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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Halifax (Nova Scotia)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Aboriginal Affairs June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the facts are well known, and women across Canada live the reality of gender-based violence every single day. However, indigenous women face the starkest reality. They are more than three times more likely to be victims of violence and seven times more likely to be murdered.

In order to end this violence, we need to come to grips with the factors that cause it. Why is the government refusing to listen to indigenous women who are calling for an inquiry to do just that?

National Defence June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, all members of the House are condemning General Lawson's unacceptable remarks. However, just condemning these remarks is not enough for the countless victims of sexual assault and harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces. A change in culture is absolutely necessary.

When will this government show some leadership and ensure that Justice Deschamps' recommendations are implemented immediately?

The Environment June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today Pope Francis issued a wake-up call. Climate change is a threat, and the world's poorest people will suffer the most. This is not just an environmental issue; it is a moral issue. Canada must cut emissions and ensure that less-developed countries have the financing they need to tackle climate change. Only the NDP has a plan to tackle climate change and put a price on carbon.

Did the Prime Minister's short 10 minutes with the Pope make it obvious that nobody believes the current government's talking points?

The Economy June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, either the Conservatives do not have a plan or their plan is not working.

Over the first quarter of this year, GDP shrank, business investment is down, exports are down, and job growth is stalling. Under the Conservatives, middle-class families are working harder but they are falling further behind. Meanwhile, Conservatives are giving billion dollar handouts to the wealthy few.

New Democrats know that a strong economy equals a strong middle class. Will the Conservatives scrap their handouts to the wealthy and instead invest in middle-class families and child care?

The Economy June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, successive governments have watched while hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Now, manufacturing slipped again in April, the third drop in four months.

With smart investments and a government that cares, we can help build a thriving sector. The NDP has proposed things like an innovation tax credit to boost investment in R and D and ensure that companies that are developing the advanced products and jobs for the future get the support that they need.

Why do Conservatives not have a plan to help our manufacturing sector and create jobs?

The Economy June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, after 10 years under the Conservatives, middle-class families are working harder than ever, but they are struggling to make ends meet.

Our economy is suffering. The GDP has seen its biggest drop in six years. Our exports have fallen for the second straight quarter. BMO is forecasting the slowest economic growth outside of a recession in 30 years.

Does the Prime Minister believe that his economic plan is working, yes or no?

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague very much for her question. She underscored the double-talk aspect.

What we have here in the House is legislation that proposes to put an end to barbaric practices. What about the fact that if someone is an aboriginal women, she is more likely to be murdered than someone who looks like me. I do not think that is justice. I do not think that is the kind of Canada we intended to create. However, we are there. Why are we not taking action? There was a truth and reconciliation commission. The report said clearly that it was cultural genocide that was attempted in residential schools. How is it that we do not see any action? There were 94 recommendations, and we have not heard a peep.

If we want to talk about hypocrisy, it is pretty easy. Just come into the House and listen to what the Conservatives have to say about some groups but not others. They are certainly leaving the first nations communities out in the cold.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it was not painful for me to give that speech at all. It might have been painful for the minister to hear it, because I was speaking the truth, and that probably hurt a little.

The NDP is really clear. It supports a minimum age for marriage. Full stop, period.

I know I cannot ask him a question back, but if he gets another chance to stand, I would ask him to answer this question. How does deporting a woman or a girl who is in a forced marriage protect her? It is beyond any kind of comprehension to think that this is what would help women. If we were going to help women, we would have an opportunity for them to exit that marriage, not for us to kick them out of the country. I would love for him to answer that.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am standing in the House to speak out firmly against this bill.

My intention was to discuss it through two lenses. The first is the lens of unintended consequences, because when we present legislation, we need to think about what the consequences will be. Sometimes there are unintended consequences, and there are a lot in this bill. The second lens I want to apply is what we would do if we actually wanted to stop forced marriages. What kind of legislation or policy could we bring forward if we were really serious about putting an end to underage marriages in Canada? I will talk about those two things, because the NDP is very serious about bringing forward legislation and policy that can put an end to underage marriage and put an end to forced marriages.

First though, I want to tackle the issue of the title. We heard a little bit of a back and forth between my colleague from Northwest Territories and the parliamentary secretary about the title.

The title of this bill is the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. I have a big problem with this title. The parliamentary secretary stood here, wrung her hands, implored us to think of the children, and asked if this was not a barbaric cultural practice. We all agree that these are terrible practices. However, when we have this kind of provocative title it is not about working together to eliminate this kind of behaviour or these practices. What this title does is fuel racist stereotypes. It creates xenophobia toward very particular groups in Canada. We are targeting particular groups with this title.

I think about the other barbaric cultural practices happening in this country. Why are the Conservatives not standing up against other barbaric cultural practices? I happen to think it is a barbaric cultural practice that a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant is forced to carry that baby to term because she cannot access abortion services in this country. I happen to think it is a barbaric cultural practice, yet I do not see the Conservatives standing up and fighting for that.

I happen to think it is a barbaric cultural practice to force a woman to bring a baby to term if she does not want to have that baby, but we do not see the Conservatives crusading to change the fact that only 16% of hospitals in Canada offer abortion services. They are not champions on the lack of access to abortion services in Canada.

I think it is a barbaric cultural act that we have created a culture that puts such shame on women. It shames them to the point that they will do anything to terminate a pregnancy without having to tell someone, like throwing themselves down the stairs, taking drugs to self-abort, and using coat hangers. I happen to think this is a barbaric cultural practice, yet I hear silence in the House about putting an end to that.

In Prince Edward Island, a woman took medication to induce an abortion and had a complication. She went to the ER. She was bleeding. She did not know if she was bleeding to death. She had no idea. She waited for five hours in the ER. When someone actually came in to talk to her about what was going on, the attending health care provider told her that he was not comfortable treating her and that she should go to Halifax. Halifax is not down the street. Halifax is 300 kilometres away. I happen to think it is a barbaric cultural practice to have left that woman in that ER for five hours, not knowing about the health or the state of her fetus, not knowing about her own health, and not knowing if she was going to bleed to death and then having the doctor say that he was not comfortable treating her.

I happen to think that was a barbaric cultural practice, yet I do not see the Conservatives standing up to enforce the Canada Health Act to ensure that we have equal access to health services across this country. Come to think of it, I do not see any of the Liberals standing up to talk about this either. It is a Liberal government in P.E.I. There are three Liberal MPs here in the House of Commons, and we have a whole lot of silence when it comes to standing up for women's rights and their ability to access abortion services.

Moving on, let us get back to unintended consequences.

If we are serious about putting an end to these practices, then let us look at how we do it. Let us draft some legislation and think about what the consequences are, both intended and unintended. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unintended consequences here.

We have heard several of my colleagues talk about these unintended consequences. I think they are really serious. I think they are so serious that we cannot support the bill.

There is something as simple as the definition of polygamy. There is no real definition of polygamy here. We might think we all know what polygamy is, so what is the big deal? Well, it is a big deal. We are playing with people's lives here. We need a definition.

We heard testimony at committee about what would happen if there was a legally sanctioned marriage and one that was not legally sanctioned. For example, a person is married, the partners split up, and the person gets into a common-law relationship. If that first relationship has not been legally terminated and that person is in a new common-law relationship, is that polygamy? We do not know. What may be perceived as a small detail could have serious consequences for all kinds of people in Canada who might not know that they are in a polygamous relationship.

However, this is a small detail that I can maybe even wrap my head around, but there are other unintended consequences that are beyond the pale.

If we are trying to help marginalized and disadvantaged women, then we cannot put them in situations where they are so fearful that they cannot come forward. We heard tons of expert testimony about this. It is actually shocking when we look at the transcripts from committee how passionate some of these witnesses were about the fact that this legislation would drive those women deeper underground. If we want to help these women and children, we cannot have them be fearful that they will be deported.

Imagine if this deportation happened. It would not be just for the big bad guy we are always talking about, the one who is forcing a little girl into marriage. I heard the minister talk about forced rape for the rest of her life. If that little girl does not know she can get protection from our government, why would she come forward? If there are laws that say that everyone involved in a polygamous marriage will be deported, that will include that little girl. How does it help that little girl to send her to another country where there are no protections, where there probably are not even opportunities for her to go to school?

How about we put an end to that kind of barbaric cultural practice? Imagine sending a little girl out of the country when all she wants is protection. That is an unintended consequence I cannot get past. The legislation before us is full of these unintended consequences.

I will skip to how we can work together. We had some really good testimony at committee about how we need to have institutional support for these victims. We can have that kind of support without alienating and harming the women who are involved in forced marriage and gender-based violence. We need to have those institutional supports for them.

UNICEF talks a lot about the fact that if we are going to protect children from human trafficking, we have to recognize the failures in the system that allow those women and children to be trafficked. We have to recognize that they often come from low-income families without access to community support, without access to settlement services, and without access to people in the community they can turn to about their situation to ask for help.

If we were serious, we could get together, sit down, scrap Bill S-7, and start over. We would come to the table and talk about what would help these women and children and what kinds of supports we could give them. I do not think deporting them is exactly what we had in mind when we thought we wanted to put an end polygamy, underage marriage, and forced marriage in this country. I do not think that is the right solution. I think if we took our partisan hats off for a minute, many of us would come to that conclusion.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 12th, 2015

With regard to government investments made within the constituency of Halifax, including all grants and outstanding commitments made, what are the details of all made from fiscal year 2008-2009 to the present, broken down by (i) amount, (ii) project, (iii) recipient, (iv) fiscal year?