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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was know.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Conservative MP for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. He and I have served on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for several years,. Like me, he is a lawyer, and we each bring our contributions to the table, his from New Brunswick and mine from Quebec. We make up a good group, one that is careful to satisfy all Canadians. When we present bills, we have the perspective of Canada as a whole.

I will now answer his question. In fact, there have been complaints about the National Parole Board of Canada. Parole comes after the entire judicial process has been followed. We first have to let the judicial process take its course, that is, the eligibility periods that the judge imposes. The judge will have much more discretion. An individual who has killed 40 people will appear before a judge. There have been serious cases like that in several provinces of Canada. The judge will have to decide whether to impose 25 years plus 25 years, plus 10 years, depending on the case, which they could not do before. The judge knows that these are serious cases and they cannot be managed. Even if the inmates are put back “in circulation”, they could be just as dangerous as when they entered the detention centre.

Yes, there have been complaints, but we must not forget that the National Parole Board is always involved after the judicial system. We, the legislators, are the ones who make the decisions, through the Criminal Code. The board is involved only much later. We have to look at what comes ahead of the board before we look at what comes after it; we have to solve the problem that arises at the beginning before solving the one that arises at the end. The board has been criticized in some cases, particularly by family members who have had to constantly go through parole applications by an individual sentenced for the murder of one of their family.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. We have been working together for a number of years and his question is highly relevant.

Our bill has no bearing on the parole board. The parole board only gets involved post-trial, after a conviction before a jury, which then makes recommendations for the judge's consideration. The judge has to justify, orally or in writing, the decision to impose, or not to impose, a period of ineligibility of a particular length, whether it be back-to-back periods of 25 years, or 25 years plus 10, or some other permutation. This will be at the judge's discretion. Judges will be given many more arbitrary powers than they previously had.

The difference is that the prisoner appears before the parole board. When the ineligibility period expires, the board must determine whether the prisoner is to be released or kept in detention. At that time, as in all cases, the parole board will have the individual's file on hand and will be able to see whether the prisoner has been well-behaved, has come to terms with his incarceration, and so on. There has been strong criticism over the fact that an individual handed a 25-year sentence is permitted to apply for parole every two years. Under the new system, an individual who has committed multiple murders will no longer be able to do that. The judge will be in a position to hand down a sentence of 25 years plus 25 years, which will mean 50, 35 or 45 years. The number of times victims will have to appear at a parole hearing will, as a result, be greatly reduced.

Victims are very glad to not have to start over each time, and have to revisit their child's, spouse's or grandparents' murder. That is painful, and we need to put ourselves in their shoes. This is an issue over which we have control.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question, which is quite relevant.

I would like to point out that, in cases involving multiple second degree murders rather than first degree murders, the judge will still be required to apply section 745.4 of the Criminal Code, which already exists. As I mentioned in my speech, the judge will be able to take into account the circumstances, the manner in which the second degree murders were committed, the identity of the victims and the social and moral reprobation or blameworthiness that could result. At that time, the judge will also be able to determine, as he or she does now, whether the ineligibility period should be 15 or 25 years rather than 10. Judges will have that authority. They will be given new discretion. No authority will be taken from them; on the contrary, they will be given additional discretion. In cases involving multiple second degree murders, judges will be able to determine whether the ineligibility period should be increased from 10 to 25 years. In addition, concurrent sentences will no longer be imposed; rather, sentences will now be consecutive.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, first of all, on this first day back in the House of Commons, I would like to thank all the voters and people in my riding who have kept me in the House of Commons for the past five years, through two elections.

I am honoured to have the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-48, the Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act.

The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code will authorize a judge, when an offender is convicted of more than one first or second degree murder or a combination of first and second degree murders and is sentenced to life in prison, to impose separate 25-year periods of parole ineligibility for the second and any subsequent murder. These additional 25-year periods would be consecutive to the period of parole ineligibility imposed for the first murder.

In exercising this authority, sentencing judges will have regard to already-existing Criminal Code criteria that will ensure that the proposed measures are applied to the most incorrigible offenders—those whose crimes are such that they would be unlikely to ever obtain parole.

Judges will also be required to give, either orally or in writing, reasons for the decision to impose or not to impose consecutive parole inadmissibility periods. This will benefit the families and loved ones of murder victims who have long complained that they are left in the dark as to why certain decisions are taken during the trial and sentencing process.

The measures proposed in Bill C-48 will accomplish three things. First, they will better reflect the tragedy of multiple murders by enabling a judge to acknowledge each and every life lost.

Under current law, multiple murderers serve life sentences and corresponding parole ineligibility periods for each murder concurrently. The result is that they serve only 25 years in custody before being eligible for parole, no matter how many lives they may have taken.

Many Canadians are dismayed by this. They cannot understand why a sentence for murder is unable to take account in a concrete way of the fact that more than one life has been taken. Many argue that the law as it now stands seems to give a “volume discount” to multiple murderers.

This symbolic devaluation of the lives of victims has a strong negative impact on the families and loved ones of murder victims. All too often they experience a greater degree of pain and experience a greater sense of loss because the justice system has failed to mete out a specific punishment for each and every life lost. Bill C-48 would help correct this.

The second thing that Bill C-48 would do is reinforce the denunciatory and retributive functions of the parole ineligibility period attached to a sentence of life imprisonment.

Murder is the most serious crime and must be denounced in the strongest terms. This has already been recognized by the highest court of the land. In the 1987 Vaillancourt case, the Supreme Court highlighted the extreme stigma attached to murder that flows from the moral blameworthiness of deliberately taking the life of another person.

This moral blameworthiness justifies the appropriately severe penalty that murder attracts: life imprisonment accompanied by a period of parole ineligibility of up to 25 years.

Many would ask whether it is appropriate that the penalty for taking more than one life is the same as the penalty for taking one life. That is a good question. I would note, in response, that a life sentence is, indeed, for life. An offender cannot be sentenced to more than one life sentence.

Bill C-48 is based on the proposition that killing more than one person reflects a higher degree of moral blameworthiness and ought to allow the imposition of additional periods of parole ineligibility.

Bill C-48 would ensure that the judge who presides over the conviction of a multiple murderer and who is therefore in the best position to assess that person’s degree of moral blameworthiness remains the one authorized to decide whether that more severe penalty ought to be imposed.

As I mentioned earlier, that decision would be based on the existing criteria in section 754.4 of the Criminal Code. Judges already use these criteria to decide how long a second degree murderer ought to serve in custody before being able to apply for parole.

I will elaborate on that last point which, I must point out, has already been discussed in previous debates.

As hon. members may recall, the punishment for first and second degree murder is life imprisonment accompanied by a period of ineligibility for parole determined according to section 745 of the Criminal Code.

For first degree murderers as well as for any second degree murderer who has killed before, that period is 25 years from the time of being brought into custody.

For all other second degree murderers, that period is 10 years, unless the judge uses the authority bestowed by section 745.4 to set a period of ineligibility for parole up to 25 years.

Such a decision will be based on “the character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission and the recommendation, if any, made [by a jury]”.

In summary, Canadian law already sets out a sliding scale of parole ineligibility to account for particularly incorrigible offenders or particularly egregious crimes.

As for the application of these criteria, the courts have stated over and over again that the most important factor to consider in deciding whether to extend the parole ineligibility period of a second degree murderer is the protection of society.

Bill C-48 proposes to use exactly the same criteria for the imposition of consecutive periods of parole ineligibility on multiple murderers—again, multiple murderers. I am convinced that the same principles will apply, and that judges will therefore look to the protection of society in making their decisions.

This leads me naturally to the third thing that Bill C-48 will do, namely, to enhance the protection of society by permitting judges to keep the most incorrigible multiple murderers in custody for longer periods of time that better correspond to their crimes, which is only normal.

Bill C-48 would ensure that our communities are safe and that offenders convicted of multiple murders, who should never be released, will never be released.

In this vein, the proposed amendments would also protect the families and loved ones of multiple murder victims, who are forced to listen all over again to the details of these horrible crimes at parole hearings held after the maximum parole ineligibility period possible under the current act expires.

If Bill C-48 is passed, it will not affect the rights of those multiple murderers currently on parole nor will it usurp the role of the National Parole Board.

Bill C-48 will not prevent convicted multiple murderers now serving life sentences from seeking parole when their parole ineligibility periods expire, nor will it call into question National Parole Board decisions to release those who meet the criteria for parole.

Bill C-48 will only apply to those who commit more than one murder after the legislation comes into force.

In short, Bill C-48 is neither retroactive nor retributive. It represents the reaffirmation of our government's commitment to respond to Canadians' concerns about strengthening the justice system by ensuring that the most serious offenders do the most serious time.

Bill C-48 was studied thoroughly by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which saw fit to make one amendment.

This amendment would require a judge to give oral or written reasons in the event he or she decides to impose consecutive periods of parole ineligibility on a convicted multiple murderer. The bill, as originally drafted, called for reasons only if the judge declined to do so.

Our government believes this amendment is unnecessary and could even have unintended consequences. In fact, our government's original objective for requiring a judge to give reasons for not imposing consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for a multiple murderer was to ensure that victims would be informed of the reasons for not doing so.

As I have already explained, the amendment proposed by the Liberal critic would compel judges to explain their reasons for imposing consecutive periods of parole ineligibility on an offender convicted of multiple murderers. In other words and to put it simply, this amendment would mean that murderers will be told the judge's reasons. The ultimate aim of our bill was to restore the balance between victims' rights and offenders' rights, a balance that had been lacking for some time. I believe that the consequences of this amendment work against our objective.

The Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights tried unsuccessfully to reverse the amendment, which was supported by all opposition members. Although we oppose that change, I believe that the need for this bill is more important than the political games that the opposition members are playing. For that reason, and so as not to slow the progress of this bill, our government supports the current version of Bill C-48.

I would like to ask all members of the House to help me achieve these objectives by supporting this bill.

Justice December 14th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, our government urged the Liberal-led coalition to stop blocking a bill to eliminate pardons for serious crimes. In the meantime, criminals who sexually assault children remain eligible for a pardon.

Now the opposition has found a new tactic—not voting for a bill because it apparently does not like the title. Is the title of the bill more important than the victims? We can see where the opposition's priorities really lie.

This week, we will convene a special session of the committee to force a vote. The date will coincide with the bill's anniversary: it is six months to the day since the bill was sent to committee.

The Canadian public can rest assured. Our Conservative government will be doing everything in its power to adopt this bill and make our streets and our communities safer.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act December 14th, 2010

Madam Speaker, that is not a very long time.

In summary, in the Criminal Code, we have what we call the fraud provisions, which have been in place since 1872. Now, we have set out a different way of doing things. From now on, when faced with a fraudulent scheme designed to steal pensions from poor people, we will have specific provisions under which minimum sentences can be imposed. This will send a clear message that stealing from our retirees will not be tolerated.

In Quebec, 9,800 retirees lost money because of an individual named Vincent Lacroix, who was sold a company by my own government's Caisse de dépôt et placement. It is unbelievable.

The purpose of our bill is to prevent these people from doing what they are currently doing and to put them in prison for good. The bill also proposes ways to provide restitution for victims because it is difficult for them.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act December 14th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, who is also a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

He asked a two-part question. He mentioned cases in his province of Ontario. I would point out to him that in Quebec, we have had our own share of problems. We had the Norbourg and Earl Jones cases. In the Norbourg case, people had, or seemed to have, documents allowing them to sell certain products, but 9,800 people were nonetheless defrauded by a man by the name of Vincent Lacroix. As far as Earl Jones is concerned, he apparently was not licensed to sell a host of products involved in a Ponzi scheme in which he made off with about $150 million.

The problem is that criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated, so in addition to needing financial resources, we also need intellectual resources. In future, some lawyers might also have to be forensic accountants in order to understand the dynamics of these crimes. Fraud is so sophisticated that it can take some time to understand the entire system that was set up. In the Vincent Lacroix case, Caisse de dépôt et placement sold the products to a company called Norbourg, and the government itself issued all the licences. Nevertheless, 9,800 people were defrauded out of $115 million or $150 million.

We need resources, but we also need to invest in law schools in order to provide lawyers with training in forensic accounting to help them understand the system and how fraudsters operate.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act December 14th, 2010

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is talking about two very extraordinary things. I have been a lawyer for exactly 37 years and I still work in the courts when I am not acting as a parliamentary secretary. I therefore know that all the courts across Canada, no matter what the province, have been overtaxed for 37 years. Is this because of a lack of resources? Is it because the Criminal Code is different? We could ask ourselves plenty of questions, but this problem is not new. We have had problems in the Quebec City district for 37 years. Over the years, the cases accumulate and nothing works. In certain instances, the victims and the offenders have to wait for their cases to be heard by the court.

With regard to the hon. member's second question, the committee, in its wisdom, decided upon this amendment when examining the issue of restitution orders. The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights works exactly the same way as the House does. The opposition is in the majority while the government is in the minority. Committee members came to an agreement that judges should write restitution orders. I would like to reread an excerpt from my speech so that it is clear.

However, in the version amended by the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that we currently have before us, Bill C-21 now only—this word is important—requires a judge to provide reasons for not ordering restitution where the victim has made an application for it. While this may seem logical and inconsequential, it does somewhat diminish the bill’s goal of ensuring that restitution is always considered in fraud cases, even in the rare situation where a victim does not seek restitution.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act December 14th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate at third reading of Bill C-21. The provisions of this bill would amend the Criminal Code to strengthen sentences in cases of fraud.

In our entire legislative arsenal to combat white collar crime, the charge of fraud is the most important weapon. It criminalizes a wide range of acts of deception. That said, there are two very general elements that characterize fraud, and the general nature of these elements is what makes the charge of fraud the most effective tool to combat white collar crimes.

The first element is deception or some other form of dishonest conduct, which can exist in all kinds of situations and take on many different forms. The second element is a financial loss, which includes not only the actual loss of money or other valuables, but also the risk of such a loss.

The combination of these two elements constitutes a case of fraud. Essentially, fraud exists when someone uses deception to get another person to hand over their money. Theft involves taking someone's property without permission, while fraud exists when a thief is cunning or smooth enough to convince the victim to voluntarily hand over their property. This deception exacerbates the financial loss since the victims feel ashamed and humiliated because they feel as though they contributed to their own misfortune.

The broad and flexible definition of fraud can also apply to securities fraud, such as accounting fraud based on overestimating the value of securities to shareholders and investors, incorrect declarations regarding a company's financial situation and Ponzi schemes, which we have seen recently in Canada and the United States.

Fraud charges are also an effective tool to combat other types of fraud dealing with mass marketing, mortgages, property titles, home renovation, health care and other types of insurance, and also taxes, not to mention the scams recently found on the Internet, for example, on eBay, where an article for sale is never sent to the purchaser even after it has been paid for.

The various measures contained in Bill C-21 for determining sentences for fraudsters aim to ensure that the crimes they commit are taken seriously. Currently, the maximum prison sentence for fraud is 14 years. This is the second highest maximum penalty in the Criminal Code, after life imprisonment. In that sense, it is a satisfactory maximum. However, it is possible to do more so that sentences correspond better to the devastating effects that fraud can have on its victims.

To begin, Bill C-21 establishes a mandatory minimum sentence for fraud over $1 million. Currently, the value of the fraud is considered to be an aggravating factor, which means that the sentence should be increased according to existing maximum sentences. As a result of Bill C-21, this aggravating factor will automatically lead—yes, automatically—to a mandatory sentence of at least two years. Whether it was a single fraud or a series of them, only a complex, well-orchestrated and well-executed scheme results in more than $1 million in losses, and it has likely included other types of crime, such as falsifying documents.

Fraud resulting in such significant losses must be considered a serious crime. The proposed two-year mandatory sentence is simply a starting point—yes, a starting point—that allows for the appropriate sentence to be determined. In fact, sentences for major fraud will also take into account all the other objectionable aspects of the offence, many of which are considered to be aggravating circumstances under section 380.1 of the Criminal Code.

Bill C-21 would add these new aggravating circumstances: the magnitude, complexity, duration or degree of planning of the fraud committed was significant; the fact that the offence had a significant impact on the victims, given their personal circumstances; the fact that the offender did not comply with rules or licensing requirements; and the fact that the offender concealed or destroyed relevant records.

In addition to the aggravating circumstances already set out under section 380.1 of the Criminal Code and the general circumstances set out in section 718.2, sentencing courts will take these new aggravating circumstances into consideration in order to determine a sentence that reflects the specific facts of each case.

Bill C-21 would also create a new prohibition order to prevent individuals convicted of fraud from reoffending. Specifically, it would allow the courts, when sentencing an offender convicted of fraud, to prohibit him from having authority over the real property, money or valuable security of others. That makes good sense.

The court would set what it considers an appropriate prohibition period. It would be an offence to violate such an order. The Criminal Code already provides for a prohibition order to prevent recidivism among individuals convicted of designated sexual offences involving children and child abduction offences. The proposed new prohibition order would offer the same protection, and the judge would have discretionary authority to make such an order. The judge would not make the order before the prosecution and the defence had the opportunity to comment on the impact such an order could have on the offender's ability to earn a living and other relevant considerations. In addition, the offender or the Crown could ask the court to vary the order.

Bill C-21 would also improve how the justice system meets the needs of fraud victims, with provisions on restitution and community impact statements.

At present, under the Criminal Code, the judge can order an offender to compensate victims when the situation warrants in order to offset losses, especially financial ones, suffered as a result of the crime. Bill C-21 goes further by requiring that the judge consider making a restitution order whenever an offender is convicted of fraud. Moreover, the judge would have to ask the Crown whether reasonable steps had been taken to provide the victims with an opportunity to indicate whether they are seeking restitution. The purpose of this measure is to avoid situations where the sentence is handed down before the victims have a chance to indicate that they would like restitution from the offender and to set the amount of their losses.

If the judge were to decide not to make a restitution order, he would have to give reasons for his decision. This should prevent the court from inadvertently disregarding the issue of restitution. What is more, the victims would be able to understand why the judge decided not to order restitution, where applicable.

In its original version, Bill C-21 required that the judge give reasons for his decision every time he decided not to make a restitution order.

For instance, if the victim has not made a request for restitution, the judge could simply indicate that reason in his or her justification. However, in the version amended by the House of Commons' Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that we currently have before us, Bill C-21 now only requires a judge to provide reasons for not ordering restitution where the victim has made an application for it. While this may seem logical and inconsequential, it does somewhat diminish the bill’s goal of ensuring that restitution is always considered in fraud cases, even in the rare situation where a victim does not seek restitution, but when restitution could and should be ordered by the judge. However, in order to get this bill passed, we are pleased that the provisions pertaining to restitution can remain in effect despite this minor change.

Bill C-21 also urges judges to consider the impact that fraud can have, not only on individuals, but also on groups and the community. The Criminal Code currently requires courts, when sentencing an offender, to consider victim impact statements describing the harm done to or loss suffered by the victims. In some cases, the courts allow such statements to be submitted on behalf of a community. Bill C-21 would explicitly allow courts to consider a statement made on a community's behalf describing the harm done to or losses suffered by the community when imposing a sentence on an offender found guilty of fraud.

Bill C-21 is but one aspect of this government's wider initiative to improve the criminal justice system's response to major fraud cases. I therefore urge all members here today to support the expeditious passage of Bill C-21.

Business of Supply December 9th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question and one that has been troubling Quebec for about 28 years.

One of the parties, Quebec, did not in fact sign the Constitution. Nevertheless, for 28 years, in all the courts, lawyers representing either the government or private parties have been continually invoking the Constitution. Although the Constitution may not have been signed, these lawyers arguments' are indirectly linked to it. The Constitution is referred to on a daily basis before the provincial, superior and appeal courts, including the Supreme Court. Every day, the Constitution is invoked and, even though Quebec did not sign it, it is part of our daily life. No one has been harmed by the fact that Quebec has not signed the Constitution because we avail ourselves of it continually. We are making progress in this regard.

The Constitution contains what we refer to as the notwithstanding clause. Quebec, like any other province, has the right to use it and, naturally, has done so in the past. Although this is a thorn in our side, I would like to point out to the Bloc member that it was the Conservatives who signed the Meech Lake accord and it was the Liberals, under the direction of former Prime Minister Trudeau, who terminated it. Had this problem not occurred, Quebec would have already signed the Constitution with dignity. It is because of the Liberals that Quebec did not sign the agreement.