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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

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, last month I had the privilege of participating in the first ever United Nations General Assembly forum in what I would characterize as a resurgence of an alarming global anti-Semitism. This meeting took place on the occasion of an important moment of remembrance and reminder. It took place on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the most brutal extermination camp of the 20th century, the site of horrors too terrible to be believed, but not too terrible to have happened.

There were 1.3 million people murdered at Auschwitz, 1.1 million of them were Jews. Let there be no mistake about it: Jews died at Auschwitz because of anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitism did not die. As we have learned tragically, and only too well, while it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews. Once again in France and elsewhere, Jews are the canary in the mineshaft of global evil.

This was tragically made clear by the recent attacks in France at the Hyper Cacher supermarket and the Jewish community centre in Nice, the attacks in Argentina and more recently, the shooting at a bar mitzvah in Copenhagen. These incidents are only the most recent manifestation of a more general rise in anti-Semitism in Europe and throughout the world.

I would like to share with the assembly this evening some thoughts, reflections and concerns on the Jewish condition and the human condition, about assaults on Jews and assaults on human rights, about the state of Jews in the world today and about the state of the world inhabited by Jews, of anti-Semitism as the paradigm of radical hate as the Holocaust is the paradigm of radical evil.

My underlying thesis this evening, simply put, and as I shared it at the UN General Assembly, is that we are witnessing a developing, somewhat incrementally, imperceptibly and often indulgently an old-new, escalating, global, sophisticated, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism. We have been witnessing this now for 40 years. It is one now held to be reminiscent of some of the atmospherics of the 1930s and is without parallel or precedent in its global configuration since the end of the Second World War.

This new anti-Jewishness overlaps with classical anti-Semitism—the member for Ottawa Centre spoke about definitions and frameworks, and I will try to share some—but is distinguishable from it. It found early juridical, and even institutional, expression in the United Nations' “Zionism is Racism” resolution - which, as the late U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan said, “gave the abomination of anti-Semitism the appearance of international legal sanction”, but has gone dramatically beyond it. This new anti-Semitism almost needs a new vocabulary to define it, but it can best be identified from an anti-discrimination, equality rights, and international law perspective.

In a word, classical or traditional anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon, the rights of Jews to live as equal members of whatever society they inhabit. The new anti-Semitism involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon, the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations, or their right to even live, with Israel emerging as the targeted collective Jew among the nations.

Observing the intersections between old and new anti-Semitism and the impact of the new on the old, Per Ahlmark, the former deputy prime minister of Sweden, pithily, and one would say, presciently concluded some 15 years ago, given what has happened in the 21st century. He said:

Compared to most previous anti-Jewish outbreaks, this [new anti-Semitism] is often less directed against individual Jews. It attacks primarily the collective Jews, the State of Israel. And then such attacks start a chain reaction of assaults on individual Jews and Jewish institutions...In the past, the most dangerous anti-Semites were those who wanted to make the world Judenrein, 'free of Jews.' Today, the most dangerous anti-Semites might be those who want to make the world Judenstaatrein, 'free of a Jewish state.

May I summarize now some four indicators of this old-new anti-Jewishness. I have also written about some 10 indicators. For reasons of time, I will seek to summarize four.

The first indicator, and the most lethal manifestation of it, is what might be called genocidal anti-Semitism. These are not words that l would use lightly or easily. I am referring here to the Genocide Convention's prohibition against the direct and public incitement to genocide, which caused our Supreme Court of Canada to write, “The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers - it began with words”.

In a more recent judgment, the Mugesera judgment, the court again said that incitement to genocide was a crime in and of itself, whether or not acts of genocide followed. Regrettably, we have seen four manifestations of this genocidal anti-Semitism, which reached a tipping point in the wake of the Hamas terrorist war against Israel this past summer.

The first is the state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide in Khamenei's Iran. I use to distinguish it from the people and public of Iran, who are otherwise the targets of massive domestic repression.

The second manifestation is the covenant and charters of such terrorist movements as Hamas, whose charter continues to call publicly for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they may be.

If this is known, perhaps the anti-Semitic tropes in the charter are not. The Hamas charter is replete with such anti-Semitic tropes as the Jews were responsible for the French Revolution, for the First World War, for the Second World War, for the League of Nations, for the United Nations, for the end of the Islamic Caliph. It concludes that no war has broken out anywhere without the fingerprints of Jews on it.

A third manifestation has been the religious fatwas, or genocidal calls by radical Imams. I distinguish this from mainstream Islam. I distinguish that from Islam. It is a kind of perversion of Islam. We saw this in various mosques in Berlin, Paris, in the U.K., and the like which publicly called themselves for the killing of Jews, where Jews and Judaism were characterized as perfidious enemies of Islam, where the Jews became, as it were, the Salman Rushdie of the nations.

Finally, there were hate-filled demonstrations in Europe this summer and since, which I personally witnessed, replete with genocidal chants of “Jews, Jews to the gas”, joined with or followed by the torching of synagogues, the attacks on Jewish community centres, attacks on Jewish identifiable people and places which caused the president of Germany's Central Council of Jews to say to me in Berlin when we met in November, “These are the worst times since the Nazi era. On the street, you heard things like, 'the Jews should be gassed, the Jews should be burned”.

As Roger Cukierman, the president of the Council of Jewish Institutions of France, put it, these were very frightening times, ”They are screaming ‘Death to the Jews'” in the streets. Eight synagogues were firebombed in four weeks in the last weeks of July, beginning of August alone. Similar statements were made to me by the chairman of the Jewish community in Belgium and elsewhere.

In a word, Israel is the only country and Jews the only people who are the standing targets of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide, which finds expression in terrorist assaults as manifestations of it.

The second indicator is the globalizing indictment of Israel and the Jewish people as the embodiment of all evil, as being racists, imperialists, colonialists, ethnic-cleansing, child-killing, genocidal Nazi people and state, the embodiment of all the worst evils of the 20th century and constituted of all evils in the 21st century.

To sum up this second indicator and to close, it is not only that the Jewish people are the only people who are the standing targets of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide, but they are the only people who are themselves accused of being genocidal. That is a kind of incitement that leads, and has led, to terrorist assaults upon them.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the primary thrust of the hon. member's remarks had to do with the question of oversight mechanisms and the issue of our support for legislation which may not, at the end day, have such an oversight mechanism.

The point is that we are hoping that there will be not only oversight mechanisms but review and accountability mechanisms as well. That is why we are proposing them.

I was one of a number of Canadians who signed on to a statement that was published on February 19 in The Globe and Mail. This statement calls for just such an integrated series of oversight, review, and accountability mechanisms, with Parliament at its core. I would hope that the government, which looks to public opinion and finds that some 80% of Canadians are in support of this bill, will also look to the fact that two-thirds of Canadians also want a robust and integrated oversight mechanism system that has a parliamentary review mechanism and parliamentary oversight at its core as part of overall accountability.

This is something that was called for in the Arar commission, which we as a Liberal government set up. We tabled legislation in 2005 calling for such an oversight mechanism. All parliamentarians agreed to it. We lost the election, and for the last 10 years, the Conservative government has done nothing about implementing that mechanism. I hope the Conservatives will do it now.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I set forth some foundational principles that would apply to this specific issue as well as others. When I said that we need to invest certain powers, I was referring in particular to those that relate to parts of part 3 and to part 4 of the bill. The hon. member has referred to part 2.

This brings me exactly to the point I was saying. The bill has five major pieces of legislation bundled together in omnibus anti-terrorism legislation. I would be delighted if the hon. member, since we cannot do it here in debate, would allow us in committee to address the whole issue of securing air travel, which she mentioned in particular, as well as each of the other facets of this omnibus anti-terrorism legislation, which time does not permit us to address here. I suspect, if precedent be our guide, that we will not be able to do so in committee either.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise to join in this critical debate on Bill C-51 as we, like parliamentarians around the world, continue to seek ways of safeguarding our country's security in the face of terrorism, while securing also our rights and freedoms, as we have been grappling with for so many years.

Indeed, after the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was said then that the whole world had changed. Anti-terrorism law and policy became principle and priority not only for our government but for governments everywhere. It was, in fact, mandated by the UN Security Council Resolution 1377, adopted in the months following 9/11, which called upon states to unequivocally condemn “all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, in all their forms and manifestations, wherever and by whomever committed”.

I must state, parenthetically for reasons of time but not unimportantly, that the notion of a parliamentary debate when time allocation has been imposed on this comprehensive and crucial legislation is, to put it mildly, a misnomer.

First, Bill C-51 is not simply one act. It is omnibus anti-terrorist legislation composed of five different acts. It is not just one bill but five bills bundled together into one omnibus legislation of compelling character. Each bill, whether it deals with cross-government information sharing and coordination and enhanced powers for that purpose; or the securing of air travel, or Criminal Code amendments, including lowering thresholds for terrorism-related peace bonds; or expanded powers of detention; or a new offence of knowingly advocating or promoting terrorism or being reckless in that advocacy; or legislation to expand the powers of CSIS, what is referred as “threat disruption activities”; all impact on national security agencies and on those national security powers. There is also, which has almost not been discussed at all, amending the security certificate procedural regime for government appeals of court ordered disclosures.

Underpinning all of this, and tucked away in the information sharing act and provisions, but only there, is an effective reframing of a terrorist threat as a threat to national security, a selective redoing not only of our anti-terrorism law but our national security law, and where a terrorist threat is conflated with a national security threat, which can include also threats to economic and fiscal stability or a threat to the infrastructure and the like. In other words, it is a reframing that is being carried out without the necessary debate on this crucial legislation.

Admittedly, over a decade after 9/11, the world may well have changed again, and we must continue to ensure that the enhanced powers are to be found in our law and vested in our national security agency for purposes of protecting Canadians from terrorist threats with the tools needed to counter those threats. However, what has not changed are the fundamental principles that must underpin our approach to combatting terrorism.

I outlined those principles when I appeared both before the House and Senate justice and public safety committees respectively as minister of justice a decade ago, and I will recall them now in the context of this present parliamentary debate on a new bill, Bill C-51, but reflecting and representing a long-standing global challenge.

Let me summarize the foundational principles.

The first fundamental principle is that there is no inherent contradiction between the protection of our security and the protection of human rights. As I wrote in the wake of October's assault on our parliamentary precinct and of the murders of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, while we often hear about the need to strike a balance between protecting Canadians from attack and protecting individual freedoms, we must remember that these are not mutually exclusive objectives or opposite ends of the spectrum, but rather an appropriate and effective strategy that must view security and rights, not as concepts in conflict, but as values that are inextricably linked.

In other words, terrorism constitutes an assault on the security of our democracy and an assault on our fundamental rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. In this sense, therefore, anti-terrorism law and policy are intended to protect the security of a democracy like Canada and to protect our fundamental rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.

However, the reverse is also true and must be read together as part of this foundational principle, namely, that anti-terrorism law and policy must always adhere to the rule of law and must always comport to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Torture must, everywhere and always, be prohibited. Minorities must never be singled out for differential or discriminatory treatment. Also, as we emphasized 10 years ago when tabling legislation to that effect and as I emphasize again, such anti-terrorism law and policy must also be subject to a comprehensive oversight review and accountability mechanisms.

This leads me to the next principle, which might be called the “contextual principle”. By this, I refer to the approach taken by the Supreme Court, according to which charter rights and any limits imposed on them must be analyzed not in the abstract but in the factual context that gives rise to them. As such, the debate we are having today must be anchored in the reality of the increasingly lethal, if not barbaric, and international nature of terrorism; the proliferation of transnational terrorist entities that invoke Islam at the same time as they subvert it for their purpose; the increasing potential for cyberterrorism; the sophistication of transnational communications, transportation, and financial networks, including the explosive use of social media, which ISIS alone is said to be using 100,000 times a day; the increasing radicalization of those exposed, for example, to these social media, including our Canadian youth; and the potential for what in our recent experiences have been characterized as “lone-wolf terrorists”.

This brings me to the third principle. The third principle is that the threat posed by terrorism, which is increasingly transnational in character, must be part of a global response. Indeed, previous Canadian anti-terrorist measures have implemented international conventions and undertakings mandated by the UN Security Council, which I referred to earlier, and we must continue, therefore, not only to mobilize our domestic legal arsenal against terrorism but also to participate in strengthening international mechanisms to confront this international threat.

Let there be no mistake about it: when we deal with such terrorists, we are dealing with Nuremberg crimes and Nuremberg criminals, with hostis humani generis, with enemies of humankind. Our domestic criminal-law, due-process model standing alone is insufficient. It must be joined with the overall international legal arsenal, and much of our anti-terrorism law and policies in fact must be anchored in the 14 anti-terrorism international treaties for that purpose.

The fourth principle flows from the third one. It is that nonetheless there still is a need for due-process safeguards in the application and implementation of our domestic criminal law. This remains of vital importance and must be included in any foundational underpinnings for this and other anti-terrorism legislation.

The fifth principle is that of proportionality. As the Supreme Court has ruled, there must be a proportionality between the effects of the measures for limiting charter or other rights under this legislation and the objective that has been identified as sufficient importance.

There can be no doubt that the threat of transnational terrorism comports with the first requirement of a proportionality test, namely, that there be a substantial and compelling objective for the limitation of charter and other rights. However, we must still ensure that the measures we enact respect this principle in other ways: they must be tailored specifically to their objective and not be over-broad or vague; they must intrude as little as possible upon our charter rights and other rights, and not undercut any of them; and their impact on civil liberties must not outweigh their remedial character.

This leads me to the sixth principle. We must consider and learn from anti-terrorism measures proposed and enacted in other jurisdictions similar to our own, and indeed from our own previous experiences in this regard. All free and democratic societies are grappling with the same issues we are grappling with today, and their efforts to remain both secure and free must be considered as part of our deliberations.

The seventh principle is the need for counterterrorism measures to focus on prevention. Admittedly, we must seek to disable and dismantle terrorist networks and disrupt terrorist plots before they result in injury and death, and that accounts for the enhanced approach to giving increased power to CSIS. However, it also means that those powers that are invested in CSIS must obey principles of proportionality. It also means intervening to prevent or undo radicalization and supporting local and community initiatives in this regard.

To conclude, we must emphasize the importance of oversight, of an accountability mechanism, and of a parliamentary review mechanism, all of which are missing in the present legislation.

Petitions February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today signed by many Canadians from the Sherbrooke area.

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

The petitioners are joining with the parliamentarians in all parties who have already asked the government to take action on this case.

Foreign Affairs February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the imprisonment and cruel and inhumane treatment of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi continues to be met with outrage in Canada and around the world.

The government called for clemency, but calling for clemency does not guarantee that Raif Badawi and his lawyer will be immediately and unconditionally released, nor does it allow Raif to be reunited with his family in Quebec.

Will the government explicitly demand that these two individuals be released immediately and unconditionally and that Raif be reunited with his family here in Quebec?

Anti-Semitism February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, recently I addressed the first-ever United Nations General Assembly meeting on anti-Semitism, which took place, symbolically and significantly, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was also the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the most brutal extermination camp of the 20th century, reminding us of horrors too terrible to be believed but not too terrible to have happened.

At Auschwitz 1.3 million people were murdered, and 1.1 million of them were Jews. Let there be no mistake about it: Jews died at Auschwitz because of anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitism did not die. Indeed, we have been witness to an escalation and intensification of this oldest, most enduring, and particularly toxic hatred, reminding us that while it begins with Jews, it may not end with Jews, that anti-Semitism is the canary in the mineshaft of evil.

I am pleased, therefore, that in response to the UN appeal to member parliaments, we will be holding a take-note debate on anti-Semitism on Tuesday evening. It is timely, necessary, and urgent that we sound the parliamentary alarm on this global evil.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Papineau for his excellent speech, and specifically for what he said on the relationship between security and rights. He made specific recommendations on matters regarding oversight and review. He also made reference to some of the overly broad language in the bill, so I would like to ask him a particular question.

Does he believe that this legislation, given its overly broad language, must have effective vetting to ensure that it comports with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Petitions February 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table six petitions today on behalf of some 3,000 Canadians who are concerned about the cruel practice of forced organ harvesting by the Chinese Communist regime on prisoners, including Falun Gong practitioners, resulting in the deaths of some tens of thousands, as documented by David Matas, David Kilgour and Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.

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 on China to end its persecution of the Falun Gong.

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

Venezuela February 18th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, one year ago today, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López was arrested as part of a crackdown on peaceful protests that left 43 dead, 3,000 detained, and scores of political prisoners.

His trial has been a sham in which the judge has allowed over 100 prosecution witnesses while denying defence testimony. His imprisonment has been cruel and inhumane. Last week, a dozen armed men wearing ski masks destroyed the contents of his cell and moved him to a small isolation unit with no toilet or running water.

After his wife, Lilian Tintori, appeared before our foreign affairs subcommittee on international human rights, the subcommittee passed a unanimous motion condemning:

—the arbitrary and illegal detention and imprisonment of Mr. López and the violations of his fundamental freedoms and rights to a fair trial as guaranteed under international law and the Venezuelan constitution;

I ask all members to join this call for the release of Leopoldo López and all political prisoners in Venezuela, and to urge the Government of Venezuela to respect democracy human rights, and the rule of law for all its people.