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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was person.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act November 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, numerous discussions took place in committee. Nonetheless, we mostly discussed some amendments to the act, which are quite simple.

I can explain one change that has not been much discussed up to now, but that is very important. Its importance will be seen later anyway. This change is on the last clause, that is clause 38.

It does not seem much but the changing of the last clause from “The provisions of this Act [....] come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council” to “This Act [...] comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council” precludes the government's bringing all the provisions of the bill into force without the amendments it granted to the opposition. It will have to bring the entire legislation into force.

This is one item, but there are others.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act November 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would say it depends on the province. Some provinces are large enough to look after the training of their first responders themselves.

Maybe you do not know, but of the major reforms I made as public security minister, was the fire safety system reform. Firefighters had been waiting for this reform for fifteen years, and they were quite glad of it.

Firefighters are more and more professional, and I think their development should continue, not only in firefighting, but also in prevention and everything that has to do with first response.

I hope that someday, we will be at a level similar to what I have seen in New York, where even medical procedures by firefighters are common. Firefighters are those most present everywhere and they are in a position to meet the needs more quickly. That is why they save many human lives.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act November 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary very much for his question. I think that this is a field in which there are no great differences of opinion between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Therefore, we can collaborate on this.

I do not have much time to explain it, but you will understand why these political goals are not compromised by our attitude at present, if we allow for a number of things. I will not say much about it, but I believe I express the opinion of most Quebeckers when I say that I do not hate Canada or Canadians. What I do not like is the Canadian Constitution because, while it was not intended to do so, its practical result is to ensure that we will eventually be eliminated. That is what we want to change.

In fact, I appreciate confederation so much that for my first mandate in Ottawa, I was assigned an office in the Confederation Building. That is what we really want. Even though we want a true confederation, each nation keeps its own sovereignty. Nevertheless, we have agreements among us and if we want to maintain our partnership or association, it is because we share common values with the rest of Canada.

Here is one area where we share common values. Respect for democracy, respect for freedom, and also respect for privacy. It is clear that there are differences between our attitude and that of our neighbours to the south and even of many other countries.

Still, I am quite pleased with it. I hope that the government's attitude to the Privacy Commissioner's warnings will translate into something—perhaps not an amendment to the bill, but an administrative structure that, without interfering with the collection of security intelligence, will be able to ensure that such intelligence is always used for its original purpose, the fight against terrorism and violence, and does not stray into unnecessary intrusions into private life.

When such intrusions are necessary, secrecy must be maintained. The information obtained in this way must never be made public or used for other purposes, even for purposes of the governing party.

That is why—

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act November 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, at first glance, one might think that, basically, all this bill is about is a change of designation, from Solicitor General Canada to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. Even just that would be an improvement. The responsibilities of the new department are certainly better defined.

As this bill is introduced, with the importance it is clearly given by the Prime Minister by putting in charge of this new department his Deputy Prime Minister, I think that it represents a significant change and I hope that it will continue to be considered as such within the government.

Before making my point, I will say that this is certainly a topic on which Quebec and the rest of Canada think very much alike. In fact, I think that the cooperation that we should be getting and that I hope to be getting in this respect would be a good example of the kind of cooperation that could exist between two sovereign nations within a real confederation, which is the objective I have pursued throughout my political career.

The reason this particular bill is so important is precisely because it is being introduced at a time when great challenges have to be met. After World War II—I was born in the early days of the war—I spent my life dreading another world war or, worse yet, an atomic war that might spell death for the planet. The greatest threat at the time was indeed clashes between the Communist bloc and the free world, while other countries stood by. That was the main military threat.

Canada, at the time, with the second largest landmass in the world but a fraction of the world's population and wealth, was perfectly aware of the fact that it was unable to provide adequate protection for this huge landmass and its inhabitants. Therefore, throughout the 20th century, Canada consistently relied on its participation in major international alliances, in which it has played a heroic part on occasion and many Canadians have also played a part. In this spirit, it continues to support UN operations conducted under an international flag.

What is the greatest threat to the security of Canadians and Quebeckers in this 21st century? Which countries are likely to threaten to invade us and deprive us of our freedom? Clearly, the cold war is over. There are new alliances. Unfortunately, at the dawn of the 21st century, more precisely on September 11, 2001, we discovered a new threat to civilized countries, and countries as a whole, namely terrorism.

Consequently, since terrorism is the greatest threat, we must refocus our forces and our defence system to counter this new threat.

As a matter of fact, it could even strike here. Terrorists who struck Bali could just as well strike Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. Moreover, even if there is no immediate threat here, I think we all see it as our role to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and make sure that nobody on our territory is planning terrorist attacks on our allies or even other countries.

Essentially we do not fight terrorism with traditional weapons. If we take the terrorist threat seriously, we should expect a significant transfer of resources from the Department of National Defence to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Whatever resources we devote to intelligence gathering, the fight against terrorism mainly involves the systematic gathering of information, secret information of course, since by definition terrorists operate in secrecy. Occasionally countries harbour terrorists. In such cases, the world community has every right to forcefully remove any government that is encouraging the spread of terrorism from its territory. That is what we did in Afghanistan with our allies under the United Nations flag.

Once that has been done, terrorism remains a secret activity and the way to fight terrorism is to establish networks of informants and to develop our secret services.

No matter what the resources we are going to devote to security information, we can be pretty well sure that they will never be enough to provide us with the assurance that we will never fall victim to terrorist attacks.

The only way to gain that assurance would be to live in an environment similar to the former communist regimes, with their multiple controls and lack of freedom. That, obviously, no one wants. I might add that the terrorists would have scored a great victory if they had managed to change us into that kind of a society.

We must therefore expect a major increase in undercover surveillance activities. This, of necessity, puts the respect of fundamental rights at risk. Even cooperation with our allies presents risks to individual freedom as we see it, and our respect for privacy.

We have seen the disastrous effects on Canadians of giving information to allied undercover services, disastrous effects we had not intended. The major challenge is to find a happy medium between increased security information gathering activities and the respect of human rights

There is a great fascination for such undercover activity. It has inspired numerous popular novels and films. It is far removed from reality, however. The reality is patient information gathering, it is patience, intelligence, the ability to link scattered information together so as to eventually identify groups, guess what they are planning, gather evidence, and take timely action. There is no room for failure.

Nevertheless, people involved in the secret service are a source of fascination for people. The fascination of seeing into others' lives, somewhat the way people are now fascinated with reality TV. There is a tendency to abuse this ability, which is why it is very important to set effective controls, not only to protect people's privacy and the values we subscribe to—freedom and respect of privacy—but also simply for the sake of efficiency.

As I said, there will likely never be enough resources. So the best use must be made of the ones we have. They are not to be used for frivolous purposes not to restrict the activities and freedom of people who have no intention of resorting to violence. We have to know when enough is enough.

It is also dangerous because it provides the government with powerful tools they can use against their political opponents. Since these activities are kept secret, the government might be tempted to use the resources put at its disposal to fight terrorism to get information about its political foes, which would give it an edge.

This is one of the concerns the committee on which I sat noted in Australia, New Zealand, Norway, the United States and England. Parliamentary controls were developed. So, there is a risk that we need to address here. The huge challenge facing the minister today has to do with balance.

Let me say, in all honesty, that I think the Prime Minister probably chose the best person he could to try to achieve that balance. As a former justice minister, a former law professor, a great supporter of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms adamant about its enforcement, she has maintained balance in her public life.

I do hope she realizes the importance and enormity of the task ahead. I also hope that she is aware she will have a tough time keeping abreast of the secret activities of her department, since secret services are usually wary about political leaders. What will make her work even harder is that the management of all the increased resources she is getting is too much for one person. It would be naive to assume that there will not be any abuses, hence the need to have monitoring agencies whose resources are already too limited.

We have them, but many people complain that budgets and resources are insufficient. They will obviously need even more resources if we increase the resources given to the secret services. Their increase must be proportional to the increase of the resources provided to these secret services.

It is also necessary to establish, as in other democracies, a parliamentary control, as promised by the Prime Minister. This committee must be representative of Parliament, thus of the people, of those who, although they want major changes to current institutions, pursue and have always pursued their action in a democratic and peaceful context.

It is not against even the major changes that the secret services must work, but against the use of violence to provoke changes. This is certainly an objective shared by all of us who are democrats in the first place.

This is why I am still a bit concerned when I see the minister's attitude toward the suggestions made by the privacy commissioner, Ms. Stoddart. She has rejected a little too lightly her suggestion to have an officer dedicated to assessing the unavoidable infringements on privacy that intelligence activities require.

For my part, I believe that having such an officer may be useful not only to ensure the necessary protection of privacy or limit the unnecessary violation of privacy, but also to ensure the efficiency of the secret service. As I said earlier, when you start to unnecessarily encroach on privacy, it means that you are not doing your work properly, that resources are not focussed where they should be focussed, resources that are, as I said, probably always scarce and should be entirely dedicated to counter plotting by those wanting to use violence to bring about changes. We are a democratic society able to bring about changes.

The minister is a good choice, but only time will tell if she is up to the important task she has been given.

Similarly, her ability to have important resources transferred from the Department of National Defence will be an indication of her political weight. It will also be an indication of whether or not the Prime Minister is truly aware of the new security challenges of the 21st century.

I will now go to the specifics. We put forward an amendment the government seems to say it will reluctantly accept. Let us be clear. If the federal government had never encroached on provincial jurisdictions, this amendment would not have been necessary.

I might elaborate on that at another time, but I sincerely believe that federal encroachment in provincial jurisdictions is somewhat of a natural phenomenon since it is the manifestation of the Canadian anglophone nation's will to give the government it controls the means to tackle problems it perceives as the most pressing.

Quebec also acts as a nation. Quebec would like its government, which it controls, to look after what it considers the most pressing problems.

I think the federal government's mentality also goes against the spirit of a true federation. According to its way of thinking, it is the senior government and, in areas where we have to work together, it has to take initiative and establish the rules. I do not want things to be that way. I want, as the parliamentary secretary to the minister said, for there to be cooperation between the provincial and federal governments. However, I want even more. I want there to be respect between the two parties.

It is certainly not impossible. I have seen this respect myself when we were working on the fight against biker gangs and we established the Carcajou squad. It was directed alternately by an officer from the Sûreté du Québec and an officer from the Montreal police, and RCMP investigators agreed to cooperate. I think they were proud of the work that was accomplished. We are one of the only places in the world that has succeeded not in completely eliminating, but in truly breaking up the dangerous Hell's Angels organization.

As the crown prosecutor said—and I agree with him—the fight against organized crime is like housework: it never ends. However, with the new legislation the Minister of Justice has given us, it will be more difficult to establish such a powerful organization.

Thus, it is possible for the federal government to act, cooperate and find its place while respecting provincial organizations.

In conclusion, we already have teams to fight against a biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear attack and we have here a good example for making these teams available to all Canadians.

Now you can understand our full agreement with this department's creation and our view of this department's importance. We are prepared to cooperate, but rest assured we will keep a close eye on you.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act November 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I realize that my question might require a longer answer, but it might move us to reflect upon the future of the department whose establishment we support.

When I go over the powers granted in clauses 4 and 6, I wonder what the parliamentary secretary might do in a situation where provinces ask for military support. Can the Department of Public Safety really ensure that our armed forces will be able to react rather quickly when police forces cannot keep up?

The question is not without merit. Members will remember a very painful period, the Oka crisis in Quebec, in the early 1990s. When I was minister, I was worried about having to face a similar situation.

I asked the military authorities, when they agreed to meet with me, how long it would take them to react if we had to request their support. They explained to me all the training the troops would need to carry out civilian duties where personnel that is better armed is required. I pointed out that the troops had to be trained to carry out this type of operation when they were sent abroad to take part in UN missions.

Clause 4 stipulates that “The Minister shall, at the national level,exercise leadership relating to public safety andemergency preparedness”. Does that mean that the Minister of Public Safety can go so far as ensuring that the staff of another department gets the training they would need to be able to react quickly if needed?

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act November 16th, 2004

I understand that there are discussions in this House, however, I am the only one at the microphone right now.

We examined this bill at committee and we realized that, as is common practice, the powers given to the minister are considerable. As this is a shared jurisdiction and as it is necessary that it be shared anyway, for reasons of efficiency, we want to make sure the federal government is aware this time that the provincial and territorial jurisdictions must be respected.

We presented our arguments to all of the members of the committee, composed of representatives of all parties in the House, and the majority of those representatives, who represent a majority of the Canadian population, also recognized that the addition we were proposing was necessary in the current context, but also in a context that probably amounts to the history of the last 40 years, that is to say the continual and systematic intrusion of the federal government in provincial jurisdictions.

The amendment that we proposed to clause 6 began as follows:

  1. (1) In exercising his or her powers...the Minister may--

It all seems very innocent, but when one reads about all the powers that are given thereafter and when one sees what public security is, one notices that there are quite a few areas which belong to the provinces. For example, there are provincial prisons. There are also effective civil security organizations which—and I have noticed this—differ from one province to another. Not only are they well established, but they meet local needs. We realized that these powers were considerable. We wanted the minister, whoever he may be, to continue to exercise these considerable powers with due regard to the powers conferred on the provinces and territories. It was this wording, “with due regard to the powers conferred on the provinces and territories”, that we proposed as an amendment and that representatives of the majority of the Canadian population decided to approve.

The amendment the government is proposing now would supersede the one unanimously approved in committee. This shows how this government, which in this current legislative context does not have a majority, neither in the House nor in committee, is trying not to take the amendments proposed by the committees into account. Knowing that the government would probably want to go this way, I had asked that a second amendment be made to the last clause of the bill. This seemingly innocuous section says:

  1. The provisions of this Act, other than sections 35 and 36, come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

This wording allows the government to enforce the act without taking into account any amendments approved by committees.

Indeed, government members can always say that the sentence I just read is a provision of this act:

  1. (1) “--and with due regard to the powers conferred on the provinces and territories--”

Consequently, I proposed an amendment and I had the support of all the members of the committee to amend this clause to read:

  1. This Act, other than sections 35 and 36, comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

It is obvious that this was not a pointless precaution, since I presume that if the amendment it is proposing now is defeated, the government would probably try not to enforce the amendments adopted by Parliament.

Even though I suspect that several voters did not want to elect a minority government, but rather a majority government formed by the party of their choice, I would like to point out that a minority government reflects the diverse points of view found in Canadian society as a whole. Thus its stands to reason that a government which is the result of this new minority situation shows some humility and accepts the improvements proposed by those who represent the majority of Canadians.

This is clearly the case here. The federal government has a long history of interfering in areas under provincial jurisdiction. I do not have the time now to list all its intrusions, but suffice to say that today the federal government spends more money in areas under provincial jurisdiction than in its own areas of jurisdiction. As a matter of fact someone back home had fun compiling the latest federal intrusions just over the past three years and putting a dollar figure on them. The number arrived at is rather impressive: the new federal intrusions in areas under provincial jurisdiction amounted to $4.476 billion.

Here are a few examples. Health information technologies: $600 million in 2002-03. The Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment—health is an area under provincial jurisdiction—: $5 million in 2003-04, and $10 million the following year. Patient's security: $20 million over three years. Health governance and accountability: $70 million in 2002-03, $15 million the following year, $30 million the year after that, for a total of $115 million. National Immunization Strategy: $15 million. Canadian Health Services Research Foundation: $25 million. Managing pharmaceuticals: $40 million over the past two years. Planning, coordinating and partnership: $10 million in 2003-04, and $20 million in 2004-05. Health services for official language minorities: $12 million and $13 million over the last two years.

Early education and child care—clearly another matter of provincial jurisdiction—$25 million in 2003-2004, $81 million in 2004-2005, and we know what is coming next. Support to employability of the handicapped: $193 million per year in the past two years. The strategy for children and the family law—truly one of the foundations of the constitutional accord which may have existed in 1840 and later in 1867—another area where the government has found a way to intervene—$27 million in 2003-2004 and $26 million in 2004-2005. There are also the affordable housing initiatives. I could go on and on; I have 29 items and I have not even gone through half the list. I believe other speakers will have an opportunity to say more.

It is a mistake to talk about something that is useless here and to point it out in a number of acts to the federal government. Among his arguments, the government representative said that there has always been a high level of cooperation between provinces in civil security matters, and that it goes without saying that things will remain that way. If it goes without saying, why would things get worse by saying it?

I myself was very open to cooperation with the federal government when I was the Minister of Public Security in Quebec. For example, I supervised the establishment of the Carcajou squad, which had some considerable success in the fight against organized crime, especially against biker gangs. As soon as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police showed its desire to cooperate in this new type of fight against organized crime, and especially to bring together investigators with access to various sources of information, I agreed to do so.

In conclusion, I think that other speakers will have an opportunity to raise many other arguments against this amendment.

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act November 16th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, first, we certainly recognize the value of Bill C-6 as a whole and we will support it, as we did when it was first introduced in this House. However, we are here to discuss the amendment proposed by the government, through the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police October 29th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, this is more a matter calling for a comprehensive review by elected representatives. The same mistake was made in the past with the ports of Montreal.

To prevent another mistake, does the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness not think that a moratorium would be in order, while the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness examines this decision and assesses its various impacts?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police October 29th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, various police associations in Quebec have also expressed concern about the RCMP's decision to close nine regional offices in Quebec and demand that an impact study be conducted before the decision becomes final.

Does the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness intend to do as requested by the police associations, and suspend temporarily the RCMP's decision while impact studies are conducted?

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act October 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, first, let me reassure the hon. member. I have never ridden a motorcycle. I do not believe you have ever seen me riding a motorcycle. The member is mistaken. I did however attend an event where I was surrounded by motorcycles, however reluctantly. I did not think it was the best idea in the world, but that is the way it was. I was a young minister at the time and had accepted an invitation. I ended up with fifty motorcycles around me on the fifth floor of an hotel. It was quite strange, but since police officers had spent a lot of time polishing their bikes, it would have been a pity not to play along, especially since I was at a police convention. So, that explains it.

Moving on to something more serious. Yes, this redeployment is of concern to me from the security point of view. First of all—and this is one of the reasons given for the reorganization in Quebec—a proper fight against organized crime requires more than just intelligence gathering. For a police force to be able to fight organized crime properly, which is the main reason I reorganized the Quebec police, there must be very close connections between the cop on the beat and the people who carry out the investigations. I find it most strange, for instance, for the police to be moved away from the borders in order to protect them better. I find that quite odd.

The same mistake was made in the ports. In 1997 federal police were pulled from the port of Montreal. True, the reason was to enable them to concentrate on the major gangs. How was this carried out? Through informants and wiretaps, things that can easily be done out of an office some distance away. I understand the RCMP's motive of wanting to concentrate on this, but by so doing it has lost its local ear to the ground.

The same applies to the fight against organized crime. Why were organized groups setting up elsewhere? For Montreal, they were going to Sorel. For Quebec City, they were setting up in Saint-Nicolas. For Sherbrooke, they were going to the suburbs. They knew that police surveillance was not as close there. If they had stayed in Montreal, they would have been monitored more closely.

Why did the RCMP set up outside urban areas? My very clear impression is that organized crime could be very closely monitored in major centres, but because of shortcomings that I think I have corrected to a certain extent, but certainly not fully, organized crime cells ended up in specific regions.

I think that the RCMP--