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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Scarborough—Rouge River (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Sri Lanka November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as Canadians of Tamil heritage, in November, we commemorate two important events: Remembrance Day and Tamil Heroes Day.

This month symbolizes the beauty of life because we remember all of those who sacrificed their lives for the rest of us to live in peace and freedom. We remember that each and every one of the people who have been caught in the crossfire of war throughout the ages have embraced life over death, but those who made the ultimate sacrifice ensured that we who survived would be able to live with dignity and with liberties.

This month provides us with the occasion not only to remember and pay tribute to the heroes but also to reflect on the lessons of the struggle for justice, peace, and a life free from discrimination.

Sadly, on the island country of Sri Lanka where I was born as a child of war, the discrimination and injustices continue and the ethnic and religious minorities continue to live without peace and in fear.

Let us always work for peace at home and abroad, and let us always support those who put their lives on the line. From the bottom of my heart, I am thankful to all.

Lest we forget.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague forgot a few other plans that are already protecting it, like the Oak Ridges Moraine conservation plan of 2002, the Duffins Creek watershed plan, and the federal green space preserve. I can go on because there are other pieces or plans that are protecting that land, and it makes no sense that the federal government is creating legislation that would weaken the protections of an existing park. We are creating legislation to create the first ever urban national park in this country, yet the government wants to provide less protection for the parklands. It just makes no sense. That is why Nature Canada, Environmental Defence, CPAWS, the David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Rouge Watershed, Ontario Nature, and the STORM Coalition all came together and asked all hon. members in the House to vote against Bill C-40, which is clearly a flawed bill and is providing less protection for this park.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood for his pointed intervention. I think it was a very good one.

My colleague from Halifax mentioned that in the amendment put forward by the NDP to clause 6 of the bill, we had proposed enshrining into legislation the protection of agriculture for farmers as well as the environment, and the need for conservation and ecological health and integrity in Rouge Park. I think the farmers would agree because all of the witnesses who came to committee were reasonable. I took it upon myself to ask all of the witnesses if they felt that farmers and the environmentalists were at opposite ends and whether or not they could work together. They all said that there was common ground and that they could work together.

I want to finish this response with a quote from Ms. Kim Empringham, who was from the York Region Federation of Agriculture. She said:

Two of the guiding principles for the Rouge national urban park are to maintain and improve ecological health and scientific integrity, and to respect and support sustainable agriculture and other compatible land uses.

She was clear that the farmers in York region she represents say that we need to improve ecological health and scientific integrity, as well as maintain sustainable agriculture. The farmers have already said they are environmental stewards of their farms by running them in an environmentally friendly way, and that is what we all want.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am really saddened that I will not be able to support this legislation moving forward, because I was one of the people at the very first visioning exercise for the creation of the Rouge national urban park. I was the youngest person in the room, and being the youngest person in the room, I knew that I would be the one to get to enjoy the park the most. I was super excited about it.

I will be sharing my time with a colleague.

While I will not be able to support this legislation brought forward by the government, I do support creating Rouge Park as a nationally protected park. We want this land to be protected. We want it to be a national park that everyone can enjoy for generations to come. This legislation would decrease protection.

I was so excited when I heard in the throne speech that the government planned to make the Rouge Park a nationally protected park.

I went to the day long visioning exercise. For years I have worked for the conservation and protection of the existing Rouge Park. The Rouge River is in my riding of Scarborough—Rouge River. The largest piece of the current Rouge Park is in my constituency. I am blessed to have this park literally in my backyard.

The Rouge Park is special in being located in an urban setting. Roadways, highways, hydro corridors, railways, and oil pipelines are all within the Rouge Park. It is a special park because most of our national parks do not have all of those things within their protected areas.

People on the ground affected by this park had a vision. We knew we could make it happen. We knew we could make it work. We could envision a nationally protected urban park that would include farmers, conservationists, environmentalists, highways, roadways, railways, and hydro corridors. Obviously these things could not be moved. We all thought there was real potential for a 100 square kilometre national park that would be called Rouge national urban park. We were excited about it because it is designated within the greenbelt natural heritage system. It is the northernmost point of the endangered Carolinian and mixed woodland life zones. The Rouge Park is the largest public park within the southern Ontario region that is close to 25% of the population in the greater Toronto area. A lot of us were excited.

Our party was happy to push the bill to committee at second reading. We believed that the government would have good faith at committee. We thought we would be able to put forward amendments that would strengthen the legislation now in front of the House.

I will talk about three items: ecological integrity; maintaining or exceeded the current protections already afforded within Rouge Park; and the 100 square kilometres. First, I will speak about ecological integrity.

The Canada National Parks Act states:

Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.

Clause 6 in Bill C-40 states:

The Minister must, in the management of the Park, [and here is the catch] take into consideration the protection of its natural ecosystems and cultural landscapes and the maintenance of its native wildlife and of the health of those ecosystems

The difference is the strong piece that already exists in the Canada National Parks Act, which says that maintenance and restoration and protection of our natural resources should be the first priority of the minister.

In contrast, the new legislation put forward by the government would water it down so much that although the minister must take it into consideration and think about it, he does not have to do anything about it.

Let us look at it as people on the ground who love this park would. I am in the park at least once a week or, if not, once every two weeks. It is part of my life. We want to see it protected. We want to make sure that it can last for generations to come. This bill would significantly water down the protection of the ecosystems and would not really help in maintaining the ecological health or integrity of the park.

I want to make it abundantly clear that the NDP supports the creation of a Rouge national urban park, but not if it means that the protection of its ecological integrity is risked. That is what would happen with this bill, and that is why, sadly, I cannot support it moving forward as the Conservatives have outlined it.

I know that I only have 10 minutes, so I will move to my next topic, that of meeting or exceeding the existing protections. My colleague who spoke on this bill earlier mentioned the memorandum of understanding between the Province of Ontario and the federal government that was signed in January, 2013. The federal government signed this memorandum of agreement to “meet or exceed” Ontario's existing policies, which included the greenbelt and the Oak Ridges Moraine conservation plans, during the drafting of the legislation and management plan for the Rouge national urban park.

The provincial greenbelt plan provides provincial policy status to the Rouge park and watershed plans. I know that the current protection for the park is a patchwork of about 11 different policies and plans. The federal government agreed to meet all of those existing plans. I agree that they are patchwork, but the federal government agreed that it would ensure that the new legislation, Bill C-40, would meet or exceed the protections provided for this park.

The provincial minister sent a letter to the federal minister, who, I must add, has not yet spoken on this bill once. We have reached third reading, the last stage of this bill, and the current minister of the environment who is responsible for this has not even spoken on the bill once, which I think is absolutely shameful. I have digressed a little.

I will paraphrase a letter that the provincial minister of economic development, employment and infrastructure wrote to the federal minister, as I do not have time to quote it. He basically said that the protections for the park in Bill C-40 are much less than what already exist in Ontario through the existing provincial policies and plans. The current state would enhance the ecological integrity of the proposed Rouge national urban park. The provincial minister said that he would not be able to transfer the 5,400 acres of lands currently owned by the provincial government for the creation of the Rouge national urban park.

That takes us right to my third point of the 100 square kilometre park. The community dreamed of a 100 square kilometre park, which would be absolutely amazing, but then the government proposed a study area of 58 square kilometres. Now, with the provincial government not willing to transfer more than 25 square kilometres of land, this new national park would be less than one quarter of the size all of us on the ground had dreamed of for decades.

I am going to read a little bit from a letter that was sent to all members of Parliament from seven different environmental organizations. They asked us not to support Bill C-40 at third reading. They said that they had attempted to make it better, to work with the agricultural community, environmentalists, and the government. They opposed passage of this flawed bill, saying that it would not be good for the Rouge national urban park.

Mr. Speaker, that is why I am giving you and all the people who care about the Rouge park my word today that I will be working on writing a new private member's bill that would improve this bill. I look forward to being able to table that in the House and eventually seeing it become legislation once we have an NDP government.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague spoke about the importance of heritage and cultural experiences for the people around the park. My question for my hon. colleague is with respect to the creation of an aboriginal education centre, considering the fact that the traditional lands of the Mississauga, Huron-Wendat, and Seneca first nations people are within Rouge Park. They include a sacred burial site as well as an ancient village site.

There have been many activists on the ground. David Grey Eagle is one of the leading indigenous people who has been fighting to protect these lands to ensure that there is no development and that the sacred burial ground as well as the village site is protected. To ensure that the public would have the opportunity to learn the history, experience the cultural heritage, and be more educated about the land and the indigenous people's historical and cultural background in the area, he proposed creating an aboriginal education centre within Rouge Park.

That was one proposal I brought forward as an amendment at committee. If culture, heritage, and experience are so important, why did his colleagues in the Conservative Party vote against that amendment?

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Halifax for her excellent speech on this topic. It clearly goes to show how vested she is in protecting this beautiful park, which is in my backyard. A large part of the current park is in my riding of Scarborough—Rouge River.

The current Rouge Park is protected under a patchwork system of over 10 different plans. For example, there is the Rouge Park management plan of 1994, the Rouge Park north management plan, the provincial Greenbelt plan, the Toronto Lake Ontario area of concern remedial action plan, and the Rouge River watershed plan. There is a patchwork of plans protecting the Rouge Valley, the larger ecosystem, and the parklands.

In committee, we heard the minister and many other people say that this is a patchwork system but that the bill would be better at protecting the lands and the park. In January 2013, the federal government signed a memorandum agreeing to meet or exceed Ontario's existing policies of protecting the greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine conservation plans.

However, we are now seeing in the media release and letter sent to all members of Parliament from seven different organizations on the ground, in the community as well as national organizations, that the bill is not good: the bill would not protect the park more than what already exists.

My question to my hon. colleague is on whether there is anything else that we could have done to make sure that this park is actually protected by federal legislation.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his work on the Rouge Valley issue.

The member briefly mentioned that he was at the original visioning exercise for the creation of the Rouge national park. I was also there. The biggest vision at this exercise was to ensure that the park would be the people's park.

When the opposition put forward a simple amendment that would have dedicated this park to the people of Canada, why did the Conservatives vote against it? Why did the Conservatives vote against dedicating this park to the people of Canada?

Petitions November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to present petitions on behalf of hundreds of people in the greater Toronto area who have submitted petitions on the creation of a Rouge national park, which includes 100 square kilometres of public land assembly that surrounds the Rouge River and Duffins Creek watersheds in Toronto, Markham, and Pickering. This is publicly owned provincial, federal, and municipal lands that are predominately within the provincial greenbelts and natural heritage system.

The petitioners are asking for us to respect the fact that the lands are the ancestral home of the Mississauga, Huron-Wendat, and Seneca first nations, and to include their sacred burial grounds and village sites.

The petitioners are asking for the legislation that would create a Rouge national park that is respectful of the history over the last many decades of protection, and creation of Rouge park in my constituency and within the greater Toronto area.

Poverty November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have another question.

One in five Canadian children lives in poverty today and the minister thinks that is reason for self-congratulation. Twenty-five years ago today, the House made a solemn commitment to Canada's children that they would not have to grow up in poverty. However, 25 years later, here are the facts: child poverty levels have increased significantly from 13% in 1989 to 21% today.

Instead of constantly giving tax breaks to the wealthy in this country who really do not need them, why will the Conservative government not introduce a real plan to eliminate child poverty?

Poverty November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, from affordable housing to poverty, Conservatives are failing Canadians. One in five children in our wealthy country lives in poverty. I am sure the Prime Minister regrets that he once called the 1989 motion on ending child poverty “the high-water mark of political stupidity in this country”.

Most people believe that caring for our children is a basic Canadian value. Will the government finally introduce a plan to eliminate poverty among our children in Canada?