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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

Justice May 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I just do not understand that comment and that position.

What we have seen over the past few years, with the existing legislation, is an increase in the use of cannabis among our population. It is not the message we want to send. We want ensure that people realize the use of cannabis is illegal. We want to ensure we put in place a piece of legislation that we can enforce in society. At the same time, we are renewing the national drug strategy. It is $245 million and it will be invested in training, education, and above that, notices will be sent to the parents as well in order to--

Justice May 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the member knows very well that we have always dealt with young offenders differently. That is why we have implemented Bill C-7.

The choice that we have is to keep proceeding with the existing legislation where the young essentially receive a verbal warning, or put legislation in place that will enable us to enforce it and impose a fine. A $100 fine for a kid is pretty much, I believe.

Supply May 27th, 2003

Mr. Chair, criminal law can seldom be enforced with full consistency across the country, because what we call discretion can always be used. But consistency is certainly possible as far as policy is concerned.

In this case, in reference to the whole body of recommendations, the two reports submitted last year by the two committees deal at length with the issue of disproportionate penalties that are being assessed nowadays. Because some 100,000 people use cannabis, we had to better procedures and a more proportionate penalties. If young people were charged under the current legislation, they would face criminals charges and end up with a criminal record.

The purpose of the new policy is to eliminate criminal records for possession of less than 15 grams. Discretion will be used in giving tickets and non-enforcement, but the objective of the policy that we want to have in place will be met.

Supply May 27th, 2003

Mr. Chair, the answer is simple. The message we want to send to the Canadian public is that marijuana use and production is strictly illegal. Obviously, when we talk about use, what we have wanted and still want to achieve through our policy is to obtain the necessary tools to get people to stop smoking pot.

If we look at what has happened in the last few years, we see that there has been an increase in use. So there will be a zero tolerance policy. We want people to stop smoking pot. It is a substance which is strictly illegal and which is harmful for society as a whole.

It follows that, if smoking is strictly illegal, growing is also strictly illegal. This is why we have decided to increase the penalties, and to even double them in some cases. Currently, the legislation provides for a maximum of seven years in prison. With the new legislation, people could face up to 14 years in prison.

As for the 30 grams recommended by the committee, this quantity was mentioned because there currently is a special system concerning a quantity of zero to 30 grams. For this quantity, we intend to resort to summary convictions.

Now, as for the quantity that we have chosen, 15 grams, as I have already explained today, that has given rise to much debate. We examined what is being done elsewhere in the world. Some countries have chosen 100 grams, others less. There are countries where there are no limits. What we figured is that when those limits were established, marijuana was a less potent drug. Today, marijuana is a lot more potent. It seemed reasonable for us to set the limit at 15 grams.

Supply May 27th, 2003

Mr. Chair, the meeting I had with my American colleague is part of a series of annual meetings. Such meetings take place between my colleague Mr. Ashcroft and me, as well as between the solicitor general and Mr. Ashcroft. As you know, there is close cooperation between our two countries.

This cooperation has been longstanding, and it will go on. This cooperation can be found in numerous areas. Those areas have to do with economic development but, in this particular case, they have to do with the fight against crime. Today, crime knows no borders. Good cooperation between countries is important.

That being said, what needs to be understood is that the two countries share exactly the same vision in the fight against crime and more specifically the fight against drug use and also drug dealers. We might use different approaches but, at the end of the day, the goals are exactly the same. Moreover, there is a great deal of mutual respect towards each other's jurisdiction and legislation.

The legislation we have put forward has been written by the Canadian government, for the Canadian people, taking into account our goals and the messages we wish to send as a Canadian government.

Supply May 27th, 2003

Mr. Chair, I will leave it up to the parliamentary process and all that it means, that is that the committee is doing its work. In this case, to reiterate what my colleague said, I know that the committee has done a great job and consulted many people. It also travelled extensively across Canada. It really went to great lengths to meet individuals and groups.

There will be recommendations, but the minister of Justice is not bound by the recommendations made by a committee. In view of all the work that has already been done, the package of recommendations will undoubtedly be analyzed thoroughly. In fact, the report will be a very important part of the process and will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the government's decision. But other elements will also have to be taken into account.

Supply May 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as far as costs are concerned, for a major portion of these applications, this is essentially a matter of speculation. Thus, it is a hypothetical question.

But for costs already incurred, if my colleague wants this information, I can have this looked into and give him an answer.

The question I was asked is important in terms of social development. Last summer, when facing some court decisions, we decided to mandate the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to look into this. If we look at the situation we are facing now, it no doubt involves the courts, but also parliamentarians as a whole, because, as I mentioned, it is an extremely important social issue.

After receiving its mandate, the justice committee proceeded to carry out extended consultations. It also heard many witnesses. I am told that these consultations are now over and that the committee is expected to table its report very soon.

Of course, you will understand that I will wait to see the committee's report and recommendations, because I have a lot of respect for its work. I believe that, before taking a stand, it is important to wait for its recommendations.

As my colleague mentioned, a number of decisions have been handed down in Quebec and in Ontario, and also recently in British Columbia, where the Court of Appeal has essentially declared that the existing definition of marriage is invalid and illegal under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are certainly analyzing all these decisions.

As my colleague also mentioned, a decision will have to be made soon about the possibility of going to the Supreme Court. But before doing so, we will carefully analyze all the decisions, as well as the report and the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Supply May 27th, 2003

Mr. Chair, this was touched on briefly at the start of the debate. We are very much aware that it is something that keeps cropping up regularly.

The sentencing mechanism to which our colleague is referring has four years of practical application behind it. We are reviewing it at present. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is dealing with it and the issue has also been raised at meetings with colleagues on the federal, provincial and territorial levels.

That said, I will be waiting to see what the committee's recommendations will be, since they have the mandate to review application of this sentencing mechanism.

I must also point out that the Supreme Court has also addressed the matter and discussed it at great length. As well, it must be acknowledged that this sentence must be applied and used in a context in which the individual, while displaying criminal tendencies, does not pose a threat to society. This has been repeated numerous times.

Time being short, I will simply say that the issue is before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and I await its recommendations.

Supply May 27th, 2003

Mr. Chair, I appreciate our colleague's question. As he knows, legal aid is an important issue which is directly linked to the justice system as a whole as well as to access to justice.

As soon as I became Justice Minister, I had the opportunity to discuss this with my colleagues during federal-provincial meetings. As we know, there are some well-known difficulties in the legal aid system in all provinces.

Over the last two years, our main budget for transfers to provinces in terms of legal aid was $82 million. Because of specific requests or demands, we increased our contribution by $20 million over the last two years, therefore increasing the total government contribution to $102 million.

Since legal aid does not come under our jurisdiction, although the Canadian government does play a role in crime-related legal aid, we have agreed with all the provinces, during the discussions we had, to join forces in order to renew the legal aid system, and to share our different ways of doing things and our best practices.

I also told all my colleagues that we would obtain additional budgets to increase our participation in legal aid. As I said earlier tonight, the basic amount for our contribution to legal aid is $82 million. In the last budget, an additional amount of $89 million was provided over a two-year period, increasing our annual contribution to $126.4 million over the next two years.

Supply May 27th, 2003

There are 20 minutes left.