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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was clause.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Parkdale—High Park (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the member makes a point about how we are spending our time in this House. For me, the issue of animal cruelty is an important one, and I am happy to participate in this debate, but I do understand his point.

Yesterday we voted on time allocation for the 100th time in this House. Frankly, it is an affront to democracy. It is more than three times the number of times any other government in the history of Canada has brought in time allocation or closure motions, whether it is on the budget and throwing everything into an omnibus budget bill and really trying to hide from Canadians what it is the government is doing, which is fundamentally an affront to democracy, or whether it is ramming Bill C-51 through this House, sadly, with the support of our Liberal colleagues.

It has been an affront every step of the way. I can only say that I think that a lot of Canadians are really hopeful that this fall there will be a wind of change in this country, because they feel that their democracy has been undermined by these time allocation motions and the refusal to engage in true democratic debate on a broad range of subjects that are of great importance to Canadians.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if my colleague was here during my speech, but I did speak about Brigadier and his death in my remarks. It was something that deeply shocked and offended people in the city of Toronto. They felt that what happened to that magnificent animal was such a horrible and senseless act. I think people felt that it was gut-wrenching for the officer who not only was injured, but then his horse had to be put down, a horse that had been his companion, his buddy while he had been working.

The member's question pertains to the severity of the penalty. The nub of the issue is that our animal cruelty laws date back to 1896 and really need to be updated. What has been put forward in Bill C-35 is certainly a step forward when it comes to this kind of cruelty and senseless act against a service animal. However, I would also draw the attention of the member to the companion animals right across the country that have faced wilful cruelty, death and neglect as, similarly, there are no consequences. It is extremely difficult to get a conviction under our existing animal cruelty laws.

Therefore, while this one bill does take a step forward, I would urge that we need a broader approach so we toughen up our animal cruelty laws throughout the whole process for all companion animals.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I trust that does not take away from the time I have been allotted to speak on the bill.

As I was saying, the bill that I have introduced goes further than the bill we are talking about today. For my friend who maybe missed the discussion earlier, that is in fact the relevance of my remarks. The bill we are debating is on a specific aspect of animal cruelty, namely the creation of a new offence for killing service animals. This is certainly a problem in part of a larger problem in the whole field of animal cruelty.

The point I was making, again for the benefit of the member who might not have picked up on everything I was saying, is that given our animal cruelty laws have not been updated in any comprehensive way since 1896, I was attempting, in my more comprehensive Bill C-232, to update the Criminal Code to recognize that animals were thinking, feeling beings and not just property. The bill would amend the Criminal Code, which would lead to a greater likelihood of conviction for animal cruelty offences more broadly against all animals. For the member's benefit, service animals, working animals, would be included in that approach.

There is a great scope of work that needs to be done on animal cruelty legislation. The whole area of puppy mills is certainly one where, to make a quick buck, animals are treated in absolutely terrible and neglectful conditions. Sadly, at the same time, we have puppy mills pulling in consumers who do not really know and are unsuspecting of the conditions that these puppies are coming from. Yet, at the same time, we have an epidemic of overpopulation of companion animals, such as dogs and cats.

I again salute organizations like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, which has a finding Fido adoption program. I think it is tremendously helpful for people who would truly like to treat an animal with care, attention and love, but who may be unsuspecting victims of puppy mills.

Service animals that are on duty in our country, whether they be police, military or other service dogs, perform an invaluable service for Canadians. The training they receive is absolutely excellent. These are very impressive animals. When someone wilfully exhibits cruelty to these animals, wilfully kills these animals, it is important they be held to account. Those who commit these senseless crimes certainly need to face the judicial system and pay a serious penalty.

However, I would again caution including mandatory minimums and consecutive sentencing in the bill. It would take away the sentencing discretion from the courts. I do not think that is a good direction for the country. We have seen it in so many other bills and laws that have been created by the Conservative government and previous governments. It has been clearly demonstrated by the Department of Justice that mandatory minimums do not really deter crime. Therefore, it begs this question. Why include mandatory minimums and consecutive sentences if they have not proven to be a deterrent?

I see my time is almost up. I could continue at some length. The whole area of animal cruelty is something to which the House needs to devote further attention. It is unfortunate that our animal cruelty laws are not being updated in a comprehensive way. I think that is what most Canadians would like to see. However, the bill on its own is a step forward. Again, I want to thank my colleague for introducing it.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code, pertaining to law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals. I thank the many colleagues who have had the opportunity to speak to this bill today.

I want to begin by saying that the New Democrats and, I am sure, all members in this House would condemn animal cruelty. Animals obviously are sentient creatures; they feel pain. It is unfortunate that the laws in this country are so archaic when it comes to animal cruelty. Our animal cruelty laws essentially date back to 1896 with a small amendment a few years ago. They essentially treat animals like property, and it is very difficult to get a conviction in this country for animal cruelty. Most thinking Canadians would say today that is really an anachronism because, again, everyone in this House would be opposed to any form of animal cruelty.

I will come back to animal cruelty in general, but I do want to speak very specifically to the bill at hand, Bill C-35. It is referring specifically to service animals and it would create a new offence, that of killing or injuring a service or law enforcement or military animal while the animal is on duty. it has a minimum sentence of six months if the animal is killed while a person is perpetrating the offence; and if sentences are imposed they would be served consecutively.

This bill has been called Quanto's law for a dog that was killed in the Edmonton Police Service in the line of duty. He was stabbed to death while trying to stop a suspect a couple of years ago in 2013. The bill, which my Conservative colleague has introduced, is trying to strengthen the penalties against those people who would attack law enforcement animals or any service animal.

We are in favour of toughening up animal cruelty legislation. We do have a concern about the mandatory minimum sentences. We think that is a problem. I have already spoken about that in my question for the member opposite, whereby judges really have their discretion removed by mandatory minimum sentences. My colleague had talked about the law evolving and being a living thing, and that is why judges reflect the law. It is because they are living judges who reflect the norms of the day and they interpret the law based on all of the circumstances at hand.

We are also concerned about consecutive sentencing for a similar reason, in that it would remove any discretion from the legislative system. The member opposite seemed not to hear the comment that I made, but I clarified for him that the justice department has said that it is not in favour of using mandatory minimum sentences as a deterrent. They do not think it is an effective deterrent, and that has certainly been the practice so far. We are generally in favour of the thrust of this bill.

I remember in Toronto a death that outraged everyone in our city. That was the death of a police horse named Brigadier in 2006. In that situation, the police horse was on duty and a person who had been stopped by the police was angry. He got in his car and intentionally drove it into Brigadier, almost killing him. The officer who had been riding him had to put him down. It was something that horrified our city. Torontonians would agree that this kind of practice, this willful and criminal act of attacking and killing a service animal is unacceptable and it needs to be dealt with.

I am very much in favour of the act itself and creating this offence. It would distinguish between someone who kills a service animal with intent and someone who might do it accidentally. That is an important distinction, because it is quite possible that through an innocent action a service animal could be killed, just as bystanders or anyone could be killed through an innocent action. The bill is for someone who is held criminally responsible and we would support that.

I remember the outrage in Toronto at the death of the horse Brigadier. I think most Torontonians would support this kind of initiative, with the caveat that we do not think that having a mandatory minimum sentence or consecutive sentences is a really wise move. In a way, it diminishes the bill, which would otherwise have very enthusiastic support. The goal has enthusiastic support, but the bill has been weakened by the inclusion of these measures.

I do want to speak a bit more about the whole issue of animal cruelty. Views have changed about animals over the last more than 100 years. Our laws currently recognize animals as property, not as creatures capable of feeling pain.

Animals can suffer cruelty in a variety of ways. They can suffer cruelty from neglect. One of the things that first got me involved in thinking about animal cruelty legislation was a situation that occurred in my riding in Toronto in the neighbourhood of Parkdale. It was a hot summer day and some passersby noticed a dog that had been left in a car with the windows rolled up. It was evident that the animal was in serious distress. It was really upsetting for everybody around. Ultimately, the window was smashed open in order to rescue the dog. Unfortunately, over the course of a summer, somewhere in this country there are animals that suffer in similar situations and not all of them are rescued. Some animals have died through that kind of neglect.

We have seen other examples of neglect. We have seen companion animals that have been starved or that have suffered from dehydration or inadequate shelter. We live in a very cold country, yet animals are left outside when it is 30 degrees below zero. We have seen animals that are left with parasitic infections, infestations or that are ill or injured, and their owner failed to seek adequate medical care. These are all examples of neglect. I have seen pictures of animals whose nails have not been clipped or their hooves not trimmed, which causes a great deal of pain to the animal.

Then there are situations of absolute wilful cruelty to animals. There are some awful examples of that. There was a situation a couple of years ago where a group of huskies was no longer needed in the north. Tourists had taken these husky teams out on runs. A staff person was assigned to kill all of those beautiful husky dogs. I think the country was horrified by that. It was a terrible situation.

We have also heard about situations where animals have been wilfully burned, or cut or tortured in some way. Obviously people who would do that have a serious problem. It is very upsetting, and I do not know what law would stop that kind of cruelty in 100% of the cases.

Neglecting to update our animal cruelty laws for more than 100 years sends absolutely the wrong message. People have to really be aware that animal cruelty, whether it is neglect or intentional abuse, is wrong and that animals need to be treated with proper care and attentiveness.

I want to salute the work of organizations, like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, and all the member humane societies across the country, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They do terrific work in educating Canadians. Certainly, they have called for Canada's laws to be upgraded. They do an admirable job, for example, of trying to deal with puppy mills or getting animals adopted.

I also want to give a salute to the Moosonee Puppy Rescue, the group that takes dogs that are left to run wild, in not great conditions, up north. It tries to find them adoptive homes.

I also want to spend the last few minutes talking about the importance of updating all of our animal cruelty legislation. Back in 2011, I introduced Bill C-232, calling for an amendment to the Criminal Code to improve the treatment of animals.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue along the same vein, around the issue of mandatory minimum sentences. The Department of Justice has said that mandatory minimum sentences have not had a demonstrably deterrent effect. Therefore, I ask, what is the use of mandatory minimum sentences?

What they do is take away the discretion of our justice system to enact an appropriate sentence given the circumstances. What we have seen with the government is a really reckless introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for a whole range of crimes. It has taken away the discretion from judges and what we are seeing is an increased prison population, overcrowding and skyrocketing costs that are disproportionately borne by the provinces.

My question for the member is why does the bill really get tainted with the inclusion of mandatory minimum sentences? It really does undermine the overall intent of the bill.

Air Transportation June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, let us try again, because we have hundreds of jobs at risk here.

Air Canada and other airlines have walked away from long-term contracts for aviation fuel services in Montreal and Toronto, resulting in the mass termination of more than 300 workers.

The Canada Industrial Relations Board is now looking into multiple complaints of unfair labour practices. Again, will the Conservatives work with the companies and the workers to find a resolution, and will they halt the shutdown until the board has finished its investigation?

Air Transportation June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, a number of airlines have cancelled their contracts with the fuel supplier at the Montreal and Toronto airports.

The dismantling of this consortium is putting 300 good jobs in jeopardy. The union representing those 300 workers has filed a complaint of unfair labour practices. The board needs time to come to a decision before the consortium is dismantled.

Will the Conservatives facilitate an agreement between the parties in order to avoid a labour dispute?

Employment June 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are losing their jobs because the Conservatives cannot be bothered to do theirs.

Major layoffs have hit Canadians from coast to coast: 485 jobs at Blacks, 1,000 at GM Oshawa, 1,500 at Future Shop, nearly 18,000 laid off at Target, Sony, Mexx, Smart Set. The list goes on. This is worst economic performance Canada has seen outside of a recession in more than three decades.

When will the Conservatives stop their self-congratulations and bring forward a real plan to put people back to work?

Employment June 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this is the worst economic performance Canada has seen outside of a recession in three decades. Some 200 workers have been laid off at the Davie shipyard in Lévis.

In the past year, Montreal has lost thousands of jobs: 1,000 at Bombardier, 3,000 at Target and 430 at Energizer, not to mention the 300 workers who have lost their jobs at Bell Helicopter.

When will the Conservatives finally do their job and create jobs for the middle class?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 June 9th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his excellent speech about the Conservative budget. I think he described with great clarity how the economy is doing remarkably poorly right now, how we have the slowest growth in about 40 years, and how young people are on track to do worse than their parents did in this economy.

It is not surprising that the Conservatives do not want people to be looking at the economy, so they trotted out their anti-terrorism bill, that very dangerous Bill C-51, which sadly, was supported by the Liberals and passed in this House by the Conservatives as a kind of distraction so that people would not be focused on this poor economy.

I want to ask a question that directly impacts the city of Toronto, where my constituency is. On Monday, all of our subway systems were shut down in the middle of rush hour for more than an hour. What we are hearing from the Toronto Transit Commission is that we are not even keeping up with the kind of maintenance we need for our existing subway system, not to mention the huge growth in our population and the dramatic need for greater investment in transit in our city.

The Conservatives talk a lot about investing in infrastructure, but I am not seeing any result from this in the city of Toronto. I am wondering if my colleague could comment on the need for infrastructure and what exactly is covered in this budget in terms of infrastructure.