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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was respect.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe (New Brunswick)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, so little time, so many floating targets from the former general for me to shoot at.

I want to ask him about income trusts. What happened to that promise? He talked in his speech about credibility, he talked about truth and about keeping his word. Let us go to the core of what the government has done and what its leader believes. He believes that for Atlantic Canada, where there is a culture of defeat, there should be $32 million taken from the budget of ACOA, and the Minister for ACOA sits there and get robbed and says nothing for Atlantic Canada.

I am from a party that was the party of Allan MacEachen, the party of Roméo LeBlanc when we had statesmen for Atlantic Canada. There is no one from Atlantic Canada speaking up because the Prime Minister does not believe in regional development. He does not believe that we have a place in this Confederation.

What about bilingualism? The Prime Minister said it was a god that failed. So now we have Service Canada all through Atlantic Canada who are administratively unilingual. Language of work, out the door. Legislation created by a great Canadian, out the door.

What we are doing with respect to this is saying we are calling the chips right now. We want an election so people will decide to get rid of the government that does not care about Atlantic Canadians, does not care about bilingualism and worst of all, which is the subject of the motion, Conservatives will not give information to the elected representatives of Canadians. They will not give information on jets, on the Youth Criminal Justice Act, on the cost of prisons. They did nothing about the death of a 16-year-old Moncton girl named Ashley Smith. They do not care.

Petitions March 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition to amend section 163 of the Criminal Code. Over 10,000 Canadians from across the country signed this position. The petition was prepared by Canada Family Action.

Section 163 of the code refers to “child pornography”. These signatures are in support of changing that terminology to “child sex abuse materials”.

The citizens are calling on this chamber to get rid of legal terminology that is outdated, inaccurate and offensive because horrible sex abuse and assault are not to be classified as corrupting public morals under an antiquated and outdated section of the code.

It is time for the government to get down to business and change the archaic language in the now dated code and support the good citizens of Canada who have signed this petition in that regard.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend did all this talking about the liberal interpretation and about being conservative, but let us talk about a socialist perspective on the defence of property, the means of production, the defence of property amendments that are here.

The Department of Justice memo talks about the bill and says that the defence of property aspects are spread out over a number of sections and they differentiate based on personal property or real property. It seems that the bill attempts to concentrate it and make it coherent.

In the defence of property proposal, does the member think it would give homeowners or property owners more justification to use violence? Is that his interpretation or not?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Yes and no, Mr. Speaker.

Obviously the Liberals would support those parts that I just read in the previous answer about extending the time to make an arrest within a reasonable time after the offence is committed. If that is what my friend is talking about, that would be good law. That would be an easy amendment.

The no part is, I have been here for only five years and I have been on the justice committee all that time. Even when we make reasonable suggestions to Conservatives, it is the baby with the bathwater scenario with them. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh has been here a lot longer. He has been on this earth a lot longer too. Every time he makes a suggestion, it may be a good one, but the baby goes out with the bathwater because the Conservatives want the whole bill so they can go to the six o'clock news with it. They really do not want to make the incremental changes that would prevent this fact situation from occurring

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, there is a very specific amendment to the citizen's arrest portion of the code which would basically correct what was wrong in this fact situation.

Yes, it is wrong that the person who did the crime did not do the time. He was let off because he was unlawfully confined in that Mr. Chen allegedly confined him after the event occurred.

As we see in the government bill, clause 3 would amend subsection 494(2) to add very important words to say that the owner or a person in lawful possession of property may arrest a person if “they make the arrest within a reasonable time after the offence is committed and they believe on reasonable grounds that it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest”.

That is the specific fact situation that would have assisted in the case of Mr. Chen. I say bravo on one section of five pages and we will take a look at the rest.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, in fact, I did mention small businesses and shopkeepers. I just did not spend 20 minutes on that sector of the economy and I apologize because I know my friend wanted to hear more on that.

His principal point is whether this is opening a Pandora's box where vigilantism might be encouraged. As drafted, let us hear what the experts, police, prosecutors, professors who study this area of the law, and victims have to say on this. Let us hear from victims whose loved ones have been killed mistakenly, whether by police officers or private citizens who took the law into their own hands. Let us hear from those victims.

The government is all about victims. Let us hear from all stakeholders on this issue and decide whether this is going too far for public political purposes or whether there can be a balance achieved with respect to righting and modernizing some of the code provisions that did not protect the storekeeper in metro Toronto.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am going to use most of my time speaking about Bill C-60. I will open by summarizing what I think the pith and substance of the bill is, namely, two sections of the Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code is a large book that stuck together all kinds of laws in the 1890s after Confederation. The book is that old. It is a compendium that started out with a bunch of general provisions, including regarding cattle stealing, treason and things that we do not see a lot of these days; high treason indeed is not something that we often see. The code has often been amended, however, and appended to it are all of the fact situations that we have lived through as a country and community over our great history.

What we are seeing today is a call for two things, the modernization of the code with respect to two parts of a citizen's life, that of self-defence against an offence and the powers they may have on behalf of the state in arresting or stopping the action of a fellow citizen. Thus the bill deals with what we commonly call self-defence and citizen's arrest. We are looking either to modernize the general provisions that have been around a long time and/or are reacting to a specific fact situation or a number of them that have happened in this country.

We have to step back as parliamentarians and say that it is always good to modernize or harmonize the law, in this case the code and its antiquated language, with respect to what is happening now. There is no question about that. It is not always a good thing to have the Criminal Code or any law chase after a particular fact situation, no matter how compelling the reason is.

Whatever is enacted to react to a specific situation had better go through the prism of the general welfare and good of communities so that it fits every other fact situation in these two important areas of self-defence and citizen's arrest.

The two aspects, self-defence and citizen's arrest, are so different from each another that they are about 400 sections apart in the code. The self-defence provisions, which are among our oldest provisions, are in the 30s and 40s sections of the code, and the so-called citizen's arrest provision is way up in section 494. They are very different. However, they are tied together in this instance here, because what we are really reacting to as parliamentarians are a number of fact situations where specific individuals, shopkeepers or small businessmen or homeowners, have taken action to protect either their property or themselves and, in many instances, detained individuals.

It is extremely important to look at it from the point of view of asking people that if this were to happen to them, would they want that protection in the law. Let us look at both citizens. There is a citizen who did something wrong by taking goods from a shopkeeper, from another citizen, which is wrong. If we were to say there were nothing in the code that covered that theft or public nuisance, I would say we ought to put something in it.

However, let us not look at this in isolation. There are various sections covering these. If there is theft, nuisance, harassment, racist acts or violent acts, these are now covered by the Criminal Code. Let us be clear about that. There are provisions that cover the fact situations we have all been listening to and talking about today.

The question is, in the absence of action by the state, should a person be able to stop or prevent the action as it affects his or her personal safety or property?

Again, those sections are now in the code. They do allow citizens to take the law, as we say quite frequently and pejoratively, into their own hands. The Criminal Code now provides for that. Anyone who says there are no provisions in the code for a person to apprehend and stop another citizen from doing something is not telling the whole truth. Those provisions exist.

The issue is how far should those powers go.

This is a delegation of a state power. The state has the right, and the obligation in some cases, to arrest an individual who is breaking the law. In the section in the 490s, as I mentioned, about citizen's arrest, a citizen who is not a peace officer can also undertake that task that has not been performed by a peace officer.

We would expect, therefore, that if that were to be the case, it would have to be done with great care, greater care than by a peace officer, who also has to provide reasonable grounds for arresting someone and to abide by all the laws, including our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The onus is even higher on someone who takes the citizen's arrest route to protecting him or herself, or property.

What we are trying to do here is have a debate as to whether the law as it sits is adequate, or whether we need to expand that law so greatly that judges and police officers would even have some doubts as to whether it would lead to increased vigilantism and the taking of the law into one's own hands.

I do not think there is anyone on any side of the House who is going to say that this is a simple question. It is a question of degree. The degree to which someone takes the law into their own hands on behalf of the state to protect themselves or their property is not a simple question; it is a metered question, a question that depends very much on the facts.

There was a saying in my days of reading the law that cases do not stand for grand propositions but turn neatly on their facts. That is really what we are talking about here. In the case of a shopkeeper in Toronto who was terrorized and humiliated and who had seen his livelihood, and perhaps his own personal safety, put in peril on many occasions, he decided that he knew who the perpetrator was and that he would apprehend the perpetrator after the fact.

What we are finding here is that if that action had been taken at the time of the incident, he would not have been charged with unlawful confinement. It is academic, but he probably would have had every right under the section as it now exists to take his citizen's arrest role seriously and have it ratified by police officers, prosecutors and the judges, if it have ever gone that far.

When this case really first came up, I knew many members of Parliament, and not just from the greater Toronto area and all parties, who felt very badly that this shopkeeper who had merely been defending his security had been charged. I do not think there is a person who did not feel for that citizen of Canada.

The question at that time seemed simple, I suppose, to me. I thought that at some point, on the volition of the government or that of the opposition or someone else's, we would change the Criminal Code, as I mentioned in my first remarks, so that it would evolve into a modern document. I thought that we would respond to this by suggesting that a reasonable time could elapse from the time of the offence to the time of the apprehension and that we would provide not just that defence but also the ability to apprehend someone under the citizen's arrest provision. I really thought that was maybe all we would be facing with respect to this whole area.

Let us remember that this could not have been a burning issue for the government before that incident in Toronto. Let us recall, as we do profoundly on this side, that the government has been in power for over five years and has had multiple opportunities to bring forward justice legislation. It has brought forward many justice bills that it has killed itself. At no time until Bill C-60, some five years after coming into power on a law and order agenda, a putative or Pyrrhic law and order agenda, did the government do anything with respect to these two issues in the code. It did nothing. These were not burning issues.

From year one to year five of a mandate, there is a fact situation that all members of Parliament react to in a positive way. That is, they want to help, and the Conservatives came forward with Bill C-60. However, the bill does not make that little change to the code that would fit the fact situation and make the criminal law more modern and responsive. The bill perhaps goes too far, which is the argument being made as bill moves along to committee.

I say this because the Prime Minister visited Chinatown in Toronto, as reported in The Toronto Star, where he said that previous governments had refrained from stiffening the law because:

they [had] wanted to avoid vigilantism, which is a genuine threat to the rule of law.

However, he added that many Canadians believed that “the right balance [had] been lost in the justice system“ and that there was a sense that criminals were protected at the expense of victims.

I had my researcher look back to see if there were any quotes specifically on this aspect of vigilantism and self-defence and the provisions for citizen's arrest. However, there had been no comments made by the Prime Minister or his justice minister on reforming this law, until this fact occurred.

So we have a Prime Minister who is commenting on previous governments. I would say that the indictment is against the Prime Minister and his various justice ministers who, for five years, have done nothing about this problem, which they seem to think existed for some time. It is a bit misleading for the Prime Minister to say that in a political scene, of course. However, he also wanted to make the police feel secure by saying at that time that the:

—police are the first line of protection against crime—

—which everyone would agree with—

[And that] Police officers will continue to have the responsibility to preserve and maintain public peace as Canada’s first and foremost criminal law enforcement body.

That is fine, but what this act would go ahead and do is perhaps to give people the view that as citizens they are now going to have more powers to prevent wrongdoing as they see it on their property. This is not me saying this, but the deputy chief of the Halifax Regional Police service, not that of a minor, inconsequential backwoods or half-professional force but one of the best police forces in Canada. The deputy chief of the Halifax Regional Police said of the law as it is that:

It doesn’t give any great power of citizens to go out and grab people on the street.

He said that as part of a round table discussion with the Minister of Justice at the time. Throughout the article by the Canadian Press reporting what he said, he was very cautious in suggesting that any accretions to public arrest powers should be exercised very conservatively, which is not a word that I use very often. He said that these were not matters that people should engage in without some caution. He said that the law enforcement agencies had enough of a challenge in teaching experienced officers how to interpret the law, and wondered if it meant now that they would have to go out and give citizens courses on how to perform a citizen's arrest.

Experts outside the government and outside of Parliament have also recognized that the rules around self-defence, the extension of citizen's arrest, tell us that if someone performs an action in reaction to an assault or an invasion or perceived invasion or threat to personal property, he or she might act in a physically, emotionally, or other harmful way to another person.

The person would then have to have a defence to not be charged or convicted, and that is generally in those provisions that I mentioned in the low 30s and 40s of the Criminal Code on self-defence.

The idea that one could tinker with self-defence on a situational basis is rather appalling. The police officers who participate in round tables do not come to those round tables with written amendments to the laws that the government then puts up on the television screen the next day after consulting with Department of Justice lawyers.

I heard today at committee that a number of provincial prosecutors who were talking about amendments to a bill were not consulted on the bill as presented. There is something wrong when ministers of justice and prime ministers do not consult police officers and crown prosecutors when amending legislation.

We have had experts from the police and prosecutorial communities say that because each case is unique with widely diverse and sometimes contradictory evidence, no broad policy statement is intended with respect to the use of a firearm in the defence of one's home, for instance. This was in response to a situation where certain charges were dropped against a person who was defending his home. This tells us that these are very complex issues.

While the government has put forth a bill that seemingly reacts to a very small set of circumstances, it has in fact opened up a Pandora's box that must be studied very vigilantly and diligently at committee to make sure that the box is not too wide open.

As I said, everyone has sympathy for the shopkeeper in Toronto. This is one of those issues that unifies all parties. I heard the NDP speak eloquently about the situation, as have the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. However, instead of bringing a bouquet, the Conservatives bring an entire flower garden to the issue. It is confusing. Are we just responding to a particular set of circumstances for which minor amendments to the code would suffice, or are the Conservatives trying to open up a very dangerous Pandora's box that might lead certain people to believe that the law of Canada has changed?

I saw the Prime Minister on television for the usual 6.8 seconds. He said that we were allowed to take that law, and we do not really need the charter, but if someone goes across the corner of our property with a Ski-Doo, we can defend that.

This is not an urban or rural issue. It is not a male or female issue. It is not an issue that divides on the basis of race, religion, or in what part of the country one lives. It is the Criminal Code of Canada and it has to apply in every fact circumstance.

The good people of Grand Manan Island in my province of New Brunswick had a problem several years ago. People from the mainland were going there and selling drugs to their young people. They frequented or lived in a house which the community felt was the centre of this activity. It is alleged that the people got together as a community and burned the house down and ran those people off the island.

As a father of three young children and a former mayor of a city, I understand local politics. I understand about protecting the community. On one level we would say, good for them that they cleaned up the community. However, we might recoil and think that if an illegal activity was going on, where were the police? Why were the police not able to do the job that should been done?

We might ask the question of the police and they might say that they are severely under-resourced, that the troops the RCMP in rural New Brunswick were supposed to get did not come, that the resources they are supposed to have are not there and it is a rural and remote community and they just cannot enforce the laws that are on the books. We would have an understanding of that.

However, to open up the law to let people burn other people's houses down is not necessarily a solution. In the trial sentencing, if there was wide open judicial discretion in this case, a judge might take into consideration the volition of the community and, while saying it was wrong, be a little merciful on the sentence. In fact, that is what happened in my province and it showed that the system worked. It is under-resourced, but it works.

However, not all of this law is good law and we will take a good look at it at committee. I want to commend those who spoke in favour of the good provisions that helped the store owner in Toronto.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the entire speech of my friend and his laudable words about small, medium and larger enterprises. I know from his background as an evolutionary biologist that we were all hoping that the remarks would evolve into commentary about Bill C-60.

I do not want to take too much of his time in asking my question, so what does he think about Bill C-60, with respect to self-defence and a citizen's arrest? Does he think it goes too far as drafted? Is it beyond what his colleague from Trinity—Spadina had suggested, or is it the right fit ?

I will give him all the time to evolve an answer on that one.

Business of Supply March 3rd, 2011

Madam Speaker, first, I want to apologize for saying anything other than that Senator Gerstein and Senator Finley have been charged under section 140 of the Canada Elections Act. I am sorry if I said anything else.

The other aspect of the member's question is a good one, whether the provinces and the territories had been consulted.

Would the member, who I know to be a very strong, vigilant, diligent and vigorous member, have, in the day, said to former Premier Danny Williams that we are going to do this and not consult him at all on something that is integral to the founding of our nation. It may be a difference of opinion, but the idea of a referendum across this country has been tried before. Obviously people are not against the idea. But to not even have consultations, as the government has avoided for six years, with provincial and territorial stakeholders is a shame, is unacceptable and is a prerequisite for Senate reform.

Business of Supply March 3rd, 2011

Madam Speaker, I wish to advise at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier.

I rise today to speak to the motion on Senate abolition, put forward by my colleague from Hamilton Centre.

The issue of Senate reform has been on Canadians' minds for a long time and is very complex. Accordingly, the motion put forward today is complex in its many subsections, the details of which I will get into. I had occasion to speak previously to Senate reform in this Parliament and the Parliament before. We have had some elections and prorogations and the aspect of Senate reform has not been touched upon in any real way by the government and this Parliament, except by the Conservatives stuffing the chamber with political hacks in order to put forward their program and to squelch democracy.

However, I think we need to start on the basics and the history of the other chamber. I would like to quote from the Bible: “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”. That is the gospel according to St. Mark, chapter 3, verse 25.

These two houses have been working together for some time, with arguments of course on their efficacy. However, it is important to remember the origin of the houses and it is important that we not forget the history of the founding of the Senate and the history of the founding of this country. This country was born of two major influences. I would argue three, but there are two major Canadian influences, which were those coming from the United Kingdom, the British Empire, and those from our francophone or French Quebec background.

When we look at this place, this Parliament in general and this system of government, we are happy to see vestiges of our British heritage, the coats of arms, and the fact that we have a head of state who is a British sovereign. There is no doubt about that influence. What we cannot ignore is at the time there was a great negative influence from the south. Our largest neighbour was a young republic going through the throws of a civil war, one of the most bloody wars in the history of humankind, and the country that is the United States today was very much in the minds of the founding fathers, not just because of the Fenian Raids in the 1866 period, but also because the neighbour to the south had formed its government almost 100 years before that on a broken model, as was perceived by the founders of our model.

We did not want at that time to completely copy the British model. I do not make a practice of quoting Conservative politicians, but since time has passed and he was our first Prime Minister, I will quote Sir John A. Macdonald who said very clearly that the model of the House of Lords was not for Canada.

An hereditary Upper House is impracticable in this young country....An hereditary body is altogether unsuited to our state of our society, and would soon dwindle into nothing.

Let us be clear that the Senate we have is not the House of Lords. It never was intended to be. All the arguments of our good friends from the NDP fall flat on their face in that respect.

What was the upper house founded for? The upper house was founded on the idea that provinces did not want to enter a union without some protection of their rights. They agreed to become part of that union including Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia to protect their provincial rights because the model of the south, the American constitution which gave states sovereignty, was broken in 1867. It had broken in 1861 and led to the calumny which was the civil war. We did not want to follow that, so Canadian forefathers said they would set up a Senate which protects provincial rights.

Here is where I come to a major disagreement with the government in this respect, going back from the time of its election over five years ago. The provinces came together to form a union and the provinces have not been consulted. In 2007, the then minister of democratic reform, who was moved to a much more vaulted post now, said:

I know there are those who wish to see the Senate remain unchanged. There are many members in the Liberal Party who want to see it remain unchanged because it has served them very well over the years as an institution dominated by appointed Liberals.

My, how time has changed because the Senate now is dominated by and controlled by a Conservative majority. I wonder what that minister thinks of those words that he said in this chamber then.

I wonder what the minister thinks of the words he said in the chamber then. He must have second thoughts. He must be wondering, “What was I thinking? The Prime Minister did not give me the playbook and did not tell me, as the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, that I was going to pack the Senate with Tory hacks and control the Senate”. He should have had those notes then and I feel bad for him.

I really feel bad that he was sent out on that errand, suggesting that the Senate is just for Liberals. We see now that it is just for Conservatives. The Conservatives will not go anywhere near this motion and we know that. It is because they have the House stacked the way they want.

Let us lower the temperature and talk about what the Senate has done. The Senate is a great example of some wonderful Canadians being appointed to do good work. Who can argue with that? Even the NDP is not going to argue with the quality of the persons appointed to the Senate, the work they did before they were appointed and the work they have done since.

No one is going to argue with the naming of General Roméo Dallaire or Conservative Senator Wilbert Keon, a heart surgeon. No one is going to argue that Charlie Watt, a Liberal senator representing aboriginal interests, was a bad appointment and does bad work.

Frankly, the NDP may argue with this one. There was an appointment of a member of the NDP to the Senate. She has turned out to be a wonderful senator and a great representative of the west. I speak, of course, of Senator Lillian Dyck, a person of great accomplishment at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. She completely filled out the card with respect to a CV.

She was an appointed member of the NDP. What did New Democrats do with a wonderful person like that? They said, “You can't join our caucus. We have nothing to learn from you. How dare you try to sit in our caucus”. This woman has contributed to Canada. She brings background that is important to Canada. They stuck their heads in the sand and said that we cannot reform the Senate because we will never be in power, but we are never going to take any advice from a good senator.

Those are some of the good examples of great Canadians who have contributed to the Senate and to Canada's oversight.

The Minister of State for Democratic Reform really did not get to answer the questions in 2007 and 2008, but if he were to predict how little provincial-federal consultation there has been since the time he gave his speeches and the last time we last talked about democratic reform of the Senate in the chamber, he would be dismayed to learn there has been nothing in the way of federal-provincial negotiations on Senate reform.

As I asked in a speech back then, how bad could it be to have a real meeting with the provincial and territorial leaders, something more than just a main course of bison and a dessert of crème brulée in a two-hour meeting where they are rushed out to the airport before any real discussion takes place? That was back in 2007. Premiers and territorial leaders do not even get the bison and the crème brulée any more. There are no more conferences on this topic. This motion has nothing in it with respect to provincial consultation.

It is the underpinning of how the Senate was founded. It is in the Constitution. The only real reform that has ever taken place in the Senate was in 1965 before patriation, before there was an amending formula, and it was done unilaterally in the dark of night without any opposition because all it did was to say that at age 75 senators will have to retire.

What have the Conservatives done with the Senate? They have packed it with people like Irving Gerstein and Doug Finley who have been charged with contravening the Canada Elections Act. They have failed to enforce section 140 of the code of the Senate. People charged with criminal allegations is nothing new to the Senate. Does it not make a mockery of our system when the Conservative appointed senators do not even follow the rules of the Senate with respect to reporting a criminal charge when section 140 of their own code says they should? I say—