House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was veterans.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Etobicoke Centre (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Coptic Christians in Egypt October 27th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, this really is a non-partisan issue. We are highly concerned about the state of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Everybody on all sides of the House has the passion and the desire to see the intolerance and violence end and to see Egypt progress into the future to become a strong democratic state that respects the democratic values of freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and justice for all.

Coptic Christians in Egypt October 27th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the office of religious freedom will be an outstanding institution that this side of the House will bring into being. It is going to provide a voice for not only Coptic Christians but for all religious minorities and for all religions, period. Through this office they will be able to share their ideas, collaborate and work out differences in a very fair, diplomatic, open and transparent way. Canada is going to be a leader in that.

Coptic Christians in Egypt October 27th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, we were the first country to call for an inquiry at the UN and we continue to do that through diplomatic means. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and, indeed, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs need take no lessons from anybody on their engagement with the Coptic community. We have worked very closely with them. We have engaged them time and time again. The door remains open. Constructive dialogue is always our mantra, and that is what we will continue to do.

Coptic Christians in Egypt October 27th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canada has done everything in its power to help alleviate the situation in Egypt. We engage very closely with the Coptic diaspora in Canada. The member for Mississauga—Erindale is a leader on this side of the House in working with that community. We have engaged with 30 Coptic clerics last Friday to help find solutions toward this.

Our diplomatic corps, our ministers, our Prime Minister have stated unequivocally their opposition to religious intolerance, violence and persecution in that country. We will continue to do that.

As I said in my speech, the road will remain rocky. There is a long path to this sort of peace, but we will continue to work very hard and apply lessons learned from other places that Canada has worked very hard to instill freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We will continue to do so in Egypt as well.

Coptic Christians in Egypt October 27th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to stand this evening and speak to the issue of ongoing violence and vicious attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt, a subject that has received considerable attention in this House in recent weeks.

On October 17, the House adopted a motion condemning attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt and called on the Egyptian government to ensure that the perpetrators of those attacks bear the full weight of the law. The strong and unequivocal language in that motion highlights how important this issue is to all members on this side of the House and to all Canadians.

The promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law is an integral part of our country's foreign policy. As Canadians, we enjoy the freedom to believe and the ability to express those beliefs without retribution.

It is worth noting that Canada's strong relations with Egypt are based on significant people-to-people ties and growing bilateral trade and investment links. For example, it is estimated that some 55,000 Canadians have roots in Egypt, some 100,000 Canadians travel there every year, and Egypt imports some $630 million in goods and services from Canada. This relationship gives us the right to be open and direct with Egypt and we have expressed our desire to see tangible evidence of transition to democracy, as well as to express our concerns about rising sectarian tensions.

Members will recall that there was an attack on Coptic Christians leaving a Christmas mass in Nag Hammadi in January 2010, as well as a bombing of a church in Alexandria during the celebration of a New Year's mass earlier this year, both of which Canada condemned in the strongest terms. I spoke with our Coptic brothers and sisters and mourned those tragedies.

Last Christmas, I and many members of Parliament went to Christmas mass at many Coptic churches across Canada to celebrate the holiday despite the threats that had been issued against Coptic churches in Canada.

The Prime Minister and the hon. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism visited the Coptic community at St. Mary's church in Mississauga to listen to their concerns and then to express support for these great Canadians.

More recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs issued a statement expressing his deep concern and calling on Egypt to ensure freedom of religion and to protect religious rights. At the minister's request, Canada's chargé d'affaires met with Bishop Youannes, general bishop and private secretary to His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, at St. Mark's Cathedral to express Canada's concern and support. The Minister of Foreign Affairs had also requested that Canada's ambassador to Egypt discuss previous attacks with the Pope.

The chargé d'affaires also provided the bishop with a copy of the resolution adopted by the House of Commons that condemns the attacks. It calls on the Egyptian government to bring the perpetrators to justice and asks the UN Human Rights Council to conduct an investigation into the plight of Egyptian Coptic Christians and issue a public report of its findings.

Indeed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs also made reference to the situation of Coptic Christians during his address at the United Nations General Assembly, as well as during public consultations related to the new office of religious freedom on October 3, 2011.

Egypt is entering a pivotal period in its transition to democratic governance and this significance cannot be overstated. It is the country with the largest population in the Arab world. In fact, one out of four people from Arab countries is Egyptian. It is a nation with an ancient civilization and a vibrant and rich culture that has long been a moderate leader of the Arab, African and Muslim worlds. It has a long history of religious diversity and tolerance. What happens in Egypt has important implications for other countries of the region, for the world economy and for international security, including the security of Canadians.

In the context of the Arab Awakening, the outcome in Egypt has the potential to affect the transitions under way in other countries. The developments in Egypt over the coming months and years will shape the region and the world as we know it. Canada's hope for Egypt is that its transition continues to be based on a clear desire of Egyptians for respect for human rights, the rule of law and the protection of religious freedoms. Canada stands by the people of Egypt, including the Coptic community, as they work toward a peaceful and democratic transition.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs recently stated in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, “the long history of humanity has proven that religious freedom and democratic freedom are inseparable.”

We cannot ignore the numerous attacks against the Coptic community in Egypt, including the most recent attack on October 9 in Cairo between Egyptian security forces and Coptic Christian protestors. Twenty-seven people, mostly Coptic Christians, were killed and over 300 were injured in that tragic event. This was the most violent incident since the fall of the former regime.

Immediately following that incident, the Minister of Foreign Affairs issued a statement expressing our concern and urging “ all involved to work together to build a society where religious communities can live and prosper together and build a new Egypt”. Furthermore, we called for a transparent investigation into the violence and for those responsible to be held accountable.

We have seen positive steps by the Government of Egypt to address tensions. For instance, since the events of October 9, the Government of Egypt has committed to conduct a full investigation into the clashes and to bring to justice the instigators and perpetrators of the violence. An investigation is also under way into the destruction of the church into the village of al-Marinab in early October, which led members of the Coptic community to protest on October 9.

We will continue to monitor the situation. The Department of Foreign Affairs has made numerous representations to the government of Egypt about the importance of promoting and protecting human rights, including those of the Coptic Christians. These representations have been made in Cairo by the Canadian embassy, in Ottawa through the Egyptian embassy, at bilateral meetings between Canadian and Egyptian officials and at the United Nations.

Looking ahead, we recognize that Egypt's future must be charted by the Egyptian people themselves. The best way to accomplish that is through peaceful, orderly, political and economic reforms that enable all Egyptians to participate in the process and that allow the opportunity for dialogue with all parties.

We recognize that there are considerable challenges going forward as Egyptians work to define the foundations of a new Egypt. This is to be expected as Egyptians seek to find new common ground and define the nature of their society and their government going forward. One of the greatest challenges for Egyptians will be to continue to work together to build a strong culture of respect for pluralism and human rights, including religious freedom.

Even with laws in place to prevent discrimination, the importance of strong social norms that make it unacceptable to discriminate on the basis of religion cannot be understated. This will be a long-term process, the road may be occasionally rocky and we urge the Government of Egypt to fully implement the measures to which it has committed.

We have and will continue to be clear on this point. The protection of Egyptians against all forms of extremism during the upcoming election period is vital to ensure that religious minorities are free to play a meaningful role in the political transition.

As I have noted, Coptic Christians have been an integral part of Egyptian society for many centuries and today the overwhelming majority of Egyptians support religious tolerance.

We continue to urge the Egyptian people to sustain their long history of tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Rest assured that the Government of Canada will be watching.

International Trade October 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that our government's top priority remains completing the economic recovery and creating jobs. With one in five Canadian jobs dependent on trade, a trade agreement with the European Union has the potential to benefit Canada enormously. These benefits include a 20% boost in bilateral trade, almost 80,000 new jobs, and an extra $1,000 for the average Canadian family.

Could the parliamentary secretary please give the House an update on the status of our trade negotiations with the European Union?

Ukraine October 19th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, our government took the initiative this week to have a debate on the situation in Ukraine to voice concerns over the Yulia Tymoshenko verdict. We did what was right, and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress agrees. It said that our government is taking the bold and important step of holding a debate on the Tymoshenko trial.

Our government is deeply concerned by the situation in Ukraine. One cannot forget what a good friend Canada has been to Ukraine, the ancestral homeland of 1.2 million Canadians.

Since 2006 our government has recognized Holodomor Memorial Day; supported democratic reforms in Ukraine; expressed Canada's commitment to the support for human rights, democratic development and free and fair elections in Ukraine, entered into historic free trade negotiations with Ukraine in 2010; and much more.

Our government has been a friend of a free and democratic Ukraine. We hope freedom and democracy are vital parts of Ukraine's future.

Democracy in Ukraine October 18th, 2011

Madam Chair, Canada is doing everything it possibly can right now.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has issued strong statements in his own communiqués to the President of Ukraine, as has the Prime Minister, especially last Friday when he received the Shevchenko medal at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress event.

The Prime Minister sent a letter to President Yanukovych stating that he is jeopardizing relations with Canada.

Free trade negotiations are ongoing and our relations will be in jeopardy if actions and democratic regression continue.

Democracy in Ukraine October 18th, 2011

Madam Chair, I will be sharing my time with the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.

It is worrisome to observe the recent developments in Ukraine and the ominous signs that democratic development is regressing and being undermined by the apparently politically motivated use of the judicial system in Ukraine.

Many Canadian members of Parliament, including the six members of Ukrainian heritage on this side of the House, along with political leaders from leading democracies around the world, have questioned the conduct of the Tymoshenko trial and subsequently the health of democracy, transparency, the rule of law and most certainly justice in Ukraine.

Tymoshenko is being accused of abusing her authority as prime minister during the signing of gas agreements with Russia in January 2009. The prosecution claims that this caused significant damage to Ukraine in the loss of millions of dollars. For this she has been sentenced to seven years' imprisonment and fined approximately $200 million. This is an apparent manipulation of justice designed to prevent her from seeking political office in three years' time.

The prosecution claims that she was able to achieve lower prices in negotiations with the Russian state gas company because she was guided by private interests. It is worth noting that the negotiations took place during a gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia wherein shipments of gas to Ukraine and western Europe had been halted.

The conduct of Tymoshenko's trial did not reflect internationally accepted norms of due process or fairness. Even though the hearings were originally transparent and open to the public, latter stages of the trial were conducted behind closed doors.

Furthermore, the court's treatment of Tymoshenko's defence team is highly suspect. Despite numerous petitions for the court to uphold the Ukrainian criminal procedure code for ample time for her lawyers to review case files, the judge ruled that three days was sufficient for the defence team to read and process 5,000 pages of evidence. That is 20 inch pile of paper. It is clear that any legal team would find it impossible to put together an adequate defence with such insufficient time to prepare.

Adding to my skepticism over the conduct of this trial is that Yulia Tymoshenko was charged by the security service of Ukraine with another criminal offence one day after her sentencing last October 11. It is alleged she embezzled $405 million while president of United Energy Systems of Ukraine in the 1990s. This leads me to believe that the Ukrainian court system is applying selective justice and apparently allowing political interests to interfere with judicial impartiality and due process.

There is no doubt in my mind that Tymoshenko's conviction and pending charges are aimed at silencing an effective opposition leader, a necessary requirement for a healthy democracy. That is why I am speaking out today. This case is much greater than the fate of one Ukrainian leader. It goes directly to the issue of whether the Ukrainian government respects basic human rights and its responsibility to provide fairness and due process under its laws.

Viktor Yanukovych has made it clear that the cries of democratic nations for Yulia Tymoshenko will not lead to her liberation. He insists that the rule of law is supreme and an independent judiciary exists. Ukrainian authorities have to realize that their actions hold consequences for Ukraine's international reputation and its relationship with Canada.

Canada, and especially its Ukrainian Canadian community, is seriously concerned about democratic regression. The Ukrainian community in Etobicoke Centre has expressed its outrage to me. I have stood with members of the community and protested at the Ukrainian Consulate in Etobicoke and I spoke out about this apparent application of judicial vindictiveness. These concerns are shared with the Canadian Prime Minister who, in his letter to Ukraine's president, warned that bilateral relations, now dominated by free trade talks, could be damaged by these recent events.

In his address to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress just last week, the Prime Minister was very clear on Canada's position on Ukraine, a position I wholeheartedly support. He said:

Canada will support Ukraine whenever it moves towards freedom, democracy and justice.

Along with all of my constituents, I truly hope Ukraine does the right thing and upholds democratic freedom and the rule of law, ensuring a long lasting and productive relationship with Canada and all democratic nations that are now decrying this situation.

I stand with not only my constituents of Ukrainian heritage but all Canadians of Ukrainian heritage to denounce this apparently shameful course of action President Yanukovych has embarked upon.

[Member spoke in Ukrainian]

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act October 6th, 2011

Madam Speaker, the work share arrangements for EI would allow other members to share in those work programs so wages and EI benefits would be distributed among a wider group of people.