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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

Justice October 26th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, if judges are complying with the requirement to protect the safety of the community, then clearly they are not releasing serious and violent offenders, as the title of his bill would suggest.

Why eliminate this very useful power to help rehabilitate so many offenders? If certain judges are not complying with this requirement, why are those sentences not simply appealed?

Justice October 26th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, with Bill C-16, the government wants to eliminate most community sentences a judge can hand down. Before a judge can hand down a sentence to be served in the community, section 742.1 of the Criminal Code already stipulates that the judge has to be “satisfied that the service of the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community”.

In the opinion of the Minister of Justice, do Canadian judges comply with this requirement?

Justice October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the crime rate is going down, but the government insists on imposing its repressive version of justice that will cost Quebec and the provinces billions of dollars just to expand the prison system.

Instead of being blinded by his ideology, should the minister not invest in the targeted, rational, prevention-based measures that have been much more effective in fighting crime than the minister's elementary, partisan approach?

40th Anniversary of the October Crisis October 7th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, more than 450 people were arrested when the government invoked the War Measures Act in October 1970. Today we know that all the known members of the FLQ and all those who were suspected of being members were released in the hope that they would lead the police to the places were Mr. Cross and Mr. Laporte were being held.

These people, who were arrested without warrant, usually in the middle of the night, kept in the dark about the new crimes that had just been created, and held incommunicado until they were questioned, were all finally released without charge. Some were let go several days after being arrested, while others were not released until months later.

It is disturbing to think that these measures were taken by politicians who had always claimed to stand up for human rights and workers' rights.

Events such as these show us how very fragile our lofty principles and our institutions can be.

Let us learn from such events. After all, Quebec's motto is “Je me souviens”, I remember.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act October 6th, 2010

Madam Speaker, in the end our objectives are the same and we are very close to considering the same means of attaining the same objectives, that is reducing crime. However, in this case, we have a minimum sentence for a third offence.

I believe that the member acknowledges that there are two types of car thieves. There are those who steal for fun, such as young people who love cars and riding around in them. Then there are those who steal cars to resell them or hand them over to a criminal organization. A youth on his third joy ride needs a serious warning and a stint in jail. It is important that he realize that there is a short six-month prison sentence with the possibility of parole. That is also the role of prisons. No matter the cost, I think we should pay it.

The other type of thief is the one who works for organized crime. It is another type of crime, where the perpetrator is a hardened criminal and the car is the object of the crime. He definitely needs to serve a longer sentence and a prison term is justified in this case as well.

There are two reasons why the government does not want to calculate the sentence. First, it is very difficult to establish the parameters. For example, how many people would be deterred if they knew about the minimum sentence? I think that most, if not all, young people would be deterred. The data is inconclusive and makes it difficult to establish the sentence.

There is another reason why the government does not want to give us figures. If it starts providing figures for all the prison sentences it has established, they will be appalling and people will be discouraged by its program. That is exactly what happened in Europe. The majority of European countries talk about the cost of incarceration before imposing minimum sentences and very harsh sentences.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act October 6th, 2010

Madam Speaker, these characteristics are quite diverse. Young boys will always be fascinated by cars. Boys are eager to get their hands on a steering wheel. When they live in a family where they will never have that opportunity, they are tempted—with their friends—to find a way to drive a car. In that case, the best prevention is to make it difficult to steal a car. Young people take pride in beating the system.

In the Montreal area, there is a more serious problem. There are fewer young people. This phenomenon still exists among young people, but there is also a problem of organized crime. These are people who receive stolen vehicles and dispose of them quite quickly. There are other measures we should be using in those cases.

I think the hon. member is right when she says we should work on the root causes of crime. Education and fighting poverty can help. To get people out of poverty, we have to give them hope. A host of measures is needed to tackle all kinds of crime. We cannot address this issue in 30 seconds. Nevertheless, everyone knows what we are talking about. Better education and promoting physical activity such as sports can have a positive effect on reducing poverty.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act October 6th, 2010

Madam Speaker, in this case, no, I do not anticipate an increase, because I think it will actually be used to discourage the right people from continuing. So it should not have much of an impact on prison populations.

The main reason that minimum sentences increase prison populations is very simple. It is because judges are forced to hand down prison sentences, even though they know in their hearts and in their consciences, and after examining 24 or 25 criteria in the law for sentencing, that certain individuals should not go to prison.

All kinds of people who should not go to prison are sent there anyway, and that is why the United States has 730 or 732 prisoners for every 100,000 inhabitants. In Canada, that number is about 100 to 115 per 100,000 inhabitants, as it is in all civilized countries like ours, such as those in western Europe, for example.

But in this case, the law is well targeted. I hope it will be applied with the same professional conscience that guided me when I was a lawyer. I think judges need to think about this. I have seen it. The judges were not saying that, but they should have. If they say so, there will be fewer auto-related crimes and therefore fewer people in prison for such crimes.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act October 6th, 2010

Madam Speaker, the hon. member knows my favourite subject.

I support the prosecution of criminals and putting convicted criminals in prison when necessary, for a period of time that will make them less dangerous and rehabilitate them as much as possible in preparation for their release.

I would point out that it is not the severity of the law that discourages or reduces crime, but rather something else, specifically, police action and prevention. We have so many examples when it comes to motor vehicles. It was really easy to steal cars when I was 20 or 25. Certain protective measures have been added, such as locking the steering wheel and adding all kinds of things to vehicles that make them harder to steal, which has reduced the number of auto thefts.

In my opinion, if something could be added that would allow authorities to track down vehicles quickly, we would get better results. I would like to be clear on that. It is frustrating for us, as federal legislators, because it is not up to us.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act October 6th, 2010

Madam Speaker, how humiliating. I thought I was interesting enough for them to pay attention. Fortunately, others are listening to me.

It is impossible to traffic a motor vehicle without also being in possession of stolen property. It is true that trafficking may be worse than simple possession, for example, purchasing a stolen television. The crime of trafficking is much worse. I have no objection to adding it as an offence, because that makes more sense. In practice, judges handling cases of trafficking in stolen vehicles would take into account the fact that the criminal was in possession of stolen property.

The bill also adds the offence of importing and exporting. This is the same thing. When we understand the purpose, it is clear that it is a good idea to add it, because it enables the Canada Revenue Agency and customs officials to intervene.

I think it would be a good thing if the bill contained a provision to supply border crossings with a list of stolen vehicle registrations so that it would be easy to check. Technology should make this relatively simple. It could be very useful.

We will probably never put an end to these types of crimes, but we could considerably reduce the prevalence. Changing the legislation is 10% of the work. The rest must be done at the local level by police forces or the industry.

The industry has tired of asking us to create tough legislation to prevent its products from being exploited or stolen. That said, the industry is responsible for making these crimes more difficult to carry out and for making it easier to find stolen vehicles.

Now, thanks to GPS, it is easier to find stolen vehicles, so the cost should go down.

In Montreal, a company launched a new initiative. Vehicle owners could pay a fee to have a device installed in a secret place in their vehicles. Stolen vehicles could be found using the cellular phone system.

GPS, a rapidly evolving technology, has become standard in luxury cars. I think that this technology should be used as widely as possible, especially since we know which models are the most commonly stolen. Oddly enough, the incidence of luxury car theft is lower, probably because there are fewer of them. The Honda Civic, Dodge Caravan, Acura Integra, Audi TT—a more unusual and luxurious model—and Dodge Shadow top the list. These are very common models, and they are the most popular with car thieves.

I believe that prevention and enforcement by police are two important aspects. I also believe, and I say this with all due respect to those who prepared it, this bill is much more balanced in terms of what it is proposing, much more comprehensive also, and much more responsive to the problems it is designed to address than the bills that the Minister of Justice regularly brings forward, in which I always detect an undercurrent of propaganda and sensationalism.

I am being very candid in saying this because that is not my party, but it is clear to me that, originally, this was Bill C-64, which was introduced by the Liberals. Very often, we have a meetings of the minds on legal issues, even though we definitely do not on other issues. Our approach to fighting crime is not about grandstanding; it is about taking meaningful, productive action.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act October 6th, 2010

Madam Speaker, this is the fourth time that this bill has been introduced in Parliament. I do not know if anyone said it was an urgent matter at the time, but they were ignored.

It started out in 2005 as Liberal Bill C-64. They were stopped short because an election was called, which they did not appreciate. It then became Bill C-53, and was shelved by an election or prorogation. It then became Bill C-26 and we now have Bill S-9, which was introduced by the government in the Senate in order to speed up its passage.

I believe that everyone recognizes that the government is responsible for the recent delays. That contradicts what we hear on a regular basis from the Minister of Justice in this Parliament, who says that the opposition is dragging its feet and that the opposition systematically opposes the legislative program it wants to present.

First, that is not true; second, the opposition's philosophy about some matters is diametrically opposed to that of the current Minister of Justice. We do not want our country to follow the example of the United States and become a country with one of the highest rates of incarceration. We know that half of all inmates in the world are found in U.S. prisons and it is obvious that this has not produced the desired results. There is a considerable difference in our philosophies. When a criminal justice bill that will really improve things and address an urgent problem is introduced, we are ready to collaborate. The minister knows that. Why did he not move more quickly before?

That said, now that he has introduced it, we will get the bill passed quickly because I note that there are no objections from the other two opposition parties, nor do we have any.

Nevertheless, I would like to make some comments. First of all, I must point out that auto theft has declined since 1996. I think the members who spoke before me said it is down by 20%. I think that corresponds to the statistics I have. Clearly, the nature of auto theft has changed somewhat over the years and now our legislation requires certain adjustments.

For instance, one thing that really surprised me when I consulted the most recent Statistics Canada data on the subject is that the incidence of auto theft varies considerably across the country. For example, Newfoundland and Labrador reports only 131 auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. Prince Edward Island reports 115. Nova Scotia reports 263, which is very high for the Maritimes. In New Brunswick, the number is 187. Quebec reports 507 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, which is quite high. The number of auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants in Ontario is 303, and in Manitoba, it is 1,376.

We have heard some reasonable explanations so far. I can come back to some and add to them, in order to understand. Personally, I do not say this to humiliate Manitoba—as we have been unfairly humiliated—because in Quebec, we do more to tackle corruption; we tolerate it less and we prosecute the offenders. Therefore, it is in our newspapers more often than in other places, but it does not mean that we have more corruption than other places, nor does it mean that the entire population is corrupt. In any case, we can look at it hypothetically.

In Saskatchewan, the number of auto thefts per 100,000 inhabitants is 663, in Alberta it is 725 and in British Columbia, it is 682. As we can see, the incidence is higher in western Canada. Once again, this clearly shows that the Parliament of Canada, which creates legislation for the entire country, does not necessarily have the power to make the changes needed to address crime. It was my experience, as a member of the Quebec government, that crime must be fought locally first, with local police forces and our own policies.

It is our duty to amend legislation when needed and that is what we are doing.

Statistics vary a great deal according to the province and the size of the city. I am all the more sympathetic to Manitoba when I know that the city in Quebec with the highest theft rate is the one that I have the honour of partially representing. Part of my riding is in Laval. In Laval, there are 852 car thefts per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to Montreal where there are 723 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants. That is quite high.

I understand that the rate is higher in Toronto than in Montreal because of Montreal's port. In Montreal, there are orders from foreign countries for four-wheel-drive luxury vehicles with air conditioning and other accessories. These vehicles can be shipped out of the country quickly through the port of Montreal, something that is not an option for car thieves in Toronto. This certainly plays a role in organized crime, which makes crime prevention more difficult, but not impossible.

Another significant number: the stolen vehicle recovery rate is 75% in Toronto and 56% in Montreal. This also clearly illustrates that organizations that steal luxury cars are able to offload them quickly because of the port, or so I am told by the police.

When I was young, another common reason for stealing a vehicle was joyriding, which is far less common today. Cars were not stolen for the thrill of stealing, but to cruise around and try it out. We all need to understand that boys are fascinated by cars. At least, that has been my experience. Young girls think about the utilitarian side of a car, but young boys think about how much fun it would be to drive one. That is why, quite often, the only crime a young person ever commits is having helped steal a vehicle. Young men are fascinated by them.

How do we combat this? I think that we have done it over time. It is far more difficult to steal a vehicle now. We have taken measures to make it more complicated to start a car. In earlier days, among young people, both delinquent types and those not overly involved in crime who had never committed a violent act and who were respectful, it was a source of pride to know how to start a car without the key and things like that. That is another explanation.

Perhaps the members from Winnipeg can tell me if they agree. When there is a large population of youth from not-so-rich families, there are perhaps more youth who are tempted and fascinated by automobiles, as are all young boys. If their fascination is not satisfied by their family's vehicle, they will be more tempted to steal vehicles simply for the joy of riding around in a car, being in control and driving it.

We are taking advantage of the opportunity to change the legislation. First, a minimum sentence of six months has been added. People may think that the Bloc Québécois has an ideological stance against minimum sentences. We are not against minimum sentences, but we recognize the circumstances under which a minimum sentence can be effective. Most of the time, the minimum sentences that have been proposed are not effective. I am sure that not even 10% of the members in the House know how many minimum sentences there are in the Criminal Code. If I gave them a test and asked which offences have a minimum sentence associated with them, less than 2% of them would pass. And I am being generous.

So how can we expect criminals to know what the minimum sentences are? These sentences have no impact on criminals' behaviour because they do not know what the minimums are. I have always said so. The most striking example is the importing of marijuana in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when I began practising law. Marijuana was starting to spread. It all came from outside the country, because the marijuana that grew here was not hallucinogenic at all. The minimum sentence for importing marijuana was seven years. This was when marijuana use went up the most, so someone had to import it. We found that this minimum sentence, which was the longest in the Criminal Code after the minimum for murder, did not deter anyone. Minimum sentences generally have no deterrent effect, except under certain circumstances. The minimum sentence in this case is smart because it is for subsequent offences and because the offender is informed.

As a lawyer, I always informed my clients that if they were caught a second time, a minimum sentence would apply. That can act as a deterrent. If I had been appointed as a judge, I would have made a point of informing offenders when I had to sentence them for a crime for which a minimum is provided in the event of a subsequent offence. That way, an individual who might commit the same offence again is aware of the minimum sentence. That acts as a deterrent.

That is what we are talking about here. There is a reasonable minimum sentence of six months for a second offence. The minimum sentences that the members opposite come up with are always paradoxically flawed. Logically, a minimum sentence should apply to the least serious form of an offence, so that the maximum sentence can be handed down for the most serious form of the offence. But the people who come up with minimum sentences think about the most serious cases, which is why they want a minimum sentence. However, because they are motivated by the most serious cases, they set very long minimum sentences.

We have seen this in the United States, where there are many minimum sentences. Moreover, this is one of the problems with minimum sentences. In this case, there is no such problem. I feel that a six-month sentence for a third offence is reasonable. It can certainly act as a deterrent. As hon. members can see, the Bloc's objections are not ideological, but are based on rational knowledge, experience and criminology.

A new offence has been created—tampering with the vehicle identification number. I am surprised it is not already an offence. Someone who alters a VIN obviously does not have honest intentions. I really believed it was prohibited. No matter, it will be in the future.

A presumption is created: if an individual owns a vehicle with an altered VIN, he is presumed to have obtained it illegally. I believe that this is a reasonable presumption, but it does not always hold true. One can always provide a defence, if it is a good one. If it raises a reasonable doubt in the judge's mind, he will not accept the presumption. It seems to me that something is amiss if we own a car with an altered VIN, unless we dealt in good faith or were victims of the person who stole the car, changed the number and sold it to us. We apparently bought the car lawfully, and went to register it with the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec. That is a good change.

There is another new offence concerning trafficking in stolen vehicles. I have always thought that there could not be trafficking in a stolen car without possession of a stolen car. However, this is not a bad change—