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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was health.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for West Nova (Nova Scotia)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Points of Order November 26th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, in a question period today I raised a question for the Minister of Justice relating to the ability of Mr. Schreiber to appear at the ethics committee. The Minister of Justice indicated that a letter had been sent to the chair of the ethics committee indicating, and I paraphrase, that Mr. Schreiber would be available to appear at the committee.

Since that letter was sent to the chair and not to members of the committee and was referred to by the minister in his response, I respectfully request that he table a copy of the letter so it becomes available to all members of the committee and all members of Parliament.

Airbus November 26th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, Canadians want answers to some troubling questions in the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, but all they get from the government is deny, delay and distract.

Will Mr. Schreiber be given access to his documents so he can give informed testimony to the committee? Will the justice minister ensure that Mr. Schreiber will be able to appear before the parliamentary ethics committee this week, or is the minister still trying to shut him up?

Justice November 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the minister's own government finally yielded to public pressure and agreed to call a public inquiry and, if I may pre-empt the minister's usual non-answer, we all eagerly await the work of Dr. Johnston's review. However, the inquiry will be meaningless if it cannot question and examine evidence provided by the two key figures, Mulroney and Schreiber.

Why is the minister refusing to use his power to ensure that Schreiber will remain in Canada until the inquiry can question him? Is he still planning to whisk him out of the country on December 1?

Justice November 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has clearly put the interests of his political mentor, Brian Mulroney, ahead of his departmental responsibilities. He refuses to be briefed on the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, but he signs the letters refusing requests to examine new information on the extradition of Mr. Schreiber.

Now that the parliamentary committee has invited Schreiber to testify, will the minister ensure that he appears before the committee? Will he ensure that Mr. Schreiber appears?

Manufacturing Sector November 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has clearly put the interests of his political mentor, Brian Mulroney, ahead—

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I agree it is a serious situation, but youth at the age of 14, 15, or 16 will always experiment and they will be adventurous. Should that happen, it is very important that they be provided with supervision. If we can control it and make it not happen all the better, but I do not think we can guarantee this will happen. I do not think it happened when my hon. colleague was 16 and it did not happen when I was age 16. We sought adventure.

With that, we have to ensure, through our school programs and great work by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, that our youth recognize the danger they put themselves in when their faculties are reduced with drugs and alcohol. They need to be encouraged not to do this at all and to understand the dangers that come from it.

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, we support a lot in the bill and we have all along. We have agreed to the increase in the age of sexual consent. We have agreed with the use of alcohol and driving provisions. We have agreed to most of the bills as brought forward by the government on criminal justice. We even offered to fast track them. We have offered amendments. We have worked with all parties, through committee and through the House, to offer amendments to improve some of the bills, and we see some of those improvements in these bills. That is how a minority Parliament should work.

Members of our party have some concerns about the reverse onus. However, if we look at the question of three offences in a very limited class of the most serious offence, an individual having three offences under that class before this provision applies tempers it somewhat. Then we look at the expertise of Mr. Cohen provided at the committee. While I am no constitutional expert and I do not have the distinction of the member as being one of the most intelligent parliamentarians and not a graduate of a law school, I am concerned about the question of manifestly unconstitutional. I do know how strong this is in giving us confidence that it would meet charter challenges.

However, I also know that it is pretty well impossible for experts in the field of constitutional law to give absolute guarantees on anything because we cannot prejudge the court. The court is an independent body that looks at the laws by itself, and we have seen many instances. I remember one in the fisheries role in the Marshall decision, where the government was not prepared for the Marshall decision that came out of the Supreme Court. All experts had told us that the federal case was strong.

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate this bill and amendment introduced by the New Democratic Party.

I think the Conservatives have a weak argument when they say that the Liberals used the Senate to slow down the passage of some bills. On the contrary, throughout the legislative process the House was asked a number of times for unanimous consent. Such a motion was even introduced on one of the opposition days. This motion would have ensured the quick, the immediate passage of the vast majority of these bills. It was voted against by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Conservative Party.

I think they preferred to make it look like the Liberal Party and its members did not support tougher, more enforceable crime legislation, which is completely absurd.

When I look at the motion presented by the New Democrats and at the bill it modifies, the bill it would amend, I note that we as a party have indicated and continue to indicate that we support the bill before the House.

All through the process, three of the five bills contained within this bill have had and have the full support of the Liberal Party. The fourth we had questions on. That is the one about the famous reverse onus question, the question on dangerous offenders.

As for the reasons we had the questions, there are multiple reasons that can vary among members, of course, but one is that the current dangerous offenders legislation process in Canada is working. There is discomfort with it, but it is working. By the number of applications that are made and by the number of people held behind bars by this process, and we could name a lot of them, the system seems to be working.

What this bill does now is go to reverse onus. If we listened to the minister earlier and if we saw the types of offenders being sought by this, I think we would all agree that these people would inherently pose the threat of being dangerous. I do not know that it is unreasonable to say that these people warrant special consideration and special identification. If somebody has had three offences, has been indicted three times on the same offences and has been found guilty in those areas of very dangerous criminal activity, they warrant special consideration. I do not think one would argue that.

We had a consideration of the Charter of Rights and whether this was within the Charter of Rights and whether it would meet constitutional challenge. We are somewhat assured by the presentation at committee by Mr. Stanley Cohen, senior general counsel in the human rights law section of the Department of Justice.

I still have a little bit of a reservation about the question that it is “not manifestly unconstitutional”, but I will not spend too much time on that, not being an expert on the matter. However, that does give support. Therefore, for that reason, we will continue to support the bill and we will find it very difficult to support the amendment now proposed, which would gut the bill.

In the little time remaining, I would like to point out one area in the bill with which I have certain concerns. It is the question of mandatory minimum penalties. If at first we look at the list that is proposed in the bill where we would apply mandatory minimums, I think all Canadians would agree that these are very serious offences and should be taken very seriously by the judicial system. I think they would agree that there should be a message sent out to anybody who is considering that type of offence and also that there should be protection for the public from the type of people who do those types of offences.

However, there is always the case out there that is a little different. Having some leeway, some discretion in the judicial system for the justices in this country to exercise, I think is always warranted. I will bring the attention of members to one of those cases. I will try to remain as vague as I can because I believe some aspects of it may still be before the courts.

A few years ago in an insular community in New Brunswick, not that long ago, there was one house in that community about which there were a lot of allegations of criminality. There were allegations of drug sales and illegal weapons. All sorts of problems were happening there. There was huge frustration in the community that the RCMP or the police system was not able to take care of the problem and not able to provide security to the community.

It came to the point that there was a blow-up in the community. Although I do not believe anyone was shot at, gunshots were fired. A house was burned. A vehicle was burned. Charges were filed by the RCMP. When I look at that case and those people, I cannot condone their actions. I do not believe in vigilante justice. However, I sort of understand the situation they were in. There is some compassion from me in that regard.

I look at the prescriptive list of penalties. Should these people be incarcerated for two or more years because they were part or party to that activity? Will justice be served? Will we provide more security to the communities or will we have an adverse effect on communities by breaking up families?

I am not the judge in that. Nor am I a legal expert. However, I have enough confidence in our judicial system that we could have some leeway for justices to look at situations around cases similar to that and not necessarily have a system that is this prescriptive.

On the question of impaired driving, Liberals offered to move it along as quickly as possible. There was no holdback by us. Another bill on the list was at the committee, but the House leader in the committee would not bring it to the Senate. It was brought forward by an opposition member on the Senate floor. The Conservatives talk a lot about the bills being stalled, but there was a lot of willingness on their part to stall them. It made their lives and arguments a lot easier.

Liberals support the provisions dealing with drug impaired driving. I do not know if a set of laws can be created to solve the whole situation, but we need to have laws and penalties that discourage people from doing this. It has had an effect. As we have made the laws stricter, both federally and provincially, in the areas of driving while drunk, we have seen a great reduction. Also the population understands that it is unacceptable behaviour.

Great credit for that should go not only to the people who created and applied the laws, but organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. It has done a great job of sensitizing the population and getting people to understand that when people get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while impaired, their competency is reduced because of alcohol or drugs. It is not unlike walking around with a loaded gun. People take the chance of causing serious harm.

We all know people in our communities who have been seriously harmed. We also know people who have caused that harm. We know people who have been in accidents because of driving while drunk and themselves have been seriously harmed. My hat is off to all of them who, after having lived through that, have gone to the schools, have talked to young people and have educated them without excuse for what they have done. They show the kids the risks of that type of behaviour.

I am encouraged to see young people in our communities take a very responsible approach, with the designated driver rules, safe graduations, all those other activities that young people live up to and espouse. This is a great advance in our communities.

When we look at the current dangerous offender legislation, my empathy goes to the families of the people who are now behind bars as dangerous offenders. I understand the concerns they have. Every few years dangerous offenders have a right to apply for bail, although they are almost always refused. We know the difficult cases where the families of the victims are again put through the stress, knowing that these people could be freed or they have to relive looking at the evidence again, preparing themselves or being present when the appeal is heard. It is very costly to them emotionally.

However, I thank them because freedom has a huge cost. The right to appeals and hearings of even the worst elements of our society are part of the rights that protect all society. Unfortunately, the cost of freedom is not always borne evenly and a lot is disproportionately toward the victims in the case of criminal justice. We know the cost of the military in the case of our freedoms generally.

It would be difficult for Liberals to accept the amendment proposed by the New Democrats. We will continue our support for the bill.

Tackling Violent Crime Act November 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, could the minister clarify the following for Canadians? When he talks about the area of the twelve most violent crimes and the three offences, does he mean that the three offences are in that category and that this does not apply to someone who has had one offence in that category and then two lesser infractions since?

I have a second question, if he has time. His expert who gave testimony, Mr. Stanley Cohen, said that the legislation in question was “not manifestly unconstitutional”. Not being a graduate of any law school, I am not sure what that means. I would like the minister to explain it. It sounds to me rather weak and is not like a full-fledged endorsement. Could the minister clarify those comments?

Airbus November 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, now that the parliamentary committee has requested that Mr. Schreiber appear before it, will the justice minister cooperate and make the necessarily political decision to ensure that Mr. Schreiber can testify before the committee?

The committee wants to hear from him next week. Will the minister ensure that Mr. Schreiber is at the committee?