Monthly Column - Lynne's Legacy / Resource Development in Canada
Spring is in the air and with it comes a number of charity runs, walks and rides.
While all these events support worthy charities and causes, I'd like to draw your attention to one that I'm personally involved in on Victoria Day.
On Monday, May 21st, Lynne's Legacy Run/Walk will celebrate an incredibly courageous local individual, Lynne McTaggart, who exudes an inspiring, caring attitude in the face of terminal cancer. Lynne’s story has touched my heart and I'm honoured to be walking beside Lynne that day.
I urge you to join people of all ages in a five kilometre run or walk that day, or pledge your support online.
Please visit www.lynneslegacyrun.ca to register or pledge.
Lynne has been diagnosed with biliary cancer. While these types of cancers are rare, they are, so unfortunately, very difficult to treat. This run is Lynne’s legacy – extending her positive impact on our communities beyond her time on this earth. Funds raised will support Reach Forth Sports -- an organization that Lynne has been involved with for several years, as well as the Juravinski Cancer Centre.
Reach Forth has been active in the greater Hamilton and Burlington area since 1978 as a non-denominational organization that reaches youth and adults through the medium of sports.
The walk and run start from Churchill Park in Westdale (at King & Bond Streets) at 10 a.m. on May 21st. Same day registration begins at 8 a.m. at the Park. There is also a Kids Run. I hope to see you there rain or shine.
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A few weeks ago, as a follow-up to the Federal Budget, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced changes to the regulatory and review process for resource development in Canada. It's not the type of thing that may garner a lot of headlines but it's of critical importance to the Canadian economy and our long-term prosperity. This affects billions of dollars of investment in our economy and thousands of jobs.
That’s because the current system is an archaic maze of rules and reviews that have been introduced piecemeal throughout the years.
We’ve proposed to streamline and to reduce red tape and duplication in the review processes of major and minor projects in the energy, mining and forestry sectors. In Ontario alone, the department estimates this will positively impact 79 projects worth $108 billion.
May 23, 2012 - The following is a speech that I recently made in the House of Commons during a Take-Note Debate on the Human Rights situation in Iran:
To view the complete video, please click here.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and privilege to stand here and talk about human rights in Iran. Although I welcome any time and any opportunity to warn the world about Iran's president, the ruling mullahs, the revolutionary guard, the viscous Basij and other operatives of this regime, I choose to focus the majority of my time on the people they are presently persecuting and imprisoning, namely, the seven Baha'i leaders who have been imprisoned since 2008.
One of the witnesses before our subcommittee, Professor Payam Akhavan, said he thought it important that we not reduce the issue to abstractions and statistics in order to understand the horrible brutality with which the Iranian government has confronted what is essentially a peaceful non-violent movement to call for basic human rights and democracy. He was speaking about the green movement, but I do not think his comments were any less poignant in regard to the Baha'i community.
Therefore, I want to introduce the seven leaders who have been incarcerated in Iran since 2008. The first is Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, arrested May 14, 2008, in her home in Tehran. This developmental psychologist and mother of three was denied the chance to study at a public university as a youth because of her Baha'i beliefs. Because of her volunteer work for the Baha'i community, she was arrested twice in recent years and held for periods of one and two months before her arrest and imprisonment in May 2008.
Mrs. Kamalabadi was born in Tehran on September 12, 1962. An excellent student, she graduated from high school with honours, but was nevertheless barred from attending university. Instead, in her mid-30s she embarked on an eight-year period of informal study and ultimately received an advanced degree in developmental psychology from the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education, an alternative institution established by the Baha'I community of Iran to provide higher education for its young people.
Mrs. Kamalabadi is married, with three children. Varqa, now about 28, received a doctorate in political science and international relations in the United Kingdom and is currently continuing his research in China. Alhan, now 27, is studying psychology and Taraneh, 14 at the time of her mother's arrest, was a junior high school student in Tehran.
Mrs. Kamalabadi's experience with persecution extends beyond her immediate situation. Her father was fired from his job as a physician in the government health service in the 1980s because he was a Baha'i, and he was later imprisoned and tortured.
The next is Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, arrested May 14, 2008, at his home in Tehran. He was once a successful factory owner but lost his business after the 1979 Islamic revolution because of his belief in the Baha'i faith and then spent most of the 1980s on the run under the threat of death from the Iranian authorities.
Born July 27, 1933, in the city of Sangsar, Mr. Khanjani grew up on a dairy farm. In his professional career he has worked as an employee of the Pepsi-Cola company in Iran, where he was a purchasing supervisor. He later started a charcoal production business. Later he established a brick-making factory, which was the first automated such factory in Iran, ultimately employing several hundred people. In the early 1980s he was forced to shut that factory and abandon it, putting most of his employees out of work, because of the persecution he faced as a Baha'i. The factory was later confiscated by the government.
In his career of voluntary service to his religious community, Mr. Khanjani was, in the early 1980s, a member of the so-called “third” National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Iran, a group that in 1984 saw four of its members executed by the government.
Mrs. Khanjani became ill sometime after her husband's latest imprisonment and passed away. Iranian authorities denied him the right to visit his wife's bedside or her graveside. Mr. and Mrs. Khanjani have four children and six grandchildren.
The next is Mr. Afif Naeimi, arrested May 14, 2008, at his home in Tehran. He is an industrialist who was unable to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor because, as a Baha'i, he was denied access to a university education. Instead, he diverted his attention to business, one of the few avenues of work open to Baha'is, taking over his father-in-law's blanket and textile factory.
Mr. Naeimi's father died when he was three and he was raised in part by his uncles. While still in elementary school, he was sent to live with his relatives in Jordan, and although he started with no knowledge of Arabic, he soon rose to the top of his class.
He has long been active in the volunteer Baha'i service. He has taught Baha'i children's classes, conducted classes for adults, taught at the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education and been a member of the auxiliary board, an appointed position that serves principally to inspire, encourage and promote learning among Baha'is.
He is married and has two sons, Fareed, now 31, who is married and a graduate of ABSI, and Sina, now 26, who has studied music.
The next is Mr. Saeid Rezaie, arrested May 14, 2008, at his home in Tehran. He is an agricultural engineer who ran a successful farming equipment business. Born in Abadan on September 27, 1957, Mr. Rezaie spent his childhood in Shiraz, where he completed high school with distinction. He then obtained a degree in agricultural engineering from Pahlavi University in Shiraz, attending with the help of a scholarship funded from outside the country. He is married with two daughters and a son. Martha, now 28, has studied library science. Ma'man, now 25, studied architecture. Payvand, 12 at the time of his father's arrest, was in his second year of middle school. Mr. Rezaie has actively served the Baha'i community since he was a young man. He taught Baha'i children's classes for many years and served at the Baha'i Education and Baha'i Life Institutes. He is a scholar and an author, and he has served as an academic adviser to Baha'i students. In 1985 he opened an agricultural equipment company with a Baha'i friend in Fars province. That company prospered and won wide respect among farmers in the region. He has experienced various forms of persecution for his Baha'i beliefs, including an arrest and detention in 2006 that led to 40 days in solitary confinement. His two daughters were among 54 Baha'i youth who were arrested in Shiraz in May 2006 while engaged in a humanitarian project aimed at helping underprivileged young people.
Mrs. Mahvash Sabet was arrested in Mashad on March 5, 2008. She is a teacher and school principal who was dismissed from public education for being a Baha'i. For 15 years up until her arrest she was director of the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education. Born on February 4, 1953, in Ardestan, Mrs. Sabet moved to Tehran when she was in the fifth grade. In university she studied psychology, obtaining a bachelor's degree. In her professional role, she also collaborated with the National Literacy Committee of Iran. After the Islamic revolution, however, like thousands of other Iranian Baha'i educators, she was fired from her job and blocked from working in public education. It was after this that she became director of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education, where she also has taught psychology and management. She is married and has a son, Foroud, now 37, and a daughter, Negar, now 28.
Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, arrested May 14, 2008, at his home in Tehran, is a former social worker who lost his government job in the early 1980s because of his Baha'i beliefs. Prior to his current imprisonment, he has also experienced intermittent detainment and harassment. Mr. Tavakkoli studied psychology in university and then completed two years of service in the army, where he was a lieutenant. He later took additional training and then specialized in the care of the physically and mentally handicapped, working in a government position until his firing in 1981. Mr. Tavakkoli is married with two sons, Naeim and Nabil. Naeim, now 35, is living in Canada with his wife, who is taking graduate studies. Nabil, now 28, is currently studying architecture at the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education. Mr. Tavakkoli was elected to the local Baha'i governing council in Mashhad while a student at the university there, and he later served on another local Baha'i council in Sari before such institutions were banned in the early 1980s. To support himself and his family after he was fired from his government position, Mr. Tavakkoli established a small millwork carpentry shop in the city of Gonbad. There he also established a series of classes in Baha'i studies for adults and young people.
Mr. Vahid Tizfahm was arrested May 14, 2008, at his home in Tehran. He is an optometrist and was owner of an optical shop in Tabriz, where he lived until early 2008 when he moved to Tehran. He was born May 16, 1973, in the city of Urumiyyih. He spent his childhood and youth there and, after receiving his high school diploma in mathematics, he went to Tabriz at the age of 18 to study to become an optician. He later also studied sociology at the Advanced Baha'i Studies Institute. He is married and has a son, Samim, who was nine years old at the time of his father's arrest and in the fourth grade.
Since his youth, Mr. Tizfahm has served the Baha'i community in a variety of capacities. At one time he was a member of the Baha'i National Youth Committee and later he was appointed to the auxiliary board and advisory group that serves to uplift and inspire Baha'i communities at the regional level. He has also taught local Baha'i children's classes. These seven Baha'i leaders continue to be imprisoned in Iran.
Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention
May 23, 2012 - The following is a speech that I recently made in the House of Commons in support of Bill C-300, an Act to Establish a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention:
To view the complete video, please click here.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join the discussion or, as my hon. friend from Kitchener—Conestoga has appropriately called it, this parliamentary show of unity on Bill C-300, the federal framework for suicide prevention act.
Having just celebrated Mother's Day, a day when we all recognize the unfailing love, support and guidance of mothers, and thinking about this discussion today, I cannot help but imagine the sheer anguish that a mother who lost her daughter or son to suicide this past year must feel on Mother's Day. It is utterly heart-wrenching to think about it.
Over 4,000 families, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, had their lives irreversibly impacted by suicide in this past year. We do not even have a good handle on a true number, something that the bill would fix.
I had the privilege of rising in the House 19 days ago, on April 25, to make a member's statement in support of the bill. In the 19 days since then, there have likely been 190 deaths by suicide, 19,000 suicide attempts and 4,180 visits to the emergency rooms of hospitals across the country due to suicide behaviours. I say likely, because we do not have accurate suicide statistics in our country. Once again, this is very important, and Bill C-300 would correct that.
However, the real tragedy is the story behind each one of these numbers. It is a tragedy because each one of those who attempted suicide had lost hope, or, as the member for Kitchener—Conestoga has already said, the fuel of the human spirit. In doing so, their tragedy was, and is compounded, on their families, friends and the communities of our nation.
We know suicide is a very complex confluence of a number of factors. We know some groups and circumstances are more vulnerable to the threat of suicide than the general population. Veterans and aboriginal Canadians have been noted already this morning. However, we struggle to develop a suitable evidence-based response. There is no doubt this a public health issue in Canada. We have a duty in defence of the sanctity of life to act.
According to the testimony that Dr. David Goldbloom, of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, presented to the health committee, over 90% of the Canadians who died from suicide were experiencing some sort of mental health issue. By the very nature of the complexity of the problem of suicide, approaching suicide prevention is complex in and of itself.
Teachers in a position to recognize suicidal behaviours are rarely trained to do so. It is even uncommon for medical doctors and nurses to receive specific training in this area. That is where the bill would help. Many suicide prevention groups in Canada do outstanding work. They are on the front lines. They are there when people need them. They help refuel that hope, and even if it is for a short period of time, it gives them another chance.
That is why setting up a federal framework to better coordinate these efforts makes so much sense. Great work is being done by so many groups from coast to coast. I mentioned one such group 19 days ago in this chamber, called the “Jack Project”. This initiative was spawned by the tragic death by suicide of young Jack Windeler. The project's school-based outreach program is now being piloted for a full rollout next year, and I know all of my colleagues would wish them all a great success.
Let us leverage and share information and resources, share successes and ensure we can share accurate statistics as well. That is national leadership and it is a message of hope to vulnerable Canadians.
Let me reflect on two of the statements made to the health committee on this bill, which will sum it well.
One was Dr. David Goldbloom, who I referenced a couple of minutes ago, who spoke on behalf of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. He said:
The federal framework that's under consideration today will definitely advance the strategy's recommendations to mobilize leadership, to strengthen collaboration, and to strengthen the infrastructure that's required to improve mental health outcomes in Canada with a particular focus on suicide prevention.
This view from a medical professional speaks volumes, and so does the other statement I want to highlight, a view from the very front lines of suicide prevention.
Tana Nash, from the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, which is located in a community just a few minutes up the highway from my constituency, remarked on how the federal framework could be the catalyst for a hub of resources and evidence-based information and programs which would be a godsend for organizations that were cash-strapped yet were doing so much in local communities.
I can tell you from a grassroots organization that this is essential. We are all operating on shoestring and non-existent budgets, but we imagine a hub where all of us working across Canada can access tools, brochures, and ideas, and where we can simply add our own local crisis information, instead of reinventing the wheel.
What is most encouraging was the example she gave of how a groundbreaking program, run by her organization, was unknown in my community of Hamilton, an excellent program that takes place at the grassroots level to help prevent suicides in the most practical and direct way possible, and how the federal framework proposed by this bill could help make that connection and save lives.
These are the words of Tana Nash of the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council:
One example from the Waterloo region is the Skills for Safer Living group. This is a 20-week psychosocial, psycho-educational support group, but it's specifically for folks who have had suicide attempts and are still wrestling with wanting to die. This group was developed at St. Michael's Hospital with much evidence behind it that proves its success. It teaches things like emotional and coping skills, and how to gauge your own behaviour on a sliding scale, so that you know when you're escalating and how to reach out for help.
We are fortunate that this now runs in the Waterloo region, but when I talked to the Suicide Prevention Community Council of Hamilton last week, they hadn't heard about this great program. They are hungry to have such practical training in their region as well. It's another proven practice that can be rolled out across Canada
There are a number of experts who contributed to this discussion of Bill C-300 and the federal framework for suicide prevention at the committee level. We thank them for their time and expertise. We especially thank them for all the work they do on a daily basis in communities across Canada to help prevent suicides, and the anguish and heartbreak that suicide creates.
I believe Bill C-300 serves as a useful instrument to promote dialogue, education and awareness among federal partners. I believe the development of a federal framework on suicide prevention will also carve the way for a greater federal integration of initiatives, programs and services and will assist in greater collaboration among partners, as my colleague for Kitchener—Conestoga mentioned earlier, not only federal partners but provincial, territorial and municipal partners and all of the great NGOs that do such great work.
It has been a privilege to speak to the bill. I thank the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga and all members from both sides who have advanced this discussion so fewer parents next year may suffer a Mother's Day under such excruciating circumstance of loss.
October 2011 -- Giving Thanks by Giving Back
It’s Fair season and harvest is about to get started in the fields around us. We have much to be grateful for as Thanksgiving approaches. In particular we owe thanks to our farmers for the long hours they put in at this time of year to assure our food supply.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the most severe drought in decades is threatening the lives of more than 10 million people in the Horn of Africa, including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. That’s why I encourage everyone in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale to give thanks by giving back to our fellow humankind. Donations to those organizations that are on the ground, working in the Horn of Africa, will make the greatest difference and are still needed. World Vision (http://www.worldvision.ca/), the Canadian Red Cross (www.redcross.ca/africa) and UNICEF Canada (www.unicef.ca/Africa-Charity) are three such organizations.
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In Canada, we are also thankful for our seniors. They have contributed generously, building our families, our communities, our workplace and our country. Our seniors are vibrant and influential mentors and leaders.
To recognize our seniors, the Government of Canada has instituted National Seniors Day on October 1st each year – and this year was the first. Plus, the Dundas Division of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce held the 5th Annual Dundas Seniors Day back on September 17th.
I encourage you to continue to honour the seniors in our life year-round by saying a simple “thank you” from time to time. It will mean a lot..
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The first annual Eagle Ride in support of Liberty For Youth’s prevention and intervention programs was a great success. Thanks to all the motorcycle riders who joined me and honourary co-chair Terry Anderson on a picturesque ride around the area. Liberty for Youth thanks the generous sponsors of the ride: the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Peak Powersports, State Farm Insurance, Denninger’s, Mackesy Smye, and the Dutch Mill.
Over $9,000 was raised for the amazing work that Hamilton’s Liberty For Youth is doing to turn young lives around from the negative influences of drugs and crime.
Highlights of the day were the skills demonstration by John Mason, former commander of the Golden Helmets (OPP precision riding team) and the barbecue prepared by Gary Hendin of BBQ Catering Hamilton. Thank you to both John and Gary.
Let’s make next year’s ride even bigger and better.
Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! Please stop by my booth at Rockton Fair to say hello.