Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Bellechasse (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 37.44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Code April 15th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank the parliamentary secretary and member for Prince Albert-Churchill River for agreeing to reverse the order during the debate at third reading, since the subcommittee on national security will meet at 4.45 p.m.

When Bill C-55, which amends the Criminal Code and several other acts, was first introduced, the official opposition expressed some reservations, particularly as regards new clause 810.2 of the Criminal Code, as proposed at the time, and the clause dealing with electronic surveillance.

I will get back in a few moments to these two clauses, which seemed to present a problem at the time, to see how these issues were solved.

Bill C-55 provides the Canadian justice system with the tools needed to deal with a new reality, with a new approach towards criminals and with changes to the criminals' behaviour, because the traditional notion of what constitutes a crime has evolved during the last few years and the last few decades in Canada.

Since this bill aims at keeping a closer eye on dangerous criminals, at providing the justice system with the means to act in

order to prevent dangerous offenders from being released, it is a step in the right direction, because it gives us tools we did not have before and without which we could not control, at the end of a sentence, the behaviour of an individual who obviously is going to reoffend.

Bill C-55 allows the government, through the courts, to act in order to control dangerous offenders by giving indeterminate sentences. It also adds a new category of criminals who will be designated as long term offenders and it includes provisions that make the release of some inmates subject to certain conditions, where the inmates will have to report and guarantee that their release will represent the lowest possible risk for society. We can easily agree that we need to get involved in these matters, as we mentioned at second reading.

That left us with the two obvious issues raised by section 810.2 and the provisions concerning electronic monitoring, which were giving up some problems. By the way, these two clauses were considered in detail in committee.

Section 810.2 as it was introduced in this House was totally unacceptable. It meant to give the attorney general the power to use an institution set up, according to our criminal law, to settle the relations between individuals, what is called a "peace bond" in English. This is a procedure created under British common law in which the state or the crown does not interfere. The classic example university students are given is that of a rejected lover who keeps pursuing his old flame, who in turns asks for a court order in order to get some peace, hence the term "peace bond", I guess.

In the original bill that was brought forward, section 810.2 authorized the attorney general to request, on behalf of the state, the issuance of a peace bond requiring the person against whom the peace bond has been issued to comply with strict conditions.

The state was interfering with private relationships in criminal or privacy matters, which seemed unacceptable to us when we studied the bill, and at the second reading stage.

Things have evolved, and our position was strongly supported by most witnesses who addressed section 810.2 specifically before the justice and legal affairs committee. Almost all of them said that the attorney general should not have the authority to request the issuance of a peace bond against someone.

And we can see where the problem lies because we can imagine a situation where a judge, having heard a criminal case, may very well decide to acquit the accused on the basis of reasonable doubt, but in the case of a request by the attorney general for the issuance of a peace bond, the same judge having heard the same evidence may say: "I did acquit you on the basis of reasonable doubt, but on the basis of the preponderance of evidence, I come to the conclusion that you have committed the offence and that measures must be taken to protect society against you".

So there was a risk of having a grey category of people in Canadian society. We would have had people who were guilty, people who were innocent, of course, which is the vast majority of Canadians, but also people against whom a peace bond had been issued at the request of the state and who, having not been convicted of any criminal offence, would have had to account for their time and whereabouts to a probation officer or to the court. We thought it was absolutely unacceptable.

In a free society such as ours where criminal law principles are based on age old values, we cannot tolerate or accept a situation where a person is in legal limbo, not knowing what his or her rights are.

There are innocent people, and every citizen is presumed innocent, and there are some who have been found guilty.

The amendments to section 810.2 mean that, henceforth, under the wording as it now stands at third reading, following pressure from the official opposition, following pressure from witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, section 810.2 has a new wording. I thank those who paid attention to the representations made for having taken them into account and given us a wording that now means that the peace bond provided for in 810.2 again becomes an bond between two people, to be used by an ordinary citizen against another person disturbing his peace.

The only requirement that will be made under section 810.2, which is certainly a rather special peace bond given the consequences for anyone who violates it, is that an individual who wishes to avail himself of these provisions must so inform the attorney general.

I think it normal, in an orderly society, that the attorney general responsible for the administration of justice under the provisions of our constitutional laws be aware of what is happening before our courts.

The amendment to 810.2 disposes of our first objection in a positive manner. There goes one obstacle to our supporting Bill C-55. The public's rights are protected, but so are the rights of individuals, primarily the fundamental rights that are the heritage of those who for decades, not to say centuries, helped construct our criminal law, whether in the United Kingdom or in Canada. The values passed down to us are the same.

It would have been unfortunate if a section passed on the sly challenged the very basis of what makes our criminal justice system so rich, that is the presumption of innocence and the clear distinction between the rights of individuals.

Our second concern was about electronic surveillance involving those famous wrist bands to monitor someone without having to put him in jail. Was this appliance appropriate? One can still have concerns about it.

Of course, at present, there is a considerable number of inmates, probably even a critical mass, so to speak, who do not have to be physically detained to be monitored. Those people represent a low to moderate risk. Can we rely on a system whereby a person wearing a wrist band will stay in contact by telephone with a police station in order to allow it to monitor his presence inside a given perimeter?

Our main objection concerned the effectiveness of such a system and our capacity to apply it everywhere in Canada. Such measures would probably be easy to apply in cities like Toronto, Montreal, Quebec or Vancouver. However, in vast areas where communications are uncertain, where distances are so great that police stations that could act as headquarters for the monitoring of a criminal wearing a wrist band are quite far apart, I suggest that it would be difficult to implement such a system. Will inmates have to move to be eligible to the electronic surveillance program? I do not know.

I still have doubts, but some of my concerns were answered in committee by some of the studies. They were answered, but we should keep in mind that witnesses told us that in the United States, for instance, field trials have shown that should the authorities lose contact with an individual, the electronic bracelet could be used-this is not in the bill-to inject a toxic substance causing cramps, diarrhoea or other rather debilitating physical symptoms.

The loss of contact with the monitoring centre might be accidental. One must realize that there are limits. Let us try out the electronic bracelet. This piece of legislation could be revisited in a few months or a few years if problems arise; however, we should be aware that well organised groups, mainly south of the border, especially in the United States, have done research, are ready and have a technology that would make it possible to go much further and take steps that are unacceptable in a free and democratic society.

The reliability of an electronic bracelet system can also be questioned. Will people lose contact with their monitoring centre unexpectedly, by accident, through no fault of their own? False alarms are quite possible in this area. This is probably a chance we have to take, if we want to see how good the system is.

Of course, it will alleviate the problem of overcrowded prisons by not incarcerating a number of people who should not be put in jail and who are a financial burden first for the government, but also in terms of human resources remaining inactive. One should not think that keeping track from afar, by means of an electronic bracelet, of an individual who should be monitored is a panacea, the solution to all that ails us.

But since the evidence presented to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs shows that the advantages are greater than the disadvantages, we are ready to give it a chance and support the present wording of Bill C-55, including the clause on electronic surveillance of prisoners, subject to the earliest possible reassessment.

There were some other points, such as accelerating the rehabilitation of prisoners who do not belong in prison, or penitentiary in the case of federal jurisdiction. We can also support these measures.

In the end, after the committee review, our position changed because the bill was amended. Clearly I always come back to section 810.2, which was the main hurdle. Since it has been amended, we no longer have any reason to object to the bill so we will support Bill C-55 at third reading.

Criminal Code April 15th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to speak at report stage of Bill C-55.

The members for Prince-Albert-Churchill River and Calgary Northeast have raised interesting arguments. We will be looking primarily at Motion No. 3, which warrants particular attention, because it aims at amending section 753.1 of the Criminal Code, and more specifically subsection 2.

The section concerns applications for declarations of long term offenders, that is, people presenting risks. I do not think that, in its bill as presently worded, the government goes far enough when it sets the criteria the court is to decide on to determine the risk of an individual's reoffending.

Thus the government says that the court shall be satisfied that there is a substantial risk that the offender will reoffend, if:

-the offender has been convicted of an offence under section 151 (sexual interference), 152 (invitation to sexual touching), or 153 (sexual exploitation), subsection 173(2) (exposure) or section 271 (sexual assault), 272 (sexual assault with a weapon) or 273 (aggravated sexual assault)-

or has:

-engaged in serious conduct of a sexual nature in the commission of another offence of which the offender has been convicted.

I consider the bill falls particularly short where it says "engaged in serious conduct of a sexual nature". I think the terms should be clarified. In this regard, Motion No. 3 before us goes a lot further, because it defines in large part and limits the entire notion of the conduct of a sexual nature the court may consider serious.

Thus Motion No. 3 would oblige the court to consider the behaviour of a sexual offender serious when the person has been convicted of an offence under

-section 151 (sexual interference), 152 (invitation to sexual touching) or 153 (sexual exploitation), subsection 173(2) (exposure) or section 271 (sexual assault), 272 (sexual assault with a weapon) or 273 (aggravated sexual assault).

or has been found guilty of

(a.1)-an offence under subsection 160(3) (bestiality in presence of or by child), section 170 (parent or guardian procuring sexual activity), 171 (householder permitting sexual activity by child), or 172 (corrupting children), subsection 212(2) (living of the avails of prostitution by a child) or 212(4) (obtaining sexual services of a child).

(a.2) an offence involving a person under the age of eighteen years under section 155 (incest) or 159 (anal intercourse) or subsections 160(1) and (2) bestiality and compelling bestiality).

(a.3) an offence involving a person under the age of eighteen years under section 144 (rape), 145 (attempt to commit rape), 149 (indecent assault on female) or 156 (indecent assault on male)-

At the end is added, and that the person: "has engaged in serious conduct of a sexual nature in the commission of another offence of which the offender has been convicted".

So, as we can see, the list proposed in Motion No. 3 is much more comprehensive than what constitutes a serious offence of a sexual nature, since the list is not limited to the three or four offences identified in Bill C-55 at the moment.

Committing bestiality or compelling children to do so seems to me to be extremely serious conduct of which the court must take account, and the present wording could allow an argument to the effect that it was not so serious, since it is not so described in the bill's proposed wording of section 753.1.

The official opposition and I feel that Motion No. 3 greatly improves the guidelines that will be used by the courts to determine whether a person is an offender requiring supervision. In this sense, we must strive for precision in our criminal law, in our Criminal Code, in order to ensure uniform application of the law throughout Canada.

We do not have the time to wait for the Supreme Court to rule, in five, six, seven, eight or ten years' time, that such delinquent sexual conduct is highly unacceptable conduct that should normally be taken into account by a lower court.

We can determine right here in the House of Commons, the ideal forum in which to do so, what we consider to be serious delinquent conduct of a sexual nature that must be taken into account by the court. We can do this here, without leaving it up to the courts to decide, as the present wording of section 753.1 would have us do. The definitions of delinquent sexual conduct, as proposed by the hon. member for Calgary Northeast, are therefore a step in the right direction for counsel and also for the courts called upon to enforce these provisions following royal assent and passage of this bill. The official opposition will therefore be voting in favour of MotionNo. 3.

Migration Of Snow Geese April 14th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the point is that time is running out. It is a matter of days before the geese arrive and damage the fields. Permits must be issued as quickly as possible. It is no longer good enough to procrastinate and consult right and left, without actually taking any decision.

What farmers want to know is whether or not the government is going to authorize and issue permits to scare and shoot the geese in the coming days, because it is clear from the minister's answer that the government is in worse shape than the fields are soon going to be.

Migration Of Snow Geese April 14th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

Since the government did not answer our question last week, we must come back to the charge concerning the annual migration of snow geese from the United States to the northern regions. This migration is resulting in major losses to the farmers of the Bellechasse region, the Beaupré coast, Ile d'Orléans, and certain other regions of Quebec, such as the Lower St. Lawrence. Last year, for the period from April 22 to May 26, the Canadian Wildlife Service issued permits to allow scaring and shooting so as to limit the damage done to fields by the geese. This measure produced excellent results.

Is the minister willing to instruct the Canadian Wildlife Service to issue immediately, for 1997, permits allowing scaring and shooting?

Standing Orders Of The House April 8th, 1997

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak today in the debate on MotionNo. 267, which the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam tabled in this House and which is a votable item.

It is followed by an amendment by my colleague from Rimouski-Témiscouata and an amendment to the amendment I myself tabled in the second hour of debate. The hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata and I are not in disagreement. An event led to the tabling of this amendment, and I will take the following minutes to explain it.

The aim of the motion by the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam is to include in the Standing Orders of this House the requirement that every parliamentary committee-standing, legislative or special-report to the House on a bill referred to it. Obviously, the intent is to avoid having bills, especially those of private members, which have been approved at second reading by this House, disappear in the woodwork. The committees consider them without any set schedule or agenda, and we end up often months later without the committees having dealt with them.

The aim is commendable. The committees are the extension of this House, and this House is always entitled to know the fate of a measure it has approved in principle, which was then referred to a standing, special or legislative committee.

The problem is that a number of private members' bills literally collapsed before committees. The bill introduced in the first session of this legislature by my colleague from Mission-Coquitlam, Bill C-234 if I am not mistaken, was not reported to the House, and all its clauses were defeated in committee.

The hon. member for Vancouver East, who is in the House today, had greater success. The government supported the principle in her bill on polling hours across Canada, in view of the various time zones.

Formally, however, the House has no knowledge of what took place in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs during consideration of her bill. No report has been made, and the bill is in a sort of limbo before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, although we all know that Bill C-63, a government bill, settled the question of the different polling hours across Canada. It will apply in the next election.

Another bill, introduced by my colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, also died before the committee without the committee ever reporting on it. When we study a bill in committee, and I will use the example of the bill of our colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, and go over it clause by

clause, the last questions put by the chairman to the committee members are: Is the title of the bill adopted? Is the bill approved? Shall I report it to the House?

In the case of the bill I have just mentioned, all of the bill's clauses were defeated. It was the committee's basic right to defeat all the bill's clauses. However, when we get to the point of deciding whether the bill's title would be accepted, I think a substantial problem occurs when the House votes at second reading on a bill that has a title. Perhaps the title can be changed by a standing or legislative committee, but can it be withdrawn? Can we wipe it off the record? This is a question of substance that deserves closer study.

As to the last question "Shall I report it?", the answer is obviously yes. It is common sense that, when a bill has been studied, whether the committee has made amendments or not, or has rejected all the clauses in a bill, the committee must report promptly to the House since the bill belongs to the House.

Motion No. 267, as it stands, with the amendment I moved, would make it possible to have a report from the committee within sixty sitting days from the date of the bill's reference to the committee. Why is there a difference between the amendment moved by my hon. colleague, the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata, who called for a report within six months, and the sub-amendment I myself moved, calling for a report within sixty sitting days?

The reason is that between the time the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata moved her amendment and I moved mine, the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business, which had received an order of reference to study, among other things, this very question of reports from committees, produced its report and referred it to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business recommended unanimously, by consensus of all parties, that any bill referred to a committee be reported on within sixty sitting days.

The wording before us, with the amendment I moved following the tabling of the report of the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business, is more or less the same as that recommended by the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business. I say more or less, because the sub-committee's report contained the additional recommendation that, in the absence of a report, the bill be deemed approved by the standing committee or the legislative committee or the special committee, but approved without amendment.

This part is not repeated. I think that it is easier to reach a consensus in the House with the motion as written and with the amendment moved in the second hour of debate requiring a report within sixty sitting days. This issue was discussed for several months by the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business and the report was unanimous. I think that this merely endorses a recommendation approved by representatives of all parties on this committee.

That ought to simply speed up and gain respect for private member's bills; in other words, a bill must be handled in the same way, whether it originates with the government or with a member. It is a parliamentary matter which must be handled with diligence, and which must not be swept under the rug to suit everyday preoccupations or agendas, whether short term or medium term.

It is obvious that people sometimes feel uncomfortable with voting against a bill, but they say to themselves that it will get held up in committee and then it will die on the Order Paper; it will get dealt with when there are only two weeks left in the session.

I believe that inclusion of new Standing Order 97.1 will be a step forward. I say a step forward because it will not solve the problem entirely. It will not solve the problem of the political will of those sitting on committees. If they have it in mind to reject a bill, reject it they will. Political will cannot be legislated. A standing order cannot create political ideas or orientations. It is a support which can, of course, help those who tend more toward weakness; it can serve as a guideline to committee members, but all the rest is political will.

Madam Speaker, you are indicating that my time is nearly up. Thank you for having the patience to put up with me for twenty seconds more. When the issue is put to a vote, I will be voting in favour of the amendment to the amendment, which I moved, and of the motion as amended, if the amendment passes.

Migration Of Snow Geese April 8th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary is not very familiar with her portfolio, for the permit last year was issued under the present convention between Canada and the U.S.

All that we are asking is that permits be issued immediately to be used in the days to come by the people living on the South Shore, the Beaupré shore and the Ile d'Orléans, to scare and, if necessary, to shoot the geese.

When it comes down to it, does the government realize that, through its refusal, its silence or lack of understanding, its incompetence in this matter, it is condemning farmers to assume losses for which they are in no way responsible, and requiring the taxpayers to compensate those same farmers, although inadequately?

Migration Of Snow Geese April 8th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

The annual migration of snow geese from the United States to the northern regions results in major losses to the farmers of the Bellechasse region, the Beaupré coast, Ile d'Orléans, and other regions of Quebec. Last year, the Canadian Wildlife Service issued permits running from April 22 to May 26, to allow scaring and shooting so as to limit the damage done to their fields by the geese. This measure reduced losses considerably.

Is the Minister prepared to instruct the Canadian Wildlife Service to issue permits for scaring and shooting again for 1997?

Municipality Of Grosse-Île March 19th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, 1997 marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine in Ireland. Thousands of Irish men and women fled their country only to be decimated by cholera and typhus epidemics at the Grosse-Île quarantine station, which is located in the riding of Bellechasse-Etchemins-Montmagny-L'Islet.

Grosse-Île will be the site of a number of major events this year to commemorate the sad fate of those men and women. The Corporation de la Grosse-Île, inspired by its chairman, Dr. Jean-Marie Dionne, has been working for more than 15 years to remind the general public that the people of the South Shore responded with hospitality, and a spirit of brotherhood, to the struggling new arrivals who had fled the famine in their homeland.

I invite the people of Canada, and elsewhere, to put Grosse-Île at the top of their list of places to visit during 1997, and in the years to come.

This summer, special commemorations will also be held in the city of Montmagny, and the parishes of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, L'Islet, Berthier-sur-Mer and Saint-Édouard-de-Frampton.

Come one, come all, the welcome mat is out for you.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police March 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the minister's source of information is probably in CSIS. Our latest information shows there is cause for more concern.

Does the minister not agree that transferring administrative services from Quebec to London, Ontario, would effectively take away any career prospects civilians who speak only French may have had with the RCMP?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police March 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the solicitor general.

The RCMP is in the process of reorganizing its administrative services under four separate regions: Atlantic, Pacific, Northwest and Centre.

Will the minister confirm that the RCMP is set to consolidate at central region headquarters, in London, Ontario, all RCMP administrative services, including those for the Quebec region, which are currently located in Montreal?