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NDP MP for Beloeil—Chambly (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 31% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Public Safety November 30th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, while the RCMP is still trying to get enhanced surveillance powers, regular citizens have yet to see the changes to Bill C-51 that were promised during the election campaign.
The government seems to be listening more to the RCMP and CSIS than to citizens who have real concerns. The surveillance of journalists and indigenous activists and CSIS' illegal storage of data are hot topics these days.
When will the minister see the urgency of the situation and repeal Bill C-51?
Criminal Code November 29th, 2016
Madam Speaker, I am happy to explain the position I shared with my NDP caucus colleagues as public safety critic, although “happy” is not the right word considering the sensitive and tragic nature of this bill.
Let me just thank the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for sponsoring the bill in the House.
Before I go any further, I think the most important thing that needs to be said on this matter is that all of us in this House, and certainly I speak on behalf of the NDP caucus, offer our thoughts and prayers to the Wynn family in the tragedy of the murder of this police officer who died in the line of duty defending us. That is certainly a sacrifice that we all recognize and is important to be mindful of when we debate the bill.
I also want to say, while I will share some of the concerns we have with the bill, and some are similar to the government's concerns, we will nonetheless support it at second reading. We feel that the intent is important enough and good enough that we need to at least hear from experts in committee and have that debate and discussion and get a chance to go through some of the issues that we do see in the bill.
It is important, given the tragedy that led to the presentation of this bill, both in this Parliament and by my colleague's predecessor in the last Parliament, that we give it a fulsome debate through the committee process. That is where we are at on that particular point right now.
I would like to take a moment to talk about each of the changes this bill makes. Although this is unusual for me, I am going to take the time to read them, because I think it is important to really understand them.
First, the bill adds two grounds to justify detention in custody when the justice of the peace is considering the judicial interim release of an offender. The two grounds are as follows: that the offender failed to appear in court when required to do so in the past; and that the offender has been previously convicted of a criminal offence or has been charged with and is awaiting trial for another offence.
The other aspect of the bill has to do with the authority and responsibilities of the crown. At present, the crown has the discretionary power to provide any evidence it considers legitimate in the case. However, the changes brought about by this bill require the crown to lead evidence as part of the bail application hearing proceedings.
We are talking here about establishing that the accused has previously been convicted of a criminal offence or has been charged with and is awaiting trial for another criminal offence. We are talking about proving that the accused has previously committed an offence under section 145, including escape, being at large without excuse, failure to attend court, or failure to comply with a condition. The circumstances of the alleged offence, particularly the probability of conviction of the accused, must be proven, and finally, it must also be proven that the accused has failed to appear in court when required to do so.
The parliamentary secretary mentioned that obtaining the necessary information could be challenging. My colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton seems to think that such information is readily available, and it would be nice if that were the case. Unfortunately, that is not what the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police told the committee.
David Truax, Superintendent at the Ontario Provincial Police and member of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, told the Senate committee that he supported the bill, but he also had concerns about the burden to send information being placed on the judicial system and police forces, given that some jurisdictions may find it heavier to bear than others. However, we must also consider the various provincial jurisdictions, from one province to another, because the documentation currently available in CPIC is clearly inadequate.
When we look at this mechanism, we have to ask ourselves: are we jeopardizing public safety by creating a situation where the burden on the judicial system might lead to the adjournment of proceedings and result in the release of an accused who, even before such a bill was passed, would have been detained? Are we not in a way undermining the bill's very objectives? That is a question we have to ask ourselves, something we would like to get into further in committee.
The other point, and it is a key point when it comes to judicial proceedings and our criminal justice system, is the challenge we have of the over-representation of populations in Canada. We know that it is a very serious issue, one that we discuss regularly at the public safety committee. The issue is the over-representation of aboriginal people in our federal penitentiaries.
The reason I raise that point is because it was a point raised by Senator Sinclair during the debate on this bill. He said that he was concerned that while this bill would certainly be some common sense legislation, when we look at the tragedy around the murder of Constable Wynn, we have to ask ourselves whether this bill would lead to more nefarious effects and impacts on less dangerous offenders who should not necessarily be kept in custody.
Is this going to lead to the continuing issue of the over-representation of certain populations, in particular the aboriginal population, in Canada? It is certainly something that we have to ask ourselves, and is a point that we hope to raise at committee to get a better understanding of the impact.
An important question comes to mind when trying to better understand this impact. It is easy to come to the conclusion that this bill could have prevented the tragedy that occurred in the case of Constable Wynn. Our great challenge is to make political decisions based on the facts and data available. In this specific case, this bill could be an easy solution, but generally speaking, things get complicated given the dearth of statistical information on detention in custody and crimes committed by people who are not subject to detention in custody.
I have an interesting example. I read a U.S. report that can nevertheless inform this debate.
The title is, “Assessing Pretrial Risk without a Defendant Interview”.
The report was published by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. I would like to read an excerpt from this report that I find particularly interesting.
It says, “Although the use of pretrial risk assessments has increased in recent years, the proportion of jurisdictions”, in this case in the United States, “employing these instruments remains low, and is estimated to be no more than 10%.” This is in part because they are costly and time-consuming.
Once again, this is an American example, but it does apply to Canada. When we read this report, we see that the challenge is to be able to measure the crime rate or the crimes committed by accused persons who are released after such proceedings. Again, I do not have the answer. It is a question that we are asking and that we would like to have answered in committee.
The tragedy of Constable Wynn, I can only imagine. I do not yet have kids. I want to have kids one day. It is heartbreaking and mind-boggling to imagine what it must be like for the late constable's family to go through these circumstances and to think they could be avoidable.
Given the possibility these could be avoidable, we feel it is important that we at least do our due diligence and support the bill at second reading, bring it to committee, and study it with the caveat that we do have some concerns. Some of them I raised in my speech, and others the parliamentary secretary raised. We need to ask those questions and make sure that when we finish this legislative process, we will know that we did not let an opportunity to avoid that kind of tragedy go by without proper study.
Freedom of the Press November 29th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, now we know why the government said that no journalists were currently under surveillance. Yesterday we learned that CSIS did spy on journalists in the past, and we have every reason to believe it is still happening.
The troubling revelations about the surveillance of journalists, the surveillance of indigenous activists, and CSIS's illegal storage of data show a disturbing trend that the government can no longer ignore.
Will the minister finally take these revelations seriously and launch a public inquiry into freedom of the press?
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
I heard two important points there, because they illustrate the Liberal approach. The Liberals had a certain attitude when they were in opposition, but now that they are in power, their attitude is the exact opposite, and one that I have to say is disappointing.
This comes down to two specific points. The first is the higher drug prices that will result from this agreement. During the previous Parliament, those same Liberals asked for studies on the impact this agreement would have on drug prices. Now they seem to have forgotten all about that and want to move quickly without really examining the impact the agreement will have on people and what they will have to pay for their medication.
The second point has to do with compensation for dairy farmers. The Conservatives had promised $41 billion to compensate the farmers. Now farmers are being offered peanuts, just $300 million. That is a lot less than what the previous government had promised.
I wonder whether the member could talk about the Liberals' broken promises and how their attitude has changed since they came to power.
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
Let us look at the Brexit fallout. Some 42% of Canada's exports to the European Union go to the United Kingdom.
I will not get into Great Britain's internal politics because that is all kind of up in the air right now. That is actually a good reason to take a step back and consider the impact of Great Britain's possible exit from the European Union on the deal.
My colleague rightly praised the Canadian negotiators. However, I feel certain that, when the agreement was negotiated, the negotiators took into account Great Britain's considerable share of Canadian exports to the European Union.
What impact does the member see that having on the agreement? Has the government truly taken that impact into account?
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. It is interesting because he talked about the fact that many members spoke in favour of the agreement saying it was very good news before they ever truly had the chance to look at it in detail.
What is currently going on in committee is a good example. I do not want to get into the ins and outs of parliamentary procedure, but this is an important point. At the Standing Committee on International Trade, a decision was made not to accept written submissions from witnesses who cannot physically appear before the committee, either because they do not have time or the committee does not have time to hear them.
That is the opposite of what is done 99% of the time at other parliamentary committees. This is extremely worrisome given how important it is to hear from all those affected by this agreement. In the spirit of hearing all views, I would like my colleague to tell us what he thinks about this problem and this unprecedented move by the government.
Madam Speaker, the member in his speech talked about an offer we cannot refuse. The last time I heard that line, things did not go so well in that particular situation.
All kidding aside, I would like to ask my colleague a question about the cost of prescription drugs. That issue is often forgotten in this debate. We have been talking a lot about the investor-state dispute settlement clauses and the impact on the dairy industry, particularly in my province of Quebec, and with good reason. However, the cost of medication is going to increase by approximately $850 million, which will affect not only the provinces, which administer the health care system, but also the people who have to pay for those medications.
Although we recognize the importance of free trade with Europe, I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the impact this will actually have on the cost of living of people who need medication, particularly seniors.
Madam Speaker, my colleague spoke about the importance of promoting free trade with partners like Europe that have similar laws on human rights, environmental regulation, and more specifically labour rights. I would like to draw his attention to the matter of environmental regulation and the investor-state provisions.
Let us look at a specific example of the use of chapter 11 of NAFTA. In 2011, Quebec refused to issue a fracking permit to Lone Pine Resources, a Calgary-based company with subsidiaries in the United States. That company took advantage of the loophole to take the Government of Canada to court and seek $230 million in restitution.
Under the investor-state provisions, a European company could do the same, so although I believe that the European countries are acting in good faith when it comes to their relationship with Canada, unfortunately, I do not have the same trust in their corporations.
Is my colleague not worried about this type of provision and that fact that it puts the federal government and other levels of government in Canada at risk?
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
He is right in saying that Quebec and Europe already have strong ties. This is worth pointing out. Just think of our ties to our French cousins, for instance.
That being said, another important aspect of the agreement affects Quebec in particular. Of course I am referring to its impact on our dairy farmers.
In the previous Parliament, my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé moved a motion that passed unanimously. The motion was to the effect that if Canada accepted this agreement, dairy farmers would have to be financially compensated. The Conservative government promised $4.3 billion in compensation. Now, that amount has been reduced to $300 million. As my colleague's party put it so well, that is nothing but peanuts for the industry.
I am wondering whether they plan to support the bill at second reading. How can they reconcile that support with the considerable harm this is going to cause our farmers in our regions?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.
I would like to go back to the last point he mentioned in response to the question from our colleague concerning Canadian cheese producers, who are very worried about this agreement. This raises an interesting point. It is fine to support free trade. However, there has to be give and take in the negotiations, as my colleague said so well. Inevitably there will be winners and there will be losers. However, when the divide is too great, that is a problem. There still has to be respect for what we do in Canada when we negotiate on behalf of Canadians.
For example, cheese makers in France are the most highly subsidized in the world. We are going to let them bring in their products and give our producers peanuts in compensation, as my colleague said so well.
According to my colleague, why does the government believe that this is a fair and good agreement for our producers, when we are making so many sacrifices and receiving very little in return?