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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Bloc MP for Berthier—Montcalm (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 57% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Anti-terrorism Act October 16th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, according to the very broad definition of what constitutes a terrorist activity in the Minister of Justice's bill, many participants in the Quebec City summit could have been considered terrorists.

How can the minister assure us that with a definition as broad as this, some of the demonstrators at the Quebec City summit would not have been apprehended as terrorists?

Anti-terrorism Act October 16th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important matter and I believe that in such a matter, improvisation, fear, haste and rushed action are all ill-advised. We must take the time to examine this extraordinary bill. I believe that a bill of its kind is rarely passed in a parliament such as ours.

What is first and foremost is that we must not improvise. We must pass a piece of legislation that attempts to maintain a degree of balance between national security and individual and collective rights and freedoms. The drawbacks must be addressed. As the bill is worded at this time, I believe that these run contrary to certain rights and freedoms. Our sights must be readjusted.

What does please me, and at the same time reassures me, is that yesterday the Prime Minister said that the committee would examine this question and listen to what people have to say and that it will be empowered to amend those clauses which go too far or involve goals the government is not interested in attaining. For instance, one or more of the definitions contained in the bill might affect the labour movement and those taking part in illegal walkouts. I do not believe that the objective of this bill is to consider them as terrorist groups. All that needs doing is to review the definition and perhaps tighten it up a bit, bringing it more in line with the objective, which is to combat terrorism.

This is not something that can be done overnight. Pushing the bill through at full speed is not the way to do it. We must take our time. Time is something we have here in this House, as well as in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, to examine this bill along with specialists and people who are used to working with the charter of rights and freedoms and similar legislation. We will then be able to shape legislation that is more acceptable and that particular strikes a balance between national security and individual and collective rights and freedoms.

Anti-terrorism Act October 16th, 2001

Yes, gangsterism. The bill defines terrorist activity by referring to conventions. About terrorism or terrorist activity it says that it is as an act committed for “a political, religious or ideological purpose”, which threatens the public and national security because it “is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to a person”, “to endanger a person's life”, “to cause substantial property damage”, and might “cause serious bodily harm” as a result of “serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system”.

This is just one part of the definition. I did not mention the ten conventions that make reference to certain definitions of what may constitute a terrorist activity.

Just the part of the definition that I mentioned deserves a closer look. More than ten or fifteen minutes are necessary before adopting this clause. Experts are required, and no one in this House has the expertise to really be able to say whether or not this is going too far.

There may be members who have some expertise, but it is tinted by the party line of their political formations, and that includes myself, so outside experts are required to take a hard look at these definitions and tell us if we are right to be concerned about a possible violation of certain freedoms.

We could discuss this issue for a long time. I could talk about such a bill for hours, but since time is always a consideration I will deal with the core of the issue.

Another point that raises concerns is the whole question of electronic surveillance. Under the criminal code it is possible to use electronic surveillance by obtaining a warrant if surveillance is carried out for a specific time period, but the person being monitored must subsequently be informed of the fact.

Now all of this has been turned upside down. The monitoring period has been extended. The minister now has direct input. It will all be very vague. The way it will really operate is unclear. We do not know what limits there will be.

When more powers are granted to the police, as is the case here, whether it be preventive arrests, arrests without a warrant, or the Attorney General of Canada suspending the Access to Information Act whenever he pleases if he believes that national security is threatened and there is no one to oversee what he is doing, no one to question the minister's decision, this is of concern to me.

The fact that this law would not be reviewed for three years is also cause for concern in my opinion.

Why does the minister, and this is the question I asked her yesterday in the House, not promise to have this law reviewed or make it possible to have this law reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights after one year?

With everything that is happening on the national and international scene, I am convinced that following its adoption Bill C-36 will be more or less widely applied throughout Canada, depending on the case.

Over the course of the year, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights could properly examine what has been done and determine if there has been any abuses. What we need to keep in mind is that we must prevent any abuse in applying exceptional legislation such as this.

As I have run out of time, I am prepared to answer any questions.

Anti-terrorism Act October 16th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I think that parliament has before it, as we often say, an exceedingly important bill. I really think it is the most important bill the House of Commons will pass. This bill responds to an event that occurred on September 11 and to much more than that as well. The bill, the way it is drafted at the moment, goes perhaps a bit too far.

Let me explain. If there is one thing we must make sure of it is that the House does not improvise in passing the bill, not with a bill like this one. We must take time to examine every angle of the bill. As many people as possible and the experts must be consulted in order to produce a law that meets our objective of fighting terrorism effectively.

The attacks on New York and Washington must certainly not change anything in the way we live and do things in Canada, but neither, given that the laws are passed here, must anything be changed in Quebec's approach either. To succeed in getting us to change and alter our practices would be the supreme victory for the terrorists. They would know we are afraid and would change the way we live and deprive our fellow citizens of their freedoms in exchange for security on paper.

In our reactions and attitudes we must look primarily for balance between heightened security measures and the need to keep freedom in the central and vital space it occupies in our society. We must protect ourselves, but we must also be aware of the fact that liberty will always be fragile whatever we do and whatever legislation we may pass in this House so long as there are men and women prepared to die for a cause and through hatred. No legislation will be able to stop them.

We can, however, have legislation that will enable us to prevent attacks such as the those that have recently taken place. We can have a bill that will help us gather information on terrorists, on the people we really want to target with such a piece of legislation, but caution is required.

We must not have just any old law to stop such people. Legislation is needed, but not at the expense of our collective and individual rights and freedoms. Sacrificing our freedom would in fact be capitulation, because freedom is, more than anything else, what defines life in a democracy. The choices we will be making are not, therefore, only choices for security, they are choices for society. Such choices, informed choices, cannot be made overnight. A sense of balance must inform our analysis of Bill C-36.

At the present time, looked at as a whole I believe the bill's purpose is laudable. The bill as a whole will be applied in conjunction with other existing Canadian statutes. The criminal code will continue to apply, as will the anti-gang legislation. Hon. members will recall that Bill C-24, now in the other place awaiting royal assent, enables police officers to commit illegal acts.

With the anti-gang legislation and this bill, Bill C-36, which amends over 20 Canadian statutes and a series of regulations, the powers of the police force appear out of balance with the liberties we enjoy.

I know it is not mentioned in the bill, but at some point the police, thanks to the anti-gang legislation, will be able to commit illegal acts under the law and perhaps break it. This was certainly not the government's aim, but we must not lose sight of the fact that these two laws apply concurrently. Neither blocks the other.

By allowing a police officer to act illegally under Bill C-24, we cannot be sure he will not use this part of the act to do things that are illegal under Bill C-36. Yet he would be justified in doing so for purposes of national security. Is this just rhetoric on my part? I hope so.

I do not think it is rhetoric to say that because it is important to watch what is going on and to try to produce the best legislation. I think this is what the people of Canada and Quebec expect of us.

A look at the federal government's anti-terrorism plan and its objectives reveals four major objectives. There is no reason to oppose them. Perhaps the way it goes about achieving them in the legislation gives us the right, in a country like ours, to question them.

The first objective is to prevent terrorists from entering Canada and to protect Canadians against acts of terrorism. I have no problem with this objective. I would certainly not defend the terrorists or say that their rights were protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I was saying on the subject of gangsterism and organized crime, that it is not true the charter exists to protect them. I say the same thing about terrorists. However, the rights and freedoms honest people enjoy at the moment must not be denied them.

The second objective involves providing the tools to identify terrorists, bring them to justice, sentence them and punish them. This needs no explanation and there is no doubt that we support this objective.

The third objective is to prevent the Canada-U.S. border from being taken hostage by terrorists, which would have repercussions on the Canadian economy. That is obvious. Moreover, this is not the first time the Bloc Quebecois has questioned the work being done by customs officials on the borders of Canada and Quebec.

As far as money laundering is concerned, for at least five or six years now the Bloc Quebecois has been saying over and over that the borders between Canada and the United States are as full of holes as a sieve and that Canada enjoys the wonderful international reputation of being a country where money laundering is easy and where there may be the least monitoring of this.

I know that this is being corrected. I know that we have not been a voice crying out unheard in the wilderness for those five or six years. I know that the government has amended some laws in response to overtures by the Bloc Quebecois. I know that as far as Bill C-36 is concerned the criminal code is also being amended, with a far more specific objective: terrorist groups. This is a good thing.

I do not, however, think that the wake up call of the events of September 11 was necessary for this to happen. Actions could have been taken back when we started talking about the situation, back when we began to address the problem represented by Canadian customs and the Canada-U.S. border.

The final objective is to work with the international community to bring terrorists to justice and address the root causes of their hatred.

We can see that these are four praiseworthy objectives. On that basis one could not be opposed to a bill to implement provisions to attain those objectives.

However, the questions that arise have to do with the text we have before us. The bill is more than 170 pages in length and contains dozens, even hundreds, of amended sections and expanded definitions regarding the threat to national security among other things. There are increased powers conferred to some members of the cabinet. The Minister of Justice, the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of National Defence would all have increased powers when it comes to electronic surveillance, for example. They would be able to decide if an individual will be monitored. It is the minister who would be responsible for the final decision. Have they gone too far? That is a tough question.

Are we asking enough tough questions? I hope that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and I emphasize the words human rights, will do just that in a calm manner with all the time it needs and that this bill will be carefully examined.

If Canada had pursued these four objectives by ratifying international treaties that it has already signed, by making them law, then in all probability I would not be standing here right now giving a 20 minute speech on this subject. In order to attain its four objectives, the government included two conventions in this bill.

The first one is the international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism. It freezes terrorists' assets by preventing the use of assets belonging to a person who is involved in terrorist activities and in preventing the provision of property and financial or other related services to terrorists. These measures enable a Federal Court judge to order the freezing or seizure of property used to support terrorist activities.

This is the convention that had been signed but never had force of law in Canada. This convention is included in Bill C-36.

In order to achieve the objectives I outlined earlier, there is no problem with this approach and I applaud the government on this. Indeed, the government should have done this before September 11. This was its responsibility. It failed when it came to implementing the international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism.

Frankly, I imagine that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service knew before September 11 that there were people raising funds for terrorism in Canada. I certainly hope it knew. If it did not, I have my doubts about the effectiveness of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. If it did, why was it waiting to tell somebody? If it did pass the information along, why did the solicitor general or the Minister of Justice do nothing when a convention had been signed to that effect? There is a problem somewhere.

The other convention is the international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings. This convention contains provisions on the targeting of places of public use, government facilities, infrastructure and transportation systems for attacks using explosives or other lethal devices, including chemical or biological agents.

Here again, I hope that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was on some sort of trail in Canada while groups were on Canadian soil and had certain similar objectives. It is perhaps not as clear as in the first convention, but I hope that CSIS, with the millions of dollars, close to a billion, which it regularly receives to manage its affairs, had a good idea of what was going on.

These two conventions are therefore implemented by Bill C-36. Once again we have no problem with this.

There is one point about which we have some legitimate concerns and I think that anyone interested in individual and collective rights and freedoms must share those concerns.

A large number of sections in the criminal code are amended and many new ones are added to deal with terrorism.

I invite hon. members to read the definition of terrorist activity; it is not a simple definition. It refers to ten conventions that Canada signed and implemented over the years. It is a definition that makes reference to other sections, to international conventions, to a large number of possibilities.

Terrorism as such is not defined, just like the federal government refused to define the notion of criminal activity--

Privilege October 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I take note of the apologies of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons but, again, it is not the first time that this has happened. Perhaps this is not exactly what happened with Bill C-15, but it did occur with this bill.

I can also think of the Young Offenders Act. This is often forgotten, but the media had been informed. Large parts of the young offenders legislation were published in the newspapers before the opposition had even dealt with it.

Today, it is Bill C-36. It is as if whenever a bill could generate controversy, an attempt is made to inform or provide information during the weekend, when members are in their ridings. The result is that the newspapers make mention of the major points of these bills and the public begins to form an opinion on an issue before parliamentarians deal with this issue.

I know that the House leader is sincere. I take note of his remarks and apologies, but this is not enough.

Will the House leader ensure that there are clear rules for his ministers, for cabinet, to prevent such leaks, so that the media do not get information before the members of this House have had an opportunity to deal with it?

This is the first thing that the House leader should do. Will there be clear rules to ensure that this never happens again? Second, who is the smart aleck who gave that information, it is not the secretary who typed this, but someone who had access to privileged information? Will that person be disciplined for what he or she has done? This is a serious attack on the work of parliamentarians. The public official who did this has no respect for the work of parliamentarians in this House.

I would like the House leader to rise and to tell us very clearly what he intends to do to find the guilty party and provide all cabinet members with very clear rules so that this never happens again.

Anti-terrorism Legislation October 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, according to the bill, jurisdiction over criminal procedures is shared, and everyone in this House knows that the administration of justice is the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. Yet, no provincial justice department was consulted, and neither was that of Quebec.

In a situation where co-operation among provinces is vital, can the minister explain why her department is going it alone?

Anti-terrorism Legislation October 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, given that this anti-terrorism bill provides police with greater powers, proposes the suspension of the Access to Information Act at the request of the Solicitor General of Canada, and even provides that arrests may be made without a warrant, things could get out of hand and certain fundamental freedoms could be at risk.

Will the Minister of Justice acknowledge that the review period of three years provided in the bill is much too long and could she promise now to reduce that period to one year?

Fight Against Terrorism October 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues who spoke before me mentioned, it is clear that such a bill deserves our undivided attention, and we must seriously consider whether or not we need this type of legislative tool.

When it comes to the safety of Canadians and Quebecers, we require legislation that is functional and effective. Democracy and the future of nations are at stake. This is critically important. Terrorism will not be tolerated on our respective territories and we must fight against it with all of our might.

What concerns me this morning and concerned me last week, however, is that terrorism existed prior to September 11. In Canada, information has been collected by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, by the RCMP, by Canada Customs, and in airports. We knew that there were things happening on Canadian and Quebec territory. This information was funnelled, I hope, to Canada's solicitor general, and to the justice minister. They waited until September 11 to act.

Obviously, it is never too late to do the right thing. However, it would have been nice if Canada had set an example to other countries by introducing a bill on terrorism, given the information that the government has had for a long time now, by reacting in time with the required legislation.

This is a very lengthy bill, and one that I am sure is also very complex. Nothing is simple when it comes to terrorism, criminal gangs and the like.

I would like to tell the minister at the outset that the Bloc Quebecois will act responsibly and support the government, as we have always done on this issue.

As far as provincial consultation is concerned, I would hope that the government did consult them, since a bill as complex as this will have to be put into effect by the provinces. I would also hope that the government has an estimate of the costs involved in implementing the bill. They tend, on the other side of the House, to introduce bills and then look at the cost of them afterwards, knowing full well that the administration of justice is a provincial matter. The Quebec nation will support it for Quebec's part, and Quebec and the provinces will foot the bill in the end. I would hope that the government has given thought to the implementation of the bill and to consulting the provinces in this regard.

Canada has signed international treaties. We have heard this said in recent weeks. Canada has signed at least two international treaties. They were signed a long time ago. Why has Canada not implemented them? I can understand that it wants to make up for lost time. It will probably include them in the bill the House will be considering. I would also have liked to see this bill introduced prior to the events of September 11.

I feel things were improvised a bit in all that. I would hope that the bill will not reflect this improvisation. The government reacted to an event. Bills such as C-16 are currently before the Senate. What will the government do about them in connection with the one before us now? I can hardly wait to see.

Once again, there is a feeling of improvisation, but we will co-operate as best we can with the government in order to have a bill that is important both to Quebec and to Canada. We will be there when it counts.

Courts Administration Service Act October 1st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, it is a good thing I do not have much time to talk on this bill, because I do not have much to say on such a bill, except that we support its passage.

No one in this House can oppose the desire to modernize the major federal courts and bring them together into a single administrative body.

For those not watching earlier, the aim of this legislation is to combine the administrative services of the Federal Court of Canada, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada. Clearly then, the Federal Court Act and the Tax Court of Canada Act will be amended.

The aim is a worthy one. It is somewhat like what the Government of Quebec did for the administrative tribunals. The aim was to help people find their way around in the statutes and in the courts that had any bearing on taxpayers' rights. The federal government is doing the same thing for three of its courts.

When we examine Bill C-30, we realize that the objective of the bill is to be found in clause 2. This is usual. There was no effort to have a preamble that contained nothing but empty wishes, as has been the case with some government bills in the House, including the Young Offenders Act. It had a fine preamble that was practically meaningless, and the courts interpreted it that way.

In this bill, instead of being included in a preamble, the aim of it appears in clause 2. It should always be this way.

Clause 2 provides:

  1. The purposes of this Act are to

(a) facilitate coordination and co-operation among the Federal Court of Appeal—

I do not think anyone can oppose that. The bill also is intended to:

(b) enhance judicial independence—

Here again, I do not think that anyone in this House can object. I would have preferred it if the government had gone even further. If it wants the courts to be totally independent, it should perhaps change the way federal justices are appointed, which is very archaic. The appointment continues to be made by one or two people in cabinet.

The bill also has as an objective:

(c) enhance accountability for the use of public money in support of court administration—

I believe that grouping together all the resources and putting these three courts under the same administrative umbrella will ensure greater efficiency.

What I object to, but this is to be expected from a Liberal government, is that it is always a little hard for the government not to engage in politics and partisanship, particularly after being in office for years. There are many friends to reward. For example, the appointment of the chief administrator will be purely and simply a partisan appointment. Sure, the government will consult judges of the Federal Court of Appeal, the Tax Court of Canada and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, but the final decision will be made by the governor in council.

For all intents and purposes, the process with the chief administrator will be exactly the same as with the judges of the federal court, supreme court and superior court. It will simply be an appointment by the government.

If we want to achieve the laudable objective of enhancing judicial independence, we should begin with the appointment process. We should begin with the appointment of the chief administrator, if we really want to be consistent with the purpose of this legislation, which is not the case right now.

What I really like in this bill is that the chief administrator will report to parliament.

Clause 12 states:

  1. (1) The Chief Administrator shall, within six months after the end of each fiscal year, send to the Minister of Justice a report on the activities of the Service for that year.

(2) The Minister of Justice shall have a copy of the report laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first 15 days on which that House is sitting after the day on which the Minister receives the report.

That is all well and fine that there is a report to parliament, but since the chief administrator reports to parliament, why is it not parliament that appoints the chief administrator?

I see the government House leader is saying no. I understand, because that would mean they could not appoint their friends to these positions. Yet, of course this would enhance independence.

Yes, it is fine for the chief administrator to report to the House, but the appointment needs to be reconsidered.

Not only is there the chief administrator, there is also a series of judicial administrators. This bill's weakness, in my opinion, is the series of appointments and this government's approach.

Once again, the objective is laudable. It is similar to the Quebec national government's approach to its administrative tribunals. The federal government is taking up their idea. That is fine. These days we have to streamline and group administrations together. This is what the federal government is doing.

Young Offenders October 1st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice is building a larger consensus against her Bill C-7 on criminal justice for young persons.

After judges, lawyers, crown attorneys, members of the National Assembly and experts on young people, senators are now getting on board.

How many people will have to add their voices to those of the already large consensus that opposes the minister's bill before she will listen to reason and withdraw her legislation, to prevent irreparable damage to both the system and some of these young persons?