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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

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

Madam Speaker, the previous speaker is always so well prepared when addressing issues, and this was no exception. Still, there is an issue that I find intriguing, and I would like some answers. He has probably noticed the same thing that I did, even if he did not mention it.

In Canada, auto theft varies greatly from region to region. It is rather difficult to determine if it is more common in rural areas or in urban centres. For example, since 1999, Manitoba's rate of vehicle theft has been the highest in the country. In 2006, 1,376 thefts were reported. During the same year, 507 thefts were reported in Quebec, 303 in Ontario and 187 in New Brunswick. In Western Canada, the rate is somewhat higher, with 725 thefts in Alberta, for example.

I think that shows that passing legislation does not necessarily change behaviour, but enforcing it does.

Does the member have any idea why the rate is so high in Manitoba and why it varies so much across Canada?

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act October 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, that is a fact, and I am looking into it. It is clear that the bills they are introducing have titles that serve as propaganda.

We will soon be looking at their proposed legislation to reduce opportunities for sentences that can be served in the community. They say they want to ensure that people convicted of violent and dangerous crimes cannot benefit from things like that. But the current law already states that a judge cannot give this type of sentence if it presents a threat to public safety.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act October 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I had his notes.

What the previous speaker said is quite right. I spoke at length about other aspects, but I would now like to add that the homicide rate in Canada has fallen steadily over the past 30 years. I am certain that my statement has taken more than half the general public by surprise.

The Conservatives use rhetoric because all they want is to win votes. They never mention this. Canada's murder rate is about one-third that of the U.S. If there is one American failure that is clear, it is certainly this blasted tendency to look like they are tough on crime, which has disastrous results.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act October 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right to point this out. It is part of a set of principles whereby when someone enters prison for a certain period of time, not only are they kept in prison, but they are also offered programs to help them be better people when they get out. This information is given to the National Parole Board which, when the person has made sufficient progress, may agree to early parole. In any event, in the case of murder for which the minimum sentence is currently life imprisonment, this person remains under the jurisdiction of the National Parole Board until their death. They are monitored continually. They are not completely free. They are released with conditions. Experience shows that those cases in particular have been very successful.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act October 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I have enough time to answer that question, but I can say one thing for certain.

We can see an example of how this type of principle is working close to home, just south of the border in the United States. In less than 25 years, with this type of policy and this type of attitude, the United States has become the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world. The U.S. incarceration rate is somewhere around 730 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Canada and most western European countries, rates range from 65—I think—in the Netherlands to 130 in Great Britain. Nevertheless, it is always around 100, give or take. That is a big difference.

Is the United States seven times safer than Canada? Quite the contrary and never mind the human cost. Someone who is rehabilitated becomes an asset to society. We can cite many an example. What is more, according to religious principles—I am no longer practising and I wonder whether I am agnostic—I see that every religion teaches the benefits of forgiveness. They recognize that people are not perfect, that they will commit sins, crimes, but when they do, we must try to rehabilitate them and put them back on the right path. That is not what we have here. The Conservatives are fixated on being tough on crime in order to please the masses.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act October 5th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time this bill has come before us. We voted against it the first time and in any case, because of prorogation, it was never enacted. It went through the Senate before and now comes to us from that other place. Basically, the bill makes it harder to obtain parole before a minimum period under the law for the most serious murder, first degree murder, specifically, a period of 25 years. For second degree murder, the minimum period before an offender can obtain parole is decided by the presiding judge, who has the discretion to give between 10 and 25 years.

Under current legislation, after 15 years, a convicted murderer sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for 15 to 25 years can apply to the court to have his or her case heard by a jury. The jury decides if that individual can obtain early parole. That was not the case in the beginning, when the legislation was passed several years ago. Now the jury must be unanimous.

This is just one more piece of legislation brought forward by this government that, at first glance, makes it look like they are being tough on crime. According to the government's propaganda, anyone who supports a reasonable approach to fighting crime is defending the rights of the accused or of criminals. These arguments, which are given repeatedly, should convince any observer who hears them long enough that the criminal justice reforms proposed by the Conservative government are motivated by demagoguery. When introducing such bills, the government never considers how effective its proposed measures will be or what ills they may prevent. Instead, it always considers how the measure will affect its election campaign and the majority of voters' superficial understanding of its criminal justice program.

In that respect, the Conservatives are almost blindly following the policies of the Republicans in the United States. Even Democrats win votes when they take a tough-on-crime attitude and describe anyone who advocates a smart, effective approach to fighting crime as being a champion of criminals' rights. This is the only reason the Conservatives introduce these bills. This one is a case in point.

Does this law work? When we look at the statistics, the answer is clear. First, very few people who can apply under this law do apply. Second, not all applications are granted. It makes sense that most applications are granted, given everything offenders have to do to support their application. Have these people reoffended? Not one has committed another murder. Not only have there been no repeat murders, but only one offender has committed a serious offence, and that was a robbery.

So I do not believe that this proves that this bill meets any need whatsoever, unless it is the Conservatives' need to cause conflict with reasonable representatives of the opposition calling for reasonable solutions. Such solutions are not always clear to the general public. The Conservatives introduce bills like this one because it is an easy thing to do and it serves their demagogic purposes.

I want to give an example of how we have always taken a different attitude. A few years ago, legislation was passed that prohibited an offender convicted of multiple murders from applying for parole before having served 25 years.

Let us consider multiple murders. Objectively, multiple murders are certainly more serious than single murders. But should we be guided by this objective factor alone when we decide to release someone? The decision has to take into consideration all the guarantees that have been provided, what this person has had to demonstrate and the fact that this person will remain under the supervision of the National Parole Board for the rest of his life.

In Quebec, we have a striking example of a single murder of a prison guard by a member of the Hells Angels who—according to the jury—was following orders from the leader of the Hells Angels. The latter was found guilty. When the person committed the murder, as he was ordered, the weapon he was using jammed in such a way that when he aimed at two prison guards who were standing next to each other, he killed the first guard but was unable to kill the second. This is certainly one of the most serious crimes not only because it is a murder, in other words deliberately causing the death of another person, but also because of the subjective factors in this case. We are talking about someone who can consider taking a life in cold blood in exchange for some benefit. At the time, Mom Boucher, who had delusions of grandeur, wanted to attack the representatives of law and order to better control his lucrative dealings, and he did so by physically eliminating his competition.

Let us compare that to other multiple murders we have seen recently in Quebec. Early last year, the Chicoutimi police were called by a woman in distress. When the police arrived on the scene, the woman's husband and two children were dead. By all accounts, the woman seemed to still be under the influence of some sort of drug. We knew that the mother and father had both lost their jobs. They had appealed to their immediate family and friends with no luck. They were so desperate that they both decided to end their lives and those of their children. They procured very strong drugs that they gave to their children and then they ingested the drugs themselves. The father died, but the mother survived. The mother is still alive, so in her case this has to be considered a murder, a multiple murder to boot.

We need to look at the motivation behind it. It is an extremely sad story, but it is clear that it is not on the same moral level as Mom Boucher, who ordered one of his flunkies to kill two prison guards in cold blood, simply because they were prison guards.

We saw the same thing last year in the Saint-Jérôme region. We were shocked to hear about another terrible family tragedy. A well-known cardiologist was appreciated for his professional abilities, his rapport with patients, the care he provided, and his dedication to the hospital where he worked. He was married to another doctor. They appeared to be a very happy couple, at least until she decided to leave him. It is difficult to understand the kind of desperation he must have felt, but he decided to kill his two children.

Once again, it is extremely sad. He is not insane to the point of not being criminally responsible, but there are certainly some psychological factors to take into consideration, and it is completely different from the crime committed by Mom Boucher. I believe that Mom Boucher's crime is much worse, and that he certainly deserves a much harsher punishment than those involved in the family tragedies I mentioned. Frankly, what is the point of saying that for one, you are eligible, but for two, you are not?

Here is my view, or the view of my party and the majority of Quebeckers: in these cases, we must also always think about prevention. Yes, we must find a fair punishment for the guilty party, but we must not use simplistic reasoning. We need only look at what we are fighting for with the firearms registry. The current firearms legislation states that all firearms must be registered because they are dangerous. They are not dangerous simply because some people use them to commit murder, but because, very often, they are used in cases of suicide. They are also used by desperate people who sometimes kill other family members before killing themselves.

The current law states that when a person is depressed like that and might commit desperate acts, a court order can be requested in order to take his guns away. It is obvious that this person is likely depressed. But that person may not be depressed forever. They could work through it. However, while that person is depressed, any guns they might have should be taken away. So it is important that the police know what guns to look for and what guns they should take with them to execute the court order. This is one of the provisions that cannot be applied efficiently or effectively if these guns are not registered.

It is telling that some of the biggest advocates of the gun registry are suicide prevention organizations. They were the most ardent supporters in Quebec. Since the bill was passed, there has been a significant drop in suicide rates in Quebec. That is surely not the only reason, but the people who work in suicide prevention feel that it has certainly helped. In fact, even though it is not mandatory to register your guns in Quebec, there are still people who believe in it and register their guns, which shows that they do not intend to use them for criminal purposes.

In any case, it is important because people do change. If their attitude suggests that they might use weapons, if their lives have changed, if they are depressed, we must be able to find them. In fact, that is how it is done. When they are no longer depressed, based on their psychiatrists' opinion, their weapons can be returned to them.

That is the difference in attitudes. It is more complicated to explain and it does not look as good on the hustings as it does to say “we are tough on crime and they are soft on crime”, or say that those who want to enforce criminal law intelligently are defending the rights of the accused and of criminals. That is not the case; it is more complicated than that. I am convinced that if most voters were familiar with these specific cases they would understand that what we are defending is better measures. That is somewhat the case here.

The Conservatives know they have people's superficial support when they say we must be tough on murderers. We must not forget that in this case, a jury of 12 people from the community where that person lived and where the murder took place must unanimously agree to grant the possibility of early parole. The public has representatives to speak on its behalf. If one person out of the 12 does not agree, the request for early parole is refused. Furthermore, to get even that far, the offender must convince a judge that a jury is likely to grant early parole. That is why offenders' behaviour is monitored in prison and reports are produced to determine whether they have changed since committing their crimes.

This is especially important in the case of a crime committed by a young man—someone who has reached the age of majority but is still not very old—who kills his no-good father because he beats his mother and is dangerous. Certainly, defending his mother is no excuse for killing his father, under any circumstances. But if this person is convicted of murder, then that has to be taken into consideration after some time has gone by.

There are other reasons for maintaining such measures. People who are sent to prison need to have hope that if they change their behaviour and make an effort to become rehabilitated so they no longer pose a threat to society, they can get something in return. Human nature is such that behaviour can change out of fear of punishment, but generally it can change much more out of hope for a benefit. Napoleon understood this and awarded lots of medals and so on. Criminologists are well aware of this. People who are sentenced to long prison terms have to be given hope.

It is also important for the safety of correctional officers. If someone knows that good behaviour could get him paroled, then he is more likely to be receptive to rehabilitation and measures to maintain order in the prison. To date, there have been no abuses of these provisions, and it is very difficult for an inmate to get an application approved. The provisions have at least three main advantages, and experience has shown that they work well.

Criminal Code September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this could be the shortest speech I have ever made.

It seems clear to me that this bill should be passed quickly. It should have been passed in 2005. There is one restriction that we should examine, and that is the opinion of the Barreau du Québec, which has already written to the Senate, although the Senate did not feel the need to consider this opinion.

The Barreau du Québec pointed out that the French version of the bill uses the term “attentat suicide”, while the English version uses the term “suicide bombing”. There is a difference. Generally, when legislation has different effects on the guilt of someone accused of a crime, jurisprudence dictates that the less serious provision applies, the provision that would have fewer consequences for the accused.

We should perhaps look into this. I will admit that “attentat suicide” and “suicide bombing” can have different meanings, but I would not be able to say which one is less serious. I think that really depends on the circumstances. It would be a good thing if the committee could study this issue that the Senate seemed to want to avoid.

All members of my party, the Bloc Québécois, will vote in favour of this bill. This is one of many bills that we have supported for a long time, but for various reasons, the government has seen fit not to introduce them, and has then accused the opposition of delaying passage of its bills.

That tactic is well known to those on the other side of the House. The Conservatives' main concern when introducing Criminal Code amendments is not whether the amendments can have a positive impact on legislation as a whole, but whether the party can benefit politically by passing itself off as the only party that is tough on crime and wants to do something about it.

We often hear Conservative ministers say that while they are in favour of punishing criminals, the opposition is defending criminals' interests. That is not even an exaggeration; it is simply not true. They need to understand that in a democracy there are people who stand up for individual rights and who feel it is important to follow correct procedures in criminal law. It is not about defending the rights of the accused or of criminals. Quite the opposite. It is about defending the rights of any citizen who might one day face criminal charges.

Let us look at the bill itself. Like many others, I think that if there were suicide bombings in Canada, there would need to be proof that someone helped plan them. If a suicide bombing is successful, then the outcome for the person who committed it is clear. Here we do not convict people post mortem, as was previously the case in other jurisdictions. However, here, the definition is important when it comes to punishing those who prepare or contribute to the plot, who threaten to commit suicide bombing, who are accomplices after the fact and who encourage the perpetration of suicide bombing. These are punishable acts. It has to be clear in the legislation that these offences have to be prosecuted.

This is an improvement to the legislation. I wonder why, for something so simple that was first presented in 2005, we are discussing this issue here five years later? How is it that a government that has been in power all this time still has not introduced a bill that all members unanimously agree should be adopted?

This same government keeps blaming the opposition for holding up the government's legislative agenda and for defending the rights of criminals. The government claims to be defending the rights of honest people, as we often hear in their propaganda, but people will see that the government is responsible for slowing down anti-terrorist provisions so they can take up to five years to reach Parliament.

What more can I say? Obviously the Bloc Québécois agrees with these provisions. However, I do think there needs to be some thought given to reconciling the French and English wording.

Combating Terrorism Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, to be honest, I do not think that this law violates that right. The purpose of my remarks was to show that a grave injustice could be perpetrated upon some individuals. Maher Arar was subjected to exactly that kind of injustice and continues to be subjected to it.

In this case, the proposed amendments would give the accused person access to a lawyer of his or her choice. It goes without saying that the lawyer must respect solicitor-client privilege.

Combating Terrorism Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the member who just asked me the question realizes that I did not talk about this aspect.

The fact that people can be forced to testify under oath about what they know seems to be a less serious infringement of fundamental rights, especially since we have given them, albeit in very convoluted language, the right not to self-incriminate. That is why I focused my arguments on the other provision, which can lead to the unfair stigmatization of an innocent person.

I would remind members that Mr. Justice Hugessen, I believe, spoke about the first part more eloquently than I ever could. Judges do not like to be investigators. I would like to add that currently in Quebec there is one person in particular who is finding it difficult to be an investigator, even though he is one of the best legal minds in Canada. I am talking about Mr. Justice Bastarache, of course.

Combating Terrorism Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I believe that this question contains an important principle. Fundamental rights are always important but especially so in cases where governments could be tempted to put them in jeopardy. The law is a living thing that changes and adapts to new situations.

He is right to say that it is easy to be generous in extending rights when social peace does not seem to be in danger. But when we feel we are in danger, there is a strong temptation to be less generous.

In this case, however, since the RCMP and security agents have not used this tool and have never publicly expressed to the government the need for such a tool, it seems clear to me that we should not have it, because experience has shown that, while a government can seem very respectful of fundamental rights at the outset, the pressure of certain events can tempt it to be much less respectful.