House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

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

Bill C-2 June 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice must warrant that every government bill is constitutional. The law clerks of the House of Commons deem that Bill C-2 is not. It is not important to have his opinion of the opinion provided by the law clerks of the House of Commons.

If the minister has done his job properly, why does he refuse to submit to this House the legal opinion which leads him to state that the bill is constitutional?

Criminal Code May 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, clearly, the evidence shows that crime is down 12% from 1994 to 2004. What has changed, however, and all of us on all sides of the House join in this regard, is that in many quarters the perception of the crime rate has changed. As I mentioned, in a somewhat partisan fashion, parties and politicians will exploit criminality.

Maybe all sides of the House could agree that the media sensationalizes crime. I think that is very true. It sensationalizes almost everything. That is another factor why crime is, in its appearance, on the rise.

I invite members to read the material from the John Howard Society. It is a habit of the Conservatives to pass a bill and then read the underlining material, but it is always good to read the material before passing a bill. That is the way we did it in law school. It is kind of the Maritime way.

I recommend members read this article in the John Howard brief. On page six of the brief, it is very clear that the perception is being run by political fearmongers, some of whom are on the other side even though there are many reasonable members on that side. The perception is also being run by the media. We have to combat that and deal with the statistics. We have to insert into the organic Criminal Code what will work to keep our society safe.

Mandatory minimums and conditional sentences are nothing new. They are Liberal policy. I have already conceded that the Criminal Code was a Conservative project from Sir John Thompson's time. Let us work together in committee and make this work. Let us review it and make it sensible for the coming generation.

Criminal Code May 31st, 2006

First, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his questions. I did read the decision rendered in the Proulx case. I know that this was a good decision. I do not totally agree with it because, of course, there is still a problem with certain aspects that would not be covered by the decision and amendments made prior to it.

I agree that the sentencing principle reviewed in that decision is clear and accurate. Conditional sentencing is a good system. It should not be thrown out entirely. It should be reviewed and amended so that we can have a conditional sentencing system that works for the communities. I totally agree with the hon. member, and I thank him for his questions.

Criminal Code May 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me say that Canada’s judiciary is under attack.

The new sheriff and his deputy, the Minister of Justice, rode into town and in a few short months have insulted, or have allowed their posse to insult, the Chief Justice of Canada. They infer that she felt her direction came from God, when everyone knows that it is the Conservative Party that takes its advice from God, or so those members would see it.

They publicly and privately accuse judges and justice officials of being liberal and unworthy.

They have just rejected an arm's length committee report on long overdue judicial remuneration.

Finally, they have introduced legislation like this, which is aimed at taking away judicial discretion and making judges readers of meat chart sentencing tables, disregarding the time-honoured legal principle that cases do not stand for grand propositions, but turn neatly on their facts.

Each case is different and our judges have the tools required for dealing with each one of them.

As a rule, judges are nominated following a rigorous process, involving committees comprising presidents of bar associations, chief justices and attorneys general of the provinces.

Before that, there is a rigorous peer review process. Most members of the House will agree this was the case with respect to Justice Rothstein. If so for him, why this attack on the integrity, humility, remuneration and, above all, discretion of our federal judges? It is a question I cannot answer.

I can say that the assault on conditional sentencing is a piece of that puzzle. I can agree with parts of the bill but not others. Coupled with reforms to mandatory minimums, street racing minimums and amnesty for illegal gun owners, this is a general attitude of contempt for justice shown by the Conservative Party.

The point is that law reform and the Criminal Code itself, which I admit was written by a very good Conservative Prime Minister, Sir John Thompson, who has since passed away, are organic processes adapting to times changing and the different instruments that work to keep our society safe. They are always however under the guiding hand in the trenches of our judges, prosecutors, probation officers, defence lawyers and the whole legal team.

It is important to underline that we have a safe society. From 1994 to 2004 the crime rate fell by 12%. It is the perception that has changed. The media sensationalizes crime and, following an American trend, politicians pander to the fear that crime brings in the community.

The problem is, as the Liberal leader said the other day in the House, that Conservative legislation lately seems like it is written on the back of napkins and railroaded through the House. Bill C-9 is one such case. Let me illustrate how.

The current system of conditional sentencing was adopted in response to criticisms that Canada was imprisoning too many of its citizens.

It was thought that too large a share of taxpayers’ money was going to prisons, when the funds could have been spent on constructive crime prevention programs.

Conditional sentencing is one important aspect of sentencing. This type of sentence plays a major role in the rehabilitation and social reintegration of offenders. Unfortunately, the money saved by reducing the number of prison sentences was not reallocated to enough programs. For example, there is a clear need for additional money to increase the number of officers who supervise conditional sentences.

Conditional sentences obviously require supervision. People serving conditional sentences are in our communities. So, supervision is required. The sad reality is that the resources of the people who supervise this type of sentence are strained to the limit.

The program was good; the delivery was not. In the Moncton area, for example, there is one full time supervisor for all conditional sentences. He is unable to ensure that everyone who is on a conditional sentence is in fact at the house when they are supposed to be. He cannot do it. It is a matter of resources and federal-provincial relations.

Many of the breaches of conditional sentences actually happen because the people are out doing other crimes and the supervisor is informed that the crime happened. The supervisor in the Moncton area does have assistance. The provincial jail helps out and calls for compliance. Unfortunately, after one contact is made, the offender will often breach knowing that his number came up and that he is free to go that night.

The largest pitfall, however, with conditional sentences has been the perception from the general public that offenders are not being punished for their criminal actions. This is particularly true of offenders who have committed offences of violence or serious breaches of trust.

When the Criminal Code was amended to include conditional sentences, no offences were excluded.

What had to be determined was whether a person found guilty of an offence was liable to a minimum prison term. If not, the person could receive a conditional sentence as long as the sentence was less than two years.

Prior to these amendments, a person in New Brunswick convicted of dangerous driving causing death or impaired driving causing death would likely receive 6 to 18 months. Since the amendments, a person in New Brunswick is likely to receive a conditional sentence. That does not seem right.

Initially, public prosecutions opposed such granting of conditional sentences. However, following the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Proulx, it became clear that unless specifically exempted, a conditional sentence was available for any offence.

The public is losing confidence in the administration of justice in the area of sexual assaults. Offenders are receiving jail time for offences against children and for violent sexual assaults, but many are receiving conditional sentences as well.

The question now is how to achieve the legitimate goals of the sentencing process while preserving the integrity of the judicial system in the eyes of Canadians.

Bill C-9 is one of the attempts to answer the question. In response to the criticisms of the conditional sentencing system and in view of the fact that the public is demanding more restrictive use of this sort of sentence, the solution seems to be to get rid of conditional sentences for all offences punishable by indictment that incur a sentence of ten years or more.

Including all such offences will not work. This will not bring back the public's confidence. First and foremost the amendment is overreaching. The purpose of conditional sentences was to deal more effectively with non-violent offenders.

Take the case of financial crime offenders. If they were going to jail before, they were not able to make restitution to their victims. A conditional sentence regime works well and is not against the public interest.

Under the regime of Bill C-9, in the haste to get it passed, this will not be the case. There will not be a chance for restitution to widows, orphans and pensioner funds.

The amendment causes hardship for other victims and such is the case with sex offences. At present, a sex offender may receive a conditional sentence. This is not well received by the public. Bill C-9 does not respond to this. The perfect example is the case of summary sexual assault. For those members who are not lawyers and do not know lawyers, the victim of a sexual assault does not like to go through the process of a preliminary inquiry which is entailed in the indictment process.

That is what these victims are put through if there is no redress for it at committee. One factor is the expected sentence. We cannot fault prosecutors for choosing their venue to get a conviction if they have a victim of a sexual assault who is afraid to go both to the preliminary inquiry and to the trial. Nonetheless, if the offender should receive a jail term the Crown could proceed by indictment therefore taxing the resources and again putting the victim through the double peril. Historical sexual offences will also fall outside the scope of Bill C-9.

In conclusion, the only method to ensure the integrity of the conditional sentence regime would be to amend it, to take the time to examine it and amend it. In such a manner public confidence would be maintained and would allow for a greater flexibility in the laying of accusations. The bill is hasty and will not fix the problems. It misses some problems and creates new ones. We will be revisiting the bill at committee and in the future. The sheriff, the deputy and the posse did not hit the bull's eye this time.

Criminal Code May 31st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, first, I tip my hat to the members from Quebec for the Memorial Cup win by the Quebec Remparts. I would point out, however, that their goalie comes from New Brunswick.

I thank the members for their comments. I believe that the government has another goal in mind in introducing this bill. It is not motivated by justice, as the member said. I believe that there is a political goal. The John Howard Society—which is not an admiration society for the Prime Minister of Australia, but another society by the same name—has denounced this bill. In the press, it said that a political party like the Conservative Party was pursuing a political goal by giving the public the impression that there has been an increase in crime. And that is not the case.

I would like to know whether the member believes that this may be the government’s motive.

Criminal Code May 29th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to speak about Bill C-9 without also talking about Bill C-10. They are the twins of Conservative legislation in the area of justice.

I have two questions for my friend. I thank him again for his very thoughtful and thorough speech on the subject. I join with him, obviously, in wanting safe communities across this country. These two questions do not necessarily come from comments he made today or comments that he has ever made, but comments that have been made by his government. They go to respect for judges.

I have the greatest of respect for judges. Judges, parole officers, rehabilitation consultants, prosecutors, defence lawyers and legal aid specialists are in the trenches of our criminal justice system. I cannot believe that the government canvassed their entire thoughts on this project before tabling this legislation.

I want to ask this question of my friend, the hon. member, in light of comments made publicly about judges, Liberal judges, and comments made by one member, and not necessarily retracted by the Prime Minister, about the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Does this bill, with its companion bill, give enough respect to judges who are in the trenches? Does it give them enough discretion to understand that there might be a bad apple who can be rehabilitated, that every criminal is somebody's son or daughter, wife or husband?

Second, in light of the fact that both bills encompass a prospect that there will be more incarceration--and we know this is a likelihood because the Minister of Finance has put away some money for prison funding--has there been some thought given to the increased need for legal aid?

My friend will know that legal aid is now achievable, really, only if one's personal liberty is in peril. In most provinces across this country, there is only enough legal aid funding to fund those whose liberty is in jeopardy. If the bills, in tandem, contemplate less liberty for those accused, is there room for or has thought been given to increased legal aid funding across this country, which every law society in this country has been asking for, by the way?

Hockey May 29th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, for the past week, the eyes of the Canadian hockey world have been split between the two remaining NHL playoff series, and I say that because there are some Edmonton Oilers fans still in the House, and the 2006 MasterCard Memorial Cup hosted by my home community, Moncton--Riverview--Dieppe.

The tournament featured the Vancouver Giants, the Peterborough Petes, Quebec Remparts, and the 2006 champions of the QMJHL, our very own Moncton Wildcats.

The voyage to this dream began in 1996 when New Brunswick entrepreneur Robert Irving purchased the Moncton Quebec Major Junior franchise and started on his way.

My thanks and congratulations to the Irving family, to governor Jean Brousseau, head coach Ted Nolan, general manager Bill Schurman, Louis Gaudet from the Province of New Brunswick, Ian Fowler from the City of Moncton, photographer Daniel St-Louis and, of course, the team for one of the best tournaments in the history of the cup.

While the Quebec Remparts bested the Moncton Wildcats in the final, and I express my congratulations, we are very proud of the Wildcats for all their success this year.

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, we learned a lot in that discourse. There were jokes about cancer. There were jokes that not all the hon. member's guns are registered. Cancer as an epidemic or pandemic is explained away as people living longer and there being better records. And he talked about having the science on pesticides. The hon. member also said not to mix some of those pesticides with Coke or to gargle with it. I thank the hon. member for those insightful, instructive comments.

The Pest Control Products Act has to do with the chemical composition of a given pesticide. It has very little to do with the safety of its use. While I do not go all the way in joining with my NDP colleagues with respect to the motion, I want to ask the hon. member why the government, when it finds time to meet with all of the premiers, would not suggest that amendments to the municipalities acts in the various provinces would give them the power to use, or not, pesticides within their municipalities. Why does the government not encourage that? This was recently done in New Brunswick by Bill 62, an act to amend the municipalities act, which speaks very much to and is very similar to the NDP motion.

Instead of telling us not to gargle with pesticides, why does the member not encourage his government to meet with the provinces to amend the municipalities acts where they need to be amended, so that this scourge of factual cancer happening due to pesticide misapplication, not on farms, be attacked? Why was he not more serious about a very serious topic?

Peter McKee May 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, a gentle giant of a man, Father Peter McKee, originally of Bouctouche, New Brunswick, succumbed to a three-year courageous battle against cancer. Father Peter passed away on January 16 at the age of 70.

After graduating from high school in Chatham, he received his undergraduate degree from St. Thomas University. He later attended Holy Heart Seminary in Halifax and was ordained a priest on May 28, 1961.

Father Peter McKee was much more than a priest to the Moncton community.

For over 20 years, he was a member of a hockey team called the Flying Fathers. His vocation and the sport he loved were, in a way, another aspect of his priesthood. His team raised millions of dollars for organizations in Canada, the United States and the world.

As remarked in his eulogy by Father Jeff Doucette, “yes, Father Peter's passing leaves a big void in the community but, just like him, he has thrown a torch of challenge to all of us to fill that void”. Wise words, indeed. Quite a challenge.

Requiescant in pace.

Public Health Agency of Canada Act May 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for her intelligent comments with respect to half of her comments. Those were the comments regarding the Chief Public Health Officer. The other half on the history of it and the partisanship should be left behind. This bill was ready to go in November. The opposition pulled the plug on the government and the legislation came down.

The other side should recognize that not every public health crisis was well handled by Conservatives. I was very involved as a mayor in water crises across this nation. I remember being in Ontario during the Walkerton crisis, which was not handled well by the Harris government, and many of whom have resurfaced in positions of power across the way.

On the important parts of my friend's speech, does she feel constructively that the Chief Public Health Officer and the agency created should look at issues that affect all Canadians, all municipalities, all communities, such as pesticide use, water crises, second hand smoke inhalation and tuberculosis which my friend from West Nova is dealing with in his riding right now? Are those topics that should be covered by the new agency?