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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Saint-Jean (Québec)

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

Statements in the House

Business of Supply March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I must admit it has been a long time since I have heard such an arrogant speech.

I have a lesson in democracy for the Conservative government's whip. To attack the legitimacy of the Bloc is to attack the legitimacy of all the hon. members who sit in this House. If an hon. member is sitting in the House of Commons, it is because the people of his riding elected him. It should not matter what party he belongs to.

When I say the whip is arrogant, I mean that the Conservative Party seems to think it is the only party that matters in Parliament. What the minister did is totally unacceptable.

I want to know whether he thinks that the voters in Saint-Jean and those in the other 50 Bloc-held ridings are all morons who understand absolutely nothing. I have news for him: the Bloc is going to come back with a majority in Quebec for the seventh time, and the government whip is going to eat his words.

Petitions March 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition signed by a few hundred people concerning low-income housing. About 544 housing offices in Quebec provide housing to nearly 65,000 families. This housing stock is worth more than $7 billion. Given that it is constantly deteriorating, it is important for the federal government to provide some support, not only because it will generate energy savings, which is good for the environment, but also because it will create many jobs in several regions of Quebec. I therefore invite the government to give special attention to this petition.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya March 21st, 2011

I thank my colleague from Hochelaga for restoring order to the House. There does not seem to be a lot of interest in the speeches being made. I am grateful to my colleague for speaking up.

On February 26, resolution 1970 was adopted by the United Nations. That resolution recommended certain embargos so there could be no arms shipments to Libya. This was an effort to isolate the regime. That first step was important. Then there was a series of sanctions. The regime’s counteroffensive began on March 2 and 3. A lot of people say that military intervention must never be used against a dictatorial regime. But in this case, events have proved us right.

The regime was isolated diplomatically and sanctions were imposed on it. When sanctions are applied, Colonel Gadhafi is not the one who is deprived of anything, in his big tent in Tripoli. He is not the one who suffers, it is his people. When there is nothing to be done with a dictatorship, the only course left for us, if we do not want there to be a slaughter, is military intervention.

But it is not military intervention at any cost. The military intervention must be based on the international rules and must go through the United Nations. Canada refused to go with the Americans into Iraq because the UN had not got involved. Here, the UN has adopted two resolutions in a row and is calling on the international community to get involved.

This had been discussed for some time. Even though it was not easy to reach international agreement, a no-fly zone absolutely had to be established. Military doctrine demonstrates this: if you do not dominate in the air, you stand a good chance of losing the conflict. That is the first thing.

This is not a new military doctrine. It was used in Kosovo. Others before me have referred to this. At the time, Serbian and Croatian troops were playing hardball. NATO troops had to get involved. That is when the no-fly zone was imposed because, as I said, if one side is armed only with slingshots and is up against aircraft, they have no chance of winning the conflict. They are likely to lose and get themselves killed.

The international community understands this and decided to go ahead with the no-fly zone when it passed resolution 1973. The Paris summit was held and that is what happened.

A few hours after the Paris summit, military interventions undertaken by international forces began. The French were the first to strike. Resolution 1973 states that all necessary measures will be taken to enforce the no-fly zone. However, procedures also need to be established to protect civilians. France's first intervention, the attack on Libyan tanks, was meant to protect the people being threatened by the tanks. The attack was very successful. Immediately afterwards, about 120 Tomahawk missiles were launched, which struck Gadhafi's anti-aircraft defences. Indeed, if we send these planes into a no-fly zone without first destroying the anti-aircraft guns, we risk suffering losses. That is why this was done. This is a well-known military practice. Were other targets also hit? Probably.

This morning, in a much-appreciated briefing from the Department of Foreign Affairs, we were told that right now the focus would be more on reconnaissance work to determine exactly what is happening. Planes will obviously enter Libyan airspace. The no-fly zone is already being enforced. I think that if a Libyan plane decides to defy the international community, it will very likely be shot down within minutes. The no-fly zone is being enforced. I also think that it is important that it happen this way because we could not allow this slaughter to continue. The mission is called “Operation Odyssey Dawn”. Many nations are involved, including the United States.

The international and political aspects explain how this decision was made. It was a major one. Together, the African Union, the Arab League, the Islamic community, the European Union, the United States and Canada can all legitimately intervene. Of course, anti-Western forces such as Russia and China will voice their disagreement. But this disagreement is limited right now because everyone can see that things could not continue as they were.

I would now like to speak about the responsibility to protect, a new aspect of international law. It is relatively new, but there have been examples where the international community really reacted too late. I am thinking about Rwanda and about Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly the Srebrenica region, where horrific massacres occurred. The international community hesitated to intervene and the damage was done. I think that, this time, the responsibility to protect was really taken into consideration and we intervened quickly.

I would like to close by saying that we must now be careful. Let us not say that everything is perfect. All of the forces in place must pay very close attention to civilian deaths because that is often what shifts the debate and causes unease. They must also pay attention to ground troops. For now, there are not supposed to be any. I think that it is better that way because they could be taken for people who are trying to occupy the area.

I really appreciated this morning's briefing. We ask that the Department of Foreign Affairs provide the opposition with weekly updates on what is happening in Libya.

I would like to thank the members of the House for listening so intently to my speech.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya March 21st, 2011

Mr. Chair, it is absolutely unbelievable to see the extent of the turmoil in the Arab world. We can see it now in Libya. It is harder to achieve democracy in some countries than it is in others.

After observing the democratic fervour in other countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, where the people rose up, the question on our lips was how the army would behave. How would the various dictators, many of whom have been in power for years or decades, conduct themselves? Would they demand that their army fire upon the people, given the military might at their disposal? We had our misgivings. In Egypt, the army instead took a passive stance. In Tunisia, admittedly there were skirmishes, but not of the same intensity as those in Libya. Libya is in a state of turmoil, and the international community has an obligation to its people.

People armed with Kalashnikov AK-47s facing old MiG-21s from the Russian armed forces are not engaged in a fair fight. The international community cannot sit back and say the people will prevail. The brutality of the Libyan regime is beyond what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. This is a dictator who will be stopped by nothing. He is not afraid of bloodbaths. Nothing will stop him in his efforts to hold on to power. At some point, the international community has to respond.

I am going to give a short review of the events because it is important to see how the methods the regime is using to hold on to power have escalated. The first demonstrations took place on February 17. On February 20 and 22 a number of diplomats and ministers abandoned the regime’s sinking ship.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, again, the hon. member is right. This is a common law issue.

The Conservative Party tends to make mountains out of molehills and ends up putting otherwise minor offences into the Criminal Code. That is what I would call rigid Conservative philosophy and Republican-style justice. It is not the answer. It is not necessary for this individual to be punished under the Criminal Code. On the contrary, the common law applies. However, the Conservative Party tends to twist common law matters into criminal law matters. I think this will create a society where things are not quite right. Hon. members are here to try to create balanced bills that resolve problems without making them worse.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member.

Often when the Conservative Party tries to resolve one problem it creates others. In a way, that is what is going on with the bill before us today. The bills presented by the private members could have easily fixed the situation, but once again the government took advantage of an opportunity to interfere further in the details. Parliament as a whole, the committee and all the parties, have to rebalance this bill. The situation was not complicated: an individual and his employees arrested someone who was robbing his store. That individual was charged and he is the one who has to defend himself in court. People's perception is that criminals are better protected than victims. That would have been easy to fix, but the government has added all manner of detail and now we are also addressing self-defence. We are dealing with that because, once again, the Conservative government is going too far. Let us look at the details.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act March 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I must tell you that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill at second reading. The reason is quite simple: we very much want the bill to be referred to committee so it can be studied. In fact, as is their custom, the Conservatives introduce bills with titles that are sometimes misleading. In addition, we are familiar with their Republican-style approach, characterized by penalties, punishment and being tough on crime. Often, a simple bill goes beyond the issue it is supposed to resolve. That is what we are dealing with today.

The bill is called An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons). In reading the bill, we realize that it goes too far. As I was saying, it errs on the side of punishment, ideology and rigidity. There is no flexibility in the Conservative ideology, which makes it difficult to try to find new ways of dealing with new behaviours in society. The Conservatives always have the same reflex: the response has to be far-reaching, people must go to jail, and rehabilitation is not possible.

So, you will understand that with this bill, like many other bills related to justice and safety, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. When we take a closer look at these details, we see that the title of the bill before us does not necessarily reflect its content.

I would like to give examples of the Conservatives' lack of flexibility in their approach to crime, which focuses solely on punitive measures. There are many examples, one of which is Bill C-25 to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This bill was considered heresy in Quebec because we believe that it is more important to focus on prevention, particularly when it comes to adolescents. We should not imprison them and thereby send them to crime school because, when they get out of prison, they will have indeed become true criminals. In Quebec, we want to do the opposite; we want to rehabilitate these offenders and give them a second chance. If you look at the statistics, you will see that Quebec has had the most success in this area. This not only benefits society, but it also saves money because it means that we do not have to spend money on prisons, as the Conservative government is preparing to do by making major investments in correctional facilities.

These are examples of the lack of flexibility we have a hard time accepting because we do not have the same type of society. And you know that the Bloc members try to reflect the reality and the vision of Quebeckers as much as possible. But these visions that come from the rest of Canada, especially from the Conservative Party, in no way reflect Quebeckers' wishes in terms of justice.

It is the same story with the bill to amend the regulations for certain drugs. Pursuant to this bill, a teenager who is caught smoking a joint will be thrown in prison and will be tried in court, instead of being rehabilitated so he can become someone who contributes to society instead of spending his life behind bars, becoming someone who will, upon release, commit other crimes and make his situation worse, at which point he will be beyond help.

The Conservative government is not on the right track with its approach. It has missed the train entirely, and that is why the committee must examine this bill together.

Another example is the appointment of judges. The Minister of Justice now has the majority on the committee that selects judges. That is an odd way of controlling justice. But the judiciary is one of the basic pillars of a democracy, along with the executive and the legislative branches. As soon as a government goes to extremes to control the judiciary, as the Conservatives are doing, it is not surprising that these pillars would weaken and that our society would become dysfunctional. Therefore, it is important for us to delve into this bill and to examine it in detail.

We are looking out for the concerns of Quebeckers. We want a balanced approach, without too much repression, based on today's realities, because we are no longer working with 19th or 20th century laws. This is the 21st century. We need a new approach, which Quebeckers have managed to implement in their justice system. We cannot see ourselves in what the Conservative government is putting forward.

We must avoid the huge trap the Americans have fallen into. Proportionally speaking, seven times more prison sentences are handed down in the United States than in Quebec. We think we are on the right track. Imitating the Americans will not resolve matters here; on the contrary. The government wants to build more prisons. This will probably mean more guards in secure environments. This all costs money, and we are anxious to see those details. In fact, the opposition has requested documents in that regard and I would remind the government that it is running out of time to produce those documents, if it wants to avoid being found in contempt of Parliament.

The Bloc Québécois looked at some interesting points. Our parole system makes no sense. It makes no sense that Norbourg's Vincent Lacroix is out of prison in an open environment, when he ruined the lives of about 9,000 people and stole over $100 million. He should have served a full sentence for his crimes, instead of being released on parole. The proof that we are in touch with reality is that Quebeckers do not agree that Vincent Lacroix should be almost completely free at this time.

People also want us to do more to fight organized crime, which would be easy to do. We simply need to confiscate more assets. Anyone who accumulates goods or money fraudulently would have it confiscated and those assets and money would be placed in a fund used to pay for the fight against crime. These are excellent ideas. Unfortunately, the government refuses to listen to them.

We also need to eliminate the provision regarding the double credit that is given for time served before sentencing. At present, offenders can simply ask their lawyers to delay their cases, since every day they serve before sentencing will count as double. That is a problem. Unfortunately, once again, the government refuses to listen.

Let us now talk about citizen's arrest. There is a change here, and the devil is in the details. It must happen within a reasonable time, but what is a reasonable time? There must be reasonable grounds. It must not be feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest. The person wanting to make the arrest must feel that no other options are available because the police are not there. This is a very arbitrary provision and should be more precise in order for progress to be made.

We must also ensure that things do not get out of hand. We do not want to encourage vigilantes like the ones Charles Bronson played in the 1970s. If someone tries to make off with a pack of gum, the convenience store owner must not take out a gun and shoot him. Who will determine the amount of force needed? I may be told that these are mere details, but it is important to consider them.

It is the same for self-defence. Necessity is no longer a requirement for using force when it comes to self-defence. It used to have to be proven that force was necessary. At present, someone could threaten my friends or family and I, in self-defence, could seriously harm them. These things need to be examined. And that is why the Bloc Québécois wants this bill to be passed at second reading. The incident in Toronto cannot be ignored. Citizen's arrests can take place as long as certain rules are followed, and these rules need to be established and studied in committee.

We will support Bill C-60 at second reading so that it can be studied in more detail in committee and so that we can chase the devil out of the details.

Canadian Jewish Congress March 10th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, in March 1919, over 200 delegates elected by some 25,000 Jews met in Montreal, at the Monument-National, headquarters for the St-Jean-Baptiste Society of Quebec, to participate in the first assembly of the Jewish community in Canada.

This great democratic assembly led to the creation of the Canadian Jewish Congress, an organization that has played an important role in the fight for equality, civil rights, human rights and immigration policy reform in this country. The congress remains an important mouthpiece for the Jewish community, on both the national and international levels.

The goal of the Jewish Congress is to protect and improve the lives of Jews in Quebec, Canada and abroad. As part of its mandate, the organization helps develop an environment of mutual respect that fosters interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue. I should point out that in 2009, the Canadian Jewish Congress changed its name in Quebec to become the Quebec Jewish Congress.

Long live both of these organizations.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I repeat that the searches and accusations were focused on the Conservative Party and not at the other parties. I do not want the Conservatives to say that we did the same thing. Had that been the case, they would have formally complained long ago, but they did not. They knew that it was done legally on this side of the House and illegally on the other side.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2011

Madam Speaker, my colleague has focused on some points I touched upon in my comments. It is true it was extremely difficult to find a compromise with the government on the issue of Afghan prisoners. I want to congratulate my colleague who sits on the committee. The Bloc Québécois signed the agreement but is now thinking that if the government does not deal with this matter before April 15, it is going to withdraw from the agreement. That would be perfectly normal. We have been waiting for these documents for eight months. What is happening? I cannot ask any questions of my colleague who, as everyone knows, cannot say anything about this matter. Perhaps I could ask the judges why there is no progress. I know the committee is working diligently and I trust my colleagues. This is another example of the secrecy and the lack of transparency of this government.