An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.


Not active, as of Feb. 21, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)


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.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

February 12th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please.

The Chair is of the opinion that this bill is in the same form as Bill S-211 was at the time of prorogation of the first session of the 39th Parliament.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 86.2, the bill is deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

February 12th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
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Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes).

Mr. Speaker, once again, I am pleased to sponsor Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes), concerning video lottery terminals.

Pursuant to Standing Order 86.2, I wish to state that this bill is in the same form as S-211, which was before the House in the first session, and I ask that this bill be reinstated.

As reported in the news this morning, more and more tragic suicides are happening because of gambling problems. In light of what we have learned about this, I think it is high time we addressed this issue. Members of the other place have done excellent work, and now it is our turn to move forward with this well-crafted bill.

(Motion deemed adopted and bill read the first time)

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 11th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.
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Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in relation to Bill S-211, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes).

Given the workload of the past few weeks, the committee has been unable to give the bill the consideration it requires and therefore requests an extension of 30 sitting days.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2007 / 6:30 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill S-211 under private members' business. The question is on the motion.

The House resumed from February 16 consideration of the motion that Bill S-211, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2007 / 1:55 p.m.
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Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to take the floor to talk about Bill S-211, introduced by the Honourable Senator Jean Lapointe. I would like to take a few seconds to salute him for all his accomplishments and for his dedication to making this bill a reality.

The bill that we are debating this afternoon is of crucial importance for the well-being of Canadians. The purpose of Senator Lapointe's bill is to permit access to video lottery terminals at race-courses—where people can bet on horse races—betting theatres and casinos.

The main reason for this bill is to ensure that young people and the elderly, the two groups most vulnerable to this scourge, do not have easy access to these terminals. Making gambling less accessible will prevent these people from falling into the VLT trap. Mr. Speaker, this bill must be adopted as quickly as possible to put an end to distress and to give hope to those afflicted by the illness of compulsive gambling.

Already I hear the voices raised against this bill saying that once again the federal government is interfering in an area of provincial jurisdiction. And it is true that this area has, in a sense, been on lease to the provinces since the agreement of 1985. Under the provisions of that agreement, the provinces take the federal government’s place in the area of gambling, but they must return approximately $50 million to the government for the use of this legislative space.

This is not the first bill to attempt to amend the Criminal Code regarding video lottery terminals. In 2004, a bill called S-6, also introduced by the honourable Senator Jean Lapointe, was debated. It looked in particular at the federal government’s limits in this area. At the time the Senate committee noted that “the lottery scheme provisions in section 207 express the current federal government policy. Provincial and territorial governments are free to make decisions regarding the kinds of lottery or gaming schemes that they may conduct or license within the limits set by the Criminal Code”.

Moreover, as Senator Joyal mentioned in committee proceedings studying the Bill, and I quote:

If the federal Parliament wanted to ban all kinds of gambling, it could do so through the Criminal Code ... If the federal Parliament decided to limit some kinds of gambling to some kinds of circumstances and some kinds of location, it could do so, too.

The federal government has the power to legislate in the Criminal Code to permit the use of these video lottery terminals only in the places mentioned. It is much more a question of public interest than a constitutional issue. We are talking about the health of our fellow citizens.

There is a certain urban myth about the revenues that video lottery terminals bring in for the provincial governments. Each year, the provinces rake in record false profits with their video lottery terminals. In fact, numerous studies by university researchers across Canada, provincial governments, private institutions and social workers show that the social costs associated with video lottery terminals are three to five times greater than the revenues they produce for the provincial governments.

In the current situation, the federal government derives almost no benefit from gambling. It is thus in a better position than the provincial governments to defend the interests and well-being of Canadians grappling with gambling problems.

All we want to do here is provide a healthier environment for Canadians by removing the terminals from bars and restaurants and concentrating them in betting theatres, race-courses and casinos.

According to some of the evidence given to the Senate committee, video lottery terminals are often installed in bars in poorer neighbourhoods.

Their presence thus leads people who might never have been exposed to gambling to play them because of their accessibility.

According to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, most compulsive gamblers are dependent on video lotteries, which they play daily or several times a week, because they can remain close to home and use the terminals available in local bars. These video lottery terminals have many more negative aspects than is commonly thought. It is clear that if we look at the revenues that the federal government receives from the money the provinces give back—we are talking about some $50 million here—it is markedly less than the social costs of gambling.

The reason is simple: people play more because the product is available.

Studies tend to demonstrate that people with a gambling problem prefer electronic forms of gambling to other types of games of chance.

In its 1999-2000 report, Jeu: aide et référence du Jeu pathologique du Québec, a telephone information and help line, reported that among the most frequently mentioned types of gambling, video lottery terminals were mentioned by 83% of callers in distress. It is important to note here that pathological gambling is compulsive, so there are serious social and financial repercussions for individuals, families and society in general.

Thus, pathological gambling can lead to indebtedness, divorce, bankruptcy, crime and, unfortunately, even to suicide. In all these situations, it is the family that will suffer. It should also be noted that pathological gambling has the highest suicide rate among all dependencies. Since the Coroner of Quebec began compiling statistics, 109 suicides have been directly related to gambling, including at least 49 in the past three years.

One of the groups that Bill S-211 wants to protect is young people. That is because researchers say they are more concerned about what will happen to adolescents than to adults. It is easy to understand; today’s children represent the first generation to grow up in a world where gambling is not perceived as a danger, where in fact churches, service industries and governments approve of gambling as a way to raise funds. Games of chance are legal, they are accepted and today’s children have never experienced a time when games of chance were not part of society. Moreover, they are considered the Nintendo generation; so, for them, electronic games are part of their surroundings and their lifestyle.

In support of these arguments, some surveys show us that there is general public support. In Quebec, 68% are in favour of such a bill, with only 10% opposing it. Nationally, 71% favour regulations that would relocate video lottery terminals to casinos and race-courses alone. Eliminating video lotteries, outside of casinos, race-courses and betting theatres across the country, would improve the quality of life of our fellow Canadians, particularly of our young people and elderly.

The government has the duty to act to protect our fellow citizens against any threat. Now is the time to take concrete action and to show the Canadian public that these video lottery terminals are harmful and dangerous to their health.

That is why we must legislate in this matter as quickly as possible and why you, hon. members, must support this bill.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-211, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2007 / 1:45 p.m.
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Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will talk a bit about S-211 that would amend the Criminal Code in relation to gaming offences to allow the narrow exemption which allows provincial governments to lawfully conduct and manage lottery schemes, involving video lottery terminals and slot machines. It would limit the locations at which such machines could be installed in casinos, race courses and betting theatres.

This is one of those situations where we try, as best we can, to respect, in a sense, territorial and provincial jurisdictions. In 1969 Parliament authorized the provincial and territorial governments to operate lottery schemes as a permitted exception to the gaming offences found in the Criminal Code. Under a 1979 gaming agreement with the provinces and territories, the federal government agreed not to operate lottery schemes.

Under a 1985 gaming agreement, the federal government agreed to place a bill before Parliament that eliminated permission for the federal government to operate lottery schemes and pool betting operations. Parliament passed that bill in 1985. The 1985 legislation also clarified that provinces and territories could operate a lottery scheme conducted on or through a computer video device or slot machine, but they could not license others to do so.

Furthermore, Ontario, British Columbia and the three territories do not place any government video lottery terminals, VLTs in other words, a form of slot machines, in bars. However, all the jurisdictions, commencing with the Atlantic provinces in the 1990s, placed territorial government VLTs at locations, including bars, for which the provinces pay a rental fee.

New Brunswick's decision to place VLTs in bars was, some years later, narrowly supported by a province-wide referendum. In Alberta and Manitoba, municipal referenda were held under provincial legislation and led to the removal of provincial government VLTs from bars in the few municipalities that voted in support of their removal. As well, a number of provinces, including Quebec, which is the province with the most VLTs, have chosen to place a cap on the total number of VLTs placed in bars across the province.

I see this generally as a situation whereby really we should respect those local jurisdictions with regard to how they do these things. Many things seem to indicate we have a responsible use of these provisions by the provinces and territories, and in that capacity, it is self-evident.

I will like touch on some aspects of things involving gaming and video lottery terminals. At this point, I am going to be extemporaneous with regard to this.

With regard to Bill S-211 and the Criminal Code, I would like to touch on some other things that are impacted by the Criminal Code. I have been in the House for close to 10 years. Many a time I have heard other parties in the House talk about how they care about the criminal justice system and how they would like to get tough on crime.

This is in reference to the Criminal Code and the fact that we are dealing with amending the Criminal Code, so I am broadening the debate.

I have heard many people over time in the House say that they want to see the government get tough on justice. The government has brought forward a number of changes to the Criminal Code, and yet it is facing a lot of opposition on those things.

It is not so much because the public is opposed to getting tough on crime, I think they are in favour of that. Some of those provisions, I am sure, like ending early parole or having mandatory minimum sentences and those types of things, are supported by a vast majority of people, probably in the order of 80%.

We are supposed to represent our constituents in the House, being democratic representatives, so it breaks my heart when I hear people say one thing when they go back home and campaign in their ridings.

In my last election campaign, we had a scenario where every one of the other parties in that race talked about how they wanted to get tough on crime and how they wanted to make changes to the Criminal Code and yet we have a scenario whereby in this place and through the committees and, even worse, in the Senate, people are trying to block all of these good things that we are trying to do to toughen up criminal justice in this country.

I think it saddens all of us to see that type of thing, speaking from the heart on this.

In my riding, I have had constituents who have had the ugly hand of crime touch their lives and they desperately would like to see many of these changes. I know many police officers who have given me their support and told me about the frustrations they have with the criminal justice system. These people are on the front lines for us against criminal elements, whether they be foreign or domestic in nature, and they are very frustrated by politicians who will tell them during election campaigns that they support changes to the Criminal Code, but then, when push comes to shove, and it is in this place, they do something other than that.

We have a situation in this place, daily during question period, where my opponents across the way will ask questions about judicial appointments. They will be very upset about the idea that my government wants to see police officers, who are intrinsically involved in the enforcement of our laws against criminal elements, play an important role in the selection of judges. These are the people, in a sense, who charge the criminals and then it is the courts that follow up with the execution of the sentence. However, we have people across the way in opposition who do not like the idea that police officers should somehow be involved with the judicial selection process.

I think that is a slight to police officers and actually goes against the will of the majority of Canadians on these types of things.

Furthermore, I recognize that there are many good and noble lawyers out there who do capable work on behalf of Canadians in defending interests and protecting people from maybe the ultra vires aspects of various laws we pass around this place, but the idea that only lawyers somehow can be served by this system, the idea that victims or the police officers who try to serve the public in all these various functions cannot be allowed to be a part of the judicial process or decision of who can be a capable judge, is beyond the pale.

We are not in this place just to serve as lawyers. The justice of Canada incorporates looking into the rights of the victims, those people who have not yet suffered a crime but want to feel safe walking down the street, people like my grandmother, for example, people who enforce the laws in this country, our police officers, our peace officers, our police in various functions, whether they be courts or otherwise.

More needs to be done. We have about a half dozen bills affecting the Criminal Code. This is but one more thing we are trying to address with regard to the Criminal Code. It is very frustrating when, during the last election campaign, we were seeking a mandate from the people and almost every party in this place talked about how they were supportive of many of the Criminal Code changes that we wanted to bring forward.

However, although they were willing to say that during the election campaign, I doubted it. Maybe I am becoming a cynical participant in the political process in the sense that I expected that when we returned to this place, they would not be as wholeheartedly in favour of various Criminal Code reforms as they said they were during the election campaign, and maybe the reason I am a cynic on those issues is because I was proven right.

We see them frustrating those things with their angle in their debate here in the House of Commons. We have also seen them frustrating those things in committees where those bills are sent for amendment, editing, proof-reading and overlooking. It is more egregious than anything. We see frustration for a lot of what we want to do in our mandate that we sought democratically from the people in the unelected body of the Senate where the Liberals still have majority control.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2007 / 1:35 p.m.
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Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate on Bill S-211, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes), introduced in the Senate by Senator Lapointe, to regulate the use of video lottery terminals. With this measure, Senator Lapointe, whom I very much admire, is trying to help compulsive gamblers. The Bloc Québécois is also concerned about this social problem.

Senator Lapointe's efforts are laudable and praiseworthy. I am sure I speak for all of my hon. colleagues when I say that, at some time or another, we have all been in certain public or private establishments where these machines are present, and seen or come across individuals, individuals of all ages, who are victims of compulsive gambling. Perhaps someone you know has such a problem. I have met some such individuals in my riding. Their situation is sometimes tragic, and I could not help but be moved.

Whether obsessed with bingo, horse racing, video poker or video lotteries, compulsive gamblers gamble for various reasons. Often it is for an emotional release, escape from their problems or the expression of a need. In many cases, they hope to win a large sum of money, which would earn them the admiration and respect of others, and would boost their self-confidence.

However, after losing their entire wager, they feel the need to try to get back the money they lost, which pushes them into a spiral of debt. According to a study conducted by the Université Laval, 83% of compulsive gamblers incur debt. The debt for a third of the men was between $75,000 and $100,000 compared to $15,000 on average for women.

I believe that video lottery terminals play a significant role in this addiction phenomenon. A relatively high number of people are addicted to these machines largely because of their programming. A study published in the scientific journal Neuron shows that they exploit certain weaknesses in the cognitive process the same way subliminal advertising does. I must point out that in Quebec, efforts have been made to limit the impact of video lotteries. I will discuss this further a little later.

Accordingly, the purpose of Bill S-211 is to limit the social problems related to the use of video lottery terminals. It is a noble objective to improve the lot of these individuals, an objective that is certainly shared by my peers in this House. That is why I am in favour of the bill in principle. However, I believe it is important to take into account the impact of Bill S-211, because underlying its apparent simplicity are consequences that should be carefully considered.

Bill S-211 suggests a way to curb the problem of compulsive gamblers by limiting access to video lottery terminals. To that end, it proposes three things: reducing the number of establishments operating video lottery terminals by limiting them to designated locations such as race-courses, casinos or betting theatres; amending the Criminal Code to make it an offence for any establishment outside the specified locations to operate this type of machine; and third, allowing three years after this bill comes into force for the various governments to develop a strategy to ensure an effective transition.

No one is against virtue and that is why I support the initiatives to reduce, if not eliminate, human suffering. That is the goal of Senator Lapointe's bill, but I think it is important to take into consideration some of these aspects that will undeniably have an impact in the short term. I am talking about future negotiations between the federal and provincial levels of government that will be held after Bill S-211 is passed. It is also important that the initiatives taken so far by the provinces, namely Quebec, be respected.

Accordingly, Bill S-211 certainly deserves to be thoroughly examined in committee. I hope that my colleagues will lend an attentive ear to my concerns about this bill.

I spoke about respecting provincial jurisdictions. Provincial control over lotteries came about as a result of a long battle between the two levels of government. The most important event in that struggle is the agreement reached in 1985 whereby the federal government transferred its power to the provinces and territories, on condition that they did not grant operating licences to third parties. Since then, the provinces and territories have managed their lotteries as they see fit.

I would like to mention what Quebec has done in the area of video lottery terminals to combat gambling addiction and minimize the social costs associated with gambling.

Before the Société des loteries vidéo du Québec was created in 1994, it was estimated that Quebec had between 30,000 and 40,000 illegal video lottery terminals. There was little or no regulation of these terminals, which were available to all segments of the population and often controlled by organized crime.

With the creation of this subsidiary of Loto-Québec, the number of VLTs was reduced to 14,000, which were located in 3,260 licensed establishments in 2005. I would like to point out that the number of terminals and establishments has been decreasing steadily since 1997.

In addition, Quebec has adopted a series of social measures to combat pathological gambling, including prevention programs, technical limits on terminals, strict rules to limit encouragement to gamble and direct assistance for compulsive gamblers.

Loto-Québec has gone even farther, with plans to reconfigure its network to reduce the current number of video lottery terminals by at least 31% between 2004 and 2007. This would eliminate 1,000 bars, restaurants and taverns from the current number of licensed establishments, especially in the poorest areas of Quebec.

However, if it is adopted as is, Bill S-211, by amending the Criminal Code, would open the door to the federal government in what today is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction. That could affect the balance that was achieved with the 1985 agreement with the provinces. Of course, the three-year period for coming into force would ease the transition, but might it not affect Quebec's current strategy against compulsive gambling? Would it not trigger another lengthy legal dispute between the two levels of government? I would like hon. members to look at this in more detail in order to develop measures to complement the Government of Quebec's initiatives.

Relations with Ottawa and respect for provincial jurisdictions are not the only things worrying me. Senator Lapointe wants to improve the lot of compulsive gamblers and, at the same time, the quality of life of society in general.

With regard to the situation in Quebec before 1994, I have the following question: if Quebec is responsible for appropriately operating these video lottery terminals, is it not participating in the fight against organized crime by depriving it of a guaranteed source of revenue? If we concentrate terminals in specific locations, will we not again be making way for the financing of organized criminal groups? My colleagues agree with me that these groups do not have a conscience when it comes to compulsive gambling. Furthermore, they do not have the resources the provinces do to curb this phenomenon. I hope to meet social groups that can answer these questions at the committee hearings.

We shall have to see how Ottawa will make up the revenue that the provinces lose by drastically cutting the number of video lottery terminals. We must also consider minimizing the financial losses of small establishments that own these machines. I believe that we are opening the door to lengthy negotiations that should be part of a federal-provincial agreement. If we do not succeed, we run the risk of having organized crime take hold of small operators.

As I mentioned, I care very much about the well-being of my constituents. I therefore wonder about the impact of Bill S-211 on compulsive gamblers. Reducing the number of machines will likely diminish the appeal for gamblers. However, if we criminalize illegal operators, will we not make it more difficult for gamblers to admit their gambling problem? I think a preventive approach, although it may not solve the entire problem, remains the best approach here, rather than tougher legislation.

I will close by saying that, in spite of the concerns I outlined here today, I remain sympathetic to Bill S-211. For this reason, like my party, I hope it passes second reading, so we can further study the impact I mentioned and hear witnesses on the issue. We will therefore vote in favour of this bill at second reading, and we plan to propose constructive amendments in order to strike a balance between the collective well-being and respect for provincial jurisdictions, especially for Quebec.

Compulsive gambling is indeed a serious problem that has significant repercussions on the friends and families of gamblers, and on the entire community. Bill S-211 shows an understanding of this problem, but does not prohibit video lottery terminals. Indeed, I feel this activity could benefit from greater regulation, since its repercussions are clearly significant and stir our conscience.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
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Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-211. Although Bill S-211's objectives may be well meaning and the bill addresses the important issue of gambling, its effect is problematic.

In its wisdom Parliament determined in 1969 that the federal, provincial and territorial governments would each have permission under the Criminal Code to conduct a lottery scheme. In 1985 Parliament chose to eliminate the permission that had existed for a lottery scheme that is conducted by the federal government, leaving provincial and territorial governments running governmental lottery schemes exclusively.

Since 1969 provinces and territories have been free to decide for themselves what kinds of lottery schemes they would offer within their jurisdictions. This decision is one that they can freely take within the range set by Parliament under the Criminal Code. This range is presently very broad and includes not only lottery tickets but even slot machines or computerized lottery schemes. Provinces and territories have chosen to use their Criminal Code permission for lottery schemes in different ways.

For example, Ontario and British Columbia place provincial government slot machines, which pay out by cash at racetracks and casinos, but do not place any video lottery terminals, VLTs, which pay out by a ticket that is then redeemed for cash in bars. Yukon places slot machines at the casino in Dawson City. However, none of the territories places VLTs in bars. Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and prairie provinces all place provincial government VLTs in bars. Quebec, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba also place slot machines at casinos or racetracks or both.

We see there is a great variety in the provincial and territorial decisions about the extent of machine gambling that will be offered. Each province or territory, I hasten to add, is responsible to its provincial or territorial voters. In fact, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick have held province-wide referenda or municipal referenda on whether to place VLTs in bars. They have respected any decisions for the removal of VLTs from bars, thus reinforcing their rightful jurisdiction to legislate in this area based on the wants and needs of their citizens. Furthermore, some provinces have decided to cap or even reduce the number of their VLTs and slot machines.

It seems to me it is heavy-handed to suggest, as Bill S-211 does, that the federal Parliament should now step in and remove the ability of provinces and territories to make these decisions for themselves.

I also find it very striking that Bill S-211 limits itself to eliminating the possibility of placing provincial or territorial government VLTs in bars, but it does not eliminate them from casinos and racetracks. If the logic really is to reduce problem gambling, one certainly must wonder why provincial and territorial government VLTs and slot machines would remain permissible at all.

It seems illogical to me to think that problem gambling would be reduced by simply shifting the provincial government VLT machines into a mini-casino, in a strip mall or in a shop within the same locality where the VLTs now sit within a bar.

In effect, what Bill S-211 would bring about would be a redistribution of the rental fee now paid by provinces to bar owners over to some other landlord or even to the provincial government if it decides to be its own landlord for VLT gaming.

Bill S-211 sounds very much like an incursion into provincial areas of authority, and I would call it an intrusion, without having a real connection to the reduction of problem gambling. This alone could be enough to negatively affect federal, provincial and territorial relationships.

There is, however, the additional element of the federal, provincial and territorial agreements on gaming that would be thrown over by Bill S-211. They call for the preservation of the position achieved by the provinces through the agreements and stipulate that any alteration is to be made by unanimous agreement.

Although Bill S-211's objectives may be well meaning, its effect would be to completely ignore important provisions of the existing gaming agreement. It would also set a drop-dead time period for negotiating prior to proclamation into force. Its delayed proclamation date also sets parameters for negotiating any new agreement.

In reality, Bill S-211 would unilaterally kill the veto that provinces and territories now hold under the negotiated gaming agreement. Although the federal government is not putting forward this bill that breaks the deal, it would nonetheless be left to deal with its fallout in terms of federal, provincial and territorial relations. Such a state of affairs is highly undesirable.

All hon. members must clearly understand the impact that Bill S-211 would have on the trust relationships built between the federal, provincial and territorial governments on this issue. Bill S-211 would lead to the erosion of an important intergovernmental agreement without necessarily lowering the rate of problem gambling in Canada.

For these reasons, I cannot support this bill.

The House resumed from December 6, 2006 consideration of the motion that Bill S-211, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members’ Business

December 6th, 2006 / 6:20 p.m.
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Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in the debate on a bill that promotes moral principles based on human dignity. I am talking about Bill S-211, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes). I want to thank Senator Lapointe, who is the sponsor of this bill. His courage, his determination and his perseverance have enabled him to overcome the many obstacles in his path.

This bill amends a provision in the Criminal Code on lotteries. This amendment to the Criminal Code would limit the location of video lottery terminals to race-courses, casinos and betting theatres.

The objective is to remove VLTs from bars and restaurants. Let us be clear: the goal is not to ban VLTs, but to limit their location to casinos, race-courses and betting theatres.

According to a study by the program The Fifth Estate, in 2004 there were 38,652 video lottery terminals in 8,309 different locations in Canada. When the bill is passed and comes into effect over a period of three years, there will be no more than 206 locations in Canada where a person could gamble at a VLT.

Some of my hon. colleagues will raise the spectre of sharing jurisdictions between the federal and provincial governments. This debate is on a highly serious social issue that affects the entire Canadian population where VLTs are found. It is in Quebec where we find the greatest number of these machines. Although the government has cut the number of these machines, there are still too many of them and we would be burying our heads in the sand if we avoided talking about it because this issue might upset the provinces.

Bill S-211 is not the first bill to amend the Criminal Code on the matter of lotteries. A similar bill was introduced in 2004: Bill S-6. On April 21, 2004, during the proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for consideration of Bill S-6, a brief presentation had been prepared on the issue to provide some background on the federal government's responsibility. It said:

The lottery scheme provisions in section 207 express the current federal government policy. Provincial and territorial governments are free to make local decisions regarding the kinds of lottery or gaming schemes that they may conduct or license within the limits set by the Criminal Code.

Senator Joyal even added:

The federal government could amend the Criminal Code and decide there will be no more gambling in Canada, period. We would have the capacity as a Parliament to do that.

At present, the Criminal Code authorizes the provinces to issue licences to operate video lottery terminals. There is no doubt that passing Bill S-211 could have a considerable impact on the provinces. In fact, provincial authorities reap astronomical profits from their video lotteries, to the extent that Canadians would be right to wonder if the provinces themselves have not become dependent on this revenue.

Where does this revenue for the provinces come from? A large majority of it comes from the money that people insert and lose in these machines. This is money that is therefore not circulating in our local economies, in our regional businesses. Aside from the royalties paid to the lessors of the machines, these considerable sums go directly into the coffers of the provincial governments, but at what price?

How many families have been direct or indirect victims of video lottery terminals? How do these families absorb the terrible losses caused by this type of gambling? How many children are underfed, poorly clothed and do not have proper housing because of such losses from the family income?

After Bill S-211 was tabled, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs presented a report with an annex including a number of observations. I would like to draw the attention of the House to the following observation.

Revenues to provinces and private enterprise, of course, represent losses to individuals. For some people, their losses do no harm. For others, however, there can be the serious social costs mentioned above, costs that are only minimally addressed by provincial programs for problem gamblers.

Thus, it may be said that provincial revenues from VLTs are a double edged-sword: the revenues are welcome, but the social costs for individual problem gamblers and their families may reverberate for years to come. Indeed, your Committee received testimony about studies estimating that the social cost of video lotteries is three to five times higher than the revenue they bring in.

Several witnesses appeared before this committee. According to the testimony, video lottery terminals, and I quote:

—are often placed in bars in lower-income neighbourhoods. Their accessibility thus encourages people who might not otherwise be exposed to gambling to start, and because of their location, individuals with meagre resources often suffer the most. Studies also tend to show that problem gamblers prefer electronic forms of gambling. For all of these reasons, a number of experts in gambling behaviour single out VLTs as posing particular problems for individuals and communities.

This form of gambling is highly addictive and youth are often the most vulnerable.

It is interesting to note the position of those who work in the hotel and restaurant industry, as indicated in this same Senate report:

The Association of Restaurant and Hotel Workers of Quebec supported the Bill...the Association reported that in a recent representative survey in the Montreal area of workers in bars where there were VLTs, 90% of the workers supported removal of the machines from bars. Another survey found that 70% had the same view. The Association also noted that the proximity to VLTs had a negative impact on some of the staff’s own gambling, and also led to significant stress when employees had to deal with distraught players.

Furthermore, a survey by Canada West Foundation reported that:

—of the 2,200 Canadians consulted, 70% agreed with the statement that video lottery terminals should be limited to casinos and racetracks, with one half of the respondents in strong agreement.

This bill has come to us from the Senate under the authorship of Senator Lapointe, a senator who has won the respect and admiration of Quebeckers and Canadians. This bill strikes at the heart of a major social problem: video lottery terminals. This bill would not prohibit VLTs; rather, it would restrict them to specific locations. Gambling is still legal, but it needs to be better controlled. We are particularly concerned about the accessibility of slot machines, which are often located in poor neighbourhoods.

Earlier, I was talking about young children and families who suffer because of gamblers' bad habits. For most of the people who engage in this type of gambling, it is very like a drug. Once they start playing VLTs or slot machines, it is just like a drug. People go back to it again and again and develop an addiction. Sadly, I have seen people lose entire paycheques to these machines.

In closing, I would like to ask all of my colleagues in this House to vote for Bill S-211 and to send this important issue to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to clarify its scope so we can achieve the expected result.

Criminal CodePrivate Members’ Business

December 6th, 2006 / 6:10 p.m.
See context


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-211, which has come to us from the Senate under the authorship of Senator Lapointe and sponsored here by the member for Bourassa.

This bill is attempting, and I think to some degree successfully so, although I have some reservations, to look at a specific problem in the gaming industry. In particular, although it addresses the use of video lottery terminals and slot machines, the major problem we have is with the video lottery terminals, the VLTs. I have been involved in this issue for quite some time. Windsor, my home riding, had the first casino in Ontario. In fact I sat on the first provincial board in the province back in the early and mid 1990s.

During that period of time it became an issue as to whether the VLTs would be allowed into Ontario. Before I go on with that, I want to take a bit of an issue because I am not sure the major point has been addressed. What happened through the 1980s and into the early 1990s in Canada was that the federal government, by way of legislation in the House and agreements with the provinces, in effect permitted the provinces to move into the gaming industry.

Under the Criminal Code all the gaming in the country in effect is prohibited and is only allowed when there is legislation exempting the provinces or other operators from entering into the field. What has happened historically is the federal government has allowed that by way of exemptions from the Criminal Code, a law that goes back 400 or 500 years in common law and legislation, but the provinces do require those exemptions. Those exemptions have been granted.

Coming back to Ontario, as we received those exemptions, the Ontario government of whatever shade on various occasions had to make a determination as to what type of gaming would be allowed in the province. We have seen a similar pattern in a number of other provinces, I think all of the other provinces now.

What Ontario has done, and it will have no problem with the scheme that is established under this proposed legislation, is exactly what the legislation contemplates which is that it would limit the use of this gaming equipment to casinos. In Ontario it is both casinos that are run directly by the province and in some cases managed privately but owned and operated directly by the province, and then what we call charity casinos that are operated by charities in various locations around the province. In addition Ontario has allowed gaming equipment in the form of slot machines into a number of the race tracks.

It fits exactly into the pattern that is proposed in this legislation, with the exception that when we did the analysis under the NDP government in the early 1990s, we determined that the VLTs were so addictive, from experiences that we had studied in a number of other jurisdictions, that we never allowed them into Ontario. I believe that continues to the present time. They are not allowed in the casinos, they are not allowed at the race tracks and they certainly were never allowed in the bars, restaurants and other private establishments. That has always been a prohibition in Ontario.

That is not the pattern elsewhere in the country. We know we have a particular problem in at least two of the maritime provinces and I believe one of the prairie provinces, where in fact the use of the VLTs has been permitted by the provincial governments in private enterprises, some in a number of those jurisdictions in corner stores, variety stores, bars and restaurants. We never allowed them in Ontario because of their addictive nature. They are much more addictive than the traditional slot machine, in ratios of 10:1 to 20:1 more addictive.

We have heard all sorts of horror stories. The Senate heard a number of horror stories about people with modest incomes becoming addicted and spending a hundred dollars to several hundreds of dollars a day until they ran out of money. They exhausted all their savings and assets and ultimately bankrupted themselves and other family members. That has been a real pattern with VLTs. This is primarily what Senator Lapointe is trying to address in this bill. It is a laudable experience.

By giving provinces this authority, we have allowed them to become dependent on the revenues that they generate from these machines. An article in October's Walrus magazine detailed how much revenue was derived by private enterprises and provincial governments. They are used to receiving this revenue. In a serious proportion of cases, it is ill-gotten revenue because of the fact that it comes from people who are addicted to these machines, and it should be stopped.

Because this is such an important issue, I will be supporting the bill going to the justice committee, although the last thing the justice committee needs is another bill thanks to the intemperate approach by the Conservative government of sending all kinds of crime bills in patches to it. As we heard from the member for the Bloc, we will look at making amendments to ensure that provincial jurisdiction is protected and that the provinces are on side.

If we take away the right of provinces to have video lottery terminals and slot machines in private enterprises, then at the very least we need to give them time to adjust to that loss of revenue because in some cases it is quite significant. They will need a timeline to move away from their dependency on this revenue. This will be one of the amendments.

Another concern of mine is we may get into a legal constitutional conflict between the federal government and the provinces based on the legislation we passed previously, allowing them to get into this industry. This will have to be addressed. I assume the Senate has addressed this to some degree, but I will be looking for a review on this to see if we are not crossing a constitutional boundary and going in a direction we should not be going.

I can safely say that this is a crisis, especially with regard to VLTs. It should be addressed. It may ultimately be more appropriate that it be addressed at the provincial level, so it may not be possible to support the legislation at third reading, but we have a responsibility to investigate this.

I will be supporting it. It will be a free vote in my party. Hopefully, with the support of the House, the bill will go to justice committee where we can conduct an investigation to determine whether amendments can be made that will bring it into line with the needs of the provinces.

Criminal CodePrivate Members’ Business

December 6th, 2006 / 5:50 p.m.
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Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I will state at the outset that the government will not be supporting Bill S-211 but we want it to be completely understood that we do support and I support the need to reduce the human misery that results from gambling addiction.

However, we do disagree with the bill's approach of stripping the provinces and territories and their residents of their current ability to make local decisions locally.

We all want to end gambling addictions and its attendant economic misery, family hardship, employee theft and suicide. However, there is a very basic choice that Parliament must make, in light of Bill S-211, on the subject and, as we all know, when it comes to federal, provincial and territorial relations it is the delicate subject of decision-making relating to gambling and any other activity.

Will the federal government play big brother and take away the decision-making that the provinces and territories now have under the Criminal Code with respect to provincial government lottery schemes, or will local decision-making be left to the provinces and territories? It is as simple and yet as complex as that.

The general scheme in the gambling provisions of the Criminal Code is to prohibit all forms of gambling except those that are specifically permitted by the code. In 1969, Parliament expanded the legalized gambling provisions of the Criminal Code. A parliamentary joint committee had examined this topic, along with others, in the mid-1950s and recommended some expansion of legalized gambling.

By the time that Parliament was considering gambling amendments to the Criminal Code in the 1960s, some states in the U.S. had already amended their state constitutions, in some cases, in order to legalize a state lottery that could benefit the state economically. When Parliament amended the Criminal Code in 1969 to expand the forms of legalized gambling alongside the recommendations from joint committee reports of the 1950s, Canadian legislators of the day added permission for the provincial and federal governments to conduct a lottery scheme and permission for provincial government to license certain lottery schemes.

Later, in a 1976 federal-provincial-territorial agreement, Canada agreed not to use its permission to conduct a federal lottery scheme and the provinces agreed to make an annual payment to Canada that now amounts, in current dollars, to some $60 million.

In 1983, Parliament enacted permission for the federal government to conduct pool betting operations and provinces went to court arguing that these looked very much like lottery schemes that the federal government in 1976 had agreed not to pursue. The federal government, for its part, commenced litigation against certain provinces for operating schemes that it saw as illegal pool betting operations.

The litigation was resolved in 1985 with a new federal-provincial-territorial agreement that required the federal government to use its best efforts to place a bill before Parliament to remove from the Criminal Code the permission for the federal government to operate a lottery scheme. The provinces and territories agreed to pay to Canada $100 million to be used for the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

In 1985, a bill was tabled and passed that removed the permission in the Criminal Code for the federal government to operate a lottery scheme. It also clarified that a province or territory could itself operate a lottery scheme on or through a slot machine and a video lottery terminal, or VLT, a form of a slot machine, but a province or territory could no license to others to operate a lottery scheme on or through a slot machine.

The speed of play, games and internal computerization is essentially the same for what we traditionally think of as slot machines, which pay out by coin, and what we think of as VLTs, which pay out by a printout. Also, both traditional slot machines and VLTs meet the definition of a slot machine in subsection 198(3) of the Criminal Code:

...“slot machine” means any automatic machine or slot machine

(a) that is used or intended to be used for any purpose other than vending merchandise or services, or

(b) that is used or intended to be used for the purpose of vending merchandise or services if

(i) the result of one of any number of operations of the machine is a matter of chance or uncertainty to the operator,

(ii) as a result of a given number of successive operations by the operator the machine produces different results, or

(iii) on any operation of the machine it discharges or emits a slug or token, but does not include an automatic machine or slot machine that dispenses as prizes only one or more free games on that machine.

The premise of Bill S-211 is that Parliament should attack the problem of compulsive gambling by disqualifying, through an amendment to the Criminal Code, certain venues as sites for video lottery terminals that are operated by the provincial government.

Whether this would be a good idea or a bad idea is a matter for debate certainly, but what the government is saying is that we should maintain the existing Criminal Code approach that permits a provincial or territorial government to make that decision about where VLTs will be placed, if the province or territory chooses to operate any at all.

Bill S-211 would eliminate the possibility for provinces to place VLTs in locations other than racetracks or casinos. It is not just a matter of saying that Canada will pay any losses by provinces in moving provincial government VLTs from bars to racetracks and casinos. Clearly, this would affect federal-provincial-territorial relations even with provinces and territories that, to date, have chosen not to place VLTs in bars. None of the three territories place VLT terminals in bars and Ontario and British Columbia do not place VLT terminals in bars. Quebec, the Prairie provinces and the Atlantic provinces do place VLTs in bars which, of course, are age controlled premises that by law are not permitted to cater to minors.

Some Prairie provinces have held municipal referenda to remove VLTs from bars. They have respected those votes and removed VLTs from such establishments in those municipalities. A few years ago in New Brunswick there was a provincial referendum on whether to remove video lottery terminals from bars and the decision was to keep them. In fact, some Prairie and Atlantic provinces and Quebec have taken decisions to reduce or cap the number of VLTs that will be placed at bars in the province.

The choice that we have with this bill is to keep the jurisdiction for the video lottery schemes where it is currently with the provinces and territories or to take that back into the federal realm. The government's position is that we will leave that to the provinces and territories, which will allow for local decision making. Ultimately, residents of a province or territory are free to make their provincial or territorial government accountable for its decisions at the polls. Also, there is ample room for public debate on VLTs in the assemblies and legislatures of the provinces and territories.

As I just said, those debates and those referenda in some provinces and in individual municipalities are taking place, they have taken place and they will take place. It is at that level that individuals can have input into their own communities. There is no need for the federal government to change the existing provisions.

While advocates of Bill S-211 would prefer to do one stop shopping here in Parliament rather than to fight the battle in each province that places VLTs in bars, I am convinced that provincial and territorial governments and their residents should be left to determine what is appropriate in their local circumstances.

Therefore, I urge members of this House to vote against Bill S-211 and to leave provinces and territories the ability to make local decisions with respect to where they will place their provincial or territorial VLTs. We may disagree with the decision they take but that is for the province, the territory and, in some cases, the municipalities and their residents to determine.

This is an area that has been handed over to the provinces and we encourage residents to give input to their local province, territory, municipalities when these issues arise. It is the government's position to leave that local decision-making at the local level.

Criminal CodePrivate Members’ Business

December 6th, 2006 / 5:30 p.m.
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Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

moved that Bill S-211, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me to sponsor a bill originating in the Senate.

I would like to pay tribute to Senator Jean Lapointe who has worked all his life to improve people’s quality of life. Bill S-211 will in fact improve people’s quality of life. Senator Lapointe has fought all his life to combat injustice. He had problems with alcohol himself and he overcame those difficulties. He has been particularly active in combating the appalling ravages of gambling. Bill S-211 is in fact a way to contain one of the most horrible plagues on our youth and on all our fellow Canadians. I am talking about video lottery terminals.

There are video lottery terminals in bars and in restaurants. We all have a family member, a friend or someone with a serious problem because of video lottery terminals. I was a minister in the past and I am now a member of Parliament. The role of a legislator is not merely to make speeches and answer questions. A legislator must play a meaningful role in the quality of people’s lives.

Our role is precisely to make sure that we create an environment that makes it possible for our fellow citizens to have a decent quality of life. Every time we have an opportunity to do that, without managing their lives for them, we must give them guidance and an environment that will help them to prosper in society.

There is a serious problem at present from which too many people and young people are suffering; it is called pathological gambling. The distress we see is serious. We have even heard of suicides. Video lottery terminals affect more than 90% of people who have a gambling problem. That is why this high rate of dependency must be contained. We must find a way, together, to make it possible for these people to have a better quality of life.

This bill amends the Criminal Code. It will give us a means to contain the ravages of something that, as I said earlier, causes countless problems for our fellow Canadians. This bill will not ban video lottery terminals, however. Whenever we try to ban something, we get into the whole question of organized crime and the black market. The purpose of this bill is to confine video lottery terminals to race courses, casinos and associated places like the Hippo Club, which are all managed, and managed only by the provincial governments.

I could produce scores of statistics to show what a scourge compulsive gambling is and how it causes serious problems for Canadians.

In his presentations on video lottery terminals, Dr. Robert Ladouceur, a psychologist at Université Laval and one of the leading researchers in the field of compulsive gambling, has stated that 95% of the people he treats for problems related to pathological gambling indicate that video lottery terminals are their preferred game of chance.

According to the Maison Claude Bilodeau, which opened in the fall of 1999 and is dedicated to helping compulsive gamblers, 94% of the requests it has received since its inception are specifically related to the use of video lottery terminals.

According to the report on gambling prepared by Harold Wynne from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 78% of individuals with gambling problems play video lottery terminals.

Our friend, Senator Jean Lapointe, opened a treatment centre that bears his name. According to a recently study led by the Maison Jean Lapointe on the treatment of pathological gambling, 83% of participants who began treatment said that video lottery terminals were their preferred game of chance.

Furthermore, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec estimates that 9% of people who use video lottery terminals develop a dependency. The research consulted unanimously reports that video lottery terminals represent the primary source of problems for 80% to 90% of gamblers who seek help.

According to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, most compulsive gamblers are addicted to video lotteries that they play every day or several times a week. They can stay close to home, therefore, and use the machines in local bars.

Dr. David Hodgins of the University of Calgary said in his presentation to the advisory board of the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction that in Alberta 3% were compulsive gamblers, 2% were pathological gamblers, and 86% of the people who seek help in Alberta play video lotteries.

These statistics alone show what a problem there is with the proximity and availability of VLTs. I am not as knowledgeable or experienced as Senator Lapointe in this regard. However, all of us as members of Parliament go door to door to see people. We walk around and meet people. How often when I go to a restaurant where there is video poker do I see people and youths putting their money into these machines? How did they get their money? Are they going to empty their wallets? Are they going to cash their social assistance cheque and put it all into this? How many times have ladies, mothers of families, come to see me because their husbands play video poker? How many fathers of families do not know which way to turn because their children also play on VLTs?

This is a major problem and our role as members of Parliament, legislators, fellow citizens and responsible people who are supposed to improve the quality of life is to ask ourselves how we could legislate and do our work as members of Parliament to help those people. There is an adage that opportunity makes the thief. How can I ensure that these people do not have too much opportunity because VLTs are so near?

There are some people who love to talk numbers. They say that lotteries donate billions of dollars and generate revenue and that this is about the balance of convenience. I mention the balance of convenience because every time we face this kind of scourge, every time we have a pathetic situation like this one, there is a social price to pay.

Dr. Neil Tudiver of the University of Manitoba found that a compulsive gambler costs society $56,000 per year.

Take, for example, the numbers in Quebec. We did not make these numbers up. They were provided by the people at Loto-Québec, who are lottery experts. They say that Quebeckers account for 2% of compulsive gamblers. So, if we do a little math, we find that 140,000 Quebeckers are compulsive gamblers. Of those 140,000, an estimated 89% are addicted to video poker. That means that 124,000 Quebeckers have a video lottery problem.

If we multiply that number, 124,000, by $56,000 in costs to society, that means the state is spending $6.9 billion per year. Those 124,000 Quebeckers who are problem gamblers with a VLT habit cost us $6.9 billion.

Do you know how much revenue video lotteries generate for the Government of Quebec? Approximately $1 billion. If we do a little more simple math, we find that $1 billion in profits costs $6.9 billion in losses for the province because of compulsive gambling. I think that is a pretty convincing argument.

Yes, people will ask us why we are getting involved because this is under provincial jurisdiction and agreements about gambling were made between 1977 and 1985. Personally, I think we have a responsibility here.

This is about amending the Criminal Code, in a provincial jurisdiction. In 1985, I think, the Montreal casino did not exist, nor did video lotteries.

This is my call to everyone today: let us make sure that, following the second reading, this bill will be studied by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in order to make some clarifications, if necessary.

I see my colleague from Hochelaga nodding his head, because he understands. In fact such a situation also exists in the Centre-Sud neighbourhood. This is not an issue affecting the poor as opposed to the rich. But we know that more people are affected in some places than in others.

After second reading, in committee, we can then ask questions having to do with the federal-provincial aspect.

Still we should make sure that we can play our role fully as responsible citizens. We are legislators, we are the representatives of democracy, and this is the cradle of democracy. Together we adopted a motion bearing on the recognition of the Quebec nation. What about this nation, how is it supposed to operate?

Every time I have had the opportunity, as a legislator and responsible person—which I have had as the Minister of Sport, the Minister responsible for La Francophonie and the Minister of Immigration—I have tried to find ways of ensuring a better quality of life for people.

Here we are working on accessibility. We saw the consequences of prohibition in the 1920s. The prohibition of alcohol had a direct impact, namely, organized crime. Some people got rich that way. People got around the system and still got their drinks. And if, in a way, we regulate the way how things are done and the video lotteries are relegated to specific places, it will not be any better.

The bill is clever in this regard. Senator Lapointe did an excellent job. We will take three years. There will be consultations; the governments will consult one another, and we will find a decent way of ensuring that there can be a transition period— for example, in Quebec, involving Loto-Québec, the bars, the Government of Quebec, and the rest. We give ourselves three years so that we can achieve our ends.

One person is already too many. I could talk today about statistics, but one person is too many. We have heard about suicides, people who are depressed, people who were not players. But when they began to play these video lotteries, they were caught up in an untenable and horrific situation, a situation that is now worrying.

This is not only an adult problem, it is a youth problem as well.

There was a situation involving a 17 year old kid who committed suicide because of this problem. The kid started at 15 years old. He was going to that restaurant and playing many times. It became compulsive. He thought he would make some money because he played it so often, but it became a disease. One has to wonder if he stole to get the money. Did he have a Shylock or some individual involved in organized crime who passed him the money? If he did not win money, he would still have to reimburse that individual, at an interest rate of 30% or 40%. He was 17 years old. He did not see the light at the end of the tunnel. What was he going to do? He killed himself.

We have a duty in this place to do our job. We need to get the tools to the people who can make things happen.

I have been in politics for 25 years. Next June, I will have been a member of Parliament for 10 years. This is important legislation because it is concrete. We will make a better life for people if we pass the legislation.

I invite my dear friends to strongly support this bill on second reading. I understand that my colleagues from other parties are also going to give their point of view at this stage.

In my opinion, the first stage consists of accepting the basic principle of this bill so that we can then study it in committee.

Obviously we will be open to clarifications but we should continue Senator Lapointe's work and carry on building a better world.