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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Beloeil—Chambly (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 15% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Parole System June 19th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the sponsor of the motion, the member for Milton. Since I have been working on the public safety file, I have seen the consequences these cases can have on people's lives. If I may, I have more I would like to say on the subject.

I should point out that I support the member's motion. During the previous Parliament, we supported the legislation that was introduced. We had many disagreements with the previous government on matters of law and order and on how to achieve our public safety objectives. We did not agree on how to protect our communities or how to promote rehabilitation. That is also important to achieving our public safety objectives.

In that context, we supported the Victims Bill of Rights. It is also important to understand the impact these crimes have on the victims. In some cases, repercussions can last an entire lifetime, depending on the seriousness of the crime. There are gaps with respect to the enforcement of the act and the resources available to the Parole Board of Canada.

One example comes to mind, and that is the legal obligation to inform victims when there has been a change in the status of an offender who could cause them harm, particularly in the case of the most horrific and violent crimes. In recent years, some high-profile cases have brought to light how badly the law is being enforced. Some victims were not informed or were not informed in a timely manner, which does not respect the spirit of the law that was passed.

The government surely does not intend to change the law, but it must ensure that these organizations have the resources they need to keep victims informed in accordance with existing legal obligations. That is one of the reasons why I support the motion.

It is not easy. In this digital age, there is a 24-hour news cycle and the news is available on television and on our phones. We know that, unfortunately, horrific crimes are being committed in every part of our society.

We need to look at this in several stages. I am sorry that I missed part of the parliamentary secretary's speech. At the end, I heard her talk about crime prevention. That too is important. From what I see and hear, victims often do not want other individuals or families to go through the same grief or trauma as they did.

Another way to show respect for victims is to prevent similar crimes from being committed against other individuals or other groups in our society. Unfortunately, as hon. members know, we have a lot of work to do in that regard. We know there are aggravating factors that can lead to a crime being committed. We need to address the housing crisis, deal with mental health issues and reduce poverty. Sometimes, through no fault of their own, people are in situations where their own illness or their difficult circumstances take them down a very dark path that has significant repercussions on the lives of other innocent Canadians. It is a scourge on our society. I think we can all agree that we need to address all this.

Something else that needs to be considered is the objectives of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is key to achieving public safety objectives. I have said that several times since the beginning of my speech, but it is important. Unfortunately, that is rarely a popular aspect to address.

There are significant, palpable tensions within our criminal justice system. They reflect the need to understand that these crimes involve victims, who need respect and adequate resources so they can get on with their lives and feel like justice has been done.

At the same time, we also have rehabilitation objectives that, sadly, do not always align with the popular will. Since becoming the NDP critic, I have seen several cases. Listening to the parents of victims, I can only imagine the grief and rage they must be feeling. Those feelings are completely normal. No one here would blame them.

That being said, we need to gear the system towards rehabilitation, not to diminish the impact of crimes on victims or the importance of victims, but to ensure that our society is safe. The issue of record suspensions is a good example, even though the offence in that case is not a particularly heinous crime. In the case we are talking about now, these are people who will be in jail for the rest of their lives and who will never get to seek that kind of relief. However, I still want to cite some statistics, because they are relevant, even though the crimes in this case are very different from the crimes that are eligible for a record suspension.

First, 95% of people who were granted a record suspension did not reoffended. Second, three-quarters of Canadians believe that record suspensions, which allow individuals to reintegrate into society, are a positive thing. As I said, these statistics are about a program that does not necessarily apply to the crimes addressed by my colleague's motion, but I did want to mention them, because we need to acknowledge the importance of rehabilitation.

No matter how serious a crime may be, if the system allows an individual to reintegrate into society, we, as legislators, want this to be done with zero, or almost zero, chance of reoffending. This is also important for other inmates. Prison is often referred to as a crime school, and we obviously want to avoid that.

Since my time is running out, I will get back to the main point and reiterate that we support the motion. We do, however, have many concerns.

First, as I mentioned, we need adequate resources and ministerial direction to ensure that the current law is applied so that victims remain informed.

Second, there are some gaps with respect to the type of information provided, and we believe that the law should be updated in that regard. As the motion states, the government must address this issue to reconcile privacy and victims' needs. For example, the motion speaks about individuals' absences when on conditional release, but they are usually granted for medical reasons. It would be appropriate to inform victims when such absences are granted and to explain the process to them so they are better informed. A victim who is better informed is better able to achieve the desired goals, which is to get their life back on track and to grieve. We want to avoid revictimizing them.

We must consider all these factors, determine whether the law passed in the previous legislature was properly enforced, then think about how we can update it. That would be quite appropriate.

Earlier this week, in another debate on another bill, my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona spoke about an important element that I feel is very pertinent to the motion we are debating. He stated that the laws passed by Parliament often include a review period. Laws are reviewed after three or five years. However, this is often not done, or we seem to think that it is not important. It is our duty, as parliamentarians, especially in the case of a law on victims' rights.

I thank the member for Milton. I support her motion and I urge the government to take this opportunity to ensure that we do all we can so that there is also room for victims in this process.

Telecommunications June 18th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, people from my riding are here in Ottawa to protest against the Telus tower that is being forced on Otterburn Park. Students Romane, Laurence and Emma-Rose from École Notre-Dame launched a petition signed by about 100 students to protect their magnificent woodland.

If the minister will not listen to the citizen movement or to the municipality, will he listen to the young people who want to protect the environment from the Telus tower? Will he block the tower in Otterburn Park?

Access to Information Act June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. She eloquently explained our role here.

We are debating a bill on access to information. The term privileged information is often thrown around. What I find interesting is that information is considered a privilege. In Ottawa, only a select few, such as the government agencies that respond to our requests or the ministers, have access to certain information. The idea is to protect the privilege, or information, that we have.

Information has an impact on people's lives, mostly thanks to the media. Journalists use privileged information to uncover stories or report on the government's actions, for example.

While my colleague was giving her speech, I was looking through the requests received by departments. The Minister of Health has not yet responded to an access to information request regarding her department's response to the opioid crisis.

The purpose of the bill is to make information more accessible to the public. Could my colleague explain why the bill does not meet this objective?

If we are supposed to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty, how can we make information more accessible, in accordance with the law, instead of hiding it?

I do not think the bill meets these objectives.

Access to Information Act June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. He did a good job explaining the flaws in the access to information bill currently before us, but I would like to take this opportunity to say that we need to look even further. As he mentioned in his speech, the government came on the scene saying that it would be the most transparent government in the history of the universe. The Liberals talked about being open by default. However, my colleague pointed to various things that have thwarted those efforts. One example is omnibus bills, which my colleague mentioned.

How can we properly scrutinize bills when the details that will have the greatest impact on Canadians's lives are presented over dozens of pages in a bill that is 100-pages long? Ultimately, that approach means that there is very little transparency and not enough consultation on the part of the government. It is ironic that the government is always going on about consultation, since it only seems to consult Canadians when it does not want to do something. When consultation is needed to improve a bill, there is no consultation. My colleague could talk a little more about that.

Why does my colleague think the government did not adequately consult people, particularly the Information Commissioner? If the government had done its job properly, it would have produced a better bill. In the end, we did not get the intended results.

The Environment June 12th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, we have been calling on the federal government to respect Otterburn Park and its residents for years.

The Prime Minister went to Mont-Saint-Hilaire to prance around and talk about the environment. Telus wants to build a tower in the Mont-Saint-Hilaire Biosphere Reserve green zone, which he visited on Monday.

Will the Prime Minister respect the environment in my riding, listen to residents and ban the tower in Otterburn Park, or will he simply use our green heritage as his backdrop?

Public Safety June 10th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the Canada Border Services Agency is still the only public safety agency in Canada that does not have an external review process.

CBC reported that a Canadian woman, Jill Knapp, went through a traumatizing experience because of the CBSA.

For years, I have asked the minister to keep his promise and table legislation to correct this. Bill C-98 is too little, too late and another broken promise.

Why did the minister wait until the eleventh hour before tabling a bill that would allow proper scrutiny of CBSA and allow us to protect Canadians' rights?

National Security Act, 2017 June 7th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and his kind words.

He is right; that is a very important aspect. The Liberals proposed an amendment, and we supported it. The amendment actually created a brand new law. Procedure allows us to do that.

Once again, amending the act to state that Canada condemns torture and forbids our agencies from sharing information or taking action that could lead to Canadian citizens being tortured is commendable. However, the law also said that deputy ministers and agency directors were required to obey ministerial directives, even though we know that ministerial directives forbidding anyone from sharing information that could lead to people being tortured already exist and are downright inadequate.

I wonder if the government decided not to make that prohibition law because it is worried people might sue the government and win. Many out-of-court settlements have resulted in payments to individuals who were victims of torture abroad because of the Government of Canada's actions. I do not think the government is bothered by these people winning. I just think it does not want to be humiliated in court when information about our agencies' bad behaviour gets out.

I think the government just wanted to protect itself, but what I want is legislation that protects citizens here and abroad. Unfortunately, the government did not want to go as far as experts, groups such as Amnesty International and, of course, the NDP, wanted it to go. This is yet another half-measure. We are not going to turn it down, but much more can be done. Human rights warrant nothing less than total protection.

National Security Act, 2017 June 7th, 2019

Madam Speaker, we will have to disagree on information sharing. Both Bill C-51 and now with a slight rejigging or perhaps cosmetic change at best in the bill before us is not going to necessarily increase public safety, but certainly forces us to run the risk of finding ourselves in a situation where human rights might be violated.

I will go back to the example I gave in my speech. On the surface, it might make sense to Canadians who are watching to think that we are going to share information between agencies. However, we said at the time of the debate on Bill C-51 that the RCMP, CSIS and any other agency in Canada that worked to ensure public safety needed more resources to more effectively do their work to keep us safe.

We see some unintended consequences. If Consular Affairs has to share information with CSIS, for example, when CSIS might be engaged in a different type of activity or with different objectives, we know that is where we can find situations like the one Maher Arar went through when he was detained abroad and subject to torture, as well as many others, tragically and disturbingly. That is where we disagree.

Information sharing, as it existed pre-Bill C-51, the Conservative legislation in the previous Parliament, was adequate. Again, additional resources to these agencies would have been the way to go. That is what we said at the time and that is what we continue to say today.

National Security Act, 2017 June 7th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today.

I ask for the indulgence of the House and I hope no one will get up on a point of order on this, but because I am making a speech on a specific day, I did want to shout out to two of my biggest supporters.

The first is to my wife Chantale, whose birthday is today. I want to wish her a happy birthday. Even bigger news is that we are expecting a baby at the end of July. I want to shout out the fact that she has been working very hard at her own job, which is obviously a very exhausting thing, and so the patience she has for my uncomparable fatigue certainly is something that I really do thank her for and love her very much for.

I do not want to create any jealousy in the household, so I certainly want to give a shout-out to her daughter and our daughter Lydia, who is also a big supporter of mine. We are a threesome, and as I said at my wedding last year, I had the luck of falling in love twice. I wanted to take this opportunity, not knowing whether I will have another one before the election, to shout out to them and tell them how much I love them.

I thank my colleagues for their warm thoughts that they have shared with me.

On a more serious note, I would like to talk about the Senate amendments to Bill C-59. More specifically, I would like to talk about the process per se and then come back to certain aspects of Bill C-59, particularly those about which I raised questions with the minister—questions that have yet to be answered properly, if at all.

I want to begin by touching on a more timely issue related to a bill that is currently before the House, Bill C-98. This bill will give more authority to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP so that it also covers the Canada Border Services Agency. That is important because we have been talking for a long time about how the CBSA, the only agency that has a role to play in our national security, still does not have a body whose sole function is to review its operations.

Of course, there is the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which was created by Bill C-22, and there will soon be a committee created by Bill C-59 that will affect the CBSA, but only with regard to its national security related activities.

I am talking about a committee whose sole responsibility would be to review the activities of the Canada Border Services Agency and to handle internal complaints, such as the allegations of harassment that have been reported in the media in recent years, or complaints that Muslim citizens may make about profiling.

It is very important that there be some oversight or further review. I will say that, as soon as an article is published, either about a problem at the border, about the union complaining about the mistreatment of workers or about problems connected to the agency, the minister comes out with great fanfare to remind everyone that he made a deep and sincere promise to create a system that would properly handle these complaints and that there would be some oversight or review of the agency.

What has happened in four whole years? Nothing at all.

For years now, every time there is a report in the news or an article comes out detailing various allegations of problems, I have just been copying and pasting the last tweet I posted. The situation keeps repeating, but the government is not doing anything.

This situation is problematic because the minister introduced a bill at the last minute, as the clock is winding down on this Parliament, and the bill has not even been referred yet to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

I have a hard time believing that we will pass this bill in the House and an even harder time seeing how it is going to get through the Senate.

That is important because, in his speech, the minister himself alluded to the fact that in fall 2016, when the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, of which I am a member, travelled across the country to study the issue and make recommendations ahead of introducing Bill C-59, the recommendation to create a committee tasked with studying the specific activities of the CBSA was one of the most important recommendations. As we see in Bill C-98, the government did not take this opportunity to do any such thing.

It is certainly troubling, because Bill C-59 is an omnibus piece of legislation. I pleaded with the House, the minister and indeed even the Senate, when it reached the Senate, through different procedural mechanisms, to consider parts of the bill separately, because, as the minister correctly pointed out, this is a huge overhaul of our national security apparatus. The concern with that is not only the consideration that is required, but also the fact that some of these elements, which I will come back to in a moment, were not even part of the national security consultations that both his department and the committee, through the study it did, actually took the time to examine.

More specifically, coming back to and concluding the point on Bill C-98, the minister does not seem to have acted in a prompt way, considering his commitments when it comes to oversight and/or a review of the CBSA. He said in his answer to my earlier question on his speech that it was not within the scope of this bill. That is interesting, not only because this is omnibus legislation, but also because the government specifically referred the legislation to committee prior to second reading with the goal of allowing amendments that were beyond the scope of the bill on the understanding that it did want this to be a large overhaul.

I have a hard time understanding why, with all the indicators being there that it wanted this to be a large, broad-reaching thing and wanted to have things beyond the scope, it would not have allowed for this type of mechanism. Instead, we find we have a bill, Bill C-98, arriving at the 11th hour, without a proper opportunity to make its way through Parliament before the next election.

I talked about how this is an omnibus bill, which makes it problematic in several ways. I wrote a letter to some senators about children whose names are on the no-fly list and the No Fly List Kids group, which the minister talked about. I know the group very well. I would like to congratulate the parents for their tireless efforts on their children's behalf.

Some of the children are on the list simply because the list is racist. Basically, the fact that the names appear multiple times is actually a kind of profiling. We could certainly have a debate about how effective the list is. This list is totally outdated and flawed because so many people share similar names. It is absurd that there was nothing around this list that made it possible for airlines and the agents who managed the list and enforced the rules before the bill was passed to distinguish between a terrorist threat and a very young child.

Again, I thank the parents for their tireless efforts and for the work they did in a non-partisan spirit. They may not be partisan, but I certainly am. I will therefore take this opportunity to say that I am appalled at the way the government has taken these families and children hostage for the sake of passing an omnibus bill.

The minister said that the changes to the no-fly list would have repercussions on a recourse mechanism that would stop these children from being harassed every time they go to the airport. This part of the bill alone accounted for several hundred pages.

I asked the government why it did not split this part from the rest of the bill so it would pass sooner, if it really believed it would deliver justice to these families and their kids. We object to certain components or aspects of the list. We are even prepared to challenge the usefulness of the list and the flaws it may have. If there are any worthy objectives, we are willing to consider them. However, again, our hands were tied by the use of omnibus legislation. During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to make omnibus bills a thing of the past.

I know parents will not say that, and I do not expect them to do so. I commend them again for their non-partisan approach. However, it is appalling and unacceptable that they have been taken hostage.

Moreover, there is also Bill C-21.

I will digress here for a moment. Bill C-21, which we opposed, was a very troubling piece of legislation that dealt with the sharing of border information with the Americans, among others. This involved information on citizens travelling between Canada and the United States. Bill C-59 stalled in the Senate, much like Bill C-21.

As the Minister of Public Safety's press secretary was responding to the concerns of parents who have children on the no-fly list, he suddenly started talking about Bill C-21 as a solution for implementing the redress system for people who want to file a complaint or do not want to be delayed at the airport for a name on the list, when it is not the individual identified. I think it is absolutely awful that these families are being used as bargaining chips to push through a bill that contains many points that have nothing to do with them and warrant further study. In my view, those aspects have not been examined thoroughly enough to move the bill forward.

I thank the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for recognizing the work I did in committee, even though it took two attempts when he responded to my questions earlier today. In committee, I presented almost 200 amendments. Very few of them were accepted, which was not a surprise.

I would like to focus specifically on one of the Senate's amendments that the government agreed to. This amendment is important and quite simple, I would say even unremarkable. It proposes to add a provision enabling us to review the bill after three years, rather than five, and make amendments if required. That is important because we are proposing significant and far-reaching changes to our national security system. What I find intriguing is that I proposed the same amendment in committee, which I substantiated with the help of expert testimony, and the Liberals rejected my amendment. Now, all of a sudden, the Senate is proposing the same amendment and the government is agreeing to it in the motion we are debating today.

I asked the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness why the Liberals were not willing to put partisanship aside in a parliamentary committee and accept an opposition amendment that proposed a very simple measure but are agreeing to it today. He answered that they had taken the time to reflect and changed their minds when the bill was in the Senate. I am not going to spend too much of my precious time on that, but I find it somewhat difficult to accept because nothing has changed. Experts appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, and it was very clear, simple and reasonable. Having said that, I thank the minister for finally recognizing this morning that I contributed to this process.

I also want to talk about some of what concerns us about the bill. There are two pieces specifically with regard to what was Bill C-51 under the previous government, and a few aspects new to this bill that have been brought forward that cause us some concern and consternation.

There are two pieces in Bill C-51 that raised the biggest concerns at the time of debate in the previous Parliament and raised the biggest concerns on the part of Canadians as well, leading to protests outside our committee hearings when we travelled the country to five major cities in five days in October 2016. The first has to do with threat disruption, and the second is the information-sharing regime that was brought in by Bill C-51. Both those things are concerning for different reasons.

The threat disruption powers offered to CSIS are of concern because at the end of the day, the reason CSIS was created in the first place was that there was an understanding and consensus in Canada that there had to be a separation between the RCMP's role in law enforcement, which is making arrests and the work that revolves around that, and intelligence gathering, which is the work our intelligence service has to do, so they were separated.

However, bringing us back closer to the point where we start to lose that distinction with regard to the threat disruption powers means that a concern about constitutionality will remain. In fact, the experts at committee did say that Bill C-59, while less unconstitutional than what the Conservatives brought forward in the previous Parliament, had yet to be tested, and there was still some uncertainty about it.

We still believe it is not necessary for CSIS to have these powers. That distinction remains important if we want to be in keeping with the events that led to the separation in the first place, namely the barn burnings, the Macdonald Commission and all those things that folks who have followed this debate know full well, but which we do not have time to get into today.

The other point is the sharing of information, which we are all familiar with. We opened the door to more liberal sharing of information, no pun intended, between the various government departments. That is worrisome. In Canada, one of the most highly publicized cases of human rights violations was the situation of Maher Arar while he was abroad, which led to the Arar commission. In such cases, we know that the sharing of information with other administrations is one of the factors that can lead to the violation of human rights or torture. There are places in the world where human rights are almost or completely non-existent. We find that the sharing of information between Canadian departments can exacerbate such situations, particularly when information is shared between the police or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

There is an individual who was tortured abroad who is currently suing the government. His name escapes me at the moment. I hope he will forgive me. Global Affairs Canada tried to get him a passport to bring him back to Canada, regardless of whether the accusations against him were true, because he was still a Canadian citizen. However, overwhelming evidence suggests that CSIS and the RCMP worked together with foreign authorities to keep him abroad.

More information sharing can exacerbate that type of problem because, in the government, the left hand does not always know what the right hand is doing. Some information can fall into the wrong hands. If the Department of Foreign Affairs is trying to get a passport for someone and is obligated by law to share that information with CSIS, whose interests are completely different than those of our diplomats, this could put us on a slippery slope.

The much-criticized information sharing system will remain in place with Bill C-59. I do not have the time to list all the experts and civil society groups that criticized this system, but I will mention Amnesty International, which is a well-known organization that does excellent work. This organization is among those critical of allowing the information sharing to continue, in light of the human rights impact it can have, especially in other countries.

Since the bill was sent back to committee before second reading, we had the advantage of being able to propose amendments that went beyond the scope of the bill. We realized that this was a missed opportunity. It was a two-step process, and I urge those watching and those interested in the debates to go take a look at how it went down. There were several votes and we called for a recorded division. Votes can sometimes be faster in committee, but this time we took the time to do a recorded division.

There were two proposals. The Liberals were proposing an amendment to the legislation. We were pleased to support the amendment, since it was high time we had an act stating that we do not support torture in another country as a result of the actions of our national security agencies or police forces. Nevertheless, since this amendment still relies on a ministerial directive, the bill is far from being perfect.

I also proposed amendments to make it illegal to share any information that would lead to the torture of an individual in another country. The amendments were rejected.

I urge my colleagues to read about them, because I am running out of time. As you can see, 20 minutes is not enough, but I would be happy to take questions and comments.

National Security Act, 2017 June 7th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I would like to ask him a question.

I hardly need to remind him that the NDP and the Conservatives disagree on how to address some of the issues raised by Bill C-59. However, I think that we do agree on one thing, which is how the study of this bill was handled. It was sent to committee before second reading so more amendments could be made, more witnesses could be heard from and the bill could be studied more thoroughly. I do not remember exactly how many meetings we had, but we had more for the clause-by-clause study than for the study itself.

Does my colleague agree that more time should have been allocated to studying this important bill? The House could have studied it in greater detail, especially considering how much time the Senate spent studying it.