House of Commons photo

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

Corrections and Conditional Release Act February 23rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to Bill C-19 introduced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety.

I would remind the House that, when this bill was first introduced in the House on June 4 of last year, it was known as Bill C-40. It died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued on November 12. We now want to reinstate it and refer it to committee before second reading.

As we know, a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights made a number of recommendations in its report entitled “A Work in Progress: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act”. All 53 recommendations contained in this report were approved by the standing committee. The government then accepted 46 of these recommendations, the majority of which were implemented internally by the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board.

We now have before the House the responses to some of the recommendations yet to be implemented. These responses were gathered in a bill, because they need to be officially approved before they are implemented.

Before going over some of the proposed measures, let me give you an indication of the efficiency of this legislation and of its impact on public safety.

Since the Corrections and Release Act came into force, the crime rate has dropped to its lowest in 20 years and keeps decreasing. It is important to note that, for the same period, the number of inmates in Canada has practically stopped increasing.

Also, the number of prison sentences is declining while public safety measures are on the rise. For instance, according to Statistics Canada, 8,914 criminal offences were reported to police in 1996, compared to 7,590 in 2002. Therefore, the number of inmates in federal prisons has decreased from 14,100 to 12,600, for a total decrease of 1,500.

I could also point out that the success rate of offenders on conditional release continues to be excellent. During the past year, over 99% of temporary absences, 84% of day paroles, and over 75% of full paroles encountered no problems. That shows that the legislation is working very well overall.

Countries all over the world respect Canada for the integrity and efficiency of its criminal justice system because, while on the one hand, it protects its citizens by ensuring that offenders are kept and supervised in safe and humanitarian conditions, on the other hand, it prepares offenders for their reintegration into society as law-abiding citizens.

The provisions of Bill C-19 will make it possible to increase the effectiveness of this act and respond directly to the concerns expressed by citizens. Bill C-19 is designed to tighten up the provisions relating to the accelerated parole review process, as it is called in the act. The current provisions apply only to offenders who are serving their first federal sentence and who have been convicted of a non-violent crime, and allow them to be released on parole at the earliest date possible, provided it is unlikely they will commit a violent offence after their release.

The bill will tighten up these provisions in a number of ways. First, offenders sentenced for the following criminal acts will be added to the list of those already excluded from the accelerated process: criminal organization offences, child pornography, high treason, sexual exploitation of a person with a disability, causing bodily harm with intent in certain cases, and torture.

Second, parole under this process will no longer be statutory. The National Parole Board will use much more stringent tests. Each case will be subject to an individual review and decision by the Board. Moreover, the bill will ensure that, when reviewing the cases of offenders eligible for accelerated parole review, the National Parole Board take into account the likelihood of re-offending in general, versus the likelihood of committing violent re-offending, as is the case under current legislation.

Finally, the APR provisions will increase the ineligibility period for day parole for offenders serving more than six years, if those offenders are serving a first federal term for a non-violent offence.

So these are proposals to be added to what is already in place; they will improve the legislation. The bill will ensure society is better protected through provisions on statutory release.

Offenders serving a sentence for a determinate period, that is anything shorter than a life sentence or a sentence for an indeterminate period, who have not been on day parole or full parole, benefit from statutory release with supervision after they have served two-thirds of their sentence.

However, offenders who, in the opinion of Correctional Services, are likely to commit another offence causing death or serious harm, may be sent before the board for examination with a view to continuing incarceration or imposing special conditions.

The concept of statutory release is based on research which has proven that the best way to protect society is to implement a gradual, structured release program before the end of the sentence, rather than a release without transition at the end of the sentence.

The bill before us today will tighten up the provisions relating to statutory release in a number of ways. First, it will require the service to examine all cases with a view to their eventual referral to the national board.

Second, Bill C-19 will require Correctional Service Canada to refer to the National Parole Board the case of all offenders who have committed a sexual offence involving a child and all those who are likely to commit an offence causing death or serious harm, so they can be kept in prison until the end of their sentence.

The tightening of provisions relating to the accelerated review or statutory release of offenders, which I just outlined, will inevitably have an impact on the number of cases the board will have to review.

That is why this bill increases the maximum number of board members from 45 to 60.

Another provision in Bill C-19 concerns victims of crimes. Our opposition colleague from Langley—Abbotsford addressed this subject.

The bill will give victims the legal right to make a statement at parole hearings. Now, we could discuss the amendments proposed earlier by our opposition colleague.

Currently, victims are authorized to make a statement only under a board policy. Now, this will become a legal right. The measures proposed, which I have just briefly touched on, directly respond to many recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice. They follow up on almost all the improvements recommended by this committee.

The protection of society continues to be the guiding principle of the correctional process, as indicated in the bill's first principle. This legislation will continue to be closely scrutinized by the Standing Committee on Justice, the media, Canadians and, of course, the opposition parties.

The government remains open to any suggestions to improve the correctional process and is committed to making the necessary changes in due course.

We have the opportunity to take concrete action, once again, to further improve this system. For this reason, I urge my hon. colleagues to support Bill C-19 without reservation.

Claude Ryan February 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, with the passing of Claude Ryan, Quebec and Canada have just lost a remarkable man, a man whose intellectual and political pursuits left an impact on 40 years of our history.

The indefatigable Mr. Ryan was involved in all our social and political debates, from the time of the quiet revolution until very recently. I knew him as an editorial writer and as a minister who did an excellent job, particularly in the educational sector.

A proud Quebecker, he was able to rally around him a broad social and political coalition in his opposition to the October 1970 war measures. I am proud to have been part of that coalition as a member of the labour movement.

Throughout all those years, Claude Ryan never stopped working to have Quebec recognized as a strong society, a respected society taking its rightful place within the Canadian federal entity.

Thank you, Mr. Ryan, for all that you contributed to the public life of our country. Thank you for all your advice to me over the years; it played a large part in my decision to enter politics in 1994 in order to defend the unity of our country, to defend Quebec, and to defend those most often forgotten by the government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. I heard a member opposite say, “There is nothing”. However, there is a small word, deal, mentioned in connection with our municipalities. They might think it is nothing. It is a deal we want to make with the municipal governments. It is very important to us, although it might not mean anything to the members opposite

Second, it is important to mention that we want to make a deal, but without infringing upon provincial jurisdictions. We are very much aware of the incredible needs of the larger municipalities as well as a lot of smaller ones in terms of infrastructure, sewer systems, water supply, communications, and so forth.

Full relief from the portion of the goods and services tax municipalities now pay is a first step in the right direction. It comes into force right away, not just after the upcoming budget. It has been in force since February 1. This deal will lead to other measures. A deal is an agreement between partners. It is not a federal government order by which provinces and municipalities have to abide. It is an agreement. I do hope that all the parties in this House will recognize the merits of such an agreement and process and will support them.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for the opportunity to return to this aspect of the throne speech.

It is rather unusual for a throne speech to place such importance on a sector like that. We are talking about big business, productivity, international competition, technology. In all the throne speeches, in all the political commitments, in all the speeches from opposition leaders, the same major themes keep coming up. There is one, however, that is not often heard except from this side of the House, but it was clearly mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, and that is the social economy.

At first glance, for people who have not yet taken the time to examine this concept, it might seem rather contradictory. Usually, we keep social measures, economic measures, and environment and health measures separate, and that is how it is. The social economy is a concept that is just emerging, that is receiving more and more attention in our society. Briefly, it is a fabric, a web, of small organizations. Right now they are small organizations, but sometimes they can be a little bigger, with 50, 75 or 100 employees.

These organizations work with people. They help meet community needs or the needs of groups, such as underprivileged children, seniors, people unable to cut their grass or shovel snow, clean their windows or clean their apartment because they are sick or disabled.

There are all kinds of formulas, such as recycling plastics or dangerous goods; all kinds of companies are emerging in this broad sector of the social economy.

There are opportunities for some to privately provide these services and earn a profit, but when we talk about the social economy, we talk about non-profit organizations—NPOs—or cooperatives. They hire people and provide services at low cost to those who need them; they provide jobs for people who provide services that the private sector does not, which also gives these services a human quality. They are close to local needs. This is an emerging sector, a new sector.

The throne speech demonstrated incredible sensitivity. It is extremely avant-garde. The government says that it has identified this sector and that it will do more than just watch it, encourage it, congratulate it and award medals; it will take concrete action to help these people and give them recognition. It is also a sign of recognition for the entire volunteer sector within the social economy.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question on health care.

I have already had the privilege of being the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, and I closely considered these issues a few years ago. It is now clear that health is the top priority in Canada, a fact that the federal, provincial and territorial governments are unanimous on.

In any given region in Quebec or elsewhere, health is the basis of every discussion. It is the main concern.

At any meeting with seniors or other groups, health rapidly becomes the basis of discussions and concerns. People want reassurance.

Often, we talk about security. There is now a Minister of Public Safety in Canada, and I am that minister's parliamentary secretary. The main concern currently is not borders or terrorism, which still are part of the whole, but health.

People want to know what care they can expect for themselves, their children, their families and their parents, no matter what their age or their condition. That is the first insecurity that needs to be addressed.

Last week, the first ministers and the federal Prime Minister agreed to meet again over the summer, specifically to discuss measures to be taken in the medium and long term. We know that these problems cannot be solved merely by throwing a billion here, and a billion there. Sometimes this is even counter-productive, because purchases are made despite the fact that the human resources to operate the equipment are not available.

My colleague is right to point out that young professionals, health professionals in particular, are increasingly open to the idea of training leading to a new concept, a new practice of medicine, including a preventive aspect, which they would like to see more developed than it is.

We have opened up the public health field. We all heard in the throne speech how much emphasis was placed on that. There is a Minister of State for Public Health, a system that is at the preparation stage. Public health is essentially prevention, not waiting for disease to strike but taking pre-emptive action by looking at what living conditions, hygiene and diet we can have to avoid later health problems.

Young health practitioners are increasingly open to the idea of training in this area.

All of the initiatives to which my colleague has referred will be totally productive for the health system in the medium term.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

For the eternal skeptics in the recesses of this House who say that the government hesitates when it comes to respecting its commitments to the Kyoto protocol, the Prime Minister said we will go beyond Kyoto. These are firm measures.

The Prime Minister also said we would not just hold forth on the international stage and participate in protocols and major agreements; we will start by putting our own house in order. That is a sincere promise, not just a general statement.

We are going to undertake a 10-year, $3.5 billion program to clean up contaminated sites. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has been recommending for years that the government take the initiative; now it has. Firm commitments have been made.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

There are some who do not even listen when someone is talking. That shows just how much they prefer making noise to listening to what we say on this side.

The House of Commons should be a place where there is an ongoing public debate, a thorough and calm examination of the great issues we face in this country, and not a place where people who are not equipped to take power or do not even aspire to it take pot shots at one another and indulge in petty politics. Some parties act like lobby groups.

People watching us last night were also very impressed because our government has decided to not only make promises, but to put its words into action. For instance, the government provided $2 billion last week for health care and agreed to meet with the premiers this summer to come up with viable solutions to our health care problems.

Politicians, whether at the provincial or the federal level, all realize that money alone is not the solution in the area of health care. We need to find new ways to work together and further promote cooperation. A lot of work remains to be done. This summer, the first ministers will review the situation and try to come to an agreement on new ways to make our health system viable in the long term. The goal is to avoid any more emergency infusions of billions of dollars.

Another example is the government's commitment to immediately provide municipalities with full relief from the portion of the goods and services tax they now pay. The government is also prepared to work with the provinces to find a way to help finance some of their most critical needs, which have to do with municipal infrastructures throughout the country.

The people were impressed to see that we were not willing to wait two months, until the next budget or the next election, to make good on our promises. The Prime Minister said, “Start counting now, the money has started to come in as of February 1”. These are not merely promises, they are commitments already being acted on. The people were very impressed with how our Prime Minister and our government were working.

Also, they were thrilled with some of the measures affecting young people, including the increased access to registered education savings plan, particularly for poorer Canadians, and also the modernized Canada Student Loans program for the less fortunate students.

Companies that are part of the social economy were a special focus of the Speech from the Throne. This is the first time, I think, in the history of Canada or one of its provinces, that the emerging social economy sector has received so much attention.

Aide domestique in northeast Montreal is an agency that employs dozens of people. In the Montreal east area, services are offered to seniors and people who sometimes rely on not-for-profit agencies. There are 11 similar agencies in Montreal that employ some 500 people. There are 103 of them in Quebec in the social economy field, in several sectors.

This is very important for the harmonious functioning of our society and our community. They work with seniors, young children and families. They work for NPOs or cooperatives, and, according to the Speech from the Throne, they can benefit from measures comparable to those available to small businesses. This represents considerable progress and much-deserved recognition of all those who are continually working hard for the well-being of our society.

We welcome our Prime Minister's commitments with respect to sustainable development and the environment. All these commitments cannot be listed in a few short minutes. However, we must highlight those that, in our view, are key to the future; we are talking about sustainable development and the environment.

In the Speech from the Throne, an entire series of measures was announced. We will go beyond Kyoto—

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, last evening, when I set out the main thrust of the Speech from the Throne delivered Monday by the Governor General, along with a summary of the government's action plan, on which the Prime Minister had spoken the day before, the 400 people present in this assembly of which I am a member warmly applauded this clear and dynamic speech.

They had a number of reasons to be pleased with the speech. They were pleased to hear the Prime Minister, via the throne speech, affirm and confirm in the most convincing way our desire to build a Canada on solid social foundations, where people will be treated with respect and no one will be left out. They were happy to hear this objective mentioned, particularly as the number one priority.

We have been hearing a lot from the opposition parties about the new Prime MInister and his policy direction, which they claim to know. There is no point in seeking to find that direction in all sorts of allegations and statements that are meaningless. It must be looked for where it really is, that is in the top priority of the throne speech: building a country on solid social foundations.

The second priority mentioned by the Prime Minister is to have a strong and open economy to help us meet the challenges of the 21st century and take advantage of meaningful jobs.

That economy will also allow us to remain or become leaders in such areas as information technology and biotechnologies, where we are already well established, and in as yet lesser known areas such as nanotechnologies, with great promise for the future, as well as in an area very close to my heart, and I think the hearts of the people of Canada and Quebec: the development of environmental technologies, ecotechnologies.

The Prime Minister made himself very clear about these aspects, these pillars which will ensure that the Canadian economy in all regions will be strong, healthy, competitive and productive in the years to come.

Third in our priorities and goals—and people around me were quite proud to hear this—is our commitment to give Canada, our country, a role and influence in the international community. We will be proud because our country will have an independent voice, like it did in the talks about the war against Iraq.

Inquiries have been launched in the United States and in Great Britain into the role played by intelligence services. We do not have this kind of problem here.

Canada wants to have an independent voice. The public is proud of the direction taken by our country last year. That is what they tell us whenever they get a chance.

We will also be proud to see more and more forward looking initiatives in Canada, and leading edge projects in international cooperation. These projects promote Canadian values internationally.

I want to thank for its attention the audience I had in my riding of Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies last night. Approximately half were members of our party, but the others had no political allegiance. We had people from the provincial and municipal level, from school boards, volunteer agencies, ethnic communities, and economic agencies. These people had no political allegiance, but were interested in knowing what was going on politically at the federal level and what the government had to say in the speech.

These people were very happy to hear the throne speech, whatever their political allegiance. We did not ask them about that. We know that about half of them were Liberal Party members. We did not ask questions or give a test at the door in order to find out the political affiliation of the other half. These people came because they were interested in what was happening, what was going on and what our main thrust was going to be. Therefore, people were happy to see that the throne speech and the Prime Minister's speech provided a fresh impetus and a new vision.

They greatly appreciated this new vision, a vision of partnerships to be created or developed, partnerships with the provinces and the municipalities. Here in the House there are some who do not like it when we talk about partnerships with the municipalities and the provinces. These people are not happy unless everyone is fighting all the time. We are also talking about partnerships with business and new partnerships with organizations in the social economy. That is something new; that is a refreshing change. There also are partnerships with our American neighbour, based on mutual respect, reciprocity and transparency.

These people were happy to hear about this government's commitments to ethics, transparency and accountability. They were also happy to see that we would be working together as members of Parliament in order to take on more responsibilities and work in an atmosphere that will be more stimulating for our ideas and our work here, and that will enable us and those of our opposition colleagues who would like to take part in this reform and renewal, to get things moving.

Obviously not everyone is ready for that and in that frame of mind. Some are ready and some are less ready.

Remembrance Day November 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, in a few days we will be marking Remembrance Day and will be paying tribute to the thousands of men and women who served our country and defended the cause of world peace and freedom in both times of war and times of peace.

Veterans all like to talk about their memories of service in Europe, Korea or elsewhere. Those I have met this week are no exception.

One in particular, Sergeant Fernand Trépanier, remembers the landings in Sicily, which took place 60 years ago—an operation that lasted 32 days and cost 560 lives—the landings at Reggio di Calabria in mainland Italy, the battle of Casa Berardi, and the battle of Ortona, which, despite the Allied victory, remains one of the deadliest battles of the World War II.

These oft-ignored engagements by the Royal 22nd Regiment contributed as early as 1943 to wearing down the enemy and preparing for the Normandy landings a few months later.

To all these brave veterans, thank you and long may you live.

Youth in our Society October 29th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my appreciation to the young people and the representatives of the organizations that work with them in my riding, who recently took part in a round table on “Youth in our society”.

Our young people are looking to us for assistance. Our young people are perceptive. They are aware that demographic trends are not in their favour and that the family is no longer the reliable support it once was. Their motivation and their feeling of belonging to the community cannot be taken for granted.

They have high expectations of school and work. In particular, they would like community organizations to have more resources with which to complement school activities, especially for the more disadvantaged.

They would like governments to fund community organizations or public-private partnerships in order to provide enriching experiences and cooperation opportunities for young people, such as discovery courses at home or abroad.

Finally, they would like governments and municipalities to provide recreational and cultural infrastructures that meet the new needs of the young people in their neighbourhoods.

Will we be able to live up to their expectations? Can we meet the challenge they have set us?