and lead to that day when transgender and transsexual Canadians will enjoy the freedom and security that they so rightly deserve.

It is important to remember that positive action in matters such as this is our responsibility as parliamentarians. For example, it was not that long ago that gays and lesbians in this country faced similar challenges to those we are debating today. Fortunately, many of us in the House are too young to remember the more violent and reprehensible violations of human rights experienced by gays and lesbians in Canada, but they were indeed troubling and serious acts of injustice.

Mr. Speaker, 1965 is not really that long ago. Yet, in that year a Canadian gay man was declared a dangerous offender simply because of his sexual orientation and the belief that was presented to a Canadian court that he was likely to continue to be sexually active. This man was not released from prison until 1971.

I make note of this incident to highlight the need for us to be proactive in protecting human rights for transgender and transsexual Canadians. Following the imprisonment of this man, Bill C-167, an omnibus bill, was introduced in 1967 by the then justice minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, which decriminalized homosexuality and was the foundation upon which great strides were made for gays and lesbians in this country.

Indeed, under two more Liberal Prime Ministers, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, gays and lesbians were allowed to marry, which represented another enormous step forward for human rights in Canada. Today we are called to be bold and progressive and, indeed, as courageous as Pierre Trudeau or Prime Ministers Chrétien and Martin. Their courage demonstrated that it is incumbent upon parliamentarians to take proactive action to ensure that the human rights of all Canadians are fully protected.

Historically, it has taken too long to address all the challenges to human rights and freedoms that have materialized over the past many years. Many of them have been based on race, religion or sexual orientation, but all have experienced the day when as a society we determined that action had to be taken.

Today my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas is calling upon our fellow parliamentarians to do not only what is required of us but what should be expected. We have often heard that a true measure of a society is the manner in which it treats those within it that are most vulnerable to abuse or discrimination.

Clearly, as we have heard during the course of this debate, transgender and transsexual Canadians have more than their share of discrimination, violence and unacceptable alienation. Bill C-389 is not designed to confer on transgender and transsexual Canadians anything other than that which they are entitled.

We as Canadians and parliamentarians are being called by history and generations of Canadians yet to come to do that which is fair and just: ensure that all Canadians are treated equally and respectfully under the laws and traditions of our country. It is for this reason that I encourage all of my fellow members of the House to join with our colleague from Burnaby—Douglas and vote in favour of Bill C-389.

Portuguese Fishermen May 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, on this day in 1955, the Portuguese ship, Gil Eannes, sailed into the port of St. John's, Newfoundland.

Four thousand Portuguese fishermen in beautiful costumes carried a statue of Our Lady of Fatima up the hill to the Basilica of St. John the Baptist where it was erected as a gift to the people of St. John's from the fishermen of Portugal in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Basilica.

Those beautiful days in 1955 were a celebration of the close relationships that saw St. John's filled with Portuguese vessels and fishermen for six months each year for over 400 years.

The Portuguese fishing fleets and Portuguese fishermen who travelled across the Atlantic each year will continue to echo through history ever reminding the people of Newfoundland and all Canadians of this special period in their history and of their friends who lived just across the sea.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act May 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lend my support for Bill C-440 as presented by the member for Parkdale—High Park. I am very pleased that he has advanced this bill. It will come as no surprise to members of the House that on many occasions, I have had the opportunity to speak to the importance of giving asylum to those who have engaged in the war in Iraq, and for conscientious reasons have objected to that war and asked for asylum in Canada.

The story resonates well with me, because the first war resister I had the opportunity to meet was Jeremy Hinzman, who was a constituent of mine in Davenport. Mr. Hinzman was a soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division. He applied for conscientious objector status and served one tour of duty in Afghanistan in a non-combat position. After being denied conscientious objector status, Jeremy learned that he was being deployed to Iraq. He and his wife, Nga Nguyen, and their son, Liam, came to Canada in January 2004. Their daughter Meghan was born in Toronto in the summer of 2008.

The member for Trinity—Spadina was also present at many of the meetings that I had with Jeremy Hinzman, as well as at several rallies that took place throughout Toronto with the participation of church groups, different faith groups, NGOs, civil society and labour groups. They showed solidarity for Mr. Hinzman and his family. As I said, one of his children was born in Canada.

Many of these soldiers who came to Canada to seek refugee status in fact have established themselves with their families and have children who were born in Canada. They have lived here for quite some time.

I have also had the opportunity to speak to Robin Long, who served two years as a tanker in the U.S. army. He came to Canada in July 2005 and applied for refugee status because he felt he could not participate in the war in Iraq. On July 15, 2008, the Canadian government deported Robin to the United States, where he was arrested and court martialled for desertion. Robin was sentenced to 15 months in a military prison and received a dishonourable discharge from the military. The sentence is one of the harshest handed out to U.S. Iraq war resisters.

The other war resister whom I would like to mention is Joshua Key. I would encourage all members to read his book about a soldier's story of what takes place in Iraq. It is a compelling story of what took place in that war and why he came to the conclusion that he was against the war and why he could not serve his country and made the difficult and painful decision to come to Canada.

Key was a private first class in the U.S. army. He served an eight-month tour in Iraq in 2003. What he saw in Iraq convinced him that he could not participate in the war any longer. He went AWOL and came to Canada with his family in March 2005. On July 4, 2008, the Federal Court ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to hold a new hearing for Joshua's refugee claim. Joshua is awaiting a decision on that hearing from the Immigration and Refugee Board.

As far back as December 2008, I issued a press release. I was very concerned that on Christmas Eve of 2008, there was an order to deport Clifford Cornell in advance of the decision of the Federal Court of Canada on the appeal of the war resister Jeremy Hinzman. What concerned me was that the plan was to move Mr. Cornell the day before Christmas Day. I thought that would be incredibly painful for the family, but I think that for most Canadians, however they felt about the issue, it just did not seem right that on Christmas Eve there would be a deportation order, when the minds of Canadians were focused elsewhere. In many ways, it was designed to have as little publicity as possible and it worked.

I thought it was very tragic and sad for that to happen, and most Canadians would want the decisions to be made in a way that certainly has sentiment and feeling for that very important occasion of Christmas.

What this particular bill tries to establish is the whole idea of the Canadian government supporting people who have made a claim of conscientious objection in Canada and allowing them to stay here. This is consistent with many polls and with the views of Canadians. In fact, the majority of parliamentarians have voted twice in past Parliaments to allow them to stay in Canada. The will of Parliament, expressed in both June 2008 and March 2009, should be respected.

The House and the previous prime minister, Jean Chrétien, made what I think will be known in history and will certainly be recorded in history as one of the most courageous and righteous things ever done by any prime minister. He said no to an illegal war, a war not sanctioned by the United Nations. That was the invasion of Iraq.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Chrétien was here today for the unveiling of his portrait. We certainly wish him luck. Most of us were quite impressed with the portrait that was unveiled today.

We owe him a great deal of gratitude for the many things he has done for this country. Canadians will also remember him fondly for saying no to the war in Iraq. Many of the coalition partners at that time were, like Canada, strong allies of the U.S., but as an independent nation, we decided to take an independent stand.

We have done this throughout our history. Canada has always shown that yes, we are best friends with the U.S. Yes, Canadians love the U.S. and think very highly of its institutions, government, and people, but at the same time, as friends, we can disagree on many issues. We disagreed on the war in Iraq, but we participated in the war in Afghanistan, because it had a UN mandate, and we thought it was important to go through UN channels.

The UN is very clear that under chapter VII, article 39, the Security Council should be the only one to determine whether there is a threat to peace. There was no chapter VII, article 39 authorization for the invasion of Iraq. There was one for Afghanistan. Chapter VII was never called upon for Iraq. Of course, there is always article 51 on the inherent right to collective self-defence—

Davenport Community Builders Awards May 13th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to pay tribute to the recipients of this year's Davenport Community Builders Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions to our community.

Viviana Astudillo, a local artist, has been cleaning up the community through urban beautification murals, and her work with Crime Stoppers represents only part of her efforts.

For many years, Steve De Quintal has been shaping young minds and encouraging community involvement among his students at Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton School through his leadership course and other volunteer initiatives. Steve has also been very actively involved with Casa da Madeira Community Centre.

Mabel Ernest is the tenant representative and a community organizer in Pelham Park Gardens. A long-time supporter of tenants with disabilities and champion of their rights, she has also created a local community garden and promoted a number of energy, recycling and anti-violence projects.

Finally, Don Panos and the St. Clair Gardens BIA have been economic and social anchors of the local community. Using their own resources, they have continued over the years to promote and revitalize the St. Clair neighbourhood, making it a great place to live, shop and visit.

On behalf of the residents of Davenport, I invite all members of Parliament to join with me in congratulating these outstanding community leaders. They help make the Davenport community and Toronto a vibrant and beautiful place to live.

Transportation May 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, electric trains are the logical solution. People in the GTA are worried about how more diesel trains might affect their lives. This is not new technology, either. Electric trains are already used across Europe with great success.

I ask again, what is the minister and the government prepared to do to help Torontonians and the environment? Why are they not prepared to assist public transit agencies like Metrolinx electrify trains along this corridor?

Transportation May 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, residents in my riding of Davenport and other nearby Toronto ridings are facing the prospect of hundreds of additional diesel trains passing close to their homes and through their neighbourhoods to facilitate a rail link to the airport from downtown Toronto.

With electric trains being used all over the world, will the minister indicate what the government is prepared to do to assist public transit agencies to convert those rail lines to accommodate electric trains?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 30th, 2010

With regard to proposed stimulus spending for infrastructure and construction projects outlined in the government’s 2009 budget: (a) how much funding has been allocated for these projects; (b) what projects are currently known to be funded or have been proposed to receive funding; (c) where are these projects occurring; (d) how is the funding for these projects distributed; (e) how are the locations for these projects selected; and (f) what system determines the priority of these locations and projects?