- Get e-mail whenever he speaks in House debates
- Subscribe to feeds of recent activity (what you see to the right) or statements in the House
- His favourite word is csis.
NDP MP for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke (B.C.)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 35% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016
Madam Speaker, I would like to start in a way that almost all members have when they began speaking to Bill C-7 and express my thanks to the RCMP for the work its members do every day in our communities and at the federal level in policing to keep us safe. We have one of the most dedicated and skilled police forces anywhere in the world, but it can be improved. It can be better.
I know it is going to get better because, like others who have already spoken, I know one of the new people out front this week. He is one of the people I met as a young leader when he was in high school in Esquimalt; he eventually became our house- and dog-sitter, and now he is out front as a new RCMP officer, defending this House instead of our house at home.
I have also seen the RCMP at work in my own constituency. The West Shore RCMP polices over half of my riding, by geography, with 65 sworn members, and it was fortunate enough to get four added in 2015, which did a little bit to catch up with the population growth. I have a riding that is growing very rapidly in population, and it is most rapid in the areas policed by the RCMP. They always have a challenge in keeping up with that.
I personally have also seen the RCMP at work as part of UN peacekeeping missions. I served in East Timor, where the RCMP played a very important role in training the new police force that was being established in that country, and it did a really excellent job, which was well respected by others who were also involved in police training. I also saw the RCMP at work in Afghanistan when I was part of an international human rights mission there, and I saw the very difficult task that Canadian RCMP members had taken on in trying to help train the Afghan police in a real absence of a tradition of independent and rights-based policing like the one we have in Canada.
I think there are some 84 RCMP members who are serving on UN peacekeeping missions around the world at this time. So like everyone in the House, we do appreciate the service of the RCMP and its dedication.
I am also familiar with the issues of policing because I taught criminal justice for 20 years in a program at Camosun College in Victoria, which is largely a police and prison guard training program. Many of my former students have gone on to be RCMP members. At very large demonstrations or walks in my riding I have been talking to some of the police, and once someone came over and asked if I was in some kind of trouble and offered to help. I said that, no, they were my ex-students and I actually knew the police and there was no problem.
I am probably also one of a very small number of members in the House who sat across from a police union as the employer in bargaining, so I started my public career as a member of a municipal police board. As a member of the police board, I drew the short straw, as we all thought it was, and I was assigned finance and collective bargaining. I actually did sit across from the police union of a very small municipal police force and hashed through the kind of issues that are of concern in the RCMP today. Therefore, I know something about that from personal experience, and I will come back to that.
As the NDP public safety critic for the last five years, I have worked very closely with the Canadian Police Association and also with the Mounted Police Professional Association. They have been very concerned to make progress after the Supreme Court decision almost a year and a half ago now toward getting organization in place to represent the rank and file RCMP. I want to credit the work of both Tom Stamatakis as president of the Canadian Police Association and Rae Banwarie as president of the Mounted Police Professional Association for working with all members of the House in trying to make sure we get the right kind of legislation in place.
There is a long history of controversy about police unions in this country. It stretches all the way back to when the first unions were certified, and that was in 1918, I believe, although I have not been teaching this now for a number of years. Toronto and Vancouver both certified unions for their police in 1918. We went through a series of strikes including the general strike in Winnipeg, a police strike in the U.K., and a police strike in Toronto. It ushered in a period of regulation of police unions and attempts to restrict rights to bargain and rights to strike. Up to World War II, we had periods of greater and lesser freedom of police to unionize, in all areas but never the RCMP.
At the end of World War II, in 1945, I think largely as a result of the idea that we had fought a great war for democracy and freedom, very large collective bargaining rights in the public sector began to be granted, including the Toronto police union, which was again certified as a bargaining agent for the Toronto police in 1945. That movement really grew over the next 20 years, until virtually all the police forces had unionized, except the RCMP.
In the 1960s, when public servants were granted the right to have unions, even to strike under some circumstances, the RCMP was specifically excluded. Therefore, what we are really dealing with today is that exclusion that was written down finally in law in the 1960s.
By the 1970s, there was already discussion about whether it would not be better to allow RCMP members to decide for themselves if they wished to have a union, rather than to keep them under a legislated prohibition. A predecessor here, the former MP for Burnaby—Douglas, Svend Robinson—I think it was in 1979—introduced one of the first bills calling for the removal of the restriction on the right of the RCMP to unionize.
Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016
Madam Speaker, I always find my colleague's contributions important even though I almost always disagree with him.
In this case I simply do not see where the issue is coming from in terms of whether or not the RCMP wishes to form a union. When surveyed, over half of the uniformed members replied they did wish to have collective bargaining rights. All the other police forces all across the country voluntarily selected to have unions to collectively bargain for them.
It seems to me we are creating some phantom problem here that the Conservatives are trying to solve in their opposition to the bill when no such problem actually exists. In most police forces the rank and file members are quite happy to elect their own representatives in collective bargaining.
Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016
Madam Speaker, my question for the member is about what I would call blue herrings, instead of red herrings, and the idea that the Supreme Court required a union. The Supreme Court decision does not require a union. It gives the RCMP members a choice of how they wish to be represented. It simply removed the prohibition on their being in a union. I know he said this is the only case where people are required to have a union, but they are not required by this decision to have a union.
All other police in Canada have chosen freely to have unions, so it seems to me there is a bit of a non-issue here about intimidation to join a union, when police across the country in all the other jurisdictions have joined unions of their own free will.
The second part of that is the idea of a secret ballot. What people are deciding is whether to join an organization or not. No one is required to join a union, even if the union exists and the fact that someone has joined or not joined a union is public. Ultimately, in police unions someone will know what decision a member has made anyway. The idea that somehow the secret ballot that applies in elections applies when members are signing up to be a member of a union or not, it is a completely different issue. I would ask the member for his comments.
Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016
Madam Speaker, I have a question about what the member just said. She said she thought the RCMP should fall under the same regulations as other public servants and yet that is not what Bill C-7 would do. It would take away fundamental issues from bargaining that in any other workplace would be bargainable, things like harassment in the workplace, staffing and deployment issues. Bill C-7 would actually take those away from RCMP members.
Really, from my point of view, everyone would be better off if this bill did not pass because then the Supreme Court decision would place the RCMP under the same regulations as all other public servants.
Public Service Labour Relations Act May 30th, 2016
Madam Speaker, this is another example of what the Liberals have been doing lately. They are implying that if the bills they are putting forward, narrow and restrictive as they are, do not pass, there would somehow be a legal vacuum and RCMP members would lose their right to organize. That is not true. The Supreme Court decision will come into force and will allow the RCMP to unionize.
By the same token, my question is about the mistake I think the Conservatives are making by conflating the secret ballot with the way one organizes a union. Once the union is organized, it would be quite public as to who is a member of the union and who is not.
No one would be forced to join a union. If people do not wish to be associated with a union, they would not be a member of the union. There is no requirement of membership in any of our trade union facilities. There is a requirement to pay dues, because one receives the benefits of membership, but no one is required to join the union.
Therefore, I am not quite sure how the secret ballot for election applies to the idea of membership in a union.
Criminal Code May 20th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I always value hearing from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice.
On the question of words before “reasonably foreseeable”, he has asked me to back up a couple of words, but if I do that, I want to back up to “who's natural death has become reasonably foreseeable”. If we back up that far, there is even more ambiguity. What is natural death? That is what we all face. “Natural death has become reasonably foreseeable” is no clearer. I would stress again that it is not a term used in medicine and it is not a term used in law. Therefore, I am not arguing about its value; I am arguing about its certainty. At this point, it has no certainty.
On the question of what happens after June 6, I do not believe there is a legal vacuum. I know the temporary exemption process expires. When we were dealing end of life with my mother, the last thing I wanted to do was hire a lawyer and go to court. I was spending the time with her in the hospital, as was my sister, though, it was not something we would have wished to go through. Therefore, I am not certain that this expiring is a bad thing.
Criminal Code May 20th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I first have to say that I am shocked that the government again is denying members, under a very reasonable proposal that would not affect the ability to meet the June 6 deadline, the opportunity to speak in this debate because like the hon. member, I have learned very much from hearing others speak. I very much respect the level of debate in this House.
In terms of the reflection period, I firmly believe, and it is mostly on the personal experience I went through last fall, that at the very end of life when someone is suffering intolerable pain, it is not only intolerable for the person, but it is very difficult for the family members who spend most of the time in the hospital with their loved one, who have no idea how long the natural process will take, and suffer along with the person. I think that 15 days was certainly too long and 10 days is better. In my view, and given my personal experience, it is still too long.
Criminal Code May 20th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to have the opportunity to finally speak to the bill at report stage, although, as I just said in my previous question, I am really sad to have to do this under time allocation and knowing that many of my colleagues will not get the chance to bring the voices from their constituencies to this chamber on the bill.
I was prevented from speaking at second reading by the time allocation imposed by the government, but something even more peculiar happened when it did that. The abrupt change of the House schedule on May 4 with time allocation forced the second reading vote forward by five days, and for those of us who have responsibilities both here and in our ridings, it meant on that Wednesday morning, I was already flying west before the time allocation motion was introduced. It meant that I could not be here to cast my vote at second reading because I was already flying in the wrong direction.
I lost my chance to go on record as voting against Bill C-14 in principle. That is what I intended to do, not just because of my own experience and beliefs, but also because I believe it contradicts the Supreme Court's Carter decision, and most important, because the bill contradicts the opinion of virtually every person and every family in my riding that has contacted me about this issue.
I have been involved in discussions about end-of-life issues with several individuals who are facing severe debilitating and painful illnesses. I have talked to them directly. I have met with them and have heard their concerns. This reminds me to mention an important issue that is not in the bill, and that is the issue of palliative care and the need for us as a society to do a much better job with end-of-life care.
I do want to praise those who are actively already working in end-of-life care. This is not a criticism of their efforts that they make each and every day to provide better care for those who are facing end of life, but they are forced to do so too often with too few resources and in substandard situations.
I have been involved in public discussions locally on this issue, stretching back to a public forum on March 21, 2015, which was jointly sponsored by a group called Victoria Choices in Dying and Dying with Dignity. We heard from a panel of speakers, which I was privileged to be on, but we also heard from the public. We heard speaker after speaker at that forum say that they wanted the right to control end-of-life issues. They wanted the right to make decisions for themselves, and they wanted the right for their family members not to have to suffer intolerable pain for great lengths of time, but to be able to make the choice for assisted dying.
I believe, as I said, not just speaking on the basis of my own conscience, but representing the beliefs and needs of my community, that I should oppose Bill C-14, not just for what is not in the bill, like palliative care, which only gets a mention in the preamble and for which the government has, incidentally, provided no new resources and there is no reason to wait for legislation to do that, but I will oppose the bill for what is actually in the bill. I believe the bill is too restrictive and respects neither the letter nor the spirit of the Carter decision.
I think we are in this unfortunate position because the government failed to listen to the key recommendations of our own special joint committee of the House and Senate. The committee made very wise recommendations with regard to the bill, yet only a few of them were incorporated into the bill at the committee stage.
In the interests of time, I will focus on what I believe are the three key faults in Bill C-14.
The first and most important to me is the absence of a provision for advance directives.
I want to talk, if I am able to do so, about a very personal experience, the death of my mother last fall. My mother had always been very clear, even before she developed dementia, and that dementia began to take away her capacity, she did not want measures to keep her alive, lying in the bed without consciousness, with no quality of life, and especially if she were in great pain.
Her dementia was not the immediate cause of her death, so she would not have qualified under the bill because she did not have a terminal illness, but in her case, six years after the onset of the dementia, she no longer had the capacity to make decisions. Other medical conditions left her in a situation which she had feared: in great pain and unable to care for herself. Those other medical conditions did eventually take her life in conjunction with the decisions we as her children and the medical practitioner made at the time.
We feel very fortunate that my mother had been very clear about her wishes. Although that did not really make the decisions we had to make easy, we were confident that we were doing what she had wanted to do. My own family's experience and the experiences of other families in my constituency are why I believe so strongly that Canadians have the right to make advance directives about their care.
The second reason that I am opposing this bill is the fact that it would impose what it calls a reflection period on those at the end of life. Of course, again, those who have dementia or other similar medical conditions would not be able to have a reflection period because they would no longer have capacity. However, even for those who are competent at that point in their life, I believe that the 10 days, which the committee thankfully reduced it to, is still far too long for those who are living in intolerable pain, and far too long not just for them, but far too long to ask their families and friends to witness that suffering. If there is to be a reflection period, it needs to be even shorter than those 10 days.
My third reason for opposing this bill is the fact that it would narrow who is eligible to receive medical assistance in dying to those whose death is “reasonably foreseeable”. I know that others have said that we know what that means and it is specific. However, the only way I can understand that we all know what that means is that all our deaths are reasonably foreseeable, but what it means beyond that, I have no idea. It is not a term that is used in medicine. It is not a term that is used in law. That very ambiguity raises the spectre of excluding people who need medical assistance in dying and who would have been qualified for it under the Carter decision.
According to the lead counsel in the Carter case, even Kay Carter, a fierce advocate for the right to assisted death for those who are suffering intolerably but from a non-fatal condition, would probably be excluded from accessing medical assistance in dying under Bill C-14 as it stands. What this would do is force people into incredibly cruel strategies like starving themselves to death to make their death imminent and allow them to qualify. I would hope that this House would not impose those kinds of restrictions on people and make them make those kinds of choices at the end of their life.
Would I rather have this bill than no bill? The answer I guess I am going to have to decide on. My decision is going to be that yes, I would rather have no bill. I prefer to go with the Carter decision. Do I think it would have been better to have a bill? Yes I do. I am not opposed to having a bill on this, but it has to respect the Carter decision, and it has to have clear provisions in it, and it needs to have a reflection period shorter than 10 days. If we do not have the bill, what happens? We do not have a legal vacuum as people are saying. We have the Carter decision, which would provide guidance. There is a legal framework.
Although I did not actually look this up, when the abortion provisions were removed from the Criminal Code, the House of Commons tried twice to create new law regulating abortions. I am sure these same arguments were made at that time, saying that practitioners would not want to perform abortions because there was no legal framework. In fact, we went with the court decision. We still exist with the court decision on abortion as our legal framework and we have not had chaos in the medical community on that; not that in any way I wish to compare abortion to medical assistance in dying, but only on this issue of whether there is a legal framework that will apply on June 6.
The failure to meet the June 6 deadline for this legislation lies with all of us. It lies with the previous government; it lies with the current government, and it lies with us as a House of Commons. We all have to take responsibility for missing that deadline.
However, I do have to say I believe the government could have managed the House time better so that all of us could have participated in the debate and that debate could have been accomplished in time to meet the deadline. All the Liberals had to do was schedule this bill as a priority in this sitting of the House, which they failed to do. That did not happen. Therefore, I will, when the time comes, stand and vote against this bill at third reading. In the meantime, I will also vote against it at report stage.
Criminal Code May 20th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health for her very thoughtful remarks on the bill.
My question for her is about process. I am one of the people who did not get an opportunity to speak to the bill at second reading. Under the time allocation motion, we now, today, will have 10 amendments on the bill before us and we will have only nine speakers. We actually have more amendments than speakers on the bill.
I wonder how she feels or why she feels the government is unwilling to accept the proposal that was just made that would allow this debate to continue on Monday and allow many more members of Parliament to participate in the debate at report stage, because we are going to have less than 10% of the members of Parliament actually participating at this stage.
Life Means Life Act May 19th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I am not going to say that I am pleased to rise this afternoon to discuss Bill C-229, but rather that I am surprised to rise in this Parliament to be discussing a bill that has been brought forward from the last Parliament.
It is unexpected to see what was clearly a political showpiece, introduced by the Conservative government just before the last election as Bill C-53, reintroduced into the House. It shoots some holes in one of the arguments I used to make, having been the NDP public safety critic for the last five years, that these bills tended to come from the PMO. Clearly, this time they cannot come from the PMO. They are coming from some other place and the former PMO.
It is also surprising, because this tough on crime agenda that the member for Calgary Signal Hill introduced, endorsed the tough on crime agenda idea. This is an agenda that has been rejected by many jurisdictions in North America that have gone down this path. It was rejected by many U.S. states, including the State of Texas, which was probably the poster child for tough on crime agendas. It realized that these kinds of bills do not work.
The former U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder said:
statistics have shown -- and all of us have seen -- that high incarceration rates and longer-than-necessary prison terms have not played a significant role in materially improving public safety, reducing crime, or strengthening communities.
I am also surprised because I thought it was pretty clear that this tough on crime agenda was rejected by Canadian voters at the last election.
As I said, as the NDP public safety critic in the last Parliament, I had the task of opposing the raft of so-called tough on crime bills that made up an agenda for the last government. I am surprised to see the member for Calgary Signal Hill donning this cloak of tough on crime as if it helps to promote his bill, which it does not. However, it does clearly situate the bill among that sea of bills that the Conservatives introduced that had common characteristics.
These characteristics are that they had a certain popular appeal because they were directed at horrible crimes, or at deservedly unpopular criminals, a common characteristic that gave a false impression of how our criminal justice system actually works. In fact, they are bills that were largely unnecessary. They have a common characteristic in that they are singularly ineffective at improving public safety. Finally, they often had the common characteristic of claiming to serve the interests of victims. As someone who taught criminal justice for 20 years and worked a lot with victims and victims' families, I know that what victims' families say they want is for no one to go through what they have gone through ever in the future.
The last characteristic that almost all of these tough on crime bills have in common is that they are almost certainly unconstitutional. Cases are now working their way through the judicial system that will invalidate most, if not all, of these bills adopted in the previous Parliament from the tough on crime agenda. There were harsher sentences, mandatory minimum sentences, barriers to parole, or even in the most baffling case, the retitling of pardons as record suspensions and increasing the barriers to getting a pardon for those who had been rehabilitated and were trying to reintegrate into society. They increased the barriers to getting a pardon, which would allow them to get a good job, return to the community, and support their families. This whole sea of laws are now in the process of being struck down.
I know that the Minister of Justice has launched a review of the entire Criminal Code, which will also address all of these tough on crime bills that resulted either from private member's bills or from the government's omnibus crime bills.
What we saw recently, in April, was that the Supreme Court of Canada struck down two portions of the tough on crime agenda. It struck down mandatory minimums of one year for drug offences, and struck down the provisions that take away the right of those who serve time before being convicted and sentenced to get additional credit for that time served. It was just 10 days later that the B.C. Court of Appeal also overturned mandatory two-year minimum sentences for drug trafficking for those under the age of 18 or in places frequented by youth.
I will turn now to the actual provisions in Bill C-229, which are really life without parole for murder when associated with certain other offences or which involve certain victims, or murders which are carried out with special brutality, or high treason.
The very title of the bill, life means life, is false. It really distorts what goes on in our criminal justice system. Those with life sentences, even if they are released from the institutions, which most are not, remain under supervision for the rest of their lives and remain under restrictions even if they are paroled. A life sentence in Canada does mean a life sentence under supervision.
As I said, with those who are convicted of first degree murder, we heard talk about families having to go through the application for parole again and again, but they do not start that process for 25 years. Those convicted of first degree murder most often have a 25-year period before the parole thing kicks in. At minimum, they are going to have a 10-year period. That is a bit of a distortion of what actually happens to families in the cases of these most serious crimes, but not in the cases of some minor crimes, I will concede.
There is an irony also in the bill in its content. The Conservatives were very intent on removing what used to be called the faint hope clause, former section 745.6 of the Criminal Code, which allowed those convicted of the most serious crimes who had received a life sentence with no eligibility for parole for more than 15 years to request a hearing to allow them to have a parole hearing. That was seen as very effective by those who work in the corrections system.
The Conservatives in 2012, through a bill from the Senate, Bill S-6, repealed that faint hope clause, yet it comes back in this private member's bill as after 35 years, admittedly longer, but it does restore a version of that faint hope clause. I find that ironic.
If it should every be passed, I believe that the courts will find the bill unconstitutional on two grounds. One, it would be arbitrary in that what is the penal purpose? What purpose is served by the bill? I submit that there is no penal purpose being served by the bill, because as I said, those who commit these most serious crimes are almost never released. Two, it would probably be declared unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment.
I know the member for St. Albert—Edmonton said he believes it is constitutional, but we can cite a very large number of legal scholars, Isabel Grant from UBC being one, and Debra Parkes from the University of Manitoba as another who would differ quite strongly with him. Of course, so does the trend of the recent Supreme Court decisions and the B.C. Court of Appeal decision, and a year before, the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, which I forgot to mention, which overturned aspects of mandatory minimum sentences involving firearms.
The real impact of the bill would be to ensure that those convicted of these admittedly terrible crimes serve longer times in institutions, but we know from what happened in the United States that this has no impact on public safety, and note that in Canada we now have a murder rate which is at its lowest since 1966.
What it would do is create a management problem in our prisons. Those who think they are never going to get out have no incentive to engage in rehabilitation programs and they have no incentive toward good behaviour. I am going to quote what Don Head, the commissioner for Correctional Service of Canada said on this:
As the proposed legislation would lengthen the incarceration period for some offenders, it's possible that it can reduce incentives to rehabilitation and good behaviour, potentially compromising institutional security as well as the safety of my staff and other inmates.
We have to be very careful about creating a situation which would endanger the safety of our correctional staff who already work in situations of great stress and also that of other inmates.
In conclusion, of course, I will not be supporting this private member's bill. Instead, I would like to see the House deal with provisions that would provide greater opportunities for rehabilitation, an addiction treatment in prisons, greater access to pardons, and all those kinds of things that might help us avoid these kinds of crimes in the future.