House of Commons photo

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

Gun Control April 13th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, for the next few weeks the Minister of Justice and the department will be studying very closely the possibility of making changes to the gun control laws. These changes if decided upon will be brought forward and dialogued with all members of Parliament.

I want to say that questions relating to the administration of justice and plea bargaining are under provincial jurisdiction. As such they are not within the responsibility of the Minister of Justice.

Product Packaging April 12th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve asked a question of the Minister of Justice about amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act in this House on March 18, 1994, as he mentioned.

In the throne speech the Prime Minister committed the government to amending the Canadian Human Rights Act. These amendments will add the ground of sexual orientation to the 10 grounds on which discrimination is prohibited in the federal public and private sectors under the act as it currently stands in the statute books.

In fact, on August 6, 1992 a case brought under the equality guarantees of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Haig and Birch v. Canada, the Court of Appeal of Ontario ordered that the Canadian Human Rights Act must be read to include that ground as of that date. The Attorney General of Canada at the time did not appeal the order to the Supreme Court of Canada. The government views this as the current and correct state of the law.

Therefore the amendment to which this government is committed to making would give Parliament the opportunity of bringing the act up to date.

I want to add that this government views this amendment as a matter of fundamental justice and not as a matter of conferring special rights to a particular group in Canada. The amendment would ensure gays and lesbians and moreover heterosexuals protection against discrimination in the areas of services and employment and against hate propaganda which are covered by the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Such an amendment would not be a departure from what has been going on in other jurisdictions of our country. Eight provinces and territories, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Yukon, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, have already amended their human rights legislation to add the ground of sexual orientation.

The level of protection is now the norm in Canada. This government wants to add the federal laws against discrimination to this list and thereby assure Canadians-

Gun Control March 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I know that all members of the House were, as I was, saddened by this senseless tragedy at Concordia University. I know all members of the House would want to join with the Minister of Justice and myself in offering our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims.

I would like to say that petitions are the voices of Canadians and, as such, should all be given attention and consideration. I want to assure the hon. member that this petition will be getting full attention and consideration from the Minister of Justice.

Supply March 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Wild Rose for those questions. With respect to the national council on crime prevention I agree with him most emphatically that at least one member on the council should be from Victims of Violence or a similar organization.

The member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley talked about CAVEAT and her appreciation and tremendous respect for it. However, one problem she had was that there had to be these organizations to bring these concerns forward.

We are always going to have these organizations and we are going to be better for it. They have done a tremendous amount of good in bringing concerns forward. They certainly helped me in understanding the concerns. Only people who have gone through the trauma and tragedy can fully understand, but the work these organizations do allow the rest of us to understand. It is very helpful.

With respect to children at risk, there really are two problems. The hon. member identified one as being the parents. There is a concern here. The other of course is that it is a provincial jurisdiction and the federal government is very limited in what it can do.

There is a precedent in that the Canada food guide is very much a part of the school curriculum. We have to deal with this matter at some point in meetings of the federal, provincial and territorial governments.

I applaud the member for having tried the program. I appreciate what he ran into but I still feel he was on the right track. It is hoped that with a more broadly based project and an idea of the pitfalls, thanks to his sharing with us the problems he ran into, we will be able to anticipate where the problems lie. Then if it is decided this is the way to go, we will be able to carry it through to society's benefit.

Supply March 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to deal with both of those questions.

First, the rights of victims are very important and have to be of paramount consideration in our criminal justice system. The Minister of Justice stated in his speech that they are being considered at the present time in the Criminal Code and that they are a very integral part of the dispensation of justice in Canada right now.

We have also said that we are looking at ways of increasing this. The member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley spoke about the rights of the victims and said there should be more dialogue and interfacing between the offender and the victim. That is a very good point if the offender, especially if it is a young offender, can get an actual appreciation of what he or she has done, then it may go a long way toward helping that young person rethink the way they have conducted their activities.

I think that maybe we can, through diversion programs, deal more with the compensation of the victim, more with the rights of the victim. Certainly to say the rights of the victim are not being considered would be incorrect.

With respect to community policing and education I was talking about them on two different levels, with the community policing on the municipal level and education on the provincial level. Just to give the hon. member an idea of what I meant, there is in my riding right now a project which I am working on and which I am encouraging called The Learning Centre.

This centre has young people who have dropped out of school and who have had problems with different types of learning systems. The centre offers a learning mode in which there is more of an interest in the individual. The success of this institution has been absolutely incredible. I hope we can develop and expand it so that it will have positive effects through the whole country in time.

Supply March 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity this morning to speak on this motion.

I realize in our country at the present time there is a tremendous outrage against crime. It is not the outrage against crime with which I have a problem. On the contrary, I have trouble understanding and I condemn the simplistic solutions to complex interdependent and intertwined problems that exist in our society which cause crime.

As long as we as members of Parliament and members of society say that there is a possibility for quick fixes, we cannot count on the support of the people of Canada to work with us.

The problem today is that crime is not like a common cold, it is not like a mortgage, it is not like foreign aid. It is something that is entirely different. It is something with which all of society must become involved.

I have listened to the member for Yorkton-Melville and I appreciate the point he made that prisons are not the answer for punishment for all those who have offended. This is true.

This is especially true with respect to young offenders. In prison young offenders do acquire some of the tricks of the trade that allow them to be professional criminals when they are released.

Maybe there is a way of working with young offenders that will be to the benefit of young offenders other than the standard incarceration in adult institutions. Certainly watching television and playing pool during the incarceration would not be the answer. There has to be rehabilitation but there has to be an appreciation.

I do not agree that people who offend should not be entitled to rights until they discharge their responsibilities. There we are creating a very dangerous line, a line that people in our society are not entitled to rights. Criminals, people even though incarcerated, have to be entitled to rights. We have to say that all Canadians are entitled to rights. If not then we absolutely revert to barbarism.

These rights are defined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Criminal Code. We cannot say that these rights can only be extended to some Canadians.

The member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley talked about the fact that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been a problem. There are people who have offended who got away from the punishment they deserved because the lawyer was able to rely on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is just absolutely and utterly wrong.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms takes the rights of all Canadians and enshrines them. These rights are fundamental. If we do not abide by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and acknowledge these rights are applicable to all Canadians then we are in fact one step closer to chaos.

We are one step closer to saying that there are certain rules that apply to one group of Canadians and not to another group of Canadians. Incarceration takes away privileges that certain Canadians will hold. There is no question about that and that is as it should be. Rights have to be fundamental. If they are not we get into the situation in which people in our society tell other people what they can have and what they cannot have, not only the courts.

The courts then lose the power to weigh a matter and decide what is going to be the punishment. If we take away these rights, then when do these rights reappear? Who is to say when these rights reappear? Who is to say that the person taking away the rights from somebody is not going to be the person who loses these rights at some later date?

We cannot destroy the fabric of the law in trying to solve the problems in our society today. That is not to say of course that there is not a great deal that needs to be done.

The resolution talks about condemning the government for its action with regard to reform of the criminal justice system. I do not think any politician can cop out and say: "Well, we inherited this from the former government". I think it has to be a consideration. To say that we should have legislation in place is somewhat unreasonable in many instances considering the fact that the House did not convene until January 17.

However, there is a great deal that is in place and ongoing at the present time. The Minister of Justice mentioned that next week on March 23 and 24 there is going to be a federal-provincial-territorial conference on justice matters that will examine all of the important details, concepts and subjects that have been brought forward in this debate today.

This is very important. It is fundamental because we live in a federal system of government in which certain responsibilities in the same sphere of activity are shared by the federal government, provincial governments and territorial government. We must get these governments working together.

In so many areas things have fallen between the chairs so that justice is not being done, not because the rules and the laws are not there, not because the determination is not there, but because we have not had the two systems of government working together. That has to be the case. It has to be the case certainly in family concerns, in violence against women and in custody matters with respect to children where there are federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions in these subject matters.

We have to be able to enforce maintenance orders to look after the children who are left by fathers and in fewer cases mothers who do not want to remain with their family.

In the red book we call for a national council on crime prevention. This is tremendously important. We have here in this interlocked system this complex problem with really two main aspects.

First, what do we do with those who are offending at the present time? Second, how do we prevent these types of offences from happening in the future? While it is unrealistic to say that certain offences will not happen in the future, if we work together and if we are prepared to look at new concepts, we have in our power the means of reducing these crimes. We have to do that.

I want to start with the recommendation in the red book which calls for a national council on crime prevention. The Minister of Justice has said he has spoken with the provincial and territorial ministers responsible. This matter will be brought up at the conference next week. The concept is taking shape. How it is going to be implemented is not an easy matter but one which is well on the way to complete definition.

This will bring together departments whose activities can relate to the prevention of crime. For example, Canada Mortgage and Housing with respect to housing, which is a factor in crime; the Department of Health which is a factor in crime; the Solicitor General-these departments will come together and work together through this council under the leadership of the Minister of Justice.

What will they do? They will be able to look at all legislation. We look at the legislation and we want the best for all Canadians. Through this council legislation will be looked at to find out how crime can be prevented more effectively. How can this legislation deal with possible crime in the future? This is an aspect that is so important.

Also on this council will be agencies from the aboriginal society, from the provincial society, from all of the working groups that are dealing with crime prevention.

Through the council we will look at how we can prevent crime, with the input of these groups, which will enable us to work down into society itself through the provincial and munici-

pal levels and determine how on each of these levels the work of the national council can be broadened and improved to become more effective.

At the municipal level, for instance, how can community policing more effectively deal with crime. How can we have police stations or depots in more areas of the community, where officers can patrol the community on foot, and where people can relate to the officers of a particular police station and go to them for advice?

On the provincial level as well, how can we work through education. Right now the situation is that education is the right of every young Canadian, regardless of how obstructive or how destructive a student may be. Is that going to continue to be the case? Can we have an educational system, for instance, where we can at an earlier age try to identify the children at risk? We have to be able to identify children at risk at an earlier age. They are together in our educational system, certainly today that is not the role of the teacher. But should it be? Should it be an aspect of education? Should we have special classes that deal with children at risk? Should we be able to say that this is a common problem of society and not just the problem of the parents?

Perhaps the parent is a single mother who is working as hard as she possibly can to keep a roof over the head of herself and her children. She wants to do more but she cannot and still provide for that child. Is it not then that society must step in to try to help? We cannot just throw money at people in need, at low income people with children at risk. There has to be community involvement. We have to start identifying where we can best make this involvement, where we can best have this input.

When we did our study on crime prevention last year, a psychiatrist appeared before us. He was asked at what age could we have the best impact on children and how they conduct themselves as they grow up. The psychiatrist said that from the day a child is born to that child's third birthday is the time when we can have the biggest impact on how that child will turn out through his or her youth and adulthood. This is a very important consideration.

A teacher came to me two years ago from the Toronto area who wanted the age of the Young Offender's Act lowered because in his school where he was principal a 10-year old and an 11-year old both turned up at school with handguns. No one would take responsibility. No agency would get involved and finally the principal sent the two children home with the handguns. Later on that afternoon he received a call from somebody in the children's neighbourhood blasting the principal for daring to send two children into the neighbourhood with handguns. As far as that person was concerned it was fine to have them in school with handguns but it was not fine to have them in the neighbourhood with handguns.

Something is sadly lacking. We have to find out where we are going in this regard. We are not only talking about victims although victims are tremendously important and we have to be more mindful of their rights. They are in the law. We have always considered victims to be part of the law that we dispense in this country.

Perhaps we can do more with compensation for the wrong that was done to a victim. We have to consider it more in terms of compensation rather than incarceration. We cannot have both. One cannot have someone paying what in the opinion of the court is a full penalty and then come out of incarceration and have for a good part of his or her life thereafter to pay a large sum of money to the victim. It does not give the person who committed the wrong any incentive to change his or her ways if he is constantly being reminded and torn by his or her mistake.

The victim suffers a tremendous harm, there is no question about it. This harm has to be compensated as best as possible. Part of this compensation to the victim however is that we have that person coming out of incarceration able to live in society.

With young offenders no matter what crime they have committed, they are going to be coming out of incarceration. If they come out of incarceration more confused, more jaundiced toward society than when they went into incarceration, then we have failed. We have paid $60,000 a year for the right to fail.

This is a very complex situation but we have to be able to address the wrongs that are done today. We have to be able to anticipate and guard against future wrongs and reduce our crime rate. The two working together have to mesh but they both have to be aspects of what we are trying to do.

The government is beginning well with the co-operation of all members of the House of Commons and with the open dialogue which the Minister of Justice has encouraged. I think all members would agree he is open to discussion, and of his own volition has initiated dialogue on gun control, and will be doing this with other subject matters as well.

I look forward, as I know the Minister of Justice does, to working with all members in dealing with this very complex and important situation.

Criminal Code March 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity this evening to speak to Bill C-214 introduced by the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

This bill proposes to amend the existing Criminal Code definition of identifiable group which is found in that part of the code dealing with hate propaganda so as to include the term age. The new definition would apply to all of the hate propaganda offences.

The search for the proper role of the law in respect to hate propaganda is especially difficult because it forces us to review

the conflict between freedom of speech and the interest of the state in criminalizing speech injurious to the public.

Before proceeding to speak to the bill it is important to say a bit about the current law. At the present time the Criminal Code prohibits, first, advocating or promoting genocide against any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin. That is section 318.

Second, it prohibits inciting hatred against a protected group by communicating in a public place statements which are likely to lead to a breach of the peace. That is subsection 319(1).

Third, it prohibits communicating statements, other than in private conversation, which wilfully promote hatred against a protected group. That is subsection 319(2).

Fourth, the Criminal Code provides for the seizure and forfeiture of hate propaganda kept on the premises for sale or distribution. Those are subsections 320(1) and (4).

Fifth, it provides that a person charged with advocating genocide is liable to five years imprisonment if charged with the offence of public incitement, or hatred, or the offence of communicating statements which wilfully promote hatred. A person is liable to two years imprisonment if prosecuted by way of indictment or to six months and/or a $2,000 fine if prosecuted by way of summary proceedings.

The Criminal Code also provides for four special statutory defences which an accused may raise if prosecuted for wilfully promoting hatred: if the statements communicated were true; if the statements expressed or attempted to establish by argument in good faith an opinion upon a religious subject; if the statements made were on a subject of public interest which on reasonable grounds were believed to be true; and pointing out in good faith for the purpose of removal matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred.

Except for the offence of public incitement to hatred, the consent of the provincial attorney general is required to obtain a seizure or to initiate a prosecution under the Criminal Code's hate propaganda provisions. The hate propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code were examined by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Regina v. Keegstra. The judgment was rendered in December 1990.

The Supreme Court of Canada determined that communications which wilfully promote hatred against an identifiable group conveyed a meaning and were thus an expression within the meaning of paragraph 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court further noted that the prohibition set out in subsection 319(2) of the Criminal Code was directed at words that have as their content and objective the promotion of racial or religious hatred.

Inasmuch as the purpose of the provision was to restrict the content of expression "by singling out particular meanings that are not to be conveyed", the Supreme Court of Canada determined that subsection 319(2) infringed the guarantee of the freedom of expression in paragraph 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court ruled that the presence of hate propaganda in Canada was sufficiently substantial to warrant concern. The court recognized that hate propaganda could cause two types of injuries: first, harm done to the target group by for example provoking a retaliatory response or causing the target group to avoid activities and withdraw from participation in activities with non-group members and, second, influence upon society at large by attracting individuals to hold these views and to create discord and disharmony among these groups in society at large.

The court upheld subsection 319(2) of the Criminal Code which deals with wilfully promoting hatred. It upheld it as a reasonable limit on the guarantee to the freedom of expression within the meaning of section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Subsection 318(4) defines the expression identifiable group as meaning "any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin". Expanding the definition would broaden the type of speech that would be caught by the hate law and therefore could potentially put the hate propaganda provisions at risk. This is very significant.

The Supreme Court of Canada noted in the Keegstra case that subsection 319(2) was designed to extend a measure of protection to visible and religious minorities so as to prevent their being exposed to hate messages and to promote racial and religious tolerance.

Expanding the definition of identifiable group to include another characteristic such as the one proposed in Bill C-214 would undoubtedly broaden the narrow purpose of protecting visible and religious minorities approved by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Keegstra case. It is not clear to me whether adding what is proposed in Bill C-214 would have the effect of protecting children from killer cards and board games as there must be shown an incitement to hatred or promotion of hatred.

The proposed change here would broaden the definition of identifiable group without succeeding in its attempt to protect children from nefarious materials. As a result, the hate propaganda provisions as amended by Bill C-214 could be more

vulnerable to a finding by courts that they constitute an infringement of the charter guarantee of freedom of speech and that they are not a reasonable limit prescribed by law in a free and democratic society.

The hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is attempting to do something which should be supported. We all support his aim. The problem is how best to do it. Is it with Bill C-214? We have to be careful, as I have stated, that we do not weaken the law as it exists at the present time and that we perhaps find another way of dealing with if.

The Department of Justice at the present time is looking into the matter. Hopefully it will have something to recommend. I say this with all deep appreciation to the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell. With the co-operation and work of all members of the House, we will find the best way possible to deal with this despicable practice, which certain people are using to make considerable sums of money at the expense of our young people.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I do not feel exactly the way the hon. member does.

Petitions have a very real purpose. They make an impact in the House of Commons on all members of Parliament. We cannot help but hear the petitions read without feeling that the subject matter in the petitions is of concern to the people of Canada. We have to believe that in order to sign a petition.

The fact is that we then reply to them and tell them that we are concerned. The subject matter of two of the areas brought forward in the motion have been dealt with and are being dealt with. The serial killer cards and the Young Offenders Act are getting a great deal of consideration and work in the Department of Justice.

As I mentioned regarding the recall of members of Parliament, the Prime Minister has said this is not something we feel is justified. All three points have been considered or are being considered.

I am not saying we should not change the way we handle petitions. All I am saying is the method put forward in the motion is not the way to go. If there are other suggestions, certainly they should be considered. I do not think we should be rigid and unbending in the way we deal with the business of the House.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, this is a good question, because those are two ways to obtain information from Canadians. A petition is a document provided by Canadians.

It is a document we receive from the people of Canada stating their concerns. A referendum is a document in which we say we are aware of a concern on a particular question and we are going to the people of Canada to tell us how they feel. The petition tells us that the people are concerned and they want us to know they


are concerned. The referendum says that they are concerned. We know of their concern. Do they think this is going to be suitable?

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I think this is an attempt to structure members of Parliament to the extent that there will remain a very narrow scope with which we can use our objectivity and our determination as to what we should do in this House of Commons.

What bothers me about this motion is the cynicism, that members of Parliament are not capable of determining how they should work to govern the people of Canada. The more structure in what we do, the less we are going to deviate from what they feel the people of Canada want.

What the people of Canada want is good representation, members of Parliament acting on behalf of Canadians, whether it be in their local interests or their national interests, but being objective and fair and dealing in a straightforward manner with their concerns.