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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was justice.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Liberal MP for Mount Royal (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Questions on the Order Paper June 15th, 2015

With regard to funding for programs that facilitate the reintegration of offenders into communities following incarceration: (a) for each Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) site in Canada, what funding did the government provide in each of the last ten years, broken down by department or agency providing the funding; (b) for each CoSA site in Canada, what funding will the government provide this year and in each of the next five years, broken down by department or agency providing the funding; (c) what funding has the government provided to CoSA Canada since the group’s inception in 2014, broken down by department or agency providing the funding; (d) what funding will the government provide to CoSA Canada this year and in each of the next five years, broken down by department or agency providing the funding; (e) what program evaluations of CoSA has the government conducted in the last five years; (f) for each program evaluation in (e), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost; (g) based on what factors did the government decide to cut the funding for CoSA that had been provided by Correctional Service Canada (CSC); (h) based on what factors did the government decide not to renew funding for CoSA as part of the National Demonstration Project funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre; (i) regarding the decision in (g), (i) who made it, (ii) when was it made, (iii) what groups or individuals were consulted, (iv) what ministers or ministers’ offices were involved in the decision-making process; (j) regarding the decision in (h), (i) who made it, (ii) when was it made, (iii) what groups or individuals were consulted, (iv) what ministers or ministers’ offices were involved in the decision-making process; (k) what ministers or ministers’ offices have been involved in other decisions regarding funding for CoSA; (l) in the last two years, what reports, briefing materials, briefing notes, memoranda, dossiers, dockets, assessments, presentations or other documents have been created regarding funding for CoSA; (m) for each document in (l), what is the (i) date, (ii) title, (iii) internal tracking number; (n) for each meeting held in the last two years regarding funding for CoSA, (i) when was it held, (ii) where was it held, (iii) who was present, (iv) what was the objective, (v) what was the outcome; (o) what objectives was the government seeking to achieve by providing funding for CoSA through CSC prior to March 31, 2015; (p) how will the objectives in (o) be achieved following the cut to CSC funding for CoSA effective March 31, 2015; (q) what objectives was the government seeking to achieve by funding CoSA as part of the National Demonstration Project funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre; (r) how will the objectives in (q) be achieved following the termination of funding for CoSA as part of the National Demonstration Project funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre; (s) what evaluations has the government conducted of the impact of the cut to CSC funding for CoSA; (t) for each evaluation in (s), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost; (u) what evaluations has the government conducted of the impact of the termination of funding for CoSA as part of the National Demonstration Project funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre; (v) for each evaluation in (u), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost; (w) what programs other than CoSA that aim to facilitate the reintegration of offenders into communities after their warrant expiry dates does the government run or fund; (x) for each program in (w), (i) what funding did the government provide for each of the last ten years, (ii) what funding will the government provide this year, (iii) what funding will the government provide in each of the next five years; (y) what evaluations has the government conducted in the last five years regarding the reintegration of offenders into communities following their warrant expiry dates; (z) what evaluations has the government conducted regarding the impact of CoSA and the programs in (w) on the reintegration of offenders into communities following their warrant expiry dates; (aa) for each evaluation in (y) and (z), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost; (bb) what evaluations has the government conducted regarding the impact of CoSA and the programs in (w) on recidivism rates; and (cc) for each evaluation in (bb), (i) when was it conducted, (ii) who conducted it, (iii) what was its objective, (iv) what was its outcome, (v) how much did it cost?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 12th, 2015

With regard to the process for filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada that will be created by the retirement of Justice Marshall Rothstein on August 31, 2015: (a) when did the government learn of Justice Rothstein’s intention to retire; (b) how did the government learn of Justice Rothstein’s intention to retire; (c) what steps has the government taken to find a replacement for Justice Rothstein; (d) when were each of the steps in (c) taken; (e) what individuals, agencies, organizations, or other governments has the government consulted with regard to developing a process to find Justice Rothstein’s replacement; (f) what individuals, agencies, organizations, or other governments has the government consulted with regard to choosing Justice Rothstein’s replacement; (g) when did the consultations in (e) occur; (h) when did the consultations in (f) occur; (i) what individuals, agencies, organizations, or other governments will the government consult with regard to developing a process to find Justice Rothstein’s replacement; (j) what individuals, agencies, organizations, or other governments will the government consult with regard to choosing Justice Rothstein’s replacement; (k) when will the consultations in (i) occur; (l) when will the consultations in (j) occur; (m) what date has the government set by which Justice Rothstein’s replacement must be nominated; (n) what date has the government set by which Justice Rothstein’s replacement must be appointed; (o) by what date does the government intend to nominate Justice Rothstein’s replacement; (p) by what date does the government intend to appoint Justice Rothstein’s replacement; (q) when were the dates in (m) to (p) set; (r) who set the dates in (m) to (p); (s) based on what factors were the dates in (m) to (p) set; (t) if no dates have been set regarding the nomination or appointment of Justice Rothstein’s replacement, why have no dates been set; (u) based on what criteria has the government evaluated candidates to replace Justice Rothstein, and if no evaluations have occurred thus far, based on what criteria will the government evaluate candidates to replace Justice Rothstein; (v) how do the criteria in (u) differ from those used to evaluate candidates in the appointment processes that led to the appointments of (i) Justice Wagner, (ii) Justice Nadon, (iii) Justice Gascon, (iv) Justice Côté; (w) what materials have been sought from the candidates to replace Justice Rothstein; (x) what materials will be sought from the candidates to replace Justice Rothstein; (y) how do the materials in (w) and (x) differ from those sought from candidates in the processes that led to the appointments of (i) Justice Wagner, (ii) Justice Nadon, (iii) Justice Gascon, (iv) Justice Côté; (z) if the materials in (w) and (x) differ from those sought from candidates in the processes that led to the appointments of Justices Wagner, Nadon, Gascon and Côté, (i) why were changes made, (ii) who decided to make these changes, (iii) when was that decision made; (aa) what process has been or will be used to evaluate candidates and make an appointment to replace Justice Rothstein; (bb) in what way does the process to replace Justice Rothstein differ from the processes that led to the appointments of Justices Wagner, Nadon, Gascon and Côté; (cc) if the process to replace Justice Rothstein differs from the processes that led to the appointments of Justices Wagner, Nadon, Gascon and Côté, (i) why was the process changed, (ii) who decided to change it, (iii) when was the decision made to change it; (dd) in what way have parliamentarians been involved, or in what way will they be involved, in the process to replace Justice Rothstein; (ee) what goals have been served by parliamentary involvement in previous Supreme Court appointment processes; (ff) how will the goals in (ee) be served in the process to replace Justice Rothstein; (gg) in what way have members of the legal community been involved, or in what way will they be involved, in the process to replace Justice Rothstein; (hh) other than parliamentarians and members of the legal community, who has been or will be involved in the process to replace Justice Rothstein, and in what way; (ii) will candidates to replace Justice Rothstein be reviewed by an advisory panel; (jj) if candidates to replace Justice Rothstein will be reviewed by an advisory panel, (i) when will the panel be constituted, (ii) of how many members will it be comprised, (iii) who will select its members, (iv) based on what criteria will its members be selected, (v) what will be its mandate, (vi) who will set its mandate, (vi) will its membership include parliamentarians; (kk) will the candidate nominated to replace Justice Rothstein appear before a parliamentary committee, ad hoc or otherwise; (ll) has the process for appointing Supreme Court judges been reviewed by the government since the appointment of Justice Côté; (mm) if the process for appointing Supreme Court judges has been reviewed by the government since the appointment of Justice Côté, (i) when did the review begin, (ii) when did the review end, (iii) who conducted the review, (iv) what groups and individuals participated in the review, (v) what were the objectives of the review, (vi) what were the outcomes of the review; (nn) what has been, or what will be, the cost of the process to replace Justice Rothstein; (oo) what is the breakdown of the cost in (nn); (pp) in what way will the process to replace Justice Rothstein be (i) transparent, (ii) accountable, (iii) inclusive; and (qq) will the process used for the appointment of Justice Rothstein’s replacement be used for future appointments?

Foreign Affairs June 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the treatment of blogger Raif Badawi is a violation of Saudi Arabia's obligations to Canada under the convention against torture.

Now that the Saudi supreme court has upheld Raif's cruel sentence, the only possible recourse is a royal pardon. It is up to the Prime Minister to take up Raif's case directly with the Saudi king.

Will the Prime Minister ask the king to mark the beginning of Ramadan with a show of compassion and justice by freeing Raif Badawi and reuniting him with his family in Quebec?

Members not seeking re-election to the 42nd Parliament June 10th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to participate in this rather bittersweet retrospective. I want to commend my colleagues on all sides of the House for their reflective and, indeed, moving comments.

I recall fondly my first-ever visit to and encounter with this House. It was 1951. I was 11 years old. My late father took me here to visit the House of Commons. He looked up at the House and said, “Son, this is the Parliament of Canada. This is vox populi, the voice of the people”.

Today's sentiments might invite a certain cynical rejoinder, particularly as one observes the sometimes cacophony of question period or the toxicity in the political arena. Certainly and fortunately, I still retain that great respect and reverence for this institution, which I regard as the centrepiece of our democracy, the cradle, the nurturer for the pursuit of justice.

In this, I am reminded and, indeed, inspired by another set of teachings on the pursuit of justice from my late parents, a blessed memory. For it is my father who taught me before I could understand the profundity of his words. As he put it, the pursuit of justice is equal to all the other commandments combined. As he said, “This, you must teach unto your children”.

It was my mother who, when she heard my father say this, would say to me, “If you want to pursue justice, you have to understand, you have to feel the injustice about you. You have to go in and about your community and beyond, and feel the injustice and combat the injustice. Otherwise, the pursuit of justice remains a theoretical construct”.

As a result of my parents' teachings, I got involved in the two great human rights struggles of the second half of the 20th century, the struggle for human rights in the former Soviet Union and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. I got involved with those who were the faces and voices of those struggles, and the defence of the political prisoners, Anatoly Sharansky in the former Soviet Union and Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

I got involved in the struggle for peace in the Middle East because as my mother, an authentic peace advocate, would say, “The struggle for peace is bound up in the pursuit of justice”. That same teaching about justice also underpinned my work as minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, as well as my work as an MP.

Indeed, when I was first sworn in as minister, I said at the time that I would be guided in my work by one overarching principle, the pursuit of justice, and I had my father's teachings in my mind, and within that, the promotion and protection of equality, not just as a centrepiece of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but as an organizing principle for the building of a just society, and for the promotion and protection of human dignity, for the building of a society that was not only just but one that was also compassionate and humane.

These were my guiding principles during almost 16 years that I spent as the member for Mount Royal, a great riding, a rainbow riding, where I grew up and where I have lived for almost 60 years.

Mount Royal is a riding that I love living in. It has been a privilege and pleasure to represent my constituents while engaged in the multi-layered, multi-faceted role and responsibilities of an MP including: first, the MP as ombudsperson for individuals and groups in the riding, petitioning government and Parliament for redress of grievance on behalf of constituents.

In that regard, I have been the beneficiary of a wonderful set of assistants in the riding, including my first head, Sabina Schmidman, Louise O'Neill, Diane Du Sablon, Isabelle Casanova, and Howard Liebman, a former law student of mine who headed up my office for close to 12 years. All of them have served the people of Mount Royal, and even beyond, with understanding, empathy and wisdom and in the process have transformed the lives of people in the riding and beyond.

Second, the MP as a representative of riding-wide concerns. Here, I have been engaged in the whole gamut of cross-cutting concerns that reflect my riding on the domestic front: health, environment, child care, anti-poverty, veterans' affairs, le devoir de mémoire, and the recognition and respect for our heritage. On the international front, we pursued a humanitarian and human rights based foreign policy, in particular, among others, the responsibility to protect.

Third is the MP as policy maker and legislator. Here are his pleas as minister of justice to introduce Canada's first-ever law against human trafficking, the contemporary global slave trade; to craft a civil marriage act anchored in two fundamental principles, the equality principle and freedom of religion; to initiate with the assistance of colleagues from all parties in the justice committee, including the member for Central Nova, now the Minister of Justice, Canada's first-ever inclusive, representative, transparent and accountable appointment process for the Supreme Court, which led to the most gender-equitable Supreme Court in the world, and the appointment of first-ever aboriginal and visible minority persons to appellate courts; and to review and participate in the reversal of wrongful convictions.

As an MP, again with all-party co-operation, I was able to shepherd through the House Canada's first-ever Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act and, ultimately, as minister, ended up initiating the first-ever prosecution under that act. As an opposition MP, as we have all done, I have sought to make use of the parliamentary instruments at our disposal, such as private members' bills, motions, petitions, order paper questions and the like to help advance the public good.

This leads me to the other several roles of the MP.

The MP as overseer reflects our responsibility as representatives of the public trust and overseers of the public purse to help secure the public good. The MP as public advocate takes up cases and causes and brings them to the attention of Parliament, the government and the people of Canada, for example, to stand in solidarity with political prisoners, to let them know that they are not alone, that we will never relent in our advocacy until we secure their freedom. The MP as communicator participates in press briefings and engages with constituents, stakeholders, NGOs and civil society generally. The MP as educator is when we meet with students from our riding and others and find that we end up learning from these students and they become our teachers. The MP as global ambassador for Canada is in our international representations and delegations.

In all of those capacities, I have found that some of our most important and impactful work is a result of cross-party collaboration and co-operation. It has been my pleasure to work with colleagues from all parties in this chamber and in the Senate on matters such as advocating for the release of political prisoners and holding, as we did recently, human rights violators to account, notably during our annual Iran Accountability Week.

In particular, I must highlight the co-operative and constructive work of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights, which operates almost exclusively by consensus. I trust that my colleagues on that subcommittee will continue that work in the same collegial and serious manner after the next election.

Of course, none of this parliamentary work would have been possible without the commitment and care of those who headed up and guided my parliamentary office: Judith Abitan, Michael Milech, David Grossman, Jacob Binder, Matt Biderman, as well as Charles Feldman, who headed up my office for seven years and whose expertise became indispensable not only to my work but to the effective functioning of Parliament as a whole.

Moreover, as minister, I was privileged to work with exemplary senior officials and civil servants in the Department of Justice, too numerous to mention.

As well, we have all been the beneficiaries of professional and personable House of Commons personnel, from security guards to technical staff, to pages, to legislative drafters, to House and committee clerks.

In particular, I must also thank my own inspiring party leader, the member for Papineau, the staff in the party leader's office, the party's House leader, the member for Beauséjour, with his irrepressible sense of humour, our exemplary whip, the member for Random—Burin—St. George's, all the people in the House leader and whip's office and, indeed, commend them all for their support, flexibility, patience and good humour, particularly when I am not always onside. I also include my wonderful caucus colleagues.

Finally, a word about family, with which I will close, who are first in my heart and mind. I began by speaking about my parents and I will conclude with speaking about the care, contribution and commitment of my wife Ariela, who is in the chamber this evening, and has been in the political trenches with me all these years, though, admittedly, sometimes not on the same side. I thank my children, Michal, Gila, Tanya and Yoni, who have been the source of many a humbling and healthy riposte, my grandchildren, who seem to have inherited that same quality with an even more mocking humour, and my children's spouses. I thank them all for their support and their love. They certainly have mine in return.

For me, Parliament is not just a place where I went to work; it has been my home. My colleagues have become my family. It has been a privilege to serve in this chamber, to serve alongside all my colleagues, to serve the people of Mount Royal and to help in the best way I can to advance the cause of justice for all.

Global Human Rights Accountability Act June 9th, 2015

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-689, Act to enact the Global Human Rights Accountability Act and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the global Magnitsky human rights accountability act, seconded by the member for Winnipeg North, which would allow for the sanctioning of human rights violators through the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes. The House unanimously endorsed such measures in March. It is deeply disappointing, therefore, that the government still has not moved forward with the necessary corresponding legislation.

Magnitsky sanctions, which have been recommended by legislatures across Europe and implemented by the United States, are named for Moscow lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered the largest corporate tax fraud in Russian history before being detained, tortured, and murdered in prison in 2009. Not only have the Russian officials complicit in that criminality escaped punishment, but many of them have, in fact, been rewarded by Vladimir Putin's regime.

It is therefore up to Canada and other members of the international community to impose tangible consequences on the perpetrators and on human rights violators generally by blocking their ability to travel and trade and launder their assets around the world. I would urge the government to either take over my bill or pass similar legislation on its own, both out of respect for the will of the House and out of solidarity with the victims of human rights violations and those who struggle valiantly on their behalf in Russia and around the world.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Burundi May 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Burundian diaspora in Canada, members of which are in the gallery today, is alarmed by the political and humanitarian crisis in Burundi.

Ever since President Nkurunziza declared his intention to run for a third term, with no regard for the Constitution, the country has been rocked by demonstrations and a violent campaign of repression perpetrated by the police and armed militia.

Opposition members, human rights advocates and journalists have been targeted, and the leader of an opposition party was assassinated on Saturday.

In Burundi, there are currently more than 100,000 refugees, as well as hundreds injured and dozens dead. A number of countries and international organizations have already cut off their financial aid to the Burundian government and are calling for the election to be postponed.

Canada must fast-track family reunification and immigration applications, stop deportations to Burundi, and join in the efforts of the international community to ensure that human rights are being respected in Burundi.

Same-Sex Marriage May 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago Parliament and Canada at large were in the midst of an intense yet generally dignified and democratic discussion about the recognition of same-sex marriage. Appellate courts began upholding the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, and as the minister of justice in 2004, I referred the matter to the Supreme Court. The court heard from some 27 intervenors before unanimously affirming that same-sex marriage was consistent with the Constitution, and I was proud to draft and introduce the Civil Marriage Act in February 2005.

It took effect 10 years ago this summer, enshrining two fundamental charter rights: the equality rights of same-sex couples and the fundamental principle of freedom of religion.

At the time, Canada was only the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, and the first outside of Europe. Today, with the recent addition of Ireland, same-sex marriage is recognized in some 20 countries, with more to come.

This year, as we mark the 10th anniversary of the Civil Marriage Act as well as the 30th anniversary of the charter's equality rights provisions, we can be proud of Canadian leadership in matters of equality, freedom, justice, and human rights.

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague from Etobicoke North for her very carefully researched and evidence-based policy submission.

I want to ask the member, as someone who has also been engaged in protecting against violence against women in armed conflict and internationally, whether she believes that a national plan of action with regard to protecting against violence against women should include reference to protection against international violence against women.

Foreign Affairs May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, people gathered in Quebec City and Montreal to mark the sad anniversary of Raif Badawi's sentence to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. Every time we ask the government to demand Raif's immediate release, the government talks about clemency. However, clemency does not mean his immediate release or reunification with his family in Quebec. In this case, clemency is not justice.

When will the government demand the immediate and unconditional release and exoneration of Raif and his lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair.

Victory in Europe Day May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today is the 70th anniversary of VE Day, a special and poignant moment of remembrance and reminder, of celebration and tribute, which we marked in a ceremony of remembrance at the cenotaph in my riding in Côte Saint-Luc. We remembered those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in freedom and peace.

We were reminded of the values that they sought to protect and preserve, and that underpin our freedom and democracy today. I recalled the words of my father on my fifth birthday that VE Day. As he put it, the VE Day marked the end of two wars: the Nazi war against the allies and the Nazi war against the Jews.

We celebrated Canada's role in the liberation of the Netherlands in the presence of the Dutch Consul General, and we paid tribute to the veterans among us.

My riding is privileged to have one of the largest percentage of veterans in the country, and when they returned from the horrors of the war, they rebuilt their lives as they rebuilt our communities. Indeed, my riding, like so many across Canada, is full of facilities and institutions built by veterans.

Thanks to them, we can look to the future with hope. May the values that inspired them inspire us all.