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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

Public Safety February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Ottawa Police Service is asking the government for funds to recover costs from the Parliament Hill shooting and for a renewal of the $2 million they received in 2009, in recognition of their crucial role in keeping the federal government safe.

Ottawa's Police Service faces a unique challenge. Protecting the national capital is a huge cost to our city. This should not compromise the safety of the wider Ottawa community. Will the federal government give the city of Ottawa the support it needs to keep our community safe?

Canadian Heritage February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' plans for a monument to victims of communism has drawn criticism from Canada's Chief Justice, the mayor of Ottawa, Canada's leading architecture and design experts, local MPs, and local elected representatives. All parties support a memorial to remember those silenced by tyranny and to honour those who fought for change. However, Ottawa residents and their representatives were not consulted on the location, the size, and the design of the memorial.

When building a monument to victims of communism, why is the current government ignoring democratic consultation?

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, one of the best ways to deal with it is through education, but the law has a place. I mentioned the Heritage Front. I worked with members in the community to counter the Heritage Front. These people were neo-Nazis who pronounced hate. They were using the Boys and Girls Club to organize. Some of us said that this was wrong, that we needed to come in with bylaws at the local level to ensure people were not allowed to do that.

There are different ways of dealing with it, but there is no one solution though. I would underscore the point that this is complex. As we have noted, it has been around for generations. What we have to do is not to turn our back. The best way we can deal with any form of xenophobia, of racism, of anti-Semitism, is to understand that if we are to defeat it, people have to work together and we have to remain united. We must not allow people to be divided, and I say that for other forms of hatred as well. When we start to select what is tolerable and what is not, and we are not united in all forms of hatred, then obviously we become lesser humans.

At the end of the day, we can use law. We can use education, but fundamentally we have to reach out to each other as human beings.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague for her question. It affects me personally, because my mother grew up in that neighbourhood.

It is a place that is unique for the Jewish community. It is a place where we know there has been a thriving Jewish community, one that has contributed greatly not just to the great city of Montreal but to Canada. It is very disturbing that this happened at all, but particularly for this community.

As I said in my comments earlier, the ripple effect is profound. It is an incident that is not just about some graffiti and some slogan. It brings back memories for a lot of people, and it does traumatize. It traumatizes whole communities, and it should be something we name, understand, combat, and work together on to make sure that it does not happen.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, let me read to the House the following:

Antisemitism is a manifestation of racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance. In recent years, we have witnessed increased incidents of hatred, intolerance, discrimination and violence against individuals based on their religion or belief....

Based on our conviction of the need to counter all forms of religious intolerance, we therefore call all member states to:

...endeavor to eliminate Antisemitism in all its forms.

That is the UN statement the member was referring to. I agree with that. That is why we have to name it, as I said before, define it, and combat it. It is the same thing we have to do with misogyny.

Xenophobia is something that is general nomenclature, but we have to name it and understand it to combat it. Anti-Semitism is unique. It is pernicious, as the member said, and that is why it has to be understood, named, challenged, and fought against.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I rise tonight to speak to the issue of anti-Semitism, particularly on how we view it here in Canada and what we are doing to combat it how we are doing our part in this global community.

We all have personal stories about dealing with any form of racism and xenophobia. Certainly, growing up, anti-Semitism was very evident to me. My best friend, Ross Polowin, was Jewish. I could see how he was treated differently from other friends of mine. I was fortunate enough to be brought up in a community where we were not just brought up by our parents. We were brought up by our neighbours. Certainly the Polowins were there for me in many ways. They gave me a sense of security. They were there to be part of that tight-knit community.

What I learned from them was a lot, including the personal effect of anti-Semitism. The parents knew the story of Ross's grandparents and how they had escaped, in one case, the tyranny of Nazi Germany but also Stalinism and virulent anti-Semitism. Growing up I was certainly aware of that.

In later years, I was part of the group that confronted the horrible association called the Heritage Front, here in Ottawa. It is a very well-documented story. I joined with other activists to protest against their using the Boys and Girls Club to have their meetings. I worked in solidarity with the anti-racism community here in Ottawa to state unequivocally at that time that anti-Semitism had no place in our community. The Heritage Front was a very strong force for a period of time, but there was unity of purpose in people declaring that racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism had no place in our community.

We need to name it, be it anti-Semitism, be it homophobia, be it Islamophobia, or be it what we have seen recently as a real rise in misogyny, with the notion of rape culture. These are things that undermine our values as Canadians. We need to name it. We need to understand it. We need to deal with it. What we cannot do is turn our backs.

When we are talking about anti-Semitism or talking about xenophobia, we have to talk about our values as Canadians. When people are being isolated because of the way they look or their association of religion or their gender identity or the fact that they have come from somewhere else, we need to be present.

We know what happens when the bystander does nothing. It means that these norms we hold onto, our values of respect, tolerance, and value, actually become undervalued and vulnerable.

It is difficult. Those of us who are parents and those of us who just recall growing up know how difficult it can be to be the one to stand up and say, “No, this is wrong.” However, we have to exhibit that behaviour, obviously in Parliament and obviously in our role as community leaders. When we see people who are under attack, we need to stand with them.

The minister identified that through history, the Jewish people have had to carry the weight and gravity of being targeted. There is no simple explanation as to why. What we do know is the effect. We know that when people suffer from this kind of attack, just because of a faith, in this case Jewish, they will be undermined, attacked, and identified as other. When people are identified as other, that is the slippery slope to becoming other than human.

Recent events have already been mentioned, such as the one today in Montreal. I wanted to share that with colleagues, because I know that everyone did not have a chance to see the news.

We have to stand up and say that this is wrong. When we see attacks in communities, just think of what it is like for those communities to go through that yet again, with swastikas painted on cars and threats made. This is more than just a pronouncement. This is an attack, and it brings back and evokes very difficult feelings for people, and they feel threatened.

I happened to be in Brussels for NATO meetings when the Copenhagen attacks happened. I watched, as many did. I was very concerned about what was happening. It reminded me a bit of what happened here in October. They were not sure how many people were killed, who was responsible, et cetera. We knew some of the facts. There was an attack on a Jewish community. We knew that someone had done the heroic thing, as we saw in this place, to save lives. We also saw something extraordinary, which I wish we could get back to in this place, and it was the unity of purpose among those who stood together to say that they would not be divided in their values and that they would join each other to combat what they had gone through. We saw that here in October 23, 24, et cetera.

What stuck with me were the comments of the rabbi who was not only a leader for his community in Copenhagen. He actually went to the family who had lost a family member and had to deliver the news. That is a very different position to be in. Not only was he bearing witness and helping the community through a tough time but he was having to share with the family that they had lost forever one of their family members.

Here is an excerpt of what Chief Rabbi Mirvis said in Copenhagen. He said:

We stand together at this challenging time.... We must never give in to terror and we must not shy away from tackling it and its root causes.

We pray that the values of respect, tolerance and peace will prevail.

He could have said something else. He could have not said anything. He could have lashed out at those who were responsible. However, he decided not to do that and gave an expression of unity.

There were others who spoke out. Another Danish rabbi said the following:

...our lives have to continue naturally. Terror’s goal is to change our lives and we won’t let it....This is the real answer to the vicious, cruel and cowardly act of terror.

Another voice from the Jewish community at the time said:

I don’t even want to go into this way of thinking [in the response to this horrible act]. I think that the answer to terror is to fight it wherever it is.

Of course, the Danish Prime Minister was extraordinary. She said:

The Jewish community have been in this country for centuries. They belong in Denmark. They are part of the Danish community and we wouldn't be the same without the Jewish community in Denmark.

Simple words maybe, but an important message at a time when people were feeling vulnerable, at a time when the Jewish community was under attack.

When we look at the idea of anti-Semitism, it is to divide, it is to isolate, it is to pull apart people based on who they are, and it is to allow hate to climb into our communities. The best way to deal with that, of course, is by engagement, by discussion, and by protection, of course, as was mentioned by the minister, where people are vulnerable.

At the end of the day, whether it be anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, or Islamophobia, it is trying to divide people based on the other, and we must all stand up. We must do everything we can, because we know what history's lesson is. If we do not stand up and we allow hate to take over, then our humanity is challenged to the point of being inhuman.

Let us join together tonight to discuss how we can make our country and our communities better by standing up to hate and intolerance.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for his intervention and his passion on the discussion around anti-Semitism.

I know we have discussed in this place some concrete examples, which I will talk about in my comments, but I think we should also acknowledge the events in Montreal today, which shocked us all. Sadly, we see these events happening. What happened in Montreal—Nazi graffiti being painted on cars in the west end of Montreal—is something we can all condemn in unity and solidarity.

There is one issue I would like to touch on with the minister, which I brought up when he was Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, and that is what we have seen recently in Europe, focusing on Hungary. I have an issue with how we talk about anti-Semitism. In his comments, the minister talked about the old and the new. I come from the position of calling it what it is. When we see it, it is what it is. When we see what is happening with some political parties, one in particular in Hungary, we have seen anti-Semitism being pronounced within a political program.

I questioned the minister at the time he was Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, asking if we should look at our immigration policy if people are feeling threatened, as we have seen in Hungary. I will read a quote and then ask him a question.

The Foreign Affairs committee actually heard directly from a woman in May 2013, Regina Waldman, who is the president of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. She was speaking about her experiences as a Jewish person in Hungary and stated:

Personally, I was humiliated to be so surrounded by police.

She was talking about trying get around in Hungary.

The whole city has been blocked by police cars. It took me quite a long time to get here today—

She was testifying:

—simply because I couldn't get in or out of any area that had anything Jewish, whether it's a Jewish neighbourhood or a synagogue.

She could not even get to a meeting to testify without being threatened.

My question is very simple. Should we not take that into account when we are talking about immigration and the government's policy of safe countries? Sometimes the government declares a country to be safe, but testimony like that would suggest that it is not always. Would he not agree that we should be looking at allowing people, like our friend and others, to immigrate to Canada who feel threatened by anti-Semitism?

Foreign Affairs February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today many Canadians were asking themselves this question: Who is the actual Minister of Foreign Affairs? It was not the actual Minister of Foreign Affairs, after all, who greeted the Queen at Canada House. It was the former member for Ottawa West—Nepean.

Would the actual Minister of Foreign Affairs please stand up and explain why John Baird would play minister in London?

Foreign Affairs February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, here is what is offensive. In the last three years, Foreign Affairs has cut $148 million for security upgrades at embassies. These security upgrades are not a luxury. The department itself called them urgent.

Let us never forget, we lost a diplomat, Glyn Berry, in Afghanistan, and we saw the devastation in Benghazi when U.S. diplomats were attacked by extremists.

The question is, why is the government putting the lives of our brave men and women on the line? These are the facts from the minister's own department; it was $148 million that was cut. He cannot deny those facts.

Foreign Affairs February 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the minister just told us Yakunin is not on the list, but it gets worse. Including Yakunin, we have Putin's former deputy aide and former deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin. He is not on the list. He just had a meeting with Putin last week, and this person is not on the list.

Why are the Conservatives protecting Putin's friends? It is a very simple question: why are Sechin and Yakunin not on the list?