House of Commons Hansard #90 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.

Topics

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, as I did yesterday and as I will continue to do, I am seeking leave to move concurrence in the 35th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi is also proposing to move a motion. Perhaps he could enlighten the Chair as to which one he is proposing.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2005 / 10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Civil Protection, presented on Friday, December 10, 2004, be concurred in.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on Motion No. 6 under Motions on today's order paper. The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Bourassa.

On September 23, the RCMP announced the closure of detachments in Coaticook, Granby, Saint-Hyacinthe, Lac-Mégantic, the Magdalen Islands, Baie-Comeau, Roberval, Rivière-du-Loup and Joliette. The detachments affected are located in remote areas.

The top brass at the RCMP maintains that this is a logical decision and the result of a change in vision and direction by the federal police force. The mayors of the municipalities in question, however, fear that the regions will be unprotected and that organized crime will have free rein.

The Association des membres de la Police Montée du Québec Inc. called for a federal inquiry into this matter, after this plan was announced last September. Like the mayors of the affected municipalities, RCMP officers feared an increase in the activities of organized crime, while the top brass talked about the federal police adopting a new vision and direction. They are not alone in condemning this situation; the Association des policiers provinciaux du Québec, the Fédération des policiers et policières municipaux du Québec and the Fraternité des policiers en Montérégie have too.

In early October, federal Liberal caucus members from Quebec also decided to ask the RCMP to reconsider.

This is important to me because it is a matter of public safety. I have met the coalition of mayors and, together, we decided on a strategy. Following this meeting, I wrote to my colleague, the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and member for Simcoe North. I asked for the mayors to have the opportunity to be heard in committee. I am pleased to note that the committee agreed.

On December 7, 2004, the coalition of mayors appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. They had the opportunity to share their opinion and ask that the decision to close the RCMP detachments be reviewed. At committee meetings and, then in the House, I spoke out against this situation.

At that time, they presented a very well documented report. They clearly demonstrated the threat posed by removing the RCMP from our regions, a concern that is shared by the Quebec Liberal caucus, as well as many of our colleagues in this House, and certainly some colleagues in the Bloc Québécois as well. The decision to close the RCMP regional detachments in Quebec needs to be reconsidered. We cannot allow our regions to be vulnerable to crime. Let me quote an except from the mayors' report:

Criminals and organized crime have no regional, municipal or other boundaries and they do not need consultation studies or to testify before committees in order to act. They are wherever we are, seeking the weak link. Let us not allow them to take over our territory, because you can be sure they will take it, if they have not already done so.

On that famous December 7, when the mayors made their appearance, they were backed up by municipal councillors and reeves, as well as former MPs who had been actively involved in this issue. I would like to again congratulate and thank Diane St-Jacques, David Price, and Gérard Binet.

I also salute the mayors' coalition and their spokesperson, Guy Racine, for their excellent work.

When the mayors appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Civil Preparedness, they presented a very good report. They were well prepared and presented some solid arguments. The committee decided to follow their lead and recommend that the detachments be kept open.

The Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Civil Preparedness therefore recommends the following to the government: “ that the RCMP maintain the nine detachments in Quebec that were discussed during our hearings and that it agree to maintain or restore the critical mass of officers per detachment.”

Despite all these supporting arguments, Commissioner Zaccardelli turned a deaf ear. He even went so far as to tell the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Civil Preparedness that a police officer used to be able to process roughly 15 cases a year. Then he added that now they have changed their methods and it takes 15 police officers—according to the Commissioner— to handle one case. I have a great deal of trouble following this about-face.

I would like to make another point. The police must be present locally and seen there. They must be there and be visible there. I think it is important. If the police are never seen on the highway, some might be tempted to speed. So it is important to see the police.

They should be seen at the local level. Their presence has a dissuasive effect. I have been a member of this House for ten years, now. We have always been told at meetings how important the presence of police officers is for dissuasive purposes. I am not talking about community police. I refer to federal police, a drug, customs, national security and public protection network.

In my riding of Brome—Missisquoi alone, it is very clear that marijuana is being planted increasingly in the fields. What sort of message is being sent with RCMP officers being withdrawn from our regions.

In addition, my riding has 10 official border crossings, not to mention the unguarded roads where there is no customs officer. I worked as a customs officer while I was a student. When a person fails to stop at a crossing, who is to be called, now? The Sûreté du Québec officers are busy in their own jurisdiction with roads and crimes involving people or goods. Can the RCMP be present when a customs officer calls?

What do our American neighbours think of all this? They have beefed up security on their side with border patrols. I think the number of police present at border crossings and in the regions should be returned to what it was. The RCMP must be present locally to discourage crime and to keep an eye on dubious transactions, such as when homes are sold for cash at three times their price. Officers have to be part of the community. They have to be involved and act as the ear of justice.

As I said at the outset, I am sharing my time with the member for Bourassa. I give the floor over to him.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's speech, but I want to ensure, as I will be doing every day that this charade continues, that the viewing public at home understands what is going on here. It is pretty simple. My concurrence motion, which is attached to a report--

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

It is irrelevant.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Oh, really? The member says it is not relevant. It is very relevant to what is going on in this chamber. It is very relevant, because what is happening here is a refusal by the government to allow the democratic process to take place.

My motion would allow the opposition to have a designated opposition day, something the government took away from us. It unilaterally took that away from us a few weeks ago. The government has not re-designated any opposition days, and what is going on with these concurrence motions is not allowing that to happen. Why is the government shutting down Parliament?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking here about the RCMP. My hon. colleague need only look at the newspapers. This is a motion that I introduced on December 10, 2004. If he wants to take part in a democratic debate, this is the right place.

This is a debate that the House has every right to hold. It has a right to pronounce on this motion introduced by the member for Brome—Missisquoi. If the hon. member really wants to participate in a democratic debate, I would ask him to continue under our democratic rules and in the framework of the debate currently before this House about the reopening—I am not sure that he knows anything about it—of nine regional RCMP detachments in Quebec. So first of all, does my hon. colleague know anything about this?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in what my colleague had to say. I know that on this issue, from the beginning, we have been up against the position of not only the commissioner but also the minister. The mayors and the committee have made a series of representations. We met with the minister. The most disappointing moment in this operation, in my view, was when the minister wrote a letter indicating her full support for the commissioner.

It strikes me today as important, therefore, for this motion to be debated and voted upon in the House of Commons. In this way, the government can be sent a very clear message. I hope that a majority in this House will tell the government that these detachments absolutely must be reopened.

During the work done by the border caucus, we realized, first, that there is a major problem with the open area that is left to organized crime and, second, officers are being withdrawn from the borders. The question I have for my colleague is about these two things. Should the minister not have faced the fact that not only do the current areas have to be covered but additional money must be obtained for the coalition to deal, for instance, with organized crime, rather than just robbing Peter to pay Paul. A way has to be found to provide all the services.

Does the hon. member agree with me that it is important that a majority in this House vote in favour of the motion? By doing so, we might prompt the government to change its attitude and show some respect for the will of the House of Commons in this regard.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very important, indeed.

First I want to thank my hon. colleague from the Bloc for his comments. He is absolutely right, the regions are important. Senior RCMP officers absolutely must understand the dynamic in the regions.

We run into the following type of question of interpretation. The Commissioner of the RCMP appeared before the committee and said that the deployment of police forces is his sole responsibility. It is his decision and no one else's. Not everyone agrees with him.

As elected officials in a region, we would not ask the commissioner to get involved in one particular case or another or to investigate a certain location. However, when it comes to the deployment of police forces, we, as elected officials, our committee, our House of Commons, have a say.

I want to come back to one of the points raised by my colleague, the issue of financial resources. The Commissioner of the RCMP assured us that it was not even a question of money, but a question of how things are done, according to his philosophy. He said he had enough money in his budget and that it was more a philosophical issue.

With his philosophy of assigning 15 police officers to the same case, in the same location, when in the past one officer handled 15 cases, I wonder where things are headed. We are heading toward an absence of police officers in the regions and it is the people living in the regions who will be penalized.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to address this important issue for several reasons. First, I think we should congratulate and thank the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi, who worked tirelessly on this issue. Of course, this is not a partisan issue. I was pleased to see the Bloc Québécois use an opposition day to debate it.

Policing and civil protection are not partisan issues. The role of this Parliament is to ask real questions from time to time and not to engage in petty politics or procedural wrangling, as the Conservative member likes to do.

I also want to speak as a former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Following the events of September 11, I wanted to implement an approach that would strike a balance between openness and vigilance. Of course, Canada is a very open country. It is a land that welcomes immigrants. However, we must also have the tools to protect our fellow citizens. This protection is provided through constant presence and work, particularly at ports of entry.

I must admit that when I look at the list of affected municipalities, namely Baie-Comeau, Coaticook, Granby, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Joliette, Lac-Mégantic, Rivière-du-Loup, Roberval and Saint-Hyacinthe, I really wonder.

I am the member for Bourassa. I have been living in Montréal-Nord for 33 years, but I am also a native of the region of Joliette. Joliette had an RCMP detachment from 1949 on, and it did an exceptional job, particularly in the fight against organized crime and biker gangs. It definitely played a critical role in the protection of our fellow citizens.

I have a great deal of respect for the RCMP. In my role as special advisor for Haiti, I was able to see that the RCMP did a tremendous job at the international level, as it does, in some respects, at the regional and provincial levels. However, I fundamentally disagree with the minister, who thinks that we should adhere strictly to what the commissioner wants, and who says that if this is what the commissioner wants, then it must be good.

Commissioner Zaccardelli is a person who has accomplished a great deal for the RCMP, and an extremely competent one as well. But, philosophically, I do not agree with him on this issue. I think that, when it comes to crime solving, visibility and presence are essential. One needs only look at how huge Canada is. Naturally, as Mayor Guy Racine said, as we reduce our presence, organized crime will look for the weak link. In that sense, it is important and essential to be able to play our part in the field.

Many organizations and individuals are not pleased with this decision. We are talking about not only members of Parliament, and there are many of both sides of this House, but also, as my hon. colleague from Brome—Missisquoi indicated earlier, former colleagues of ours, like Diane Jacques, David Price and Gérard Binet, who have worked relentlessly on this issue. We are also talking about the mayors of the nine cities concerned, the prefects of the RCMs—because the RCMs of Brome—Missisquoi and Maskoutains are also affected—the Association des policiers provinciaux, the Fédération des policiers et policières municipaux du Québec, the Fraternité des policiers de la Montérégie as well as the Association de la Gendarmerie Royale du Canada au Québec. I think that we have to ask ourselves questions. It is not just a labour-management conflict. We are talking about people, the men and women who have worked in the field and who have to face what is going on on a daily basis. In our quest to protect our fellow citizens, it is essential that we consider this.

I agree with my hon. colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup. This House does have a duty to take a stand and it has to send a message to our government. We may not always agree philosophically but everyone in this place, including the government, of which I was part at one time, is working for the well-being of our fellow citizens.

There are important moments in politics when Parliament, this seat of democracy, must take a stand.

We must stand firm to launch this debate on the entire concept of vigilance.

After the events of September 11, billions and billions of dollars were invested in protecting entry points, for example. A great deal of effort was put into legislative reorganization in order to ensure they were well protected. The strength and ability of this country and this government lie in always striking a balance.

There must be justice, and justice must be seen to be done. I sincerely believe that we need to reconsider this aspect. There are, of course, several different schools of thought on this. Some would like to see all our resources concentrated in Drummondville, working on certain other aspects, but ready to be present in case of need. The reality is quite different, however. Suppose someone grows marijuana in this or that region, out on some rural route in St. Something or Other, or some very isolated spot. Simply because it takes so long to get to the spot, it becomes impossible to collect evidence.

In my opinion, the role of the RCMP needs to be redefined. I would go still further and say that it is time the international aspect is also addressed. A great deal of resources have been invested in protection, billions of dollars. The RCMP needs to play a specific role internationally, but not at the expense of certain regions. The RCMP does its job in the field; we have no problem with that. Not only are they competent and upstanding, but they are also characterized by a professional conscience that does them credit.

Second, resources need to be redefined, and the tools created for such things as an international branch of the RCMP.

If one of these restructuring operations is not carried out at the expense of the other, we will never again be able to use the same excuse, or adopt the same philosophy, of the necessity to reorganize for improved performance, particularly where computer crime is concerned. There is one reality that remains, however: if there is one weak link in the chain, the first thing organized crime will do is to infiltrate it and take advantage of it.

I am aware of the extremely hard work put into this by my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. He has, moreover, been subject to threats as a result. This is indeed an important element.

Today what we do not need is any flag waving, any procedural games, any party politics. We all need to join together in order to tell our government that it needs to reconsider this. That is why I move:

That this question be now put.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion is that this question be now put. Resuming debate.

The hon. member for Shefford.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, both sides of the House agree that these RCMP detachments should remain open. The minister is the only one who needs convincing. Until she is convinced, nothing more can be done. The commissioner is not the one making the decision, it is the minister. According to various sections of the legislation, she is the only person with that authority.

We can talk about it all day, but if the minister cannot be convinced, then nothing will change. If anyone should lobby someone, it is the Liberals who need to lobby the minister.

I support my colleague's proposal. I attended the same four meetings of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness that he did.

I want to ask him the following question: does the minister agree with the committee?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I note the member's enthusiasm but we have been working on this file for quite some time. It is not new to us. That is why I moved we vote on this immediately. We did, and I assure the House that various decisions were not made simply because the Liberals on this side of the House worked toward that end.

I agree with the member for Shefford. Parliament needs to send a message. I believe in the minister's sincerity, integrity and good faith. I may disagree—and this is inherent to politics—with some aspects of her positions. The fact that Parliament may make such a decision will send a clear message.

I agree with him that this need not take all day. That is why I moved the previous question, so that we could vote on it and send this message as unanimously as possible.