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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is conservatives.

NDP MP for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Natural Resources November 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, while B.C. Liberal MPs sit silent, B.C. New Democrats stand united to fight the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Southern resident killer whales were designated as endangered more than a decade ago. Yet neither the Conservatives nor two Liberal governments have ever produced the recovery strategy required by law. Instead, we get yet another vague promise today.

How could the Liberals betray British Columbians and approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline without a recovery plan in place knowing that this project could wipe out these iconic orcas?

Canada Pension Plan November 29th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to the member for Davenport, whom I think made very persuasive arguments for this bill. She also said something very important in her response to the member for Richmond Centre, which I think is true, that seniors do care very much about the future of their families and that this is about guaranteeing security for everyone going forward.

That said, why have the Liberals been so tone deaf to the mistake in this bill to penalize women who drop out of the workforce to provide child care, or people with disabilities? How can we move forward with this without making sure that those provisions, which were in the original CPP, are maintained in this expansion?

Criminal Code November 22nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in support of Bill C-305, introduced by the member for Nepean.

The bill is both timely and important in our community. The member for Nepean read a long, very impressive list of groups that are supporting the bill. That tells us a lot about the significance of promotion of hatred in North America at this time.

The bill would do two basic things. One is to expand the number of places that are defined as protected under law against hate-motivated damage, basically from religious property to community institutions like day cares, schools, universities, town halls, senior centres, and sports arenas. This is admirable, because we know that those who want to promote hatred do not pick on churches alone. Although they quite often do pick on churches, we have all seen these messages scrawled elsewhere in our communities. This is the essence of why this is an important bill.

The second part is important to me, as one of the six out gay members of Parliament. It tends to expand the grounds for protection of groups to include sexual orientation and gender identity. That is laudable. We have made progress over the years in extending protections to people of my community, but it has always been done in a piecemeal fashion, kind of step by step. I accept that this is another step in that progress.

Some people are surprised to know that sexual orientation was not originally included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Of course, I am old enough to have been around at that time. In fact, I was actually here in Ottawa at that time, and I was not a supporter of the Charter of Rights because it did not include my rights. That was corrected through decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada.

In 1996, Parliament, and again, a Liberal government, brought forward a government bill to add sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act. In 2004, the section we are really dealing with in this bill was brought forward by Svend Robinson, a New Democrat member of Parliament, and the first out gay member of Parliament. His private member's bill succeeded in working its way through Parliament to add sexual orientation to the hate crime section of the Criminal Code.

Of course, I am very proud that Bill C-16 has now passed in the House of Commons. It would extend that same protection against hate crimes to those who are gender diverse, non-gender binary, or those who are called transgender. Bill C-16 would also add this to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

When this bill gets to committee we will be asking for one small amendment, and that is to make its wording consistent with Bill C-16. That will take a very small amendment, but I am confident that the member for Nepean had no intention of narrowing the bill. I hope to have a good discussion with him about the possibility of that. I regard it as a technical amendment that really meets the objectives of what he laid out in the bill.

When it comes to hate crimes, we know the groups that are most often subjected to them because of the statistics that are kept. However, I would point out in the chamber, as I did in debate on my private member's bill in the last Parliament, and as I did on Bill C-16, that we do not keep good statistics on hate crimes that are committed on the basis of gender identity or gender expression, because these are not explicitly embedded in the law. They are lumped together usually, when they are considered at all, with sexual orientation, which is quite a different matter than gender identity and gender expression. Again, I hope we can make the bill more consistent.

We need a larger debate about hate crimes in this Parliament at some point. I am not faulting the bill. It is not the purpose of the bill, but I would look forward to a discussion, because unfortunately, in the last Parliament, in June of 2013, we passed a bill that removed section 13 from the Canadian Human Rights Act, which would have allowed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to do more proactive work against hate crimes in our society.

The very fact that this is coming forward as a private member's bill gives me some confidence that we can probably find a consensus in this Parliament to actually restore the power to the Canadian Human Rights Commission to do that preventative work that would prevent the kinds of crimes that Bill C-305 is talking about.

I look forward to finding a forum where we could have that broader discussion among MPs.

I would hope that the government might bring forward such a bill as part of its agenda. Again I have to question why this important bill is a private member's bill and not part of the government's agenda. In response to my question, the member for Nepean said he hoped to have the support of his frontbench and the Minister of Justice for this legislation. That is a bit of a waiver for me in terms of my confidence. I hope that we can and will see the government, particularly the frontbench, support the bill and not kill a private member's bill as it has done to other Liberal backbenchers.

When it comes to hate crimes, the crimes that the bill focuses on are the most common. I do have to note once again that the groups most likely to be subject to violent hate crimes are the LGBTQ community and, in particular, transgender Canadians, and within that group, first nations or two-spirited people.

I am pleased that on Friday and Saturday in my riding, the Victoria Native Friendship Centre is putting on a workshop for two-spirited British Columbia youth from across the province to help them build confidence in themselves and to confront the prejudice and the violence they often face. I intend to be at that conference on Friday and to bring news, I hope, that we have support for adding gender identity and gender expression to help protect two-spirited first nation youth in this country against these kinds of hate crimes.

Who is in favour of this legislation? I guess my question should be, who in Canada would not be in favour of this legislation? Quite often because of the immense overflow of American culture and American politics into Canadian society, we get caught up in the negativity that goes on there, particularly the negativity of the presidential campaign, and the increased frequency of hate crimes reported throughout the United States as a result of the unfortunate encouragement of prejudice and hate by some very prominent citizens, including the current president-elect of the United States, whose name I always avoid saying.

As previous speakers have done, I am not going to review some of the incidents that have taken place. We all know about them. It is a bit like my own personal habit of not mentioning the perpetrators of crime, but instead talk about the victims and how they recover from that crime. It is important that we recognize the reality, and I thank the member for Nepean and the member from Edmonton for bringing that to our attention again.

I know my time is drawing short, but let me go back to what I said at the beginning of my remarks. I extend my thanks to the member for Nepean for bringing this forward. I encourage him to talk to the frontbench of his party seriously to make sure that those members will support this legislation. We have found some support, I hope broad support, within the Conservative caucus. The member will find universal support in the NDP caucus for his bill. We will ask for what I regard as a technical amendment to broaden the legislation a bit to make it consistent with Bill C-16. We look forward to this legislation's passing through the House expeditiously.

Criminal Code November 22nd, 2016

Madam Speaker, I, too, want to thank the member for Nepean for bringing forward this legislation, especially in light of the unfortunate hate crimes we have seen in the Ottawa region in the past couple of weeks. I think it is very timely legislation.

My question for the member is this. Why is this coming forward from the Liberal side as a private member's bill and not as a government bill? It obviously should be a priority for Canadians, and therefore I am not sure why it is not a government bill.

Related to that, we have seen backbenchers on the Liberal side bring forward very good bills and their cabinet has voted against them. It has actually voted down private members' bills. Has the member had any consultations with his front bench to ensure his government will provide support to this very important bill?

National Defence November 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Liberals' promise of an open competition to replace the CF-18s was not worth the paper it was written on. Instead, they are using the same approach as the Conservatives with the F-35s, this time hand-picking the Super Hornets without an open competition. Same approach, different jet.

Everyone knows sole sourcing is the best way to get the worst price for taxpayers. Once again, the Liberals are breaking another major campaign promise. Does the minister really believe there can be an open competition five years from now after sole-sourcing nearly a third of the fleet?

Canadian Human Rights Act November 18th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed to see this amendment come forward at this late date. In committee, only one person voted against the bill, so it was not a partisan manner, and we had a long discussion about the fact that there had been three sets of public hearings on the Hill on the bill, and those transcripts are available to all members.

On the question she specifically puts in the amendment, it seems passing strange to me that her amendment does not include removing religious freedom from protections against discrimination, or gender, or race, because the argument she is making could be made exactly in the same manner, that we cannot have those in the human rights code because people might not be able to believe things about race or might not be able to believe things about relations between men and women. Obviously, it has not had those impacts. It has not affected free speech of those groups. How is the question of transgender, gender-variant rights any different than the other rights that are already in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the protected section of the Criminal Code?

Canadian Human Rights Act November 18th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saskatoon West for the work she has done in this House on LGBTQ issues and for her support today for Bill C-16.

Earlier in one of the questions on the bill, the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski raised the question of two-spirited Canadians. I want to mention the conference taking place in my riding on the 25th and 26th, at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, called 2 Spirits, One Heart, One Mind, One Nation. It is a B.C. aboriginal youth conference.

What I have heard many times, and I am asking the member if she has heard the same thing, is that some of the most discriminated against people are in fact transgendered aboriginal Canadians. Quite often they have the worst employment situation, the worst housing situation, and the worst alternatives facing them.

Canadian Human Rights Act November 18th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her work in her riding on behalf of the LGBTQ community, and also here in the House for her constant support.

Many of the social problems of discrimination in housing and employment fall under provincial jurisdiction, but there are some very fundamental things that are in the hands of the federal government.

One of those is access to passports and identity documents that will help transgender people travel, be employed, and help them in all facets of their daily life.

A second one is a particular concern of mine that I raised in the House in 2012 and unfortunately in committee where we were laughed at for raising this concern. That is the concern of the emphasis on gender in airport screening, which has nothing to do with security but often causes humiliation and embarrassment to transgender people who are not currently in possession of documents that match their gender identity.

A third, which is very important and I have also worked on for a long time, is federal corrections and making sure that inmates are assigned to the proper correctional facility, because if they are not assigned to the proper correctional facility they face great danger of violence. This also applies to those under immigration detention who are quite often not in federal facilities but face the same kinds of problems if they are placed in the wrong institution.

Canadian Human Rights Act November 18th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am not in the habit of commenting on Republicans or what is happening in the United States.

We often focus on the negative things that happen to transgender people, but I would like to take just a moment, if I may, to point out that on November 9 the University of Victoria awarded an honorary doctorate of engineering degree to Lynn Conway, whose computer science and engineering work in computer architecture were fundamental at IBM in its early years where she worked until she was fired during her transition. She successfully re-emerged as a very prominent professor, researcher, and innovator at MIT and later at the University of Michigan.

It is really the trans community that provides leadership on these things, and I appreciate the chance to take a moment to emphasize one of the big successes; that is, the new doctor of engineering, Lynn Conway.

Canadian Human Rights Act November 18th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, as I join this third reading debate on Bill C-16 today, I want to take this opportunity to mark the Trans Day of Remembrance, which will be taking place this Sunday, November 20. This year marks the 17th annual Trans Day of Remembrance, which memorializes trans people who have been murdered over the past year. This year we remember the more than 86 lives that were senselessly lost to transphobia and hate around the world and in Canada. We know that this number is only the tip of the iceberg and that there are thousands of instances of violence perpetrated against trans people every year that go unrecorded or unreported.

This Trans Day of Remembrance is not only a day to mourn but a day for trans people, their loved ones, and allies to come together and to grow our strength and resiliency on the road to ending transphobia once and for all.

As people come together this Sunday across Canada and around the world, I want them to know that here in this House we know trans people are still targets of violence and hate at undeniably troubling rates. We see the statistics about homelessness and suicide rates among trans and gender-diverse youth, we hear trans people when they say they still cannot access necessary health care, and we hear trans people on the importance of being able to access appropriate identity documents.

Passing Bill C-16, whether that's this afternoon or Monday, is just the start of working through the challenges that face trans and gender-diverse Canadians, but it is a vital first step. The federal government and its agencies will have to get busy making sure policies and practices respect the full and equal rights of transgender and gender-variant Canadians.

I will spare the House an extended metaphor about Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football, not only because of its rigid gender stereotypes but also because of its deeply embedded misogyny, where the problems of men are always caused by women, but nevertheless I have to use that analogy to say that the trans community is justifiably frustrated as we are now on the way to the third passage of this bill through the House of Commons. What other group of people in Canadian society has had to wait while this House of Commons passes three times a bill that would only recognize that they are entitled to the same rights and protections as all other Canadians?

Let me repeat the story of the journey of this bill through Parliament, hopefully for one last time.

This bill was first introduced by former NDP MP Bill Siksay in 2005. He reintroduced it again in 2007 and again in 2009. On this third attempt, although it took two years, in the spring of 2011, Bill actually saw his bill passed by the House, only to see it die in the Senate when an election was called.

When I was elected, I spoke with Bill, and he asked me to pick up that private member's bill, on behalf of the NDP caucus, and to take that struggle forward into what was a Conservative majority Parliament and, therefore, did not look very promising for the bill. I introduced my version of the bill on September 21, 2011. I stand here now more than five years after I began my attempt to get this bill through. The bill was passed through the House of Commons on March 20, 2013, with the support of I believe it was 19 members of the Conservative caucus at that time. That came as a bit of a surprise to many Canadians. Then it went off to the Senate and what was even more surprising is that, though the Senate had more than two years to deal with the bill, it failed to do so before the election was called. For a second time, a bill guaranteeing equal rights and protections to transgender and gender-variant Canadians died in the unelected Senate.

While this proposed legislation has been languishing before our federal Parliament, some progress has still been made. I would again say that I would like to think that the debate here in this House has helped bring forward progress elsewhere. In the meantime, nine provinces have adopted corresponding provincial human rights legislation. I have to say that in my second reading speech I miscounted, which proves one should use notes for these things, but we have seen corresponding provincial human rights legislation first in the Northwest Territories, then in Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia in 2012, Newfoundland and P.E.I. in 2013, Saskatchewan in 2014, Alberta in 2015, and British Columbia and Quebec this year.

The issue of trans rights is not a partisan issue. Amendments to protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity were proposed by NDP governments in Alberta, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia, a Liberal government in P.E.I., and Conservative governments in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland. The amendments to their provincial human rights codes in Quebec, Ontario, and B.C. passed with all-party support.

Nor is progress on trans rights limited to the Canadian context, and I want to say again that we have lost a chance by our delays here in the House to be a leader around the world. Now, more than 18 countries have passed Canada up with explicit protections of the kind that are proposed in Bill C-16, and the list is surprising in its diversity.

These are not just the western European countries or North American countries. In fact, they reflect all cultures around the world. Argentina has in fact been the world leader in protection of the rights of transgender citizens and continues to be so. However, the list also includes Uruguay, Bolivia, Spain, France, Ireland, Estonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Israel, Cypress, Nepal, Australia, and New Zealand, among others.

In the United States, 16 states plus the District of Columbia provide explicit protections for transgender residents, and there are some good signs amidst the gloom in the United States. The North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory, who had brought forward a bill to explicitly allow discrimination against the LGBT community, was defeated in those elections and largely over what was called House Bill 2, which would have really gone against the American tradition of acceptance, tolerance, and liberty by promoting discrimination against North Carolinians.

However, there is still some gloom. The President-elect Trump has promised to rescind Executive Order 13672 that President Obama put forward in 2014, which protected transgender and gender-variant Americans against workplace discrimination. Interestingly, at the time, Obama pointed out that he felt the U.S. government was lagging behind business in the United States, as almost all the Fortune 500 U.S. companies, the biggest 500 companies in the U.S., already had internal policies protecting transgender people against discrimination.

I have said before in speeches here that certain businesses in federal jurisdiction, in particular the TD Bank, have set an example of how to deal with employees if they go through a transition. The Canadian Labour Congress has produced guides for transition in the workplace that it has made available to all of its union members across the country.

Again, others have moved forward faster than we have here in this Parliament. In fact, today we are here 11 years after the first introduction of the bill, nearly five years after it first passed, and coming up on three years since it passed in the previous Parliament. However, some things have changed, and now in the recorded vote at second reading, we saw nearly half of the Conservative caucus join the Liberals and New Democrats in supporting the bill.

What has really changed? I would say the important change here is that it has become a non-partisan issue, and that is due to the work of transgender and gender-varied activists who have been very vigilant about contacting their members of Parliament and talking to them about their stories and why they need the support of their members of Parliament to make sure that their rights and dignity are respected in this country.

Far too many of these stories are indeed tragic, and I can spend a long time recounting them, but time is, of course, short today. I will just point out the study by Egale, published in 2011, called “Every Class in Every School” shows the severe impacts of transphobia on students in this country, where 90% of trans students reported hearing daily or weekly transphobic comments, and where 78% recorded feeling unsafe at school.

No, the bill does not directly affect schools, as they fall under provincial jurisdiction, but it tells us the size of the problem we face in combatting transphobia in this country.

This is the last remaining gap in Canadian human rights legislation, and I do look forward to it being filled by judicious and expeditious action by the new Senate. The transgender and gender-variant community in this country is asking for equal rights and dignity; the same rights and dignity that all other Canadians enjoy, nothing more, nothing less.

I look forward to the passage of Bill C-16 today or Monday, as I have said, and I am hoping the Liberal government can ensure its swift passage through the Senate.

As I mentioned, what other group has had to wait over a decade while the House of Commons passes legislation to affirm their rights three times? If this is not the time to guarantee equality for all Canadians, then when would that time be?