First Nations Governance Act

An Act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Bob Nault  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of May 28, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

May 16th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the most recent budget brought down by the Minister of Finance.

There would be a lot to say about this last budget, but I will try, in the next 20 minutes, to stick to the basics and to the most fundamental aspects of the Minister of Finance's presentation.

First, let me tell the House that, since 1994, every year, before the budget is brought down, the Bloc Quebecois holds some consultations with the Quebec people to complement the ones made by the Standing Committee on Finance, to determine exactly the needs and the priorities of Quebeckers in the budget, in addition to those of Canadians.

Until now, we have not been very mistaken on the priorities given to some budget items, but that the government has not been able to follow up on in the many successive budgets since 1994. I will get back to those priorities for Quebeckers and Canadians.

In addition, let me point out a certain exercise the Bloc Quebecois has been engaging in twice a year since 1995. It involves a very sophisticated device, but one which has become very familiar to most taxpayers, namely a calculator, a little pocket calculator on special this week or $3.95 at Jean Coutu. Taking the figures for government revenues and expenditures—in the first quarter, for example—we simply extrapolate, using the rates of growth provided by the major financial institutions. This could be the Mouvement Desjardins, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank or Wood Gundy—any of the outfits who deal with economic growth.

So, we simply extrapolate with certain adjustments that come from our observation of the trends in budgetary revenues and expenditures year after year. As for the state of public finances, in calculating the budgetary surplus—something the former Finance Minister and potential successor to the current Prime Minister made forecasting errors about, in the size of the surplus and deficit, at the beginning, of around 200% per year, on the average—we have every reason to be proud, because our forecasting errors are around 3 to 4%, which is the margin of error one usually expects when making this type of forecast.

And yet, it was the $3.98 pocket calculator and a few connections, especially in the major financial institutions, that enabled us to get these results. I am always shocked to see the forecasts and results from the Minister of Finance, year after year. He must be doing this on purpose, presenting us with such fantastical figures as those he has been dealing in since 1995.

It began with the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard as finance minister and continues with the current finance minister, who is also hoping to become Prime Minister. I wonder whether or not being able to count is a prerequisite to standing for election as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, that is as a potential Prime Minister. Moreover, the first sizeable deficit leading to debts that accumulated year after year within the federal public service was created by the current Prime Minister, who was once, himself, Minister of Finance. It makes one believe that history repeats itself with all these successions, that is, succession as finance minster and succession as Prime Minister, too.

The same thing happened again this year. My colleague, the member for Joliette, who still uses the pocket calculator bought at Jean Coutu for $3.98, was right on in estimating that the surplus for the 2002-03 fiscal year would be somewhere around $10 billion. It so happens that we have just been told that, indeed, the surplus for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003, would be just over $10 billion.

When my colleague took over as finance critic, I gave him the pocket calculator, and it is still working just fine. We have been using the same $3.98 pocket calculator since 1995.

How can we obtain such accurate results when, just a few months ago, the Minister of Finance was telling us that the surplus for the previous fiscal year would be around $3.5 billion or $4 billion? He was wrong again. It is not $3.5 billion or $4 billion, but $10 billion, just as we had predicted.

What does that do? What it does is that the government, which should be addressing the real priorities of Quebeckers and Canadians, is not meeting these priorities, claiming as an excuse that it does not have the money to do so. That is what we are seeing year after year.

Since memory is not infallible, when the Minister of Finance opens his mouth and says that we must be careful because the surplus will not exceed $2 billion, $3 billion or $4 billion, people believe that they do indeed have to be careful. We are always afraid of going back into a deficit, and rightfully so.

If anyone is being responsible about the management of public funds, it is the Bloc Quebecois. It is the only party that told the former Minister of Finance, some five years ago, it would support anti-deficit legislation, balanced budget legislation, requiring him to be accountable. It is a matter of being accountable for the aboriginals. It would perhaps be a good idea to include the management of public accounts too. The system is far from being as transparent and as accountable as we are being told.

The Bloc Quebecois is responsible with regard to the management of public funds. But being responsible does not mean accumulating astronomical surpluses. Does the House know what an astronomical surplus is? It means that the federal government is taking more money from taxpayers than it needs to face its challenges and administer its programs.

This is serious, because people are overtaxed, particularly in terms of federal tax. I have often compared federal taxation to Quebec's taxation system and Ontario's, for example. We could also talk about Nova Scotia's tax system. The Bloc did a comparative analysis of all these income tax systems. As a result, we see that Quebec taxpayers, like those in the rest of Canada, start paying federal income tax when their income exceeds $12,000 or $13,000. The poverty line is nearly three times as high. There is no provincial income tax for those earning less than $12,000 or $13,000. Yet, taxpayers do pay federal income taxon such amounts.

For example, a family of four would pay no provincialincome tax on earnings under approximately $23,000 or $24,000, but this is the base amount for families to start paying federal income tax. Under Quebec's income tax system, this same family of four would start paying income tax only on earnings over $43,000. That is a huge difference.

Does this mean that the federal government is taking too much tax money from a middle income family of two adults and two children? It should not be taking as much, particularly from a family like that with an income of $23,000. It makes no sense.

The federal government is amassing huge surpluses. It is a matter of billions, whereas the forecast was—how convenient—a maximum of $4 billion. It is the same every year. Does this also mean that what the Minister of Finance has been doing to the employment insurance fund—theft, pure and simple—with the federal government's blessing, every year for the past six years, is unjustified? Mosat definitely, because this is theft, since the federal government does not contribute a cent to that fund. The money in it comes from the workers and the employers, who pay into it in order to insure those who had the misfortune to lose their job, not in order to line the pockets of the Minister of Finance.

Does this mean that there is not only no ethical justification, but probably no legal justification as well. The CSN has a case before the courts at the present time. Does this mean that not only is it unjustified on these bases but also unjustified on the very basis of the federal government's arguments, which are that we would be running a deficit again if not for the surplus? That is not true.

With a $10 billion surplus, the government would not have needed to steal this year's forecast surplus of $4 billion from the employment insurance fund. It also means that more than only 39% of EI applicants could have qualified for benefits. That figure is quite low. It means that 61% of applicants who have lost their jobs or who are in regions with seasonal employment and who have to cope with the infamous gap could have collected employment insurance. However, because of the Minister of Finance's greed, and the government's greed, and because of the lack of expertise in managing public finances, which are being hoarded year after year, these people are still being refused EI. The same will hold true for this year.

Incidentally, there is a protest movement that is starting up again across Quebec, and we hope that it will catch on in the Maritimes and the rest of Canada. The Maritimes are also hit harder than most other regions in Canada. There is a movement that goes by the name “sans chemise” that has started up again; it is based in the Charlevoix region. At one point, the government wanted to reorganize the regions to set the number of weeks of work needed for people to qualify for EI.

The “sans-chemise” said, “No, you cannot do that”, because it would exclude about a third of EI applicants if the government went ahead. So there was a demonstration and the “sans-chemise” were born.

The movement has started up again, because people find the whole situation unbelievable. So far $44 billion has been pilfered from the EI account, and the tradition has been maintained in the latest budget; $44 billion has been stolen and could have been used, in part, to ensure that more than just a minority of applicants qualify for EI benefits.

Some of this $44 billion could have been used to help softwood lumber workers, for example. On Wednesday I heard the Minister for International Trade say that the government has already done a great deal. Of course, we agree with the minister, but success still eludes the government. And employment insurance could have been a catalyst with regard to the impact of this international trade decision.

I heard the secretary of state for economic development and member for Bruce say “Quebec did nothing”. Quebec has done a lot in this area even though it does not come under its jurisdiction. The government is very good at talking about jurisdiction when it suits its purpose, but when it does not, when the time is not right, it does not talk about it. However, international trade is an area of federal jurisdiction and the federal government is responsible for any proceedings relating to countervailing duties imposed by the Americans or sanctions against our exports.

One would have thought that the federal government would have taken part of that $44 billion to help the hardest hit workers and to broaden eligibility criteria. When the situation is such that only a minority of the targeted clientele can benefit from a policy, it means that policy is not working, because any given policy is meant to benefit the clientele as a whole. If it does not, changes are needed.

Three years ago, members a House committee unanimously agreed to change the insurance employment plan. Even the Liberal members voted in favour of doing that. That mollified somewhat the coalition of the “sans-chemise“. They thought, “If a committee of the House of Commons is unanimous in this respect, it means the employment insurance plan can be changed and that we can count on at least some of the 15 recommendations being acted upon, particularly the recommendation asking that restrictions on eligibility be reduced”. But no. Three years later, we are back to square one. Nothing has changed. It is business as usual with this budget. Of course, premiums have been lowered and we are very happy about that. However, there is always a way to find balance in life. And that also goes for managing the employment insurance plan.

Contributions may have been reduced, and this qualifies as an indirect tax cut, but at the same time benefits must be increased. The government must take a good hard look at itself and say, “The plan is no longer working; it is time to change it”. But no, someone stands up in every day this place and sings the same tune every time we ask questions—I would almost feel like saying plays the same broken record—and tells us, “We have done a lot; the EI plan is much improved”, and sits down. Then, that someone stands up again and says, “This is unwarranted; the criticism is unwarranted”, and sits down again. Meanwhile, 61% of the unemployed are not eligible for benefits.

This is one of these situations. We are told that the $44 billion has been spent. We know very well what it was spent on, but it should be entered in the government's books as a debt to the workers, employers and unemployed, who have not been able to rely on employment insurance for the past six years and continue to be penalized because of the federal government's inaction.

Once again, the budget ignores the humanitarian considerations that should guide all parliamentarians, and government members in particular, out of concern for serving the people we are supposed to be representing, and serving them well.

Many references are made in the Speech from the Throne to aboriginal issues. I would like to clarify a few things. This is my third throne speech since 1993, and it is still fashionable, it still looks good to state in the introduction that the first nations have needs that must be recognized, that the good federal government will do everything in its power to help its aboriginal people. Putting things that way smacks of colonialism.

In the last budget, there is practically nothing for the first nations. In the past 10 months I have been able to observe how much the first nations are suffering all over Canada. There was even a UN observer who came here for about a week and a half. He went around to a number of reserves in Canada and he was completely flabbergasted. He thought that situations like that could only arise in Africa, for example. He found that even within Canada, one of the G-8 countries, one of the eight most industrialized countries, there were many reserves that did not even have running water and drinking water. He also saw that people were living in unhealthy housing. He also noted that underemployment could reach 95% in certain first nations communities. That means that only 5% of the people are working, if we look at it the opposite way. Such situations prey on the mind.

Despite all that, at the present time, there are 500 specific claims negotiations with first nations that are pending. There are 500 more coming along. For example, the negotiations on self-government could have been completed with a few million dollars more in the budget for the first nations. Unfortunately, the money is not there.

Another 500 claims will be filed over the next two years. Instead of concentrating on improving the first nations' socio-economic conditions and tackling the real issues, we are being handed garbage like Bill C-7, which no one wants.

I have just come back from Kenora, in the riding of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. There were 8,000 first nations representatives. It was not the chiefs, as this minister claims when he says that only the chiefs oppose the legislation on governance. No, there were 8,000 aboriginal children, adolescents and adults, who were not chiefs. They spontaneously took to the streets in the riding of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to ask for his head.

He does not get it at all, and his attitude harks back to colonialism. The bill reeks of racism, and the government continues to claim that this will relaunch plans for self governance, thereby accelerating the process by which the first nations obtain this right. I did not say that the minister was racist. I said that the bill was racist, with all due respect.

Much more could have been done with this budget. Unfortunately, the other side of the House has no imagination and is unable to show openness and above all to recognize the inherent right of the first nations to self governance.

As a result, Bill C-7 continues to hurt communities which have already suffered for 130 years under the Indian Act and which are continuing to suffer also from unqualified prejudice that cannot withstand ten minutes of analysis. People still think that aboriginals do not have the right to want more than the federal government is willing to give, although all the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada and the United Nations, have said that they are nations and, as such, entitled to respect. It is our duty to negotiate with them on an equal footing.

I am completely opposed to this budget for these reasons.

Aboriginal affairsOral Question Period

May 14th, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a despicable piece of work and that will be made clear tomorrow in Kenora, where thousands of aboriginal people will show their opposition to this bill. No one in the aboriginal community wants this bill.

I ask the Prime Minister the following question: Is it not true that this stubborn insistence on pushing Bill C-7 through the House and shoving it down the throat of the first nations is a reflection of the Prime Minister's desire for vengeance against those who dared to challenge his policies as minister in 1969? He is saying to them, “I am going to stick it to you before I leave”.

Aboriginal affairsOral Question Period

May 14th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister tells us that the purpose of Bill C-7 is to replace the infamous and racist Indian Act and improve the lot of native peoples, but this is not true. What this bill does is continue to treat native peoples like children and make his equally despicable 1969 white paper—issued when he was the Minister of Indian Affairs—into reality.

Faced with fierce opposition from the first nations and from his most likely successor, will the Prime Minister agree to drop Bill C-7 and let others start over on new foundations that will be more respectful of the native peoples?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

May 12th, 2003 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly did not want to jump ahead of one of my colleagues from the opposite side who I know have been following this legislation very closely and who I think have been contributing mightily to this debate.

I did want to involve myself on two points, Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, Motions Nos. 14 and 15 that deal with the disability tax credit. What the government was trying to do by sections 74 and 75 of the act was to clarify the eligibility for the disability tax credit in the context of individuals being able to feed and clothe themselves.

One of the things that was very noticeable when the government moved on restricting access to the disability tax credit was that quite a few people came into my constituency office and reacted negatively to it. There are two categories of these individuals. The first is that category of individuals who I could see really were unfairly affected by the tightening down of the definition of what constitutes eligibility for the disability tax credit.

For example, I remember vividly one lady who came into my office. She was arthritic and quite crippled. Her hands were completely twisted around. She had a lot of difficulty just moving, but this was an individual who had tremendous joie de vivre. She did not let this crippling illness prevent her from doing as much as she possibly could, but because she was perceived by the bureaucracy as being mobile and able to move around, she was declared ineligible for the disability tax credit. The reality was that because of the very twisted condition of her hands in particular, she genuinely had a real difficulty in feeding herself and she had to have assistance. So it was very important for her to be brought under the disability tax credit even though in every other sense she was mobile in society, or as mobile as she could be.

On the other hand, there were people who came in and complained that they were eliminated from the disability tax credit because they had a food allergy. This food allergy caused them to spend all kinds of time searching for the right foods, as a matter of fact, so much time that they could not effectively work or hold down a job and this kind of thing. Not wanting to categorize all of those people, there was a reality. One gets this sense when one is a member of Parliament in one's constituency office and deals with a lot of people. There was a sense that this category of individual was willing to surrender to their disability rather than fight it.

In comparison to the lady with the severe arthritis, these people seemed to be, to all appearances, very capable of moving about and contributing to society and contributing to their own care and looking after themselves. But there was a Federal Court ruling pertaining to the disability tax credit which basically suggested that people who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to look for the foods that they need in order to satisfy their allergies should be brought under the disability tax credit.

The government, in amending the legislation we see before us now in clauses 74 and 75, attempts to distinguish between these two realities, one a disability that genuinely does make it impossible to feed and dress oneself. I can assure members that it is very difficult, and I know this from experience, to do the most elementary things when one's hands are crippled.

Just briefly as an aside, I should say that I have some passing knowledge of this because on my 21st birthday my friend and I jumped the neighbour's hedge and I came down on my hands on a concrete sidewalk. While neither of my hands were fractured, all the ligaments on either side were strained. For about six weeks I could not use either hand, so I can sympathize with people who might have severe arthritis about how this makes it very difficult to do simplest things like feeding and dressing oneself.

While the original amendments in this section make this distinction, and they are good amendments, unfortunately the motions that are proposed would scrap both clauses 74 and 75 eliminating, in my view, this very necessary distinction between being physically crippled to do something that is essential and being what I suppose one could call emotionally disadvantaged or even emotionally crippled. Sometimes it is not wise to use the government's ability to assist people financially to address issues that are basically emotional. Sometimes it is better if these people delve into their own resources to find their own ways of dealing with these emotional disabilities.

I will leave that for a moment and take advantage of the few minutes that I have to comment on something else in the bill which I have not had an opportunity to comment on before. That is the introduction in this legislation of a first nations goods and services tax.

It is ironic because of course the goods and services tax is one of the most hated taxes in Canada. Although it is not being debated very much these days, I guess after almost 12 years in which it has been in place, people have given up on it and it is no longer the source of negative comment that it once was. However it is a very important method of raising revenue for the federal government.

Bill C-28 brings the goods and services tax into native self-government. It is a very positive step in that the government has been attempting, as a matter of policy, over the past five or six years, to bring in aboriginal self-government and make aboriginal communities as independent as possible. One of the ways to do that is rather than aboriginal governments, Indian governments and band councils being totally reliant on money coming from the federal government, they should be able to raise money by themselves within their own communities. This legislation introduces the ability among first nations to raise money through a goods and services tax within their own communities.

What is so relevant and so timely about that is the government has before Parliament, as we speak, a complementary bill called Bill C-7, which brings in self-government, provisions of transparency, accountability and standards of governance to some 600 Indian bands and communities across the nation. This legislation has been somewhat controversial because I realize some of the opposition parties are opposed to it. However most of the country, most aboriginals and anyone who has any familiarity with the problems that exist on our Indian reserves will appreciate this is extremely important legislation.

I point out that if one is to enable Indian bands and communities to raise money on their own, one has to have a coherent scheme of transparency, accountability and standards of governance in those band councils. It is all part of a package, Bill C-28 and Bill C-7. These are two very positive things on the part of this government.

Aboriginal affairsOral Question Period

May 9th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalSecretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-7 is proceeding through committee. It will come back to the House and be voted on. There will be regulations put forward and established over the next three years after the bill has been passed. There will be many opportunities for aboriginal people as well as people in the House and across the country to express their concerns about it or their support for it.

Aboriginal affairsOral Question Period

May 9th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first nations governance bill has provoked an unprecedented outcry, which is increasing tensions daily between the federal government and aboriginal peoples. Most of the witnesses who appeared before the committee rejected Bill C-7, not to mention the opposition of the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Will the current Prime Minister recognize that the only sensible thing to do, given the circumstances, is to immediately withdraw Bill C-7 and leave it up to others to—

Criminal CodePrivate Member'S Business

May 8th, 2003 / 5:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, you are obviously well aware of how equally frustrating and gratifying the work of parliamentarians can be. The frustration comes when we work tirelessly on something very important to us, but when the results, for one reason or another, are slow in coming or, sometimes, never materialize. The gratification comes when these same efforts, no matter how long it takes, produce results that improve the quality of life of our constituents. For the past several years, the Bloc Quebecois has been intensely experiencing both emotions with regard to the young offenders issue, a subject directly affected by Bill C-416, which we are debating today.

When the federal government decided to go forward with Bill C-7, the Bloc did not waste any time in advising the federal government of the inherent dangers of such legislation for Quebec. Once again, I want to salute the untiring efforts of our former colleague, the former member for Berthier—Montcalm, the hon. Michel Bellehumeur, a Court of Quebec judge.

Quebec's system of dealing with young offenders is recognized as the most effective in the country. Since 1991, the crime rate among young Quebeckers has dropped by 23%. Everyone involved in the system in Quebec agrees that our approach, oriented toward reintegration rather than repression, should not be modified by any federal legislation.

Nevertheless, as we know, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. Unfortunately, that too often describes the federal government which, once again has chosen to ignore our party's objections and reject the consensus from Quebec. Despite all our efforts, the Minister of Justice has decided to proceed with utter disregard for our recommendations. That is, in short, why we are so frustrated with this issue.

We had to wait two years before receiving any gratification or recognition for our considerable efforts. Recently the Quebec court of Appeal agreed with the Government of Quebec in a unanimous opinion concluding that certain provisions of the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act, formerly the Young Offenders Act, are contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Last week, the federal Minister of Justice decided not to appeal this decision, thus recognizing that he must amend his legislation, as the Bloc Quebecois suggested two years ago. It is easy to imagine the time, energy and money that we could have saved if this government had had the wisdom to recognize the relevance of our arguments. And to think that some people still question the relevance of the Bloc Quebecois.

While we were celebrating this victory, another political party in this House, the Canadian Alliance—the official opposition, to top it off—demanded that the government appeal this judgment. According to them, the decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal weakens the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Far be it from me to speak ironically—it is not my style. Still, their position on this issue confirms that they are not yet ready to make inroads into Quebec. I can predict in advance that the next electoral struggle in Quebec will be between the Bloc and the Liberal party.

It is therefore not surprising that we are here today debating a private member's bill, C-416, which is one again trying to tighten up the young offenders system. This time the Canadian Alliance is deliberately targeting aboriginals by trying to amend both the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The purpose is to deliberately deny the particular conditions in which a number of aboriginal youth live. Let us see specifically what Bill C-416 proposes to amend.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act states the following at subsection 3(1)( c )(iv):

within the limits of fair and proportionate accountability, the measures taken against young persons who commit offences should

respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and respond to the needs of aboriginal young persons and of young persons with special requirements;

Now, in Bill C-416, this would read as follows:

(iv) respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences;

You heard right: the specific needs of aboriginal youth are deliberately excluded from the factors the judge will take into consideration. Yet the bill does recognize that certain differences do have to be taken into consideration, but those differentiating aboriginal youth do not seem to be important enough.

Could we have an explanation as to what that political party has against the aboriginal community and the recognition of the specific nature of certain nations in this country? Hard to explain, and even harder to understand.

How can a party with its main base in the west of this country ignore the particular living conditions, often very precarious ones, of the native communities? According to the 1996 census, over half of the aboriginal people in Canada live in the western provinces and territories. Why then act as if they knew nothing about the living conditions of aboriginal people and how radically different they are from those of non-aboriginal people?

The census I referred to also reported that the average annual income of Canadians over the age of 15 years was $25,196, while for aboriginal people it was $14,283. I need hardly point out that such poverty generates violence and despair. It would, therefore, be normal for a judge to be required to take this into consideration when reaching a sentencing decision.

Another example shows the distress frequently facing young aboriginals, starting at a very early age. I am referring here to the haunting images of young Innu from Davis Inlet sniffing gas. The federal government had to implement a special assistance program to remedy this serious dependency that hinted at much greater problems, such their lack of hope, poverty, social isolation and its effects.

In a legal sense, the amendment contained in Bill C-416 has no logical justification, particularly under the case law developed under paragraph 718.2( e ) of the Criminal Code. In the R. v Gladue decision [1999], later confirmed by the R. v Wells [2000] decision, the court determined that this section does not alter the fundamental duty of the sentencing judge to impose a sentence that suits both the offence and the offender, but that the sentence must include a consideration for the community context of the aboriginal offender.

The judge is obliged to consider the unique systemic or background circumstances or aboriginal heritage. Furthermore, in section 36 of the R. v Wells decision, Justice Iacobucci stated and I quote:

—that sentencing judges should pay particular attention to the fact that the circumstances of aboriginal offenders are unique in comparison with those of non-aboriginal offenders.

In conclusion, it is important to clearly understand that the sections in question do not give preferential treatment to aboriginals as the Canadian Alliance is claiming, but rather propose an individualized treatment for each specific case, which must not be taken out of context. If this continues to be applied in a mandatory fashion when it comes to ethnic, cultural, linguistic and gender differences, why should there be a double standard when it comes to young aboriginals.

As the Bloc Quebecois has been saying from the start, there has to be an individualized approach, based on reintegration rather than repression. Obviously, we will not support Bill C-416, and we will be voting against it when the time comes.

Canada Airports ActGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-27 because as the House is aware I have been a long proponent of increasing transparency and accountability in the financial administration of government and crown corporations. Indeed, it is a principle that I would apply to any kind of institution that is charged with looking after the public trust, whether it is a private corporation, a crown corporation or a government.

This business of transparency and accountability has come to be rather accepted in this day and age, particularly after the public collapses in the United States of large corporations like Enron. The idea that institutions should be foremostly transparent and accountable is somewhat novel in comparison to the situation of just 10 years ago.

When I first came to this House in 1993 and started this crusade to bring transparency and accountability to everything the government touched, part of that crusade was to reform the Access to Information Act and to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, and do a number of things including bringing transparency and accountability to charitable institutions.

I guess I was a voice in the wilderness originally but as time went on the government, I am happy to say, has bought more and more into the principle that there must be legislated transparency and accountability wherever taxpayers' money is being spent or wherever the public trust is being looked after in a way that involves finances.

In 1994, the first year of the government's mandate, the government took over a program that had been initiated by the former Tory government. It was the implementation of the national airport policy. That involved taking federal airports and transferring them through specific agreements to local authorities who in turn often hired or came into agreements with private operators to run these airports. This legislation deals with these entities. In the grand sense the entity that runs, for example, Pearson airport is an airport authority in this legislation. There is also a smaller category of airport operator which by and large applies to John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport in my riding in Hamilton.

When those agreements were struck across the country that basically semi-privatized the federal airports, the principle of ensuring that there was a single standard of corporate governance, a single standard of financial reporting, and a single standard of disclosure to the public was not implemented at that time. These airport authorities and airport operators were set up with different types of standards. Over the nine years since these airport authorities and airport operators have been operating, it has become apparent that the level of disclosure and the level of transparency has been uneven across the country. There have been some concerns expressed about the management of some of these airport authorities and airport operators.

In 1996 the government embarked upon a similar program to transfer the federal marine assets over to port authorities. In my riding the Hamilton Harbour Commission was replaced by the Hamilton Port Authority. The difference between 1994 and 1996 was that the government inserted into the legislation, creating the port authorities, excellent standards of corporate governance, transparency and accountability. I was very proud at that time because I would like to think I had some role in that because I was pestering the minister of the day about the necessity of bringing that type of standard in with the port authorities.

We now have Bill C-27 which, nine years later, is the logical step to take after bringing the regimes of corporate governance to port authorities and bringing them to airport authorities and airport operators. It is a good thing to do.

I have been following the debate in the House and I cannot fail but note that even on my own side there have been colleagues who have criticized Bill C-27 and have spoken against it. I must cite the member for Hamilton West who is a colleague of mine. On an earlier day of debate he gave a speech on the bill in which he castigated the government for this legislation. I must note that nowhere in his speech did he actually cite a single criticism of the legislation. He decried it in general but not in specifics.

It is important for people watching to know that even on this side of the House there is great freedom of opinion and we are able to debate openly. I do not begrudge my colleague's opinion about the legislation, but it was his remarks that prompted me more than anything else to set the record straight in my view, and remember, Madam Speaker, it is my view.

I would like to take members of the House through a bit of the legislation to give them an impression of what the legislation actually does and why I think everyone in the House should support it. There may be areas that could use some technical amendments, but by and large, I think it is excellent legislation.

I draw the House's attention to part 5 of the bill under the heading “Disclosure and Accountability”. Clause 120 would require all airport operators to prepare financial statements annually. In those financial statements there must be a statement of revenues and expenditures, a summary of capital expenditures, and a statement of revenues from passenger fees. This is important information because we must remember that these airports, even though they are operated locally, are institutions of the public trust. In other words, every airport is derived ultimately from the Crown, so the public would expect to have access to that kind of information.

Clause 123 would require every airport operator to submit a business plan for the upcoming five years. I am probably a bit fanatical about the need for financial disclosure with the public and institutions, including private corporations. The legislation would require that the airport authority or airport operator provide annual financial statements. The legislation goes into great detail about what is required in these financial statements. It says, for example, that financial statements must disclose the revenues derived from landing fees, terminal fees, other aeronautical fees, passenger fees, and from car parking concessions and general rental.

This is a very important part of understanding the success of an institution, a business enterprise in this case being operated in the public interest. It is very important because ultimately these airport properties are a resource of the nation. It is very important for the public to be able to see for themselves through audited financial statements how effectively the airport operator is carrying out its task. I submit that this detailed requirement is an excellent provision to put in the legislation.

This is not to say that many airport operators are not providing this kind of information already. The important thing is that it is a standard that goes across all airport operators including the one in Hamilton and many others. Therefore, it is a very positive thing.

A little further in the bill we would expect to see and indeed we do find that there has to be an auditor's report of the financial statements. That of course should be a given. I am sure it is in most airport agreements, if not all, but it is very important to put it in legislation.

There is also a provision for regular annual meetings. A very good idea, that was derived from the port authority legislation which incidentally was Bill C-44 in its day, is this idea that every so often the airport authority must submit itself to a performance review. That performance review of its operations and everything that it is doing and the way it is carrying out business is to be done by an independent agent. That again is a very positive thing to do. I think the public must be satisfied that there is transparency and accountability.

However, realizing that not everyone is going to be scrutinizing the financial statements of the airport operator every time they come out, we must assure ourselves that there is something built into the system to ensure that there is an annual independent assessment of how well management is performing its task.

It is something that the government is very used to. We certainly have a system in the government where the performance of various departments are subject to annual review and indeed we apply it to many pieces of legislation. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is a good case in point because it was just in the House this week. This is legislation that comes up for review every five years. The Lobbyists Registration Act is another example. In the operation of government itself various departments have mechanisms in place to review performance from time to time. Therefore, I think this is very positive.

There is also material here regarding the mechanism for setting airport fees. Again, that is very important because we do not want a situation where an airport operator can arbitrarily set fees that may help generate revenue but may have a negative impact on passenger travel or access to the airport or whatever else. Airports like ports are not simply business enterprises. They are enterprises that have great national significance and they cannot be administered totally in isolation of national policy. This is why Bill C-27 has come forward.

Obviously I quite support the bill and I would like to put it also in the context of another piece of legislation that is coming before the House; it is in committee. That is Bill C-7, which is a bill that will bring financial transparency and accountability to the administration of Indian reserves. Some 600 bands and reserves are going to be covered by this legislation. What it basically does is put standards where none existed before, national standards pertaining to the election of officers of bands, their requirement to disclose their proceedings to their band membership, the need for audited financial statements and so forth.

The reason why I mention it is that this is part of where the government has been going in the last few years and I am extremely pleased that it is going in this direction. More and more, we see the government moving toward patching up areas of the national fabric that have existed for many years without adequate oversight. Because when we talk about transparency and accountability, what we are really talking about is public oversight of enterprises that are in the national interest.

Bill C-7, Bill C-27 and the bill on the port authorities represent very important progress on the part of the government in this direction. That gives me an opportunity to encourage the government to carry on in this direction, because there is much more to be done. I remind the House that I have been campaigning very hard over many years to persuade the government to reform the Access to Information Act. That would bring greater transparency, accountability and scrutiny, shall we say, to the administration of government. This was pioneering legislation in its day. It needs overhaul very desperately and I hope the government will move in that direction very shortly. I would rather it did it immediately because time is running out on this particular government's mandate.

There is another area that I really wish the government would move forward on. It has been very slow and I find it very unfortunate. It is the whole idea of bringing in standards of accountability, transparency and corporate governance to charities. It is just like port authorities, just like airport authorities. Charities are large enterprises that spend billions of taxpayers' dollars.

I believe the charity sector in this country, which we can rightly call an industry, has revenues and expenditures in the order of about $100 billion a year. This is a huge amount. These charitable institutions, be they large hospitals or the small charity that gets on the telephone to us, or usually to our aged parents who cannot think very clearly for themselves, and solicit money and spend that money, these organizations are still not under meaningful, legislated standards of corporate governance and transparence. I know that sounds incredible. Canadians listening probably think it is absolutely amazing that a $100 billion a year industry should be without the basic standards of corporate governance that exist in this legislation.

Finally I would say in conclusion that the government is moving in the right direction. This is what Canadians want. This is what society wants. I think it is very clear from the catastrophes in the financial market, particularly in the United States, that we cannot rely on trust alone to ensure that enterprises that are acting in the public interest are living up to their commitments. So we must bring in legislation that defines standards of corporate governance and deals with transparency and accountability. I think Bill C-27 is a good step in that direction, but there is much, much more to be done.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2003 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill now before the House is to replace the Transfer of Offenders Act, which has been in force for over 20 years. The basic objective of the solicitor general's proposal is still the same as the one pursued by the old act that would be replaced, with the exception that the list of countries with which the Canadian government has entered into agreements would be updated.

Thus, Canadians convicted abroad would still be allowed to come back here to serve their sentences and foreigners convicted in Canada would still be allowed to return to their country to serve their sentences.

The foundation of this bill is to set out how the transfer of offenders to Canadian correctional institutions would be done, while ensuring the compassionate nature of the process. It is important to mention at this point that the Bloc Quebecois supports such a measure.

The bill also deals with with the equivalency of foreign and Canadian sentences. In this regard, it will be interesting to follow the progress of this bill, particularly in light of the justice minister's decision, last week, not to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec concerning the new Youth Criminal Justice Act.

At this time I would like to point out that the Bloc Quebecois agrees in principle with Bill C-33. Nevertheless, this support should not be considered carte blanche for the government. As is customary, we reserve the right to present amendments to the bill in order to improve it.

As an example of a constructive amendment the Bloc might suggest, I give you the delicate issue of human rights and the unhealthy conditions in the prisons of certain countries. From this point of view, it seems obvious that we should repatriate criminals who otherwise would have to serve their sentences in inhumane conditions.

These transfers must be carried out in a spirit of collaboration with the states that are signatories of treaties and administrative agreements. It is essential to establish a quick, simple administrative framework for transferring criminals. The same would be true for foreign nationals serving a sentence in Canada.

Nevertheless, we have serious reservations when it comes to enforcing certain provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Despite the recent opinion of the Quebec Court of Appeal in this matter, the federal government has decided to go ahead and sentence young people of 14 and 15 as adults. This is a concrete example of our reservations with respect to this bill, and we intend to explore this further when the bill is examined in committee.

Thus, the bill proposes major changes in the current act, particularly with respect to simplifying the administration of justice, rehabilitation and social reintegration for criminals who are serving sentences in Canada or their countries of origin. It also clearly describes the conditions and implementation mechanisms. It is entirely commendable that the bill aims at simplifying administrative procedures and the Bloc Quebecois will support this principle.

It is also important to mention the provisions related to the notion of the consent of the foreign entities under the legislation. In addition to the eligibility criteria outlined in clauses 4 and 5, clause 8 clearly stipulates that the transfer requires the consent of the foreign entity, Canada and of the offender. Similarly, clause 9 states that certain rules will apply in terms of the consent of Quebec and the provinces. Accordingly, Quebec or the other provinces may and must express their consent before any steps are undertaken.

The minister responsible for implementing the act, the Solicitor General, is given a considerable amount of responsibility with respect to assessing the factors to ensure transfers are carried out properly. As such, several elements must be taken into consideration and recent events shed some very relevant light on this matter. One of these elements to be considered is the assessment of the threat to security that the transfer of a criminal to Canada may pose. The reverse seems to be the case when it comes to the—let us call it accelerated—extradition of Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel to Germany. The government's actions must be guided by a multitude of factors, and in the case of foreigners who are found guilty in Canada, the minister must take into consideration the risks involved in their detention and future release when considering and assessing transfers.

In order to avoid the transfer procedure being used to shorten or even cancel sentences, the bill contains specific provisions to ensure the continuity of sentences imposed on offenders. Thus, the rule of law will be respected and will be sufficiently consistent with the criminal law of the countries involved.

The case of young offenders is also dealt with specifically in the wording of the bill. Specific provisions apply in the cases of the transfer of adolescents. In terms of these cases, the comments of certain experts could certainly shed some needed light, particularly given the recent judgment of the Quebec Court of Appeal.

It is our hope that the Solicitor General, as minister responsible, will make the necessary changes to the bill to reflect the requirements of the charter, pursuant to the decision rendered by the Court of Appeal.

As I mentioned in my introduction, it is also important to raise the sensitive issue of human rights and the humanitarian considerations that we must keep in mind. These issues are so important that we find it curious, to say the least, that there is only one clause dedicated to the issue in the bill.

What are the purposes of such transfers? First, social reintegration. With the development of increasingly sophisticated means of communication and transportation, it becomes simpler to implement a new administrative framework for international transfers. Criminals also benefit from our increasingly open borders and the porosity of our various systems, and we therefore congratulate the government on developing modern methods in response to these specific issues.

Rehabilitation is as important an issue as reintegration, and both are at the core of this bill.

Criminals are also transferred for humanitarian considerations. The countries involved will take into consideration communication difficulties related to language, the alienating effect of cultural differences and local customs, as well as the lack of contact with family. We can therefore deduce that repatriation of criminals has a certain interest both for offenders and governments.

The second objective relates to sovereign equality. Another issue relating to the transfer procedure consists in respecting the rights of states. There is a recognized principle that the sovereign equality of states must take precedence. Moreover, article 2 of the United Nations charter stipulates that the organization is based upon the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members. This is, moreover, the reason why the agreement of the countries involved is required by this bill and the transfer also requires the agreement of the offender.

The Council of Europe adopted its Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons in 1983 at Strasbourg, a place where I have lived, you will be glad to know, Mr. Speaker.

Certain parallels might be drawn between the Council of Europe convention and the bill before us here. First, there is the need for collaboration between the states and the necessity to facilitate the social reintegration of offenders.

It is also important to point out that the convention rigorously respects the national law of each member country. Article 13 of the convention states that the sentencing state alone shall have the right to decide on any application for review of the judgment. Thus, the humanitarian aspect is clear in the provisions and the explanatory passages of the convention.

Let us also talk about mental disorders. Several provisions of the current bill are related to procedures concerning the transfer of people declared not criminally responsible on account of mental disorders. We will have to pay particular attention to this part of the bill to ensure that these provisions reflect as best as possible the sensitive nature of the sentences handed out to these particular criminals.

The Bloc Quebecois still has some reservations concerning the bill, particularly about clause 18, which says:

A Canadian offender is deemed to be serving an adult sentence within the meaning of the Youth Criminal Justice Act if (a) the Canadian offender was, at the time the offence was committed, from 14 to 17 years old; and (b) their sentence is longer than the maximum youth sentence that could have been imposed under that Act for an equivalent offence.

We believe that it is very likely that 14- or 15-year-old youths would receive far too heavy sentences compared to the ones that they would have received in Canada.

I repeat that the Court of Appeal of Quebec gave its opinion in the case of the Government of Quebec's order regarding the reference concerning Bill C-7 on the youth criminal justice system. During the hearing of this case, Quebec's Attorney General said that the breaches of freedom and psychological welfare that result from criminal charges against a minor are exacerbated by the system that presumes subjecting youth to adult sentencing. This procedure would violate the presumption of innocence, guaranteed under paragraph 11( d ) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and recognized by the Supreme Court as a fundamental principle that is protected by section 7.

Paragraph 11( d ) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms establishes the rightto be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

Quebec's Attorney General also argued that:

The procedures involved would be similar to those used in declaring someone a dangerous offender, in that they cause similar harm.

The attorney went on to say:

The Youth Criminal Justice Act would therefore violate the freedom and safety of adolescents, which contravenes the principles of fundamental justice in that it does not specifically require that the factors the court must weigh when determining whether an adolescent should be subject to adult sentencing must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt.

This refers to subsection 73(1) of the act.

The Attorney General of Canada argued that:

The new legislation, which is an exception to the adult criminal system, is in line with an approach that balances the interests of society and those of adolescents in such a way as to make the taking into account of the specific situation of adolescents a major consideration.

In response to the question raised by the Attorney General of Quebec, whether the elements set out are indeed principles of fundamental justice, the five judges of Quebec's Court of Appeal agreed that they were.

On page 63 of this opinion, we read the following:

The expression “fundamental justice” in the context of section 7 is not limited to rules of procedure, but includes substantial principles. This means that to withstand charter scrutiny, any psychological security violation must be fundamentally warranted not only procedurally but also in relation to the objective, in accordance with the basic tenets of our legal system.

The Quebec Court of Appeal judges added that there is a wide consensus about these elements because of the essential role they play in the Canadian legal system. Their vital importance has been recognized ever since the very first legislation on the subject-matter. Over time, the details were worked out to meet the particular situation and needs of adolescents more and more specifically.

In the decision in R. v. M. (S.H.) (1989), 2 S.C.R., on page 446, Justice L'Heureux-Dubé wrote:

[This brief legislative history of] the provisions of the Young Offenders Act amply demonstrates that for nearly one hundred years Parliament has committed itself to the separate treatment and rehabilitation of young persons involved in the criminal process. The underlying philosophy has been from the beginning that it is in society's interest to assist young offenders “to strengthen their better instincts”. An attempt is made through the legislation to “prevent these juveniles from becoming prospective criminals and to assist them to become law-abiding citizens”.

Unfortunately, this government has chosen to ignore this legacy and expertise by doing away with the Young Offenders Act and replacing it with a piece of legislation that is pretty shaky in terms of its wording, as demonstrated by the Court of Appeal of Quebec, and questionable where its rehabilitation objectives are concerned.

As the members are aware, the Bloc Quebecois took a clear stand against this new legislation, which disregards nearly 100 years of history and practice, and opens the door to challenges, and the Court of Appeal of Quebec recently proved us right. We have continued to be vocal opponents of this poorly worded legislation whose sole purpose was to clumsily reassure the public.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeal stated:

Although the presumption may be set aside and the court may retain greater discretionary powers with respect to the appropriateness of imposing such a sentence rather than an adult sentence, it is no less true that the legislator has clearly indicated in sections 62 and 72 that the usual sentence applicable to designated offences is that imposed on adults guilty of the same offences.

It also sends a clear message to the population as a whole that, in general, adolescents are dangerous criminals if they are 14 years of age or older when they commit certain offences. In other words, applying adult sentences has the effect of stigmatizing the adolescent guilty of a designated offence.

Bloc Quebecois members have spoken many times on Bill C-7, the young offenders legislation, questioning its real purpose. We have questioned the relevance of the purpose of this legislation. It was surprising to find that the government really thought it could deal with juvenile crime by giving the public a false sense of security, when the real issue was to lower the crime rate among young people.

At the time, Bill C-7 had its objectives backwards. The government had completely forgotten whom this bill was for. Should we rehabilitate young offenders or should we give an illusion of protection to society, based on the leveling of the enforcement of the adult legislation?

However, if we consider clause 18 of Bill C-33 that we are discussing, the same questions remain.

The Quebec Court of Appeal has provided several responses that, it must be said, rankle the Liberal government. The Court of Appeal is categorical. The imposition of an adult sentence is not essential to achieving the goal of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

On page 69 of the opinion, the Court of Appeal judges analysed these provisions and concluded, and I quote:

—in this respect, clearly, the new legislation presumes that adult sentences be applied as a general rule. From now on, this legislation places upon minors the onus of demonstrating why an adult sentence should not be imposed. Supreme Court case law is however clear: Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that, during sentencing the onus is on the Crown to establish beyond all reasonable doubt the aggravating circumstances surrounding the commission of an offence. Paragraph 724(3) (e) of the Criminal Code requires the prosecutor to establish, by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of any aggravating fact or any previous conviction by the offender. Subsection 72(2) of the WCJA, therefore, violates the rights guaranteed under the section 7 of the Canadian Charter in that it places on the young offender the onus of proving the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence, the lack of a previous record at the time of the exemption, as well as the other factors listed in subsection 71(1). The onus should instead be placed on the prosecutor who wants the court to impose an adult sentence to show the fitness of such claims in terms of the factors set out in subsection 72(1), once a request has been made. The prosecutor should also have to prove the existence of facts justifying the imposition of an adult sentence. Once this has been done, the courts could decide whether to impose such a sentence on a young offender.

The judges added that even the presumption of this imposition, and I quote:

—is a violation of the right to freedom and the psychological freedom of adolescents, which does not conform to the principles of basic justice.

In conclusion, I will say that the Bloc Quebecois will obviously work very hard in committee to make sure our various concerns are dealt with and also that the recent opinion of the Quebec Court of Appeal on the Young Offenders Act is taken into consideration.

We support the bill in principle but we ask the government to be open. We want criminals to be returned, especially knowing what the conditions are in prisons in some countries. But such transfers must be done in a spirit of close cooperation between the states signatories to treaties and administrative agreements.

I thank you for your attention and I am looking forward to the committee review.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

May 5th, 2003 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Right Hon. Prime Minister.

Given that the member for LaSalle—Émard has said that if he became the prime minister he would not proclaim the first nations governance act, and given that a majority of the Liberal caucus are supporting the member for LaSalle—Émard for the leadership, why would the Prime Minister not just permit a free vote on Bill C-7 now so that we can kill this thing instead of pushing through a piece of legislation that will be dead on arrival anyway?

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

April 30th, 2003 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday nearly 50 representatives of the first nations attended—until the wee hours of the morning—the debate on Bill C-7 regarding first nations governance.

In recognition of his convictions and his determination to defend their basic rights, my hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot was given their highest honour, an eagle feather, presented by the shaman himself.

This great honour is given to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the betterment of the first nations. According to traditional first nations beliefs, the eagle is the messenger of the gods and, from high in the sky, it has a view of the whole world, and of the past, present and future. This bold and visionary bird is a symbol of power and strength for the first nations.

These same attributes could be applied to our hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

The Bloc Quebecois is proud to have among its members a man who values identity and culture so highly.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

I was well aware of that, Mr. Speaker, but it was disrespectful to us.

Now, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-33, An Act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences. I am pleased to speak as the Bloc Quebecois critic on matters relating to the solicitor general.

We are in favour of this bill—in principle, and I emphasize “in principle”. The aim of the bill is to establish procedures for transferring offenders to Canadian correctional institutions for humanitarian purposes, and we agree with this.

Nevertheless, we have reservations when it comes to implementing the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Despite the recent opinions of the Quebec Court of Appeal in this matter, the federal government has decided to sentence young people of 14 and 15 as adults. I will take a closer look at this a little later in my speech.

Naturally, we are in favour of bringing criminal offenders back here, when one considers the prison conditions in some parts of this planet. These transfers, therefore, should take place in a spirit of close cooperation among the countries signatory to the treaties and administrative agreements. These transfers take place within a specific and comprehensive administrative framework. The guidelines for implementation are specified in the present bill.

A standard agreement would be set up, with a quick, simple administrative framework for transferring persons found guilty of criminal offences in a foreign country. The same would be true for foreign nationals in Canada.

The aim of the bill is to facilitate the transfer of foreign offenders to their country of origin, and Canadians imprisoned abroad back to Canada, in a quick and simple way.

Modern means of communication and transportation clearly make it easier to set up an efficient administrative framework in order to achieve the humanitarian objectives of this bill. As access to means of communication and transportation become easier, crime also becomes more international and that is why we must find transborder methods to meet these specific needs.

Increasingly, criminal policy refers to social reintegration as the key factor in offence resolution, and that is why it is increasingly necessary and essential to transfer offenders to achieve this goal.

There are also humanitarian considerations when transferring an offender. So, the parties will take into account communication difficulties resulting from linguistic barriers, alienation from culture and local customs and the lack of family contact. All these factors have a negative effect on offenders with regard to their sentence.

We can, therefore, conclude that repatriating offenders holds a certain interest for both offenders and the government, as well as for society.

Respect for the sovereign rights of states must take precedence. That is why the consent of the parties is required under the bill. Convicted offenders must also consent to being transferred. Bill C-33 is therefore solely a procedural instrument. Furthermore, much of the bill deals with the congruency of sentences handed down abroad and those handed down in Canada. The Council of Europe adopted its Convention on the Transfer of Convicted Persons, in 1983, in Strasbourg.

There are various parallels between the Council of Europe's convention and the bill before us. First, there is the need for states to collaborate and, second, the need to ensure the social reintegration of offenders. I should add that the convention fully respects the national laws of each member state.

In fact, article 13 of the convention states that the sentencing state alone shall have the right to decide on any application for review of the judgment.

Earlier I mentioned that the Bloc Quebecois has some concerns about certain provisions of the bill. I am thinking of clause 18, which stipulates:

A Canadian offender is deemed to be serving an adult sentence within the meaning of the Youth Criminal Justice Act if

(a) the Canadian offender was, at the time the offence was committed, from 14 to 17 years old; and

(b) their sentence is longer than the maximum youth sentence that could have been imposed under that Act for an equivalent offence.

We do not support this provision. We believe that the chances are high that 14- and 15-year old adolescents are serving sentences that are far too heavy.

I mentioned that the Court of Appeal of Quebec gave its opinion in the case of the Government of Quebec's order regarding the reference concerning Bill C-7 on the youth criminal justice system. According to Quebec's Attorney General, the breaches of freedom and psychological welfare that result from criminal charges against a minor are exacerbated by the system that presumes subjecting youth to adult sentencing.

This procedure violates that presumption of innocence, guaranteed under paragraph 11( d ) of the Charter and recognized by the Supreme Court as a fundamental principle that is protected by section 7.

Paragraph 11( d ) of the Charter establishes the right:

to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

Quebec's Attorney General also argued that the procedures involved would be similar to those used in declaring someone a dangerous offender, in that they cause similar harm.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act therefore violates the freedom and safety of adolescents, which contravenes the principles of fundamental justice because it does not specifically require that the factors that the court must weigh when determining whether an adolescent should be subject to adult sentencing must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. This is found in subsection 73(1) of the act.

The Attorney General of Canada argued that the new legislation, which is an exception to the adult criminal system, is in line with an approach that balances the interests of society and those of adolescents in such a way as to make the taking into account of the specific situation of adolescents a major consideration. In response to the question raised by the Attorney General of Quebec, whether the elements set out are indeed principles of fundamental justice, the five judges of Quebec's Court of Appeal agreed that they were.

On page 63 of this opinion, we read that the expression fundamental justice in the context of section 7 is not limited to rules of procedure, but includes substantial principles. This means that to withstand Charter scrutiny any psychological security violation must be fundamentally warranted not only procedurally but also in relation to the objective, in accordance with the basic tenets of our legal system.

The Quebec Court of Appeal judges added that there is a wide consensus about these elements because of the essential role they play in the Canadian legal system. Their vital importance has been recognized ever since the very first legislation on the subject-matter. Over time, the details were worked out to meet the particular situation and needs of adolescents more and more specifically.

I also want to draw attention to what Justice L'Heureux-Dubé wrote in the 1989 Supreme Court decision in R. v. M. (S.H.), 2 S.C.R., on page 446:

[This brief legislative history of] the provisions of the Young Offenders Act amply demonstrates that for nearly one hundred years Parliament has committed itself to the separate treatment and rehabilitation of young persons involved in the criminal process.

I read further:

The underlying philosophy has been from the beginning that it is in society's interest to assist young offenders “to strengthen their better instincts”. An attempt is made through the legislation to “prevent these juveniles to become prospective criminals and to assist them to be law-abiding citizens”.

Unfortunately, this government has chosen to ignore this legacy and expertise by doing away with the Young Offenders Act and replacing it with a piece of legislation that is pretty shaky in terms of its wording, as demonstrated by the Court of Appeal of Quebec, and questionable where its rehabilitation objectives are concerned.

The Bloc Quebecois took a clear stand against this new legislation, which disregards nearly 100 years of history and practice, and opens the door to challenges.

The Bloc Quebecois opposed the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and the Court of Appeal of Quebec recently proved us right. We will continue to be vocal opponents of this poorly worded legislation whose sole purpose was to clumsily reassure the public.

In the reference in question, the Court of Appeal of Quebec reviewed the provisions giving effect to the presumption of adult sentences for designated offences.

It is clear that the provisions of the new legislation on youth offenders broaden this assumption, in that it will now apply to adolescents aged 14 and 15. On page 67, the court said:

Although the presumption may be set aside and the court may retain greater discretionary powers with respect to the appropriateness of imposing such a sentence rather than an adult sentence, it is no less true that the legislator has clearly indicated in sections 62 and 72 that the usual sentence applicable to designated offences is that imposed on adults guilty of the same offences. It also sends a clear message to the population as a whole that, in general, adolescents are dangerous criminals if they are 14 years of age or older when they commit certain offences. In other words, applying adult sentences has the effect of stigmatizing the adolescent guilty of a designated offence.

I still remember my remarks on Bill C-7 on young offenders, when I wondered about the real purpose of the bill. I remember that I said the bill was clear on one issue, that Canada did not want young people any more, only adults.

They were presenting us with a bill that completely eliminated one segment of our population in order to comfort society and give it a false sense of security, by saying that there is no more juvenile delinquency, because it would be transformed into adult delinquency, much tougher and much more punitive.

I also asked myself why society was the intended target of this bill, when the true client group for the bill ought to have been young offenders. Did the government really believe that it could deal with juvenile crime by giving the public a false sense of security, when the real issue was to lower the crime rate among young people?

Bill C-7 had its objectives backwards. The government had completely forgotten whom this bill was for. Should we rehabilitate young offenders or should we give an illusion of protection to society by lowering the age at which adult law applies?

Now, in reading this bill, and clause 18 in particular, I realize that my questions are still valid.

The Quebec Court of Appeal has provided us with several responses that, it must be said, clearly rankle the Liberal government. The Court of Appeal was categorical. The imposition of an adult sentence is not essential to achieving the goal of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

On page 69 of the opinion, the Court of Appeal judges analyzed these provisions and concluded that, in this respect, clearly, the new legislation presumes that adult sentences be applied as a general rule. From now on, this legislation places upon minors the onus of demonstrating why an adult sentence should not be imposed.

The Quebec Court of Appeal added that Supreme Court case law is, however, clear. Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that, during sentencing, the onus is on the Crown to establish beyond all reasonable doubt the aggravating circumstances surrounding the commission of an offence. Paragraph 724(3)( e ) of the Criminal Code requires the prosecutor to establish, by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of any aggravating fact or any previous conviction by the offender.

Subsection 72(2) of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, therefore, violates the rights guaranteed under section 7 of the Canadian charter in that it places on the young offender the onus of proving the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence, the lack of a previous record at the time of the exemption, as well as the other factors listed in subsection 72(1).

The onus should instead be placed on the prosecutor who wants the court to impose an adult sentence to show the fitness of such claims in terms of the factors set out in subsection 72(1), once a request has been made. The prosecutor should also have to prove the existence of facts justifying the imposition of an adult sentence. Once this has been done, the courts could decide whether to impose such a sentence on a young offender.

The judges add that even the presumption of this imposition is a violation of the rights to freedom and the psychological freedom of adolescents, which does not conform to the principles of basic justice.

However, the problem posed by various provisions of Bill C-33, under debate, is that the 14-year-old or 15-year-old adolescent who has been sentenced abroad automatically falls under this imposition provision, no matter what the circumstances.

Not only does the adolescent fall under the adult sentencing system, he cannot even propose any evidence to the contrary that would limit application of this presumption.

Automatic application of this presumption is discriminatory in that it creates different categories of adolescents. Some will therefore feel the effects of the presumption, and will present evidence to the contrary, and others will not be able to do so, since they were convicted in another country.

There is one interesting point to which I would draw your attention. At the time of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, the Government of Quebec followed the minimal rules for detention according to the rules adopted by the first United Nations Congress on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders, held in Geneva in 1955, and approved by the Economic and Social Council in Resolutions 663 C (XXIV) of July 31, 1957 and 2076 (LXII) of May 13, 1977.

Among the preliminary observationswe read:

The following rules are not intended to describe in detail a model system of penal institutions. They seek only, on the basis of the general consensus of contemporary thought and the essential elements of the most adequate systems of today, to set out what is generally accepted as being good principle and practice in the treatment of prisoners and the management of institutions.

As well:

In view of the great variety of legal, social, economic and geographical conditions of the world, it is evident that not all of the rules are capable of application in all places and at all times.

They should, however, serve to stimulate a constant endeavour to overcome practical difficulties in the way of their application, in the knowledge that they represent, as a whole, the minimum conditions which are accepted as suitable by the United Nations

I would also draw your attention to one specific rule which addresses the treatment for children, It is 5.2, which reads:

The category of young prisoners should include at least all young persons who come within the jurisdiction of juvenile courts. As a rule, such young persons should not be sentenced to imprisonment.

This in an international principle we are in the process of reshaping to suit ourselves, in order to be able to work around it. It is inconceivable that someone could not be aware that this was what was being done. We must not lose sight of the fact that we are all answerable to the public.

I would like to know how the Liberal government could justify such a discriminatory and harmful application of these provisions regarding adolescents, without feeling any public backlash.

We cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the public like this just to please the government. The impact is far too great to be ignored. I would therefore ask the government to review certain provisions of Bill C-33 to allow for a fair and equitable application for everyone, including adolescents aged 14 or 15.

We have an established principle here whereby everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Yet, this principle of equality before the law would not apply in the present case. How would sentencing be determined when some of the criteria are not admissible?

Members must carefully study all of the provisions contained in Bill C-33 in committee. The scope of some of these provisions is enormous and they must be paid careful attention, which is what we will do in committee.

As I mentioned at the outset, we support the humanitarian principle of this bill, and as I have just demonstrated, we need to make the necessary amendments to ensure it is applied fairly and equitably and that it respects the principles of fundamental justice set out in the charter.

A second aspect that concerns me is that of the availability of resources. Individuals must not be refused a transfer simply because the entity that will hold them does not have the money needed for transportation and to accommodate them in a correctional centre.

Like the firearms program, we believe that the federal government must make a clear funding commitment that is appropriate, so that Quebec and the provinces can act accordingly when it comes to carrying out transfers.

Not only does the presumption that we are denouncing not meet the requirements of fundamental justice, it has negative consequences when it comes to reintegration. Clearly all legislative provisions from now on must respect the requirements of the charter, both in their implementation and in setting goals.

We must not wait for the courts to correct this glaring shortcoming. The decision must be a legislative one, and it is up to us as parliamentarians to rectify the situation before it gets any worse. This is one aspect of the issue that we can discuss in more detail in committee.

The bill proposes substantial amendments to current legislation in that it clearly states in clause 3 that the first objective is to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.

Bill C-33 then lists the conditions of application and mechanisms of application for this worthwhile objective.

I have had occasion to handle requests from constituents in connection with this purely administrative operation. In each case, the motivation behind their requests was humanitarian, health-related, or harsh conditions of detention.

The fact that this bill is directed towards facilitating of this administrative procedure is totally desirable and the Bloc Quebecois will be supporting the guiding principle. I must reiterate that we plan to study this bill thoroughly in order to make the essential adjustments to bring it in line with charter requirements, in compliance with the recent Quebec Appeal Court opinion.

Clauses 4 and 5 list the criteria for eligibility to make a request for transfer.

We feel the consent requirement set out in clause 8 is essential to the smooth operation of this procedure if it is to respect the principles of fundamental justice.

It is clearly stipulated that the transfer requires the consent of the foreign entity, Canada and the offender. Clause 9 sets out the rules governing the consent of Quebec and the provinces. It is specifically stated that consent must be given before any transfer for which Quebec and the provinces will be responsible.

I am returning to the necessity of having sufficient financial and human resources to make this transfer procedure efficient and timely. We will be addressing this in committee but we hope the minister responsible will commit to eliminating that uncertainty before long.

The assessment criteria are set out in clause 10 of Bill C-33. It is up to the minister to assess the factors related to the transfer. The primary one is whether the offender's return would constitute a threat to the security of Canada. The minister will also take into consideration the offender's intentions of residence, and finally whether family ties are sufficiently strong to warrant granting the request for transfer.

If a foreigner has been found guilty of an offence in Canada, the minister must also take into account the likelihood of the offender's subsequently committing acts of terrorism.

Subclauses 3 and 4 of this clause address factors relating to assessing requests from young offenders.

Clause 11 stipulates that consent or refusal of consent must be justified. The minister is responsible, under clause 12, for ensuring that the consent was given voluntarily.

Clauses 13 to 15 deal with the continued enforcement of offenders' sentences, with the purpose of complying with the criminal law of foreign countries.

Clause 16 sets out conditions for probation and the related equivalency.

As for clauses 17 to 20, they deal more specifically with the terms and conditions for the transfer of young people. The Bloc Quebecois is of the opinion that special attention ought to be paid to these, as I demonstrated earlier in my presentation. Expert advice can certainly enlighten us, especially in the context of the opinion of the Court of Appeal of Quebec.

The Bloc Quebecois will be vigilant when these clauses are considered at committee stage. We hope the minister responsible will make the necessary changes to ensure these provisions reflect charter requirements.

Clauses 21 to 29 have a more technical and mathematical side, in the sense that they set out the criteria for determining equivalent sentences for Canadian nationals abroad who wish to serve their sentences in Canada.

I am quite amazed that only one clause in this bill addresses humanitarian considerations. I would have liked such considerations to be at the heart of this bill. Once again, I think that at committee we will be able to determine the full scope of this clause.

Clauses 31 to 36 deal with procedures for increasing the number of entities participating in these exchanges. The final clauses amend other acts affected by the bill's provisions.

There is one more aspect that ought to receive our full attention. A number of provisions in the present bill deal with implementation of the transfer procedures in cases where a person has been declared not criminally responsible because of mental disorder.

I took an active part in the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights when it studied the Criminal Code provisions respecting such persons. The witnesses made it clear that these persons should receive particular attention in that their cases should be dealt with appropriately, and especially in a timely manner.

I believe that the provisions in the present bill ought to reflect the distinctive character of everything having to do with persons who have been declared not criminally responsible because of mental disorder.

I conclude by repeating our agreement in principle with this bill, especially with respect to the humanitarian motivation behind decisions to make a transfer.

However, I emphasize that the Bloc Quebecois will be closely following the work of the House and the committee, in order to ensure that there will be changes made in the provisions relating to adolescents.

These provisions must satisfy the requirements clearly set out by the Quebec Court of Appeal in its opinion on the reference concerning Bill C-7 on the youth criminal justice system.

As I mentioned earlier, offenders must be returned to Canada when the conditions in prisons in some parts of the planet are examined. These transfers must, therefore, be done in a spirit of close collaboration with the states that are signatories of administrative treaties and agreements.

In closing, I would remind the members that, according to the Quebec Court of Appeal, imposing adult sentencing is not necessary to achieve the purpose of the Youth Criminal Justice Act; for this reason, each provision of Bill C-33 must be carefully reviewed, which the committee will duly undertake to do.

The Bloc Quebecois will represent the interests of Quebeckers and Canadians, and especially the interests of our young people, during consideration in committee of Bill C-33.

We support the humanitarian principle behind this bill, but we have serious reservations about the specific applications of some of its provisions. We believe that the bill's humanitarian objective can be accomplished during consideration in committee, while protecting the rights of all individuals, in particular, obviously, of our young people.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

April 29th, 2003 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development bragged about his so-called consultation on Bill C-7. The fact is that out of 89 individuals and 175 organizations appearing before the standing committee on the FNGA, only 10 were in favour of the bill, and that includes the minister and his officials.

The minister ignored this consultation and ignored the thousands of protesters across the country yesterday whose signs of FNGA NFG clearly showed that first nations leaders and members do not want this legislation.

The minister says that the status quo is unacceptable. That status quo was a Canadian government plan. Why is the minister--

First NationsStatements By Members

April 29th, 2003 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, several hundred first nations leaders and representatives came to Parliament Hill to voice their strong opposition to Bill C-7 on the governance of first nations.

They vehemently protested the attitude of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development toward them and the statements he has made.

Bill C-7, which must pave the way for a new relationship between the first nations and the federal government, and one day replace the infamous Indian Act, is, in fact, under the cover of modernity, worse than the legislation it is replacing. It treats the first nations like children. It keeps them subservient and ensures the continuation of the dominant-dominated relationship that has existed for over 130 years.

Our relationship with the first nations must be rebuilt, but on a new foundation of true partnership between two nations, with respect for who the first nations are.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

April 28th, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, today there is a demonstration on Parliament Hill to make the government aware of the aboriginal people's indignation and opposition to Bill C-7 on governance.

Does the minister intend to repeat his cynical and arrogant words or will he instead take advantage of this opportunity to put aside for once and for all Bill C-7, which no one wants, and instead lay the foundation for a true nation-to-nation partnership with the aboriginal people?