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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was victims.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Gatineau (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 27% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Life Means Life Act June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. It gives me an opportunity to make some remarks I did not have a chance to make earlier.

While I was studying the bill in order to make my recommendations to the official opposition caucus, I had a letter from the Canadian Prison Law Association. These people wrote to me in March 2015. They thought the bill was on the fast track. That was the impression the government was giving. In the end, though, the Conservatives were asleep at the switch until nearly the last day of the parliamentary session.

The association recommended that I go talk to people who had worked in the prison system, the justice system, including the American justice system, and people from the other countries the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice is so fond of mentioning.

A distinction must be made, because their system is not exactly the same as ours. They do not necessarily have our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I know that some Conservatives would rather the charter not exist, but it does. As long as the Conservatives do not use the notwithstanding clause, they can try every trick in the book to undermine the charter, but the Supreme Court will always have to remind them that we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because that is the role of the court. The Conservatives must therefore ensure that the bills they introduce are in line with the charter and the Constitution.

We need to be careful with comparisons before making such unequivocal statements, as the parliamentary secretary does, in light of the fact that others do not have the same laws as us.

Life Means Life Act June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I did not speak at length about the bill’s constitutionality, because it will not go any further than the speeches that will be given in the House for a couple of hours. Thank God that this bill will not be passed as written. Otherwise, it is clear that, constitutionally speaking, the issue of cruel and unusual punishment under section 12 of the charter would have certainly been brought up during the first trial where sentencing would have fallen under Bill C-53.

I also did not have the opportunity to talk about the fact that one of the officials—I think it was Commissioner Head—told us in committee that this kind of case comes up perhaps no more than five or six times a year. Again, he does not include in his statistics the possibility that there were agreements between the Crown and the defence to avoid the impact and application of Bill C-53. Would we even see cases prosecuted on that basis? We need to remember the real question with respect to constitutionality.

It would be whether leaving prisoners without hope of release at least by a neutral decision-making body would meet Canadian standards of human treatment.

Again it comes back to leaving the matter in the hands of the public safety minister. I believe that the government would have preferred to not even include the 35-year provision. Let us remember the title of the bill.

Life means life, except if the minister thinks this or that, so on and so forth. The Conservatives just give themselves a little hope that the court will say it is constitutionally sound. There are so many ways to minimize this. I have always said that the families should go before the commission only and solely if the commission intends to release the criminal who has committed this type of crime. If they have, for some weird reason that I cannot foresee because I have not seen any case of the kind, then we remove the trauma because they will never even be asked to go. As the commission said to us, it knows those guys will not go out. Why bother bringing the victims to relive the trauma? That is all they have to do.

Life Means Life Act June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, first, when one votes against something, one is looking at the ensemble of the legislation. The member makes it look like this was a little piece, but, no, there were many dispositions in the bill. Every expert who testified made a point of saying that it would not do what it was supposed to, and that there were other ways to correct this.

What would I say to a victim?

I am not surprised that the parliamentary secretary still is unable to mention one person based on those crimes who is either in jail or out on the street. Where are these people actually walking down our streets? There is zero. There are none. That is my point.

If somebody lost a child because of that evil person, then, as I said, justice will follow its course. This person will be prosecuted to the fullest weight of the law. Usually people depend on that, and that is where they defer with us.

I trust the system. I trust the court. I trust the jury system, even in some of these cases, to do exactly what we expect of those people. I expect the system, once the sentence is imposed, to do what it is supposed to do.

However, if the point in the House is to say that people will stay in jail, all of them, for the rest of their lives with no rehabilitation, I would ask the parliamentary secretary if he remembers what Mr. Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, said about the danger of that. Those people will have no hope in hell to improve.

Therefore, we have to be a bit more thorough than to just throw that type of garbage out, like the member did, just to try to imply things that do not happen.

Life Means Life Act June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I think this will really be my last speech in the 41st Parliament. I thought my speech this morning would be the last one but, finally, this one will be.

Like everyone else, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the employees of the House. I am referring to the clerks, the pages, the security staff, the lobby service, the bus drivers, who enable us to be at the right place at the right time, and the cafeteria staff who allow us to eat so we do not wilt here in the House.

In my case, as I am starting to be known for what I call intelligent improvisation in my speeches, I have enormous respect for the interpreters, who have the thankless task of interpreting my words, even though they have absolutely no text in front of them. I congratulate them, because I also know that I am not someone who always speaks slowly. I have the greatest respect for them, and I thank them for what they do.

I would also like to thank the people at Hansard. Immediately after I have finished speaking, I receive the texts from them, and sometimes I find that they can convey my ideas even better than I express them myself. When I read over my speeches, I find that I have been really eloquent, but I know that I did not use those exact words. I thank them for improving the quality of my speeches. I appreciate it, and all the French speakers in Canada appreciate it, too.

I would like to thank my team, which does an extraordinary job: Roxane, Shirley, Aline, Alex, Yan and Elise. This year things have been really wild on the team for the member for Gatineau and official opposition justice critic, considering the number of bills we have had to handle and recommend, as the parliamentary secretary said. I received help from the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, whom I would also like to thank.

This brings me to thank my leader, the leader of the official opposition and member for Outremont, who gave me his confidence to do this job, which has not been an easy ride.

Most of all, I thank my constituents in Gatineau. In 2011, they elected me with a real, strong and stable majority, the largest in Quebec. I am pleased to say that, because people who know me know that I have been in other elections with much closer results. Thus, to finish first in Quebec with 63% of the votes is what I call a strong and stable majority. We will try to do the same in 2015, in the next phase. I thank the people of Gatineau from the bottom of my heart; they have stood beside me in all I have done for the past four years, being active and sharing their comments with me.

When I was voting and some people asked me what that meant, I told them I was voting with my heart. I have never voted except out of a sense of conviction, listening to my heart and thinking of the people of Gatineau. That is why I have watched them. They are the people I think about every time. I may have missed one vote on an evening when we voted all night, but 99% of the time, I voted, thinking only of the people of Gatineau.

Now let me turn to Bill C-53.

The Ottawa criminal lawyer, Leo Russomano, said:

Let’s just call it what it is, it’s just an election year bill that makes no effort whatsoever to actually respond to a problem. This is a solution in search of a problem...

The fact of the matter is they are life sentences. Whether a person is released on parole or not, they are under sentence for the rest of their lives. It’s sowing the seeds of mistrust with the administration of justice.

Other people told us that the parliamentary secretary also talked to them about Clifford Olson.

—the worst murderers--serial killers like Clifford Olsen--already die behind bars. She predicts others who face no chance to serve the rest of their “life sentence” under strict conditions with supervision in the community will become angry and desperate, a danger to themselves or others.

I will have more to say on that point.

Bill C-53 targets tougher sentences for those guilty of high treason.

The parliamentary secretary did say that.

The last offender convicted in Canada was Louis Riel.

Eventually, people have to stop laughing at other people. The offences listed in the bill are horrible crimes. No one in the House, wherever they sit, will applaud them or feel any compassion at all. Our sympathy is definitively with the victims.

The things I have deplored about the Conservatives since they took office in 2006 are things I am passionate about. I have been a lawyer for a long time. Justice, particularly social justice, but really all justice with a capital J, is what stirs me and commands my interest. That is one reason I decided to get into politics. The Conservatives speak about the number of bills they have introduced, but quantity is never the same as quality. It is all very well to have 150 bills, but if those 150 bills—some of them now acts—are meaningless or will one day be tested in court and overthrown, there is a problem somewhere. That is not really the issue because sometimes we have differences of opinion. In those cases, I can respect the issue being debated.

Nevertheless, it is extremely arrogant, at the end of a mandate, to make surprise substitutions of bills, as the government did last night, in order to put this one on the order paper, to at least give the impression it is being discussed, even though the Conservatives have promised it and given press conferences about it for a long time. Not everyone may have seen it, but one national English-language media outlet said that, despite all the emphasis by the Conservatives on Bill C-53, there had not been even one hour of debate about it. What a surprise; after that article appeared, here is the hour of debate. I hope everyone who is watching knows, as you and I know Mr. Speaker, that what we are doing here and now is just saying some words. Those words signify absolutely nothing.

The parliamentary secretary talked about it; in committee we examined Bill C-587, which proposed possible parole, to be determined by the Parole Board of Canada, of up to 40 years for the same kind of crime as seen in Bill C-53. I asked questions during the committee's study of the bill. Even the Conservative member who introduced the bill asked to suspend our consideration for some time because there appeared to be a serious conflict with the more showy introduction of Bill C-53. I have often said one thing to the Conservatives and I am going to repeat it, although it is sad that these will be my last words in this Parliament: I think the Conservatives have unfortunately exploited victims to express outrageous principles, concepts or phrases at huge media events that really, in the end, are destined to disappoint. They will disappoint the victims because, as I said when we were debating the victims bill of rights, they are nothing but beautiful intentions and hollow promises. The official opposition, on the other hand, has suggested amendments to these rights and has insisted that the right to information is essential, but these amendments were defeated by the Conservatives.

I am not bitter, because I am a positive kind of girl. I fit right in to the NDP where we are optimistic and positive. Thus, I still have hope that this is not over and that one day we will be able to repair much of the damage that this government has done to the justice system.

That brings me to my main point about what I have lived through in the past two years, very personally, as the official opposition justice critic. That is the fact that, in all its bills, the government, with its outrageous short titles, is harming the concept of justice and giving the impression that the system acts poorly for most ordinary people in Canada, the ones who are watching us and who are interested in the issue. The government is giving people the impression that the system is broken because the Parole Board of Canada is not doing its job, because judges are too soft, because the opposition is pro-terrorist, and so on and so forth.

We are talking about justice, and we fundamentally believe in justice. We can mention the Olson case. He never got out of prison and he died there, or we can mention Bernardo, another case relevant to this discussion, someone who will never get out of prison. We can talk about the fact that families are forced to periodically go before the Parole Board of Canada. Bills have been introduced to ensure that hearings are not held before a certain period of time has passed so that families are not forced to attend them so often. There are even simpler solutions. When simple solutions are presented for an existing problem that everyone recognizes, it is not as exciting as holding a big press conference in front of a bunch of flags and saying shocking things that should never come out of the mouths of people who are supposed to be leaders in our society.

When we considered Bill C-587 introduced by the Conservative member, I said that the Parole Board of Canada was already using other approaches in a number of cases. It is not true that people are constantly being called to come before the board. Why? Because the authorities already tend not to let the individual out. People are not bothered, but rather informed. It probably makes some people relive certain things. As I said to one of the victims who appeared one time before the committee, even if someone is put away for 60 years, this is something that will never be erased from one’s heart.

My younger sister died during this Parliament. Does anyone think I will forget her in 5, 10 or 15 years? Her death was not even the result of a crime. These are things we never forget.

We could make it easier for families and tell them these people are dangerous criminals who will never get out of jail. There are all kinds of tools that exist. In introducing Bill C-53, the government is trying to make people believe that it is solving a huge problem. As I said earlier, we can forget about the crime of high treason. There are not many cases like that of Louis Riel in Canada. We can move on to something else. In terms of the other crimes mentioned, like those of Bernardo and Olson, the government is unable to give the names of people who might be wandering the streets and who have committed crimes like those mentioned in Bill C-53. It does not have any names, because this does not happen. However, if the government says it and repeats it often enough, it will make people believe that this happens. It is frightening people.

I remember an interview that I did with a wonderful Quebec City radio station, which could not wait for me to arrive, because the interview was about the dangerous sex offender registry. They were waiting for me, saying they were going to be interviewing some softies from the NDP. Before putting me on the air, they recounted the case of a guy who was walking around as free as a bird in Quebec City. They were anxious to have the registry set up. I stopped them after half a second, saying I was surprised that they were talking about a registry to solve the problem of the person who was in their city, when the real question was why he was out on the street.

We need to stop mixing everything up and creating situations that make people believe things that do not exist.

In this Parliament, in this democratic institution, it is the duty of everyone, both on the government side and on the opposition side, not to mislead the House, to work to support our pillars of democracy and not to impede the executive, legislative and judicial pillars.

Unfortunately, this government has done nothing but cast doubt on the quality and transparency of our Supreme Court justices, including the chief justice. When a decision is handed down, they say the court is like this and like that, and so on. If we do not say the same things the government representatives do, we are pro-criminals and pro-terrorists. It is very sad.

We may not have the same agendas, but I think that all the members of the House want as few crimes as possible to be committed, to protect the safety of our fellow Canadians. Let us do so properly.

The Conservatives have no statistics. They have never been able to present the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with any statistics of any kind in support of the bills they put forward.

The minister introduced his bill on sexual predators, and yet he boasted that there have never been as many laws as the Conservative government has passed to make sentences even tougher. He presented us with an admission of failure by showing us that these offences had risen in the last two years, in spite of the tougher laws. There is a problem somewhere.

The real bottom line when it comes to crime and the justice system is that the Conservatives’ statements are not borne out by the statistics. The statistics show us that the number of crimes committed is going down. It is very possible that the numbers of certain types of crimes have risen, but let us focus on those problems instead of playing petty politics just to make a show for the media by parading victims about for their own purposes.

However, in numerous conversations I had with victims at various times during this Parliament, I was pleased to find that their eyes were increasingly open and they were starting to realize that they were puppets being manipulated by the government, and that makes me extremely sad.

I would like to talk about the provision that allows the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to act. Because it will not be the current minister, I will not even talk about the kind of expertise he has. Even if the most qualified person held the position of Minister of Public Safety, it would still be indecent. It is indecent to politicize the issue in a free and democratic society that is subject to a constitution, laws and a charter of rights. This is not how we do things.

Once again, this is a negative statement about the Parole Board of Canada, whose members are appointed by the government. There is a problem somewhere. Either they are good enough to do their job or they are not, and if not, then let us change things without delay.

However, let us not start giving this kind of power to a person who holds high political office and is going to wait to see what the person on the street has to say first. We know that we are all the same when a terrible crime is committed: we all have a tendency to want to do the worst. That is why an independent body that is capable of analyzing and examining the case is necessary.

Let us stop mixing apples and oranges and stop doing damage to the justice system as a whole. Let us repair it and fix the problems, but let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater, as if it were any old system at all.

The legal system, overall, serves Canadians well. Crown counsel, defence counsel, judges and all the other participants in the system are people who do what they have to do in circumstances that are not always easy, given government cutbacks.

This being the case, let us stop attacking the system from all sides and introducing bills that will not last beyond the end of the day or that may live to see another hour tomorrow.

It is absolutely insulting and indecent to introduce something that is as important as this, knowing full well that it will last no longer than the speeches that people are going to hear now.

Life Means Life Act June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask my colleague two short questions, because the importance he attaches to Bill C-53 and the moment chosen to introduce it appear to be rather contradictory.

If the government thought this bill was so important in terms of public safety and its commitments toward certain groups of Canadian citizens, and not just in terms of politics pure and simple, why did it wait until possibly one of the last days to begin debate on it?

I seem to recall that back in 2001 the member for Central Nova, who is now the Minister of Justice, warned against putting these kinds of operational decisions into the hands of politicians. I am referring to the public safety minister of the day 35 years from now and probably more who would have to review somebody's case. That is why the expert non-partisan Parole Board was created in the first place, to make sure decisions were based on public safety, not politics.

Why is the government now proposing to go back in time and do exactly what its own justice minister advised against?

Justice June 18th, 2015

It would be so easy. I hate to say I told him so, Mr. Speaker, but everyone warned the minister that these bills were unconstitutional. However, instead of focusing on keeping Canadians safe, the Conservatives ram through bad bill after bad bill, ignoring experts and refusing to work with the opposition to fix them. What do Canadians get in return? A bill for around $7 million in legal challenges.

Why did the Conservatives ignore the facts and left Canadians to pay the price?

Justice June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, ignorance is bliss.

For years, the Conservative government has been telling us that its bills pass the constitutional test at the Department of Justice. The minister does not appear to be doing his job, since the government has spent about $7 million of taxpayers' money on defending the constitutionality of 16 of its laws. Believe it or not, it has lost every single case.

How many millions of dollars do the Conservatives plan on spending to defend unconstitutional laws?

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, on the first point, the concept of retroactivity exists, and that is not really the question. The problem is that the government has always claimed that it was entitled to use incorporation by reference virtually every time, without there being specific authorization in a law. The Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations said that, on the contrary, specific authorization was required.

Clearly, in Bill S-2 and clause 18.7, the government is trying to say that it wants to end the argument between the two sides and make sure it is done this way. The problem is not the concept of incorporation by reference itself; it is when incorporation by reference is done across the board. At present it is done with the express authorization of Parliament under a specific law that has been examined here in the House. That is where the problem lies.

That is why we say they are not accessible at present. There are regulations that are permitted by reference under an enabling act at present. However, the public knows what those laws are. If they know, they will be able to go and look at them. If it is only a few laws, here and there, it is less complicated. However, we know what kind of an administrative mess there can be and how taxpayers have to do never-ending searches. In addition, when the government refuses to define “accessible” and “document”, there is a problem somewhere that suggests that the reason the government does not want to clarify is that it wants this legal vagueness, which will allow it to do certain things. Unfortunately, the government is guilty of playing hide and seek in recent years with mammoth bills in which it hides a few provisions here and there. That is not what a government that promises people transparency does. We want to put a halt to that and tell people to watch out.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sherbrooke for his question. We all know that there is a legal principle that applies to everyone equally, from the prime minister to a private citizen, which is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. In its broadest sense, the word “law” includes regulations and others.

When talking about incorporation by reference, certainly there are parts of the regulations that the public will not necessary be aware of. I wish to draw to the attention of the House that if anyone is interested in these kinds of issues, simply look back over the last 10 years of Conservative government to look at the bills and the amount of power given to the minister or someone to whom this power is to be delegated, with respect to regulations.

This means that very often, once the initial regulations are passed, the subsequent regulations by reference will be completely unknown. As my colleague from La Pointe-de-l’Île rightly pointed out, section 18.4 clearly states that there will be no requirement for it to be published in the Canada Gazette, which is currently the tool of choice for determining what exists in terms of regulations. This will mean having to conduct more research.

Clause 18.6 tells us that a person is not liable to be found guilty unless the material incorporated by reference was accessible. We tried to get clarification as to what exactly the word “accessible” meant. Is it written down somewhere? It is not clear. The fact that the Conservatives refused to amend this clause to clarify it for the benefit of Canadian taxpayers suggests to me that they prefer it to be vague. It is worrisome when things are vague, because that allows the government to play little shell games.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act June 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, no. The things I signed were to ask ministers to answer the questions that were asked. It was not to validate any type of retroactivity, but to maybe answer questions such as where they found the power to do so, where they found the right to do the so-called delegation.

Basically, in my short time as co-chair of that committee, we passed more time trying to convince directors of the departments to just answer plain questions than anything else, and if they were not complying, to have the minister do so.

I would say that it was while Senator Runciman and I were co-chairs that we began to be stricter with the departments about getting answers more quickly. Often, committees would set timeframes that allowed the departments to come back to us with completely useless answers. We would then send them another letter, and the cycle continued. We therefore began to be a bit stricter.

I do not know how things have been going since, but there is no doubt that the debate continued to rage between the joint committee and the various departmental representatives regarding whether incorporation by reference is allowed. This debate is still going on.