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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was well.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Outremont (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply October 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am going to go through a few items that I have here and after that, I am going to ask one very simple question.

The aim and goal of the government, and it is a top priority, is to offer the best protection we can to our children and to do everything we can as a government and as a society to protect our children. They are our future.

Supply October 28th, 2003

I cannot believe what I just heard from the other side. I am counting on members to support me and pass Bill C-20 in order to ensure that as a country we keep giving our young the best protection in the world. The member just said that the passing of Bill C-20 will never happen. This is a disgusting comment.

We believe that Canada as a society needs Bill C-20 in order to increase the protection of children. As well we need Bill C-20 in order to answer the Sharpe decision.

It does not take a rocket scientist to understand what the government is doing. We are working for the future of our nation. Listen to what was just said. He said no to the passing of Bill C-20. He should be ashamed.

Supply October 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on a subject the government holds to be fundamental, that is, ensuring that we, as a society, can provide all the protection our young people deserve against people who commit the hideous crime of child pornography. It is a crime that has no place in Canadian society. And when I look at our relationships with the G-8 countries, I can say it is a crime that has no place in the world.

I am looking at the motion put forward by our colleagues in the Canadian Alliance. Essentially, this motion asks the government to eliminate all possible defences for possession of child pornography, which allow for the exploitation of children.

The basic motivation behind this motion is the desire to protect our children from all forms of sexual exploitation. I believe, when I look at all the parties and all the hon. members of this House, that each one of us has the same desire and that is that we want to take whatever action is possible to make sure that we can provide young Canadians with this kind of protection.

As I said before, this objective is at the heart of the government's ongoing commitment to protecting children from exploitation and all forms of mistreatment. This commitment was recently expressed in Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, which I introduced myself on December 5, 2002.

The preamble to Bill C-20 echoes the importance of the issues addressed by the motion. In particular, the preamble notes:

--the Parliament of Canada has grave concerns regarding the vulnerability of children to all forms of exploitation, including child pornography, sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect;

As hon. members know, there are five key components of Bill C-20: first, strengthening the child pornography provisions; second, providing better protection to young persons against sexual exploitation; third, strengthening sentencing provisions related to offences against children; fourth, facilitating testimony by child victims and witnesses and other vulnerable witnesses; and fifth, modernizing the criminal law by creating a new voyeurism offence.

I welcome this motion because I believe Bill C-20 delivers what is proposed by the motion.

Currently, the Criminal Code provides a defence for material that has artistic merit or serves an educational, scientific or medical purpose. It also makes the public good defence available for all child pornography offences.

Hon. members will recall that the constitutionality of the offence of possession of child pornography was considered by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001 in the Sharpe case. In its decision, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed Parliament's goal of protecting children from sexual exploitation through child pornography.

A key element in the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the overall child pornography scheme was the existence of the current child pornography defences.

Bill C-20 is consistent with the Supreme Court decision. It is intended to simplify and reduce the number of defences that now exist, merging them into one defence based on the public good. In each case, the validity of this defence will be determined in two stages.

First, does the material or act in question serve the public good? If it does not, then there will be no defence. Second, even if it does serve the public good, does it go beyond what serves the public good? If it goes beyond, then there will be no defence. In other words, does the risk of harm posed by an act or material in question outweigh any potential benefit to society? If it does, no defence will be available. This is what today's motion proposes.

Let me explain what is meant by public good because this concept has been misunderstood by some.

In the recent Sharpe case, the Supreme Court of Canada considered a public good defence specifically in the context of child pornography, including the meaning of public good. The Supreme Court noted that the public good had been interpreted as including matters that were necessary or advantageous to the administration of justice, the pursuit of science, literature, art or other objects of general interest.

This interpretation is perhaps more clearly understood if one considers how it might operate at a practical level. For example, the administration of justice would include the possession of child pornography as part of a police investigation of a child pornography offence, the possession of child pornography by crown prosecutors for the purpose of prosecuting a child pornography offence and the possession of child pornography by police and prosecutors for the purpose of providing training to police and prosecutors on the conduct of child pornography investigations and prosecutions or even for the purpose of providing educational session to parliamentarians on the harms of child pornography.

All these purposes fall within the administration of justice and all of them necessarily require police and prosecutors to possess child pornography to do their job, a job which the government recognizes as serving the public good.

Bill C-20 recognizes that law enforcement officials must be able to track down child pornographers and protect victims. They are performing a difficult job which serves the public interest and, therefore, they should have the protection of the law.

Consider another example: a journalist who is doing an investigative news story on a child pornography ring. In the course of exposing the child porn ring, this journalist may come into contact with material that constitutes child porn. Again, this expose serves the public good and, as a society, we value this kind of work. Again I believe that this approach is consistent with today's motion.

The proposal in Bill C-20 of a single defence of public good also adds another criterion that is not currently provided for in the artistic merit defence.

Under the current artistic merit defence, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, any objectively established artistic value provides a complete defence. From that perspective, there is no requirement to balance this merit, or good, against any potential harm to society.

Under Bill C-20, the courts must also take into account a second criterion, namely whether the “good” served by an act or any material related to an act offsets potential harm.

Just because there is only one defence, based on public good, does not mean that the legislator is suggesting that child pornography is acceptable. Clearly this is not the case. The government has taken very tangible steps, which denounce child pornography in no uncertain terms.

Bill C-20 proposes another reform with respect to child pornography. It proposes broadening the definition of written child pornography to include materials that advocate or counsel prohibited sexual activity with children, and also materials that describe prohibited sexual activity with children where the written descriptions of that activity are the dominant characteristic of the material and the material was written for a sexual purpose.

The bill includes this proposal because the government recognizes the harm this type of material can cause to children and to Canadian society by describing children as objects of sexual exploitation.

As well, I want to emphasize that the proposals in Bill C-20 seek better protection against sexual exploitation through child pornography in a manner that will withstand charter scrutiny.

The government takes very seriously its responsibility to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation, including child pornography, as well as its responsibility to uphold the charter. I repeat that it is not a question of doing one or the other. Bill C-20 does both.

The purpose of Bill C-20 is to refine all the prohibitions already in place in Canada with respect to child pornography, prohibitions which are among the strictest in the world.

Since 1993, it has been an offence under the Criminal Code to make, print, publish or possess for the purpose of publication any child pornography, to import, distribute, sell or possess for the purpose of distribution or sale any child pornography, or to possess any child pornography.

Since July 2002, and as a result of Bill C-15A, it has also been an offence under the Criminal Code to transmit, make available or export child pornography or possess child pornography for the purpose of transmission, making available or exporting, as well as to access child pornography.

The same set of reforms also allowed the courts to order child pornography deleted from computer systems, including websites in Canada, and created the new offence of using a computer system in a way, such as through the Internet, to communicate with a child for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against that child.

In addition to these important legislative measures, the government continues to work with its G-8 partners in developing a common strategy to counter the exploitation of children via the Internet. This strategy is comprised of measures to improve international cooperation, prevention, public awareness and local actions in other countries.

There is one extremely important point to be made here. We in Canada have one of the toughest laws in the world, born of our desire to fight tenaciously against this crime, which is so fundamentally heinous and has no place whatsoever in our society, or indeed in any other.

We are well aware, however, that this crime is now taking on a new dimension, a new form because of the variety of means of communication now available, including the Internet. Because of these new technologies, crime is no longer limited by borders.

It goes without saying that perhaps what is required first and foremost to remedy this situation properly is good international cooperation. At the last G-8 meeting in Paris, we had an opportunity to discuss stepping up cooperation and to examine certain studies carried out, precisely with a view to determining solid bases for that cooperation.

We also had the opportunity at that time to hear the views of others involved in international investigations. Once again, they demonstrated the importance of working together internationally in order to ensure that we are able to seek and destroy these networks wherever they are established, even if they work out of countries that may be somewhat less vigilant as far as their legislation or police intervention is concerned.

As Minister of Justice it is my responsibility to ensure that our criminal laws, our policies and indeed the criminal justice system itself reflect evolving Canadian values and emerging justice issues.

The government recognizes the importance of ensuring a strong and effective criminal law response to child pornography. Our children represent our future. We will not allow the most vulnerable in our society to be victimized by pornography. That is what Canadians expect us to do.

The protection of children bill is currently before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I call on hon. members to protect our children by supporting Bill C-20 and to ensure its swift passage. This will enable Canada to continue to be a world leader in the fight against child pornography and the protection of our children.

Justice October 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we should make sure that we pass Bill C-20 as soon as we can. Bill C-20 is in answer to the Sharpe decision of the Supreme Court, as we know very well.

Over the past few years we have enacted new provisions and new offences within the Criminal Code in order to increase the protection of children. I am talking about the question of Internet luring, which is a brand new offence. We have created, jointly with the Government of Manitoba, a new tool for police forces called Cybertip.ca, which is a very effective tool.

We will keep working together in order to offer young Canadians the best protection possible.

Justice October 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the member's question on the protection of children in our society is very important.

The member knows full well that Canada has one of the best pieces of legislation in the world and it is one that we are actually improving. He also knows that Bill C-20, a bill ensuring that we offer much better protection to our children here in Canada, is before the justice committee. I invite all parties in the House to support Bill C-20 and ensure the bill is passed as soon as possible.

Contraventions Act October 9th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-38, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, be referred forthwith to the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion to refer Bill C-38 to a special committee of the House before second reading.

I would like to remind the House that, in the Speech from the Throne, the government made a commitment to modernize the Narcotic Control Act.

Last May, in order to meet that commitment, I tabled a bill which launches a real reform. The purpose of Bill C-38 is to change law enforcement in Canada for the possession of a small quantity of cannabis and to increase penalties for the growing of large quantities of marijuana.

We must make one thing clear right from the start: it was never a question of legalizing marijuana and we are not now legalizing marijuana. It remains an illegal substance and offenders will be always be prosecuted and punished by law. What we are doing is changing the kinds of prosecution for certain offences by proposing new penalties and alternative procedures.

The new legislation will ensure that the law will be applied uniformly from coast to coast and will allow us to devote police resources to operations where they will be most useful.

This bill was not drawn up in a contextual vacuum. It is part of Canada's new drug strategy. A sum of $245 million was allocated to the fight against the root causes of drug abuse and to the promotion of health.

The government is increasing the funding for informing and raising the awareness of the Canadian public, especially young people, about the dangers of drugs.

This decision was made in full knowledge of the facts. We have done our homework. We have benefited from much research, consultation and debate.

The research goes back to the LeDain Commission, three decades ago. Two recent committee reports have also helped us understand the issue: the Senate's Special Committee on Illegal Drugs and this House's Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, chaired by the hon. member for Burlington.

Clearly, the current law is in need of reform to send a strong message that marijuana is illegal and harmful, but also to ensure the punishment fits the crime. We have to ask ourselves as a society whether it makes sense that a young person who makes a bad choice in life should receive the lasting burden of a criminal conviction. It means that the doors to certain jobs may be closed or they may have trouble travelling internationally.

With the reforms that I have introduced, the current criminal court process and resulting criminal penalties would be replaced with alternative procedures and penalties. Those convicted of possessing 15 grams or less of marijuana or one gram or less of cannabis resin will receive a ticket and a fine ranging from $100 to $400, depending on the circumstances. This fine would be higher in many cases than what offenders are receiving now. It is important to know that when a young person is facing a charge, his or her parents will be notified.

Police officers will retain the discretion to give a ticket or summons to appear in criminal court for possession of more than 15 grams of marijuana. The maximum in that case will remain a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. In addition, the new alternative penalties regime will not be available in cases of possession of over 30 grams. Those offences will result in criminal charges.

At the same time that we are modernizing our possession offence, we are taking aim at marijuana grow operations. We know that these large grow ops are sometimes located in residential areas. We know that criminal gangs are often behind those operations. This bill sends a clear message that we will not allow our neighbourhoods to be threatened by these grow ops and we will take strong action to combat organized crime.

Our bill provides for doubling the maximum sentence for large marijuana grow operations. It sets out a number of aggravating circumstances which would require courts to provide reasons for not imposing a prison sentence. With tougher legislation, and more efficient enforcement measures, we hope to put an end to this kind of activity.

I would now like to address certain questions that have been raised with regard to this bill.

First of all, there is the issue of impaired driving. This is not a new problem; I would remind the House that it is already a serious offence under the Criminal Code to drive when impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Thus, we must give the police the tools they need to identify drivers whose faculties are impaired by drug use.

The Department of Justice is currently circulating a consultation document prepared by a working group.

Secondly, there is the question of whether these reforms are reasonable, not only in the Canadian context, but also internationally.

Let us examine what is happening elsewhere in the world.

In some countries, possession of small amounts of cannabis is not a crime. In others, it remains a criminal offence, but it is not prosecuted. Some countries, including the United States, see active prosecution as a key element of their policy response to possession of small amounts of cannabis.

Although drug enforcement is a shared state-federal responsibility in the U.S., 12 states have laws decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis.

The state of South Australia, along with two Australian territories, have adopted fines for possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana. Several evaluations to date in South Australia found no increase in cannabis use linked to its policy.

Similarly, in the U.S. no significant difference in cannabis use was found between those jurisdictions that decriminalized cannabis use and those that did not.

While we can learn from what others are doing, our reforms are designed to reflect the Canadian reality. We are taking a comprehensive approach recognizing that drug and alcohol abuse can take a heavy toll in human terms and cost our economy billions of dollars.

Earlier I mentioned that this motion would send this bill to committee before second reading. This demonstrates that the government is listening and willing to consider amendments to ensure we get it right.

Canadian Grand Prix October 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that in the past, when efforts were initially made to save the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, it was members of the Liberal Party of Canada who, through their initiative and forcefulness, succeeded in having the legislation changed.

Once again, I would like to thank our colleagues from the Liberal Party who work day in and day out at networking and promoting cooperation with the City of Montreal, and the Government of Quebec as well, to develop a good strategy so that the Montreal Grand Prix can continue. We are waiting to see what proposal—

Canadian Grand Prix October 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I think that we are saying essentially the same thing in terms of leadership and action. On this side of the House, we are showing leadership and action; we are taking it one step at a time.

I know that last week Mr. Legault met with the various players in the world of Formula 1 racing. He should be coming back with a position concerning the future of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal as well as the financing structure. No players have yet taken a position in the context of this new structure, because the details of this structure are not known yet.

Let us start with this first step. Let us see what the structure will be and then determine what position the Government of Canada should take to ensure that the Canadian Grand Prix stays in Montreal.

Canadian Grand Prix October 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to remind the House that the first time we were faced with delaying application of section 24 of the act, the section on sponsorships, it was the hon. members on this side of the House, the Liberal members, who succeeded in getting this delay, because of our basic faith in this event, which has benefits not only for Quebec, but for all of Canada.

Let Mr. Legault go ahead with his discussions, and let us see what kind of financial structure there could be. I would like to point out that no stakeholder has yet made a commitment. The Government of Quebec and the City of Montreal are examining the financial structure, and after that we shall see what our plan of action will be.

Canadian Grand Prix October 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, if there is one political party that truly wants the Canadian Grand Prix to take place in Montreal next year, it is undoubtedly the Liberal Party. If there are members of Parliament working hard to keep the Grand Prix in Montreal, with its economic benefits for Quebec and Canada, they are members of the Liberal caucus.

That said, we have stated our position very clearly with regard to the legislation. The idea of racing without brand names has been raised at various times. That said, let Mr. Legault show us his financial plans, and we will see then what position the Government of Canada will take, since, I repeat, it wants to keep—