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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament February 2017, as Liberal MP for Saint-Laurent (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 62% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Foreign Affairs June 15th, 2016

It is good to see, Mr. Speaker, that there are responsible parliaments that want the assessment of genocide to be done properly by an independent court.

I am proud of the House of Commons and the vote we had yesterday. We are proud.

Foreign Affairs June 15th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to inform the House that today the parliament of Sweden rejected the same kind of motion by a vote of 268 to 43.

Facing the—

Questions on the Order Paper June 10th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the Government of Canada will seek clemency in all cases of Canadians facing the death penalty abroad.

With regard to (b), (c) and (d), the Minister of Foreign Affairs proposed the current policy and, after consultation with the Minister of Justice, announced the policy on February 15, 2016. For more information, please see

Business of Supply June 9th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague answered his question. It is very clear that if we start to play politics with the definition of what genocide is, we are outside the rule of law. How can we have due process to be sure that the perpetrators rightly pay for their crimes if we identify genocide to all the massacres and the horrors of the world? We need to be very specific.

I want to mention that in my Conservative colleague's motion all the acts of ISIL are considered genocide. It is not only the Yazidis as was said in the press conference. They apply genocide to everything that ISIL has done. There is no way that we can say that this is due process, that this is the way to proceed, or that this respects the very definition of this terrible act, which is genocide.

Business of Supply June 9th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, that makes no difference to the determination and the great vigour with which the government and the House, I have no doubt, want to fight the terrorist group ISIL and all other perpetrators of such crimes.

However, there are certain legal consequences for those who commit these crimes. They can be convicted of genocide in a court. We hope that this would deter any other group or state that one day would want to destroy another.

For that reason we must retain the definition of “genocide” and avoid associating it with our moral indignation towards these crimes, murders, and horrors. I ask that the House retain this definition because the House of Commons of Canada is an institution that has always acted responsibly when considering a determination of genocide .

Business of Supply June 9th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the government will never hide behind the law. The government will respect the law, the international law. However, if our Conservative colleagues want to have a debate about how to be sure that the perpetrators will pay for their crimes, why did they not do so? There is not a word about it in their motion. If they wanted to have a debate about how we can annihilate ISIL and to be sure that another terrorist group will not come back after, why did they not do so? They decided to play politics with the word “genocide”. They must be responsible for their words because it is crass politics.

Business of Supply June 9th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of rule of law. It is a crime with an intention to kill a group because it is a certain group. This crime is not necessarily perpetrated only to kill people. One needs to have an intention for this. That is genocide.

It is not necessarily the same as massacres or other atrocities. It is something more, and we need to keep it this way in order to be sure that the perpetrators who do this on purpose, who kill a group because it is a religious or ethnic group, will be accused of genocide.

We need to keep that apart from other crimes. Therefore, we need a very professional, independent investigation, and not the crass politics that the official opposition would like us to use.

Business of Supply June 9th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. It reflects his great sense of responsibility.

Sometimes in politics we have to make tough choices. Unfortunately, there is political pressure from the previous government. The Conservatives do not seem to understand why they ended up in the opposition. They are using political pressure to have us believe that if we hold to the true meaning of “genocide” that somehow means we are not determined to fight terrorism, that we are not as deeply moved as we could be by the atrocities that are being committed.

We must resist this pressure and hold to the specific meaning of the word “genocide”. The atrocities, horrors, and massacres are not necessarily genocide. We must not let our emotions get the better of us. This House has never done that in acknowledging any genocide. We are known around the world for always being very serious and very responsible.

I am very ashamed of my Conservative colleagues today.

Business of Supply June 9th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned that Secretary Kerry gave his opinion, but it is only an opinion. He said himself that it is not a formal recognition by the government of the United States that it is a genocide.

Who is selective here? It is my colleague who did not read the paragraph after. Why did he not do so? Why does he want to mislead the House?

The next paragraph is the following, which I said in my speech, but I will repeat it for him if he will listen. This is what Secretary Kerry said:

I want to be clear. I am neither judge, nor prosecutor, nor jury with respect to the allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing by specific persons. Ultimately, the full facts must be brought to light by an independent investigation and through formal legal determination made by a competent court or tribunal.

Can you please stop playing politics? This is too serious.

Business of Supply June 9th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, this House stands together in solidarity with the victims of ISIL atrocities. That is why our government broadened Canada's engagement in the Middle East and, in particular, in the fight against ISIL.

We are focused on eradicating ISIL today and preventing its return tomorrow. However, today's debate on the Conservative motion is not about the fight, but rather on the determination of whether these atrocities may constitute genocide.

Our government strongly condemns the terrorist acts committed by ISIL, and we are actively supporting the prosecution of perpetrators and the investigations into ISIL crimes to determine if some amount to genocide. While we fully respect the motion tabled by our Conservative colleagues, it gets ahead of these investigations.

Furthermore, the motion before us does not go far enough to address punishing the perpetrators.

On May 11, our Conservative friends said a few times that several parliaments had recognized the genocide. I would like to tell it like it is. No national parliament has followed the European Parliament's lead on that except the British Parliament, and the British government dissociated itself from that view.

In the United States, Secretary Kerry said that he was speaking on his own behalf, not on behalf of the American government. I will share a quote to confirm that shortly. Today, I want to make the point that, on May 11, the Swedish Parliament rejected motions similar to the one before us today.

I therefore invite all of my colleagues to demonstrate the same wisdom as our Swedish counterparts because, if we were to vote in favour of this motion, we would be setting a deplorable precedent.

For the first time, the House of Commons of Canada would label crimes as genocide without following the absolute rigour that characterizes past decisions.

To avoid this mistake, we must vote against this motion. We should not play politics about that.

The government has done everything in our power to avoid this divisive situation. Regrettably, our Conservative colleagues have made clear that they are not interested in amendments.

The House can be proud that, each time we recognized genocide in the past, we did so based on overwhelming evidence and a great sense of conviction, history, and moral responsibility.

In the case of the atrocities committed by ISIL, we are not dealing with events that happened decades ago. The evidence is being gathered as we speak. Canada is playing its part to assemble this evidence.

Some of these crimes may indeed deserve the description of genocide, but for the label to stick, it is important to have that determination made by an independent judicial process recognized by the international community.

Whether today's crimes can be considered genocide is not for me to determine, nor is it for all of the upstanding and concerned members who join the debate today.

The determination should first be a legal one by a competent court, not a political one.

Let us look at the relevant questions in order. What is genocide? Can any of ISIL's crimes be considered genocide? What process should be used to determine that? What effort is Canada making to get the process under way?

Let us start with the first question. What is genocide? The Conservative motion would have us indiscriminately label all of the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL as genocide. However, as heinous as a crime may be, it is not necessarily genocide.

To declare crimes as genocide, the genocide convention and the Rome Statute both require a demonstrable specific intent to target and destroy an identifiable group in whole or in part.

It is not enough to establish that abhorrent, widespread, unlawful killings, mistreatment, sexual violence, or mass deportation of civilians have taken place. It must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that such atrocities were committed as part of a campaign to totally or partially destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. In the absence of intent to commit genocide, such crimes would likely amount to war crimes.

The International Court of Justice has interpreted the obligation to prevent genocide as not including an obligation to intervene militarily and held that the scope of the obligation to intervene, to prevent, is commensurate with the state's ability to influence the situation.

Whether the atrocities committed by ISIL are crimes of war or genocide does not change our determination to put an end to them. The purpose of our military engagement as a member of the international coalition against ISIL is to eradicate the terrorist group. Our goal in supporting the Iraqi forces is to strengthen their ability to fight ISIL.

Now for the second question. Can any of ISIL's crimes be considered genocide?

ISIL has committed many crimes, many atrocities against religious and ethnic communities in Iraq and in Syria, including against Yazidis, Christians, Shiites, and also Sunnis.

UN bodies and NGOs have reported killings, rape and sexual slavery, forced religious conversions, and the conscription of children.

A March 2015 report of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that there is evidence to suggest that ISIL may have committed genocide.

UN investigators found that ISIL may have committed acts of genocide against the Yazidis in Iraq in the summer of 2014. To date, it has not been established that acts of genocide were committed in Syria or that groups other than the Yazidis were the targets of genocide. There is a need for further independent investigation. The evidence is mounting.

As territory is retaken from ISIL, evidence of the group's heinous crimes will continue to be uncovered.

The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq told the Security Council last month that more than 50 mass graves have been discovered so far in several areas of Iraq.

That brings us to the next question. What process should be used? The word “genocide” must be reserved for the worst possible crimes. We must therefore be extremely rigorous with respect to the process for officially recognizing that genocide was committed.

International tribunals can make a determination that genocide occurred when looking at individual conduct and responsibility. For example, the International Criminal Court has indicted Sudanese President Bashir on charges of genocide.

The ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda were set up by the UN Security Council to try individuals for their participation in atrocities, and they found that individuals did indeed commit genocide.

Iraq and Syria are not parties to the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, but the Security Council could refer ISIL's crimes in these countries to the court.

Our government is of the view that, as much as we are appalled by the horrendous acts of violence committed by ISIL, investigations by competent authorities are necessary to reach a proper judicial determination. We are by no means alone in that assessment.

As the U.K. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Tobias Ellwood, said on April 20:

...genocide is a matter of legal rather than political opinion. We as the Government are not the prosecutor, the judge or the jury.... It is essential that these decisions are based on credible judicial process.... Ultimately, this is a question for the courts to decide;

Also Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, shares the view that an independent investigation is needed to assess whether some of ISIL's atrocities can be qualified as genocide.

As for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, he said the following:

I am neither judge, nor prosecutor, nor jury with respect to the allegations of genocide...and ethnic cleansing by specific persons. Ultimately, the full facts must be brought to light by an independent investigation and through formal legal determination made by a competent court or tribunal. But the United States will strongly support efforts to collect, document, preserve, and analyze the evidence of atrocities, and we will do all we can to see that the perpetrators are held accountable.

I agree with every word Secretary Kerry said. Canada is and will continue to take an active role in supporting further independent investigations and the prosecution of ISIL atrocities.

This brings me to my final question: What effort is Canada making to get the process underway?

The United Nations, Canada, and several of our allies have called for the matter to be brought before the courts.

This past week, I wrote a letter to the UN Security Council president, calling on that body to establish a mechanism to determine whether ISIL's violations constitute acts of genocide. My letter also called on the Security Council to identify the perpetrators of such violations and to take measures to ensure that they are held to account for their crimes, including indictments to the International Criminal Court, as appropriate.

Canada is providing significant financial assistance to United Nations bodies and civil society organizations to document and investigate ISIL crimes. Through this support, Canada is providing training on how to collect and analyze evidence to ensure that it can be used to determine the existence of genocide and in future domestic or international prosecutions.

Canada will continue to support initiatives to investigate and document atrocities, including through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The French government has recently called for reform on how UN Security Council permanent members vote on mass atrocities. France has called for permanent members to voluntarily and collectively undertake not to use the veto where a mass atrocity has been ascertained. This is a fundamental undertaking, which our government will fully support and which I will announce at a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York tomorrow.

In closing, it is very important that any recognition of genocide come from an entirely independent and extremely rigorous legal assessment.

The recognition of genocide must not be confused with some sort of barometer of our moral outrage in the face of these atrocities. No matter how repulsed we are by the slaughter, that is not enough to call it “genocide”.

I would also like to encourage all of my colleagues in the House to resist the kind of political pressure that would push us to exploit the word “genocide” to prove our determination to combat terrorist groups.

Using the label “genocide” and having the willingness to fight those groups are two different things.

The whole House shares in its outrage at the atrocities committed by ISIL in Syria and Iraq. ISIL has committed atrocities that may constitute genocide. This government stands with the United Nations and its international partners in calling for a judicial investigation on this matter and for an end to impunity for the perpetrators of serious international crimes.

We welcome our Conservative colleagues to amend their motion to reflect the approach taken by the Government of Canada and by the international community to call on the United Nations to launch a responsible international investigation.