Media Room
Warmly welcomed in Israel

In mid-January, I had the honour of helping represent our country as part of the Prime Minister’s delegation to Israel and Jordan.  

 I should note that during the trip, the Prime Minister also travelled to the West Bank to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority.

 While the national media have reported on some of what took place with the delegation, it’s a whole different experience to be there in person and participate in the meetings, tours and announcements.

 Everywhere we went, we as Canadians were warmly welcomed. When Prime Minister Harper spoke to the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset – a first for a Canadian Prime Minister – the sense of this being a moment in history was palpable. There were also moving visits to significant sites, including the Western Wall, where I met constituents from West Hamilton who happened to be visiting Israel that week. However, nothing was more poignant than the visit to Yad Vashem to pay respects to the victims of the Holocaust.

 The Prime Minister and our Canadian delegation also got down to business in meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where a Strategic Partnership Understanding was signed, Canada-Israeli cooperation on combating nuclear terrorism was announced and negotiations were launched to expand free trade between our two countries.

 As Chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group which works to build strong relations between the Canadian Parliament and the Israeli Knesset, I take a strong personal interest in the expansion of free trade with Israel and look forward to working with Members of the Knesset (MK) that I met on this trip towards this goal. In fact, I met my counterpart, the MK who chairs the Israel-Canada Interparliamentary Group and we will maintain dialogue on this and other topics of mutual economic interest to our two countries.

 As we moved to Jordan, the refugee crisis there was made very real. There are now 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan now. I personally witnessed the situation at the base near the Hadalat Crossing on the Jordanian-Syrian border. No words can adequately describe the human tragedy unfolding there. From an old man who had quite literally walked his shoes off to young children rushing over to get a gulp of fresh water. I will never forget those images as long as I live.

 I am confident the $100 million in Canadian aid announced there will be put to good use.

 
Join us Jan 5th for New Year’s Levee

 I hope that you and your family had a good Christmas and celebrated the joy, peace and love that Christmas time brings to our lives.

We don’t often get a chance to unplug from our smartphones and devices and truly enjoy the gift of time with family and good friends. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but I do hope you were able to enjoy some uninterrupted, and not overly-scheduled, time with your loved ones.

I was happy this season to see and hear more and more people of all faiths reverting back to saying “Merry Christmas.” Yes, other traditions are observed and respected. For example, a month ago, we all wished our Jewish friends “Happy Hanukkah”. I believe that in 2013-14 Canada, it does not matter what your faith or creed, each holiday should be recognized – whether politically correct to say so or not. To me, Christmas will always be Christmas and its spirit of love, joy and peace is espoused by many faiths.

Each year Almut and I volunteer at the Good Shepherd annual Christmas dinner in downtown Hamilton and we did so again in mid-December. The Good Shepherd Centre does an excellent job of helping thousands each year. While this is important at Christmas time, the need is year-round and local organizations also need your help throughout the winter months. Please give what you can. It was a blessing for Almut and I to see first-hand how much it is appreciated.

With 2014 upon us, please join us this Sunday, January 5th for our annual New Year’s Levée at the Copetown Community Centre (on Governors Road, just east of Hwy 52). Almut and I look forward to hosting you from 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm. All are welcome, light refreshments will be served, and a non-perishable food item for the food bank is encouraged.

As we close off 2013, I’d like to highlight two local federal announcements in December.

First, it was announced that the CanmetMATERIALS facility at the McMaster Innovation Park received the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification. This is the first federal laboratory in Canada to hold this distinction and I’m very proud that it’s right in our backyard!

Second, on December 18th I announced a federal investment of up to $22.91 million, through the P3 Canada Fund, to the City’s Biosolids Management project. This project is an innovative approach, developed by the City of Hamilton, to handle leftover waste from Hamilton’s wastewater treatment system. The new facility will treat the biosolids and transform them into a safer and more stable product that can be used to generate energy, or sold as fertilizer.

This is vital infrastructure for Greater Hamilton and I’m proud that the federal and municipal governments, as well as the private sector, can accomplish this by working together.

 
Balanced Federal Budget by 2015

In mid-November, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty updated Canadians on the state of our nation’s finances in the annual federal Economic Update. In this year’s statement, he confirmed that the federal government is firmly on track for a balanced budget in 2015. In fact, he projects an expected surplus of almost $4 billion in 2015-16. Simply put, Canada has the best long-term financial standing of all G-7 countries.

 Now I know budget projections don’t always make the most exciting news, but they are important and here’s why.

 We’ve all seen in the past few years how governments in Europe and major cities south of the border have tried to avoid making responsible decisions – and paid the price with a stagnant economy devoid of investment by job creators.

 That’s why the Government of Canada has been so relentlessly focused on getting back to balanced budgets. While special interest groups keep demanding more spending, we’re focused on controlling what government spends.

 During the worst of the global recession, infrastructure spending was an important temporary initiative that helped shelter Canada from the worst of the recession and emerge with the best job creation record in the G-7 – over one million net new jobs created.

 Since then, the focus has returned to achieving balanced budgets. This means working hard to make sure federal government spending is as efficient and effective as possible.

 I am happy to report our efforts are getting real results: government program spending has fallen by billions over the past three straight years, a first for any government in Canada’s history.

 And that’s good news for the long-term health of the Canadian economy.

 

* * *

 

Also last month, it was a pleasure for Almut and I to attend the annual fundraising dinner for Save The Mothers – an organization with strong local roots that does heroic work in Africa.

 The tragic reality is that every day 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Under the leadership of Dr. Jean Chamberlain-Froese – who is well-known to many in Ancaster and Dundas – the Save The Mothers organization offers a unique educational program in Uganda that is sparking change among influencers and decision-makers throughout East Africa.

 Dr. Chamberlain-Froese is an obstetrician-gynaecologist by training with years of experience at Hamilton hospitals. Spending a good part of the year in Uganda, Dr. Chamberlain-Froese and Save the Mothers are making great strides in maternal health in the developing world. Congratulations to all involved!

 
Honouring Our Korean War Veterans

The end of July saw an important milestone for the world and for Canada. It marked 60 years since war ravaged the Korean peninsula where Canada and other allies fought to uphold freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

Throughout the Korean War, brave young men and women made us proud to be Canadians. For many, their service continued during the Armistice between 1953 and 1957.

And so it is only appropriate that six decades later, the Government of Canada unveiled a monument in Korea to honour all those Canadians who served in the Korean War. It’s timely because 2013 has been declared the Year of the Korean War Veteran.

Locally, it was a privilege for me to speak to the Hamilton and Niagara chapters of the Korea Veterans Association, as well as the Friends of the HMCS Haida, at a moving Sunday afternoon ceremony at the Hamilton Harbour where the HMCS Haida is docked.

It was interesting to learn of the heroics of the navy personnel aboard the HMCS Haida during the Korean War. They were very successful in targeting key train yards from the shore – stalling Northern troop movements at critical turning points in the war.

By the end of the war, 12 Hamiltonians had given their lives defending freedom. They did so out of love for their country and to help Korean families – which were not so dissimilar to their own families.

On a weekend last month, thousands of Canadians and Korean-Canadians -- locally, across Canada, and broad – said thank you and honoured the veterans of what once was said to be the forgotten war, but is no more.

Recent storms are a reminder of the brute strength of mother nature. There have been downed trees, downed power lines and power outages throughout much of the area. On Southcote Road, not far from our house, power lines fell onto the road during one of the storms, prompting a quick police barricade until repair crews were out.

While I know there was extensive property damage and heart-break at the loss of many beautiful old trees, I trust everyone has stayed safe.

During times like these, the modern conveniences we take for granted may not be available. The gas pumps won’t work, the corner store is closed and the bank machine doesn’t work. Even though hydro crews work around the clock, power outages can last for hours or even days.

Think about how you and your family are prepared for weather-related emergencies. Do you know where your flashlights are? Do you have enough medication or water to last for a few days? Do you have a battery-powered radio? If it were winter, would you need blankets because the heating might be off?

The Government of Canada offers helpful tips and suggested emergency kits and plans though the website www.getprepared.gc.ca. Just as the Boy Scouts motto says, it’s always best to “be prepared”.

I encourage all local motorcycle riders to mark their calendar for Saturday, September 14th. For those that are enthusiasts, it’s the day after the traditional Port Dover Friday the 13th ride. Take advantage of the prime September riding weather to participate in the 3rd annual “Eagle Ride” which I will be hosting.

The Eagle Ride is in support of Liberty for Youth – a Hamilton-based organization that turns young lives around and helps at-risk youth.

The ride starts from the War Plane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope (beside the Hamilton airport) at 8:00 a.m. and concludes there with a barbecue, around 4:00 p.m.

Reserve your spot today at www.libertyforyouth.org. Further details are also available on this website. I hope to see you there!

 
C-479: Speech in the House of Commons

May 10, 2013 -- Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be standing here to speak to important amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that I proposed in Bill C-479, an act to bring fairness for the victims of violent offenders.

I would first like to thank the Minister of Public Safety and Senator Boisvenu for their public show of support this week for this legislation. I appreciate their commitment and I am encouraged by their ongoing leadership to help bring about the fairness we are seeking for victims.

Strengthening the voice of victims of violent crimes and the proposed increased time between parole hearings are two aspects of this bill that act on the changes that victims, their families and advocates like the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime have urged for many years. It is time to bring these to fruition.

Let us be clear. We are talking about instances of violent crime. I do not think words can ever adequately describe the repulsiveness of these crimes. They are heinous, are often calculated and always senseless.

It is an honour for me to be speaking to this bill today. I do so on behalf of my constituents and, tragically, thousands of Canadians like them, as well as the sacred memory of their loved ones. From the time I was elected in 2006, I have had many constituents share their concerns about the imbalance between the victims and the perpetrators in our justice system. However, my dedication to pursue this kind of legislation was galvanized when my constituents asked me to attend a Parole Board hearing with them in 2010. They wanted their federal representative to see first-hand what the process was like and the voice given to the victims, primarily through the victim impact statement.

When I agreed to attend, I knew it would be an emotional experience. I was hoping it would also be an educational experience. It was for sure. However, I do not think I could ever have begun to prepare myself for the raw emotion in that room that day. As long as I live, I will never forget it. Before even uttering a word, my constituent started to weep. The memories of a crime committed over 30 years previously came flooding back and the tears were endless. It was a grisly triple murder: her sister, niece and nephew had been brutally murdered by her sister's husband. After killing his wife, this violent criminal suffocated his two young children, a six-year old and a five-year old. The murderer meticulously concealed the bodies in the waterways of Hamilton, Ontario.

My constituent wrote her first victim impact statement on the eve of the funeral. Over the years, she and her family insisted on attending the Parole Board hearings to ensure the voice of victims was heard. They felt an incredible burden, a duty as a family. It was the least they could do to honour the victims: their sister, their daughter, their grandchildren, their niece, their nephew.

What struck me like a ton of bricks was the re-victimization of having to deliver the statement over and over, year after year. It was so cruel, so frustrating and so unnecessary. I watched the family endure the same process again in 2011. Again, the triple murderer was denied parole.

This experience inspired Bill C-479. I set about talking to victims, advocates, law enforcement officials, lawyers and others to ask what could be done.

Beyond the whole issue of re-victimization, I discovered that provisions in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that may have made sense in the 1970s no longer reflected modern technology and the respect and dignity our system ought to afford victims.

From the work my office and I have done in preparation for the introduction of this bill, and the experts we have consulted, this bill has a sound legal and constitutional foundation. I believe it will have broad support as well.

In tabling Bill C-479 in February, I proposed nine changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. They include: extend mandatory review periods for parole whereby if a violent offender is denied parole, the Parole Board of Canada would have to review the case within five years, rather than the current two years; increase the period to within five years in which the Parole Board of Canada must review parole following the cancellation or termination of parole; emphasize that the Parole Board of Canada must take into consideration the victims and the needs of the victim's family to attend hearings and witness the proceedings; and, require that the Parole Board of Canada consider any victim impact statement presented by victims.

One would think that this is already the case, that it is a bit of a no-brainer. However, the bill is necessary to enshrine in law the victim's voice.

Other straightforward changes proposed in Bill C-479 to protect and support victims include requiring the Parole Board of Canada to provide the victim, if requested, with information about the offender's release on parole, statutory release or temporary absence, and to provide victims with information about their offender's correctional plan, including progress toward meeting its objectives.

This is one of the things that Constable Michael Sweet's family, after 30 years of silence, requested.

I would like to remind members of Michael Sweet's story so that they can understand the family's depth of feeling with regard to these changes.

In the early morning hours of March 14, 1980, brothers Craig and Jamie Munro entered what was then George's Bourbon St. Bistro in downtown Toronto for the purpose of committing a robbery.

Both men were high on drugs and armed with guns. At the time, Craig Munro was on mandatory supervision from a penitentiary sentence for a previous gun-related offence.

The brothers gathered all of the people inside into one place. However, one of the victims managed to successfully flee. Once out on the street, he flagged down a passing police cruiser.

Constable Sweet—who, by the way, is no relation to me—who was 30 at the time, entered the restaurant and was immediately shot twice.

Then began a 90-minute standoff between the Munro brothers, with their hostages, and police.

The police later stormed the restaurant, and both brothers were shot and captured.

During the standoff, Sweet was conscious and slowly bleeding to death. He begged his captors to let him go to the hospital. He had three young daughters and he wanted to be with them at home. While Sweet pleaded for his life, they laughed and taunted him.

All three men were transported to the hospital after the police broke in. Craig and Jamie made full recoveries; Sweet died a few hours later.

I should note that many of the changes I am proposing in Bill C-479 have been enacted by our Commonwealth colleagues, such as Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.

I believe one of the fundamental responsibilities of the state is to keep our citizens safe. Violent offenders have committed unspeakable crimes. Families have suffered losses that are forever.

I hope these changes will help bring a measure of comfort to my constituents and thousands of other Canadian families who have been victimized in this way, people who have had their loved ones taken during the prime of their lives and who have lived with that pain day after day. The last thing they need is another gut-wrenching re-victimization through a parole system.

In closing, please allow me to read a few public comments from people impacted directly by violent crime.

Quoted in The Toronto Star is what a victim had to say about extending the review period:

 

Families have already been victimized once. They shouldn't have to be victimized every two   years. Having to face a loved one's killer and to read what he did to her and how her death has affected our lives is something nobody should ever have to do once, never mind twice. We are asking the federal government to increase the time to five years, for a parole review instead of two years.

She also said:

 

We're asking the federal government to increase the time to five years [for a parole review], instead of two years.

Writing about Clifford Olson, a journalist in the Vancouver Province noted a few years ago:

 

Olson, 70, who seems to take pleasure revictimizing the families of those he killed, is automatically eligible for parole every two years until the day he dies.

A victim in a Toronto murder case commented that as difficult as it was to write the victim impact statement, it was also frustrating that she was required to submit the statement 30 days in advance so that the convicted murderer could read it, because the victims are not allowed to see the murderer's material in advance to find out what he wants to say.

Finally, an editorial on March 2, 2012, in my own hometown newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator, stated:

 

But the PBC has a responsibility to victims of crime. For those victims, the parole board is virtually the only source of information about the status of the person who committed the crime against them. Some local victims of crime don't feel well-served by the board. That must change.

Bill C-479 would give the Parole Board of Canada the tools it needs to do just that.

I look forward to the discussion with all members of this House on Bill C-479, this act to bring fairness for victims of violent offenders.

 
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