Many citizens who took the time to contact me to convey support for my colleague Michael Chong and his Private Member`s Bill C-586 “The Reform Act of 2014” will be encouraged to hear the bill, with a strong show of support with 260 votes in favour and 17 opposed, passed third reading this week. This is important as the bill must now proceed through the Senate in time for royal assent before the current Parliament dissolves in favor of the fall election. On the same subject I can also confirm that I voted in support of the Reform Act and will continue to follow the progress of this bill as it moves through the Senate.
Also occurring this week is continued debate over Bill C-51 ``The Anti-Terrorism Act (2015) ``. Earlier this week both Government and Liberal MPs voted to support sending Bill C-51 to committee stage review while the NDP remains opposed. For further information about Bill C-51 please see my February 6th MP report or contact me directly at your convenience.
Another Government Bill returning to the House of Commons for report stage debate from committee review is Bill C-26 “Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act”. As I summarized in a previous report, Bill C-26 proposes a number of legislative changes in regard to those convicted of serious child offences. Some of these changes include a requirement that those convicted of child sexual offences against multiple children to serve sentences consecutively– one after another rather than at the same time concurrently; along with an increase for maximum and minimum prison sentences for certain child sexual offences. Penalties will also be increased for violations of supervision orders and any crime committed while on house arrest or parole will be considered an aggravating factor at sentencing. In addition, registered sex offenders will also be required to disclose more information when travelling abroad and more availability for spousal testimony in child pornography cases will be made available. Thus far the comments I have heard from citizens on Bill C-26 have been supportive of these changes.
Other Private Member’s Bills coming before the House of Commons this week include Bill C-643 ``National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day Act``, Bill C-638 ``An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act`` and Bill C-637 ``An Act to amend the Criminal Code`` (firearms storage and transportation).
Next week I will be back in Okanagan-Coquihalla from Monday until Friday and am available for meetings and welcome your calls and emails. Please contact me via email at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or by telephone at 1-800-665-8711.
Individuals and Political Parties
As I have commented in the past, many of the major issues on Parliament Hill are often very different from the concerns heard back at home. MPs who are suspended from their caucus, satellite office expenses and costs of inappropriate partisan mailings, and most recently an MP floor crossing are issues that receive a considerable amount of media attention in Ottawa but are less frequently raised by citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla.
All of these issues are quite rare but floor crossings are unique as they tend to involve an MLA or an MP leaving one party they were presumably elected as a member of to join another party they were not first elected as a member of. As some may know the NDP have a long standing position that any floor crossing should automatically trigger a by-election, a position that we were reminded of last week continues to be subject to this debate.
In this conversation it is important to recognize that citizens can be elected without a party affiliation, often we refer to these citizens, once elected, as Independents. Likewise there may also be an MP or MLA who was elected as a member of a political party that decides to leave that party or join another. These can be very difficult decisions for all involved however they are legitimately recognized positions in public office. In fact the House of Commons Procedure and Practice manual confirms that “members are not obliged to retain that party label during the whole of their mandate.” and further states “A Member who changes party allegiance is under no obligation to resign his or her seat and stand for re‑election”.
My thoughts on this? I disagree with the NDP position that a member crossing the floor should trigger a by-election. Ultimately a party cannot exist if it does not elect Members to a Parliament or Legislature in electoral ridings. For individually elected members to retain the right to leave a party, sit as an independent, or join another party are all means that a member can use to help ensure a party is held accountable. I mention this as also coming back before the House this week for debate is Conservative MP Michael Chong’s private member`s bill “The Reform Act of 2014”, that seeks to rebalance Parliament by increasing the powers available to party caucuses, individual MPs and electoral riding associations. This has been a widely debated bill but one that most citizens I have heard from are supportive on and one that I have also supported within the House of Commons.
Over the past months as the federal election approaches we have witnessed how some willing candidates have been summarily dismissed and blocked from running for a particular party. In some cases cause is given but in many cases no cause is provided and in extreme circumstances litigation has occurred. From my standpoint I have observed how some who are supportive of the democratic reform act have turned a blind eye to arbitrary candidate blocking. Ultimately this serves as a reminder to why the Democratic Reform Bill is one that should be taken seriously not just by elected officials, but also by those who are actively involved in various political parties and organizations that democracy should be an open process. Nomination battles, as they are sometimes called, can be challenging but they are an important part of our democratic process. For further comments and concerns I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
I am often surprised at the number of different events occurring each week that can pose a challenge to provide a summary given the limited space available in my weekly columns. One topic that I believe is of interest and concern to all Canadians is last week’s Supreme Court Ruling striking down Canada’s existing law against assisted suicide. This is without question a subject that many Canadians have very strong feelings about. It is not uncommon as a Member of Parliament to hear a diversity of views on subjects of this nature. One such citizen who took the time to contact me has presented some serious concerns that I believe we should all be mindful of.
The citizen in question suffers from a very severe physical disability and opposes the legalization of assisted suicide. The reason for this opposition is not based on faith, nor a previous encounter with suicide or hope that a miracle cure will be discovered. The concern from this particular disabled citizen is guilt. As a severely disabled individual, this person relies very heavily on family to serve as specialized care givers. As many will know, providing specialized and end of life care for a severally disabled loved one can be a challenging experience. In this case the constituent who contacted me shared a great love and appreciation for family members in making great sacrifices to help them live a better quality of life.
The concern of this severely disable constituent is that legalized suicide would create an easy option for this person to end their own life with the assistance of a willing doctor. This person expressed a strong will to live. They have no desire to die. Where assisted suicide is a concern to this person is over a profound level of guilt. This guilt comes from the significant ongoing efforts of family members in providing specialized care. As legalized suicide could end the need for that care by not pursuing suicide, this individual would feel intense guilt that they are imposing on loved one’s when another option is available. Suffice to say this was a difficult and emotional conversation and I apologize in advance that I am not relaying this concern in the manner it truly deserves.
I raise this point today as it illustrates a situation of a severely disabled person who does not wish to die but has admitted the guilt of not pursuing suicide to relieve family members from serving as care givers potentially would result in a reluctant suicide. This is not a situation I believe any Canadian would welcome and is one we should be mindful of in this discussion. I can also appreciate that there are other situations and different perspectives in this conversation that are deserving of consideration. As I believe all citizens share concerns on this subject I welcome your views, opinions and experiences. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.
Taking a look at Bill C-51
On Friday of last week, the Federal Government introduced Bill C-51– “The Anti-Terrorism Act”. This is a bill that proposes a number of changes to enhance the abilities of our security agencies to better protect Canadians against terrorists and acts of terrorism. There are eight key measures proposed in this bill.
The first measure is to increase the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to include the ability to disrupt potential threats to Canadians when there are believed to be reasonable grounds to do so. In the event that disrupting a potential terrorist act may be in contravention to the Charter or of other Canadian laws, a court order issued by a Judge would be required to authorize such actions. CSIS will also have the ability to issue a temporary threat disruption order that is intended to be limited to a maximum of 120 days. The intent of this provision is to prevent individuals from engaging in acts of terrorism, sabotage, or other serious criminal acts.
Another provision proposed in this anti-terrorism Bill is the criminalization against those who knowingly promote or otherwise encourage terrorist attacks against Canadians. Under Canada’s current laws a specific terrorism offence must be referenced in order to be a criminal act; under the new definition, any instructions to carry out terrorist attacks against Canadians can be a criminal offence subject to a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.
Another such proposal as is the ability to seize terrorist propaganda. This is a change that would be made to the Criminal Code (and be subject to an order by a Judge) that would allow materials to be seized if they promote or encourage attacks against Canadians or otherwise recruit those who would do Canadians harm. These changes would work in a similar manner as current provisions that enable child pornography to be seized.
Changes to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are also proposed as part of these eight key measures. It proposed that the Government can use and protect classified information to determine if non-Canadians can enter Canada or in other cases remain in Canada. Other proposed changes include modifications to Canada’s Passenger Protect Program (PPP). This is an air travel program that was created in 2007 and the proposed changes seek the removal of potential threats from commercial flights in a more expedited manner.
Aside from the measures already mentioned, the final key points cover a range of other initiatives such as increased information sharing between Canada’s national security agencies while adhering to the Privacy Act.
Other measures this bill introduces enhancements to witness protection and strengthened enforcement prevention provisions. The enhanced prevention provisions include the ability to detain suspected terrorists before they can harm Canadians. Although the threshold to make an arrest is lowered in these changes, they remain subject to judicial oversight by necessitating an authorization by a Judge for detention. Lastly Bill C-51 proposes enhancements to witness protection. Currently the witness protection program is structured to protect those who provide evidence in criminal matters. The changes proposed in the anti-terror bill similarly ensure that witnesses in matters involving national security are also protected.
This is a brief summary of the measurers proposed in Bill C-51 “The Anti-terrorism bill”. The Federal Liberals have indicated support for this Bill while the NDP position is still unclear (from my perspective). Although there were other items I had intended to include in this week’s report, as this is a very important bill it has been the focus for my report this week. We’ve learned this week of arrests being made in Ottawa relating to terrorism by the RCMP and also of the disturbing execution of a pilot who savagely burned alive by the terror group ISIL, it is important that our Canadian laws allow our enforcement agencies to keep pace protecting Canadians and our way of life. If you have further comments, questions or concerns on this or any Bill before the House of Commons do not hesitate to contact my office. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
Central Okanagan – Similkameen – Nicola