Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Bellechasse (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply March 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Prince George-Peace River is asking the right question. Our answers would be different. I say that there will always be an exception. If the law does not provide for an exception, there should be recourse to royal prerogative to allow people to go free, as had to be done in Quebec City.

A 62-year-old was sentenced for first degree murder-a crime of passion obviously. The jury, however, felt that there was enough

vidence for a sentence of first degree murder, with the individual having to remain in prison until the age of 89, before release. The individual was released through royal prerogative.

There will always be an exception. If there were only to be a few exceptions, our laws should provide for certain release mechanisms.

Obviously, in cases like those cited by the hon. member, where the evidence speaks for itself, there would simply be no parole. And I have every confidence in the jury system and in the procedure in place to ensure this never happens.

Supply March 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Crowfoot asked a perfectly legitimate question which, to all intents and purposes, I answered in my 20-minute speech just now when I said victims must be heard.

The problem today is, when are the victims included in the process? At the trial, when the evidence is heard and they are asked to testify, but afterwards they are dropped, just when they need the support of society. They have suffered the loss of a dear one who is irreplaceable.

Of course, just attending the hearing provided under section 745 may be stressful. I realize that, and you may rest assured I have every sympathy for the victims.

However, after hearing the victims and giving them the broadest possible hearing and every facility for making themselves heard, both by the jury and the National Parole Board-that is where the problem is, in my opinion-when the process is finished, we must rely on an impartial body, in my opinion the jury, and ultimately the National Parole Board, to determine whether or not the offender should be released.

Notwithstanding the grief and pain of the victims and their right to show that pain and to be heard, the decision is not up to them. They cannot distance themselves. They are too involved emotionally. But as long as we do not give victims and their families a better chance to be heard and to explain their personal grief and that of their family and their friends, and how this has affected their lives, to be heard by the National Parole Board and the juries empanelled under section 745, we will not be on the right track, because these people will be frustrated, and rightly so, because of what can happen to them under the present rule of law.

That is why I say the Bill C-45 has solved nothing and we must keep fighting for victims' right to be heard.

Supply March 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Mississauga South has touched on an important point.

He will allow me to point out that in 1976, when section 745 was adopted, the average length of detention for capital murder in Canada was 13.2 years. The penalty for what was later to be called first degree murder had, therefore, been made far more severe.

In my opinion, then, those trying to prove that sentences have got lighter are barking up the wrong tree, or else I have a poor understanding of the history of our Criminal Code. Perhaps I need someone else to explain it to me, but since 1976 sentences have

become harsher, given that there has been no death penalty since 1962.

From 1962 to 1976, however, the length of time a person was imprisoned for capital murder, premeditated murder, or murder in the first degree, was barely over 13 years.

We now have a formal guarantee that the minimum is 15 years. I am convinced that, with the present wording of section 745, it will be much more, in the order of 20 or 25 years. So people must stop circulating this false idea that sentences are getting lighter.

Personally, I am an abolitionist, having assumed in my own life, as well as in the lives of those I have had a hand in educating, that killing someone to teach him that murder was unacceptable was no way to teach anyone anything. A second execution, even in the name of the state, makes no positive contribution. More people are left to mourn, more wounds are opened, and I cannot morally support the way things were done in the past.

Times have changed, and fortunately things are different today. But we are still faced with the problem of section 745, because this is what today's motion is about. It is not settled. This debate will probably turn into an endless one, to be started up again every time it is necessary.

Supply March 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to also speak to an issue that has been dealt with widely and at length during the 35th Parliament, that is section 745 of the Criminal Code, and I would say, the Criminal Code in general, because this Parliament will go down in history as one of those that legislated the most with regard to criminal law.

We may have opposite views on section 745, as did my honourable friend from Charlevoix, who voted in favour of Bill C-234 that was introduced by our colleague from York-South-Weston and that called for the repeal of section 745, while others voted against it. I will come back later to the bill introduced by the hon. member for York-South-Weston.

I must first give some historical background to show how section 745 is neither fish nor fowl. These things sometimes happen in the Criminal Code. As we pointed out when Bill C-45 was introduced, this provision is somewhat peculiar.

Let us go back to 1967, 30 years ago. Since you were a young attorney at the time, you probably recall, Mr. Speaker, that the Criminal Code of Canada provided that capital murder was punishable by death. As a matter of fact, there had been no execution in Canada since December 6, 1962.

Using the royal prerogative, the government had systematically commuted the death sentences, the hanging sentences, one of the most infamous being that of Wilbert Coffin, in Quebec, who had been sentenced to death for murders committed in the Murdochville area, in the Gaspé region, after a trial that had left people with a bitter taste. At the time, people were not quite sure if Wilbert Coffin was really guilty.

I would say that Wilbert Coffin's execution in 1956 triggered the abolition of the death penalty in Canada, since it was one of the last times a person was sentenced to death and executed in Canada after a superior court trial that was never reviewed on its own merits by a court of appeal or by the Supreme Court of Canada.

It is somewhat disquieting to see a man deprived of the most basic right he possesses, the right to live, by the judgment of a single court, under circumstances that are a matter of concern, to say the very least.

In 1967, the federal lawmakers intervened in order to temporarily abolish the death penalty, for five years. There was no longer any need to use the royal prerogative, which had already been used an nauseam, to commute sentences.

People of my generation will recall the Léopold Dion case in the early 1960s. He was found guilty of the murder of a young child, and was apparently guilty of three other child murders as well, but the death penalty was not applied. It thus became unthinkable for that penalty to be applied to lesser cases in future.

The government of the day introduced a bill to suspend the death penalty for five years. Theoretically, it was revived briefly for a few months after that, until the House passed another bill, again for a five year moratorium, if I can use that word in this context.

This brings us up to the spring of 1976. The Trudeau government did promote certain human values. On constitutional issues, there is nearly universal agreement that his administration was a failure and a similar argument could be made in other areas as well, but in criminal matters or matters of criminal law, it certainly did promote such values. That must be said, all partisan considerations aside. Let us think, for example, of the reforms that abolished whipping, the reforms that enabled people taken into custody who were without assets to be released without having to post a cash bond, as they had had to in the past. Between 1970 and 1980, persons under the jurisdiction of the courts-in other words, all of us-saw their rights improved as far as criminal law was concerned.

Another Liberal government, the one we have during this 35th Parliament, has succeeded in virtually undoing everything the previous government had accomplished. We have seen the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a former Liberal cabinet member, vote against this legislation, as very few others did. I believe that the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands also did, a few times, even on section 745, the object of today's motion before the House.

To put ourselves back in context, here we are in the spring of 1976, and the government is introducing a bill to definitively-I nearly said sine die -abolish the death penalty in Canada. Howev-

er, the government realized it did not have the majority it needed in the House to pass the bill. It was supposedly a free vote, although members of cabinet were expected to toe the government line, but it seems they were short five or six votes. Not all historians agree, but it was less than ten votes.

That is when the Trudeau government, which had not included section 745 in its initial bill, negotiated an unlikely compromise. To buy, or should I say obtain, the consent of some reluctant members, who with a little arm twisting could be persuaded to adjust their consciences accordingly, the government moved an amendment.

The amendment provided a minimum prison sentence of 25 years for a person sentenced to the maximum for first degree murder-in other words, life-before becoming eligible for parole. For second degree murder, the offender had to serve a minimum of ten years, depending on the court's decision.

However, since this was a concession to the hard liners, the government added a sweetener elsewhere for in the bill. The sweetener was section 745, which allowed offenders sentenced to more than 15 years imprisonment-which means all those who are convicted of first degree murder and second degree murder and have to serve a minimum of 15 years-to apply, after 15 years, to a judge of the Superior Court of a province, not just any judge but the chief justice, asking him to empanel a jury.

The judge has no choice, he has to empanel a jury, two thirds of which make a recommendation. No decision is even made. Before being amended by Bill C-45 in this legislature, section 745 provided that two thirds of the jury made a recommendation.

If the jury recommended parole, the inmate was not automatically freed, he could simply apply to the Parole Board. It was a stage allowing him to go to another door, and, with the time it takes in our legal system, the inmate could spend several months behind bars before being denied parole.

And then we had in this legislature Bill C-234, introduced by the hon. member for York-South-Weston, which proposed the repeal of section 745 of the Criminal Code. Everyone in opposition supported a review of section 745, given the circumstances of its creation and the fact that it had been in effect for 20 years. This is why we agreed to its review.

We did not agree to much else. Bill C-234, however, was clear at least; section 745 would be removed from the Criminal Code. You could agree or disagree. It was a free vote, because it was a private member's bill. In our party, most of the members were opposed. As I mentioned earlier, our colleague from Charlevoix voted for Bill C-234. Whether we agree with it or not, Bill C-234 takes an honest approach in that it is unequivocal: either section 745 goes or it stays.

At second reading, the government let the House vote overwhelmingly for Bill C-234 to go forward, only to let it get buried and die in committee as most private member's bills do. The government itself came back with Bill C-45.

To all intents and purposes, Bill C-45 repeals section 745 of the Criminal Code. Why? Because the criteria set in 1976 would now be much more difficult to meet, because they have been changed and the mark is definitely set much higher.

From now on, any inmate who wants to apply for early release under section 745 of the Criminal Code after serving 15 years, inasmuch as 15 years can be considered as early, will be required to first apply to a superior court judge, a modern day judge as appointed under the Constitution, and satisfy the judge that, at least on the face of it, there is a reasonable chance for his application to successfully be submitted to a jury.

Before, all inmates had to do was to apply to the chief justice of the province's superior court or supreme court and a jury had to be empanelled. Now, a judge designated by the superior court must at least consider written evidence. Because the common law is quite liberal in that regard, the judge may decide to hold a hearing if the court so pleases.

How much of an onus of proof will be borne by inmates? We cannot tell yet, because this particular provision has not really been challenged in court. We do not have jurisprudence to guide us in this matter; time will tell how much evidence our courts will require.

As I pointed out repeatedly at the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, I fear this legislation might be applied differently in different regions of this country, depending on whether, where the judge is from, people do not put much faith in rehab or whether the circumstances of the crime for which the inmate is doing time are particularly aggravating, the judge could be tempted not to allow the case to proceed in the first instance.

It is also more difficult to get a recommendation under section 745, since each and every member of the jury must now be convinced, as opposed to only two thirds of them. This unanimity rule works well, for the purpose of determining guilt, when it is used in conjunction with the notion of reasonable doubt. Under our legal system, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why a jury's guilty verdict must be unanimous.

In our provincial courts, which deal with civil matters, it is not necessary to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There must merely be a preponderance of evidence, and a jury is not required to make a unanimous decision. Generally speaking, civil courts use the two thirds rule, as it was applied in Quebec until 1976, when civil trials by jury were abolished. Under that rule, it is enough to get four out of six jury members to agree. In a civil trial, it is

money, not the life or the freedom of a person, that is at stake, and the burden of proof is different.

But here the more strict criterion is used, the one that usually applies to the determination of guilt, and only for the purpose of a recommendation. This is wrong. Using the two thirds rule seemed quite appropriate and did not appear to pose any problems. We made a strong plea in committee to allow the victims, or those who represent them, to be heard when an application is made either before the jury, or before the National Parole Board, so that the board or jury members can have all the available information, including the views of the victims and their families and how they were affected.

The hon. member for Crowfoot explained on several occasions in this House that he has confidence in the jury system, provided members of the jury have all the facts. I agree with him. Jury members must have all the facts so they can render a fair and logical decision.

The bill that was passed, C-45, does not, in my opinion, allow enough information to be made available to the jury making the decision, to the judge authorizing procedures, or to the National Parole Board.

Finally, an additional condition Bill C-45 imposed that did not exist before is that, in the case of multiple murders, an offender is not eligible to apply under section 745.

At first blush, one might say this was a good change, because section 745 is not for serial killers. But someone who has committed more than one murder is not necessarily a serial killer, someone who enjoys killing for money or some other form of remuneration. It could be someone who has held up a bank and killed two people while doing so. Such an individual is no longer eligible for parole; he must serve his 25 years.

I think that Bill C-45 was an awkward attempt by the government to keep everyone happy by telling hardliners: "You see, we have, to all intents and purposes, repealed the provisions regarding release after 15 years", while saying to those who are more liberal, with a capital L: "Look, we believe in rehabilitating offenders, because we are still letting them apply after 15 years, if their behaviour has been good".

What I say is that a law that does not apply in the same way in Vancouver, Edmonton, Quebec City and Halifax is a bad law. For once, we have the jurisdiction to take action; nobody is questioning the jurisdiction of the federal Parliament over criminal law. It would be interesting not to have to speak about the Constitution today, because it is clear in our law, in section 91 of the Canadian Constitution, 1867, that criminal law is a federal responsibility. I say that the federal Parliament should have given more thought to the equality of application of the new section 745 as amended by Bill C-45.

There may be recourse under the equality provisions of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms if someone is treated differently, if statistics show that people in Quebec are systematically released after 15 years, while those in Edmonton are not. Is there inequality? I think they have opened a Pandora's box of challenges, constitutional challenges.

But I would rather have seen them go with the vote on Bill C-234. That bill was clear and we would not have been in the convoluted situation we are in now.

Tobacco Act March 6th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Hamilton-Wentworth for his remarks.

A long time ago, Victor Hugo wrote, in Les Misérables , that the State does the accounting for us and it does not make mistakes. That is what Inspector Javert told Jean Valjean when he put in a request for payment of the very small amount he had earned after spending 19 years in jail in Toulon.

Today, the modern version of Les Mis would read: ``The State thinks for you and it does not make mistakes''. As my colleague, the hon, member for Chambly, said earlier, ready to think has replaced ready to wear, one thought fits all has replaced one size fits all.

There is something fundamentally wrong in this. Everyone in this House is against smoking and against tobacco being readily available to young people, but this is not the way to deal with the problem.

I myself come from a family of smokers. My father's father used to smoke a pipe, my mother's father smoked Alouette tobacco, and both of them enjoyed cigars. My father smoked approximately two packs of Export a day, unfiltered, and my mother still smokes the same brand today.

I saw so many of those packs of cigarettes on the kitchen table at my parents, so many cigarettes and butts all over the place, that the thought of starting to smoke never occurred to me. I have never touched that forbidden fruit. Perhaps I should have abstained from other things, but seeing my parents and family smoking around me acting as a disincentive, made me a non smoker. Still today, I look at my mother smoking and it says right on her pack of cigarettes that smoking is harmful to her lungs, that it could be dangerous if she became pregnant-nothing to worry about on that score-and, since she smokes American cigarettes, that the surgeon general has determined that smoking can be dangerous to your health.

Smokers do not even read these warnings any more, they are so used to them now.

The education effort the hon. member for Joliette and the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm referred to earlier is the best thing we can do.

Where should it start? In school and with people giving a good example, but it should continue at work. When our young people go to work, when they are in school-let us prevent dropping out-they are not smoking.

When young people are at work or in school, they do not engage in criminal activities. It is all a matter of how one uses one's time. One way to keep our young people busy is to get them back in school or in the workplace, to convince them to pursue their professional development.

Reducing tobacco use is definitely a noble cause, but I do not think that the bill will help that cause. Rather, it will result in economic losses for regions such as Lanaudière, and it will also increase unemployment in regions such as Haldimand-Norfolk, which is represented by the hon. member.

Are we going to solve a problem by creating other problems elsewhere? I do not think so. Nor do I believe that the promoters and sponsors themselves would be seriously hurt if international events in Montreal, Valleyfield, Ville-Marie and elsewhere in Quebec and in Canada were to disappear because of the loss of major sponsors.

Therefore, I will oppose Bill C-71, as I did at second reading.

Cloning March 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, can the Minister of Justice undertake to act before the next election and amend the Criminal Code in order to prohibit human cloning, in which case he will have the full support of the official opposition to quickly pass such an amendment?

Cloning March 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice.

These last few weeks, the media have reported several cases of cloning using adult animal cells. Everyone has been able to see the results of a cloning experiment carried out by Scottish researchers

on a sheep called Dolly. Many experts have serious concerns about the possibility of human cloning.

Does the minister recognize that this is a matter of great urgency, given the tremendous progress made in research, and that he must amend the Criminal Code as soon as possible to prohibit human cloning?

Parliament Of Canada Act February 21st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I was talking about how things are done in Great Britain. Calling elections every five years became a tradition that then turned into a convention.

There is no need for a constitutional amendment or a statutory amendment. All that is required is a ministerial order, perhaps endorsed by a vote in the House of Commons, where the Prime Minister would announce, or have announced when Parliament convened in January 1994, that the next election would be held on the third Monday of October 1998.

Knowing this, all the parties would be on equal footing and could prepare accordingly. No party would have an unfair advantage over the others.

We saw, in 1993 in particular, what can come of an unfair advantage. We all recall the PC leadership race. Mrs. Campbell, who was elected leader of the Conservative Party, chose not to ask for the dissolution of Parliament during the summer of 1993, but rather to try to woo the voters, courtesy of the Canadian taxpayers. All summer long, she travelled throughout Canada with her ministers, all expenses paid by the taxpayers, to get the highest possible visibility. Of course, if she had known what the future held for her, she would probably have asked for the writ of election to be made out a lot sooner.

We also had to campaign during the summer, but our expenses were paid not by the taxpayers but by our own political party. The other political parties in this House had to do the same thing, meaning they had to follow the Prime Minister wherever she travelled and provide all the proper answers, but we had no control at all on the time the writ was to be made.

The writ of election was finally made out on September 8, 1993. That is when a new election campaign began. We could say that, from May 1993 to October 25, 1993, we were in a perpetual election campaign.

Obviously, something is not working.

Bill C-250 may not be the appropriate response, but I believe it deserves to be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for further study.

If Americans, for 210 years now, have been able to live with the fact that on the Tuesday of the first week of November, every two years for the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate, and every four years for the President, there is an election at a fixed date, if they have managed to do that with the results that can been seen, and knowing that it does not disrupt political life, we can examine, at least, how to blend both systems in such a way that will allow us to maintain responsible government as well as fairness for political parties during election campaigns.

Parliament Of Canada Act February 21st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak today to Bill C-250 introduced by the hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Canada Elections Act in order to implement a system of fixed dates for general elections in Canada.

It is no easy task to draft or implement such a bill. Strictly speaking, it is not a constitutional matter affecting the Constitution of 1867, but it does seek to match differing components of a reality, to adapt certain rules under the congressional system to a parliamentary system.

Quite apart from the actual wording of Bill C-250, there is the principle involved. The principle of having fixed dates for elections is, in my opinion, a principle of equity between the various political parties in Canada. I consider it an anomaly of our system that a person, or a very small group of persons in the Prime Minister's office, can decide more or less four years after an election is held to call another one-this, of course, when there is a majority government.

We, the official opposition, have had to prepare for a general election that could have been held last fall, for an election that might be held this spring, and for another election that might be held this fall. It is up to the Prime Minister, who is the only one to make this decision, since his recommendation will be accepted by the Governor General.

This is going far beyond the major principles underlying the Constitution of Canada. Allow me to quote the first "whereas" of the 1867 British North America Act, which was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867. What does it say? It says: "Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion

under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom".

Therefore, according to the original act, which gave us the system we know today, the Canadian Constitution must be based on the same principles as the United Kingdom's Constitution. This does not apply only to the written constitution, since Great Britain does not have one. It is more like a constitutional tradition, whereby people alternate between governing and being in opposition.

For some time now, elections in the United Kingdom have usually been held around the same date. In the past several years, the British government has called elections only after the constitutional five year mandate was over. However, the government could still lose a vote on a major issue in the House.

Mr. Major's government in Great Britain, which will soon come to the end of its five-year mandate, lost several votes in the House. No election was held during these five years. Every time, the government came back before the House to ask, despite the vote that was taken, despite the defeat of a government bill, whether the House would maintain its confidence in the government. Every time, the House maintained its confidence in the government, so there was no dissolution.

Once the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier finishes with his behind-the-scenes representations, I will continue.

Canadian Embassy In Washington February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

On Tuesday, the Minister of National Defence finally admitted that he and his colleague in External Affairs had received a report concerning the allegations that a Quebec diplomat in Washington was spied upon by Canadian military attachés.

Out of a concern for transparency and in order to get to the bottom of this matter, is the minister prepared to make that report public?