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  • His favourite word is genetic.

Liberal MP for Don Valley West (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 54% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship October 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, Don Valley West is the new home to close to 1,000 Syrian refugees. On Sunday night, I hosted 250 of them at a Thanksgiving concert. We were enthralled by world-class musicians from the Looking at the Stars Foundation, which brings classical music to people who may not have a chance to hear great music, which transforms and transports them to places of beauty, compassion, and grace.

Dmitri Kanovich, once a refugee himself, founded Looking at the Stars. He brought together musicians Lukas Geniusas, Yolanda Bruno, Joseph Johnson, and Barry Shiffman for a magical evening. They were supported by the Consulate of the United Arab Emirates and volunteers from Lawrence Park Community Church and Leaside United Church, who responded to my call for help.

Settling refugees well takes a government that welcomes those in need of protection; community agencies like Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office and New Circles who give direct service; and settled Canadians who open their hands and hearts to help them flourish in this country.

Together, we make Canada stronger and better.

Situation in Myanmar September 26th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, we have to find a way of being present. Witnesses to peace, witnesses to atrocities on the ground in countries have to be regularized. It is not what we would call peacekeeping forces, but it is a force that has an ability to be witnesses to give us the truth and tell us. We count on international NGOs to do that. I commend Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UNHCR, and other not-for-profits that are in the region. We have to find ways to support them, to fund them, to encourage them, and to respect them when they give reports.

I do not think we can do it from this distance, so we have to increase our diplomatic presence. We have to find ways to do multilateral military presence at times to make sure we have a peace to keep. We need to find a way to have Canada more present in those countries with our partners.

Situation in Myanmar September 26th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and again for his leadership in this debate. He asked the most important question. As we gather here today, we know that there are parts of the world that are hot spots all the time and our attention is driven elsewhere. I understand that Canadians are preoccupied with our economy, their own lives, their families. We are preoccupied as lawmakers, as legislators in this place, with our own concerns.

It is very interesting that George Bernard Shaw, in his play St. Joan, has a grand inquisitor asking if an innocent person must die in every generation for those who have so little imagination. The answer has to be no. The answer has to be that we take a step back and recognize that we need to see the signals. As former senator Roméo Dallaire has said, we need to see them and they are not that hard to see.

We have had a debate over the last two decades around the concept of responsibility to protect and the ability of the international community going into a situation and finding a way to bring about a change so that we do not have people die. We do not have an answer on this. This is going to take a concerted effort. I am so pleased that all the debate tonight has been non-partisan. If we can find a way to express ideas and find a new pathway toward a way that people will respect each other, I think it starts by respecting that we are different.

In Myanmar we see minorities that are not being respected. We have to respect the minorities that exist in every country and perhaps that is Canada's role, to say we live in this country with first nations, with indigenous peoples, with founding peoples, with newcomers, respecting the way they live and trying to find a way to do it. Then we have to find international bodies that can do it better than they have been doing it so far.

Situation in Myanmar September 26th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin tonight by thanking the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for requesting this emergency debate on this very serious situation affecting the Rohingya people in Myanmar. I want to let him know that I did have a letter drafted and written, ready to go to request this, and I have no resentment whatsoever. Rather, I have only respect for him and the fact that he was able to request this debate. I am glad this debate was put forth and that members from all parties have engaged in it with competence, compassion, and great concern.

This is Canada's Parliament. It is the House of the people, and in the House of the people we take time to debate matters of great concern, as well as urgent matters. Tonight we are developing a narrative on all sides of the House that is lifting up the concerns of Canadians about the atrocities being experienced by the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

The people of Don Valley West have spoken to me about this. Last weekend I met with several hundred of them in a park, where they were raising funds for the Rohingya people. They asked me to bring their concerns to the House of Commons. I am grateful that we have the opportunity to do that tonight. I need to say that I am outraged and that I am expressing the outrage of the people of Don Valley West at another situation in the world that needs to be stopped. We, as Canadians, need to call upon leaders in this country and around the world to engage in a new way of doing world politics.

Like all Canadians, I am very concerned about the persecution of the Rohingya.

According to reports emanating from the region, a campaign of ethnic cleansing is being carried out against the Rohingya. The Prime Minister has said that the responsibility for resolving this crisis falls squarely on the shoulders of Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar's military leaders.

It is important to reiterate our condemnation of this situation and urge Aung San Suu Kyi to have security forces put an end to the violence and protect civilians.

We will continue to support the Rohingya people. The way they are being treated is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.

The sentiments that the Prime Minister expressed on this issue are profound and important. In his letter to the State Counsellor, he called upon her to live out the expectations that Canada had when it offered her honorary citizenship. In a very strongly worded letter, he demanded that she absolutely condemn the violence taking place in her country and find ways to bring together the peoples of that country in peaceful, just, and long-lasting ways.

The Rohingya people are recognized by the United Nations as probably the most persecuted minority in the world. In recent months, 214 Rohingya villages in Myanmar have been torched to ashes. Human Rights Watch estimates that 50% of all those villages have been destroyed, according to satellite pictures taken by Amnesty International.

Since August 25, 400,000 refugees have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh, according to the UNHCR. More Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh in the space of four weeks than refugees from Africa fled by sea to Europe in 2016, and 80% of the 400,000 refugees arriving last month were women and children. Among the women, a United Nations' survey found that 52% had been raped. Bangladeshi officials have said that land mines have been planted on Myanmar's side of the border, posing a threat to every single Rohingya, who are facing terrorism and persecution and are trying to save their lives.

The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by Kofi Annan, recommended in its final report:

...urgent and sustained action on a number of fronts to prevent violence, maintain peace, foster reconciliation and offer a sense of hope to the State’s hard-pressed population.

This important report, in addition to dozens of other reports by several international groups, has repeatedly condemned the actions of the Myanmar security forces. I am pleased that Burma Task Force Canada has taken time to educate us.

Many of us are new to this issue, newer than we should be. I know that the subcommittee on human rights has looked at this issue. I know that the foreign affairs committee has looked at it. I know that others have raised a concern. However, we have not done enough as a Parliament, and I say that our government has still not done enough.

I commend them for their strong condemnation of the actions of the military. I commend them for their strong exhortation to the state counsellor to live up to the expectations of our Canadian citizenship. I commend the Minister of International Development, who is offering aid both in Bangladesh and to those who may have to flee to other places. However, we can still do more.

The Canadians who live in Don Valley West have told me that they want the government to consider matching grants. They want every charitable dollar that is raised in Canada to be matched by the government. I hope we can raise that issue with the government tonight so it can consider that as well.

As we express our outrage, we recognize that we could spend a lot of time debating the language we use around this. I want to say to the House, and to the people of Canada, that I do not have time for debate on the issue. What we have to do is save lives, find a way to garner peace, and be humans in a place that has increasingly become inhumane. I would ask the House this. Did we not learn the lesson from the Armenian genocide to stand up and do everything we can to stop this atrocity? Are the scars of the Jewish Holocaust not profound enough for us to learn to stand with vulnerable people who are being raped, killed, or driven from their homes? As humanity, we have faced this again and again. However, we do not seem to learn the lessons. I have heard from all sides of the House that we need to find new solutions for international crises like this, as well as the domestic crises that are happening within countries' borders. We are not there yet. We need to act. We need to find ways to act multilaterally and bilaterally. We need to encourage Canadians to reach into their pockets to make sure we can provide humanitarian aid as we need to.

I am not totally new to this issue. When I was first serving as a member of Parliament a number of years ago, I had a young man come to see me about several development issues. His name was Raess Ahmed. Raess engaged with me in conversation as a smart, bright, young student at the University of Toronto. As the conversation ensued, I asked him where his family had come from before coming to Canada. He said it was a long story. I asked him to tell me the story. He told me of the Rohingya people. He told me the story of his family leaving their homeland, stateless, their citizenship having been revoked, of finding a home in Bangladesh and then making their way to Canada as refugees. He told me the story and it broke my heart. I recognized how little we know in Canada about the Rohingya people. It is estimated that there are only 400 people in Canada of Rohingya background. However, there are 35 million Canadians who need to stand with the Rohingya people. We are doing that tonight. As we gather in this place, we talk, we offer our words, we debate, we offer sentiments, and we offer our outrage. We now call upon the government to keep pressure on the State of Myanmar, on the military forces that are running that country, and on the multilateral partners who need to work together with us. We need to find a way to ensure this never happens again.

I am again thankful for the opportunity we have tonight to express Canadians' outrage, and to gather in this place with commitment, not only in this case but in every situation where human beings are at risk and where humanity is not living up to what we would call each other to.

Health September 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is World Alzheimer's Day. Almost every member of this chamber has been touched by Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia in some way or another, and so have most Canadians. We all know that more needs to be done to help those struggling with dementia and those caring for them, as well as in research to understand and treat these diseases.

As I congratulate the new Minister of Health on her appointment, can she update us on her department's work on this important issue?

Committees of the House June 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill S-231, An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code (protection of journalistic sources).

If you would allow me, I would like to thank the members of my committee for the herculean task of doing this in just 10 days, as well as the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for sponsoring it in the House.

I would also like to thank the following people for the herculean task of getting this bill done in nine days: the clerk, Jean-Marie David; the legislative clerk, Philippe Méla; the analysts of the committee, Tanya Dupuis and Dominique Valiquet; and my staff person, Jake Eidinger.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendment.

Justice June 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, for decades the Canadian government actively discriminated against gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and queer Canadians. Thousands of public servants and military personnel were fired for their sexual orientation, forced to live double lives or risk loss of employment or even criminal conviction.

I am proud of our government's efforts to build stronger ties with my community, working for rights at home and abroad. However, still more remains to be done. Could the Minister of Justice update us on steps the government is taking to heal the wounds in the LGBTQ2 community?

Committees of the House June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill S-233, an act to amend the Customs Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (presentation and reporting requirements).

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with an amendment.

Interparliamentary Delegations June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canada–Africa Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the bilateral mission in the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Republic of Botswana in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Gaborone, Botswana, from March 26 to 31, 2017.

Committees of the House May 30th, 2017

Madam Speaker, today I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, entitled “Main Estimates 2017-18”.