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

Canadian Embassy In Washington February 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am once again asking the Minister of National Defence whether or not an investigation was conducted and, if no investigation did or will take place, who are we supposed to believe? The Minister of Foreign Affairs, who told us yesterday that the allegations were unfounded, or the Minister of National Defence himself, who the day before said the issue had to be looked into?

Canadian Embassy In Washington February 18th, 1997

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

Yesterday, when asked about spying activities targeting a Quebec diplomat in Washington and involving military officers at the Canadian embassy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said there was no policy, no direction whatsoever that anybody in any embassy should spy on any Quebec official.

Given that the two officers involved may, of their own initiative, have engaged in illegal activities under American laws, can the defence minister tell us whether these officers were suspended and whether he ordered an investigation into the activities of his military personnel at the Canadian embassy in Washington?

Public Safety Officers Compensation Fund February 12th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Motion M-306, presented by the hon. member for Mississauga South.

Although the hon. member already mentioned the following, we must give credit where credit is due. As far as the business of Parliament is concerned, which includes bills and motions, the hon. member for Mississauga South has, in the course of this Parliament, introduced a number of bills. He has done an outstanding job, whether or not we agree with the motions and bills he drafted and so valiantly defended before the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

It is always reassuring to see a member who works so hard at the business of Parliament, something we were all elected to do.

The debate on the motion of the hon. member for Mississauga South is right on time, since next Monday in Ottawa there will be a meeting of the Canadian Police Association, whose members will take advantage of this opportunity next week to meet parliamentarians, make them aware of their problems and try to determine certain priorities for dealing with matters of public safety.

This contribution by the Canadian Police Association is much appreciated, for instance, by the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs on which I have had the honour to sit since the beginning of the 35th Parliament. Every time we had bills concerning the Criminal Code and public safety, the Canadian Police Association usually appeared with thorough and informed studies and shared its expertise acquired in the field.

For that reason alone, we as legislators owe a debt of gratitude to the Canadian Police Association. They helped us improve certain bills and in many cases prompted the tabling of bills aimed at increasing public safety.

As parliamentarians we are, of course, concerned about public safety, and we pass legislation accordingly. However, we too often forget those who are on the front line, and to take a leaf from the book of the hon. member for Mississauga South, I will talk about those who are on the firing line and mention a few figures. It is said dozens of police officers have been shot. These are not traffic accidents, this is murder, sordid crimes, in most cases.

It is always a shock to a community to see police officers die in the line of duty, specially when it is the result of a criminal act. Those who are supposed to protect us also deserve to be protected by a legislative framework that shows respect for the work done by the men and women who serve society and provides adequate compensation for their families in case of death.

The hon. member for Mississauga South was right when he said that when a person dies in the prime of life, that person is usually not in a position to provide his family with the same standard of living he was able to provide during his lifetime.

Motion M-306 suggests establishing a fund that would not be a government fund but would collect donations from all parts of Canada and even outside the country. When tragedies occur, or even when a police officer dies, some people want to make a contribution to charity. This would be an excellent way to encourage Canadians to make contributions in the name of police officers and, of course, firefighters. They could do so for peace officers in general, even for crossing guards, who often more anonymously put their lives on the line to protect society's youngest members, our children.

So, we will certainly not oppose a central fund such as this. I see it as a progressive measure that will make more money available for victims.

Our society too often tends to forget the victims, not only the murder victims, but the survivors who must mourn a loss and live with the financial consequences of a criminal act.

I think a central fund for contributions would be a modest gesture on our part. It would of course be given the tax protection afforded by the Income Tax Act for registered charities. We would have not only a basic instrument, but the means to provide economic security to the bereaved families of public safety officers, too many of whom lose their lives in the line of duty, because obviously we cannot bring back the person.

Finally, since it is a sort of collective bereavement, where society mourns the death of those representing public order, I think everyone would feel the better for it.

So, on behalf of the official opposition, I am pleased to support Motion No. 306 tabled by the hon. member for Mississauga South.

Criminal Code February 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the official opposition and to address Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code, particularly as regards the production of records in sexual offence proceedings.

Incidentally, the 35th Parliament will probably go down in history as the one during which the largest number of criminal issues were dealt with. A large number of bills have been on the House agenda, and the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs has been particularly busy throughout this Parliament, and it seems that it will continue to be until the end. I do not think there was a need to speed up things in every case. In some cases yes, but not all the time.

The hon. member for Prince Albert-Churchill River just made a speech in which he was already referring to Bill C-46 as an achievement for the government. Let us not rush things. We are currently building the foundations of a bill, and I take the hon. member's word to the effect that this bill will be thoroughly reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. I do hope this exercise will not be conducted hastily, as has been the case with certain bills in recent months.

That having been said, Bill C-46 includes some interesting and valuable provisions, as well as others that may be more questionable or that raise concerns. The witnesses who will appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs will shed light on these, so that we can deal with them accordingly.

Restricting the disclosure of some files to the defence and, consequently, to the person accused of a criminal offence of a sexual nature that often involves a woman or a child, is a laudable principle.

The hon. member said earlier that this bill does not in any way violate the constitutional rights of the person accused. At first glance, I have doubts about this, because the act includes a preamble with seven whereases before we get to the following: "Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada-".

When the government includes such whereases in a bill, it is because it thinks the legislation does not meet the Oakes test. The restrictions contained in this bill have no justification in a free and democratic society. It seems, at first glance, that they will have to be justified before the courts, since there are probably grounds for a charter challenge.

However, the possibility of a charter challenge is not grounds enough to prevent our legislating. I would say that the likely success of a charter challenge should be a much more serious caution. In my opinion, however, the mere possibility must not preclude the examination of legislation.

In order to better understand Bill C-46, let us draw a parallel with the situation when rape was a criminal offence. The term we use now is "sexual assault".

For a long time in Canada, when rape was defined as a criminal offence and an offence related to the commission of a sexual act, the victim's past was open to all and sundry. At a rape trial, it was not clear whether the accused or the victim in the witness box should be responding to the accusations from the way they were going after the victim's past. Quite simply, in an effort to cast doubt in the minds of the jury, to colour the victim's testimony, the victim's sexual history was scrutinized in an effort to discredit her testimony and to show that she had had numerous or bizarre experiences, according to the customs of the time. Regardless, they hit into the victim, regardless of the ultimate intent. In many cases, the ultimate intent for the defence was to cast doubt in the mind of the jury or of the judge, if the trial was before the judge alone.

The legislator changed the situation in somewhat the same way Bill C-46 is attempting to do. If, during a trial for sexual assault, the victim is to be questioned on her earlier sex life to find out whether, for example, as we used to put it, she was previously of chaste character, the course of the questioning must be presented to the judge in a voir dire.

Before the jury is allowed to hear the evidence on the victim's past, the judge is entitled to know exactly what link the defence

thinks it can establish, not to simply imply that the victim who may have behaved in a certain way had no credibility.

Through Bill C-46, a norm is set. Before an accused can seek production of personal records that may be in the hands of a psychiatrist, a member of the medical establishment, teachers or guidance counsellors, and even the production of personal diaries that may be in the hands of a complainant, he or she will first have to convince the judge that this evidence is likely to be relevant to the trial.

The accused will have to demonstrate to the judge, who will be sitting without a jury and conducting a hearing very similar to a voir dire, that this evidence will convincingly raise a reasonable doubt. The first time around, the accused will be required to back up the grounds for making an application, and the judge will hear this application in camera. The complainant could be heard. I read the bill to mean that the accused could be heard as well.

We have reached here a breaking point, a cut-off point between the rights of the victim and those of the accused, who is entitled to a full defence.

One can wonder how, without having reviewed records such as those being requested, the accused can be expected to prepare an application and make sufficiently detailed allegations to convince a judge of the relevancy of presenting the evidence.

This is an issue that will be very difficult to resolve. Perhaps we will manage to find both a positive and a clever solution that respects the rights of both parties, because, in law as in every other area, matter is neither lost nor created. What you gain on one side you lose on the other. The balance on which the economics of our entire criminal law rests must be maintained.

Regarding the evidence that may be disclosed at trial, for the jury's information or for the presiding judge to review, Bill C-46 seeks to ensure and give us the assurance that they will be relevant and pertain to the issue at trial.

I noted in passing that this is the only case where the accused is required to use this procedure, i.e. make a voir dire type of application for the production of such records. This is specified in clause 278.3(2), which reads, and I quote:

For greater certainty, an application under subsection (1) may not be made to a judge or justice presiding at any other proceedings, including a preliminary inquiry.

What about the accused who wishes, at the preliminary hearing stage, to submit to voluntary examination and plead on voluntary examination to have charges against him dropped for total want of evidence, I wonder? Is he precluded from serving subpoenas on those who have possession of these documents? This is a matter for the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to look into.

At the preliminary investigation and voluntary examination stage, assuming the person charged agrees to such a voluntary examination, given its explicit conditions, will the person be deprived of certain means of defence? If we seek to deprive that person of certain means of defence, again we are possibly violating the guarantees provided during a full defence.

And what happens if the documents are in the hands of the Crown, a third party, a member of the medical profession, or a psychiatrist? Is the Crown, given the Supreme Court decision in the Stinchcombe case, not required to make these documents available to the defence? This is another issue which the committee will have to look at.

These are measures which may sound appealing, but which have to be taken carefully, in small doses, because they have an impact on the fundamental rule of justice in our legal system, a system that includes the Criminal Code of Canada, the civil code of the Province of Quebec and the municipal codes in the various provinces, which are the cornerstones of our whole legal system. When these cornerstones are altered, our whole legal system is affected.

The civil code reform took place over a number of decades in Quebec, beginning in the fifties. In fact, the process had started long before with the Pérodeau act, in 1915, the Dorion report, in 1931, and then the change regarding the rights of married women in civil matters, in 1954. All this took several decades. The changes were not imposed overnight.

The people of Canada-and the people of Quebec in the case of that province's civil law, know what their legal system is based on. A civil code and a criminal code are basic documents in our society, just as the Holy Scriptures are fundamental to religion.

We should not rewrite the Scriptures every two or three years. It is a genuine document. We do have various translations and, from time to time, exegetes who provide a new interpretation, but we always come back to the same text. The Scriptures are made more meaningful because they have never been rewritten. Apocrypha are dismissed because they do not meet the same authenticity standards as the Scriptures, as we know them.

This little digression was meant to show you that the basic instruments in our legal system should not change too much or too often. Let me loop the loop I started at the beginning of my speech, when I said that we have passed too many pieces of criminal

legislation during this Parliament: the people subject to trial, the solicitors, the lawyers and probably many judges no longer know what the law is any more. Yet, one basic requirement for a society like ours based on the rule of law, under the 1982 Constitutional Act, is that those who are subject to the law of the land must know what the law says, which is why our basic laws like the Criminal Code should not change too often or according to the whims of those in power who, for some reason, maybe because of some pressure from a lobby group, may decide to make changes.

So this bill will have to be examined thoroughly in order to weigh the ins and outs of the proposed reform. At first blush, its intentions appear laudable, there is no doubt. But if we were to ask Canadians, whom the justice system is there to serve, to name one of the important rules of criminal law, they would probably immediately mention the presumption of innocence, without any prodding whatsoever. An accused cannot be presumed guilty; he is even entitled to remain silent, to remain seated during his trial and say nothing.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court and even the Privy Council have had to make this point again on several occasions, overturning juries' verdicts when crown prosecutors went too far with their arguments from time to time, or when judges overstepped the bounds, because it is not even permitted to comment on an accused's silence, if he decides not to present a defence. When the crown has finished presenting its evidence, and the accused does not rise, the next step is arguments, and neither the crown prosecutor nor the judge may comment on the accused's silence; he is entitled to remain silent. This is one of the key principles of our criminal justice system and, for once I agree with many colleagues in this House, a system which compares very favourably with criminal law systems in other countries.

We now realize that, with Bill C-46, we are going to oblige the accused to present evidence, obviously not before a jury, just before a judge, showing that certain elements of evidence are relevant to his defence in order to be able to produce them later on.

In certain cases, the accused will be forced to speak and to reveal part of his strategy because, in a trial, there is the element of strategy. This may lead the crown to say: "If that is the defence they are preparing, I will adjust my evidence accordingly".

The accused's right to silence is, of course, affected by this bill. Although not in itself grounds to oppose this bill, this is a reason to ask whether we are affecting basic rights which have taken hundreds of years to become established in our British system of criminal law.

We must not, in the space of a single legislative session, demolish piece by piece, without truly really realizing what we are taking away, what we are changing, values which have been unanimously acknowledged by our forefathers and are the fundamental guarantee of our democratic freedoms, deemed so important that they were entrenched in the 1982 Constitution, particularly, but not exclusively, in sections 7 through 15.

The official opposition will, with an open mind, give its agreement in principle to the adoption of this bill on second reading.

In doing so, however, we wish to make it known that we will be keeping a watchful eye in committee in order to ensure that, in its guidelines and in its practical application, our system of criminal law, the envy of a number of nations, remains a system that continues to be the envy of many countries.

Airbus Affair February 3rd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, we are in a somewhat special situation. Mr. Spector apparently passed this information on to Mrs. Bourgon in September 1995. Mr. Spector and Mrs. Bourgon have one thing in common: they both enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister. The latter appointed Mrs. Bourgon Clerk of the Privy Council and Mr. Spector head of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

In light of the circumstances and in light of the mess, what is the Prime Minister waiting for to set up an independent commission of inquiry in order to shed light on the Airbus affair?

Airbus Affair February 3rd, 1997

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

Brian Mulroney's former chief of staff, Norman Spector, stated that he had informed the present Clerk of the Privy Council, Jocelyne Bourgon, about an RCMP investigation of former Prime Minister Mulroney, one month before The Financial Post made this information public. Yet Mrs. Bourgon continues to deny that she obtained this information and passed it on to the Prime Minister or his advisers.

How does the Prime Minister explain the contradictions between the version given by Mr. Spector and that of Mrs. Bourgon?

Act To Change The Names Of Certain Electoral Districts December 12th, 1996

moved that the Senate amendments to Bill C-347, an act to change the names of certain electoral districts, be read the second time and concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, I have a simple explanation. When we passed Bill C-347 at third reading in the House, 19 ridings were concerned. The Senate kept these 19 and made three amendments to add ridings whose names will be changed.

Thus, in the province of Ontario, the riding of Vaughan-Aurora will see its name changed to Vaughan-King-Aurora. In the province of Saskatchewan, the riding of Regina-Arm River will see its name changed to Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, and in the province of New Brunswick, the riding of Beauséjour will see its name changed to Beauséjour-Petitcodiac.

It is on a non-partisan basis that I move that the Senate's amendments be concurred in.

Bill C-234 December 12th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, we received this afternoon the Senate's amendments to Bill C-347, an act to change the names of certain electoral districts. I believe that, if you sought it, you would find unanimous consent to move immediately to consideration of these amendments.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act December 12th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a point of order, but I can do it later on, when the government whip and the whip of the Reform Party are in the House.

Lists Of Voters December 5th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the government has a choice: since it controls at least half of the other place, it could act immediately by having Bill C-63 amended, or it could do so in this House.

Since we know that taxpayers in Quebec and Canada would save at least $15 million if Elections Canada used Quebec's permanent list of electors, why are the government and Elections Canada still refusing to use that list?