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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was veterans.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for West Nova (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Member for West Nova June 18th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, it is the honour of a lifetime to be a member of Parliament. Since I will not be running again in the next election, this will be my last time addressing the House.

I have so many people to thank for allowing me this incredible opportunity to serve Canada. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my amazing team here on the Hill, and back at home. I thank Melanie, Sjanna, Norma and Jason for a job very well done.

I thank the many Liberal Party volunteers and supporters in West Nova. I cannot begin to tell them how much their dedication has meant to me.

As we all know, none of us could do this job without the support of our family and friends, and to mine I say that I love them, I look forward to seeing them more often, and I hope the feeling is mutual.

Last but not least, I thank the kind and decent people of western Nova Scotia. I hope the contribution I have made on their behalf is worthy of them. It is a privilege to be their representative, one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Canada is good and just. As we continue on our journey, let us always have the wisdom to strive for an even better country.

Criminal Code June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, when we are talking about the category of offences, there are already many hybrid offences in the Criminal Code, including things that can be done in various circumstances, from the less serious up to the most serious. We are talking about offences such as sexual assault. That does not impact at all on the sentencing. They are still dealt with in the same way, with the same principles of sentencing, whether or not the Crown proceeds by indictment or summary conviction. The Crown attorneys use this every day. We trust them to make those decisions based on the circumstances of the offence and of the offender.

With respect to the terrorism-related offences and those advocating genocide, which initially were contemplated to possibly be hybridized, at committee, and after hearing from community groups and organizations that could be impacted by this, our committee advanced that those be taken out. They are distinct from the other types of offences that were being hybridized, because they constitute offences against a community. It was felt that it was extremely unlikely that they would ever proceed by way of summary indictment in any event, so they were removed.

Criminal Code June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, although I must reject the premise of the question, I can say a couple of things.

The member mentioned Bill C-45, and Bill C-46 being the companion piece, dealing with impaired driving. Earlier today, a Conservative member talked about MADD Canada. In fact, it supported Bill C-46 and the impaired driving regime that was put in place as a result of Bill C-45 coming into force. Giving police officers the tools they need to keep our roads safe was important. That is why MADD Canada supported this government's proposal in Bill C-46.

As it relates to other initiatives dealing with the criminal justice system, there is a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of those who suggest that, as I dealt with in my speech, giving the Crown more flexibility in determining which procedure to use somehow minimizes the impact of the penalties that would be imposed by the courts. That is simply not true. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of the criminal justice system. I invite my friend to read section 718 of the Criminal Code, which clearly identifies the principles of sentencing, based on the circumstances of the offence and of the offender.

Criminal Code June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate considering the Senate amendments to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Bill C-75 represents the government's legislative response to reduce delays, modernize the criminal justice system and facilitate the administration of justice by the provinces and territories.

The Senate proposed amendments to the bail, reclassification of offences, victim surcharge and preliminary inquiries provisions of the bill.

I would like to focus my remarks tonight on some of the amendments relating to the reclassification of offences, or hybridization as it is sometimes called.

The reclassification amendments are a key part of the legislative reforms identified by federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice to reduce delays in the criminal justice system. They would also modernize and streamline the scheme for classifying offences in the Criminal Code.

There are two types of offences in the Criminal Code, those that proceed by summary conviction or by indictment. Some offences can be either. Summary conviction offences deal with less serious conduct, for example, causing a disturbance or trespassing at night, for which the current maximum penalty is normally up to six months imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine. Indictable offences tend to be for more serious actions, for example, aggravated assault, robbery or murder for which maximum penalties range from two years to life imprisonment.

I failed to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Mount Royal.

A hybrid offence allows the Crown to choose whether to proceed by indictment or summary conviction, recognizing that the severity of the conduct covered by the offence can vary greatly depending on the circumstances, for example, uttering threats, assault, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

Bill C-75 would hybridize 118 straight indictable offences that currently would be punishable by maximum penalties of two, five and 10 years imprisonment. It would also amend the Criminal Code to increase the maximum penalty for most criminal offences with a summary conviction penalty to two years less a day. The maximum penalties are being increased for summary conviction offences. The bill would also increase the current limitation period for all summary conviction offences from six to 12 months.

Indictable offences are often heard in Superior Court and generally take longer to process because of their associated procedural requirements, such as jury trials and preliminary inquiries, which can significantly lengthen the time it takes to complete a case. The reason for the availability of more procedural safeguards for indictable offences is that they carry the risk of much lengthier periods of incarceration.

However, there continues to be many straight indictable offences for which, depending on the circumstances, sentences in the summary conviction range are often appropriate and are in fact being imposed.

Cases involving straight indictable offences where the Crown is seeking sentences in the summary conviction range add unnecessary strain to Superior Courts because though they end up with a summary range sentence, they have been eligible for and have used complicated and time consuming processes to get there.

When an offence is hybrid, the prosecutor can elect to have the case heard either by summary conviction or indictment, based on the severity of the case, the circumstances of the offender and the best resources that fit that case. For this reason, provinces and territories have asked for many more straight indictable offences to be hybridized.

More cases being heard in provincial court would leave Superior Courts with more resources to consider more serious cases, thus speeding up the processing times.

Also, other proposed reforms in Bill C-75, such as restricting the availability of preliminary inquiries to only the most serious offences, will offset any additional workload on provincial courts that might result.

These proposals are not about downloading to the provinces and territories, as some have suggested. They are about providing provinces and territories with the additional flexibility they have asked for so Crown attorneys can choose the process that best aligns with the facts and circumstances of each case.

Some have claimed that changing the classification of offences will change how seriously these crimes will be taken by the system. This is simply not true.

The best indicia of the seriousness of an offence is its maximum available penalty. The hybridization amendments would not change any of the maximum penalties on indictment.

It is already a feature of our criminal justice system that prosecutors assess the facts of the case and the circumstances of the offender to determine which type of sentence to seek from the court. They can already ask for fines and low or no jail time for most of the indictable offences that Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize. As I have already explained, they often avail themselves of summary range sentences.

I have full faith in our prosecutors to continue to seek appropriate sentences. At the end of the day, it will be the judge who decides. Nothing in Bill C-75 proposes to lower the sentences that would be imposed under the law as it is now. These reforms will not change the fundamental principles of sentencing outlined in section 718 of the Criminal Code, which requires proportionality.

The Senate made three types of amendments to address concerns about possible unintended consequences of the reclassification proposals. One of these further amended section 802.1, to also allow agent representation as authorized by the law of the province. However, this is problematic because we do not have any information about how this amendment would operate with existing provincial and territorial laws. As a result, I am not comfortable supporting this amendment.

I am satisfied that the amendment this chamber supported last December to address this issue gives the provinces and territories sufficient flexibility to quickly address any consequences of the reclassification scheme on agents.

I am pleased to be able to support the other two amendments that the Senate made to the reclassification provisions. These are technical and would amount to maintaining the status quo for the collection of DNA samples of convicted offenders and of fingerprints of accused persons. Discretionary DNA orders are currently available for Criminal Code offences with maximum penalties of five years or more when the Crown proceeds by indictment.

Police have expressed concerns that fewer DNA samples will be collected once the reclassification amendments of Bill C-75 come into force. Senate amendment 1 will maintain the availability of DNA orders for those five- and 10-year indictable offences that Bill C-75 proposes to hybridize.

A similar amendment was moved when the bill was before the justice committee, however, that proposal had been much broader and would have expanded the current availability of DNA orders. Senate amendments 11, 13 and 14 respond to police concerns that the hybridization in Bill C-75 will result in police being able to collect fewer fingerprints.

These amendments change the Identification of Criminals Act, to clarify that fingerprints can be taken for an accused who has been charged with a hybrid offence, even where the Crown has elected to proceed by summary conviction. As we can see, Bill C-75 includes many significant tools to reduce delays in the criminal justice system and to better equip its stakeholders and participants to meet the Jordan time frame.

I support the majority of the Senate amendments and I urge my colleagues to support the government's proposed approach to ensure that this much needed bill is passed before the summer recess.

Criminal Code June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to thank my friend from Victoria for his contributions to the justice committee and all of the work he does in the House. He ably advances arguments that make a lot of sense.

I want to put to him the issue of downloading to the provinces that he mentioned and was just asked a question on that a moment ago. He is right, there has been considerable discussion between the provinces and territories on this issue of hybridizing. In fact, the provinces and territories wanted this hybridization to come into effect. They have certainly had many conversations with the Minister of Justice and other stakeholders who consulted on this.

When we talk about downloading to the provincial courts and the fact that the vast majority of cases proceed through provincial courts, the reforms made in this bill with respect to the administration of justice offences, bail reform and other measures would help alleviate some of the clogging of the provincial courts so that we can deal with the matters on a more expeditious basis.

Criminal Code June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I respect my colleague opposite, but when I listen to the statements she has made, I cannot help but think that Rebel Media must be awfully proud of her comments in the House tonight. There is so much misinformation in the statements and allegations she has made against the government and its attempts to reconcile appropriately matters in our justice system that I cannot come to any other conclusion than it is from a misunderstanding of how the criminal justice system in Canada works.

For example, there are already many hybrid offences on the books, including sexual assault. It does not mean people will be getting off for a serious offence with a mere fine or an unreasonably lenient sentence. In fact, most of the offences, if not all of the ones she talked about and listed, already have a fine available as a possible sentence if it is preceded by indictment. It is sheer hogwash for her to talk about making the sentences more lenient.

In the circumstances she describes, those sentences would be unfit for those types of circumstances. Section 718 of the Criminal Code is exactly where we find the principles of sentencing based on the circumstances of the offence and the circumstances of the offender. Has my colleague actually read section 718 of the Criminal Code? I would like to hear her answer on that.

May 14th, 2019

Madam Chair, it seems clear to all the members who studied this bill that the high cost of divorce or separation has an impact on all middle-class Canadians. Furthermore, the dispute resolution processes used in court are outdated and ineffective.

Can the minister tell us more about what he is doing to make this process less painful for the middle class?

In addition, how do these efforts align with our other government priorities?

May 14th, 2019

Madam Chair, I am pleased to talk about Bill C-78, which will have a direct impact on Canadians.

Bill C-78 was introduced on May 22, 2018. I was proud to partake in the deliberations at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which reported on the bill, with amendments, on December 7, 2018. The bill received third reading in the House of Commons on February 2, 2019 and is currently with the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Bill C-78 is a key milestone in our government's ongoing efforts to improve the lives of Canadian families. To better reflect the current needs of Canadian families, Bill C-78 proposes to advance four key priorities: promoting the best interests of the child, addressing family violence, contributing to poverty reduction and making the family justice system more accessible and efficient.

We listened closely to various points of view expressed by members of the public, family justice professionals and witnesses in response to Bill C-78. During the study, committee members gathered a significant amount of information from over 50 witnesses and received more than 50 briefs representing a broad range of opinions and viewpoints. The committee reviewed the recommendations carefully, and many of them resulted in amendments to Bill C-78.

Bill C-78 takes a child-focused approach. In addition to including a non-exhaustive list of best interest criteria, the bill requires that when determining the best interests of the child, courts give primary consideration to the child's physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being.

The bill also replaces property-based terms, such as “custody” and “access” with terms that best describe the parents' responsibilities for their children.

Some groups have expressed concern about the continued presence of the Divorce Act's “maximum contact” principle. First, I must be clear that the new maximum parenting time principle is not a presumption in favour of any particular allocation of parenting time. It states that children should have as much time with each parent as is consistent with that child's best interests. In most cases, this will be significant time with each. In some cases, such as when there are safety concerns, it may mean very little time or no parenting time for a parent.

Following the committee study, the bill was amended so that the maximum parenting time principle would appear in the part of the Divorce Act that relates to the best interests of the child. The provision's new placement in the act will remind parents and the courts that the time allotted to each spouse must be consistent with the best interests of the child and with the primary consideration, which is the safety and well-being of the child.

Relocation, particularly moving with a child after separation or divorce, is one of the most highly litigated areas in family law. Bill C-78 proposes to introduce a relocation framework that promotes the child's best interests and encourages dispute resolution. Witnesses praised our government's introduction of the relocation provisions in particular.

Bill C-78 originally provided for the non-relocating parent to oppose a move by way of court application. This was to ensure that courts only became involved if there was a genuine disagreement between the parties. We heard from the Canadian Bar Association and the Family Law Association of Nunavut that having to respond through a court application was an unreasonable barrier to access to justice. This is particularly true for families living in the north, who may rely on the schedule of a circuit court.

Amendments to the bill would allow a second approach, the creation of forms that parents would use to give notice of and respond to a proposed relocation. If a non-relocating parent responds by form and the parties cannot come to a resolution, the parent seeking to relocate would have to bring a court application seeking authorization. Requiring that the notice be provided through a form would promote clarity by prompting parents to provide all necessary information in a consistent manner. Allowing for a form to respond to notice would relieve the burden on the non-relocating parent, while still helping to ensure that courts only hear cases in which there is a genuine disagreement between the parties.

The bill also sets out a broad evidence-based definition of family violence under the Divorce Act that will include any conduct that is violent or threatening, constitutes a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour, or causes a family member to fear for their safety or the safety of another person. The definition would apply to intimate partner violence and to other types of violence, such as violence against children. In the case of a child, it would also include direct or indirect exposure to such conduct. Bill C-78 makes it clear that courts will be required to consider family violence in determining the best interests of the child.

At the committee, we heard from witnesses who underscored that it can be dangerous for someone fleeing violence to notify other parties of their intent to seek an exemption from the notice of relocation requirements. In response to this concern, Bill C-78 was amended to explicitly provide that parties may apply to a court to waive or change relocation notice requirements without notice to the other party in those rare circumstances.

I want to talk for a minute about one of the objectives of the bill, which is poverty reduction. I note that our government has been focused on poverty reduction for all Canadians, including children, in this case through the Canada child benefit, which has removed 300,000 children from poverty situations, and also seniors, almost a million of whom have been lifted out of poverty by policies of the government that were voted against by the parties opposite.

Families going through separation or divorce are more vulnerable to experiencing poverty. Obtaining fair amounts of child support is a key factor in reducing the risk of child poverty. Bill C-78 includes amendments that will help ensure that financial support is based on accurate and up-to-date income information.

The bill will amend the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act to allow for the search and release of a parent's income information to courts to establish or vary family support. Parents, lawyers and courts have advocated such an amendment for many years, and we are finally getting it done under this bill.

To further help families receive fair child support amounts quickly, Bill C-78 will improve the Divorce Act's process for the establishment and recalculation of child support. The bill will allow provincial child support services, rather than courts, to establish initial child support amounts.

For several decades now, the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada and official language minority communities across the country have been calling for recognition of the right to use either official language in divorce proceedings.

A committee amendment to Bill C-78 will allow parties to file proceedings under the Divorce Act in the official language of their choice. Parties would be able to file proceedings under the Divorce Act, seek an order, be heard, testify and submit evidence in the official language of their choice. They would also have the right to be heard by a judge who speaks their official language, or both official languages in the case of a bilingual matter.

The bill also demonstrates our government's commitment to increasing access to justice and improving the efficiency of the family justice system. For example, the bill's increased focus on family dispute resolution processes will help divert people away from the courts, saving time and resources for cases that require judicial intervention.

Our government recognizes that family dispute resolution may not be appropriate for all families, as may be the case when there has been family violence or high levels of conflict. Bill C-78 was carefully drafted to promote the use of family dispute resolution only when appropriate.

I am thankful for the opportunity to highlight some of the most important proposals in this important bill, Bill C-78, which I believe would make a significant difference in the lives of Canadian families and children. I was pleased to be part of that process at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in making thoughtful amendments to the bill, which I hope will see a speedy passage through the other place and become law in Canada.

With that said, my first question for the minister is as follows. As I have discussed during my remarks, federal family laws in this country have not seen any amendment in over 20 years. This inaction does not reflect societal change. Thanks to data from the 2016 census, we now know that as many as two million Canadian children live in separated or divorced families.

Could the justice minister expand on how the justice department is promoting the best interests of children in a divorce with this legislation?

The Environment May 6th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, abandoned vessels, such as the ones grounded on the beach in Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia, pose environmental, economic and safety hazards. Similar situations are a cause for concern in coastal inlet water communities across Canada. Can the minister explain to my constituents and all Canadians the progress made by this Liberal government to address the issue of abandoned vessels?

International Day of La Francophonie March 20th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating the International Day of La Francophonie. This is an opportunity to remember that Canada's vibrant francophonie extends from coast to coast to coast.

In West Nova, most of the people living in and around Argyle and Clare are Acadian, and they communicate in French every day. They are proud of their language and culture.

I am privileged to serve them as their MP in a Liberal government that will always stand up for our official languages.

Conservative governments in Ontario and New Brunswick are attacking our francophone institutions, but our government is implementing a historic plan to invest in education, infrastructure, early childhood education, and other sectors that will ensure the vitality of our francophone communities.

I wish all francophones and francophiles a happy International Day of La Francophonie.