Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2000, with 57.86% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Excise Tax Act May 12th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member, who is understandably concerned about this rather disturbing situation, that the government made a commitment to get to the bottom of this issue by launching a public inquiry.
Unlike a trial, the inquiry process is not adversarial in nature. Commissioner O'Connor is responsible first and foremost for establishing the facts. The commissioner will be assisted by lawyers whose role will consist in examining the evidence in an impartial and independent fashion, to help him determine what happened.
Successive Canadian governments have consistently maintained that they have an obligation to protect certain fundamental principles including the right to privacy, the confidentiality of officials' advice to ministers, cabinet confidences and sensitive national security, law enforcement and international relations information.
The government has a responsibility to balance the importance of public disclosure against national security concerns.
I want to reassure the hon. member by telling her that the minister will always ensure that this balance is maintained.
Excise Tax Act May 12th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in response to the request put to the House by my colleague, the member for Ottawa West—Nepean, in regard to allowing Mr. Arar's counsel to participate in the in camera hearings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar. We recognize the particular interest and the work that the member, our colleague, brings to this file.
As hon. members know, this commission of inquiry was called on the recommendation of the hon. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to investigate into and report on the actions of Canadian officials in the Maher Arar affair.
The government has appointed a well respected judge in the person of Mr. Justice O'Connor to conduct an impartial review of all the evidence relating to the way Mr. Arar was treated by Canadian officials.
The role of the factual inquiry is not to investigate the actions of Mr. Arar. It is meant to investigate and report on the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Mr. Arar during his detention in the United States, his deportation to Syria via Jordan, his imprisonment and treatment in Syria, his return to Canada, and any other circumstances directly related to Mr. Arar that the commissioner deems relevant to fulfill his mandate.
In this process, Justice O'Connor is seconded by his own counsel, Paul Cavalluzzo, who will have access to all the information and all the witnesses who will be heard during the inquiry, including those testifying in camera.
The commission's counsel will be in charge of calling witnesses and thoroughly testing their evidence. The interim rules of procedure and practice provide the following:
Commission counsel will thoroughly test the evidence heard in camera by examination in chief or by cross-examination where deemed appropriate.
We also recognize the provisions of rule 46, whereby, prior to going in camera, all parties shall raise with commission counsel specific areas for questioning, which would include representations by Mr. Arar's counsel.
It is also important to note that in accordance with rule 41 of the commission's draft rules of procedure and practice, the commissioner will appoint an independent legal counsel to act as an amicus curiae to appear in the in camera hearings to make submissions with respect to the request for in camera hearings. This counsel shall be independent of government and shall be a person with a background in security and intelligence. His or her mandate shall be to test in camera hearing requests on the grounds of national security confidentiality.
Some parts of the commission's hearings will likely be held in camera—the decision will be made by the judge—because of the nature of the information that the commissioner will review during his inquiry. In camera hearings are necessary to prevent the disclosure of information which, if it became public, could, according to the commissioner, be prejudicial to international relations, defence or national security, as mentioned in paragraph (k) of the mandate of the public inquiry commission.
In summary, the government has called this inquiry to provide assurances to Canadians that an independent and respected jurist has examined all of the relevant evidence about the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Mr. Arar's arrest, detention, treatment in Syria, and return to Canada, through both public and in camera proceedings.
Criminal Code May 12th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to recommend that Bill C-35 be referred to a committee, as suggested by my colleagues. I think that all the parties in the House support the national DNA data bank and want to make it a tool that is as effective as possible to implement the act.
As hon. members know, DNA evidence has had what some are calling a revolutionary impact on the legal system. Canada can be proud of its DNA data bank. Indeed, our country is a world leader in this area and it has developed methods to protect privacy which, apparently, are being copied all over the world. However, while the DNA data bank is a success, it must be recognized that some difficulties have been encountered when using it, and the implementation of the act has also run into problems in court.
As hon. members know, the legislation that initially established the DNA data bank provided for a parliamentary review within five years of the coming into effect of this measure, that is by June 30, 2005. This is why I think the government acted responsibly by introducing Bill C-35 at this point in time. Indeed, we do not know when the review will actually begin and, more importantly, when it will be completed.
The problems that we are trying to solve with this legislation were raised by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, by the provincial governments, which deal with the overwhelming majority of cases involving a DNA data bank order, and by the RCMP, which is responsible for the bank.
Every year, the criminal justice section of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada brings together federal and provincial government officials and also defence counsel to discuss various resolutions on changes to the Criminal Code and other acts relating to criminal law.
In August 2001, the criminal law section of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada adopted a number of resolutions that called on the Department of Justice to consider, in consultation with the provinces, the territories and other interested stakeholders, amendments relating to the scope and application of the DNA data bank legislation in the Criminal Code. In particular, it recommended that seven issues be addressed on a priority basis. Subsequently, these proposed amendments were studied thoroughly by the Department of Justice, particularly during its legislative consultations in the fall of 2002. The amendments were discussed with the provinces and they urged the federal government to make the changes.I am pleased to advise the House that all seven of the priority items have been addressed in Bill C-35.
The bill will make significant amendments to the DNA Identification Act which governs the operation of the DNA data bank. While these changes are important, I will restrict my remarks to the main proposals for change in the Criminal Code, which, in my view, are the most significant: the inclusion of the offences of indecent assault female, indecent assault male and gross indecency in the list of designated offences and the list of sexual offences.
Moreover, there are persons who should be in the DNA data bank as a result of having committed a series of these offences prior to the legislation coming into force. The Criminal Code does allow for persons convicted of two or more sexual offences to be sampled so this change to the definition of sexual offence will allow the Crown to apply to a judge to have them included.
The Uniform Law Conference and the provinces also proposed the inclusion of those individuals found not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder within the DNA data bank scheme. We currently have in the House Bill C-29 which proposes important changes to the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with the mentally disordered offender.
While those accused are not convicted of the crime, the court has found beyond a reasonable doubt that they have in fact done the act that constitutes the physical element of the offence. While they should not be sentenced to jail, it is clear they may be very dangerous. They are therefore put under the jurisdiction of a provincial review board. By making it possible for a judge to order that they DNA profiles be included in the DNA data bank, we may be solving crimes that they committed in the past. More importantly, if they should be released and commit a crime where they leave their DNA, we may solve that crime.
Members should remember, however, that having their DNA in the data bank could be a benefit to a mentally disordered offender who has been released into the community. These offenders are likely to be suspects, but if their DNA does not match the DNA from the crime scene, the police will know they are innocent.
The bill also contains a process, which the Criminal Law Section and the provinces wanted, for compelling the offender to attend in court at a hearing to determine whether a DNA data bank order should be made. Usually, this hearing takes place as part of sentencing, but there are occasions where the parties are not ready and the matter should be set over to another date. The bill contains a provision which ensures that the judge retains jurisdiction to order the person to show up for the hearing and, if the person does not show up, for a warrant for the person's arrest to be issued.
The Criminal Law Section and the provinces also recommended creating a process that would permit a judge to make, upon request, a second DNA data bank order, where the national DNA data bank has declined to process the first one because of police error in completing the forms that must accompany the bodily substances submitted for analysis.
The Criminal Code contains a provision permitting such a second sample if, for some reason, a DNA profile cannot be derived from the bodily substance. It is entirely appropriate if there has been a clerical error, for example in mixing up bar codes making identification of the offender impossible, that it should be possible to seek another order. Again, this bill will make this possible.
The provinces also wanted a mechanism to require the offender to appear for the purpose of providing a DNA sample. The law, as it currently stands, only makes provision for the DNA sample to be taken when the order is made. This has proven to be impractical. The police simply cannot have trained personnel in every criminal courtroom in the land. It is far more practical for the court to order the person to go to the police station at a fixed time. The bill provides for such an order and enables the judge to issue an arrest warrant, where necessary.
The bill also proposes changes in the list of designated offences covered by the DNA data scheme. Probably the most important additions to the list will be uttering threats and criminal harassment. As these will be secondary offences, the crown will have to apply for the order. People who engage in these activities present an elevated risk of subsequent violence, particularly to the victim of the offence. Having their DNA in the data bank may assist in deterring them.
The bill also proposes to move robbery and break and enter into a dwelling house from the list of secondary designated offences to the list of primary designated offences. This should increase the likelihood that a court would make a DNA data bank order in the case of these very serious offences.
I believe this review of the highlights of Bill C-35 shows clearly how important it will be in promoting the safety of the public and how it responds to the suggestions made by the provinces.
Of course, identical changes are being made in the National Defence Act to ensure that the military justice system remains consistent with the Criminal Code.
The sooner that review begins, the better. Therefore, I urge members to send Bill C-35 to committee.
Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada May 5th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, Emergency Preparedness Week runs from May 2 to May 8, 2004. Under the theme “Prepare now!”, Canadians can learn how the Government of Canada is working with provincial and territorial governments to promote national awareness to emergency preparedness and to the need to be prepared for any emergency.
If we have learned anything over the last few years, it is to expect the unexpected. To mark this important week, events and activities across the country will stress the importance of being prepared and of increasing our overall level of civil preparedness.
This week also provides an opportunity to find out about the progress made to ensure that Canada is an even safer place. All levels of government are increasing their ability to deal with emergencies and their effectiveness in this regard.
I encourage all Canadians to take time during Emergency Preparedness Week to learn what they can do to prepare themselves for a possible emergency.
Maher Arar Inquiry April 30th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Ottawa West—Nepean for her question, which reflects the sensitivity of public opinion in connection with this case and this inquiry, for indeed it is an inquiry and not a trial.
It is not appropriate for a parliamentarian, minister or not, to comment on the arguments used by counsel for either side. I must emphasize to everyone here, as well as to the general public, that we have confidence in Justice O'Connor's ability to carry out the inquiry appropriately. He will be the one to hear representatives of both parties and he will decide on the proper way to hold this inquiry.
National Security April 29th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I would invite the hon. member of the opposition to take time to read “Securing an Open Society: Canada's National Security Policy” in its entirety. This is a series of measures, an integrated overall action plan, one measure among many. It is a plan that will evolve over time. It reflects the best of what is available as far as international standards are concerned at this time.
National Security April 29th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I must point out that the government has announced this policy because it is in keeping with the most recently set standard of the International Civil Aviation Organization. We are therefore basing our decision on major studies that have been carried out on the international level. If we are moving toward biometrics, this is because it is what we find to be the most advanced and the most effective on the international level.
International Transfer of Offenders Act April 23rd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-15, the International Transfer of Offenders Act, at third reading stage. After second reading and consideration in committee, this bill has received strong support from all members who have taken part in this debate so far. Now is the time to move on to the third and final stage.
The current Transfer of Offenders Act came into force in 1978, following a United Nations meeting where member states agreed that international transfers were desirable because of increasingly greater mobility and the need for countries to cooperate on criminal justice matters.
Since 1978, only technical amendments have been made to this act. Policy issues relating to international transfers have expanded due to Canada's greater experience with treaties and legislative amendments brought about by the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in 1992, Bill C-41 on sentencing in 1995, and Bill C-45 on sentence calculation reform in 1996.
Bill C-15, which we have before us for third reading, would modernize the legislative framework authorizing the implementation of treaties, including multilateral conventions on the international transfer of offenders. I am particularly proud to sponsor this bill because of its objectives relating to public safety and the humanitarian objectives it will advance.
The purpose of this bill concerning the transfer of offenders and related treaties is essentially humanitarian. Canadian citizens are often imprisoned in countries where they are unfamiliar with the language and culture. Furthermore, it is not unusual for the places where they are held to fall short of even the most rudimentary Canadian standards for health, hygiene and safety. The isolation felt by Canadians in these difficult conditions of detention adds to the hardship they face, especially without regular contact with family and friends. Awareness of these conditions also causes suffering to the offenders' families in Canada.
This legislation has another important goal. It will contribute to protecting Canadian society. For offenders who are serving prison terms outside Canada, rehabilitation may be impossible. Often, the countries where they are imprisoned do not have any treatment programs or parole systems. In addition to this shortfall, there is the lack of direct support by family and friends, which is often the key to reintegrating offenders into society. This lack of programs and support reduces their chances of long term rehabilitation, and this has an impact on public safety. That is why it is so important to be able to repatriate Canadians.
The International Transfer of Offenders Act will also contribute to the administration of justice. Canadian offenders who are returned to Canada must serve their foreign sentences right to the end. When they arrive in Canada, they come under the authority of the Correctional Service of Canada, or a provincial corrections service, which is responsible for their gradual and controlled reintegration into society. This solution is preferable to deporting offenders to Canada at the end of their sentences. If they are deported, they arrive here with no correctional monitoring and no help in reintegrating into society.
Most states recognize the importance of cooperation in criminal justice matters.
The states enforce criminal laws and sentences to dissuade people from committing illegal acts. However, offenders do not escape justice by purging the remainder of their foreign sentence at home. The international transfer of offenders program allows countries to do this.
In its consideration of this legislation, the government consulted 91 private and governmental organizations. These consultations and consideration confirmed the need to clarify and update the current Transfer of Offenders Act, which, as I mentioned, dates back to 1978.
This resulted in proposals to amend the legislation that would reflect traditional international treaty principles, close identified gaps, ensure consistency with other legislative provisions, and improve efficiencies of the transfer of offenders.
For example, Bill C-15 would integrate a clause stipulating that the purpose of this new legislation is to contribute tothe administration of justice, the rehabilitationof offenders and their reintegrationinto the community by enabling them toserve their sentences in the country of whichthey are citizens. This important characteristic would clarify the intended purpose of this legislation. It would contribute to the interpretation of the legislation and to ensure parliamentary endorsement of the approach and policy behind legislation.
The voluntary consent of the offender to his transfer is also a key principle which, in reality, serves as the foundation for Canada's participation in the international transfer of offenders. This notion is based on the traditional humanitarian objectives of treaties. This is a critical notion, because the prospects for an offender's successful rehabilitation and reintegration would likely be compromised if an offender were forced to transfer against his or her will.
Foreign states may also be less inclined to approve a transfer on humanitarian grounds if the offender has not willingly consented. This is why Bill C-15 would reflect this important principle.
To ensure truly informed consent, the bill provides that Canadian authorities must explain to offenders how they would serve their sentence upon their return to Canada. In this context, the bill also provides that Canadian authorities must give to any foreign offender who asks for a transfer to his country of origin information provided by that state and describing how the offender would serve the rest of his sentence in that country.
The current Transfer of Offenders Act does not provide for the transfer of young offenders who are on probation. This omission is not compatible with the provisions of the act. Indeed, the act authorizes the transfer of adult offenders who are on probation, or who are serving a term of imprisonment. Bill C-15 would correct this inconsistency by making young offenders who are on probation eligible for a transfer.
The current Transfer of Offenders Act does not provide for the transfer to Canada of children who may be serving a sentence abroad. Bill C-15 would correct that by authorizing the transfer to Canada of children of Canadian origin who are under 12 years of age and who are being detained abroad. The bill also provides that, following their transfer to Canada, children would not be detained under the terms of their foreign sentence. Instead, they would be covered by the legislation dealing with the well-being of children in the relevant province or territory. This is an illustration of the humanitarian nature of the bill.
These provisions would broaden the scope of the offender transfer system and advance the primary objective of this legislation.
At this time, Canada may enter into a treaty for the transfer of offenders only with recognized foreign states. Recent international events such as the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia highlight the need for a transfer mechanism for Canadians serving sentences in jurisdictions not recognized by Canada as foreign states.
In these cases, a considerable amount of time must pass before the jurisdictions are formally recognized as foreign states. Consequently, Canadians incarcerated and serving sentences in these jurisdictions do not have access to the international transfer process when a treaty does not exist between Canada and a foreign state or when one has been negotiated but ratification is still years away.
In all these cases, there may be compelling reasons to return an offender to the home country. That is why Bill C-15, clause 31, which is a major clause in this bill, provides for the negotiation of administrative arrangements with a foreign entity or non recognized state, in order to render the transfer system more sensitive to the international situation. It would allow Canada to transfer its citizens back home under the authority of Correctional Services Canada, which would be responsible for the gradual and controlled reintegration of these offenders into Canadian society.
Most offenders benefit from transfer agreements. Although the number of entities having signed and ratified treaties or conventions on the transfer of offenders is still limited, it is increasing. Serving a sentence in a foreign country adds to the seriousness of the sentence and often denies the offender access to the correctional programs and community support that are essential to his reintegration. It is not in society's best interest for things to continue this way.
The Transfer of Offenders Act and the treaties and conventions implemented by that act have achieved their goal and continue to play an important role in Canada's international relations. Major progress has been achieved in prisoner transfers. Every year, about 85 Canadians are transferred to Canada under a treaty or a multilateral convention for the transfer of offenders. Since 1978, more than 1,000 Canadians have been repatriated and more than 100 foreign offenders transferred to their country of origin. Once again, while these numbers are not large, they will surely increase once this bill is in place.
I would like to highlight the need for more flexible legislation to advance the humanitarian objective Canada has in mind with this bill on the international transfer of offenders. The need for more cooperation between countries as far as criminal justice is concerned is obvious, as is the need to protect the public by reintegrating offenders into society safely and gradually, and with proper monitoring.
Bill C-15 would meet all these needs by reflecting the traditional principles of international treaties, remedying detected shortcomings and ensuring consistency with other legislative measures. This bill would contribute, among other things, to expanding the system to a wider range of offenders and including more entities within the category of those with whom Canada could enter into transfer agreements.
For all these reasons, I urge hon. members to support Bill C-15 at third reading.
RAI International March 10th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I would like to echo the demand by the Italian-speaking community in my riding and in other regions of Quebec—some 250,000 people—to have access to the Italian television network known as RAI International.
Italian television is accessible throughout the world, but not in Canada, because of an agreement with a Toronto company called Telelatino, which, it appears, holds the rights to broadcast a number of hours of RAI International programming. The Italian-speaking community is furious, and rightly so; the situation is currently before the CRTC.
During the CRTC consultation process, this request has received more than 344 favourable comments. Presentations in favour of RAI International have included a letter-writing campaign and a huge petition containing over 100,000 signatures.
I hope that common sense will prevail in this matter. As I have for months, I continue to support this legitimate request from the Italian-speaking community.
Louise Arbour February 26th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, we were very proud to learn that Madam Justice Louise Arbour of the Supreme Court of Canada has been named High Commissioner for Human Rights by the United Nations.
We are happy that the undeniable qualities of Madam Justice Arbour have thus been recognized by the international community. She succeeds Sergio Vieria de Mello, who died in a terrorist attack in Baghdad. The task awaiting her is enormous.
Madam Justice Arbour has already shown her remarkable abilities as chief prosecutor at the tribunals that brought to trial those responsible for the Rwandan genocide and the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia.
Such a record suggests that the status of human rights in the world cannot help but improve through the competent and dedicated work of Madam Justice Arbour.