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House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was loan.

Topics

ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Mohammad Mahjoub is on the 74th day of his hunger strike at Kingston Immigration Holding Centre. Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei are on day 63.

The Minister of Public Safety has taken no initiative to find an end to this situation. Is the minister prepared to let these men die in his custody, never having been charged, never having been convicted and not knowing the evidence against them?

Will he immediately today appoint the Correctional Investigator Canada as an ombudsperson to speak to the men and make recommendations about their grievances?

ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I cannot talk about individuals whose cases are before the Supreme Court but I can tell the public about the facility, which I visited about two weeks ago. It is a brand new $3.2 million facility with six cells in it. The doors open on to a common area where there is a large kitchen. Detainees have their own washer and dryer, microwave, and a refrigerator stocked with a variety of juices, soups, soy milk, chocolate sauce and honey.

Also available to them is a separate unit where they have their own office space. They have a medical room. They have an exercise room with modern universal equipment. They are visited by a health care practitioner at 10 o'clock every morning.

ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, a full refrigerator does no good if one feels the only option is to starve oneself to death.

Medical experts have pointed out that hunger strikers should be monitored daily after day 10 and that after day 49, serious health issues like heart failure, renal failure, and heart arrhythmia are very likely. Still the hunger strikers in Kingston are not being monitored. A request for a doctor today by Mr. Mahjoub has been ignored.

Will the minister ensure daily monitoring takes place at the living unit and that a full examination of these men by an independent medical doctor is urgently arranged?

ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, again I cannot speak about individuals who may be detained and have cases before the Supreme Court.

Going further, it would have helped if the member had actually visited the facility once, instead of giving a very discredited picture to Canadians. It is not the case at all as he suggests.

There is also a medical practitioner on call. There is a psychologist on call. As I said, the unit is visited daily at 10 o'clock every morning by a health care practitioner. There is also a common area where families can have visits seven days a week.

It is also designed so that any detainees who are there can have their spiritual needs met by visits from their spiritual leaders and even constructed in a way in which they can pray in the right--

ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Yukon.

National DefenceOral Questions

February 5th, 2007 / 2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, in the last election the centrepiece of the Prime Minister's Arctic sovereignty strategy was a promise to build a deep water Arctic port and a fleet of icebreakers. Several communities are now actively lobbying and preparing construction for this deep water port.

Leaked documents suggest the Conservatives will now only build a refuelling site for naval ships and the construction of six small Arctic patrol vessels that cannot even go in the ice. This is a far cry from a deep water Arctic port and a fleet of icebreakers.

Why is the Conservative government breaking yet another promise and failing to protect our Arctic sovereignty and our northern resources?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, this is a case where one cannot always believe what one reads.

This government will meet its commitments. The commitment to the north is at the centre of our defence policy. We will enforce our sovereignty. We will ensure that the air force, army and navy are there in increased capacity in the north.

HomelessnessOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, Conservatives believe it is important to help our neighbours when they are struggling. Nowhere is this more important than when it comes to providing housing for the homeless, particularly when it affects our youth.

I know that our government invested money in housing trusts in budget 2006 and we announced a new homelessness partnering strategy in December. Just last week there was a funding announcement in my province of Manitoba.

Could the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development tell this House and Canadians more about this project and our government's plan to help with shelters and homes?

HomelessnessOral Questions

3 p.m.

Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government does believe that we have an obligation to help the homeless, which is why we have announced $270 million in the homelessness partnering strategy, $1.4 billion in the budget for a housing trust. We did announce $80,000 for the U-Turn project in Steinbach, Manitoba to help youth who are without shelter in the evening. It is very cold these days.

This new Conservative government is happy to help those who need help.

TaxationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Garth Turner Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, people from across the country who wish to see income splitting for families came here to debate it last week. Two days later a finance official told the media:

It's highly unlikely income splitting will be in the next budget. It's nowhere near the top of the list.

He also said that the government prefers personal income tax cuts and that it wants to lighten the burden on businesses.

Does this guy speak for the Minister of Finance? Did the minister authorize this leak of budget information? Is this what families can expect?

TaxationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, no decision has been taken with respect to issues, including income splitting and other important tax policy issues, that are being reviewed in preparation for the budget.

I am pleased that we have proceeded with pension splitting, which is a very important step forward. It has been demanded for a long time in Canada. It is excellent for pensioners and seniors.

My friend from Halton will have to await the budget with respect to other tax items.

Tabling of DocumentRoutine Proceedings

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, last week the member for Ottawa—Vanier requested the tabling of a letter that was referred to by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women during question period. I am now able to table a copy of that letter in both English and French.

3 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, just before the debate on my Bill C-288, which would force the government to respect the Kyoto protocol, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rose on a point of order to argue, once again, that my bill would make it necessary to spend public funds and, therefore, requires a royal recommendation.

This shows how afraid they are of the Kyoto protocol, but it does not give them the right to say anything they want about the bill.

Mr. Speaker, you have already rejected, and rightly so, a similar argument that had been used by the government regarding the same bill. The arguments presented today and on Friday are the same ones that were used unsuccessfully at second reading stage.

On Friday, when they were making their new attempt, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons raised two points that I am going to address here.

The first point deals with two amendments made in committee. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons referred to two minor amendments made in committee, stating that they call for the expenditure of public funds and, consequently, require a royal recommendation. That argument is unfounded. In fact, the two amendments do not require any expenditure. These are minor amendments that complement perfectly the original version of Bill C-288 which, as you have ruled, does not require expenditures.

The first amendment referred to by the government inserts subparagraph 5(1)a)iii.1, which states that the Climate Change Plan must contain:

Measures to provide for a just transition for workers affected by greenhouse gas emission reductions,

Nothing in this amendment requires expenditures. The amendment simply calls for measures. It is up to the government to decide what those measures will be. In fact—and this is important—the committee clearly rejected a motion seeking to include the word “funds” in this amendment, because the committee did not want to make it necessary to have expenditures. Paragraph 5(1)(a) already provides a series of measures to be included in the plan and you have already ruled—quite properly—that paragraph did not require expenditures. This amendment only adds one measure to this series of measures. There is absolutely nothing new in that.

The second amendment raised by the government is subclause 10(1) of the bill. Once again, the amendment that has been made involves no expenditures. It does exactly what the original version of the bill did. That is to say, it requires that an existing government agency examine and comment on the Climate Change Plan.

In other words, it calls for an accounting. The only change consists in assigning that examination to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy instead of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. That change was made at the request of the Auditor General of Canada, who considered that the examination of a government plan prior to its implementation went beyond the audit role of her office. Thus, no new allocation of funds and no reassignment of funds is necessary.

You have stated that the fact of assigning the duty of examining the Climate Change Plan to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development—as was provided in the first version of the bill—did not involve an expenditure. This amendment simply replaces the government agency charged with that examination by another existing governmental agency. The original provision did not call for expenditures and neither does the amendment.

You stated previously that having the plan reviewed by a federal entity, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, did not require spending or reallocating public funds. It is therefore illogical to imply that having another federal agency conduct the same sort of review would require spending.

The government is grasping at straws and trying to find ways to avoid having the House vote on this important bill, which would require the government to draw up a plan to meet Canada's obligations under the Kyoto protocol.

The Conservatives' second argument hangs on a statement I made on the radio and is even more far-fetched. They are referring to something I said in an interview on CBC radio and trying to put words in my mouth.

During the interview, I said that, if it chose, the government “could” spend money to meet Canada's obligations under the Kyoto protocol. The bill does not require any expenditures by the government. It can do so by regulation. The bill simply requires that the government establish a plan to indicate how it intends to proceed and to make regulations. It is up to the government to decide how it will comply with the Kyoto protocol. It does not have to spend or reallocate public funds if it does not wish to do so. The decision is up to the government and only the government. The bill has been clear on that from the start.

The amendments the Conservatives mention are minor ones that do not necessitate any spending. There are no expenditures and no reallocations of funds. The government wants to drop a bill that is very important to our country, which shows bad faith on its part, and it is embarrassed to vote against it.

3:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the arguments. I presented the need for royal recommendation on Friday. I know you are taking that under consideration and that we can expect a ruling sometime in the near future.

However, let me just respond to my hon. colleague by saying, as he well knows, that should the private member's bill, Bill C-288, be passed into law, it will require the government to perform certain obligations and, as he pointed out in a CBC interview, it will probably be in the $4 billion range. Perhaps the member does not think that $4 billion is an amount that we should be concerned about but, quite clearly, it is consistent with the royal recommendation argument that we presented saying that there will be new expenditures required should Bill C-288 come into force, and that obviously requires a royal recommendation.

However, we are not here for debate, Mr. Speaker. I know that you are taking this under very serious consideration and we look forward to your ruling in the near future.

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this may be more from a procedural standpoint, which could be very helpful. As we know, a decision was rendered on September 27, 2006, that Bill C-288 on Kyoto did not require a royal recommendation.

We are also aware, based on the work of the committee, that there were a couple of amendments. I think they were well-represented, in terms of the intent of the committee, one with regard to the national round table work, which appears to be totally within the purview of its scope of mandated activity and the funding therefore, and the first one with regard to the just transition for affected workers, which is the responsibility of all government programs that affect workers to ensure that it is fair and just.

We are quite confident that these are principles and criteria that should be taken into account.

Mr. Speaker, the normal practice procedurally, as I understand it, and I ask for your feedback on this, is that bills would receive a final disposition from the Chair with regard to the need for a royal recommendation at the commencement of third reading and, should a royal recommendation be required, the debate would continue at third reading but a vote not be put at the end.

The House is aware that two amendments were made at committee which do affect and can affect the need for a royal recommendation if they were not considered in advance and certainly when the Officers of the House had done their review and due diligence on the whole aspect and to opine on whether or not there was a likelihood of a royal recommendation.

We have not heard anything since the opinion of the Chair on September 27, 2006 that a royal recommendation was not required. We can only assume that the Table properly reviewed the two amendments that were made at committee and, as a consequence of not having made a final decision on royal recommendation, we can only assume that their due diligence had not indicated any changes in the assessment of that need for a royal recommendation on this bill.

If that is the case, then I would like to advise the Chair that we would like to have full argument and reasons therefore on a decision on this matter expeditiously. The reason we are asking for that is that today, if appropriate, there will be a swap arranged so that this bill will come back again for its final hour of debate this coming Friday. That exchange has been already arranged for and the papers will be filed today.

I would ask the Chair if we could please have a clarification and a clear decision on this. It does affect the decisions that we intend to take in regard to this important bill, Bill C-288.

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has already indicated that it had taken the matter under advisement last week. The hon. member for Honoré-Mercier indicated earlier today that he wished to make further submissions on the matter.

We have heard those submissions on this point and also the submissions of the member for Mississauga South and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on the point.

I will take the matter under advisement again with the additional submissions that have been made and I intend to get back to the House as soon as practicable with a decision in respect of this matter.

As I have indicated, the bill was held to be one that did not require a royal recommendation, and I am not doubting the correctness of that decision. What we are doing is looking at the amendments to see if they have changed the bill in order to make it one that requires a royal recommendation and that is the point that we are considering at the moment.

Canada Post-Secondary Education ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-398, An Act to establish criteria and conditions in respect of funding for post-secondary education programs in order to ensure the quality, accessibility, public administration and accountability of those programs.

Mr. Speaker, this act would guarantee stable core funding for post-secondary education and enshrine the principles of accessibility, affordability and quality for Canadian students in a public not for profit education system.

The PSE act would also provide for the Canada social transfer to be split, creating a dedicated post-secondary education transfer. This action would ensure that funding is more transparent and that federal and provincial governments are more accountable.

The Canadian Council on Learning's December report stated that Canada lacked a national strategy to coordinate quality post-secondary education and that we will be left behind if we do not develop a national focus on post-secondary education. This legislation is the first step to achieve this.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, that the Fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, presented on Monday, November 5, be concurred in.

It will be readily understood not only that the debate that begins today goes back a long way for a very honourable family, a family who have spent their lives in the Gaspé region, the Coffin family, but also that it is a debate that reminds us how fallible and implacable our human justice system is.

With the execution of Wilbert Coffin in February 1956, a terrible injustice was committed. That injustice has had to be worn as a stigma by an entire group. As long as it has not been repaired, and the memory of Wilbert Coffin has not been restored, a family will not be able to find the peace to which it is entitled. In my opinion, we must all feel a duty to respond.

The Coffin case reminds us clearly of a way of doing things that, we must hope, will never return.

The manner in which he was detained and evidence was admitted, and the very unfairness of the trial, remind us clearly of how much things have changed and how sad it is that in 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 there were people who were deaf to the appeal voiced by many others, including the former journalist and senator Jacques Hébert.

I want to take this opportunity—and I am sure that my colleagues will join me—to thank the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. He has done his job as a member. He is the kind of member we like to see, someone who stays close to the people, someone who does not shirk his responsibilities.

I repeat: in the Coffin case, there is no statute of limitations, there is no chance that it will be forgotten and there is no possibility that time will erase the injustices.

What is this about? Three Americans who loved to hunt traveled to the Gaspé. The Gaspé played host to an impressive number of tourists at the time. Obviously, we hope that the Gaspé will continue to host large numbers of tourists, because it is one of the most beautiful places in Quebec, with all that nature has to offer, and all of the hospitality that the people who live there show to tourists.

Wilbert Coffin, a mining prospector, was the guide for a party of people who wanted to go on a hunting trip that was to last about ten days. These Americans had come here, to the Gaspé, to go on a hunting trip and to have a holiday that, we might think, they hoped would provide them with tranquility and relaxation. Members must remember that at the time, Americans were regular visitors to the Gaspé and tourism was a major industry in that region.

These hunters, namely an American by the name of Lindsay, his son Richard and a family friend, set up camp and prepared for their hunting expedition. A few days later, they were found dead. This resulted in Wilbert Coffin's arrest in August 1953.

That is when parliamentarians should step in.

That is when the mechanisms provided for in the Criminal Code should be applied to ensure that justice is done. Under section 696, one such mechanism may be set into motion when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, that the process did not take its due course. There is a long list of irregularities, starting with the conditions of detention, with Wilbert Coffin being detained for dozens of days in conditions that were just plain horrible, where he was subjected to physical abuse and intimidation, was kicked around and assaulted.

Of course, the worst irregularity, which in and of itself should justify reconsidering the whole Coffin affair, was the ties between the prosecutor in charge of Mr. Coffin's case and Maurice Duplessis' government. We recall and point out that Maurice Le Noblet Duplessis, the member for Trois-Rivières, was also the attorney general. As we know, in his capacity as attorney general, Maurice Duplessis directed not only that Coffin be found guilty, but also that he be executed because they did not want the tourism industry in the region of Quebec where this affair took place, namely the Gaspé, to be adversely affected.

Not only did Wilbert Coffin's last two counsels—he changed counsel along the way—did not summon any witnesses, but they did not even allow Wilbert Coffin to take the stand to explain his version of the facts. They arranged the entire defence submissions without Wilbert Coffin having a chance to speak.

Such unfair rules, which constitute a denial of the most fundamental principles of natural justice, would immediately result in a stay of proceedings and a new trial, if this happened under today's rules.

Not only was Wilfert Coffin denied a fair trial and the opportunity to take the stand, not only was the crown prosecutor in connivance with Premier Duplessis, but Coffin was not even allowed to give what is now known as proof of his good repute.

Obviously the Coffin family, which had lived in the Gaspé for many years, could have had friends and acquaintances testify for Wilbert Coffin, a mining prospector who had spent his life in the Carleton area of the Gaspé. These witnesses could have testified about how this man was such a law-abiding citizen. No one is saying he did not have any faults—everyone has faults—or that he was not one to party a little bit sometimes, but to make a criminal out of him for it is totally unacceptable. Some of the evidence was withheld and some investigative tools were not used.

The Coffin case is a stigma, a black mark on the administration of justice in Quebec. I can completely understand that Wilbert Coffin's sister, Mary Coffin, and his nieces and nephews and his son, Jimmy, will never rest or be at peace until the memory of Wilbert Coffin has been restored.

On October 25, when I tabled the motion in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I asked this section of the Department of Justice, which is independent from the minister—I know—and handles judicial review, to use the new evidence, under section 696 of the Criminal Code. I know that my colleague, the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, is going to talk about new facts that have come to light, so that we can engage the process, ask for a new trial, ask the Court of Appeal to intervene and restore the memory of Wilbert Coffin.

That is what this House is entitled to ask the Minister of Justice to do.

The Coffin family is entitled to ask Parliament for this restoration. I believe this has gone on for far too long. As long as justice has not been served, as long as we have not exposed the despicable way things were handled, when the attorney general of Quebec interfered in the administration of justice, we cannot be proud of ourselves. We expect reparation as soon as possible.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time that I have risen as the official opposition critic to speak about a report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It is a real honour for me to support the report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in response to a motion that was tabled before the committee by my hon. colleague, the Bloc member for Hochelaga, and subsequently passed by the committee.

Although I am a Quebecker, I was obviously not aware of the Coffin affair at the time when it was happening because I was too young, barely a year old. Since then, though, the story has resurfaced in the media and the consciousness of Quebeckers every 10 years. There is a consensus now in Quebec on this cause célèbre. People think that the police investigation and the trial were botched and an injustice was done to Mr. Coffin.

My hon. colleague from Hochelaga related a few of the facts. Mr. Wilbert Coffin was arrested and accused of murdering three Americans. A man named Eugene Lindsey, his 17-year-old son and a friend of his son had come to the Gaspé to hunt, and one month after they had left the United States, they were found dead very close to their truck. A police investigation was launched.

As my hon. colleague from Hochelaga mentioned, this happened in a tourist area and the government was eager to ensure that Americans, who accounted for most of the tourism, would not be frightened away. Therefore, a number of little schemes were hatched.

The most touching aspect, though, is the fact that at that time in Canada, there was still capital punishment for first degree murder. Mr. Coffin paid the ultimate price. He paid with his life for what was probably a parody of justice.

In my opinion, Canada's elimination of the death penalty is a good thing. Guy-Paul Morin, Donald Marshall and David Milgaard were also the victims of judicial errors during their trials. When they were each convicted of murder, the death penalty had already fortunately been abolished. The ultimate penalty was 25 years of imprisonment before any chance of conditional release. That said, they spent nearly 25 years of their lives in prison before society, through the government, acknowledged the judicial error, recognizing that they should not have been convicted because they were innocent, and before they were released.

Unfortunately, Mr. Coffin did not have this opportunity, because the death penalty existed. Mr. Coffin's trial was so full of irregularities that I believe the government, through its Attorney General and Minister of Justice, should immediately act on the committee's report and recommendation. It should ask the criminal conviction review group to thoroughly review the file and make a recommendation to the minister following their investigation, that is, to dismiss the application for a judicial review and to proceed with a new trial, or to submit the case to the Court of Appeal.

The Liberal Party supported this motion in committee and supports this motion here in the House. We call on all members to support the motion debated here today and to push this government to act quickly, so that some light can finally be shed on this file.

I will not speak much longer, but I do wish to insist how important it is that we no longer have the death penalty. Should the minister put into place the group which will revise the case and which can then say that it merits a new trial or it merits the court of appeal to examine it, and in fact Mr. Coffin is found to have been wrongfully convicted, we cannot bring him back.

Thankfully, when the wrongfully convicted Guy Paul Morin, Donald Marshall and David Milgaard were convicted, there was no death penalty, so once we recognized and established the wrongful convictions, we have been able to make some reparations. It will never be sufficient but we have been able to do that.

Happily for Steven Truscott, who was convicted when the death penalty still existed and was condemned to be executed, because of his youthful age, only 14 years old, there was a public outcry at the thought of Canadian society and Canadian government executing him, and the government commuted his sentence to life. He therefore now has the possibility before the courts to determine whether in fact he as well was wrongfully convicted.

Wilbert Coffin has not had that opportunity and we as parliamentarians and as Canadians have to ensure that his family has the right and the possibility that all light be shed on the entire affair from the police investigation, to the actual trial, to the conduct of the attorney general, to the conduct of the crown prosecutor, and possibly that of the premier at the time, but definitely in terms of the legal process, in order to determine whether or not Mr. Wilbert Coffin was wrongfully convicted.

I and most Quebeckers are convinced that in fact he was wrongfully convicted, so I ask members to vote in favour of this concurrence motion.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine for her contribution to the discussion of this subject which is very close the hearts of residents of the Gaspé and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine and, of course, to the members of the family, who are in my thoughts right now. They came to my office about a year ago to ask that we pursue this matter to shed light on this case and, if possible, to clear the name of Wilbert Coffin.

I hope that the Conservative government will have something to say on this matter. I believe that it has a responsibility in this case. As the member for Hochelaga has said, there is a black mark on the history of the Gaspé, and also on the life of Wilbert Coffin and the history of the Coffin family.

In my view, the current government now has a responsibility to shed light on this case. I am very glad to have the member’s support, and I imagine that she now expects a great deal from the government, specifically, how it intends to deal with this matter.

We need to move quickly. I would say that the murder of Wilbert Coffin, because murder it was, took place February 10, 1956. The 50th anniversary is next Saturday. The crime took place 53 years ago and there were witnesses. The witnesses are no longer with us. Each passing day makes a review more difficult. For that reason, I imagine that she is waiting for news from the government.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do expect a lot of this government, as do all Quebeckers in fact, and as does the Coffin family. We are right to expect a lot of this government. It is a government whose prime minister, ministers and parliamentary secretaries and all of whose members constantly tell us that they will stand up for justice and to fight crime. But the crime is sometimes committed by the state itself, as we have seen in the cases of David Milgaard, Guy-Paul Morin and Donald Marshall, and as I am convinced we have seen in the Coffin case. Unfortunately, the Coffin family will never be able to have the stain wiped away completely. Mr. Coffin's reputation may perhaps be restored, but he was executed, he paid the ultimate price for something that was a judicial error, a botched police investigation, as we are convinced.

On that point, I know what I am talking about; I was a member of the police commission in Quebec. I had to preside at public inquiries into allegations of police misconduct. The allegations are not always true, but still I have had to make that decision myself in the case of someone who was sentenced to life imprisonment; I had to assess the police investigation. This was not the police in the Gaspé or the Sûreté du Québec, it was a municipal police force in another region of Quebec. The police force, the prosecutor and I prepared a report that made it possible for the inmate to go to the Court of Appeal. That Court quashed the conviction and ordered a new trial, and with the evidence in the hands of the police commission, that man was found not guilty at his new trial. I know what I am talking about when I say that sometimes mistakes are made.

We believe that a mistake was made in this case. Unfortunately, Mr. Coffin paid with his life. Let this government at least offer the family some comfort by acting speedily. "Speedily" means setting up the review group immediately so that it can conduct its investigation. That group will then have to make recommendations to the Minister of Justice, who will have to decide whether to go to the Court of Appeal or whether there will be a new trial. We are waiting. This is a government that pats itself on the back and says it is always in action. Let us see the action this time. It would be the first time.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened the Liberal member and my colleague from the Bloc. There is no doubt that we are touched by that story which happened many years ago. The Coffin case remains one of the most controversial case in Canadian criminal law.

I would like to ask the hon. member if she thinks that the Conservative Party, which has 10 elected members in Quebec, should play a more important role in the debate and see that justice is done. It seems to me that the government is advocating law and order in our society and in all of Canada. Almost half of the bills introduced so far relate to law and order, crime and criminal law. We have seen many and varied bills. I think that it would be important to serve justice in the Coffin case. I would like to hear the hon. member on that.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised that not one Conservative member from Quebec has yet spoken on the issue. I would have expected the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, who is a member of the Standing Committee on Justice, to take this opportunity to express his opinion on the issue. I find it unfortunate that he remained silent.

However, I am glad to speak for my party, the Liberal Party of Canada, and particularly for the Liberal members from Quebec.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, having emigrated to this country in 1968, I am not all that familiar with this entire situation. I noticed in the fourth report that some people had come forward and did shed some light on irregularities surrounding that particular case. It is unfortunate if there was wrongdoing of any kind, and I am certainly in favour of trying to correct these things later.

I remember the Milgaard case and cases like that. These wrongs have to be corrected. I do not have any problem with that. It is too bad that the political nonsense has to come into the debate, like what I heard from that member about how those guys over there who promote being tough on crime and all that are not the ones who are going to or can do anything. I get tired of listening to that coming out of their mouths all the time from that side.

However, I want to know, when was some of this light shed on these irregularities? This particular crime or incident took place 50 years ago. How long had there been suspicions that there were irregularities? Am I to understand that it was only this year and that the Conservative Party is to blame for the fact that nothing has been done? It was just brought out this year. Surely there must have been more information earlier. I am quite confused about the timeline. If the member could straighten me out on that, I would appreciate it.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, if the member finds that I was playing with partisanship with regard to the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, I learned it from the Conservatives, who never cease to say that Liberals are soft on crime when in fact we are smart on crime and we are effective on crime and the reasons of crime.

However, let me provide the information that the member for Wild Rose asked for. Mr. Coffin was arrested in 1953. He underwent his trial. He was found guilty. He was convicted in February 1956. Jacques Hébert, who was a senator and is now a retired senator, was a journalist at the time and followed the case very closely. As a result of his own investigation, he wrote two books, one in 1958, Coffin était innocent, and then in 1963, J'accuse les assassins de Coffin.

As a result of evidence that he at that time was able to uncover, there was a royal commission inquiry in 1964. The judge heard over 210 people, including the juries at the time, and confirmed the procedure and the verdict, but since then, more information has come to light in recent times. That is what we are asking--