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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Brome—Missisquoi (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 43% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Combating Terrorism Act October 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent question.

In any fight money is important, but so too is information. Information received by intelligence services must be coordinated, but until such time as somebody has been accused, the information must be kept confidential.

It is, therefore, very important to coordinate information and to respect confidentiality until such time as formal charges have been laid.

Combating Terrorism Act October 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his brilliant question. It is indeed possible to speak about social, environmental, and aboriginal terrorism. However, Aboriginals—since we are talking about them—are one of the three founding peoples of our magnificent country. There are Anglophones, Francophones, but there are also Aboriginals who—we too often forget—were here before us.

There should be no racial profiling. Everybody's fundamental rights must be respected. When it comes to the economy, Aboriginals have for some time been put in reserves, and enough is enough. Progress has been made with recent decisions, and Justice Wagner, who is starting his career at the Supreme Court of Canada, has recognized this. Aboriginals are a plus in Canadian society.

Combating Terrorism Act October 17th, 2012

I am not an expert on Islam, but I do know that, in Montreal, Muslim communities feel ill at ease. September 2001 was a long time ago. Yet, when something happens elsewhere in the world, they feel as though they are targeted and victims of discrimination.

If it passes, will Bill S-7 heighten paranoia? I would say yes, and the fundamental rights of the people targeted will decrease in the same measure. Muslims and people of other faiths contribute to Canada's economy and culture. For the most part, they are not violent people. To answer the question, I would say that we do not need to pass Bill S-7. We should instead invest in collecting intelligence and training police. That is all.

Combating Terrorism Act October 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague for her question. It is dangerous and misleading to tell people that the threat of terrorism is imminent. What happened on September 11, 2001, is a tragedy, but it happened in the United States. I cannot imagine that it would happen tomorrow morning in Canada.

Nothing has happened in the past four years. There has been nothing and things have been quiet. I cannot understand why, all of a sudden, we want to scrap our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and forget about the rights it guarantees for children and adults alike. I believe that we have the tools we need with the Criminal Code, special statutes and international treaties. We need only invest in the police and intelligence services. That would be more useful than spending millions of dollars on phantom threats.

Combating Terrorism Act October 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my honourable colleague for her question.

Again, by focusing on the idea that there is terrorism and recruitment by terrorists, we go astray and we begin to engage in racial profiling.

My questions about the rights of youth have to do with the fact that a young offender is a young person in trouble who needs help rather than punishment. That is why we ask questions first, not later.

Combating Terrorism Act October 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in this House about Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act.

The official opposition is opposed to this bill because it will not solve any of the problems related to terrorism and it rides roughshod over civil liberties and values that are very dear to Canadians. Once again, the Criminal Code would be amended by the government, when there are already provisions that make it possible to protect society by investigating and detaining persons who commit offences. I am referring here to part II.1 and sections 83.01 to 83.33 of the Criminal Code. Moreover—and this is what is most worrisome, in my opinion—this bill creates an imbalance between security and the most fundamental rights that exist in society.

I will remind members of the four objectives of Bill S-7. First, it would amend the Criminal Code in order to include investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions. Second, it would make changes to the Canada Evidence Act. A judge could order the public disclosure of potentially sensitive information concerning a trial or an accused person once the appeal period is over. Third, new offences would be created in the Criminal Code concerning individuals who have left or attempted to leave Canada for the purpose of committing a terrorist act. Finally, the Security of Information Act would also be amended. The maximum penalty for harbouring an individual who committed or is liable to commit a terrorist act would be longer.

To begin with, one wonders why this bill was introduced in the Senate at first reading. That is always a legitimate question, and I hope that later in this debate, the government will give us an answer. Moreover, I would point out that my hon. colleague, the member for Gatineau and the justice critic for the official opposition, asked the same question in the House on October 15.

Secondly, I am confused about what motivated the government to introduce Bill S-7. I am going to read the remarks made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice in the speech she gave on October 15, 2012.

Since the horrific events of 9/11, the absence of terrorist violence on Canadian territory does not preclude the possibility of a terrorist attack. Canada's solidarity with the international community of nations in the fight against terrorism has rendered Canada a potential target.

I am troubled by such statements because, since 2007, nothing has happened in Canada. The country has not been subject to terrorist attacks. Leading Canadians to believe that our country could be a target for terrorist acts and then using that argument to put in place a legal arsenal that is very questionable in terms of our civil liberties and legal rights—we will talk about this later—is not the right approach. The NDP believes that terrorism will not be fought on the legislative field but, rather, by improving intelligence gathering and the sharing of information among the various intelligence agencies.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice went on to say the following:

It is our responsibility to lay down the rules by which terrorism is fought. We are responsible for tracing the difficult line between combatting terrorism and preserving liberties in a way that is effective and gives clear guidance to those charged with combatting terrorism on the ground.

Once again, I would like to express my disagreement with the hon. member. I repeat: this bill creates an imbalance between fundamental rights and security.

I would like to draw the House's attention to some provisions of this bill that could infringe on the rights of children. I would also like to talk about those that would be a welcome improvement in terms of intelligence gathering and the sharing of information among the various intelligence agencies in Canada, which are found in clauses 4 to 8 of this bill.

First, I am going to read the words of the hon. member for Gatineau with regard to Bill S-7 and the youth criminal justice system. These questions should be of great interest to all members of the House.

What will we do about minors living in these kinds of situations? Who will have precedence? Will it be the youth courts, which usually have exclusive jurisdiction over children under the age of 18? Will those provisions take precedence? There is a great deal of concern here. What rights are there? What do we do about the right not to incriminate oneself? What need is there for us to impose this kind of direction on a system in which we have no evidence of this kind of need?

A distinction must be made between a habitual criminal and a young person whose parents have forced him or her to commit a crime. That is not at all the same thing. I have the same questions for the government again today.

Based on Senate committee evidence, the bill clearly violates Canada's international obligations regarding the protection of children's rights.

Kathy Vandergrift, chair of the board of directors of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, has expressed some reservations about detaining minors, especially considering the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international agreements signed by Canada. She suggested amending the bill to ensure that it complies with international laws that apply to people under the age of 18. She said, and I quote:

The Paris Principles emphasize using detention only as a last resort, not as the primary response to evidence of unlawful recruitment activities. Recent research in Australia documents the negative impacts of even short times in detention for the healthy development of young people.

I would now like to focus on one particular aspect of clauses 4 to 8 of the bill. Those clauses create a new Criminal Code offence: leaving Canada or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of committing certain terrorism offences.

My hon. colleague from Toronto—Danforth very clearly explained the problems associated with those provisions. I would like to quote something he said in this House on October 15, 2012, regarding border security and controls. This issue is of particular concern to me, since my riding of Brome—Missisquoi has an airport and border crossings.

At the moment, we all know there are no exit controls at all the borders, notably at airports, other than no-fly lists for those deemed to be a threat to aviation. Testimony before the Senate made it clear that co-operation protocols or memorandums of understanding would be needed among CSIS, the RCMP and the CBSA.

Mr. Fadden, the director of CSIS, went further and noted that would have to extend likely to CATSA, the agency of the Department of Transport that regulates security. How these protocols will be developed and what kind of accountability there will be for their operation remains a concern especially because the RCMP, a key link in the inter-agency collaboration that will be needed here, has been shown by both the Arar and the Air India inquiries to be an agency that suffers from lack of accountability and inappropriate oversight mechanisms. Yet, with the government's Bill C-42, we see that it has no intention of acting on the Arar commission's carefully thought through recommendations for RCMP accountability and oversight.

Perhaps the government could provide some answers today to this important question raised by my honourable colleague.

I want to list the risks and flaws associated with this bill. This bill would allow individuals who have not been charged with any crime to be imprisoned for up to 12 months or subjected to strict recognizance conditions. The NDP believes that this is contrary to the core values of our justice system. The provisions of this bill could be used for purposes other than to combat terrorism, such as to target individuals engaged in protest activities.

In closing, this bill to combat terrorism raises too many key questions with regard to protecting our fundamental rights and our civil liberties. The presumption of innocence, the right not to incriminate oneself, the right to be told quickly what we are accused of and the right to defend ourselves against those charges are essential concepts in a society where the rule of law prevails.

Accordingly, the NDP firmly believes that neither combating terrorism nor preventing terrorism should jeopardize these fundamental rights and civil liberties. For all these reasons, the NDP is opposed to this bill.

Combating Terrorism Act October 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent speech. I would like to reiterate that the New Democratic Party is in favour of protection against terrorism. My colleagues have been adamant on that point. We also stand up for human rights and we are good stewards.

Since 2001, the government opposite has spent as much as $92 billion to combat potential acts of terrorism.

I would like my colleague to summarize for us, in his own words, why this bill, to use a strong image, is taking this belt and braces approach and why it is going to do more harm than good.

Combating Terrorism Act October 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, and I would like to ask her a question.

I recognize that Bill S-7 creates an imbalance between security and fundamental rights.

She said that we have the Criminal Code and international treaties and that therefore unreasonable legislative measures like the ones put forward in Bill S-7 were not the most appropriate way to maintain a balance.

What other methods could she see being used in this bill, whether in terms of the police or intelligence services?

Motions in amendment September 24th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-299, introduced by the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia, which is at report stage and third reading. This bill, entitled An Act to amend the Criminal Code (kidnapping of young person), adds a new paragraph to subsection 279(1.1) of the Criminal Code. It provides for a minimum sentence of five years for anyone who kidnaps a person under 16 years of age. The legal definition of kidnapping is found in subsection 279(1), which states:

Every person commits an offence who kidnaps a person with intent (a) to cause the person to be confined or imprisoned against the person’s will; (b) to cause the person to be unlawfully sent or transported out of Canada against the person’s will; or (c) to hold the person for ransom or to service against the person’s will.

I will simply quote some witnesses to illustrate my remarks. A former Supreme Court Justice had this to say:

With a minimum sentence you're boxing in the judiciary, but you're also providing a motive for the kidnapper to perhaps act very viciously and do something to the child, so that he won't be identified. Then the minimum sentence becomes academic, because he doesn't think he's going to be caught.

I'm still a little concerned about a minimum sentence that's absolute. Cases are not all the same, as you know, and the minimum sentence may be inadequate in a number of circumstances of commercial kidnapping, but in other cases it may not be proper....

...experience shows that the severity of the crime seldom acts as a deterrent, because there's a philosophy that says the criminal doesn't believe he'll be caught.

It's interesting to look at the range of sentences for kidnapping in our judicial history where there's no minimum. The sentences, nonetheless, have been severe. By severe, I mean lengthy. The courts, to my knowledge, have always treated commercial kidnapping as a very serious offence, and in my experience the sentences have been 10 years and 15 years, so that the five years is not extreme. I think you'd have to look hard to find a case where a serious kidnapper was sentenced to less than that.

The criminal offence of kidnapping, as defined earlier carries a number of sentences that are set out in subsection 279(1.1) It should be noted that the maximum sentence of life imprisonment applies to all cases. Bill C-299 also provides for the same maximum sentence.

In our society, protecting minors is very important. It is always sad to hear about child kidnapping on the news. Sexual predation and assault are crimes that we categorically condemn. I would remind the House that the NDP supported harsher sentences for sexual assaults. However, with regard to this bill, I would like to express reservations about, on the one hand, the objective of creating a deterrent and, on the other, the bill's usefulness from a strictly legal standpoint.

It seems that my colleague introduced this bill to create a deterrent by establishing a new minimum sentence. If that is the objective, I would like to remind my colleagues that the sentence of life imprisonment already exists and that it has been applied in British Columbia.

If we look next at the legal analysis of this bill, the Criminal Code already provides a legal framework for kidnapping. Thus, people found guilty of this criminal offence can be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison. When judges have to rule on cases involving the kidnapping of a child, they have tools available to them that allow them to impose suitable sentences on offenders who represent a danger to society. It is important to note that, in a review of cases involving the kidnapping of a child, the average sentence imposed already exceeds the five years set out in the Criminal Code and is often as long as 8 years. Including a minimum sentence of five years in the Criminal Code would therefore only serve to limit the judge's discretion. Judges must be able to assess the extenuating and specific circumstances when making their decisions.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I had the opportunity to listen carefully to the various witnesses when Bill C-299 was being examined in committee. What we learned there was that a minimum sentence limits the work of a judge in determining the sentence and that the deterrent effect of the minimum sentence would not meet these objectives in that it would not prevent people from committing the crime of kidnapping.

The president of Child Find British Columbia said:

As some of the members have pointed out, I believe any terms that have been put out there have not been for less than five years. They've been for anything higher than five years...I don't know to be quite honest, because as I said, judges are already going beyond that, and by putting in five years it now brings down that eight-year sentence to a minimum of five years, so I don't know if that is the message.

For all these reasons, in the case of mandatory minimum punishments, as the lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said:

...that evidence shows the contrary...The bottom line is that mandatory minimum sentences are not effective. They're a simple way of looking at a complex problem and, in my submission, ultimately a myopic way of looking at that problem...If the intent of this bill is to decrease the kidnapping of young people, to protect young people, the evidence shows that mandatory minimum sentences, I submit, will not accomplish that goal. In turn, they will bring the practical side effects that I can testify about: the increase in court time; the perverse incentives; the shift—

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act September 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.

I want to begin by saying that I agree with supporting this bill at second reading so that the committee can improve it. It could certainly use a lot of improving. I also want to say that the NDP recognizes the importance of supporting judges' discretionary powers. The NDP also supports victims of crime and their families. However, I also agree with my colleague when she says that true prevention means improving quality of life within the social fabric of the community involved.

I would like to ask my esteemed colleague how we can improve quality of life in communities instead of imposing surcharges. What impact would that have on prevention and on victims? True prevention means preventing people from becoming victims.