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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was firearms.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Cape Breton—The Sydneys (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 76% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Sydney Tar Ponds September 23rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

The Sydney tar ponds are Canada's worst environmental problem. I know the minister shares my concern in cleaning up this mess and has stated so publicly. He has also been reported to have said he is in favour of fencing in the tar ponds.

Could the minister please clarify the government's position with respect to cleaning up the Sydney tar ponds?

The Constitution June 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, it is a mystery why two other boards were added, but it was a political decision. In hindsight, not all political decisions are what we would do at the present time.

There are 27 boards in a province with a population of approximately 600,000 people. In rural areas having a school bus driving for miles until it reaches the denominational school of choice for a student is not in the best interests of providing the best level of education.

As I mentioned earlier, the major decisions are not made by the Government of Newfoundland which as government must be held accountable. Not only that but for every dollar put into a denominational school in one of the 27 school boards, the equivalent of that dollar has to be put into every other denominational school in that jurisdiction. If the roof leaks at one of the school boards, the other three school boards in the district get the same amount of money even though they do not need it. They put it in a bank account where it accumulates interest. The province has not been able to keep tabs on where this money goes or how it is spent. The situation is completely out of control. The accent has to be put back on giving the young people in Newfoundland the best education that they possibly can get for the dollar that the Newfoundland government can give them.

The Constitution June 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, this is not about referenda. This is about education. It is about providing a suitable level of quality of education for the students in Newfoundland.

There was no requirement for a referendum. The Government of Newfoundland called a referendum because it wanted to show it was serious about having good faith in this matter. I cannot really talk about a referendum because a referendum was not something called for, it was really not part of the process.

The Constitution June 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me this evening to speak on the motion. It is an extremely important issue. I think we could say that about all constitutional amendments. This one has evoked a lot of interest and a certain amount of controversy.

We are talking about term 17 and change thereto. In the Constitution Act, 1867 section 93 relegates education to the provinces but it does so with the proviso that we respect the denominational rights in the school systems and also the religious views.

What we are doing here we are doing under section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Where there is a bilateral interest where one or more provinces, but not all, wishes to make a change relating only to that province or provinces, the amendments have to be dealt with by the provinces affected and the federal government.

In this case we have one province affected, Newfoundland. What we require is a resolution in the legislative assembly of Newfoundland, which we have. We also require, because the other party is the federal government, a motion through the Senate and the House of Commons of the Government of Canada. This is what we are doing at the present time, dealing with the resolution in the House of Commons.

We have to look at this very carefully. It has been said the resolution is a rubber stamp as far as the federal government is concerned. That is not true. It has been said this affects only Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders should be the ones to judge whether this part of the Constitution should be changed. That is not true.

Newfoundland is a province of Canada. As such there is an interest of all Canadians in what takes place in Newfoundland. If it were just a rubber stamp, why would the federal government even be involved? Why not allow the legislative assembly to pass its resolution and then have it acknowledged by the House of Commons and the Senate? That is not the case. The federal government, through the House of Commons and the Senate, is asked to consider this resolution, which we are doing very carefully.

There has also been a lot said about minority rights, that there is an infringement here of minority rights if we go ahead and pass this resolution. That is not true. There is an infringement on minority rights now as the matter stands in Newfoundland. The school system in Newfoundland is run by seven religious denominations. There are four separate school boards. Four of the denominations are in one school board, the integrated school board, and three other denominations have their own school boards.

Here we have a province with a population the size of the city of Calgary spread over an infinitely wider area, with a tremendously large rural area, with an incredibly high unemployment rate and a low per capita income. We have four school boards, none of which is controlled by the province of Newfoundland. Where the minority rights are being infringed on now is that these seven religious denominations represent only 95 per cent of the population. Therefore 5 per cent of the population of Newfoundland does not have any school board representing its interests.

It has been said this will affect minority language rights in Canada. That is not the case. Minority language rights are protected by section 23 of the charter of rights and freedoms. We have been told that if we pass this it will affect aboriginal rights. That is not true either. Aboriginal rights are protected by section 91.24 of the Constitution Act, 1867, section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and section 25 of the charter of rights and freedoms.

We have been told that if we pass this, religious institutions in other provinces will be affected and their rights forfeited. That will not happen because this is a stand alone resolution affecting Newfoundland. Section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 was put there to represent the four founding provinces of Canada. Each province that came in had its own arrangement and locked in. When Newfoundland came into Confederation in 1949 it wanted to have denominational rights entrenched in the Constitution. Now it wants that changed. That is not an unreasonable request, nor is it a request which will be unconstitutional.

The Constitution represents the rights of the Canadian people. It also represents the powers of the federal and provincial governments. Section 91 talks about federal rights. Section 92 talks about provincial rights. Section 93 talks about education as a provincial right. What we are talking about is who is to have jurisdiction over education.

Right now in the province of Newfoundland there are four school boards controlled by religious denominations, not by the province of Newfoundland. The province of Newfoundland pays the bills. The teachers are hired by the school boards. They decide what schools are to be built. They decide the curriculum.

The province of Newfoundland does not have a constitutional power in its own province. The schools are controlled by religious institutions. How can we say the province of Newfoundland cannot make an amendment which would enhance the power it has been granted under the Constitution? It does not make sense.

Not only that, there has to be accountability in education. Every province has a difficult time trying to get the departments of education to provide a level of education which is suitable, particularly to the parents, and which will be of benefit to the students. In this case there is no accountability. It is not that the churches do not listen to the people, but they are not accountable through the election process as are the provincial governments. The provincial government has to be held accountable for the education system in the province of Newfoundland. The only way it can be held accountable is if it makes some decisions and has some control.

The province of Newfoundland has said it is not doing away with denominational education. There will be interdenominational schools and there will be unidenominational schools where the parents and the populations justify.

The churches will still have a role in the curriculum. They will have a majority representation on the school boards. It is just that the school boards are to be reduced from 27 to 10.

We are talking about a province which has lost 35,000 jobs in the fishery. What are these families doing with their children? They have to rely on a good school system. It is the future for their children. They cannot afford to send their children to private schools. It is vital the school system represent the hopes and aspirations of the people who are not able to work. They are looking for a future for themselves and for their children. Education is the future for the young people of Newfoundland. If there is to be a future, the province of Newfoundland has to be accountable. That is what this resolution is about.

We want to pass this resolution. We want the province of Newfoundland to abide by what it has promised the churches, that they will be involved. It has tried since the royal commission of 1992 to reach an agreement. They were not able to reach an agreement, and so this is the only way.

People say why not pass a resolution in the legislative assembly. If we do that we are open to an action on the Constitution. The Constitution will still say the denominational school system is in place and that the churches are supreme in education in Newfoundland. That is why we have to change the Constitution. It is a very reasonable request and I support it.

Committees Of The House May 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

In accordance with its order of reference of Wednesday, May 1, 1996, your committee has considered Bill C-33, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, and has agreed to report it without amendment.

The Late John Dickey May 2nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, it is with sorrow and a sense of loss that I rise today to offer my condolences to the family of John Dickey who passed away on April 27 at the age of 81.

John served our country with distinction throughout his life. As a veteran of the second world war, as an outstanding lawyer and as the member of Parliament for Halifax between 1947 and 1957, John epitomized intelligence, integrity and commitment. He was an active member of his community and was respected by anyone who had the privilege to be acquainted with him.

John had a great many friends not only in Nova Scotia but throughout Canada and the rest of the world. He was devoted to his family. I know my colleagues join with me in extending sincere sympathies to his wife Joyce and their six children. He will be greatly missed.

Nisga'A Land Claims March 22nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, today in the Nisga'a village of New Aiyansh the Government of Canada, the province of British Columbia and the Nisga'a Tribal Council sign the first agreement in principle negotiated in British Columbia. This is truly an historic occasion and one which all members should celebrate.

The Nisga'a agreement in principle lays a solid foundation for achieving the certainty that the users of land and resources need and marks an historic step in the process of building a new relationship between the Nisga'a and other aboriginal peoples and B.C.

Negotiated settlements are by far the best way to resolve outstanding aboriginal issues. This agreement is reasonable and complies with the government's directive that unresolved claims like those of the Nisga'a should be addressed in a manner that is fair and equitable to everyone in British Columbia.

A full reading of the agreement clearly demonstrates the balance which has been struck between varying interests and objectives. There will be refinements-

Dangerous Offenders December 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the two hon. members who contributed to this debate.

The hon. member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley has introduced a motion at the same time as her private member's bill is before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs for further consideration. Admittedly, Bill C-240 pursues a somewhat different angle on the subject. I want to commend her for her dogged determination to change the dangerous offender legislation. It is obviously a subject with which she feels very deeply. She has done a lot of work in making her presentation both on the present motion and in respect of the private member's bill.

Does the dangerous offender procedure need improvement? Quite possibly it could be improved. I will start by addressing one proposed change with which I disagree, a proposal that is central to this motion.

The motion provides that every time two psychiatrists determine that in effect an offender poses a high risk of reoffending, the attorney general of the province in which the offender was convicted shall direct that the dangerous offender application be brought. I do not believe it is appropriate to eliminate the discretion of prosecutors in bringing dangerous offender applications.

The criteria for a dangerous offender finding are contained within the Criminal Code. That is a concept created by criminal law and supported by criminal procedure. It is certainly true these criteria rely heavily on psychiatric prediction of risk, but medical standards are not the only ones that have to be met.

Section 753 of the Criminal Code requires that the likelihood of an offender causing further harm must be established to the satisfaction of the court. This is not entirely or even primarily a matter of medical or statistical prediction. Indeed it is a legal decision made according to criteria legislated by Parliament. The crown should possess the discretion considering all of the evidence available to it to estimate whether an application will be strong enough to meet this legal standard. I will return to the subject of the role of prosecutors in this process.

I would like to review the history of part XXIV of the Criminal Code in order to understand why the law is structured the way it is. I am not saying that part XXIV should never be changed, but the evolution of the dangerous offender concept and the restrictions the charter of rights imposes on that concept indicate that we should proceed cautiously in broadening it or oversimplifying it.

The dangerous offender provisions have their origins in the habitual criminal provisions added to the Criminal Code by Parliament in 1947. A person found to be such a habitual criminal could be sentenced to preventive detention for life. The state had to prove the offender on three separate occasions had been convicted of an indictable offence for which he was liable for imprisonment for five years or more and was persistently leading a criminal life.

If this sounds vague and ripe for abuse, it was. In 1969 a report by the Canadian Committee on Corrections, the Ouimet committee, found that a substantial number of these habitual offenders constituted a social nuisance but were not really dangerous. In 1948 Canada tried out the concept of a criminal sexual psychopath law. In 1958 it was thrown in with the habitual offender provisions under the name of dangerous sexual offender. Once again the Ouimet committee found in 1969 that the dangerous sexual offender legislation was capturing many non-dangerous sexual offenders and was missing the dangerous ones.

These provisions were repealed in 1977 and replaced with the dangerous offender provisions we see now in the Criminal Code. These amendments were designed to be more precise, to target the most dangerous serious offenders and similarly to avoid widening the net too much. In essence Parliament was saying: "Let us target the worst offenders without sweeping in the low risk or nuisance cases".

The dangerous offender legislation contained in part XXI, now part XXIV, passed a major hurdle in the Supreme Court of Canada's decision of R. v. Lyons in 1987. The court ruled that the dangerous offender provisions did not violate the protections in the charter of rights and freedoms.

I mention this case not so much for its support of the current law as for the firm indication by the Supreme Court that any law that seeks to sentence one of its citizens to an indefinite term in a penitentiary must be well tailored and confined to the most serious circumstances.

I offer one example from the judgment upholding the dangerous offender legislation:

The legislation narrowly defines a class of offenders with respect to whom it may properly be invoked, and prescribes quite specifically the conditions under which an offender may be designated dangerous. The criteria in Part XXI are anything but arbitrary in relation to the objective sought to be attained; they are clearly designed to segregate a small group of highly dangerous criminals posing threats to the physical or mental well-being of their victims.

The existing dangerous offender system contains three components: a focus on the most serious offences, a focus on the pattern of the offender's conduct, and an assessment of the likelihood of the offender's continuing his serious offending. These criteria have to be met if they are to justify locking up individuals indefinitely.

In broadening the target group so much, the motion before us runs a serious risk of conflicting with the decision of R. v. Lyons. It would broaden Part XXIV to capture any sex offence against a child. This would include cases of sexual interference under section 151 and an invitation to sexual touching under section 152 of the Criminal Code. While these crimes carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, individual offences usually do not receive such lengthy sentences, nor do they typically involve the degree of violence envisioned by Part XXIV.

I doubt the Supreme Court would tolerate this net widening, particularly when, given the new rules prescribed elsewhere in this motion, crown attorneys would be forced to launch so many more applications. The court, as in the Lyons case, is vigilant to the potential for abuse in the overall structure of the procedure.

Returning to the issue of prosecutorial discretion, the Supreme Court in the Lyons case also stated it was important for the crown to have some discretion in bringing dangerous offender applications and that the absence of any such discretion could lead to a conclusion that the law was arbitrary.

I have raised several objections to the concept in this draft. In the interest of perspective, I point out how successful Part XXIV of the Criminal Code has proven. Between 1977 and 1995 approximately 143 offenders were found to be dangerous offenders and sentenced indeterminately to Canadian penitentiaries. Of that number, 134 remain incarcerated.

There are signs now that the provinces are using the procedure more often. Successful applications usually average eight or nine a year. In 1993 there were 15 successful cases; in 1994 there were 13, and we will all remember the recent designation of Paul Bernardo as a dangerous offender.

We can improve the dangerous offender legislation but not with the elements in this motion. I look forward to the review of the hon. member's private member's bill the standing committee, to which this motion is quite similar.

I would like to deal with this private members' bill and I am hopeful this motion will not be successful to allow us the opportunity to deal with these things one at a time.

Rights Of Grandparents December 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, the government is well aware of the role of the United Nations in child care and the government's support of that role.

It is also well aware of the important need for child care. That is why the Minister of Human Resources Development brought in a multi-million dollar child care program today.

In the interest of fostering relationships with the grandparents and their grandchildren, the Minister of Justice has undertaken to look at the subject matter the hon. member brought forward to see if something can be done which would meet some of the objectives she has mentioned in the House and before committee.

Rights Of Grandparents December 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, it is the principle of the government to foster family life and to preserve family values. It is for that reason the justice committee decided it was not the responsibility of the federal government to support the private members' bill she brought forward. Not that there were not a lot of good ideas in what she was trying to do, but it is primarily a provincial responsibility.