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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was police.

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 October 14th, 2004

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. First, I should point out that, at the time, I was not the minister of public security but, rather, the minister of justice.

When such catastrophes occur, there is always a great spirit of cooperation. In fact, it is never difficult to find volunteers. There are many people who want to help. In the face of a catastrophe, the important thing is the relevance of the action taken.

Incidentally, it is following those two disasters that we learned from our weaknesses. It is also following these disasters that we set up two commissions of inquiry, both led by Mr. Nicolet, that we decided to draft a new act on emergency preparedness, and that we developed the emergency preparedness scenario that I mentioned earlier.

Cooperation is excellent. Generally speaking, a natural disaster triggers an emotional climate that leads to extraordinary mutual support. We can also see here some key elements to ensure the effectiveness of the operations. It is important to review the means of communication, for example. This is why these exercises are so important. We could see people walking around with four cell phones around their waist listening to the radio. It is a good thing to have a frequency for these situations. There are technical things that we can plan ahead to be ready to act.

Whenever I talk about the federal government, I feel uneasy because of the attitudes it has demonstrated in the past. Frankly, I do not think that the current minister will make that kind of mistake. Others, maybe. As usual, the federal government will develop the entire system in Ottawa and then try to impose elsewhere. I have no objection to the government imposing it on provinces that have not made all the improvements we have.

We have paid a hefty price for the lessons we have learned from the disasters we are talking about. I think we have a procedure now. It is a source of pride for me, as former public security minister, to see the speed of the response to the natural disasters in Quebec in the past two summers. This is where we have done our homework, established plans and can respond quickly. I am really proud when I see how quickly the compensation for the victims could be announced.

I recall the old method, and I wonder if it is still the one that is used at the federal level. Although this is not important for the federal government, since it intervenes much later. Before, we had to go through government orders in council, which necessarily caused a delay. Now, all compensation is provided for in the civil safety act. We can tell people about it. Victims find a lot of comfort in knowing right away what compensation they are entitled to.

I can say that relations have always been good in these situations. If we want to change the Canadian Constitution so that Quebec becomes sovereign, it is not because we think that Canada is mean or that Canadians are bad; it is because we think the institutions are assimilating us over time. People should eventually understand that it is not Canada or Canadians that we hate, but the current Constitution, which did not fulfill its promises and will ensure our assimilation in a few generations from now. However, that is another problem.

It is not because we hate Canadians. It is not because there has not been very good cooperation. This is a sector where we can fully cooperate, and we have proved it.

Concerning public safety, there is also police work. It is in Quebec that the three levels of police cooperated best in the joint regional units that I had the privilege to create and that fought the hardest against the worldwide criminal organization—the Hell's Angels. I hope that we will continue to cooperate, while awaiting more friendly discussions on constitutional changes.

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

I see that the Liberals, who are used to having a majority government, think that an opposition party can never make a useful amendment to a bill. This shows that, if they were in the opposition, they might discover some advantages to it.

We will discuss this in committee, but I think it is appropriate to amend the last clause to say that all the provisions of the bill will come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council, so that the government, having reluctantly or willingly agreed to an amendment by the legislator—of which the 308 of us are all a part—removes this amendment from the bill on the day that it comes into force.

This would also be more respectful of the distinctions that must exist, what is left of them, between the legislative and the executive power. If the executive power, which generally controls the House, absolutely believes that there is a part of the bill that cannot be implemented, it would have to come back before Parliament. Parliament will no doubt be able to understand as well as the government and make the amendments that are required.

I intend to propose this personal amendment to this clause and to others that will be similar during my time in Parliament.

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to say from the outset that we support this bill, even though some minor amendments might be in order. I would be ill-advised not to support a bill, which essentially seeks to group within a single department the three responsibilities of police, prisons and disasters. This is how I used to summarize the activities of my department in Quebec, when I was in charge of it. I also believe that these activities complement each other.

The bill is very short. It essentially establishes this new department. However, this is not a completely new department. Rather, it is a department that will consolidate duties that were fulfilled in other areas. It is a useful restructuring and, therefore, we do not object to it.

As regards the department's name, again, I would be ill-advised to criticize it. The term “solicitor general” was definitely no longer appropriate. This was not a very adequate title for someone in charge of prisons. For once, the French approach was used and the department is accurately named. Indeed, it is a department that groups together activities that ensure public safety and emergency preparedness. There was really no need to add the expression “emergency preparedness” to the department's title, but if this is the minister's or the Prime Minister's wish, so be it.

We are dealing here with areas of shared jurisdiction. I hope that the establishment of this department will not be another opportunity for the federal government to invade jurisdictions that are well exercised by Quebec.

In Quebec, I had the privilege of introducing in the National Assembly and moving through the adoption process a complete overhaul of the emergency preparedness system. We are not starting from scratch when dealing with emergency preparedness at the federal level.

In dealing with emergency preparedness, one thing is obvious: those who are in the best position to respond, at first, are the local authorities. That is true to a certain level of disaster where higher authorities with more resources at their disposal than the local authorities have to be called in.

Indeed, there are extremely expensive things and tools that even provincial authorities do not have. I can think of a number of helicopters or means of transportation, ships, ice-breakers and others that can be put into service. The federal government must not, however, tromp on an organization that is already very functional.

The principle of emergency preparedness organization applies to a rather large community. In Quebec, we decided on the regional county municipalities and urban communities. There are more than 100 RCMs in Quebec, each encompassing several municipalities, and the urban communities encompass several urban municipalities.

At the urban community or RCM level, an emergency preparedness plan is developed. What does developing an emergency preparedness plan involve? It involves taking an inventory of two things: risks and resources.

For the risk inventory, more often than not, the local authorities are the most efficient. For one thing, they have a smaller base of voters. So, they very often go door to door and are familiar with the area. They learn a lot along the way about where their voters live. In fact, they themselves generally live in the area they represent.

For instance, they know if there are potentially dangerous reservoirs on some farms. They know their territory. They know if there is a railway going through it. They have noticed that the railway is used to ship goods, so they are aware that a train derailment could be dangerous. They know about the plants in operation in their area. They know their region very well and are able to identify all these things. And if we get them involved in the development of the emergency preparedness program, they find out that they like it, they feel useful and competent, they are pleased to be of some help and usually do a very good job. By taking stock of the risks, they realize that some can be avoided.

So, there are already some prevention and emergency preparedness initiatives under way. After examining the risks, they go over the resources. For example, if there is a flood and 300 people have to be evacuated, where could they find shelter? They take an inventory of all available resources. If they have to do without power for some time, is there a plant nearby where they can have access to generators?

They discover their local resources, as well as their needs. They realize that they could buy this piece of equipment or that one or, if it is too expensive, that they can join with the neighbouring RCM to buy what could be useful in case of an emergency.

There has to be preparation, so that when there is a disaster, even unpredictable ones, they are not totally unprepared. They know what to do. Once these two inventories have been taken, intervention plans are prepared and implemented at some point, with exercises and simulations. This way the quality of communications between the various stakeholders is tested, the speed with which people can be reached, brought together, action taken and so on. This uncovers shortcomings in the plans, and as a result, the community is generally far safer.

Then there are specific projects. For example there have always been floods. I learned something odd about Quebec that I may be able to pass on to some others. I had never realized that we never had any flooding problems with the rivers on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, only the south. Why is that? Because, of course, when the spring thaw comes, it starts in the south and proceeds north. So water courses run high in the south and there are ice jams in the north, where the thaw has not yet arrived. This is why there are always more flooding problems with the rivers on the south shore. There are a few exceptions, north shore rivers that are particularly winding in particular. Since the thaw moves from south to north, the ice where the river empties into the St. Lawrence melts before what is upstream of it, and so the flow is generally better.

That said, there has to be provision for flooding. It is predictable. There is a need to know, because Quebec has a history of flooding. But there are also far bigger dangers, such as industrial dangers, dangerous gas emissions for example, major explosions setting off fires and so on.

The most important preparation is still the preparation that has to be done locally. It is a fact. That is why the Emergency Preparedness Organization is very important and, as far as I know, it might be unique to Canada. However, when the government comes barging in with the broad powers it often gives itself in statutes, it has to realize that throughout Quebec and in Canada, there is a place that is well prepared that deserves his respect.

This concerns primarily the public safety aspect. The department is already aware of what we do in Quebec.

I can also say that over time, we have noticed in Quebec it is true that the federal government has equipment that is useful to us, or could be. When I was saying earlier that resources are inventoried, I was talking about resources used for other purposes. It is important to know that these are things we can use in an emergency. For example, in disaster, people are often sheltered in gymnasiums. To welcome them, someone needs to know where the beds are, if there are beds, and so forth.

There is also some equipment that falls under federal jurisdiction. For example, we work in close cooperation with the Coast Guard. However, I do not see why this body comes under public safety.The Coast Guard has marine equipment that allows us to respond quickly to catastrophes on the St. Lawrence. It is most useful in preventing floods and breaking up ice jams.

For example, the Coast Guard bought hovercrafts, and that is easy to understand, given the difficulty of marking out with beacons the navigation channels on the St. Lawrence River. These crafts run on an air cushion, and they can move very well over water and could do as well on snow. They can also go ashore, provided the incline is not too steep. They are multipurpose vehicles. But experience helped us find out they could have another use they were not designed for originally. When a hovercraft moves over ice, it breaks it. So, a hovercraft being used to set the beacons that mark out the channels on the St. Lawrence River can help prevent flooding by breaking ice jams.

The hovercraft did not sell as well as hoped. There are relatively few of these craft in the world, making them rather expensive. Like all such equipment built some 20 years ago, they have to be taken apart and rebuilt every year. Good relations helped convince those responsible for this maintenance work to do it during the winter so that the craft can be used when ice jams are more likely to occur.

In the field, I know there is a generally good cooperation between the Quebec public security and federal agencies, especially the army. We have also noted that there is generally excellent cooperation between the various federal agencies.

The establishment of this new emergency preparedness department would facilitate this cooperation. Clearly, very useful means to be used in case of natural disasters can be found in many other departments. I hope this new department will allow for better cooperation and communications between the federal agencies that could be useful in emergency preparedness.

It is not obvious from reading this bill, but I think it would be important to include in this legislation some reference to the assistance provinces receive in case of a disaster. When a province suffers a disaster, such an enormous disaster that it causes great damage and endangers the fiscal health of that province, there is legislation to provide financial assistance.

This assistance is a function of the province's population, which seems to me to be a good criterion. The province is completely responsible for the first dollar per person. Then the federal government adds 75 cents per capita of the second dollar. Then it is 50%, then 25% and so on, right to the end.

Logically, these provisions that make it possible to provide relief to the victims of natural disasters would, we thought, have been incorporated naturally into the legislation for which the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is responsible. That is one of the things that seems to have been forgotten in this bill, but it would be good legal logic for this legislation to come under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness as well.

I take this first opportunity to speak to a bill, as a federal member of Parliament, to remind the legislator that the last section of each piece of legislation is a section that, given the courts' interpretation—at least 25 years ago, I think—allows the government to legislate not by adding to legislation, but by taking away from it.

We are in a Parliament with a minority government. It is possible that, on some occasions, we will introduce amendments to this legislation.

Louise Pargeter October 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Louise Pargeter had worked as a parole officer in Yellowknife since April 2001. Tragically, she lost her life on October 6, 2004. Her lifeless body was found in the home of one of the clients whose parole she supervised. She had sustained multiple stab wounds.

Our thoughts go first to her family, her child in particular, and then to her colleagues and all who work in her field. I am very familiar with, and have the greatest respect for, that noble profession, because of my experience as a criminal lawyer and former minister of public safety in Quebec.

I know that most of those who work in this field consider it a real calling. The work is hard, sometimes risky, often frustrating. Yet this work is essential to any society that considers itself humane. I share the sorrow and horror they must all feel, but I also share their ideals, and will continue to do so.

To the family of Louise Pargeter first and foremost, and also to all those working in the same field, I extend my deepest condolences. I am sure I am joined by all the members of this House.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the number of police officers may be the same but they are not in the right places. This opinion is shared by elected officials at all levels of government and in all parties in this House.

It seems that the RCMP in Quebec is not up to full strength. Would it not be a good idea to have the new standing committee on national security examine this issue, and in the meantime, establish a moratorium?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the plan that has recently been announced regarding the RCMP's redeployment in Quebec is producing some odd results.

In order to better protect our border, police officers are being moved farther away from it. In order to better fight organized crime in the remote areas where it moved to escape the close surveillance given it in the big cities, police officers are being removed from those areas. The regional listening posts essential to effective policing have been removed.

Before making the same error that was made in 1997, when police officers were withdrawn from international airports and harbours, which had to be remedied in 2001, does the minister not think there should be a moratorium before—