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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is rights.

NDP MP for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 33.80% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Questions on the Order Paper January 26th, 2015

With regard to employment insurance benefits: (a) what are the amounts paid out for employment insurance benefits in Quebec from fiscal year 2010–2011 to the current fiscal year, broken down by (i) year, (ii) economic region, (iii) electoral district, (iv) regional county municipality (RCM) or the most detailed level available; (b) how many beneficiaries have there been in Quebec from fiscal year 2010–2011 to the current fiscal year, broken down by (i) year, (ii) economic region, (iii) electoral district, (iv) RCM or the most detailed level available; and (c) if the information requested in (a) and (b) is not available, why is that the case?

The Environment December 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last week, the Secretary-General of the UN told the Conservative government that it needed to do more about climate change, but the Conservatives responded by announcing that they would not regulate emissions from oil companies. Other sectors will have to do more to make up for excesses in the oil and gas industries.

Why do the Conservatives refuse to demand that these industries do their part in combatting climate change?

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question.

This charter contains some fine words and has good intentions. We have nothing against good intentions, but we also want to see some concrete measures.

Many witnesses appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and said that the charter does not go far enough. No one said it better than the first nations representatives who appeared before the committee, which carefully examined Bill C-32.

We all know very well that victims need to feel reassured. If they reach out to the authorities to assert their rights, they have to feel comfortable and they have to know that we are going to support them and stand up for them, so they can feel safe doing so. Unfortunately, this bill does not seem to reflect what victims go through day to day. We want victims to know that if they call upon the police, they will get help. However, that is not what this bill does. It contains only ambiguous wording that appears to talk about rights, but frankly, what we are passing here is more like the hope that rights will follow.

The bill should have gone much further. I think we have failed as parliamentarians. This bill does not go far enough. It needs to be improved more, but I repeat, this is a start, and we have to start somewhere. It took the government eight years to introduce something of any interest. I congratulate it, but in eight years, I would have done a better job. I do not expect much from this government, so I have to be happy with what I get.

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the interest he has shown during the debates on this bill. He asked a very relevant question.

I will talk some more about clause 21. Once again, the government is giving our provincial counterparts a mandate. They will have to implement a bill passed by the House, even though they do not know how much it will cost. The government is not giving them any additional help to implement the changes proposed in the bill.

During a trial, an accused who agrees to plead guilty often negotiates for something. It is often very worthwhile and efficient for the justice system. It happens regularly. Now, that plea bargaining process will be greatly hindered by wording that was clearly poorly chosen. The government is creating a very worthwhile right, but it is not giving any indication of how much it will cost. We need to work with our provincial partners. The government cannot simply continue to pass the burden on to the provinces without expecting them to rebel at some point.

I hope the government will try harder to work with the provinces and give them the financial means needed to carry out the mandates being forced on them. That will make our justice system efficient. This bill needs to contribute to that.

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us is definitely a step in the right direction. It is a good starting point. However, it is by no means enough. We will support the bill at report stage because it is a starting point. However, it does not go far enough.

I would like to point out that the NDP has always stood up for the rights of victims. If I may, I would like to go back in time. Even in the 1800s, social democratic parties pushed for the rights of workers who were victims of violence and work accidents. The first protection plan for victims of workplace accidents was implemented in Germany, and it was the social democratic parties that worked very hard for that. That said, I will return to a more recent time.

In 1984, Parliament adopted and enacted the Workers Mourning Day Act. The idea was to commemorate the victims of accidents in the workplace. It was work that was done by the NDP at the time, with the collaboration of other members of the House. It was a great victory for the labour movement in this country.

A good friend of mine, Elizabeth Weir, the former leader of the New Democratic Party of New Brunswick, was able to enact very similar legislation in New Brunswick in the year 2000.

Workers' rights are at the heart of the NDP's mandate. For that reason, I certainly have a great interest in this bill, which will extend rights to victims generally.

I do worry about the bill actually bringing forward too few rights. It seems to be focused more on photo opportunities and the beginnings of a sentiment that victims should have more rights. Regrettably, the bill will actually not enact that many rights for our victims.

Ms. Lange, a victim's mother, has stated that “Beyond the sentencing stage of the process, the victims basically fall off the face of the earth” and that “Rights need to go beyond the criminal process for this bill to even be a bill of rights.”

We did not go far enough. It is just the beginning of a process. I think we need to really develop a true bill of rights and not just one that has the name “bill of rights” and is in fact simply raising awareness that victims should have rights. I think there should perhaps be a better title for this bill.

We need to concern ourselves with the fate of victims. This bill is a start but it is far from adequate. If I could be permitted to speak for a moment about one of the witnesses who testified, I will just say that Ms. Dawn Harvard, the vice-president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said it really well. I will cite her testimony at the justice committee:

Almost half of aboriginal women in Canada live in poverty. This poverty exacerbates the situations of violence, abuse, and addictions, and often, sadly, leads to incarceration. We have heard talk of the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada....

She went to say, very well I think, that:

Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices, it's a denial of opportunity, and it's a violation of our human dignity.

That speaks to the victims of this country. Regrettably, this bill does not address the daily expressions of being a victim that aboriginal women especially face in this country.

This bill will give victims an opportunity to address some concerns during some of the criminal proceedings, but even then the actual rights that we are affording them are far from adequate.

First nations are a very good example. Who are these first nations supposed to go to in first addressing their requirement to have rights expressed? Who does a victim of violence in a remote community go to? Perhaps it is the local police, but have the local police been sensitized to the plight of aboriginal women in this country? Will the victims feel confident enough to go to their local police officers to lodge their complaints? Will the police officers know enough to say, “Yes, you have a bill of rights. You have rights, and we will be here to defend them.”?

Nothing in the bill has given any of our provincial colleagues the capacity or ability to ensure that those rights are going to be made available. Once again, the current federal government is saying things that are very nice and look good on paper, but it has not put the resources forward to ensure that those rights would actually be expressed in a daily manner.

I, for one, do not believe that people who live in remote communities in this country will even know that the bill exists. I really wish that the government had taken a bit more time and effort to ensure that all the resources were in place to make sure that victims know that they have rights. They have rights today and through this bill they should have more rights in the future, but we need people to actually know that those rights are going to be there.

In poorer communities—and where I live, there are a number of poorer communities—people do not have the understanding that they can spend their hard-earned money to go and see a lawyer who will then inform them of all their rights. Often people simply cannot afford to take that route. Unfortunately, the bill seems not to make that any easier.

The Conservatives have been talking about this bill since 2006, when they came to power. They have been promising to enact a victims bill of rights since 2006. I will congratulate the government for finally, after eight years, putting it down on paper—not just using it as a photo op, but actually trying to have some real, concrete debate on this matter. Unfortunately, I do not think they went nearly as far as they had expected.

The Canadian victims bill of rights does not designate legal obligations for other stakeholders in the judicial system. It simply provides access to a vague mechanism to file complaints with various federal departments, agencies, and organizations that have a role to play in the justice system when victims have their rights infringed. As a result, when complaints are directed at provincial or territorial organizations, including police or the crown or even a victims rights organization, they will be processed directly under the laws of the appropriate province or territory. There are no specific funds, none, that have yet been attributed for the implementation of the mechanisms that the bill would provide.

I do not understand how the government expects that things are going to happen without resources being put in place. The Conservatives do this all the time. I have seen it over and over again in the bills that I have seen since 2011 in this place. I scratch my head as to what they think the provinces are going to do with these unfunded mandates that we keep sending to them.

I would like to point out that a lot of interesting testimony was brought to the justice committee. I had the opportunity to sit in on many of those sessions. It brings a tear to one's eye to hear the plight of many victims in this country, and they all had justifiable concerns to bring to the justice committee.

I will speak very briefly on some of the issues that were brought up by the Canadian Bar Association, and I will speak specifically to clause 21 in the bill.

Clause 21 would add a provision requiring prosecutors to take reasonable steps to notify victims of a guilty plea. In this clause, we see that the victims will have the right to be informed if the accused pleads guilty during a trial. The problem is that if there is bargaining and the accused pleads guilty during the plea bargaining or during a court appearance, must the trial be terminated? Is the trial suspended until the victims are notified that the accused will plead guilty? Normally this type of bargaining is done very quickly.

Unfortunately, the bill seems to put the brakes on a very efficient justice system. Once again, not only will the bill cost victims money because they will have to find out about this charter, which has value, but all provincial trials will be more expensive.

If anyone would like to ask a question about this during the time for questions, I would be very happy to answer.

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech and I thank her for the good work she has done on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

This bill has had quite a bit of fine-tuning. It was not easy to strike a balance that took into account all the material presented by the witnesses. For instance, the House should look at clause 21 of the bill. This clause provides that prosecutors would have to take reasonable steps to inform victims that an agreement for a guilty plea has been reached.

That was a cause of much discussion in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Some wonder if it goes too far and if it is a necessary element, especially given the testimony by the Canadian Bar Association. Can the hon. member tell us something about clause 21?

Public Works and Government Services December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Public Works and Government Services Canada is responsible for the Van Horne bridge that joins Quebec and New Brunswick.

Unfortunately, the bridge's sidewalks are snow covered and the minister forgot to negotiate snow removal. Winter is here. Yesterday, another 40 centimetres of snow fell in the Gaspé, and the communities of Listuguj, Pointe-à-la-Croix and Campbellton feel abandoned.

Will the government make sure that the sidewalks are passable?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Québec for her question. I think she is absolutely right. This is not about balance. This is about two rights, two obligations that need to be respected.

Bills have to pass the test and justify themselves as laws in a free and democratic society. Unfortunately, I do not think that the bill before us passes that test. It should have been debated more thoroughly and improved in committee.

It is unfortunate that the government is in such a hurry to pass a bill that does not respect the rights and freedoms of Canadians or of parliamentarians, who have to ensure that all bills stand up to scrutiny.

As we all know, governments are supposed to ensure that their bills are constitutional. Unfortunately, in this case, perhaps the government's lawyers provided bad advice or made a mistake. Frankly, this bill does not deserve our support.

I hope that the Conservative Party members will take the time to read this bill closely so they can see how harmful it is in terms of taking rights away from Canadians, who do not deserve this.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a very valid question. I think there are an awful lot of improvements we could have made to the bill. His suggestion is certainly one that I think we should have taken much more seriously at the committee. Regrettably, although amendments were brought forward, none were retained by the current government. I think we should have taken a lot more time to review this bill.

I would remind the members that the Arar commission also made a series of recommendations, including recommendations to improve parliamentary oversight and to improve SIRC with a new agency, INSRCC. None of those proposals has been retained by the current government. We have not heard from the government how it plans to implement any of the recommendations from the Arar commission in any meaningful sense.

I wish the government would just allow the bill to go back to committee at this point and start over, because, frankly, the government botched it and we need to have another go at it.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today, I have the honour to rise to speak to Bill C-44.

The bill would amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other acts. It is a troubling bill, one that I do not believe I can support.

I will start by citing a recent article in The Globe and Mail, October 27. In that article, it states:

In recent rulings from several courts, Canadian judges had prevented CSIS from getting new powers through legal decisions, saying that these could only be conferred by Parliament.

For example, the Supreme Court last year declined to give CSIS informants a “class privilege” intended to better shield their identities in court proceedings. And, last year, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley reined in a telecommunications-intercept power--known in CSIS lexicon as a...domestic interception of foreign telecommunications” warrant.

CSIS officials have said the Federal Court ruling created a “black hole” obstructing their pursuit of “homegrown” terrorism suspects migrating to foreign war zones.

C-44 allows CSIS to better shield informants’ identities.

It would also allow CSIS--with a judge’s approval--to capture conversations involving Canadian suspects taking place abroad.

I will end with the final part, which states:

“Without regard to any other law, including that of a foreign state, a judge may in a warrant …. authorize activities outside Canada to enable the Service to investigate a threat to the security of Canada,” the legislation reads.

It is a very clear exposé of what this bill intends to do, so I encourage people to read that article. It shows exactly where we are going.

Let us go through a short history of why this bill is being presented in the House.

Back in the day when CSIS was created, it was assumed that because its enabling legislation made threats to Canadian security abroad, there may be an implicit right to do some of the things that this bill pretends to deal with. We will remember that CSIS was created after a barn burning ceremony in Quebec where the RCMP was found to have overextended its rights and obligations, and investigated Canadian citizens without legal warrant and legal cause. The Keable Commission in Quebec then was struck and the McDonald Commission, its parallel commission, was struck by our Parliament. After that, CSIS was born.

It has been a work in progress ever since. The government argues that we have not modified the legislation in 30 years. Perhaps a review is warranted. Certainly the Canadian public is becoming more conscious of security threats and having a more exhaustive debate on this subject is probably warranted. The problem is that we do not have an exhaustive debate; we have an express debate. We have a very fast debate and we do not have a lot of input from the experts.

If we look at the short history of why this is being brought forward, we can bring forward the question of the Supreme Court decision in 2007, where CSIS was seeking surveillance assistance from our allied spy services, which we have mentioned a few times in the House as the “Five Eyes”, the allied security services in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and United States.

There was a further court case in 2008 by Federal Court Justice Blanchard, which specifically stated that the CSIS Act did not contain extraterritorial provisions with respect to covert surveillance. There starts the slippery slide toward the new legal status quo where we do not believe CSIS has the overseas powers that it may need to do its job. However, the problem is that we may have gone too far. I will get back to that in a moment.

We further went on in 2013, where Federal Court Justice Mosley, as was referred to in The Globe and Mail article, not only suggested that CSIS had overstepped its bounds with extraterritorial powers, but if it continued, it would be illegal and he would take steps.

There was reason to bring the bill forward, and I do not discount that. Unfortunately, the government seems to not want to hear from the experts. One of those experts is the Canadian Bar Association, which is surely one of the better organizations to get an interpretation regarding current bills.

I will start with the statement that representatives of the Bar Association tabled with the committee, but were not able to present as they did not have time. Nor was the committee open to extending the time to give the representatives the chance to actually testify.

The Canadian Bar Association made it very clear that, in its opinion, section 18 of the proposed act would actually reduce the protection that Canadian citizens had. In fact, if a confidential human source provided information about a matter that did not result in a judicial hearing, the CSIS Act would no longer prohibit disclosure of either the information or the identity of the source. The proposed section 18 of the CSIS Act would protect disclosure from sources, but only if they were disclosed in judicial proceedings. However, the current article 18 of the act will actually protect those same informants regardless whether proceedings are in play or not.

Therefore, the question is this. Why in the world are we removing a protection that allows people to speak to CSIS without fear of their name being disclosed? The confidentiality may very well help, but in the case of the proposed legislation, we would actually reduce the confidentiality.

I remind people in the House of the Plame Affair back in the day of the Bush administration in the United States when the identity of a CIA worker was fully disclosed. I wonder if this amendment is not trying to replicate that disaster.

I would also point out a question that has been brought up many times in our courts. With the changing attitude toward international terrorism and international threats to public security, for good or for bad, we created the security certificate proceedings, and within that we created the special advocate regime. The special advocate, again for good or for bad, is an advocate for a person who is accused, such as Charkaoui or Harkat, which are recent cases that have made it to the Supreme Court. Individuals are detained by security certificate and they are named a special advocate who is well trained and well versed in security matters.

I really wish the representatives of the Canadian Bar Association had a chance to speak to the committee, because their presentations and concerns are well-founded and certainly worth listening to. However, I will point out, as did the Canadian Bar Association, that in Charkaoui, the Supreme Court accepted that the national security concerns could justify procedural modifications, including limits on the open-court principle, but indicated that those concerns could not be permitted to erode the essence of section 7 of the charter, and that meaningful and substantial protection would be required to satisfy section 7.

If members will recall, section 7 is the section that provides some protections, and I will read it into the record. It has been said but I will say it again:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

The problem with the bill as it stands now is that it seems to be going in a direction where we would removing people's fundamental rights as protected under section 7 of the charter. These matters would almost certainly be challenged in the courts.

I do not have a lot of time to bring other matters forward regarding the bill, but the only protection we seem to have is with the Security Intelligence Review Committee, SIRC, which has been challenged on many occasions as being simply a part-time committee. It is not a committee of the House, but a committee appointed by the Prime Minister. Currently, two of the five seats are vacant. There is only an interim chair of the committee who has not had the opportunity to call meetings of the committee nearly as frequently as there should be.

I would like to have brought more issues forward, but I will leave it at that for now. I am open to questions if members have more concerns that they would like to raise.