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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is question.

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

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

Statements in the House

Navigation Protection Act October 6th, 2017

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-368, An Act to amend the Navigation Protection Act (Sooke River, Jordan River, Bilston Creek and Muir Creek).

Mr. Speaker, as in the previous bill I just introduced, this private member's bill would reinstate federal environmental protection for important waterways, this time in the western part of my riding. Once again, local efforts are running far ahead of Liberal action.

The Sooke River provides a positive story for all of us of joint action between the T'Sou-ke First Nation and the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition to attempt to restore a chinook run, which will be critical to the survival of southern resident killer whales. Earlier this year, the Jordan River stewardship round table was established to spearhead efforts to restore native trout and salmon runs wiped out by industrial activity over the last 60 years.

It is ironic that I am introducing these private members' bills on the day when we are debating the Liberals' glitteringly general Federal Sustainable Development Act instead of getting down to the specific actions necessary to protect the environment, such as those proposed in my two private members' bills.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Navigation Protection Act October 6th, 2017

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-367, An Act to amend the Navigation Protection Act (Colquitz River, Tod Creek and Craigflower Creek).

Mr. Speaker, I am introducing this private member's bill today with a goal of restoring federal environmental protection to these waterways. They have been without protection since 2012, when the Conservatives removed all federal environmental protection for each and every lake, river, and stream on Vancouver Island.

Despite a clear promise by the Liberal government to act, it has failed to introduce this legislation, so I have had to do so today. These waterways are vital components of our local ecosystems, and instead of benefiting from government action, now I am forced to thank local groups like the Peninsula Streams Society and the Friends of Tod Creek for the amazing work they have accomplished in restoring the Tod Creek watershed. These local efforts are running far ahead of government action.

The current threats to Colquitz Creek and the mysterious spill in Craigflower Creek demonstrate the importance of restoring federal environmental protection to these important local waterways.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

National Defence October 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, from Jack Layton to Jagmeet Singh, New Democrats have always stood firmly against Canada joining the U.S. ballistic missile defence system. It is an extremely expensive system, yet still unreliable, and its continued expansion risks launching a new global nuclear arms race.

On Wednesday, the Conservatives called on the government to change its position and join the American ballistic missile defence system. So far, the Liberals have only said that they are not ruling it out.

Will the Liberals stand with New Democrats today on the side of peace and disarmament, or will they adopt the reckless and dangerous policy of the Conservatives?

Business of Supply October 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased to rise at the end of the debate today. We have heard a lot from the Liberals about process, and we have heard a lot from the Conservatives about fear of bureaucracy. For me, the debate comes down to a simple question: whose side are we on? Are we on the side of ordinary Canadians or on the side of big pharmacare? In our country, we pay the second highest drug prices in the entire world, second only to the United States, so whose side are we on? Are we on the side of big pharma, or retired couples, like those I have heard from in my riding who skip or reduce their medications because they cannot afford those costs? Are we on the side of big pharma, or working families, whose incomes might just be above the income limits for getting assistance, and they skip or reduce their medications in order to feed and clothe their kids and keep a roof over their heads? Are we on the side of big pharma, or veterans, who often have limits on their coverage and the kinds of things they need? They have served their country. We limit the amount of medication, in particular for those who have pain problems PTSD problems. Whose side are we on when they cannot afford to buy more medication?

We know that in our country there is a cholesterol drug that is commonly prescribed. It costs $143 a year in Canada, but only $15 a year in New Zealand. Why is that? It is because we have a mix of private programs that do not give us the purchasing power to get the best deal on drugs in our country.

We know that employers waste between $3 billion and $5 billion annually because of inefficiencies in managing drug costs in their private plans. We know that over the last 12 years, Canadian drug expenditures have increased by 184%, faster than any other country, including the United States. We know that small businesses quite often cannot afford to provide the coverage to their employees they would like to provide.

A universal pharmacare program would reduce costs for those small businesses who do provide those programs. It would also reduce time lost for those who cannot provide the programs when their employees take time off, sick because they cannot afford prescriptions. Of course, it would help small businesses with retention and recruitment of employees because they would no longer have to compete with the benefits that large corporations are able to offer.

Amidst all the other things we have heard in the House today, it comes down to that one simple question: whose side are we on in the House? If we are on the side of ordinary Canadians, working Canadians, retired Canadians, veterans, and low-income families, then we will proceed now to get started on the necessary negotiations with the provinces and territories to make sure that universal pharmacare comes into existence and helps to complete the medicare system we already have in our country.

I urge all members, Liberals and Conservatives, that if they support medicare, they should also support universal pharmacare.

Business of Supply October 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, whom I both like and respect. I know she and her party like to be seen as strong advocates for small business.

I would like to ask her about the impact of a universal pharmacare plan on small business. Would she agree with me that this would help small business in a very big way? It would reduce unnecessary time off by small business employees who cannot afford their prescriptions. It would make small businesses more competitive in hiring and retaining workers versus large corporations that have better benefit plans. It would help entrepreneurs who might want to leave a large company and start their own business, but might be afraid to give up the health care benefits for their family and children. Those small businesses that do go to the expense of providing benefit plans could reduce that unnecessary cost.

In addition to recognizing the health benefits of a universal pharmacare plan, does the member also see it as a big benefit for small business in this country?

Business of Supply October 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's comments. However, I think he is missing what to me is the basic point, which is that we have gaps in our coverage.

I represent a riding that starts in an urban area and extends out to a rural area. I represent retired people and working people. I want to give the member two examples of a lack of coverage.

A couple who live in the rural area of my riding wrote to me to say:

Since we retired, we haven't been able to afford all of our medications.

From the other end of my riding, the urban end, someone who is working says:

I use the food bank most weeks because all of my money is used up for the drugs I need for my diabetes and blood pressure.

Would the member not agree that all the good things he has talked about have not solved this problem? What we need is a universal pharmacare program to make sure all Canadians get the full benefit of our health care system.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month Act October 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to start by thanking the member for York Centre for sponsoring this bill to recognize May as Canadian Jewish heritage month.

Perhaps it is a surprise to some listeners that one of the three Victoria MPs is speaking to the bill. When it comes to thinking about Judaism in Canada, Greater Victoria is not often the first place Canadians think of, given the very large Jewish communities in both Toronto and Montreal. It may surprise listeners to learn that Victoria has both the oldest and the newest synagogues in Canada.

Congregation Emanu-El Jewish synagogue located in downtown Victoria, while not technically the first synagogue in Canada, is certainly the oldest in western Canada. Having been founded in 1863, it is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in Canada, now more than 154 years.

Congregation Emanu-El marked its 150th anniversary in 2013, with the return of its Torah scrolls which had been sent to London for restoration. These two scrolls, which contain the five books of Moses written on calf skin in Hebrew, are known to have originally arrived in Victoria via San Francisco more than 150 years ago, but their origin has remained a mystery.

When they were sent out for restoration, analysis of the scrolls, especially features such as the stitching and the thread work, as well as the calligraphy, helped scholars determine they were more than 300 years old, and the style of calligraphy meant they were likely produced in Germany.

An interesting side note on the restoration of the Victoria Torah was the key role of Avielah Barclay, who grew up in Victoria, and was inspired by the age of the Torah in her local synagogue. As a result, she went to Israel to find a Hebrew ritual scribe, known as a sofer, who would mentor her as a woman.

In doing so, she thus became, not the first woman sofer, but perhaps the first in 250 years. I understand there are now 10 women studying to become a sofer, accepting the challenge not only to learn the more than 4,000 rules for writing a Torah, but also to understand the import of those rules and annotations, and the background that accompanies each of the handwritten Torah.

The first Jews came to Victoria with the gold rush in the 1850s, and by the end of that decade, there were more than 200 Jews living in Victoria. Their first community project, as in many communities, was the establishment of a Jewish cemetery in 1860, a cemetery which still serves the community to this day.

The Congregation Emanu-El came together in 1862, and shortly thereafter, in 1863, purchased the site for the synagogue and began construction. Congregation Emanu-El has been on the same site since 1863. The building was restored in a five-year project from 1978 to 1983, and then expanded with a new addition in 2004, all the while keeping its very prominent place in downtown Victoria and its status as the oldest house of worship of any kind in British Columbia.

Rabbi Harry Brechner has been the rabbi at Congregation Emanu-el since 2001. It has been a great pleasure and privilege for me to get to know him and his congregation better over my time as an MP, although the synagogue is located in the adjoining riding.

Today, perhaps, I am going to focus a bit too much on bricks and books history, but having returned just recently from Eastern Europe, where so many million Jews died in the Holocaust, I cannot help thinking how all the great post-war accomplishments of Jewish society and culture have come in the face of the enormous challenges of ongoing anti-Semitism and in the shadow of the Holocaust.

As I mentioned, as well as having the oldest synagogue in Canada, Greater Victoria is home to Canada's newest synagogue, located just on the boundary of my riding. I was pleased to attend the cornerstone laying for the Chabad Centre for Jewish Life and Learning. on August 24, 2016. I was awed to see the $3 million project completed just one year later, with the opening of the centre which contains a synagogue, Hebrew school, library, kosher kitchen, and much-needed day care.

As Rabbi Meir Kaplan came to Victoria to establish the Chabad congregation, based on Hasidic traditions and an outreach model, only 16 years ago, the accomplishment is truly amazing. As well as being the newest synagogue in Canada, the Chabad Centre will soon have the newest Torah in Canada.

In June of this year the community held a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the writing of a new Victoria Torah, a very special ceremony which I was privileged to attend. The process will continue in Jerusalem and is expected to be completed sometime in 2018, as a result of generous financial support from the community, and in particular, generous support from Dr. Stan Shortt and Mrs. Lindy Shortt, who have dedicated this Torah in memory of their grand grandparents, Herschel and Sarah Gassner, and Moshe and Rushka Kleinwachs.

As their member of Parliament, I was very honoured to be asked to contribute to the project by writing one letter in this new Torah, though this took place under the firm guidance of a sofer who allowed me to place my hand on his as we wrote the letter together, because if I made a mistake, I would have to start over.

It may seem strange that I am saying so few words today about the contributions of the Jewish community of greater Victoria when there have been so many. Every place I go in the community, where there is a need, the Jewish community is present, whether in the charitable or volunteer sector, or public life where Jews serve as elected representatives, or work as teachers, professors, scholars, artists, or business people.

I know that one of my colleagues pointed out that Victoria MP Henry Nathan, elected in 1872, was the first Jewish MP to take a seat in the House. Not only does Victoria have the oldest synagogue, but also had the first Jewish MP.

Let me take a moment to draw attention to three contemporary members of the Jewish community in Victoria. First, I want to acknowledge former B.C. Premier Dave Barrett, the first Jewish premier in Canada and first MP to hold the federal seat I was first elected to, Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Second, I want to mention the woman who I think is the greatest painter Victoria has ever produced, Phyllis Serota, and no, I have not forgotten Emily Carr.

Last and less likely to be famous, as he is a teacher, is my friend and former colleague at Camosun College, Peter Maidstone, who mentored and inspired hundreds of students in sociology and Pacific Rim studies in a teaching career spanning three decades at Camosun.

I will stop with these three examples of contributions to our community both because my time in the House is, as always, limited and because this to me is the purpose of Jewish heritage month as we go forward, to celebrate the many contributions of Jews to our communities and Canada as a whole.

Again today I have emphasized the long presence of the Jewish community in Victoria. Just as mainstream Eurocentric views of the building of Canada almost always leave out first nations, they also cause us to think of all ethnic groups as somehow newcomers and as other than Canadian and, therefore, as somehow less important or less legitimate. Whether we are talking about the Victoria synagogue that predates Confederation or the more than century old Victoria Sikh temple, greater Victoria has always been a multi-ethnic, multicultural community, even if we have not always succeeded in being a fully inclusive society.

It is my hope and belief that the creation of Jewish heritage month will help contribute to better understanding of just how diverse we Canadians are, and in doing so contribute to building a Canada free from hatred and division.

Foreign Affairs October 2nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, clearly the government has not learned a thing when it comes to selling arms to human rights violators.

We are now hearing reports of yet another campaign of arrests and torture directed against an LGBTQ community, this time in Azerbaijan. Has the minister expressed her concerns about this campaign directly to the Azerbaijani government, as she just approved Canadian arms exports to Azerbaijan?

When will the Liberals finally turn rhetoric into reality on LGBTQ refugees? When will they turn one-off rescue programs into an ongoing path to safety for LGBTQ refugees whose lives are in imminent risk?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns September 18th, 2017

With respect to the periods of service of the Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, in the Canadian military in Afghanistan: (a) in terms of Mr. Sajjan’s written terms of employment, terms of deployment, terms of service, terms of engagement or any like conditions of service/ employment, what was or were Mr. Sajjan’s jobs, positons, and functions in Afghanistan throughout the periods in which he served in Afghanistan, including as they may have been modified or otherwise developed over time; (b) is it correct, as Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson reports in a letter to Mr. Craig Scott of February 27, 2017, that Mr. Sajjan told the Commissioner that he was “deployed as a reservist to Afghanistan where he was responsible for capacity building with local police forces” and, if so, was this the extent and limit of his role or roles; (c) if Mr. Sajjan had a role or roles going beyond what he told the Commissioner, did he deliberately withhold that information from the Commissioner; (d) when or after General David Fraser had Mr. Sajjan transferred from Kabul to Kandahar, what orders, instructions, changed terms of service, or the like, whether written or verbal, were given from time to time by General Fraser to Mr. Sajjan about what his role or roles would entail in Kandahar; (e) what was or were Mr. Sajjan’s role or roles in Afghanistan in relation to liaising with, working with, mentoring, training, advising, assisting, cooperating with or conducting any similar forms of engagement with the Afghan National Police (ANP), the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan National Army (ANA), the Governor of Kandahar, and any informal or paramilitary organizations working for or with the aforementioned four organizations; (f) how many meetings and on what dates did Mr. Sajjan attend (i) meetings with the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) in Kandahar and/or (ii) meetings on the same day as JCC meetings that consisted of a sub-section of the attendees of the JCC meeting; (g) what was or were Mr. Sajjan’s role or roles with respect to the JCC and with respect to any other meeting consisting of some but not all members of the JCC, and did his role include facilitating and then reporting on intelligence flows from the National Directorate of Security to the Canadian and/ or allied militaries; (h) is any part of what General David Fraser said in the following report by David Pugliese (“Afghan service puts Defence Minister Sajjan in conflict of interest on detainees, say lawyers,” [June 21, 2016] Ottawa Citizen), namely that “Retired Brig.-Gen. David Fraser has said Sajjan’s work as an intelligence officer and his activities in Afghanistan helped lay the foundation for a military operation that led to the death or capture of more than 1,500 insurgents”, untrue and, if so, why and/or to what extent; (i) is any part of what Sean Maloney reports in his book Fighting for Afghanistan: A Rogue Historian at War (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2011) in the following sentence--“Harj [Mr. Sajjan] attended the weekly security meeting and learned that the meeting could become a tool as well. Over time, he developed rapport with all the security ‘players’ in Kandahar.”— untrue and, if so, why and/or to what extent; (j) is any part of what Sean Maloney also reports in his book in the following sentence -- “[Following JCC meetings] Harj was able to send two pages of solid intelligence to TF [Task Force] ORION per week. The quality of the intelligence was awesome.”--untrue and, if so, why and/or to what extent; (k) is any part of what Sean Maloney also reports in his book in the following sentence--“[T]he NDS funneled most of the information into the JCC, so it wasn’t all just coming from OEF systems or resources.”--untrue and, if so, why and/or to what extent; (l) is any part of what Sean Maloney also reports in his book in the following sentence--“[F]rom then on, Harj sent intelligence directly to AEGIS, to ORION, and to the ASIC with his analysis attached.”--untrue and, if so, why and/or to what extent; (m) is any part of what Sean Maloney also reports in his book in the following sentence--“‘My responsibilities were vague at first. General Fraser had me work with [Governor of Kandahar Province] Asadullah Khalid. But I also worked at the PRT [Provincial Reconstruction Team] to assess emergent Afghan policing issues.”--untrue and, if so, why and/or to what extent; (n) when Mr. Sajjan delivered a speech in New Delhi on April 18, 2017, and said from a prepared text--“On my first deployment to Kandahar in 2006, I was the architect of Operation MEDUSA where we removed 1,500 Taliban fighters off the battlefield…”--was he referring, in whole or in part, to his intelligence role for which he was praised by General David Fraser, the commander of Operation MEDUSA, as referenced in (h) above?

Questions on the Order Paper September 18th, 2017

With regard to Canada’s new Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders: (a) how has the Government implemented the Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders to promote human rights and protect human rights defenders in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), China; (b) how have the Guidelines been applied in the cases of the selected prisoners of conscience (i) Gendhun Choekyi Nyima (the 11th Panchen Lama), who has been detained since May 17, 1995, (ii) Yeshe Choedron who has been detained since March, 2008, (iii) Druklo/Shokjang, who has been detained since March 16, 2015, (iv) Tashi Wangchuk, who has been detained since January 27, 2016; and (c) have Canadian officials in TAR, China conducted field visits and investigated the legitimacy of the charges laid against these human rights defenders (i) Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, (ii) Druklo/Shokjang, (iii) Yeshe Choedron, (iv) Tashi Wangchuk?