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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
Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) October 23rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues, and especially the member for LaSalle—Émard for sharing her time with me. I also want to congratulate her for her comments earlier today on the state of security on Parliament Hill. She gave a beautiful tribute to our security guards.
I find it quite fitting that today we are debating Bill C-35. As the title clearly says, this is an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals. We recently witnessed some rather extreme violence on Parliament Hill. We must pay tribute to those who are there every day to protect us and protect the institution of Parliament and the parliamentarians, elected members, senators, workers and assistants who work on Parliament Hill. We owe a lot to the security guards who were there to protect us yesterday.
The fact that we are debating Bill C-35 today highlights the fact that officers are not the only ones who are there. There are also service dogs. We saw this yesterday, and we see them all the time. These animals are prepared to risk their lives, consciously or not, to protect our society. We owe them a lot. That is why the bill before us today is laudable. It is a good bill, which has been called Quanto's law.
Quanto's Law is in memory of an Edmonton police service dog that was stabbed to death trying to stop a fleeing suspect in October 2013. A certain suspect pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and other offences, including evading police. He was sentenced to 26 months in prison and banned from owning a pet for 25 years.
It is particularly interesting that the current law as it stands, article 445 of the Criminal Code, already establishes penalties for committing an offence, whether it be killing an animal, maiming an animal, wounding, poisoning, et cetera.
Certainly, when it comes to police dogs, it would certainly be incorporated into this law, but we already have a law. The law right now proposes that a person who commits an offence, if it is an indictable offence, is liable to a maximum of five years imprisonment. If the person is found guilty of an offence on summary conviction, the person is liable to one or both of a maximum of $10,000 in fines and/or imprisonment up to 18 months. This law would change that.
This is subtle, but I will try to explain. The bill would amend section 445 such that anyone found guilty of attacking an animal could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, and the minimum punishment is six months in prison.
Once again, the government is imposing a minimum sentence—and I will come back to that shortly—in cases where a law enforcement animal is killed while aiding a law enforcement officer in enforcing the law, where the offence is prosecuted by indictment. If a law enforcement animal is injured or killed in the line of duty, the punishment for the offence would be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person.
Currently, when judges sentence offenders, the sentences can be served at the same time or consecutively. When they are consecutive, that means the time adds up and the sentence is cumulative. In this situation, someone who kills a animal on duty that is actively trying to prevent the commission of a crime will receive a consecutive sentence. It will not be consecutive if the animal in question is helping a police officer who is trying to prevent a crime. The nuance is subtle, but it is there.
Nevertheless, this bill is flawed. It includes minimum sentences, thereby removing the judge's discretion in some situations. The trial judge knows the facts and is perfectly capable of deciding what sentence should be imposed.
When judges are forced to hand down a particular sentence, they are very reluctant to do so. Some judges have even refused to impose minimum sentences. Cases go to the appeal court or even the Supreme Court, which decides whether the sentence is constitutional.
Why would the government seek to implement a measure that could be deemed unconstitutional when it could have immediately moved forward with a bill that was worthwhile in itself? The mandatory minimum sentence makes it very hard to support this bill. Members, at least those in the opposition, should support this bill at second reading. That way, we could examine it in committee and have a more extensive debate. We could invite experts to appear who will explain the consequences of this measure.
I believe that there will be a consensus. The bill is worthwhile and the amendment to section 445 of the Criminal Code is a good idea, except for the fact that the government is going to impose a minimum sentence.
If the government were prepared to remove this aspect of the bill, I believe we would be more likely to reach a consensus among ourselves and with the witnesses who would appear before the committee to participate in a debate on the bill. In my opinion, many experts would not agree with the bill because of the minimum sentences. Regardless, I would like to hear from these experts, listen to their opinions and better understand whether they consider that the bill is constitutional and has merit and whether it should move forward.
We have time to send this bill to committee. I hope that we will have a very interesting and thorough debate. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have once again made a rather fundamental error in the wording of the bill. That is something that the Conservative government seems to be intent on doing. It has no qualms about constantly adding minimum sentences to bills.
I would like the government to look at what is happening in other jurisdictions. Quebec has determined that cruelty toward animals must be redefined. Harsher sentences are needed. This issue really needs to be examined, and more appropriate sentences are required. In Quebec, this debate will certainly take place, regardless of what happens with the bill before us.
With this bill, particularly given the mandatory minimum, the province in question will end up with people who have been found guilty in its provincial prisons. The province will have to foot the bill. Once again, the federal government is going to download costs to the provinces without providing any assistance.
Minimum sentences do not work for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that the province will once again be left with the costs imposed by the federal government, without any assistance from the feds. I would remind the House that section 718 of the Criminal Code sets out certain principles on which sentences are supposed to be based. I have to wonder whether mandatory minimums reflect the principles of section 718.
Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled on this issue in the past, and it is important that we also examine it in the House and in committee.
I support this bill at second reading, but I hope the experts will explain the consequences to us in full.
Rail Transportation October 23rd, 2014
Mr. Speaker, VIA Rail is trying to put an end to its passenger rail service in eastern Quebec and New Brunswick. They have temporarily added extra departures for the holidays, but they did not publicize it.
Toying with passenger rail schedules will not help them win back the client base they have lost over the past two years.
Will the minister intervene so that VIA Rail will stop trying to cut rail service in Quebec and the Maritimes?
Petitions October 21st, 2014
Mr. Speaker, today I would like to present a petition that has been signed by hundreds of people in my riding. It is about the Cap-des-Rosiers lighthouse, the tallest in Canada, which was designated as a historic site in 1971. Unfortunately, three years ago the government decided it was no longer needed. Now the government wants to sell it off to the private sector. People are calling on the federal government to preserve this lighthouse.
The Environment October 20th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development.
We are obviously very happy to hear that the government will ensure that the laws are being obeyed. Unfortunately, the laws are far from adequate in light of all the amendments made to Bill C-38.
We are very concerned that the government does not seem interested in the project, in light of the criteria and facts we are learning today. We know that there will be dredging, and we do know that it will be postponed.
The project has already been submitted by Chaleur Terminals Inc., and this company already has the facts in hand. I do not understand why the government cannot make a decision today on the feasibility of the dredging and on what will be done with the spoils. The facts are there. The dredging will happen, and the government will have to make a decision.
The Environment October 20th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, every day people are expressing concern about the Chaleur Terminals project to export oil from Alberta's oil sands through the port of Belledune in New Brunswick. Two weeks ago, I asked the Minister of Transport to reassure the people and the fishers in Chaleur Bay, a waterway between Quebec and New Brunswick that falls under federal jurisdiction, about the dredging of the port that will have to be done to accommodate the tankers.
The Chaleur Terminals report sent to the Department of the Environment is silent on the issue of the toxic sediments that will be dredged up during the process. Will those sediments be thrown into the sea, right in the middle of the fishing grounds?
Studies show that immersing dredged materials is a way of transferring contaminants into the marine environment. Since October 7, the company has announced that dredging will not be necessary in the initial phases of the project, since only smaller tankers will be received in the port. The process is being pushed back, which will only allow other toxic sediment to build up on the seabed. Among the chemical contaminants that can be found in this sediment are heavy metals such as arsenic, chrome, mercury, lead, tributyltin, known for its harmful effects on shellfish, as well as PCBs.
Of course, dredging is vital to the operation of a port economy, and every port experiences siltation, but dredging should not be done without taking into consideration the protection of coastal and marine ecosystems. Dredging to deepen the harbour, which would be the case in Belledune, requires moving large quantities of sediment, and the disposal of the dredge spoils causes many technical and environmental problems. Special attention must therefore be paid to dredging operations carried out near sensitive areas, such as Chaleur Bay.
In addition to chemical pollution, there are also bacteriological and viral risks associated with dredging the port of Belledune since many municipalities dump their waste water, which is more or less treated, directly into the bay. This water contains many bacteria and viruses, some of which are fecal in origin and pathogenic and can be transmitted to people who go swimming in the bay or eat shellfish caught there. Some of these micro-organisms are diluted in the water of the bay while others attach themselves to particles and are deposited in muddy areas.
The sediment floating in the water as a result of dredging can contain the following flora: salmonella, E. coli, fecal streptococci, type E botulism, the cholera bacillus, and many other bacteria that are potentially harmful to human health. With regard to viruses, I would like to mention the virus responsible for gastroenteritis and the one responsible for hepatitis A. What is more, long-term exposure to high concentrations of heavy metals can cause these bacteria to develop a resistance to these metals and other substances such as antibiotics.
The bay is known for its beaches and temperate waters, which are enjoyed by local swimmers and tourists and serve as an important reservoir for the reproduction of pelagic species. Finally, over the past 20 years or so, the bay has also allowed for the development of the mariculture industry, which has the potential to become a gold mine for the region.
Does the Conservative government intend to take into account people's concerns and the risks associated with setting up an oil terminal in Belledune? Does it intend to conduct the assessments required and hold the necessary consultations before this project is implemented? Will it listen to the people in the community?
Committees of the House October 20th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for allowing me to ask a question.
Our colleague began his speech by saying that the government was taking its responsibility seriously, and that this is a matter of provincial jurisdiction. That much is true, as least in terms of administering justice.
However, it falls to the federal government, not the provinces, to ensure that Canada's official languages are being respected. While it may be up to the provinces to administer justice, it is up to this government to uphold the Charter and fundamental rights.
How will my colleague ensure that there will be a follow-up on the points repeated over and over by the Commissioner of Official Languages, especially given that there are doubts that this government is taking the rights of francophones in this country seriously?
Committees of the House October 20th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Acadie—Bathurst. He is clearly the best defender of official languages in Canada. He worked very hard on this file and he should be commended for that.
The current Government of Canada seems less concerned about official languages. It demonstrated that lack of concern by appointing a unilingual auditor general and by closing the Maurice Lamontagne Institute library today. This goes against many of the reports issued by the Commissioner of Official Languages. I am very concerned about the fact that this government does not seem to pay any attention to those reports.
We are talking about the report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights today because this government does not seem to care about the fundamental rights of Canadians, including the right to a trial in their language of choice.
The government has an obligation to stand up for the fundamental rights of Canadians, but today's debate proves that this government has had to be reminded of that obligation time and time again.
Does my colleague believe that we need to continue to put pressure on this government or will the government finally ensure that Canadians' basic rights are respected once and for all?
The Environment October 20th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the thousands who demonstrated against the Cacouna oil terminal project just add to the many resolutions passed by the municipalities and the consensus of scientists studying the ecosystem of the belugas. The promoter has not been able to demonstrate the social acceptability of his project because it will only be used to export unprocessed oil.
Why does the minister insist on defending a bill that will result in job losses, does not have the requisite social acceptability, and constitutes an unacceptable environmental threat?
Assaults Against Public Transit Operators October 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Pickering—Scarborough East. Bringing this bill forward in the House is laudable.
The statistics he quoted are certainly sobering, such as that there are five attacks a day in this country against our transit officials. That is very worrisome, and it may very well be why the unions in 2010 asked the government to pass this sort of legislation. At the time, the minister of Justice refused, saying that this type of thing is already covered in the Criminal Code. I am glad to see that the government has finally come to its senses and has brought forward this legislation.
One thing I did not understand in his presentation was that the member said this bill would act to protect our transit authorities. That may be true directly, if we are talking about sending people for longer sentences. The bill would give the courts the possibility of imposing greater penalties. If we are talking about recidivists, those who continually attack transit authorities, I would feel safe because they would be behind bars. However, I did not hear anything in the member's speech that suggested that there was a high rate of recidivism.
I would like to know exactly who would be protected here. How would they be protected? Would it not make more sense to also have provisions that would reduce violence on our streets? Would that not also be a helpful thing to do?
Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act October 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary. Her presentation was thoughtful and there were interesting elements to consider. I do worry about her analogy of the small fishing boat and the fisherman. I would suggest to her that there is a possibility that there is a fishing trawler behind that, sucking up all the information as it goes along.
One of the witnesses we heard in the committee represented the Canadian Bar Association. That witness certainly thought that the bill went far beyond what is being discussed here, but also made major modifications to general provisions regarding search and seizure. I would like to hear the member's comments on that.