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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

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act December 7th, 2010

Madam Speaker, the new remedies and new inputs to the system can be described as the kitchen sink, probably more modern than the Ontario legislation. The member has vast experience in municipal affairs and communities. He was chairman of Metro Toronto and he understands, and his late father was the mayor of his community. The member knows that, as Tip O'Neill would say, “All politics is local”, but all community policing is local by nature. We have to know our communities.

With the new tools, the registry allows police officials, and therefore elected officials, and the people in roles of responsibility, at the YMCA or the boys' club, to know who is in their community. I hope, and the member will understand, that the cop on the beat and the prosecutor at the court house understand the nuance that just because people are in the registry does not mean they are about to commit a crime. It is just a way of keeping the community aware of the possibility and to be prudent and vigilant.

We are not just talking now about people on the street, as the member asked. It is people who are predators in the ether, and the bill goes a lot further toward making communities safer in that regard.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act December 7th, 2010

Madam Speaker, that is a very good question. I am reminded of Monday night football. Last night the coaches of the two teams, the New York Jets and the New England Patriots, did not want the other side to know what they were doing.

In Parliament I really do wish that we dealt with criminal justice issues almost in camera. When we come to debate the issues, fine, but we all come together as a team to fight the other side, which is actually not the Conservatives or the other parties here, but it is crime and the people who commit crimes. They are the other side. We have a big song and dance about what we will do. It is pretty obvious, if we are on the other side, what we are not doing.

It is to the detriment of the Canadian public that laws are not passed as quickly as they should be. There is probably enough blame to go all around, but really, I wish, for the good of this community that we call Canada, there were a great depoliticization of criminal justice issues. That is my wish for Christmas.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act December 7th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill S-2, which is a very important bill but, as previous members have indicated, it follows on the good footsteps and foundation of steps provincially in Ontario and nationally by a former Liberal government in 2004. In that sense, it is trying to make existing law better.

Why do we need to make the existing law better? We could argue that in Ontario, Christopher's Law (Sex Offender Registry) is working quite well, which is probably very good for people in Ontario, but there are nine other provinces and three territories where Christopher's Law is not in place. Therefore, it is really important for us as parliamentarians for all the country to get it right.

In places outside of Ontario where the federal legislation is not working as well as the Ontario legislation and where in many provinces there is no registry provincially, we need to ask ourselves what the goal is here.

I am quoting from statistics in this regard when I say that the police have indicated that the present legislative framework does not allow them to prevent crimes of a sexual nature. Response times in the investigation of those crimes are critically important, especially in cases involving child abduction. Can we as a parent, a grandmother, a grandfather, an aunt, an uncle or just a member of a community imagine something more horrifying than having our child abducted or having a child in our community abducted?

All members of Parliament have either experienced that in their community and know people who have experienced it in their communities who react with shock and horror at even the prospect of this happening. As parents we all have those dreams and nightmares that we are at the mall or the hockey rink and one of our three to five children is gone because we turned away for a second.

Why is that response time so important after an abduction? Here are the statistics. Rapid response is so important because 44% of child victims are dead 1 hour after abduction, 74% are dead 3 hours after abduction and 91% of children abducted are dead 24 hours after abduction. This is not to say that every abduction is a sexual offence or a sex offender related offence but, sadly, most of them are.

I want to refer to some of the debate that has been taking place with respect to why the Ontario legislation is so much broader and so much better. It reminds me of a debate that we had recently with respect to protecting children from sexual Internet exploitation and there was a requirement to have Internet service providers report incidents of child exploitation or child pornography.

What we learned in that case is that the federal government of any stripe, as my friend from Scarborough--Rouge River indicated, operates on a much narrower principle of constitutional law with respect to our Criminal Code provisions and the acts that we enact here and that is the criminal law.

In the reporting of child pornography law, which we just studied, it was clear that the federal government felt that its criminal law power was not as broad as the provincial power under the family and child services act to protect children. Therefore, we saw across the country, in two instances, in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, where legislation has been passed protecting children from Internet pornography in a broader way by making it a positive duty on anyone who sees child pornography or child victimization to so report. That is because the child power resides with the provinces under our Constitution and we are enacting laws from the broader criminal provisions.

That is interesting because it has raised its head in this debate that perhaps the Department of Justice, in preparing the legislation in 2004, used the more narrow criminal law power and did not get as pervasive as the Ontario legislation in 2000 which was meant to protect all of the community no matter whether it was criminal in nature. I use that as a backdrop to say that Canadians may wonder why Ontario has the legislation and why federal legislation has been less effective.

It is my pleasure to indicate that we support the legislation which is meant to deal with the sensitive subject of sexual offenders. Members of Parliament, however, have a duty to deal with the crime in a serious way and to give the bill serious and thoughtful review. We would have liked to have seen Bill S-2 in its previous incarnation as Bill C-34 passed. The government knows there is no opposition to strengthening measures to protect Canadians from sexual offences, so I wonder why we did not get Bill C-34 through.

Bill S-2 aims to strengthen the current national sex offenders registry under the Sex Offender Information Registration Act that was enacted by the government of the day in 2004. The current framework is a national registry comprising mandatory information entered, such as address, telephone number, physical distinguishing marks, the offences and the characteristics of the victims, and it is information only available to police officers. Amendments were later made to the National Defence Act to bring it into sync with civilian laws.

As of April 2009, 19,000 offenders were registered in the national registry. It is important to say that the 2004 legislation had the effect of seeing to the registration of 19,000 sexual offenders. Only 50% of those offenders not criminally responsible, as in the mentally ill or youth, are under order to register.

The public safety committee heard witnesses who testified about the problems with the recent bill and possible improvements.

The Ontario registry system, as I mentioned, is used a lot more than the national database. The national sex offender registry is used, and I get to the real numbers of my comparison, 165 times a year, while the Ontario registry is used about 475 times a day. That is quite a difference. It is imminently clear that the Ontario registry is being used more often to prevent crime and to crack down on the crime the moment that it occurs, especially in the case of an abduction.

The reason for this much higher usage of the Ontario registry is thought to be that it could be used more preventively, something that cannot be done with the national registry as it exists. The national registry can be used only when police officers have reasonable grounds to suspect that the crimes investigated are sexual in nature. Police organizations have complained that this framework is hampering their work as police officers since the exact nature of a crime is not always known during an investigation.

While we all recognize the difficulty of the fight against sexual offenders, we also want to take a closer look at the morality behind the use of past offences to create reasonable doubt for the existence of a crime.

Our duty as legislators is to find a correct balance between the right to be presumed innocent, which is in our charter under section 11(d), and our duty to protect victims of sexual abuse, which no doubt comes from the override provisions in section 1 of the charter.

We cannot presume to have a suspect in hand for every crime because he has offended before. On the other hand, in crimes of sexual exploitation and in crimes of a sexual nature, compelling statistics suggest that there is a high degree of recidivism, so there may be a public duty that is higher and outweighs that of the presumption of innocence in this case.

At committee, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association was concerned about the provisions that grant the police additional powers to cross-reference the registry when they find someone acting suspiciously near a school. I have cited the statistics with respect to abduction and I suggest that the Ontario model is being used so much more and with such more efficacy that it ought to be adopted in these changes to this law.

The major effects on our legislative scheme would be several-fold. Bill S-2 has 65 clauses. Clause 19 adds 15 new sections to the Criminal Code. This is not an inconsequential bill.

I do not want to go through the 65 clauses and 15 new sections, but the main provisions of the bill in general are: to amend the purpose of the registry and give broader authority to consult, which seems very reasonable; to make registration automatic, which also seems reasonable based on the Ontario experience; and to make offences of a sexual nature designated offences for which DNA samples may be taken.

A lot has happened with respect to the use of DNA evidence in the courts. That is to be reflected in the changes to the Criminal Code, which is, after all, organic and needs to be updated.

There will be obligations for sex offenders convicted in Canada and outside Canada to register and provide information. There will be consequences for failure to comply with the order to register.

Members have talked about the aspect of persons outside Canada committing an offence and either returning to Canada or coming to live in Canada. They have a positive obligation to register. Our system of international crime statistic gathering makes it unlikely they would be here without the police knowing of their prior record, and therefore it would make our streets safer by having mandatory registration.

As I said, Bill S-2 provides for a regime. Fifteen new sections are added to the Criminal Code. For example, under clause 9 of the bill, the court may terminate an order if it is satisfied that the person has established that the impact on him or her of continuing an order or obligation, including on personal privacy or liberty, would be grossly disproportionate to the public interest in protecting society through the effective prevention or investigation of crimes of a sexual nature, to be achieved by the registration of information relating to sex offenders under the Sex Offender Information Registration Act.

And subclause 21(1) of the bill provides for the creation of a new offence for sex offenders who fail to comply with their obligations or an order made under the Criminal Code.

According to this bill, these new offences would carry maximum prison terms of two years and maximum fines of $10,000 or a summary conviction.

In general, I believe that this bill makes a number of worthwhile improvements to the law created by the Liberals in 2004. It is a new registration regime. There will surely be more room for improvement as the police learn to use this new tool. However, we have some concerns about the treatment of those found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder.

That is where I would conclude with the whole area of whether the net we cast by supporting this bill is too wide. We say we want to protect the public and make the federal legislation as wide as the Ontario legislation. We want to make sure our police forces are using the data bank of sexual offenders across the country to protect the public. We say that with some conviction. I think everyone in the House believes that.

We have to imagine a particular case where a person committed a sexual offence in his or her past. The person did it before being diagnosed with a mental ailment that caused the person to act improperly, criminally, and as a shock to the ethics and morals of the community in which the person lived. Perhaps since that time, the person has received medication and treatment and is no longer the same person as when the person committed the crime. That person may find himself or herself moving from community to community and being outed as a person who is on the registry of sexual offenders.

While that is within the aim of protecting society, this is where the rubber hits the road on the application of the law by the enforcement officials. This is where we have to put faith in our law enforcement officials, our crown prosecutors, and our judges to make the justice system work. This is where we hope that upon investigating someone who is registered in the circumstances just laid out, the person is treated fairly and with the good common sense that a cop on the beat would have in his or her community, to suggest the person is not the same person that he or she was before, this is not a person who presents a danger to the community in terms of recidivism, of performing acts such as those performed years ago by the person.

That is the non-legal aspect of this bill and all the bills we bring forward in the criminal justice area. We hope the players in the system use the discretion they have to investigate, to lay charges, to arrest, to defend, or to convict. Along the line of the criminal justice system, every player has some discretion. I have been in this House for five years and from day one I have been very adamant in suggesting to our friends across the way that they not poke sticks in the eyes of judges with respect to discretionary powers. They would not do it to police officers or to prosecutors, so why early on were they attacking judicial discretion?

I am pleased to report that we on this side have had some effect on the other side; not enough, and probably we never will, which is why we have elections. However, recent bills from the Minister of Justice have shown a willingness on occasion to restore and keep in place judicial discretion. That is what will make the difference between the laws we enact here being good for society or not being good for society.

I thank my colleagues who serve on the public safety committee. The committee report was replete with changes to the sex offender information registration act. Certainly the work of the committee was worthy. The greatest compliment is the imitation of one's work. The government, looking at the date on the calendar and realizing it had not done anything in this regard in five years, had to bring this legislation forward to replace Bill C-34. It looked at the work done by the committee and chose to do it. This is good. This means the committee was doing its work, in pushing the government toward a piece of legislation, with the caveat I mentioned about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms application at the federal level, but generally good legislation which we will support. It is primarily due to the good work of all parliamentarians who serve on a multi-party committee.

This is an example of how Parliament can work.

It has to be said that it is now 2010. The law was enacted in 2004. The Ontario law was there in 2000, and was working well. I am very firm in saying that as early as 2006, when various notable police officers appeared in Ottawa, to use a legal term, it was certainly reasonable for the players on the other side in the justice department to know that this needed to be updated. It is now 2010. The message is that we should get on with this law, but it should have been done four years ago.

With that I conclude. We will be supporting this piece of legislation. We hope it will make the streets and communities not just of Ontario but all of Canada safer.

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act December 7th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up with the hon. member on the aspect of the Ontario regime that has existed since 2000.

If we look at the timeline, in 2000 the Ontario government enacted Christopher's Law (Sex Offender Registry) and it seems to be working fantastically well.

In 2004, the federal Liberal government enacted the current regime. The hiccup seems to be that the police officers need reasonable suspicion that a sexual crime is being committed, is about to be committed or a reasonable suspicion of someone.

However, with the Ontario registry and the registry that is planned here, it is much less onerous. Does the member feel that is the only reason that the Ontario law, rather than the federal law, is preferred by police officers in Ontario or are there other reasons?

Criminal Code December 2nd, 2010

Madam Speaker, I rise today with great pleasure to speak to Bill S-215.

The bill owes its origin to Senator Grafstein, who has since left the Senate and who has contributed so much to Canada in terms of its reputation abroad, internationally, through his great work on various United States-Canada committees and his great leadership in the Senate on issues of international human rights. What better way for us to honour his work than to talk about Bill S-215 today. Although he has left the Senate, his rather gravelly, loud and irresistibly strong voice can be heard in this chamber by echo today because this was his baby.

It is important for us to start out with a framework. These terrorism sections that were instituted in the Criminal Code, or passed into law in part II.1 Terrorism, came into effect in January 17, 2002. We were, as Canadians, reacting to the horror of 9/11. We were looking at the loopholes and in fact at the complete vacancy of legislation in this area and, as parliamentarians, we all came together and enacted section 83.01 and so on. It bears saying that the sections are quite complete. There are some three pages in the Criminal Code that define what a Canadian is, what an entity is, what a listed entity or scheduled terrorist entity is and what a terrorist activity is.

It is interesting that in that list of items that constitute terrorist activity is not the term “suicide bombing”. So that is what this bill attempts to do. It would not create a new offence. it is not saying that there was nothing in the field before. It is saying that we had better identify suicide bombing by the specificity that we know in common parlance where it to be.

Why is the bill important then? A study completed in 2005, three years after this terrorism part of the code was enacted, conducted by Scott Atran, in the United States, declared that:

Suicide attack is the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today. The mere rumour of an impending suicide attack can throw thousands of people into panic.

It is a growing phenomenon. In the 1980s, there might have been five suicide attacks per year. In the 1990s, there were on average 16 attacks per year. Then, in the five year period between 2000 and 2005, there were an average of 180 attacks each year. It is a growing problem.

There will be some disagreement, perhaps, maybe even in the courts, as to whether the current definition of “terrorist activity” catches “suicide bombing” any way and whether this is superfluous and, in terms of vagueness, not legal.

However, I think our language is something like a tree that grows with time. I think even though the term “suicide bombing” is not defined in the Criminal Code, it certainly is a common word or phrase that we all know it when we see it. It is such a recent growing phenomenon that we need to lay tracks in the Criminal Code to recognize it.

In addition to paying homage to Senator Grafstein, I also want to pay homage to another great Canadian, Justice Reuben Bromstein, who is now head of an organization called Canadians Against Suicide Bombing. Judge Bromstein said that this bill, if passed into law, would: build and strengthen the consensus in Canadian society on this issue; it will serve as a clear deterrent for those among us who might not be committed to this consensus; and it offers an opportunity for Canada to take the lead and send a message to further international commitment [to outlaw suicide bombing].

Canada would be the first country to include a specific reference to suicide bombing in its criminal law. That would make us a leader in an era when Canada is finding its way in international relations, to say the least.

Justice Bromstein went on to state:

...that the term “suicide bombing” is in common parlance. ...[it] triggers an instantaneous response in your head. You do not have to describe it. People know what it means.

This should allay the concerns of all courts of this country that when they see a suicide bombing, they know it is included as a terrorist offence under section 83.01 of the Criminal Code which says that terrorism shall be attacked by the Canadian justice system.

I want to render homage, as well, to the government of the day and the justice ministers of the day who recognized that this was a clear and immediate need within the Criminal Code and acted with lightning speed compared to how we get criminal legislation and Criminal Code amendments done in this era of minority Parliaments.

I think we would all agree that this is a very important bill. We all want to listen to the importance of it, too, because it makes Canada a leader in defining what a suicide bomb is.

In homage, again, to justice ministers, to Senator Grafstein and Judge Bromstein who went on to say that passing this legislation would send a signal about our values domestically, that we are a mixed society and that we cannot justify martyrdom to legitimize it.

The concern has been raised that including this expression in the Criminal Code will mean that acts not usually considered to be terrorist acts will fall into that category in future. For example, someone who commits suicide by detonating a bomb in a vacant field will be labelled a terrorist.

When the bill was drafted, care was taken to avoid expanding the definition of what constitutes a terrorist attack; the current definition was fine-tuned. Thus, someone who commits suicide by detonating a bomb on vacant land will not be covered by the definition of suicide bombing.

The reaction from stakeholders has been positive. The RCMP approves of the amendment to the Criminal Code and feels that it would be very much a useful tool for it. It is not just senators, justice ministers, parliamentarians and the RCMP who agree with the bill. We also have words of encouragement from the legal profession and the legal teaching profession.

The dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, Patrick Monahan, who was very supportive of the legislation, had this to say in three points. First he said that Parliament should adopt the bill because it would signal Canada's unequivocal condemnation of suicide bombing as the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today.

His second point was that the phenomenon of suicide bombing has risen dramatically, as I have said, since 2001. Thousands have been killed and tens of thousands have been wounded in these attacks. Suicide terror, which a decade ago was relatively rare, has become a global reality.

His third point was that there is ongoing debate over the motivations and the psychology of suicide bombers. Evidence suggests that suicide bombers regard martyrdom for the sake of global jihad as life's noblest cause. Today's suicide bombers are increasingly as willing and eager to die as they are to kill.

We, in a civilized society, need to really give that some clinical care and observation. A person who is willing to kill himself, equal to or more than others, to further his or her aim is indeed a very dangerous individual who can change our society. That is why we must support this bill and this amendment to the Criminal Code which grows on the good work done by previous parliamentarians in addressing terrorism.

Committees of the House December 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, Westmorland Institution in Dorchester, New Brunswick was closed down. This is a quote from the Moncton Times & Transcript, and I would like to have the member's comment on it. It said that this decision was:

—a lightening rod for addressing the Conservative Party's generally short-sighted policies on farming, food and justice. The decision to shut down this successful rehabilitation program symbolizes our government's lack of understanding of what actually makes the public safe, and their failure to recognize the value of a restorative approach to justice...

Does the member agree with that?

Business of Supply November 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I know my friend made many remarks about what the rebuilding process will be like. One of the things I know he would like to expand upon, given his experience in the municipal sphere both as a councillor and as a president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, is the role of local governance and the rebuilding of that aspect, which is not bricks and mortar necessarily, but probably is equal to it in terms of the importance of rebuilding communities.

I would like to know what my friend could add in that regard, which was missing perhaps from his speech and certainly missing in the breadth of the discussion that the government has put forward as to specifics of the rebuilding mission.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act November 24th, 2010

Madam Speaker, it certainly seems simple, and I agree with the member for Scarborough—Agincourt totally.

This bill, of course, cannot be amended. It is way beyond the scope of this bill to shut down Internet sites, and so on. This bill is about reporting, about the Internet service provider reporting, if they get a tip. As I said, it is too little, too late.

The government could bring in a new piece of legislation. It could do part of what my friend suggests. One of the problems that Cybertip mentioned is that a website can change location in a few minutes by using a network of personal computers that are known as zombies. In other words, they keep moving around to computers that are vacant, or zombies.

However, what is clear is that the Internet service providers, the companies, know that these zombies exist. The solution would be by legislation with respect to these zombies that provide the content of the website but can never be caught. Cybertip recommended that when zombies are detected, the ISPs, the companies running the networks to which these computers are connected, should be able to suspend service to those computers until the infected computers are restored or removed.

That is a law that needs to be enacted. I think the government has to be firm. It has to tell these companies that provide Internet services that this is the way it is going to be. If we enforce it--

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act November 24th, 2010

Madam Speaker, we do not have time to argue which countries are the worst offenders, but in terms of posting sites, the United States is first with 49%, Russia is second with 20%, we are third at 9%, and Japan is fourth at 4%.

Those are all reasonably developed countries. I understand that crimes are perpetrated in third-world countries, in non-developed countries and in totalitarian countries. I think he and I might agree, however, that in Europe, great strides have been made in curbing the hosting of Internet porn sites, and that is where we have common ground.

Finally, his comments on Cybertip could not have been more well chosen. For instance, in their evidence they said that illegal sites regularly change location. In other words, it is incredibly hard to pin these sites down.

Their evidence was in observing it, because they observe this as part of their mandate in Manitoba and other places. In a period of 48 hours, Cybertip counted 212 Internet protocol addresses in 16 countries for one website. This is like the spreading of mercury on the floor. It is incredibly hard to detect and very resource driven. Money is needed, financial resources. That is where I join with my friend in agreement.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act November 24th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, generally speaking, we could not do much with the bill except make more specific some of the reporting requirements.

As to the member's question about specific legislation, for instance in Nova Scotia, section 6 of its act, which I did not get to in my main comments because I had a mere 20 minutes, says, “Where, after reviewing a report made to it,” which is a reporting agency like Cybertip, “a reporting entity that is not a law enforcement agency”, because it could be reported to the local police force as well, “reasonably believes that the representation or material is child pornography, the reporting entity shall report the matter to a law enforcement agency”. It is very direct, very clear, and it is very powerful.

What is happening in the world, however, which is the broader part of the question by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, is that this has moved from a legal question of the protection of the domain where one lives to an international question involving questions of international intellectual property law and international powers variously displayed in the transmission of Internet or bandwidth.

I do not propose to have any answers to that except to say that in Canada, in November 2010, is it not funny or strange, or wrong really, to think and to know that the countries that do the best job in cutting down on the hosting of Internet child pornography are the totalitarian regimes, the communist regimes, the third-world regimes that, like China and other countries, completely cut it off?

I am not saying that is a solution at all, but we need a broader examination of intellectual property and bandwidth transmission for sure.