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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was seniors.

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

Committees of the House February 19th, 2015

Someone just said “Read the page in front of you”. The page in front of me is the report. I can read that quite capably. I thank him very much.

This is not a joking matter. We are talking about the lives of men, women, and children that are destroyed by the aggression and actions that somehow have been connected to combat, when they have nothing to do with combat. They have to do with the victimization of women by the power men have. These particular men, of course, are armed with weapons and are able to intimidate and are able to put people into circumstances that they would never in their lifetimes have anticipated.

In the fold of all of this there are rights we take for granted. There is the right to gain a living. Rape victims, in many of these countries, following the attack, do not have the physical or mental capacity to continue with work, which then affects their standard of living and their children.

One of the ramifications of the Rwanda genocide is that those children of rape failed to get an education. One would not normally consider that an offshoot of rape would be that the child would not even be able to get an education.

That is not directly contained in this particular report. However, the reports we are looking at now talk about the fact that perhaps Canada has a role in countries where there has been rape as a result of war, where there has been a child born who we could help with the understanding and the mental support that both victims need, and also with some form of aid for education. Perhaps we could put in place support mechanisms for those children who have come to Canada.

Committees of the House February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, presented on Monday, May 5, 2014, be concurred in.

I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber, and I look forward to his comments. He has a wise view of the world. I have been on the subcommittee on human rights with him for a number of years now.

The reason this particular report will resonate in this place is because of the things that are happening in the Middle East right now, particularly with respect to Boko Haram, which, as members will know, has kidnapped a number of young women. In some instances, they have been sold off as brides, and in other instances, they have been abused. I will not go into the details.

The report I am referring to came out of the subcommittee on international human rights back in May 2014. The title was “A Weapon of War: Rape and Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo”. It speaks about Canada's role in taking action to end impunity. This report went on to the foreign affairs committee, of which we are a sub-body, and it was passed in its committee's fourth report.

It is crucial to understand that war as it was known for many generations has changed. An aspect of war that might have been at one time viewed, particularly by us in the west, as being horrendous is now almost an acceptable practice. As the title of this report says, rape is being used as a weapon. It is being used to humiliate and to embarrass.

I want to read a bit of the executive summary of the report:

In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis at the national and international levels around the need to prevent and address widespread sexual violence in situations of conflict and crisis.

The report talks specifically about the war in Congo. Members have to understand that when there is a breakdown of government that comes about when there is a major catastrophe, such as an earthquake, and an example that comes to mind is Haiti, and there is a period of time when people are homeless and living in refugee-style camps and in environments that are far below the standard of living they are used to, changes for people at times like that lead to sexual violence and violence against women.

It has been noted that in the western world, one in four males abuses a spouse. The added pressure of a crisis is in no way a justification. It is simply a statement of the facts.

The subcommittee held a number of hearings on this issue, and over the course of those hearings, we were told of many of the misconceptions about conflict-related violence. We were also told that there are gaps in the policy response that contribute to the pervasive nature of this particular problem.

At the beginning of the report, we refer to impunity. Should one of the troops in a normal army commit an assault or a rape, or even sexual harassment, the expectation is that the person would be called before a commanding officer to account for such abusive behaviour. However, in some militaries in some countries in the world, it is seen as a reward for service. It is also seen when there are tribal-type conflicts where the family of one's opposition is shamed by the rape of a daughter or wife, a niece or a mother. We do not even begin to understand that process. That is why this debate is important.

If we stop to consider the Rwanda genocide, some 20 years ago, with one group of people versus another, the slaughter was unbelievable. Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general at the time, was in command, and he wrote a book, Shake Hands With the Devil, which outlined the things that happened in that war.

Today there are tens of thousands of children who are 20 years old who are the result of the rapes during that time. We have had testimony before our committee about what has happened to them in their lifetimes and how the mothers, who were shamed by multiple rapes and attacks, had children with no idea who the fathers were. The tendency of the government of the day in Rwanda, and the tendency of the victims, was to hide this and not discuss it. Of course, that makes the problem for the direct victim, the mother, that much worse.

We all understand that for post-traumatic stress healing, victims have to verbalize what has happened to them. They have to lay out before someone the pain they are suffering. However, oftentimes, little account is given to the other victim, the child. Oftentimes they are in mixed tribes with the two tribes involved in that conflict, and neither side wishes to even deal with that young person.

We have had a number of these child victims grow up and immigrate to Canada. In Hamilton we were marking the anniversary of the genocide not that long ago, and one of those children was there. It was a very poignant moment to listen to that person give testimony as to what happened to them, to their mothers, and to their families. Families were destroyed. The way one individual described it was that his mother was numb. He grew up with no sense of comfort or feeling from his mother because of that attack that had been so vicious.

It is important for us to understand that although that particular conflict was 20 years ago, today, in this world, this is happening on a much larger scale.

In addressing the issue of impunity for those people who think they can undertake such terrible actions, members may note that I am hesitating a bit, because I am having difficulty finding the words.

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, with due respect to the government side on this issue and the debate we are having, I thought the debate was on closure, not on the bill.

When we have repeated closures in this place on a variety of issues, we do not get the opportunity to offer due diligence. This has happened 87 times in this place. This bill is probably the most significant bill I have seen in the nine years I have been in this place. When we give consideration to the implications, King Charles I of England lost his head for things very similar to this. When that sovereign tried to enter Parliament, ultimately that was the end.

The reality is that we are looking at a position where the source of control of our Parliament, which is supposed to rest with the Speaker, is going to a national police force that is accountable to the government. Therefore, from the standpoint of not debating it, it is the simple fact that we have not had the opportunity to give it proper study. If there is ever a bill that comes before this place that needs proper study, proper airing, anything that could be potentially contrary to our Constitution, the government says that it is not. I am saying that we have not had the opportunity to prove or disprove that.

The government is going way too far on an issue that is of great importance to the House and to Canadians.

Foreign Affairs February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, Canadians were pleased to see that Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was released on bail after more than 400 days in an Egyptian prison, but this is not the end of Mr. Fahmy's ordeal. Instead of coming home, he now faces a new trial.

Australia's prime minister personally, and repeatedly, spoke to the Egyptian president to secure the release of his citizen, Peter Greste.

Why has this Prime Minister not done the same thing for Mr. Fahmy?

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have not finished, so the member does not know whether I am relevant or not.

The reality of the situation we find ourselves in is that there is agreement here. There is agreement with the report of the Auditor General, which said that there had to be changes made in our security. We agree we need unification in the control of our forces.

We act as part of NATO, where we go in with forces from other countries and we work well together. That does not mean we have to change the line of accountability from the Speaker's office.

This is unconstitutional. Members should spend some time thinking about that part. We are in agreement with most of the changes the Conservatives are talking about, but we are not in agreement with taking the line of responsibility away from the Speaker.

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friends across the way who are taking the time to listen to this debate. There is not a full House on a Friday, and it is a difficult time for a debate—

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying that I am absolutely confident in the capacity of the RCMP but that I also have confidence in the parliamentary police force. I state this for a particular reason. Each of us who comes here swears an oath to the Queen and, in essence, to the Governor General at the same time. Our responsibility is to protect this place and the authorities of this place. That separation from the executive branch of government is what we maintain.

A government member stated a few moments ago that this has been neglected for a long time. I have been here nine years, as has this government, and it is the government that has neglected it. We do agree that there has to be an integrated service. We do agree with much that is here, but we have to keep it in the hands of the Speaker.

That is a responsibility of each and every one of us. I want to remind hon. members that this is not a political question or party question. It is about the legitimacy of this very House.

World Cancer Day February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, “Not Beyond Us” is the theme of this year's World Cancer Day. This is a message the global community needs to hear.

Currently, 7.6 million people die from cancer worldwide every year. Currently, the Canadian Cancer Society has stated that over 76,000 Canadians died from cancer in the year 2014.

Clearly, there must be a global commitment to drive advancements in policy and implementation of comprehensive national cancer control plans. To succeed in this endeavour, we must share a collective responsibility to support low and middle-income countries.

Ensuring the availability of, and access to, early detection programs for cancer will significantly reduce the cancer burden in all countries. We must stand, nation alongside nation, to ensure that one day, the World Cancer Day theme changes from “Not Beyond Us” to “Now Behind Us”.

Foreign Affairs February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as of today, Mohamed Fahmy, the award-winning Canadian journalist, has spent 402 days detained by Egyptian authorities. He was imprisoned because he was doing his job as a journalist.

His friend and Australian colleague, Peter Greste, was released over the weekend. Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs please inform the House as to the status of the release of Mr. Fahmy?

Foreign Affairs January 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today on Parliament Hill Canadians are calling for action to free Raif Badawi . Sentenced in Saudi Arabia to a thousand lashes, he has received 50 lashes and faces hundreds more. Canadians fear for his very life.

How many lashes will it take before the government uses direct action? Canadians expect their government to take clear, strong stands against human rights violations. What kind of real pressure will the minister put on the Government of Saudi Arabia to pardon this free speech activist?