House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was place.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Iran Accountability Week May 5th, 2015

Mr. Chair, specific to Camp Ashraf, the people who were detained there were reviewed by the United Nations and were granted numbers, which should have opened the door for them to leave Iraq. They were transferred from a fairly secure compound that had existed for probably 30 years to a place called Camp Liberty, which is fundamentally, from how it is described, just a trailer park, which means that someone from the outside could shoot them. People could shoot through the walls of these small structures, so there is a lack of protection.

There is a controversy, because some of the people who left Iran were MEK, and as a result of being a designated terrorist group, it impeded these people. However, a majority of them were born in this camp. Their placement has been delayed. We are not sure why except that there seems to be a growing influence of the Iranian government on the Iraqi government, which is very serious.

Iran Accountability Week May 5th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the human rights situation in Iran. It is extremely important that all members of the House send a very clear message that in Canada we support the aspirations of the Iranian people when they seek freedom, peace, and democracy. Parliament spoke strongly at the time of the election when people were being murdered in the streets of Iran and Tehran.

On this side of the House—and I would presume members of the government and other parties would agree with this—we think that Canada, in the view of New Democrats, has a very significant role to play, as we have continuously done, to point out those times when Iran has said yes to acceptance of the periodic review by the United Nations but never implemented any of the changes that were requested. The previous speaker talked about the annual execution rate in Iran and it being around 750. It is still a country that executes juveniles. I am not sure of the number, but I think it was 18 last year. Juveniles are executed. How can a regime do that?

I was involved for 28 years in the Canadian labour movement, so I am kind of sensitive to the next quote that I am going to read. It comes from an Amnesty International update on Iran. A gentleman by the name of Mansour Osanloo is an activist with the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, which is probably a very interesting title over there. An amalgamated transit union is what it would be here. He stated:

The labor movement has a deep impact on the struggle for human rights and democracy in Iran, and as the labor movement grows, it benefits the struggle for democracy and freedom. This is based on the fact that the labor movement involves the largest and most important segment of the masses into this struggle. The movement of workers as the builders of society, will inevitably push that society towards democracy. Labor movements which occur in the most widespread form will force the government and society to respond and take action. The involvement of the working class appearance in the social and political realm has been shown to increase the level of democracy in every society. It is clear that the labor movement can promote the distribution equality of within a...society.

That, of course, is a very aspirational statement. We are blessed in Canada. I felt blessed in 1996 when I led the largest civil demonstration in the history of our country, in the Hamilton's Days of Action, when 105,000 people protested, without one injury or arrest. That says a lot for the democracy of this country. They were protesting the Conservative government of Mike Harris, by the way, but were still treated with the dignity and respect that the people so yearn for in Iran.

I will read another quote from the same report. It stated:

It was said that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman. Today, it can be said that the Islamic republic is neither Islamic nor a republic. The Iran of today has become the Islamic republic of gangster capitalism, where an unholy alliance of the clerical establishment and the Revolutionary Guard Corps rule through economic patronage for the inner circle, together with torture at home and terrorism abroad.

This gentleman, Payam Akhavan, is a professor of international law at McGill University. He has spoken at the subcommittee on international human rights several times. He helps us with the update that we do to keep ourselves current on what is happening in Iran.

Along with the professor was Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer from Iran who for years spoke out publicly and risked her life. She received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts. Today, she has to live outside of Iran for her own safety. These two witnesses were before our committee about two to three years ago and both made the same comment, which I think is worthy of our consideration. It was that the remedy for Iran has to come from within Iran, that we cannot remedy its problems from outside.

Going back to the aspirational quote from that labour leader, in that country, that kind of statement can put one in jail and cause one to be tortured. Evin Prison is notorious for the political activists kept behind its walls and the torture and treatment that happens to them.

In Iran, women face persistent, systemic discrimination in terms of family law. The following is a statement from Amnesty International.

New legislation being considered by Iran’s parliament is intended to roll back many of the gains women have made in the past decades and consign them to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

And on top of that, if they dare to protest about the inequities they suffer, they are sentenced to long prison terms, to be served in prisons where unsanitary conditions and medical neglect can quickly undermine their health.

This is the fate of Bahareh Hedayat, an activist with The Campaign for Equality, a grassroots initiative, and a member of the Central Committee of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity, a national student body which has been active in calling for political reform and opposing human rights violations in recent years. She is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence in Evin Prison.

Evin Prison, as members here will know, is one of the worst prisons on the face of the earth.

She was charged with a number offences, and they sound beyond belief. One of her offences was “interviews with a foreign media”—imagine, it was just an interview—“insulting the leader”, “insulting the president,” and “disrupting public order through participating in illegal gatherings”. We have to pause when we live in a country like Canada.

I just spoke a moment ago about the fact that we had a massive demonstration here, and there were no objections, but in Iran, for that she wound up with a 10-year sentence in Evin Prison.

She has already served half of her sentence and she should therefore be eligible for parole under Iranian law, but concerned human rights activists need to urge the Iranian government to release her now so that she can receive medical attention for her health, which she is not receiving in Evin Prison.

The Amnesty report goes on to talk about the treatment of minorities. The previous speaker spoke about the Baha'i and how they are denied religious freedom. They are the largest non-Muslim religious minority the government consistently discriminates against. At least 136 Baha'i have been held in Iranian prisons as of May 2014. State authorities have desecrated Baha'i cemeteries, including one in Shiraz, where the authorities began excavating in April.

Security and intelligent forces have also continued to target Christian converts from Islam. Persian-speaking Protestants, evangelical congregations, and members of home church movements are all persecuted by this government. Many face charges, such as acting against national security and propaganda against the state.

Imagine that following a religious practice is somehow propaganda, and even worse, propaganda against the state. However, it is not just Christians and Baha'i. Sunni Muslims, which are 10% of the population in Iran, are not allowed to build their own mosques, simply because they have a different view than the Shia view of Islam.

As we review from time to time the status and the situation in Iran, sadly, at this juncture, we have to say that things have not gotten better. Iran had a new leader, and there was great hope that there would be change. That has been a false front. Again, I think the patronage and the corruption is offending any chance of heading to a real democracy in Iran.

Iran Accountability Week May 5th, 2015

Mr. Chair, at the subcommittee on international human rights of the foreign affairs committee, I am the vice-chair.

One of the things that I would note is that in this House we often see disagreement, but on the issue of international human rights there is a certain place that we get to where we work by consensus.

One of the things that has happened over the last three to four years is our annual review of the situation of human rights in Iran. With the negotiations that just went on with the parties in regard to the nuclear program in Iran, there are now fears being expressed that the distraction caused by those negotiations has opened the door for international neglect of the protection of human rights in Iran.

I presume the motion that the member talked about at the United Nations will be continued, but will there ever be targeted sanctions against the individuals who perpetrated these crimes?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments and the assessment she has made on the bill. Previously I spoke in the House after the member for Vancouver Quadra gave her remarks saying that when I was 21 years old and voted in 1968, I stressed I did not vote for Pierre Trudeau, but later when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into place, I really respected the effort that was made to bring that to Canada.

At this juncture, when we have four former prime ministers saying no to the bill, when we have 100 law professors and lawyers from across the country saying that this bill is a shambles and should not be proceeded with at all, the warnings of court challenges and a number of things, would the member agree with me that this perhaps has gone much further than even the Conservative members understand in the damage it could potentially do to Canadians?

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, twice in her remarks the member for Vancouver Quadra used the word “mystified”. I was a child of the sixties. My first vote was in 1968. I did not vote Liberal. I know members are shocked, but I have to say at the time we were inspired by the words that came out of Pierre Trudeau. When the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into place it was a good thing for Canada and I give recognition to that.

However, what is interesting is we have had four previous prime ministers, three of them Liberal, 100 professors and lawyers say that this is a flawed bill and should be withdrawn. I am very much mystified as to why the Liberals would support something where the history of their own party rails against it.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in a sense, the bullets that were fired in this place have gone through the heart of our very charter.

The reality of the damage being done here is that this shooter has succeeded. His attack on Parliament was meant to diminish this Parliament, to diminish the value of this Parliament, and by putting this law into place, that is exactly what we are doing.

Nepal April 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in the midst of this tragedy, there are oh so many Canadian families who are desperately worried about their loved ones, and many have expressed frustration with the response of the Canadian government. These families say they are having difficulty getting clear answers from the Department of Foreign Affairs, and unlike other countries, Canadian evacuees are being told they will have to find their own way home from New Delhi.

Canadians need answers as to how the government is going to address these concerns.

Foreign Affairs April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, of course, our deepest condolences go to the people of Nepal as they deal with the devastation of this earthquake, but Canadians stranded in Nepal need help too. They want to return to Canada. They are being told that the Canadian transport plane will take them back to New Delhi, and they will be left, at that point, to find flights home on their own.

Will the government provide Canadians evacuated to neighbouring countries with the further emergency consular assistance they need until they can return home?

National Day of Mourning April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today, in Hamilton and in communities across Canada, workers are marking the National Day of Mourning for workers injured and killed on the job, and those who have become ill because of their workplace.

The National Day of Mourning is not only a time of reflection and remembrance, it is also a day to rededicate ourselves to the goal of keeping workers safe at their jobs. Every day, four workers die on the job and each year another one million are injured. Such statistics are clearly unacceptable, but equally staggering is the fact that one in seven young workers is injured on the job. These are our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.

Canadian workers lose their lives because workplace safety is thrown out of the window in the interest of the bottom line. When workers are killed, it is far too often because they have been pressured into doing unsafe work.

I would close with one of the labour movement's most important mottos: an injury to one is an injury to all.

Genocide Recognition April 22nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I believe that if you seek it you will find unanimous consent for the following.

I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, in relation to Motion M-587 on genocide recognition, standing on the Order Paper in the name of the Member for Mississauga—Streetsville, the House may continue to sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on Friday, April 24, 2015, to consider the motion and that after 60 minutes of debate, or when no Member rises to speak, whichever is the earlier, the Speaker shall put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion.