House of Commons photo


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

The Canadian Grand Prix September 16th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, how could we propose to this House a transition fund just for Formula 1?

I think that if the Bloc Quebecois wanted to talk about a transition fund, and really examined the situation, fairness would force us to include a whole series of events. Since we want to be fair, we do not believe that at this time we ought to be going ahead with a transition fund, an idea that has already been rejected. What is more, if we Canadians really believe in it, this legislation is about public health.

Obviously the Grand Prix does have economic spinoffs. We still have some room to manoeuvre. Give us some time. We will leave no stone unturned.

The Canadian Grand Prix September 16th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as far as the Canadian Grand Prix is concerned, everyone in this House is aware of its economic importance and the spin-offs, not just for Montreal and Quebec, but for all of Canada as well.

That said, the government already deferred the legislation seven years ago. Back then, the time frame allowed was felt to be satisfactory.

On the other hand, are we supposed to use public funds in order to obtain a brand name free race? I think it would, in fact, be highly inappropriate of the government to start using public funds to maintain Formula 1 racing.

That said, there is still a little time left before the racing schedule is published. We will leave no stone unturned in order to keep—

Supply September 16th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my opening remarks, society evolves. It changes over time. If we look at the situation we were in back at that time when we voted, which the member just referred to, we were not facing the same clarity with regard to court decisions, essentially.

Let me be clear. When we look at the various court decisions regarding section 15 and the current definition of marriage, I believe the court decisions have been clear. We as a government and the Liberal Party of Canada as well have decided that it is a question of rights and a question of dignity, and as well it is a question of policy. We have decided to give gays and lesbians in Canada full recognition within our Canadian society.

More than that, I was in western Canada last week. I have been discussing with people. I have been on radio shows. I have been talking to Canadians. Of course some raise concerns, but when we really take a look at the draft bill, Canadians understand that actually the draft bill respects who we are as Canadians. We respect a balanced approach that gives room to all Canadians and gives a place to all Canadians in our society.

Let me remind the House that as a society we are facing two very key basic principles that I will fight for: the question of protection of religious beliefs and the equality rights in section 15 as well. As justice minister, I will make sure those two principles will be respected in Canada today. When we look at the draft bill, we see that we respect the equality rights in giving gays and lesbians access to the institution of civil marriage, but at the same time we have to respect religious beliefs.

Today, when we look at the two institutions, we see that there are already fundamental differences between religious marriage and civil marriage. Some may say they disagree with the fact that some religions put in place some standards. As well, they may disagree with the standards that have been put in place by religious groups in this country, but we will respect those standards and we will respect those differences because we do believe in religious freedoms and, at the same time, equality rights. This is exactly what we are fighting for today as a society and we must be successful.

Supply September 16th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in this debate that is of fundamental importance for Canadian society.

In 1999 I voted with the majority in this House. Like most members, like most Canadians, the definition of marriage that the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others is the one I grew up with, the one I learned from my parents. However let me remind members of parliament that our attachment to long cherished traditions and conventions is not the only, or even the best, measure of what is just or what is right.

There was a time in Canada, not all that long ago, when it was considered perfectly acceptable that women could not vote. There was a time when women were not even legally defined as persons.

There was a time when immigrants were denied the right to vote, when they were turned away from our shores, when visible minorities were denied access to their rightful opportunities for employment.

Yes, there was a time even in our more recent past when aboriginal people were also denied the vote, when aboriginal people were denied the basic right to hire a lawyer to bring claims to court.

There was a time in my own province of Quebec when it was very difficult for francophones to work in their own language or to be served in their mother tongue by their national government, even in this House of Commons.

Each convention in its time was considered perfectly appropriate. Each in its time was fuelled in part by prejudice and misunderstandings, but more profoundly by a subtle assumption that things were supposed to be this way, assumptions held without thought as to the pain and sense of exclusion it might inflict on others. Each convention had its time and that time has passed thanks, in part, to the acts and actions taken by the Parliament of Canada.

Today we are debating the legal definition of marriage and it is our intention, as you are aware, to introduce a bill on this in Parliament. We have a fundamental obligation to do so, in light of another parliamentary statute, the most important one in our history, the Constitution Act of 1982. Enacted with a huge majority in both chambers, this act gave birth to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The charter enshrined certain fundamental individual rights into law, investing each and every Canadian with the right to find out from the courts whether enacted legislation infringed upon rights. Adoption of the charter and its entrenchment by Parliament in the Constitution was the expression of the opinion of duly elected legislators, some of whom are still with us in this House. This means that, even if Parliament has the last word as far as legislation is concerned, this should not be the only word.

In short, the charter must serve as a vehicle for challenging established hypotheses, beliefs and attitudes, regardless of how familiar and comforting these may be, in order to ensure that all Canadians have equal treatment before the law. The charter has so far served Canada and Parliament well in this respect.

As for whether the current definition of marriage infringes on the charter guarantees of equality, the courts have been clear and consistent. It does. The British Columbia and Ontario appeal courts found that, in relation to the guarantees of equality conferred by the charter, limiting civil marriage to two individuals of opposite sex discriminated against the gays and lesbians of Canada who wished to demonstrate the same degree of commitment. A similar decision handed down in Quebec is currently being appealed.

Courts also made it clear that their decisions affected civil marriage only. They emphasized that the charter also guarantees freedom of religion. All religious groups have the right to refuse to marry anyone who does not meet the requirements of their respective faith. They have it now and they will continue to have it.

Both fundamental principles--equality based on personal characteristics like race, language or sexual orientation, and freedom of religion--co-exist in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One does not trump the other. That is why the two principles strike a balance in the marriage bill that has been drafted. There are only two provisions. The first defines marriage to be “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others”. The second states, “Nothing in this Act affects the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs”.

To further ensure freedom of religion, the bill has been referred to the Supreme Court of Canada along with this specific question: “Does the freedom of religion guaranteed by paragraph 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect religious officials from being compelled to perform a marriage between two persons of the same sex that is contrary to their religious beliefs?”

Hon. members will have the full advantage of the Supreme Court response in this matter when Parliament debates the bill. At the same time, it will have the opportunity to debate the government's proposals.

The notwithstanding clause is such a powerful tool that the federal Parliament has never had recourse to it. It would be a mistake to authorize such recourse by voting in favour of this motion and of the terms “take all necessary steps” without a full and separate debate.

Let me be clear. A vote in favour of the Alliance motion means a vote to use the notwithstanding clause. The Government of Canada has never invoked this clause to override the charter rights of a minority. I believe this would set a dangerous precedent.

The Alliance rejects equality in human rights. The Alliance rejects the charter. Let us not fall into the opposition's trap.

We are at an historic moment in time. We have the opportunity to challenge our settled assumptions and beliefs and do what is right in terms of equality: to vote down this motion that would once again restrict marriage to opposite sex couples.

And I believe this is the right thing to do. We cannot deny the rights of people who are part of our society. They are not to be ignored or made to feel invisible. Some may be our friends or our neighbours. Some may be our sons or our daughters. They live, work and contribute in our communities. They too pay taxes. They are in long term relationships and in some cases raise children. Their relationships deserve to be fully recognized too. Anything less is discrimination. I believe this is about equality, dignity and respect for all Canadians.

Montreal Grand Prix September 15th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to remind the House that, basically where the Tobacco Act is concerned, recognizing precisely the economic benefits involved, this government has already granted a seven year postponement in implementing the legislation.

As for the creation of a special fund, which means using public funds, I just want to tell this House that this option has also been ruled out by this government.

Justice June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the member is referring to an important issue for society. We are well aware, as he just mentioned, that various decisions have been handed down in recent months. It will also be remembered that we have given the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights a mandate to conduct hearings across the country.

Incidentally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who have done excellent work. I am told that they have met and we expect their report shortly. Once the government has finished studying the whole situation and the rulings, we will make our position public.

Criminal Code June 12th, 2003

moved for leave to present Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (capital markets fraud and evidence-gathering).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code June 12th, 2003

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-45, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal liability of organizations).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Justice June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we have the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal as well as the one in British Columbia. It is an important social issue. I have asked parliamentarians to be involved in the debate. We need to have a national solution. The government's position will be known quite shortly since the decision tabled this morning has an immediate effect.

Justice June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, we received the judgment of the Ontario Court of Appeal this morning. The government will take the time to look at it. We all know that it needs to be enforced immediately, so the government's position will be known quite shortly.

Having said that, I have stated many times that it is an important social issue for Canadians. I have said that I want to have parliamentarians involved. They did proceed with a huge consultation over the past few months and we expect to have their report shortly. More than that, we also need to have a national solution here in Canada.