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  • Open Caucus—Arctic Sovereignty

    Today, the Senate Liberal Caucus hosted an open caucus on this important issue of Arctic Sovereignty.

    I am glad this topic could have a great discussion. Read more here: Open Caucus

    If you missed my blog series last year about Arctic sovereignty, you can catch up here:

    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
    Part Four
    Part Five
    Part Six

    At the Open Caucus: Students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut with ITK President, Terry Audla, retired Senator Willie Adams and Nunavik Senator Charlie Watt

    At the Open Caucus: Students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut with ITK President, Terry Audla, retired Senator Willie Adams and Nunavik Senator Charlie Watt

    Read more
    Liberal Senate Forum
  • Pink Shirt Day

    February 25th was Pink Shirt Day.

    Pink Shirt Day brings awareness to the important fight against bullying in this country.

    The many pink shirts worn on this day remind all of us that we must remain intolerant to bullying.

    As parliamentarians, we have a duty to ensure that everyone can feel safe.

    But bullying is everywhere, it affects both young and old.

    This is a widespread problem in Canada, where many people are victims to it.

    In 2012, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights issued a report on cyberbullying, making several recommendations to the government on ways to tackle this problem.

    Unfortunately, to date, the government has largely ignored the recommendations.

    Last week during question period, I took advantage of Pink Shirt Day to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to update the Senate on the work done by the government to deal with this problem.

    His response was rather disappointing, apart from awareness campaigns and the exchange of money, little has been done to protect our peers.

    See: Question Period – February 25 2015 Prevention of Cyberbullying

    This is why Pink Shirt Day becomes important.

    This is a serious problem that should not be taken lightly.

    It is important to remind the government that many Canadians are suffering. Much more needs to be done to help and support those who are victims of bullying.

    I strongly encourage all of you to visit http://pinkshirtday.ca to learn more about this important cause.

    Read more
    Liberal Senate Forum
  • My Reflections on Bill C-36 – Part 4

    Over the past few blog posts (blog 1, blog 2, blog 3), I have outlined some of my opinions on bill C-36. In this final post on the matter (for now) I would like to look at the issue from a new angle: let us look forward.

    What does it mean for Canada now that bill C-36 has passed? What should we as a nation be looking for?

    It takes time for the true effects of a piece of legislation to show. But what we can do is observe, and report what we see, closely. When you experience something or see something that is happening related to bill C-36, talk about it. Communication is one of the best indicators we have for getting feedback on legislation – on both its weaknesses and strengths.

    What we learnt from the Bedford decision was that the safety of sex workers in Canada needed to be protected. Whether or not bill C-36 will be successful in this is debatable. You have heard the debates. You have read my thoughts. Now we must see whether the route our government has put forward will work. Please use the power of your own individual voice and share your feedback on this bill.

    We should also, at all levels, do what we can to provide the necessary support to those members of our society that will be helping secure the safety of sex workers. I urge the government to invest more into supporting initiatives that help sex workers that want to exit the industry do so safely and effectively. I also urge these groups to highlight the importance of the relationship between sex workers and law enforcement officials – this is arguably the most important relationship in determining the potential success of this bill. The trust between these two parties needs to be strong in order to make sure we do not have violent offenders abusing those individuals that choose to remain sex workers in Canada.

    As we move forward, I hope you will keep these things in mind. Please let me know how I can work with you via twitter at @SenJaffer, using the hashtag #C36. I want to make sure that the safety of sex workers is protected. As always, I look forward to your feedback.

    Read more
    Liberal Senate Forum
  • My Reflections on Bill C-36 – Part 3

    I decided to write a series of blog posts on Bill C-36 even though it has passed because I believe that the discourse around this piece of legislation needs to continue.

    Bill C-36 brought with it a heated debate, with strong opinions and strong emotions. Instead of abruptly ending that dialogue, I want us to continue to discuss what is right for us as a nation collectively. The chapter does not close with the passing of the bill – now is where the work begins. We need to make sure the legislation works as the Minister of Justice said it would, and that it protects those members of our society that need the support.

    Before going any further, I encourage you to read my previous blog posts (Part 1, Part 2) if you are unclear on the issues presented by bill C-36.

    In this post, I want to explain to you why I proposed amending bill C-36. Even though the amendment did not go through, I firmly believed that under no situation should a sex-worker be criminalized – I still believe this. By criminalizing the worker, they will be distanced from the very people that can help them if they find themselves in an abusive situation. If they fear being criminalized, they will be less likely to report violent clients to law enforcement officials, because they will fear facing a conviction of their own. By criminalizing the worker, sex work will be forced to go underground and function further away from the law.

    The bill in its current form leaves room for discretion of whether or not a sex worker can be criminalized in certain situations. One example is the ban on discussing the sale of sex at or near a playground, school or daycare. We have a duty to protect our schools, but also have a duty to protect these sex-workers. There is a possibility that the interpretation of this section of the bill can be used out of reasonable limits, and this concerns me.

    Ultimately, we want to see sex workers that are choosing to remain in the profession doing so safely, without having to compromise their rights protected by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    While the amendment did not go through, there is still hope. We need the continued support of our law enforcement officers and social workers to ensure that safety is given the utmost priority. We need to support these agents to help them do their job the best they possibly can. I will continue to listen to the concerns of citizens, whether they be sex workers, law enforcement officials, social workers, or anyone else, surrounding the effectiveness of this bill.

    I want this dialogue to continue in a respectful manner, and I hope you will share your thoughts on bill C-36 with me.

    Read more
    Liberal Senate Forum
  • My Reflections on Bill C-36: Part 2

    In my last blog post, I summarized what happened with Bill C-36. In this post, I would like to explain to you why I took the position I did on the bill.

    As critic in the Senate of bill C-36, I found aspects of the bill concerning. Now that it has passed, we must continue with our mission of ensuring the safety of all Canadians. The main way this will occur is by continuing the conversation around the issues facing sex workers in Canada. My priority in the Senate has always been to protect the safety of minorities.

    This is also the case for sex workers. Consensual sex workers that practice in Canada have rights as well, and those rights need to be protected. Admittedly, these workers are in the minority. But this is no different from any other minority rights that I have fought for – they need to be protected, and we must protect them. This is why I stressed the importance of understanding that since sex work will continue in Canada, we must do all we can to protect the safety of these individuals.

    Sex workers, social workers, police officers, and legislators, all need to do our part. We need to make sure these workers feel secure in reporting any abuses or violations in their work. With the passing of Bill C-36, we must continue to have the conversation around the impact of the legislation. We want to ensure that these workers are secure, and if not that they feel safe in reporting their concerns to law enforcement officers. We have an amazing team of law enforcement officials across our nation, and I urge all citizens to keep their trust in them if they face concerns about their safety. Let’s keep this conversation going. Let us continue to protect our citizens.

    Read more
    Liberal Senate Forum