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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Abitibi—Témiscamingue (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 32% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

Indeed, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, and he is right. I forgot to mention it, but we are in favour of the amendment. We believe it is important that the court explain its decision, whatever that may be, especially since we are talking about people's lives. We thought it was important to support that. We are talking about people's lives and the possibility that they will one day be able to return to society. We therefore think it is important that those decisions be explained.

When an individual receives a prison sentence, judges generally hand down their decisions saying that they are imposing a sentence of 12 years, for instance, and give their reasons. I agree with my colleague: a judge in such a case should have to explain the decision to hand down or not hand down a ruling, since that decision can be appealed before the appeal court. Thus, the reasons must be explained.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I did not do that because I wanted to be in contempt of the House. It is difficult for me to stand up, because my leg is giving me a little trouble. I did not want to miss my turn.

Have no fear; I did indeed intend to speak to this bill, which I too believe is very important and which fills a gap in the Criminal Code. We who argue and have argued murder cases know that this gap has existed for many years, ever since the Criminal Code was amended in 1976 to abolish the death penalty. At the time, the faint hope clause was brought in, and that is the topic of Bill S-6, which we debated yesterday.

There is a difference between Bill C-48, which we are examining today, and the bill we examined yesterday, Bill S-6. Bill S-6 closes the door on nearly every possibility that someone convicted of murder will ever return to society. Conversely, Bill C-48 is worthwhile because it will close a door that was left half-open when the faint hope clause was introduced under section 745 of the Criminal Code. Let me explain.

When the death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976, the Criminal Code was amended and it stated—without quoting the Criminal Code—more or less the following: anyone convicted of murder shall be sentenced to life imprisonment. That is clear. It forgot to mention that an individual can be convicted of multiple murders. Section 745 refers only to an individual who is convicted of murder, in the singular, and no one thought any differently. I was not here in 1976 and I do not believe that anyone currently in this House was here then, but the priority at the time was to put an end to the death penalty. It is clear from the work done at the time that legislators wanted to put an end to the possibility that anyone convicted of murder would be hanged, since the death penalty still existed in Canada. However, they forgot to close that door, and now nearly 25 years later, we are going to close it with Bill C-48.

When a bill is intelligent and serves an important purpose—and we believe it does—the Bloc Québécois supports it. In terms of criminal law, we believe that this is an important bill, because we must make a distinction—while being careful not to trivialize—between an individual who commits one murder and an individual who commits two or three. My colleagues will understand that they are completely different. In examining the figures provided, I realize that, in Canada, we can count the number of multiple murderers on one hand. That is straightforward.

The government is shutting doors because of a few multiple murderers. I would like to share with you the most recent figures from 2008. We asked for the most recent figures, but we could not wait for them because the bill had to be passed.

In 2008, 553 people were convicted on 1 count of murder; 18 people were convicted on 2 counts of murder; 6 people were convicted on 3 counts of murder; and 1 person was convicted on at least 4 counts of murder. We know how to count: 18 plus 6 plus 1 equals 25 people convicted of multiple murders. We should take a closer look at this.

Let us look at the type of criminal we are dealing with. I will be careful so as not to be misquoted. The majority are murderers. Murder is still the most serious crime in the Criminal Code. All the murder cases we looked at—except five, and I will come back to that momentarily—were multiple murders: someone killed his wife and three children, someone else killed her husband and two children. This happens a lot in families. In Canada, there are currently five multiple murderers in prison. In order not to violate the seal of confession, I will not name those murderers except for maybe Olson and Pickton, and more recently Colonel Williams. The others were hitmen for the Hells Angels. These are very specific cases.

The example that springs to mind is incredibly sad, and that is the case of Cathie Gauthier. Following a suicide pact she had made, she killed her husband and two children—and in a few moments I will come back to section 745, which is why we are voting in favour. This woman and her husband had left Abitibi to work in Chicoutimi in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean area, and they had made a suicide pact. Unfortunately, the husband and two children died, but she survived. She was supposed to die, but she survived. She was convicted of triple murder. These are very specific cases.

This is what section 745.51 of the Criminal Code would do. In Canada, in Quebec and in this part of the world, there are few criminals, few mass murderers—God willing it will stay that way. All the better for all of us. However, they had the same rights as someone who committed one murder. Members may think that I am trying to trivialize the situation, but I have no intention of trivializing murder. It is very clear that it is the most serious and most horrific of crimes. However, someone who killed his wife's lover was treated the same way as someone who killed five people to settle the score for the mafia. They were treated the same, meaning that after 25 years they could apply for parole. An individual was granted parole even though he was a criminal and a mafia hitman. He was released under this section of the Criminal Code. I checked and I can tell you that this person did not reoffend. I could speak at length about this. No individual who has been released since 1987 has reoffended by committing murder. The law was amended in 1976, but the first cases occurred in 1987. Two individuals reoffended and committed violent crimes, namely assault with a weapon and robbery.

These two individuals had their parole revoked and are back in custody.

I would like to emphasize the fundamental principle that the Conservatives do not understand. Someone who is convicted of murder is sentenced to life in prison. For the rest of his days, for the rest of his life, he will be under the control and supervision of the Correctional Service of Canada, period.

There is a major difference between Bill C-48 and Bill S-6, which we examined yesterday and which the Bloc will vehemently oppose. I hope that our Liberal friends will come around and also vote against it. Bill S-6 would abolish the faint hope clause, which would mean that any murderer, even if he was completely rehabilitated, would remain in prison. That makes absolutely no sense.

That is why yesterday I said that there was a difference between the faint hope clause, which enables an individual to reintegrate into society, and Bill C-48, which we are currently studying and which states that when an individual commits more than one murder, the judge will address the jury. That is what will be in the Criminal Code, which will be amended. I will quote what will be said to the jury, which can be found in the proposed section 745.21. It will not be the judge, the Conservatives or the police who will make the decision. It will be the jury that convicted the individual.

Before discharging the jury, the judge shall put to them the following question:

You have found the accused guilty of murder. The law requires that I now pronounce a sentence of imprisonment for life against the accused. Do you wish to make any recommendation with respect to the period without eligibility for parole to be served for this murder consecutively to the period without eligibility for parole imposed for the previous murder? You are not required to make any recommendation, but if you do, your recommendation will be considered by me when I make my determination.

Here is an explanation for the listening public. This means that, from now on, a jury will be consulted in cases involving offenders who have been found guilty of two murders. I will use the example of Cathie Gauthier, who was found guilty of triple murder. The judge will consult the jury to determine whether, given what it heard, it thinks that this woman should not be eligible for parole before serving three consecutive sentences of 25 years or a total of 75 years.

Of course, in the case of a person who killed someone in a moment of pure insanity the jury will likely tell the judge that such a sentence does not really make sense. However, in cases such as those of Olson, Pickton, Bernardo or a mafia hitman, I do not think that the jury would hesitate for long before saying that such individuals should not be released until they have served 25, 50 or 75 years.

That is the fundamental difference between Bill S-6, which will be voted on tomorrow—I hope that the Liberals will vote against it—and Bill C-48, which we will likely vote on within the next few days. I hope that the Liberals will vote, like us, in favour of Bill C-48 because it closes an open door.

But there is more. As a criminal lawyer, I admit that this idea is quite intelligent. It is rare that I compliment the Conservatives, but I am doing so now.

Surely it could not have been the Minister of Justice who came up with this. It must have been someone who works for the Department of Justice. Section 745.51 was added, under which it will be determined whether a person is guilty of a single, double or triple murder when they are sentenced under section 745.

The judge presiding over the trial of an individual found guilty of murder asks the jury for a verdict. This is where it gets interesting. Having regard to the character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission, and all the recommendations made by the jury that I was talking about 10 minutes ago, the judge can order that the period of ineligibility for parole for each murder conviction be served consecutively. In other words, once the jury has found the individual guilty, the judge asks the jury the question and takes the answer into account. For example, the jury says not to impose a consecutive sentence. As a criminal lawyer, I would appeal that the next morning. I cannot see a judge disregarding a recommendation by the jury. If the jury says to impose a consecutive sentence, then the judge has discretionary power and has to give a reason orally or in writing for not making the order. What does that mean? It is quite good because once again discretionary power will be given to the court judging the individual.

I want to go back to the example of Cathie Gauthier, who made a suicide pact, as everyone knows. She gave drugs to her husband and her two children and took some herself. Unfortunately for her, she survived. She was convicted of triple murder. In her case, it is likely that the judge, having regard to the character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding its commission, would say that the sentence is already enough, that the woman is serving life in prison and will be there for at least 25 years, and to leave it at that.

However, without denigrating these individuals, in the case of Olson, Bernardo or Colonel Williams, I think the judge would not hesitate to say that they deserve a consecutive sentence and before being eligible for parole, they will have to serve 25, 50, even 75 years. In other words, there is no way they are returning to society. I think that would be a wise decision. I admit there are criminals who are so hopeless they could never return to society. Unfortunately that is true.

There are also individuals who are not criminals by nature, but who, because of the events surrounding the murder, became criminals. The case of Cathie Gauthier is an excellent example. How will the appeal court respond? I do not know; I only know that the case is being appealed. But with what we have before us today and the studies we have done, we believe this is a good bill. This bill will close a door that was unfortunately left half-open when the death penalty was abolished.

As a final point, I will say that when we see a good bill, especially in the area of criminal law, the Bloc will support it. That is true of Bill C-48. However, when a bill is bad, as is the case with what Bill S-6 is trying to do, we cannot support it.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I have another question for my colleague. The fundamental clause of Bill C-48, which we are discussing today, concerns the potential addition of section 745.51 to the Criminal Code. I have a question about the judge's decision about whether to impose an additional period, if the sentence will be served consecutively.

Section 745.51 states, “The judge shall give, either orally or in writing, reasons for the decision to make or not to make an order under subsection (1).” The “order” refers to the decision about whether a consecutive sentence will be imposed.

Does my colleague think that the judge should give reasons for his decision, whether or not he is making an order? This decision could be appealed.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, obviously, I listened to the last few minutes of my colleague's speech and I am still a bit ambivalent. We have examined this bill, and I will discuss it in a few moments during my speech. Pursuant to the sections of the Criminal Code that this bill would amend, the judge is not currently required to impose a consecutive sentence, but will have to provide a justification and so on.

I have a question for my colleague. Maybe I missed something but I did not fully understand the NDP's position. Does it support the bill because judges are given the discretion to impose a consecutive sentence, or does it agree that judges should always impose consecutive sentences if there is more than one murder? I would like him to explain the difference between the two. Maybe I misunderstood. I do not want to misunderstand what my colleague is saying.

Criminal Code January 31st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague.

It took hearing the interview with the Prime Minister. He was asked whether he was in favour of the death penalty. He said no, that he would never reopen that debate, but that there were times when the death penalty might apply. That is when I understood where they were going with Bill S-6. It is the cornerstone. It is opening the door to reinstating the death penalty in Canada. That is precisely what is happening. This is the first step.

With all due respect, what I do not understand about the Conservatives is this idea of being tough on crime. Of course certain criminals deserve to go to prison. I have no problem with that. The problem is that we have to make them serve their time. Even if an individual is given an additional two years, he is still eligible for parole after one-sixth of his sentence. We just saw that with Mr. Lacroix from Norbourg. That guy was sentenced to 13 years, but he served only two. Why? Because he was eligible after one-sixth of the sentence. He is not dangerous. He was not violent in detention.

In the matter before us, a person who kills someone commits the worst crime under the Criminal Code. It is the worst crime a person can commit. Before that person has any chance of returning to society, we have to be sure that he is ready and able to return. That is exactly how the faint hope clause works. It was implemented in 1976 and it works very well. Again, out of more than 4,000 individuals who have had the right to apply for it, only 181 have done so. Out of that 181, only 147 have been successful and there have been only two recidivists. I was looking for this information earlier. Here it is: assault with a weapon charge in one case and robbery in the other case. I can assure you, we checked, these individuals are still locked up. The situation is under control. Eliminating the faint hope clause is unacceptable.

Criminal Code January 31st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Hochelaga, who has skilfully replaced our colleague Réal Ménard. I learned a great deal from Réal Ménard, and I sat with him on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Mr. Ménard is not a lawyer, but he was definitely eloquent when it came to his files.

Since I became a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2006, we have been swamped with bills. It is incredible. I was shocked. We are unbelievably busy. We seem to agree on some things. For anything related to cybercrime, things move quickly; we agree on that. I say we do away with parole after one-sixth of a sentence is served. I am a criminal lawyer—I defend criminals—but I agree with eliminating the one-sixth rule. I even used to tell my clients that they would get three years, but with the one-sixth rule, they would get out after six or seven months. We now realize that serving one-sixth of a sentence is not that. That is what shocks people. What shocks people is not the sentence that a criminal receives, but rather that he does not serve his sentence in prison.

With this bill, what happens is the opposite, because with the faint hope clause at this time, not only do offenders serve their time, but for the rest of their lives, they will not be released unless they can demonstrate that they are fully rehabilitated and fully capable of returning to society. At present, the Correctional Service of Canada controls that and it works. I do not see why we would change that.

Criminal Code January 31st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I have defended lost causes. It has happened that the court said it would re-examine a case in detail and that arguments have been brought before it that may not have been seen before. That is exactly what I have been doing. Some Liberals may tell their colleagues that they established the faint hope clause in 1976; that it was their political party that has defended it tooth and nail since then, despite all the attacks; that they are the ones who enforced respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the ones who put it in place in 1982.

And we are the ones who are afraid to be tough on crime? I cannot agree with that. Voting against Bill S-6 does not mean we are not tough on crime. On the contrary, it means we respect the Charter. I repeat that the faint hope clause works very well and has proven to be useful. We do not need Bill S-6 to get rid of what is working well.

Criminal Code January 31st, 2011

Practically at 10:10 a.m., as my learned colleague from Hochelaga says. As of October 10, 2010, 4,774 people were serving life sentences in Canada. Since 1986, 181 offenders have gone before the board. The Conservatives claim that not enough is said about the victims, but 181 applications were heard. Many more people could have applied, but some did not because they knew that they, like the Clifford Olsons of this world, would not succeed. There are a number of them.

Of these 181 cases, 146 had their sentences reduced and 35 were rejected. That is close to 1%. But that is not all. Of the 146 inmates whose eligibility date for parole was moved forward, 144 have now reached the revised date for day parole eligibility.

Parole has been granted to 135 people. We will do our job and state the facts: 135 individuals out of 4,700 have been paroled. Just wait, that is not all. Of these 135 individuals, 68—just about half—have never had problems. We need to explain something that the Conservatives will never understand, and that I would like the Liberals to realize. When offenders are sentenced to life, when they are incarcerated for the rest of their days, they fall under the parole system, the Correctional Service of Canada system. Therefore, they are monitored and under the jurisdiction of the Correctional Service of Canada not just while they are in prison, but to the end of their days, until they die.

Thus, 68 individuals have been released, 35 have had their parole suspended but not revoked—I will return to that—and 23 have had their parole revoked. Thus, 23 out of 135, out of 181, out of more than 4,000. Only 23. I will continue. Of the 135 paroled, seven committed non-violent offences, and two committed new violent offences. Naturally, the Conservatives are focusing on those two. Two out of 141, two out of 4,000, committed violent crimes. Naturally, we wanted to find out if the offences were murder. They were not.

Since 1987, no one released through the use of the faint hope clause has committed murder. And that is a good thing, of course. Two individuals committed violent crimes. We asked the Correctional Service of Canada what type of crimes these were. There had been assault causing bodily harm and armed robbery. Clearly, these two individuals returned to prison and will probably stay there for the rest of their lives.

Why did I quote these figures? I did it because the faint hope clause works. The Conservatives have not understood this, but I hope that the Liberals will wake up and ensure that this bill never goes to third reading, that it gets no support and is defeated in the House.

The faint hope clause is a system that works. Generally, the Criminal Code is amended to adapt it, for example, if there are computer-related crimes or an increase in car theft, armed robberies or street gangs. Also, there were Hells Angels and the mafia. So we take measures to amend the Criminal Code. We have a system that works and that works very well. Why amend it? I say that it works very well because the parole board would never release someone convicted of murder if there were a possibility that the person would reoffend. It would never happen if there were a chance the person would reoffend.

There are significant steps that an individual must take before being released. Under the faint hope clause, the individual must first submit an application to a judge in the district where he or she was sentenced 15 or 17 years previously. It is the judge who determines whether the person is eligible to apply. If the Superior Court judge is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual is eligible, the judge empanels a jury. Despite what the Conservatives may say, it is not true that it is up to the jury to determine whether an individual is eligible for release. The only thing a jury can do is to determine whether the sentence should be reduced or whether the individual should be granted permission to ask the parole board for parole after one, two, three, four or five years. The jury would determine the timeframe.

The faint hope clause found in section 745 of the Criminal Code has been so clearly defined that I am wondering why we would now want to abolish it. This is not my opinion, but that of reporters, and I would like to cite a passage in support of this argument. Manon Cornellier, a reporter for the newspaper Le Devoir, stated the following in an article published on June 10, 2009: “What if a lack of hope were to destroy a convict's desire for rehabilitation, resulting in more violence and more problems in our prisons?”

It is obvious to us that if we deny the possibility of the faint hope clause to those who have been convicted of murder, they will have no hope of being reintegrated into society. The faint hope clause: the name says it all. The wording is clear. It means that such individuals can think about returning to society after 15, 17, 18 or 20 years have passed, but they cannot do it alone and they would have to be deemed ready to return to society.

I do not understand why the Conservatives want to do this. Actually, I did not understand why until I read that the Prime Minister stated that he was against capital punishment except in certain cases. Then I understood everything. I understood why this bill was being introduced: it is the beginning of the return of the death penalty in Canada. This is extremely dangerous. This door must be closed immediately. The only way to close this door is to vote against Bill S-6. We must vote against this bill because it removes the opportunity for individuals to be reintegrated into society. I have argued many cases and clearly murder is the worst crime in the Criminal Code. A life has been taken. The person responsible should not be allowed to return to society until they understand the seriousness of their actions, before they are ready to return and have served a minimum sentence.

Let us again look at the numbers. I did not make them up. Statistics have been compiled since the death penalty was abolished in 1976. Canada kept track because keeping statistics is one of our strong suits. The average incarceration time for first degree murder, before the slightest possibility of eligibility for parole, is set out in a study by the Correctional Service of Canada. This data does not come from the Bloc, the Liberals, the NDP or the Conservatives. It comes from the Correctional Service of Canada.

The average time served is now 22.4 years. This means that offenders, even if they have the right to apply for parole after 15 or 17 years, serve on average 22.6 years before even being eligible for parole. This means that the Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board are doing a good job. And the government wants to change that? It makes no sense.

It works so well that we have very few cases of repeat offences. Since 1987, two violent crimes have been committed by individuals who have been released and 23 individuals have violated their parole conditions. They returned to prison. Here is what the Conservatives do not get: someone who is handed over to the Correctional Service of Canada for murder is imprisoned for life. I encourage my Conservative and Liberal colleagues to read section 745 of the Criminal Code. It clearly states that someone who is convicted of murder is sentenced to imprisonment for life. As far as I know, a life sentence is not 1, 2, 15 or 18 years in prison, it is life in prison. The individual is under the control of the Correctional Service of Canada for the rest of his life. As we say, he had better stay on the straight and narrow.

I have handled many cases and files that I could spend an hour talking about. The people from the Correctional Service of Canada who came to the committee asked why we were tinkering with a system that worked really well. The Conservatives responded that they wanted to be tough on crime. That makes no sense. Murder is the worst crime and a convicted murderer is sentenced to life in prison. He cannot get out unless he is ready to return to society.

The Conservatives claim to protect victims. But the victim's biggest advocate in this case is the Correctional Service of Canada and its parole board, which, since 1987, has been on the ball. They are good. Everyone released under the faint hope clause has behaved well, with the exception of two people. Two out of 181 is less than 1%.

If the House wants me to speak for another half-hour I would be happy to. In conclusion, I urge the Liberals, who brought in the faint hope clause, to think about this carefully. If Bill S-6 is passed, I guarantee that we will soon see the return of backbenchers' bills aiming to bring back the death penalty. That is unacceptable and we will never go along with that.

Criminal Code January 31st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, over the past six years, I have heard some interesting things in the House, but the argument being made by my colleague from the Liberal Party is, with all due respect, extremely flawed. His argument does not hold water and it is inconsistent with Liberal Party philosophy.

I am liberal-minded because for 35 years, I was a criminal defence lawyer. I have defended many murder cases.

There are some things I do not understand. In 1976, the Liberal Party agreed to vote in favour of abolishing the death penalty and instituted what we call the faint hope clause. Decisions on this have gone all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Liberal Party is starting to realize it is being tricked. If the Liberals vote in favour of Bill S-6, they will be opening the door to reinstating the death penalty. Is that clear enough? That is where the Conservatives are going with this. I hope my colleague will consult with his colleagues who were on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I can give him some arguments to convince his colleagues.

These numbers do not come from the Bloc, the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party or the NDP. These numbers were complied by the Correctional Service of Canada. As far as I know, the Correctional Service of Canada is neutral. It deals with inmates and ensures that those who are released on parole deserve to be.

The Conservatives do not understand the first thing about the faint hope clause. I hope my Liberal colleagues will understand. The Conservatives want to defend the victims. There is nothing better than the faint hope clause, which was implemented in 1976, to ensure that victims are respected.

Allow me to explain. The faint hope clause was adopted in 1976. The first hearings were held in 1987 because the inmates had to serve their sentences after all. Since 1987, there have been 181 hearings. As of October 10, 2010—

Criminal Code January 31st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, something is not right here and I hope my hon. colleague is listening. Let us stop talking about street gangs and car thefts. That is not what we are talking about here; we are talking about murder.

From my hon. colleague's response, I understood that the Liberal Party plans to vote in favour of this bill. If that is true, the Liberals are going to abolish the faint hope clause that they themselves created in 1976. Is that clear enough?

I want to know why they are choosing to support a bill that goes against what they have always defended, specifically, that criminals must be given the opportunity to return to society. That is exactly what they are about to do with Bill S-6, if they support it.

They need to stop talking about street gangs. We are talking about murder, are we not? My question is clear: do they want to give people one last chance? If so, they must vote against the bill. That is what I want to know.