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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was fact.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Ottawa Centre (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Foreign Affairs March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, how about some action on murdered and missing aboriginal women?

Mr. Fahmy's passport went missing after it was seized by Egyptian authorities and now his life is in limbo without proper identification. Recently, I brought this to the attention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and yesterday Egyptian authorities paved the way for the Canadian embassy in Cairo to issue a new passport to Mr. Fahmy. This would allow him to move on with his life.

The question is this. What steps has the Canadian government taken to issue Mr. Fahmy a new passport?

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is indicative of the government to come to the game late and then react instead of act. What I mean by that is when I went to the government back in June and said that we needed to be seized with this and I offered some contacts of people to get in touch with, it was not interested. It was not interested in reaching across the aisle.

I will give the former minister of foreign affairs credit because he did ask me and my colleague from the Liberal Party to go and do an assessment on the ground. The problem was our assessment and what we heard and what the government did were two different things. No one asked us to send in air strikes. The government could not even tell the truth about how we ended up in the air strikes. It made it sound as if it was asked to do it. We offered it, and of course the Americans said sure. Why would they not? This is how misdirected and reckless the policy of the government is.

I will finish with this. If we oppose the government in its direction, it is viewed as if we do not care. I would have thought we were passed that point. We saw that when we debated Afghanistan. Clearly, that is in the DNA of the government. It cannot reach across the aisle. It cannot have a debate without going for the jugular. It undermines this debate and also undermines the institution of Parliament. We should be able to bring our ideas forward and say what we think about it. It is insulting and demeaning for the government to then say that because our ideas differ from its that we somehow do not care. Canadians deserve a lot better.

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I know it is difficult for the Liberal Party on this one. We have been very clear. We would take our soldiers out of theatre. The reason is by example of the government. It was never defined what they should do.

When the government first came forward and said that we would send forces on the ground, we said that we should have a debate and a vote as per the Prime Minister's promise, which he broke. The Liberal Party said that was not a problem, that it would keep an eye on it, but that the government had better not cross the line. The Conservatives crossed a couple of lines, including the front lines. Therefore, unlike the Liberal Party, we believe we should have a clear strategy with clear oversight. We did not have that.

The former minister of foreign affairs and I were asked to provide humanitarian support, all the things I enumerated, of which apparently the Minister of National Defence was not aware. I do not know if the two talked about this before. However, these were the things we were asked to do, including by the religious minority groups. That is why it is in our motion. All of this to say that what members see in the amendment in front of them could not be clearer.

The problem for the Liberal Party is that it does not know where it stands. It is important in this debate that it be absolutely clear. What would it do if it were to become government? Would it withdraw or not? We have said we would because we believe the smart and responsible thing to do is to do what we have been asked to do by the Iraqis, by the people on the ground.

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is sad when we hear the minister and his conflated rhetoric. Here he goes again. He cannot get his head around the fact that out of the 60 countries in this coalition, we are all seized with dealing with this crisis.

With the Conservative government, it is all about its domestic politics. What have the Conservatives done? They have conflated the situation to the point where they are actually being reckless in their actions. Let me give a couple of examples of how reckless they are.

Just yesterday, the Prime Minister ridiculed the whole notion of Canada being a responsible actor vis-à-vis international law. Either the Conservatives had no idea of what our responsibility was with regard to section 51, or they decided they would just make it a joke. Either way, it is irresponsible and entirely reckless.

It was really interesting, because just after our leader asked the Prime Minister, in a very sanguine way, if we were going to abide by international law, if we were going to fulfill it at least the bare minimum, because it is still controversial in the way that section 51 could be used, the Prime Minister made fun of him as being somehow in line with the lawyers from ISIL.

Just an hour after that, the government flip-flopped and had to admit that it was going to be informing the UN. That shows the credibility of the government, the credibility of the minister and the credibility of this action being taken in the motion.

It is reckless, it is ill-informed and it shows the kind the rhetoric the Conservatives use, unfortunately, on a very serious issue.

Military Contribution Against ISIL March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt or question from the opposition side that the crimes perpetrated by ISIS are appalling and abhorrent. There have been mass killings, sexual violence, slavery, forced displacement, and the destruction of holy and historic sites. In Iraq alone, the violence has led to the displacement of 2.5 million civilians and left 5.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

ISIL has committed heinous crimes, including mass killings, sexual violence, forced displacement and the destruction of holy sites. The violence ISIL perpetrates is entirely unjustifiable and entirely contrary to Islam. The crisis in Iraq and Syria is undermining peace and stability in the region.

The situation in Iraq and Syria demands an international response. The NDP has called for Canada to contribute to that international response since last June.

When I first asked the government to help Iraqis displaced by the ISIS invasion of Mosul, it was last June, and at the time the issue was obscure to the government. In fact, I raised the threat with the minister directly. His response was blunt. He pointed to previous U.S. failures in Iraq and said, “They broke it; they fix it.”

One month later, we called on the government to support Iraqi governance and security in response to the ISIS threat. We recognized then, as we do now, that only responsible, inclusive governance in Iraq will allow Iraqis to take control of their own country and their own destiny and build their own peace.

Canada must act. We must do so in a way that we can best add value to the international coalition and in a way that respects international law and our values as a country.

We believe that Canada must act immediately to save lives. We remain as clearly and resolutely opposed as ever to the Conservatives' ill-defined combat mission.

Unfortunately, the concerns I raised when I spoke on the original motion six months ago are still very valid. In fact, I want to read out now what I said then, six months ago. This is what I said:

The motion we are debating today is ill-defined and ill-conceived. It offers no plan and no exit strategy. Shockingly, there are no new humanitarian commitments....

Just as shockingly, there are no territorial limits on operations. Nearly every other member of the coalition has explicitly ruled out air strikes in Syria; the Prime Minister explicitly ruled them in.

...the motion we are debating today would open that door to air strikes there—or anywhere, for that matter.

There are also no restrictions on who could be included in the category of “terrorists allied with ISIL”. ...

There are very few details in the motion on our deployment of “military assets”. Could these go beyond the nine planes and 600 troops currently committed? We just do not know.

Also, there is no requirement for Parliament to be consulted...if the mission is expanded or extended.

That was all true then. Unfortunately, it is also true now, except now it is worse. The new motion does not rule out the possibility of deploying ground combat troops in the future. In his speech earlier this week, the Prime Minister opened the door to a further expansion, saying: “...we must avoid if we can taking on ground combat responsibilities in this region. We seek to have the Iraqis do this themselves....”

In other words, the government will do its best, but there are no promises. With the government's record, that is far from reassuring.

There are other disturbing features of this new mission as well. Whereas the previous objective was to “degrade” ISIS, now the Minister of Defence apparently wants to “defeat” ISIS. This implies a much longer commitment. It also highlights the need for an exit strategy that the government does not seem to have.

Of course, the new motion extends Canadian air strikes into Syria without a UN or NATO mandate and without the permission of the Syrian government. This is dangerous in three ways. First, the action may well be illegal. Second, the government has done nothing to show otherwise or to show that it takes international law seriously at all.

After the Prime Minister belittled and joked about international law yesterday afternoon, the government was forced to move quickly to cover up the fact that it had not sent notice of its intention to the UN Security Council, as is required in cases of self-defence. The legal case that bombing in Syria constitutes any form of self-defence has not been made.

The legal case for this war is made even weaker by a change in the text of this motion compared with the one from October. The previous motion targeted ISIS and its allies. The motion in front of us targets ISIS and “aligned groups”, opening the door to a much larger role for Canada in the so-called war on terrorism.

Second, since Canadian pilots will be flying in Syria without ground support, the likelihood of mistakes that kill innocent people is far greater. In fact, the U.S. has excluded Syria from its own standards to prevent civilian casualties and has admitted that it does not have a clear idea of the results of its bombing in Syria. The government is apparently preparing a messaging campaign for if and when civilians are killed, but it has not said how it will prevent civilian deaths in the first place.

Even if pilots are able to identify targets, they will sometimes, inevitably, identify the wrong targets. As Lieutenant General James Terry, the top U.S. commander overseeing the anti-ISIS operation, said last year:

We have some great capability in terms of precision. What's in the balance here if you're not careful is you can be precisely wrong.... And you could create a very bad situation.

Of course, civilian deaths increase the ability of ISIS to use air strikes as a recruitment tool.

Third, bombing ISIS in Syria supports the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad. The Assad regime has used barrel bombs and chemical weapons against children, women, and men in Syria. Assad is directly responsible for a civil war that has cost some 220,000 lives, over 100 times more than ISIS.

We have heard disturbing reports that the Assad regime is collaborating with ISIS, and Syrian opposition groups report that Assad's forces are exploiting the gaps created by bombing to take over more territory. By bombing in Syria, we reduce the prospects for a lasting political solution without Assad, which is needed to resolve the broader conflict.

It goes without saying that Canada must do something about ISIL. Our response must be serious and significant. The question is, what should Canada do? How can we be most helpful, not just in the short run but in defeating ISIL over the long term?

I want to make one thing very clear: we do not need to shoot missiles or drop bombs in order to prove that we take this threat seriously. Over 60 countries are helping to defeat ISIL, and the vast majority are not taking part in air strikes.

From the beginning, the NDP has been proactive and consistent not just in opposing the military mission but in proposing a practical and principled alternative. In the fall, New Democrats called on the government to do four concrete things: support the construction of refugee camps, help victims of sexual violence, assist in protecting ethnic and religious minorities, and encourage the international prosecution of war crimes. To the former minister's credit, he agreed to all of these. He even acted on some of them, but there is so much more that remains to be done.

I have been disappointed to hear the new minister repeat time and time again that Canada is doing its share. There are children freezing in Dohuk refugee camps in Kurdistan. A quarter of Lebanon's population is, in fact, Syrian refugees, pushing that already fragile country to the brink.

A majority of the UN humanitarian appeals for Iraq and Syria remain unfunded. When the need is so great, so obvious, so tragic, and so compelling, I do not find it acceptable for the minister to shrug and say that Canada has done its share. The truth is that most of those in need in Iraq are not in ISIS-controlled territory. They are refugees, internally displaced persons, and people whose livelihoods have been stolen from them by chaos and carnage. They are victims of ISIS, and Canada can help them now.

During last year's debate, I told the story of an encounter I had with a group of young Iraqi children in a refugee camp. I hope those children survived the winter. If they did, they almost certainly still need our help. Now as then, we need to be smart about how we deliver.

At the foreign affairs committee, we have just concluded a study that the NDP requested on Canada's response to ISIS. The committee has heard from a diverse group of witnesses, including academics, civil society representatives, and community organizations. The message from witnesses has been clear: Canada must respond to ISIS; a response must be smart, responsible and comprehensive; and we need a strategy based on international co-operation to both respond to ISIS on the ground and to prevent radicalization and extremism abroad.

We have clear guidance in these areas from existing UN Security Council resolutions on ISIS: 2170, 2178, and 2199. None of these authorizes a military mission. However, the Security Council is requiring action to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, financing, and resources to ISIS and other terrorist organizations. While air strikes are being used as a recruitment tool for ISIS, these UN measures tackle the networks and structures that ISIS and other extremist organizations use to recruit and spread their ideology and their influence.

The Government of Canada should take immediate and specific steps to meet its international obligations in these areas. As part of that effort, the government should immediately sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, which it refuses to sign, to demonstrate commitment to ending the flow of weapons to illegal armed groups and human-rights abusers.

The government should also partner with domestic communities to develop a strategy to counter radicalization here in Canada. In fact, the one program that had existed the Conservatives cut. Canada can lead the way as the international coalition develops a strong campaign of counter-extremist messaging, exposing the brutality of ISIS and the lack of a religious basis for its atrocities.

Finally, Canada can do a great deal more to help build the inclusive, responsible governance in Iraq that all the experts agree is needed for a lasting solution after ISIS.

As one of the witnesses at committee, University of Waterloo professor Bessma Momani, stated, “If you don't provide sustainable institutions that can fill that vacuum, it will just be another acronym that will fill that space”. I could not agree with her more.

That is where Canada's expertise and Canada's potential lie. We can save lives. We can build peace to help the people in Iraq.

We in the NDP strongly believe that Canada has unparalleled expertise to respond to this crisis, and we must put that expertise to good use.

This country is better than the legally dubious and strategically ignorant motion of the government. That is why I am very proud to present the following amendment on behalf of the official opposition.

I move that Government Business No. 17 be amended by the following:

(a) replacing the words “the threat that ISIL poses to Canada and to international peace and security, will grow” with the words “from capable and enabled local forces, the threat ISIL poses to international peace and security, including to Canadian communities, will continue to grow”;

(b) replacing the word “2178” with the words “2170, 2178, and 2199”;

(c) deleting sections (viii), (ix) and (x); and

(d) deleting all the words after the word “Accordingly,” and substituting the following: “this House calls on the Government to:

a. end the participation of Canadian Forces troops in combat, air strikes and advise-and-assist training in Iraq and Syria as soon as possible;

b. boost humanitarian aid in areas where there would be immediate, life-saving impact, including assisting refugees with basic shelter and food needs; and investing in water, sanitation and hygiene, health and education for people displaced by the fighting;

c. work with our allies in the region to stabilize neighbouring countries, strengthen political institutions and assist these countries in coping with an influx of refugees;

d. contribute to the fight against ISIL, including military support for the transportation of weapons;

e. provide assistance to investigation and prosecution of war crimes;

f. increase assistance for the care and resettlement of refugees impacted by this conflict;

g. work to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, finances, and resources to ISIL, in accordance with our international obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2170, 2178, and 2199;

h. put forward a robust plan of support for communities and institutions working on de-radicalization and counter-radicalization;

i. report back on the costs of the mission and humanitarian assistance provided to date on a monthly basis to the Standing Committee on Foreign affairs and International Development, until Canadian involvement is concluded; and

j. continue to offer its resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces who stand on guard for all of us”.

National Defence March 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats have been raising concerns for over a year about sectarian violence in Syria and Iraq and the best way for Canada to help.

Sadly, Canadians have been misled from the start by the Prime Minister. He promised that our troops were being sent to “advise and assist”, not to accompany Iraqi forces. Now, six months later, Canada is conducting air strikes and our forces are exchanging fire on the front lines. Tragically, a member of the Canadian Forces has been killed.

The Prime Minister cannot claim that he wants to prevent atrocities when his planned expansion into Syria will aid and abet Bashar al-Assad. As Paul Heinbecker said, any direct or indirect alliance with Assad would be the “ultimate betrayal of the Syrian innocents”. Meanwhile, Liberals claim to oppose this mission, yet refuse to commit to ending Canada's combat involvement in this war.

In October, Canadians will have a clear choice. Only a vote for the NDP is a vote to end the war and a vote for an effective Canadian role to stop the spread of violent extremism.

Respect for Communities Act March 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his great analysis.

When he was speaking, I was harking back to 2011 when I was invited to Oakland for an international conference on HIV-AIDS prevention and how to deal with it. Guess who was the keynote speaker? It was the model of prevention, our friends from Vancouver. We were on the international stage, but, meanwhile, back home the government was challenging them. I was asked as a Canadian politician to explain that and I could not. However, at the same time, Oakland had declared a state of emergency because of HIV-AIDS. The people were saying that we had to stop locking up people for drug use and start helping them. They were really looking to Canada as a world leader in this area because we were seen as a model.

How is this health approach important versus the public safety approach? It is despicable that people would try to make money off victims. Maybe you could talk about the different approaches of health versus public safety.

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

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting. I should note that on Bill C-51, unlike the Liberal Party, we are stating exactly where we stand. We are against Bill C-51. It is for reasons around oversight, et cetera, but also because we are taking a stand. We are not saying that later on when we are government we will fix it all. That is a little arrogant. We have heard that from the Liberal Party before. At some time it has to take a stand in this place. I know it is difficult for the Liberal Party, but it has to take a stand.

We have taken a stand on Bill S-7. We are opposed to it at second reading. I have just laid out why. Polygamy is illegal, if he is worried about that. I know it is tough for him because Liberals are saying they do not like Bill C-51. However, they are going to put forward amendments, knowing that they are going to be defeated and then they will vote for it. If someone can actually understand that I give them credit.

Here we go with the Liberal Party again trying to find a niche where it can actually open up its own rationale. It is just not working. That is why I am proud to be a member of my party. We take a principled stand and we stick with it because that is where our values are.

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

Mr. Speaker, I did not mean to get the member's dander up. I was simply pointing out the fact that the government has absolutely abandoned the principles of democratic reform when it has bills coming from the Senate and time allocation, 91 times limiting debate.

I have to add another little caveat. To his saying that we are repeating our points of debate too often, each person gets to decide how they articulate their points. I brought in new points. I was talking about the fact that the government has failed those who are legitimately married who are waiting for the government to process things. However, it is interesting, coming from a party that every day has the same talking points reiterated over and over. However, that is for him to figure out.

When it comes to democracy, the best thing is debate and there should not be time limits on it, certainly not 91 times. That is just not the way it should be in the House.

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

Mr. Speaker, I join my colleagues on this side of the House to speak in opposition to Bill S-7.

I have to, as I always do when we get bills with the letter “S” in front of them, note my opposition to having bills derive from the other place. We are elected in this House to represent Canadians; they are not. In a mature democracy all bills should come from the House of Commons, the appropriate place for bills to originate. We see a government that used to talk about political reform and the reform of our parliamentary democracy use this parlour trick over and over again. As a democrat, I object to it and most of my constituents do. I note that in this case, Bill S-7 comes from the Senate and I want to state my opposition to that continued abuse of our parliamentary democracy.

I want to touch on another process issue, and I will give a number instead of a letter this time: 91. It is the 91st time we have had the government invoke closure. We all remember when this government's members were in opposition they decried, opposed strongly and fervently, certainly Preston Manning did, the whole notion of closure and limits on debate.

Today the House leader got up to do his duty for his government and abuse the power it has and shut down debate. It is interesting, because we have present members, we just heard from one, who used to be Reformers. They talked about the importance of debate and the fact that the Chrétien government was always shutting down debate. Now it is water off their backs.

Today, the Conservatives brought in Bill S-7, a bill coming from the Senate into Parliament, which is strike number one against the whole notion of any form of reform of the parliamentary system we have here. Second, they brought in time allocation for the 91st time with this government. It is unprecedented, historic. Those numbers and those letters say everything about the government. The Conservatives have lost their way. I am not sure if they will be able to come back, but it says a lot about principles.

The title of the bill is interesting, because we are also debating a very important bill right now, Bill C-51. The term the Conservatives are using is “an act to combat terrorism”. The actual nomenclature for that bill is “an act to enact the security of Canada information sharing act”, which is actually about giving more powers to CSIS and about sharing information, but the Conservatives want to make it sound like it is having an impact on terrorism.

With the bill before us, it is actually the inversion of that. The Conservatives are making a political statement with the title that somehow they are taking on barbarism, as if that is presently an issue in daily life in Canada. It is actually about evocation, and the person who stated it best was the Minister of National Defence when he said that they used that title because they want to educate people. It is kind of interesting. I have never heard before from the government that it would use the titles of bills to educate. I know it uses them often to provoke, and certainly at times in the past to wedge, but the fact that it is using the word “barbaric” to educate is rather fascinating. I did not really understand the minister's lesson other than that the Conservatives wanted to let people know that there are barbaric things going on in our world and they will clean them up. When we actually look at the bill and look at the testimony, it does not measure up at all.

This kind of evocative title does a disservice to the Conservatives' own issue, which might be an important issue. It is an important issue to look at any abuse of anyone, and certainly the rights, the misuse and abuse of the sanctity of marriage. If there is a real issue, it should be dealt with, but when we go to extremes in our language or our rhetoric, it undermines the issue on which we should be focused.

Yes, there are cases in this country of polygamy. There are cases of female genital mutilation and cases of children whose rights are being abused. We were talking about child protection today at the foreign affairs committee and what things we could do to help protect children abroad.

When we get into the business of using language to evoke or, as in the mind of the Minister of National Defence, educate, as if he is going to educate the rest of Canada on this issue, which is interesting, it actually undermines what we are setting out to do. This is where I would like to get into the meat of the bill and what it purports to do.

We just heard the parliamentary secretary answer an excellent, simple question from my friend from Pontiac, which was could he give us examples, certainly the three recent cases, as to where this bill would actually make a difference. To give credit to the parliamentary secretary, he said the case was dealt with within the parameters of the law we have now. The question is, what is this really about?

I think everyone in the House has concerns about abuse of the immigration system, trying to force people into marriages or the practice of polygamy, and it should be dealt with, but I want to enumerate for people why New Democrats are opposed to this bill when looking at the criminal law now.

I know that you, Mr. Speaker, as a practising lawyer and having taught law, will appreciate this. Right now, criminal law already provides resources, irrelevant in most cases, involving forced marriage prior to and after the marriage, as well as in cases of travelling with minors, which we have seen, with the intent to force them to marry, including uttering threats. That is covered off in subsection 264.1(1) with regard to assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, and aggravated assault, sections 265 to 268.

Another aspect of this bill, which the government claims we need is around sexual assault causing bodily harm or sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated assault, forms of intimidation. That is covered under sections 271 to 273 of the Criminal Code. Kidnapping, as it is relevant and cogent to the issue, is covered off in section 279. Forcible confinement, which was referred to by the government as being required, is covered off in subsection 279(2). Abduction of a young person is covered in sections 280 to 283. Procuring feigned marriage, which is simply forcing someone into a marriage that is not the case, is covered off in section 292 of the Criminal Code.

Removal of a child from Canada with the intent to commit an act outside of Canada, which would be one of the listed offences if committed in Canada, is covered off in section 273.3. What about extortion? That is covered off in section 346. There are a couple more, but I will not go through them all because it would take me longer than the time I have. The one I want to highlight in the Criminal Code is spousal abuse, abuse of a child, and abuse of a position of trust or authority. The aggravating factors are covered off in section 718.2.

The question is: why is this in front of us and what is required? There is a case to be made that more needs to be done in terms of resources to help the people who might be victimized, and that is where we have to focus. That is not being provided. The government is cutting budgets in these areas.

I will leave the House with the following. It is interesting that the Conservatives are dealing with this case, but at the beginning of this month, I attended a protest outside the immigration office made up of people, who were legitimate actors, trying to get their marriages recognized. They are having to wait two years because of a lack of processing by the government. I would like the government to take a look at that.

What about the legitimate people who are waiting here, who are inland marriage sponsors, and having to forgo their families, having to pay for their own health care, et cetera? While the Conservatives are looking at this issue, I hope they are seized with those who are legitimate actors, who have legitimate marriages, who are legitimately recognized, and who the Conservatives are ignoring. Hopefully, they will turn their attention to that issue, because these people are forgoing the opportunity to provide Canadians with their talents and plans to have families, et cetera.