Elsewhere

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Charlesbourg (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 38.28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain November 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mark the departure of a number of our colleagues who will not be running in the next election campaign.

The Bloc Québécois wishes to thank the 20 or so MPs who will not be running again for the contribution they have made to democracy.

I would like to pay particular tribute to the dean of the Bloc Québécois contingent, our colleague for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, who is leaving us.

A long-time sovereignist and committed activist, who sat in the National Assembly under the leadership of René Lévesque, he has instilled all of his wisdom, determination and courage into our caucus.

We are proud to have had the opportunity to work with him and I can assure him that we will continue his fight to ensure that justice is done with regard to low-income seniors and the GIS.

Thank you for your work, your devotion to Quebec, and your friendship.

So long, Marcel.

Marie-Christine Côté November 16th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to welcome to Parliament Hill Marie-Christine Côté the MP for a day from the riding of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, who will be with us today and tomorrow to learn more about the workings of Parliament.

Winner of the seventh “MP for a Day” contest in the riding of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Marie-Christine beat out nearly 1,200 other secondary IV students in an test of general political knowledge.

During her stay in Ottawa, she will have a chance to see what MPs do and to experience firsthand the hustle and bustle of Parliament Hill. She and her father, Michel Côté, just had a private meeting with the leader of the Bloc Québécois a few minutes ago. After question period they will meet all the members of our caucus.

Mr. Speaker, you will also have the pleasure of meeting this dynamic young woman later today.

The Bloc Québécois wishes Marie-Christine and her father a pleasant stay.

Criminal Code November 15th, 2005

Madam Speaker, Bill C-329 was introduced in first reading by the Conservative member for Wild Rose on February 1, 2005 and put on the priority list on June 20, 2005. This will be its fourth appearance in the House of Commons since 2001.

Bill C-329 amends the Criminal Code in order to give peace officers the power to arrest without a warrant a person who is in breach of a probation order, or a condition of parole or unescorted temporary absence.

I should point out to begin with that arrest without warrant by a peace officer is already in the Criminal Code, so this is nothing new.

At the present time, the Code allows a peace officer to arrest without warrant a person who has committed an indictable offence or is about to commit an indictable offence. He must have reasonable grounds to believe the person has committed or is about to commit an indictable offence. A peace officer can also arrest without warrant a person who is in the process of committing a crime or one in respect of whom he has reasonable grounds to believe that a warrant of arrest or committal is in force. This is all set out in subsection 495(1) of the Criminal Code.

Bill C-329 proposes to broaden the list of situations in which an arrest may be made without warrant. The first condition added is if a person is in breach of a probation order; second, if a person wilfully fails or refuses to comply with a condition of parole; third, if the person wilfully fails or refuses to comply with a condition of unescorted temporary absence

Bill C-329 therefore allows a peace officer to arrest without warrant a person who is in breach of a probation order, or who, on reasonable grounds, he believes has committed or is about to commit the offence. A peace officer may also arrest without warrant a person who wilfully fails or refuses to comply with a condition of parole or of an unescorted temporary absence or who, on reasonable grounds, he believes has breached or is about to breach such a condition;

The Bloc Québécois continues to believe in and support the principle of rehabilitation. Probation orders, unescorted absences and parole orders are effective means of rehabilitation that have proven their value.

The Bloc recognizes that rehabilitation measures have sometimes failed and allowed offenders to commit new crimes. We still believe that society has no choice but to promote measures to return people who have broken the law to society. There is always an element of risk associated with rehabilitation. The aim must be to lower the risk at all times, knowing full well that it will never reach zero.

The justice system will never be perfect. Judicial errors occur, for example, such as the one involving David Milgaard, who was sentenced at 17 to life in prison for a murder he did not commit.

The system's failings must not lead us to throw the baby out with the bath water. We have to resist the temptation to reject the system's basic principles, such as rehabilitation. Instead, we must increase guarantees of security, surveillance methods and instruments of action in order to strike a balance among public security, the need to promote rehabilitation and the importance of maintaining public trust in the judicial system.

To ensure this balance, offenders authorized to move about in the community must meet all the conditions set for them either by a judge or by a parole commissioner. The system's credibility and the public's trust depend on the ability of the police to have the conditions met. So peace officers must have the means necessary to intervene quickly when parole conditions have been violated.

Bill C-329 will give peace officers the power to prevent offenders from violating their conditions of parole, probation or absence and to return them quickly before a judge when they have violated one of the conditions of release.

It is therefore in this perspective that the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-329. It represents, in our opinion, an important surveillance and intervention instrument that will better protect the public, give a measure of credibility back to the judicial and correctional system and still permit recourse to the rehabilitation measures the Bloc believes in.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act October 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on Bill C-248, introduced by our colleague from Prince George—Peace River.

It will come as no surprise to hear me begin my remarks by saying that the Bloc Québécois opposes drug use. In our opinion, all drug use, particularly that by children, is bad. We also believe that an anti-drug strategy cannot consist solely of amendments to the Criminal Code and tougher penalties. A completely different aspect, meaning prevention, education and awareness, is also extremely important.

This morning in committee, my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh used, in a completely different context, the example of drinking and driving. We can use this same example here. The substantial decrease in drinking and driving—unfortunately, it has not been stamped out entirely—is largely due to our public awareness and education campaigns. We must do the same thing with regard to drug use, and target, in particular, young people in Quebec and Canada.

There is no need for me to go back over the points raised by my colleague from Prince George—Peace River. However, it bears repeating that he would like to see a minimum prison sentence of one year for a first offence and two years for a subsequent offence in cases where a person is convicted of trafficking in a controlled or restricted drug or a narcotic within 500 metres of an elementary school or a high school.

As a father of two wonderful seven-year-old boys, I strongly support any initiative to keep drugs away from schools and places that my children may frequent either now or when they are older.

However, we do have some concerns with the bill as introduced by our colleague from Prince George—Peace River. It is not clear that the individual trafficking in narcotics, be it near a school, church, office, police station or fire station, thereby intends to set up shop there. It is possible for someone to sell drugs in a prohibited area without knowing that there is a school nearby.

I have a dandy anecdote to tell here. In 1992 an individual involved in boxing was getting ready to commit armed robbery at a doughnut shop where several police officers were taking a break, which proves that stupidity is universal.

The bill introduced by the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River does not clearly establish mens rea , or the intention to commit the crime, in other words, to sell the narcotics within some defined perimeter of a school. In the absence of mens rea , how can anyone be convicted of a criminal offence?

I hope the hon. member is listening to the elements I am raising and that he will take them into account during Bill C-248's legislative progress.

Since we are opposed to substance abuse by children and the sale of narcotics to children, and because the bill is only at second reading stage, I would say to the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River and to all the hon. members in this House that at this stage we have many reservations not only about the absence of mens rea , but also about the imposition of minimum sentences. As I have already said many times, we have nothing against the introduction of minimum sentences in bills before the House.

I introduced some into Bill C-2 on the protection of vulnerable persons. However, in this case, I am not sure this is the appropriate solution. As far as I am concerned, the absence of mens rea also prompts several reservations.

I would suggest to my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois that they nevertheless support Bill C-248 at this stage. We will refer it to committee and hear from various experts and witnesses on the aspects I have just raised and on other issues as well. I am sure my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh will also have something to add.

Let us send the bill to committee and see what can be done to fight drug trafficking—especially when it comes to children. And let us make sure that thanks to the work that will be done in committee—if the bill gets that far, as I hope it will—these problems will be resolved and the bill will be improved. I promise the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River that the Bloc will work with him to improve this bill so that it can be passed.

We will support this bill at second reading stage in order to send it to committee so that we may work on it. Depending on the changes made in committee, I will indicate at third reading whether or not we will continue to support it. I reserve the opinion of the Bloc Québécois for third reading. Nonetheless, let us send it to committee and do a good job on it.

Petitions October 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my second petition also comes from my riding. It asks the Government of Canada, and particularly Canada Post, not to proceed with the closure of the sorting station in Quebec City, because it is an essential station and its closure will lead to the loss of well paying jobs in the Quebec City area.

This shows once again the lack of interest of this government for the national capital region of Quebec. This petition is thus used as a pressure tactic against the closure of this sorting station.

Petitions October 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table two petitions today. The first one is an initiative from workers in the shoe industry, in my riding. They strongly ask the government to create a POWA to help their fellow citizens who work in soft sectors of the economy and who too often pay the price for globalization and lose their job at an age where they are too old to get new training and find a job. This first petition, which is signed by about 1,000 people, follows the initiative of workers in the shoe sector in my riding, whom I want to congratulate.

Jewish New Year and Ramadan October 3rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, this evening and tomorrow, the children of Israel and the children of Ishmael will be beginning an important time in their respective religious lives.

This evening, Jews throughout the world will start to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the first day of the year according to the Hebrew lunar calendar. The Jewish new year is a prelude to an intense period of reflection and introspection which culminates with Yom Kippur.

Then, tomorrow, hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world will begin the holy period of Ramadan, a time devoted to meditation, fasting and spiritual devotion.

These important times are an opportunity for families to come together, to renew contact with distant friends, and in particular to celebrate the strong ties that unite their communities.

The Bloc Québécois wishes the Jewish community a sincere Shana Tova and the Muslim community a good Ramadan.

Criminal Code September 28th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain for his question. I also want to thank him for his work as a member of Parliament. He is one of the most diligent members in the House of Commons, and he makes a rather exceptional contribution to the questions and comments period. He always presents an opinion that benefits not only the various speakers in the House, but all MPs, because he has broad political experience. He sat as an MNA in Quebec City. So, I thank him for his public service, for the work that he does and for the time that he dedicates to his fellow citizens, particularly considering that, at his venerable age, he could easily be doing something else. But he has decided to continue to serve his fellow citizens in the public domain, and to serve a cause that is so dear to him, namely the independence of a country about which he feels very strongly, Quebec.

I will conclude by simply telling my colleague that, under the bill, the state can confiscate the assets belonging to criminals. I will provide a more detailed reply in a few moments.

Criminal Code September 28th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I thank my friend from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his question.

This is, in fact, the kind of situation that we want to avoid. We want to ensure that people who have benefited for years from the proceeds and fruits of criminal activity, such as organized crime, are prevented from continuing to benefit from their property after they are been found guilty and done time in prison. What we want is to prevent them upon release from returning to an outrageous lifestyle in the eyes of the average citizen, who works hard every day to put bread and butter on the family table.

People convicted of serious crimes, like those described in Bill C-53, should not be able to benefit from the proceeds of criminal activity, which, whatever kind of crime it is, victimizes people in our society.

That is precisely why the Bloc Québécois has insisted for years on having such a bill passed. That is why Bill C-242 was introduced by your humble servant a few months ago. That is also why a motion was introduced by the Bloc Québécois on an opposition day asking for a bill like the one we are discussing today. That is also the reason why we support Bill C-53. We hope that it will be passed as soon as possible.

Criminal Code September 28th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague across the floor for applauding my speech in advance. He does not know exactly what will be in it, but he is already applauding. Now that is a good sign.

It is obviously a very great honour and a very great pleasure for me to lead off the debate, on behalf of my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois, on referring Bill C-53 to committee before second reading. This bill will make it possible to reverse the onus of proof in proceeds of crime applications.

People will understand that I feel very proud to address the House at this time because the debate that we are launching is based on a struggle that the Bloc Québécois has waged for many years.

In order to fight crime better in general, and especially organized crime, the Bloc has long sought changes in the Criminal Code to provide a reverse onus of proof in proceeds of crime applications. This would force offenders, once convicted of a serious offence, to demonstrate on a balance of probabilities that their property was not acquired through criminal activity.

Organized crime is one of the most serious social issues that we face—all the more so in view of the fact that Quebec has been the scene for ten years of a bloody war among the various criminal motorcycle gangs. This is a war, we should remember, that has cost more than 160 lives, including entirely innocent victims who had the misfortune to find themselves in the way of these bikers.

In the name of public safety, but also and especially to support the police forces in their attempts to counter organized crime, we have campaigned fiercely for substantial changes to the current legal system in order to put more tools at the disposal of crown attorneys and police forces.

By amending the Criminal Code in accordance with the letter and spirit of Bill C-53, we will be taking a huge step forward, and I know already that our efforts will be welcomed by both the police forces and all crown attorneys.

The Bloc Québécois has been pressing the federal government for years to introduce effective legislation for fighting criminal gangs. During the 2000 election campaign, the Bloc carried on this battle, demanding that Ottawa amend the Criminal Code to give police and crown attorneys more effective weapons for fighting and eliminating organized crime.

I would like to take this opportunity to salute the hon. member for Hochelaga, who has been working on this issue for years, that is, since the death of young Daniel Desrochers, 10 years ago. My colleague is a leader in the fight against organized crime.

On October 27, 2004, with the support of the Conservative member for Provencher and the NDP member for Windsor—Tecumseh, I tabled Bill C-242. This bill served as a working paper for the legislation introduced by the Minister of Justice. I want to salute the courage of the minister, and particularly the determination that he has shown in finally convincing cabinet of the merits of the Bloc Québécois' proposal and of the need to follow up on it. It is unfortunate that, for too long, the Liberal government dragged its feet in the fight against organized crime.

It took the Bloc's determination and the government's minority status in the House to force a debate and the tabling of this legislation. Indeed, it was in March 2005 that opposition parties got together to have a motion, of which I was the sponsor, adopted by the House, challenging the government to propose, by May 31, 2005, legislative provisions that would reflect my Bill C-242. Bill C-53 was introduced in the House on May 30, at the very last minute.

Once it is passed, this legislation will greatly streamline the rules of evidence regarding the seizure of goods belonging to a person found guilty of certain offences. More specifically, the bill will amend the Criminal Code so that the goods—identified by the Crown—of a person found guilty of an offence involving a criminal organization, or found guilty of trafficking, importing, exporting or producing drugs, can be confiscated by the court, unless the offender can show, on a balance of probabilities, that his assets are in no way related to his criminal activities, and that they are not proceeds of crime.

In order for the reverse onus to apply, the Crown would first be required to prove, on a balance of probabilities, either that the offender engaged in a criminal organization offence or two serious offences for the purpose of receiving material benefit, or that the legitimate income of the offender cannot reasonably account for all of the offender’s property. I would point out in passing that a serious offence means a criminal act punishable by a maximum prison sentence of five years or more.

At present, in order to obtain an order of forfeiture, the Crown must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the property is the proceeds of crime and that the property is connected to the crime for which the person was convicted. The Crown therefore must do two things: first, convict the accused and second, prove the illegal and illegitimate origin of the property in order to seize it.

The Charter rightly imposes respect of the right of accused persons to be presumed innocent. It is therefore fundamental that the Crown begin by establishing proof beyond any reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused, before the reversal of the burden of proof intervenes in the equation. The Crown must prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the accused is guilty of a criminal offence and designate the property it wishes to seize because it is the proceeds of a crime. The accused must again prove, this time—I repeat—by the balance of probabilities, the legitimate origin of the property the Crown wants to confiscate from him.

The Bloc has been saying for years that this reversal of the burden of proof is necessary to battle organized crime and money laundering effectively. Organized crime represents an ongoing threat to society and so it is essential to have effective measures in place to facilitate the battle against this scourge.

Given the many negative effects of organized crime, in both in its social and economic aspects, there is ample justification for strengthening the legislation to fight crime.

Economically, organized crime generates huge revenues, which are often reinvested in the legitimate world, but without making a positive contribution to it. The resulting tax evasion deprives governments of considerable revenues, and gangsters refine their techniques every day to avoid having their assets reviewed by the courts.

Very simply, it is becoming particularly frustrating for ordinary taxpayers to see notorious criminals display ostentatiously and condescendingly the proceeds of their illegal activities. How many times have we heard comments from citizens disgusted with the administration of justice when they see individuals with a plainly criminal past being convicted of a crime and then resuming their jet-set lifestyles as if nothing had happened, because they know full well that these people have not earned an honest dollar in their lives?

As lawmakers, we have to act to restore the public's confidence in its justice system. It has become imperative that criminal organizations be sent a clear signal that the days are over when they could shamelessly make a fast buck without facing punishment. From now on, criminals will have to face the consequences of their actions and, in that sense, they will no longer be able to benefit from their criminal and illegal activities.

Let us not be fooled. There is nothing wrong with calling for the seizure of goods constituting the proceeds of crime. It is common sense. Period.

By amending the Criminal Code to reverse the burden of proof as regards the acquisition of luxury items by an individual found guilty of gangsterism, we are giving police and the Crown another means to eradicate this problem. An individual found guilty and sentenced accordingly will still, at the end of the sentence, have to demonstrate that their assets were acquired using legitimate means.

It will become particularly difficult for a criminal to show that his luxury home, his chalet in the north, his condo in Florida, his shiny motorcycle, his sports cars, and his entire lifestyle correspond to declared income more often than not so low it hovers around the poverty line.

Such a legal initiative could also complicate the widespread practice by criminals of using front men. We know that individuals register their assets in the name of their spouse, parents or friends in order to avoid having major financial assets in their own name that could be confiscated by the government. The bill must take into account this particular reality whereby these front men are very often forced to obey the criminals.

I believe this is one of the concerns raised by our NDP colleagues. I can assure them that I will do everything in my power to reassure them in this regard. The analysis that lead to the introduction of Bill C-53 was largely inspired by a number of international legal precedents. The OECD's financial action task force on money laundering, the FATF, had proposed, in one of its 40 recommendations to fight money laundering, adopting measures allowing for the confiscation of assets.

I apologize for speaking so quickly, but I had a lot to say on this subject. I want to close by saying that I am extremely pleased that we are finally addressing this issue. I invite and urge my colleagues on all sides to rapidly conclude this stage and send Bill C-53 to committee, where, I am convinced, it will be adopted without further delay. Then, it will come back to the House and ultimately be passed in order to provide police forces and crown prosecutors with the tools they need and have been demanding for many years.