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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was code.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe (New Brunswick)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Victims Bill of Rights Act December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am not certain if the exact topics that the learned member is talking about were brought to my attention.

What I can say is that obviously part of the web of services that would come to victims are not only out of the victims bill of rights but also from victims' groups that are financed, in some instances, by the federal government.

Members will recollect that we did do the victims' surcharge act. Of course, the funds that come from the victims' surcharge go directly to victims' services and in some instances to groups that try to deal with grief. Certainly there is more work to be done with regard to grief and helping victims through the trauma, and that is at the very heart and essence of what this act attempts to accomplish.

Victims Bill of Rights Act December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the incidents that led to the death of this witness's husband are truly regrettable, but one can easily understand that laws that have extraterritorial provisions are often the subject matter of international conventions. Certainly it was not within the scope or the ambit of the act to act in such a fashion to give, I guess, credence to this victim's request.

Victims Bill of Rights Act December 10th, 2014

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

Representatives of two of the ten provinces appeared before the committee. All of the provinces and territories were invited. Two provinces seemed to want a longer deadline for implementation. However, even though all of the provinces and territories were invited to appear or to send written submissions, only two provinces sent representatives. Why would we extend the deadline when only two of the 13 provinces and territories asked for that? The victims have waited years for a law that would consider their needs. Sharon Rosenfeldt is a pioneer who has been waiting for this law for 33 years. She contributed a lot to developing this law.

Basically, victims have been waiting for a long time, and it is time we acted to protect their interests.

Victims Bill of Rights Act December 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to speak to a subject that we have been studying in committee for quite some time. This government's bills are all about protecting victims. Bill C-32 is the result of consultations with 185 groups from across the country as well as 300 online submissions.

One thing that the government heard frequently is that victims face many injustices when they interact with the justice system. I would like to give an example of what Bill C-32 is going to do to help victims and witnesses deal with the difficulties they experience in the courtroom.

Ms. Timea Nagy, founder of Walk With Me Canada Victim Services, shared with us something that happens quite often in trials involving organized crime.

Let me tell members a bit about what this organization is doing in the community.

Established by a survivor of human trafficking, Walk With Me was created with a commitment to ensure that survivors have a place in providing first response care to victims of human trafficking and to recognizing that survivors should have a voice in developing a coordinated community response that can meet immediate crises and longer-term needs of trafficked victims. Since its inception in 2009, Walk With Me has been working closely with various police services across Canada and has been able to provide unique services and support to many victims of human trafficking in Ontario and all across Canada.

You can already imagine the immense courage that Ms. Nagy and the people she helps must have.

During the committee study, Ms. Nagy shared a story with us. When she testified in court in a human trafficking case—she was both witness and victim—the accused's brother was in court and motioned to her that he would slit her throat.

It is understandable that this type of behaviour intimidates victims and witnesses. In many cases, the victims or witnesses are too scared to testify because they are afraid of reprisals. The crown attorneys cannot use their testimony to send dangerous criminals, members of organized crime, to jail.

Bill C-32 will allow witnesses to testify without seeing those present. The purpose of this measure is to reduce intimidation in order not to revictimize the victim. The bill will also improve the justice system by providing crown attorneys with additional tools to collect more solid evidence against criminals during their trial. We hope that this will reduce the number of criminals who avoid serving jail time because they manage to intimidate key witnesses.

Revictimization is an issue that came up a number of times. Victims felt it was important for Bill C-32 not to create additional delays. A procedural delay prevents victims from moving forward in their healing process.

As Alain Fortier, the president of Victimes d'agressions sexuelles au masculin, explained, victims are forced to remember the details of terrible, traumatic events. They have to constantly relive the negative experience and describe it in court. Victims want to be able to heal. The longer the process is, the greater the consequences for the victim. That is why it would be bad for Bill C-32 to create additional delays in a process that is already too painful.

Another interesting point I want to talk about is spouses being uncompellable. In short, this means that witnesses cannot be required to disclose something their spouse told them. This frequently comes up in cases of drunk driving, where the only witness is often the driver's spouse.

Lise Lebel, the president of the Fondation Katherine Beaulieu, a Quebec organization that does similar work to that of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told the committee:

Our organization agrees with the amendments proposed in Bill [C-32], which obliges spouses to testify in all cases. These amendments reflect a systematic trend towards providing crown prosecutors with access to all relevant evidence.

Once again, it is important to give crown prosecutors all the tools they need. Our justice system needs to re-earn the public's trust, and this is another good example of how we can achieve that.

A number of victims' groups told us that the victims bill of rights was a step in the right direction. I want to name a few of the groups that testified in committee.

They include MADD; Robert Hooper, lawyer and victims' rights advocate; Steve Sullivan, former federal ombudsman for victims of crime; Boost Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention; Comité des orphelins victimes d'abus; Timea Nagy, founder of Walk With Me Canada Victim Services; the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police; Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara; London Abused Women's Centre; Victimes d'agressions sexuelles au masculin; La fondation Katherine Beaulieu; Sue O'Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime; Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre; the Alberta minister of justice, the Hon. Jonathan Denis; the Canadian Parents of Murdered Children and Survivors of Homicide Victims Inc.; the Canadian Bar Association; the Canadian Centre for Child Protection; the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime; the Canadian Crime Victim Foundation; the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel; the Canadian Coalition against Terror; the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness; the great Sharon Rosenfeldt, pioneer in victim services in Canada and founder of the Victims of Violence Canadian Centre for Missing Children; and l'Association des familles de personnes assassinées ou disparues. We can even add, albeit to a lesser extent, the Criminal Lawyers' Association.

Some aboriginal groups also came to express their opinion on the bill and to talk about the challenges that their communities faced. They all, in the end, support this bill.

I thank the office of the Nation nishnawbe-aski, NWAC, and the Pauktuutit Inuit women's association for their precious contribution to the work of the justice committee.

Bill C-32 has near-unanimous support. I want to quote my hon. colleague from Gatineau, the NDP's justice critic.

She said:

I think everybody agrees that Bill C-32 is a good step. It's a step in a good direction. It has good at the heart of it.

In conclusion, I want to say that Bill C-32 had the unanimous support of all parties represented on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Justice November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, our judicial appointments are based on one criterion and one criterion only: whether an individual is qualified for the job, determined by merit and legal excellence.

When making all appointments, our government conducts broad-based consultations with prominent members of the bar and the legal community. These appointments have always been made by the executive and they will continue to be so.

Privacy November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this government will not apologize for wanting to protect the most vulnerable members of our society: children. We kept our commitment to ensure that children are better protected from bullying, including cyberbullying, by introducing legislation to combat online crime.

Bill C-13 did not create new police powers to access telecommunications data without a judicial warrant. Judicial oversight prevails and we are protecting our children.

Privacy November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court's decision in Spencer clearly stated that the Criminal Code provisions dealing with voluntary disclosure and immunity do not provide legal authority for access to information without a warrant, and our government has continuously said those provisions regarding voluntary disclosure and immunity do not provide legal authority for access to information without a warrant.

We will respect the Supreme Court's decision.

Criminal Code November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate with respect to Bill C-583, an act to amend the Criminal Code (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder).

I welcome the opportunity to listen to the debate and engage in the discussion on the implications that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD, has on the criminal justice system.

I would like to begin by thanking the member for Yukon for bringing this very important but complex issue forward to attention of the House of Commons. The impact of FASD is a significant issue in his jurisdiction, as it is elsewhere in Canada. I would like to commend him on his leadership in attempting to address the complex issue of FASD and the criminal justice system.

FASD is an umbrella term used to describe permanent brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Although alcohol is not the only substance that can have an impact on a developing fetus, alcohol is the only substance that appears to affect both the physical structure of the brain and the brain's function.

As is the case with many other forms of mental disability, the vast majority of people who live with FASD do not demonstrate any physical characteristics. For this reason, FASD is often referred to an as invisible disability.

Many individuals with FASD suffer from cognitive impairments, such as impaired judgment, poor memory, and impulsiveness. They may also have difficulty linking events with their consequences, which makes it difficult for them to learn from their mistakes.

These impairments are sometimes referred to as primary characteristics of FASD, as they are the characteristics with which a child is born. They are associated with the structural and functional changes in the brain.

Individuals with FASD can also develop what are referred to as secondary characteristics. These refer to the disabilities that may develop as a result of a failure to appropriately and adequately address the primary characteristics. They are more behavioural in nature, and can include mental health concerns, employment problems, disrupted school experience, addiction issues, and trouble with the law.

The brain abnormalities associated with FASD are different for every person with this disability. There can be a significant disparity in the level of impairment among young persons diagnosed with FASD.

Owing to both the primary and secondary characteristics of FASD, individuals with FASD may be at an increased risk of coming into contact with the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, there is scant research on the exact prevalence of FASD in the criminal justice system.

Owing to the presence of individuals with FASD in the criminal justice system and the particular challenges that arise from their involvement in the system, there have been many calls for changes to legislation to specifically address the issue of FASD.

An FASD prevalence study is currently under way in Yukon to evaluate the prevalence of FASD in adult individuals who are incarcerated or on probation in Yukon. This could help to better understand this very complex problem.

The Yukon study will contribute to the understanding of how many people in the corrections system face challenges linked to FASD, mental health disorders, and substance abuse problems. I understand that the Department of Justice Canada has contributed to the development of this study. I look forward to learning about the results in 2016. I think it will provide a valuable contribution to the way forward on this challenging issue.

The Government of Canada has been actively engaged in many programs promoting access to justice for marginalized individuals for many years, including those with FASD. One example I would like to draw to members' attention is the aboriginal justice strategy. This is a federally led program that is cost-shared with the provinces and territories. It has operated since 1991 to support innovative community-based justice programs that help to address the overrepresentation of aboriginal people in the justice system.

The aboriginal justice strategy provides cost-effective alternatives to mainstream justice processing by ensuring accountability for low-level, non-violent offences according to the same principles used in non-aboriginal cases. The strategy provides funding to approximately 275 community-based justice programs that reach over 800 aboriginal communities in all jurisdictions. Many programs provide services specifically related to FASD, and all 275 programs indicate that those exhibiting FASD characteristics are among the clientele using their services.

In addition to the aboriginal justice strategy, the government also funds the aboriginal courtwork program, which works to ensure that aboriginal people in contact with the criminal justice system, whether as accused persons, witnesses, victims, or family members, have fair access to equitable and culturally sensitive treatment throughout the court process.

Each year, over 52,000 aboriginal Canadians in over 435 communities benefit from the access to aboriginal court work services. These services increase the efficiency of the court system, especially in remote communities, and promote outcomes that support healthy, safe families and communities.

By highlighting these programs and projects, I do not wish to give the impression that FASD is an issue that only affects aboriginal Canadians. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that rates of FASD are higher in aboriginal communities for a variety of historical, cultural and other reasons. Therefore, much of the government's response to date on this issue has focused on aboriginal people, but there is wide recognition that FASD has a broader impact.

This broad impact is recognized by Bill C-583, which would apply to all individuals with FASD. The bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code to do three things: it would define FASD in the Criminal Code; it would empower the courts to order FASD assessments for the purpose of bail and sentencing; and it would deem FASD to be a mitigating factor on sentencing if certain conditions were met.

I am sure all members can agree with the general intent of this bill. The goal of providing special treatment to individuals who suffer from a particular type of permanent brain damage, which may impact their level of criminal responsibility, is commendable.

When I read the bill, however, I found it raised a number of important questions that ought to be considered. For example, some people will ask why there is a need to address only FASD and not any other mental disability or mental disorder. Is FASD the only disability that has an impact on an individual's degree of responsibility for the purposes of the criminal law?

I also wonder whether the provinces and territories currently have the capacity to undertake assessments that would be ordered as a result of this bill. The bill would require medical assessments by various experts in the justice system.

Finally, given that courts can already take evidence of FASD into account for the purpose of sentencing but are not obliged to consider it for every case, we must fully analyze the impact of explicitly adding this to the Criminal Code.

In closing, while we support the intention of the bill to find alternative ways to address FASD in the criminal justice system, I believe we need to review and reassess the available options. I believe a study of the subject matter by the appropriate committee could be beneficial to all.

Again, I would like to recognize the efforts of the member for Yukon for raising this important and challenging issue, and I look forward to hearing from other members on the potential impacts of this bill.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-583, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder), be not now read a second time, but that the order for second reading be discharged, the bill be withdrawn, and the subject-matter thereof be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and that the committee report back to the House within four months of the adoption of this order”.

Public Safety November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to defending the rights of Canadians and protecting our communities, she has nothing to criticize. Values are incredibly important to this government, which is why we have put these measures in place. They are to protect Canadians

We continue to work in partnership with the provinces. Transfer payments to the provinces are at record levels. Our government will keep crime in our sights and protect victims.

Public Safety November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we need mandatory prison sentences for serious crimes because Canadians need to know that people who commit serious crimes and repeat offenders will not have a chance to threaten their safety again. In the past, Canadians lost confidence in the justice system because punishments did not fit crimes.

Lax Liberal policies on crime failed to protect Canadian families and communities, so our government is committed to restoring confidence in the justice system. Mandatory minimum prison sentences show Canadians that the rights of criminals will not take precedence over the rights of victims of crime.