House of Commons photo

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

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by answering the first question about the process in committee and the amendment stage. My colleague also proposed an amendment that made sense to me. It seemed well-thought-out and logical given what we had heard. Once again, the government flat out said no. It is all very sad.

When NDP members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights make speeches, they do not get sheets of paper telling them to say this or that, unless a colleague wants to help out and has a great idea. We are rather autonomous. I imagine the same goes for my Liberal colleague. He is going to give his speech a little later. He will surely figure it out for himself.

To hear the Conservative backbenchers, we get the impression that they do not get much of a say. They seem to be run by some tiresome remote control. I thought that being a member of a committee meant doing this work for our colleagues in the House: coming back after report stage and reporting on what all of us, from all parties, heard and what we think.

On the matter of the circles program, unfortunately, the answer will be brief. It is sad because we had with us the Minister of Finance who holds the purse strings. If he really believes in Bill C-26, then he needs to allocate a bit more money.

Unfortunately, justice is the poor cousin. If we do not have social justice in the country, then that is pretty pathetic.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we are supporting Bill C-26, so I think that speaks volumes to those factors.

The Conservatives talk a lot about consecutive sentencing. The Minister of Finance talked about it also, but I would submit that in the same way the charter of victims rights has been conceived—with a lot of “could”, “might”, and so on—it would still be left to the discretion of the court. I believe that a crime should be punished according to what the crime is.

I have practised labour law my entire life. Thank goodness it is not about crime and it is not the same thing. However, when someone is fired or is brought before a disciplinary board, the same principle has always been applied, and this is the same societal principle that we apply to criminals: the person who commits a crime must pay. However, if their crime is stealing a chocolate bar from a corner store, they will not be put in prison for 10 years, as would the fellow who goes to a bank with a shotgun and waves it in the teller's face. It is all relative. That is how our system works.

The government talks a lot about consecutive sentences, but that is at the court's discretion. That suits the NDP. That is the principle to be retained. However, they should stop talking as if consecutive sentences were automatic because victims are being misled if they are led to believe that, as of now, all sentences will be consecutive. That is not true. There is the principle of totality, according to Mr. Gilhooly, who is a victim. Consecutive sentences will not work because of this principle. People have to stop spouting nonsense.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am tempted to begin my speech in the House on Bill C-26 by pointing out the latest attempt by the member for Langley to demonize the official opposition and the second opposition party.

Any time we examine a justice bill, whether it is Bill C-26 or any other justice bill, I look carefully at what the bill says. This bill is An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, to enact the High Risk Child Sex Offender Database Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I also receive a letter from the Minister of Justice explaining a little about the context of his bill—something I do not always appreciate, but often I do.

In the case of Bill C-26, the main objective is to deter criminals and denounce sexual offences against children. The next step is to examine the bill and see whether that is what the bill actually does.

When I hear the Conservatives say over and over again that we care more about offenders and criminals than we do about victims, I find that rather biased and I take offence to such comments, which add absolutely nothing to the debate.

Obviously we are talking about criminals when we are studying a bill like this. They are the main focus of the bill. Talking about them does not mean that we like them, or support them, or that we are behind them saying, “good job, do it again”, like a bunch of cheerleaders. Not at all.

However, if the government tells me that it is denouncing sexual offences against children in order to deter criminals, then I will look at the bill to see whether that is indeed what the government is doing.

It is rather sad that closure was invoked at second reading stage of such an extremely important and complex file, because we can see from the title of the bill alone that it affects a number of statutes at the same time. It introduces a specific database for offenders who are at risk of reoffending and committing more serious offences than the ones described in the current database.

As I was saying to the Minister of Finance, who was well informed but was perhaps not the person who worked directly on this file, the House has passed many laws regarding sexual offences against children.

In fact, we have to question why, by the Minister of Justice's own admission, there has been a 6% increase in offences in the past two years alone. That still bothers me somewhat because if one of the main objectives of the law is to deter criminals from committing crimes and to report sexual offences against children, there may well be some flaws. I do not want members to tell me that this did not exist before. Minimum sentences did exist.

Bill C-26 does not include any new minimum sentence or any new maximum sentence. All that happened was that the length of the sentences was increased. Both minimum and maximum sentences were increased. Perhaps these types of sentences did not work. In short, we could have done the analysis, but first there was closure in the House, then we went to committee.

I must confess that I was a bit wary in the beginning. We were under the impression that the members sitting on the government benches wanted to work very quickly and take shortcuts. Nevertheless, I admit that we were finally able to call the witnesses that we wanted to hear.

I am not quite so positive when it comes to the amendments. Only the government's amendments were accepted, which is always the case. I think that is unfortunate because one of our amendments was based on the very solid evidence given by a criminology expert.

She told us that the information the government wants to put in the new registry—or high risk sex offender database—that it wants to create and that is mentioned in clause 29 of Bill C-26 might be used to identify some victims. This government claims to be on the victims' side and tells us that we are the mean ones who always side with the criminals.

I presented a very simple amendment but the government decided it was too complicated and unnecessary because the notion was implied. When I studied law at the University of Ottawa I was taught that if it is clear, you spell it out. You write it and that is that. Leaving things open to interpretation is another story. All we were asking was that, “under no circumstances must the information referred to in subsection (1) be used to identify the victims”. The amendment was rejected.

This government likes to introduce all kinds of bills. Sometimes it seems as though it is lacking a plan or a person to make sure that the different bills do not contradict each other or that a bill, like Bill C-13 on cyberbullying, which amended a lot of other laws, is not affected in any way by Bill C-26. Sometimes I wonder whether the government is losing control and losing its way.

We presented a perfectly reasonable amendment, requesting that the minister of justice be required to prepare a report specifying the number of persons whose name has been added to the database and the information specified in paragraphs 5(f) and (g), which have to do with the type of offence. This information could have been interesting to look at with respect to each of these individuals. The amendment stipulated that the minister of justice would have to table the report to each house of Parliament within the first 15 sitting days after the report has been prepared.

Once again, this seems to me like a reasonable amendment. The Conservatives will probably give me the same answer. The answer that was given by the Department of Justice and the Conservatives is that it is a public registry—as if I did not know that. The word itself says it all. Since it is a public registry, it is up to me to find the information I need. Every year, I will have to go and check the registry to find the information. If the government was interested in promoting these things and ensuring that its bills work well, this is the type of work that would normally be done. They want to complicate our lives. That is fine. That is good. We will put that in our pipe and smoke it.

However, that being said, it would have been much simpler to do this the way we are proposing. It could also have been useful for the government, since it could have found some missing information right in this report. The government may well say that the 6% increase could be due to the fact that the minimum sentences were not yet harsh enough. On this side of the House, we think that the increase is more likely related to the fact that the government does not spend much and, even worse, it is making cuts to programs that are working really well and that have been successful. That is also what experts told us in committee.

As I said before on the radio and here in the House at second reading, it is all well and good to have a registry. We already have one. The person responsible for the registry at the RCMP came and told us in committee that the RCMP is already doing this. When a dangerous person moves into a community, the RCMP informs the people living there. The RCMP does not need the government to keep the public safe. The government created this registry saying that it would formalize what the RCMP is already doing.

I will digress for a moment. When we had the minister's press conference after the Prime Minister's presentation, everyone who talked about Bill C-26 made it sound as though it was the ultimate goal and that it would solve all of the world's problems. Finally, the Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP answered one of my questions and said that it would affect perhaps a dozen cases a year.

That brings us back to reality. The National Sex Offender Registry already exists for such offenders. The additional “high risk” aspect pertains to about a dozen people. One thing is clear, and I am surprised that the Conservative government has not paid more attention to it. In fact, instead of talking in glowing terms about this type of measure, it should instead be worried about the fact that these high risk offenders are in our communities. That worries me a lot. I sometimes feel that this government works a lot harder on paper, with words, because that goes hand in hand with its rhetoric that makes it appear to be tough and to be doing something. However, in reality, when we look at the resources available to the RCMP and police forces to conduct investigations, that is not the case. I shudder when I hear police services say that some types of crime will have to be ignored because combatting terrorism is now the priority. Perhaps the minister was right to specify the criteria for a sentence. Yes, there is rehabilitation, deterrence and all that, but one of the government's main purposes is to protect its citizens. Putting more eggs in one basket than in another is not necessarily good management.

There is nothing real there. As for minimum sentences—that is what the member opposite was talking about—I am of the same mind as a former Supreme Court justice who appeared before us and said, in the context of another justice-related file, that all minimum sentences are not necessarily unconstitutional. It is simply not a tool that should be overused. First of all, and this is very important, even the witnesses who appeared in committee, whether they were victims or people who work with organizations that support victims, told us that minimum sentences were not the issue. If, for the kind of offence and the seriousness of the crime committed, we were to impose the minimum sentences that the Conservatives proposed in Bill C-26, there is a problem somewhere. However, there could be a case that has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of stereotype we have of that kind of offence. Therein lies the problem. We heard it directly from legal experts. To say that we are against minimum sentences for this kind of offence does not mean we are defending criminals.

The fact is that, ultimately, the minimum sentence may not even be imposed by the court, because the court, as a general rule, will give more than that, and that is what we want. Look at the bill dealing with child kidnapping—it was clear from the case law that was brought before the committee that the average sentence exceeded the minimum sentence that the Conservatives wanted to impose.

Basically, this is mostly just smoke and mirrors; however, in some cases, it can lead to some strange outcomes. This is why there are constitutional challenges. With a constitutional challenge, all you need is one case that is flawed, that does not fit the minimum sentence formula, for the provision to be struck down; it will then be sent back here for us to do over again. That is one of the problems.

Obviously, the NDP supported Bill C-26 at second reading. We took our work seriously and sought the extra information we needed, even though the bill is far from perfect and is not necessarily the type of bill we would introduce. I think our analysis would be more thorough. Indeed, offenders need to be punished, but we must also ensure that the people who leave prison are not a danger to the public. Earlier, the Liberal member mentioned the circles of change program. In committee we learned that the program had a 70% to 80% success rate. Who would scoff at that? None other than the Conservative government, because it does not want to talk about that type of thing.

The government just wants to talk about things that create the impression that it is dealing with criminals. Of course, we are all against criminals.

When I return to my riding at the end of the day and talk to the people of Gatineau, because I like to connect with my community, I tell them I am proud of the work we did that week. In this case, we passed a victims bill of rights and we worked on a bill to deal with sexual predators. I would just like to add, for once in my life, that I am sure that this will be useful.

In any case, I can tell them I tried very hard in committee to have the government listen to reason, not to defend criminals, but to ensure that the bill will withstand the constitutional challenges that will test it in the coming years, that it is consistent with other bills, and that it achieves its objectives.

The government claims to be helping victims with the victims bill of rights, but they need real rights, as I said in my speech. The right to lodge a complaint cannot be hypothetical. The government brings in minimum penalties but it is cutting resources for police officers—the ones who catch criminals and bring them to justice. The justice system is crying for help, and we are in need of judges and crown prosecutors. How does this make any sense?

I weep for victims because they will never get the services they need. That will not change, even in one, two or three years. What is even sadder is that they will have been promised the world. It is even more disappointing when they are told that something will be fixed.

As for the registry, people from the RCMP have told us that they already have a hard time keeping criminal cases and criminal records up to date. The member for Langley presented a petition earlier regarding impaired driving. I agree that we still have a long way to go. When we hear in the papers that someone was convicted for the sixth time, we have to wonder how that can be possible. However, these situations happen because nothing is written in the records of these repeat offenders, even though everyone knows that they have been to court six times and that this is not their first conviction.

Civil and criminal justice need to be consistent. There needs to be some follow-up. The bill gives the governor in council the power to make regulations by establishing the criteria for determining whether a person who is found guilty of a sexual offence against a child poses a high risk of committing a crime of a sexual nature; and, in subclause (b), by prescribing anything that is to be prescribed by this act. This means that this legislation retains some harmful legal grey areas.

This is moving too fast even for the people at the Department of Justice. I asked them what impact Bill S-2 would have. People like me who follow justice issues know that this was the bill concerning statutory instruments and how to enact regulations. We all know that a law is one thing, but that three-quarters of the obligations are set out in the regulations.

When the government tells us that the Governor in Council, namely cabinet, will be establishing the criteria, that tells us who is going to be making the decisions and that we will not know exactly when and how those decisions will be made. I asked them whether Bill S-2 would apply since we are talking about delegation and regulation by reference. That means that we would not even have a separate list of criteria. The answer that I got from the expert at the Department of Justice was that he did not know and that he would check.

That means that the government is not making connections between its various bills. I got an answer today, just a few hours before I rose in the House for the debate, and I was told that, yes, Bill S-2 would apply.

There are ramifications, and I get the impression that we will be forced to revisit many of these bills. However, as it now stands, Bill C-26 is unfortunately a lot of talk, just like the Canadian victims bill of rights. As one of the victims, Mr. Gilhooly, so aptly stated, even if the bill were passed as it stands, it would not change what he experienced in any way.

Once again, the government is misleading victims by giving them the impression that it is tough on crime and imposing law and order, but in the end, the law will not be enforced.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Justice of the day, the Minister of Finance, for his speech on Bill C-26.

Since 2006, the Conservative government has taken multiple steps to protect children, including implementing through the Safe Streets and Communities Act new mandatory prison sentences for seven existing Criminal Code sexual offences, including assault, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault where the child is under 16 years of age; and making it illegal for anyone to provide sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence against that child; making it illegal to use computers or other means of telecommunications to agree with or make arrangements with another person to commit a sexual offence against a child; strengthening the sex offender registry; increasing the age of protection; putting in place legislation to make the reporting of child pornography by Internet service providers mandatory; and strengthening the sentencing and monitoring of dangerous offenders.

It all sounds good, but the Minister of Justice stated at committee that sexual offences against children had increased 6% over the past two years. Is Bill C-26 an admission of failure on the part of the government to really better protect children?

Justice February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice is also the Attorney General of Canada. It is his responsibility to assess whether bills introduced here, in Parliament, are legally valid. Experts are already questioning the constitutionality of certain aspects of Bill C-51.

Did the Minister of Justice do his homework and obtain a legal opinion on whether Bill C-51 is constitutional, and will he undertake to submit it to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which is responsible for studying the bill?

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will correct the hon. member. I do not oppose a study. What I would oppose strongly, though, would be a consultation of 12 months, or however many months, that was carried out solely by the government. That would be a big problem with me and our caucus. I think it is too big a question to be examined only by the government side.

That said, I understand the previous decisions and the previous facts that members of different parliaments had to decide on. We now face a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, which is the top court, and we are still a country governed by the rule of law. I used to say on all the panels on which I sat with my colleagues who kept saying, “Oh, no, it is the Rodriguez decision. It is Rodriguez. It has been decided”, that we must beware and that we might have to decide to reopen the issue because a decision from the Supreme Court might be different.

If everybody waited for this actual moment after February 6, they would already be too late. They should have started.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as MPs, we have an extremely important role to play in this because we are the people's representatives.

Each one of the 308 members of this House represents a percentage of the population, and must therefore take the pulse of his or her constituents. Do not think that I have not raised this issue during all of the activities I do in my riding. I am known for spending a lot of time on the ground in my riding. I ask people in my riding about this issue. Some people even ask me before I have had a chance to do it. They ask me what I think of the Supreme Court's decision, and I ask them what they think of it, where they stand and what they would like to see.

I get the sense that, on this issue, Canadians are maybe more mature and adult than the government. They are ready to listen to this conversation. Quebeckers have listened, but perhaps not the rest of Canada. The broad consultation that the parliamentary secretary was talking about, and rightly so, should be carried out in a non-partisan way, not by the government but by a representative group of MPs, so that we can all hear the same things instead of wondering whether we really got X, Y or Z's opinion. It has to be broad and non-partisan.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

There are times in a person's life that are of critical importance. There is nothing more important than anything that affects our health and our lives and anything that affects the lives of the people we represent. There is likely nothing more important we will debate, except security, because this is once again an issue that affects the lives and freedoms of the people we represent. It is therefore an extremely important issue.

When I was fairly young—the word “young” is relative in this caucus—I suddenly had to deal with terms that I was completely unfamiliar with. When I was 29 years old, we learned quite suddenly that my father had cancer. He had only a short time to live. The doctors gave him two or three months. Even with treatment, he would have five months at most. I had to reconsider what principles and concepts such as quality of life and human dignity meant to me. There is nothing worse in life than being faced with your own mortality or the mortality of your loved ones. How should anyone deal with all of this? I think that the most important thing to focus on is being compassionate.

I am also lucky to be a Quebecker and to have observed the process in Quebec with the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity. One of my good friends, Maryse Gaudreault, the MNA for Hull, was a member of the National Assembly when her party was in power, and she chaired the committee.

What I found fascinating was that politicians of all stripes were able to come together to address this very complex issue. There were as many different positions as there were people around the table, but they were able to put their differences aside to work for the people they represented, for the greater good, as they say. These people were all open to ideas throughout the process. It is true that they took as much time as they needed. I agree with the parliamentary secretary: if we want to carry out a thorough study of the many different aspects of this issue, we should think about the time we will have to spend on it. That is why we cannot wait until tomorrow; we must start today.

The committee produced a report. There is an English version. I encourage members to consult the report on the Government of Quebec site by clicking on the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity tab. This is a model of political co-operation between politicians of all stripes. Call them what you will—federalists, sovereignists or separatists—whether they were on the left, on the right, in the centre or on the centre-left, these people all sat down around a table in a non-partisan way to listen to what Quebeckers had to say and to make recommendations.

It did not stop there. Indeed, after that, a committee of experts was put together to try to create a somewhat more legal context on the issue. Three prominent individuals took part: Jean-Pierre Ménard, an authority on medical law, Michelle Giroux and Jean-Claude Hébert. Work continued, and it was agreed that if the next government was not the same as the government that chaired the committee, they would carry on and continue the process. Therefore, it did not end when the government changed hands. The Parti Québécois minister, Véronique Hivon, took over and continued to handle the file, and then the Couillard government completed the process.

This shows how a cross-section of people with different backgrounds all got involved in this issue. They took the time to listen to the public and tried to develop a humane process that is respectful of rights and of people at higher risk in order to avoid what no one wants to see happen.

That being said, under the Canadian Constitution, the provinces have jurisdiction over health. That includes end-of-life care, regardless of when that happens.

I have a lot of respect for Quebec law, and I fully recognize Quebec's right—and the right of every province in the same circumstances—to do what it did. We are dealing with the Carter decision, which was rendered by the Supreme Court on February 6. The decision was very clear. It deals with section 241(b) of the Criminal Code, which states that anyone who aids or abets a person to commit suicide is guilty of a criminal offence. According to section 14 of the Criminal Code, “no person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted on him”.

The Supreme Court of Canada was very clear. In the words of the leader of the third party, the court provided “clear and unanimous guidance”. The Supreme Court of Canada could not be any clearer. We must therefore examine this issue in a very specific context. The Supreme Court of Canada stated unequivocally:

Section 241(b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code unjustifiably infringe s. 7 of the Charter and are of not force or effect [it is important to clearly understand the Supreme Court's decision] to the extent that they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition. The declaration of invalidity is suspended for 12 months.

In other words, there are not 36 possible scenarios. This has been discussed at length. We know the score. Everyone is talking about three possible scenarios and a fourth. The fourth scenario would be to seek an extension from the Supreme Court because we were unable to move forward with this matter quickly and do what we should have done a long time ago. The NDP started working on this long before the Carter decision, knowing full well that we must deal with this issue, even if only because Canadians asked us to. I keep getting the impression that Canadians are ahead of us on this issue.

The Supreme Court of Canada was clear. One of the three possible scenarios is to use the notwithstanding clause. We know that some Conservative colleagues are fond of that clause. I was pleased to hear the Minister of Justice say that the notwithstanding clause would not be used. Thank God. To make this clear to those watching us, using the notwithstanding clause in relation to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms means that we know we are not complying with the Charter, but we are knowingly doing that anyway. So far, every party has stayed far away from using that type of clause and I am glad about that.

The second scenario would be to say that nothing is happening and that we will not ask the Supreme Court of Canada for an extension. What is happening? A journalist asked me that question yesterday. It is interesting because the more we read the decision, the more things we see come to light. In fact, my opinion, for what it is worth, is that section 241 (b) will continue to apply, except for prohibiting “physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents...” or what I was referring to earlier. The laissez-faire or leave-it-alone scenario would mean that the courts would rule on a case-by-case basis.

The third scenario is to take the bull by the horns and provide clarification. The courts will nevertheless have to know what is meant by “competent adult”, “clearly consents to the termination of life”, “grievous and irremediable medical conditions (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering”, and so forth.

The New Democrat caucus has all kinds of opinions, just like the Canadian public. However, I think that we need to listen to Canadians, experts and people who have a special interest in this issue, so that we can be clear about how paragraph 241(b) should now read in light of the Supreme Court's ruling, and what would be an acceptable form of consent, as given by an adult, and so on. The idea of a committee is not a bad one.

We will support the Liberal motion. However, I have some serious doubts about whether the process can be non-partisan, in light of the history we have with the current government.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, for his speech, and I want to say that I listened closely to his answer to the Liberal member.

The prostitution example the parliamentary secretary gave was not particularly comforting if we were hoping to have a non-partisan consultation.

That was one of the problems with the prostitution legislation in response to the Bedford decision. Many people told us that the government was only consulting the people it wanted to consult.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice tell the House whether the opposition parties and the members who represent non-recognized parties in the House will be able to participate in the process the Conservatives envision and whether the government will truly consult broadly?

I want to hear opinions from everyone: those who support assisted death, those who are against it, those who are undecided and those who agree to a certain extent.

I do not want to feel as though the vision of the government and the Prime Minister's Office is the only option. This is an extremely serious and emotional issue for many people. It affects a lot of the people we all represent in the House, and they deserve to be heard.

Business of Supply February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am not so sure that it is only noise, because history proves itself.

I will continue a bit on the same point as my esteemed colleague who chairs the justice committee.

According to the motion by the leader of the third party, the committee would have to give some recommendations. It would be such an unbalanced committee on such an important question that is so differently addressed by so many different people. I am not worried that we will be able to hear all the experts. I am a bit more worried on the recommendation side.

On what I hope is a nonpartisan question, would it not be better to have equal representation on the committee to send a signal that it will be done in a nonpartisan fashion? Exactly as the leader of the Green Party said, can we get a place for people from other parties who are not necessarily recognized in the House but who are part of the conversation because they represent a part of our population?