House of Commons photo


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

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question that was put by my hon. colleague.

As I stated in my speech, and would even reiterate, if I have not stated it sufficiently and as expressly as it must be stated, judges should not be put in the position where they become enablers of violations of the charter. It is the responsibility of judges to protect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and to protect Canadians through the interpretation and application of the charter.

Therefore, I expressed my concern with regard to this particular aspect, and, as we have said as a party, we have proposed a series of amendments on this and other issues. They will be part of our platform, and we will leave it to the Canadian people.

Let me be clear: this is not legislation that we would have enacted in this form. We have sought to reconcile the responsibility that a government has and that we as parliamentarians have on behalf of our constituents, to protect the security and safety of Canadians. That is mandated also, I might add, by UN Security Council resolutions, in a spate of resolutions that we should undertake and enact to enhance anti-terrorism legislation, given the nature of the terrorist threat.

Having said that, we need to ensure that they do comport, as I said, with the charter, with the rule of law, with the protection of the rights of Canadians, including privacy. That is why we have put forth the amendments that we have.

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address Bill C-51 and will begin by setting forth the credo that has underpinned my approach to anti-terrorism law and policy for many years. In brief, an appropriate and effective strategy must view security and rights not as concepts in conflict, but as values that are inextricably linked. Simply put, terrorism constitutes an assault on the security of democracy like Canada, and on our individual and collective rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.

Accordingly, we must take the threat of terrorism seriously and address it with effective legislation. As well, there are other measures, such as anti-radicalization efforts and the allocation of adequate resources to law enforcement and security services. A culture of prevention is crucial here. At the same time, we must ensure that legislative initiatives that are taken are consistent with the rule of law, comport with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that they are always subject to robust oversight and review.

With these principles in mind, I will turn to the bill before us, which is not simply one bill, but omnibus legislation, a series of major enactments. I will discuss several specific aspects of the bill, particularly those that are cause for concern.

I must begin with a general critique and preface my remarks with respect to the process, or what I would call the abuse of process, by which this legislation has been considered. At the same time, I will make reference to some of the rhetoric surrounding this legislation under the government's approach. It has frankly inhibited the necessary, thorough, and constructive legislative process, while at the same time and in so doing has undermined our responsibility as parliamentarians, whether we are on the government side of the House or in opposition, for the oversight of such major legislation.

With regard to rhetoric, let us be clear that every parliamentarian, every witness who appeared before committee, and Canadians themselves, both proponents and opponents of this bill, share the desire to keep Canadians safe from terrorism. Yet there have been accusations made to the contrary, particularly directed by some government members at critics of Bill C-51 at committees. References have been made to it in the House.

Such accusations are frankly not worthy of the serious role and responsibilities that our constituents have entrusted to us with respect to this and other pieces of legislation. In particular, the threat posed by terrorism to the safety of Canadians must be taken seriously, but so must concerns about the impact of anti-terror legislation on our civil liberties. Those who raise such concerns should be appreciated for their contributions, not denigrated and diminished.

With regard to process, we may note that time allocation was invoked during second reading on Bill C-51. It was invoked during committee, and now that the bill has returned from committee, time allocation has been imposed by the government once again at report stage. Indeed, at committee, the Conservatives limited the time allotted to study the bill such that important witnesses were prevented from testifying. I note as but one example the extraordinary, I would even say incomprehensible, fact that the Privacy Commissioner himself was not given the opportunity to testify about a bill that would impact directly and significantly on the privacy of Canadians.

As University of Ottawa law professor professor Craig Forcese has written, "this process is night and day compared to the more important role Parliament played in both the enactment of the original CSIS Act in 1983/84 and that of the first Anti-terrorism Act in 2001”. I might add that during the discussion of that anti-terrorism bill in 2001 and following, there was robust and public debate within the government caucus at the time, as well as from the opposition, and an acceptance of recommendations made by the opposition in the course of such debate to the bill.

The problem with overheated government rhetoric and a rushed and inadequate process is that problems with the bill cannot be fully and constructively aired and addressed in an environment that proceeds at such a pace, let alone, as I said, the diminution of the responsibility for parliamentary oversight.

Nevertheless, I will do my best to highlight some of these problems in the limited time available to me, and to explain how some of these problems with the bill can and should be resolved.

To begin with, many of my concerns, and those that have been expressed by the experts who have been referenced in this debate, about provisions that broaden the powers of Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the legislative language that provides or authorizes those powers, could be addressed and alleviated if they were accompanied by effective oversight, parliamentary and otherwise.

It is astonishing that the government has rejected all proposals, despite the overriding consensus by experts within the opposition in this House, and I suspect among members of the government caucus themselves, for the overriding need for robust oversight.

First, with respect to information sharing, the bill allows for the sharing of information about Canadians in order to protect Canada against activities that “undermine the security of Canada”, to quote the legislative language. Valid concerns have been raised about the overbreadth of that language and about how such powers to share information may be used or misused, and, again, the lack of corresponding oversight.

I recognize that the government effectively accepted two Liberal amendments, in accordance with recommendations also from the Canadian Bar Association and many others. First was to remove the qualifier “lawful” from the previously proposed exception for “lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression”; and second was to narrow the provision that originally allowed for the disclosure of information “to any person for any purpose”. Yet there remains significant room for improvement to ensure that such information is reliable, that it is used and shared appropriately, and that it does not abuse privacy or liberty.

We know from the experience of Maher Arar, for instance—and I was particularly involved in that case, serving at that time as pro bono counsel—that a lack of safeguards with respect to information sharing can have and did have tragic consequences. These information sharing provisions should therefore be accompanied by effective parliamentary oversight of CSIS, in addition to mandated parliamentary review of the security of Canada information sharing act.

With respect to the Criminal Code, Bill C-51 would make several significant amendments, notably expanding and lowering the threshold for preventive arrest and peace bonds. I note that the Canadian Bar Association has expressed its support for the reduced standard for peace bonds, from the reasonable fear that a person “will” commit a terrorism offence, to the reasonable fear that they “may” commit a terrorism offence, and that police were reportedly unable to meet the existing evidentiary standard to secure a peace bond for Martin Couture-Rouleau before he murdered Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.

Therefore, a case can be made that the refinement of powers in this area for prevention purposes is worthwhile. Again, however, such powers should be met with effective parliamentary oversight and mandatory review. Indeed, in the past, provisions allowing for preventive arrest were understood to be exceptional measures, accompanied by sunset clauses that are absent in this legislation.

Bill C-51 also contains several measures that raise questions of constitutionality. Again, we have no reports regarding any consistency with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as required. However, leaving that aside, the legislation effectively provides for measures that “contravene a right of freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”, if a judge issues a warrant to that effect in ex parte or in camera proceedings.

As we know, this turns on its head the role of judges as protectors of our rights. Despite the government's protestations to the contrary, the need to obtain a warrant is by no means equivalent to a suitable replacement for robust parliamentary oversight. That remains the crux of the problem with the government's approach.

National Defence May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we learned this morning that two complaints were apparently filed in December 2010 and January 2011. Two Canadian military police officers allegedly created a culture of intimidation in the prison that they were in charge of in Afghanistan.

When did the government learn of these actions and what has it done since to ensure that prisoners are treated in accordance with international and Canadian law?

Iran Accountability Week May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, an all-party parliamentary group launched the fourth annual Iran Accountability Week at a most propitious time, as the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran have overshadowed, not sanitized, the Iranian regime's massive domestic oppression, including a horrific execution binge, intensified persecution of the Baha'i minority, criminalization of dissent, mocking World Press Freedom Day, and some 900 political prisoners languishing in Iranian prisons, many of them subject to torture and under the threat of execution.

Accordingly, a centrepiece of Iran Accountability Week is the Iranian political prisoners global advocacy project, which pairs parliamentarians with adopted Iranian political prisoners on whose behalf we advocate and seek to make their case and cause our own, such as those on whose behalf I am privileged to advocate, the Baha'i seven and Ayatollah Boroujerdi.

We stand in solidarity with these brave heroes to let them know that they are not alone and that we will not relent until their freedom and that of the Iranian people is secure.

Canadian Human Rights Act April 27th, 2015

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-671, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (hate speech).

Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce a bill that would restore the anti-hate speech provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, along with appropriate safeguards.

In 2012, the Conservatives responded to valid concerns about section 13 hate speech provisions of the Human Rights Act by essentially throwing out the baby with the proverbial bathwater and repealing the section outright. I was one of many who argued at the time that the section should be refined, not repealed, so as to result in hate speech provisions, such as those I am proposing today.

For example, the bill would institute protections against frivolous suits and abuse of process, such as requiring the consent of the attorney general for a complaint to go forward and allowing also for the awarding of costs.

Freedom of expression is the lifeblood of democracy and the bill expressly protects it. However, as Justice Rothstein wrote in the Supreme Court's unanimous 2013 decision regarding laws against hate speech:

The objective for which the limit is imposed, namely tackling causes of discriminatory activity to reduce the harmful effects and social costs of discrimination, is pressing and substantial.

Hate speech is not simply a matter of offending sensibilities or being politically correct, which is protected speech. It causes real and tangible harm, can assault the very values underlying free speech, can breach our international commitments and can assault the principle of equality. I thus invite all members to support this legislation.

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

Genocide Recognition April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, earlier this month, on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, I spoke at a gathering on Parliament Hill to mark Canada's National Day of Reflection on the Prevention of Genocide. Last week, I attended a Yom Hashoah Holocaust remembrance service in my riding, 70 years since the liberation of the death camps. Earlier today, I had the privilege to address the thousands assembled outside this building, who are commemorating the Armenian genocide, which began a century ago and which Pope Francis recognized as the first genocide of the 20th century.

What these genocides and others have in common, as I said at the gathering to commemorate the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, is not only that these genocides are unspeakable because of the horror of the genocide, but also because these genocides were preventable. Nobody could say that we did not know. There were, as there always are, warning signs, forerunners to genocide. Yet time and again, the world has stood by, minimizing the threats of demonization and dehumanization, ignoring the ominous march to mass atrocity until it is too late and we find ourselves yet again promising never again and insisting that we mean it this time.

I therefore welcome the motion put forward by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, which acknowledges four genocides that have been recognized by the House, along with the associated memorial days, and which calls on the House to establish April as genocide remembrance, condemnation and prevention month. A month so designated would provide an impetus not only to remember these tragic events, le devoir de mémoire, but to speak out and to act against racism, hatred, exclusion, demonization and dehumanization, the precursors to genocide, and in favour of justice, human dignity and the protection of human rights, including minority rights. Moreover, such a month would be an opportunity to continue the teaching and learning of the genocides past, with a view to preventing genocide in the future.

I will now touch on several lessons of remembrance and the remembrance to act always.

The first lesson is the danger of forgetting the importance and responsibility of remembrance itself, both in the sense of bearing witness to past collective failures to prevent genocide and in the sense of acknowledging and bearing witness to each victim of genocide as individuals. The numbers of genocide can be overwhelming: six million Jews killed by the Nazis, 10,000 Tutsis murdered every day for three months, 1,000 Ukrainians starved to death every hour at the height of the Holodomor, and I could go on. Genocide is not a matter of abstract statistics. As we say at these moments of remembrance, unto each person there is a name; each person has an identity; each person is a universe.

The second enduring lesson is that genocides have occurred not only because of the machinery of death, but because of state-sanctioned incitement to hate. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers; it began with words. The international community must therefore bear in mind, as the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed also in the Mugesera case, that incitement to genocide is a crime in and of itself. Taking action to prevent it, as the genocide convention compels us, is not a policy option; it is an international legal obligation of the highest order.

The third lesson is the danger of indifference and the responsibility to act. In 1994, for example, while the UN Security Council dithered and delayed, Rwandans were dying. Ten years later, massacres in Darfur were met with a similarly dilatory global response. No one can say that we did not know. We knew, but we did not act.

In an effort to end this pattern of the international community as bystander, the United Nations adopted in 2005 the responsibility to protect doctrine, a Canadian initiative of which we should be very proud. According to R to P, whenever there are war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing or, God forbid, genocide, and the government of the region in question is unable or unwilling to take action, or worse, is the author of that criminality, as in the case of the Syrian regime, the international community has a responsibility to intervene to protect targeted or innocent civilians. It is now the 10th anniversary of R to P and Canada must reaffirm its commitment to the abiding moral imperative in which it is anchored, that we are each, wherever we are, the guarantors of each other's destiny.

The fourth lesson is a danger of a culture of impunity and therefore the importance of bringing to justice those who are engaged in mass human rights violations. If the past century was the age of atrocity, it was also the age of impunity. Far too few of the perpetrators of crimes against humanity have been brought to justice and far too many of them live comfortable lives in Canada and elsewhere. As such, I encourage the government to commit adequate resources to Canada's war crimes program in order that such war criminals will be brought to justice.

The fifth lesson is the cruelty of genocide denial in its most obscene form, where genocide denial actually even accuses the victim of falsifying the crime, of perpetrating a hoax, but by commemorating genocide, we repudiate such denial.

Today, with crowds gathered on Parliament Hill to observe the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, we must be clear. The current Turkish government and the Turkish people are not responsible for the killing of Armenians a century ago. Yet, reconciliation requires recognition, and I trust we all hope for reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian people anchored in recognition and truth.

Sixth is the importance of remembering the heroic rescuers, those who confronted and resisted evil, who remind us of the range of humanity that prevailed in the face of evil, and thereby transformed history.

I am reminded, for instance, of our former colleague, Senator Romeo Dallaire, who was a beacon of humanity amidst the inhumanity of the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda; and of Raul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who, in 1944, rescued more Hungarian Jews than any single government before himself disappearing into the Soviet gulag.

Finally, we must remember and pay tribute to the survivors who endured the worst of inhumanity, and somehow found in the resources of their own humanity the will to go on, to rebuild their lives, as they contribute to the building of the communities in which they live.

Thus, I thank the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for his motion, and my party and myself will happily support it. Indeed, I have introduced a similar motion. The only difference being that mine makes mention of the Srebrenica massacre.

In that vein, before I close, I inform the House of a letter I received earlier this week from the president of the Congress of North American Bosniaks and from the chairman of the Institute for Research of Genocide in Canada. They wrote to express their surprise that the Srebrenica Remembrance Day and the related motion unanimously adopted by the House, on October 19, 2010, were not mentioned in Motion No. 587. They request that it be included.

Indeed, Srebrenica Remembrance Day is the only genocide commemoration day recognized by the House of Commons, but not specifically referenced in the motion before us. As such, I intend to introduce a motion in the coming weeks that will reaffirm the House's recognition of the Srebrenica massacre as an act of genocide to be commemorated each year on July 12.

On Srebrenica Remembrance Day, on the other commemorated days mentioned in Motion No. 587 and soon, during the entire month of April, Canadians will unite in active remembrance of the victims and in furtherance of tolerance, human dignity, human rights and peace. Never again will be affirmed, and this time we will be able to not only remember but hopefully act always on that remembrance.

Petitions April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is on behalf of Canadians who are concerned about the practice of forced organ harvesting by the Chinese government regime on prisoners, including Falun Gong practitioners.

The petitioners call on the government to take measures to end the Chinese regime's practice of killing Falun Gong practitioners for their organs, to amend Canadian legislation to combat forced organ harvesting, and to publicly call for China to end its persecution of Falun Gong.

Having introduced Bill C-561 to further restrict organ trafficking and having heard testimony on this practice at our foreign affairs subcommittee on international human rights, I am pleased to stand in solidarity with these petitioners.

Petitions April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present two petitions.

The first is a petition signed by more than 500 Canadians.

The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to immediately employ all diplomatic means necessary to ensure that Raïf Badawi is released and reunited with his family, which has sought refuge in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Raïf was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for creating an online forum in Saudi Arabia.

The petitioners are joining parliamentarians from all political parties who adopted a motion to that end during a meeting of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights on February 26.

Independence of the Judiciary Act April 24th, 2015

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-669, an act to amend the Criminal Code (independence of the judiciary).

Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the independence of the judiciary act, which would ensure that judges have the necessary discretion to impose principled and proportionate sentences tailored to the particularities of individual circumstances, individual offenders, and individual victims.

Everyone in this House seeks to prevent crime and keep Canadians safe. Sometimes, however, measures intended to achieve these laudable objectives, which we all share, turn out to be ineffective, counterproductive, and unjust. Such is unfortunately the case with the government's ever-increasing reliance on mandatory minimum sentencing provisions.

As the Supreme Court said last week, “Empirical evidence suggests that mandatory minimum sentences do not, in fact, deter crimes.” Instead, they lead to prison overcrowding. They disproportionately impact aboriginals and other minority groups. They increase costs for taxpayers. They may violate the charter, and they are, as one American study put it, a recipe for recidivism.

While the bill would maintain the mandatory minimum sentencing requirement where warranted, it would allow judges to vary mandated sentences where it is deemed just and reasonable to do so, provided they give written reasons for doing so.

It is in the interests of both justice and public safety that the sentence fit the particularities of the crime.

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

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the unanimous adoption by this House of a resolution establishing a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities, of which the worst is the crime which name we should even shudder to mention: genocide.

Today, we mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, as last week we observed Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Yesterday also marked the 67th anniversary of the State of Israel, born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.

It is sometimes said that if there had not been a Holocaust, there would not have been a State of Israel, but it is the other way around. If there had been an Israel, there might not have been a Holocaust or the horrors of Jewish history.

Yesterday was also the birthday of former prime minister and Nobel Peace Laureate, Lester Pearson, who was an early advocate for the establishment of a Jewish state and in whose memory the resolution was established. May I close, in his memory, with the biblical prayer:

Oseh shalom bimromov Hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu v'al kol Yisrael v'imru amen.

May God, who establishes peace on high, grant peace for all of us in the State of Israel. Amen.