House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 23% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Questions on the Order Paper January 30th, 2012

With regard to fixed-wing observational aircraft owned by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), since January 1, 2006: (a) how many aircraft are owned by the RCMP, broken down by the make, model, and age of the aircraft; (b) what are the dates of flights that these aircraft have taken; (c) what is the nature of the observational work these aircraft do; (d) what is the cost of this program, broken down by year; (e) what is the policy the RCMP applies with respect to the use of aircraft for the observation of civilian activity; (f) what is the RCMP policy on the use of aircraft for cellular surveillance; (g) what is the RCMP policy on the use of aircraft for the disruption of cellular signals; and (h) have these aircraft been lent to provinces to assist provincial police forces, and, if so, for each flight, what was or were (i) the flight date, (ii) the province using the aircraft, (iii) the cities in which the aircraft was used, (iv) the cost of each flight, (v) the nature of the flight and observation, (vi) all provincial agreements regarding this?

Government Appointments December 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, how can the minister justify such an appointment? We are talking about a salary of $253,000 for a man who clearly was unable to properly manage the RCMP. This is the type of appointment that Canadians find unacceptable. This man will hold a key position. He will be the face of Canada for international law enforcement.

Can the government explain what type of deal it made with Mr. Elliott? Did they suggest he resign in exchange for a new, more prestigious position?

Government Appointments December 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Conservatives are once again rewarding old friends with comfortable appointments. Former RCMP commissioner Bill Elliott is the latest appointment by the Minister of Public Safety. This is the man who failed to deal with sexual harassment complaints or clean up the RCMP, but he will now be the face of Canada at Interpol.

When are Conservatives going to stop putting their friends at the front of the line with these patronage appointments?

Canada-U.S. Relations December 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the agreement concluded this week between the United States and Canada raises a lot more questions than it answers. Canadians are worried. They want to know exactly what this agreement means for them and their families. They want to know what information will be shared with the Americans and how long the information will remain on file in the United States. They also want to know whether their right to privacy will be respected.

Can this secretive government promise to answer Canadians' questions? Can it tell us what it intends to do to protect Canadians' rights?

Canada-U.S. Relations December 6th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs just said, without actually coming right out and saying it, is that the President of the United States will know before Canadians what private information the Americans will be given about them. There is concern about the deal being signed tomorrow because, when the government signs deals with the Americans, Canadians always lose.

Let us be clear: we are talking about movement across our borders, and the safety and privacy of Canadians.

What is in this agreement that the Conservatives refuse to tell Parliament?

Canada-U.S. Relations December 6th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the Prime Minister will sign off on a deal that will hand Canadians' private information over to U.S. Homeland Security. Exactly what information is still a secret; the government refuses to say.

Canadians have no idea if their privacy is being protected and they have good reason to worry. When the government negotiates with the Americans, Canadian families always lose.

Will the government finally reveal what information it is handing over to the Americans?

Canada-U.S. Relations December 5th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, once again, we get a response from a government that is controlling critical information and keeping it from Canadians. This week, Canada and the United States are going to sign a border security agreement. We know that it is going to cost Canadian families at least $1 billion, but that is all we know because the government did not want to table the agreement in Parliament before signing it. Citizens' groups and the Information Commissioner are concerned about the possible infringement of privacy rights.

Will the government finally reassure Canadians and tell them what this agreement says?

Corrections and Conditional Release Act December 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member for Scarborough Centre has introduced Bill C-293 to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This bill has two objectives: first, to deal with offenders who make vexatious, frivolous or multiple complaints; second, to reduce the number of complaints handled by the corrections administration.

The NDP supports legislation that will make our prisons safer. We also support legislation that will allow our prisons to operate in a quick, fair and efficient manner. However, we are particularly concerned about the impact that this bill could have on prison management in Canada.

This bill will give disproportionate discretion to the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada. With this power, and based on his own opinion, the commissioner will be able to designate an inmate as a vexatious complainant. Decision-makers, such as penitentiary wardens, can refuse to hear the complaint of such an inmate if they consider the complaint to be vexatious or frivolous. With Bill C-10, the inmate population will increase significantly, which will result in more complaints.

It is unacceptable to grant discretionary power to designate an inmate as a vexatious complainant without placing limits on this power by establishing clear criteria that will make the decision transparent and fair to all inmates. It is important to establish clear criteria because the concept of a vexatious complaint is problematic given that it is based on completely subjective factors.

How can we ensure that every decision by the commissioner to designate an inmate as a vexatious complainant will be just and fair to all inmates if there are no clear criteria for making a decision that is informed and, above all, fair to all inmates?

In light of the fact that the simplest things in life are very important in a correctional institution, this difference of opinion makes the designation of a vexatious complaint a complicated matter. For that reason, a decision about vexatious complaints is subjective and biased and requires clear criteria to guide the commissioner's decision-making.

When the inmate is designated as a vexatious complainant, he will have to prove the merits of every new complaint with additional material. The material required will be at the discretion of the commissioner. Once again, there is no formal process to select the material; it is left to the discretion of the commissioner. This does not legitimize the process or make it any more credible in the eyes of inmates. This request for additional material could serve to deter inmates from filing complaints because of the red tape involved.

Furthermore, by compelling inmates to prove the merits of their complaint, the burden of proof is being reversed, which goes against our justice system. This bill creates a presumption of bad faith for all complaints filed by certain complainants, despite the fact that some of the complaints could be completely justified.

The problem of vexatious complainants cannot be generalized, as the Conservatives would have us believe. Many inmates who file vexatious complaints have mental health problems or have little education. The number of vexatious complainants who want to attack the administration or the complaints process is pretty small. What is interesting is that the complaints process can be used to identify these kinds of people, but by denying them access to the complaints and grievance process, we will be unable to identify them and therefore unable to help them. Many vexatious complaints are not entirely vexatious. In many cases, one part of the complaint is completely legitimate and, as a result, we cannot completely write off the complaint.

The designation of vexatious complainant will in no way reduce the volume of complaints to be addressed in institutions. When the administration receives a vexatious complainant, it will not be able to simply ignore it. The complaint will still need to be processed, coded and classified. Accordingly, the time devoted to analyzing the complaint will cancel out any time that is supposedly saved by creating a vexatious complainant designation.

Although it is possible for inmates to have a judicial review, the reality is a different story. There is an internal process to go through before the inmate has access to a judicial review. However, the internal process can take months or even years, which essentially blocks their access to a judicial review.

I should note that the complaint process was created after a number of prison revolts in the mid-1970s.

In an attempt to reduce violence resulting from prisoner discontent, a parliamentary subcommittee created a complaint and grievance process. This resulted in a fairer system for inmates, which meant that they could be heard. The objective of the complaint process is to use a constructive process to channel the frustrations of inmates. Limiting access to the complaint process will likely push inmates to use more violent ways of expressing their frustration and discontent. This is a matter of security for all inmates and prison workers.

The NDP is sensitive to issues dealing with rights and freedoms, and the Supreme Court has ruled on the fact that incarcerated individuals do not lose their rights. Furthermore, section 4(e) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act states “that offenders retain the rights and privileges of all members of society, except those rights and privileges that are necessarily removed or restricted as a consequence of the sentence”.

We therefore believe that the complaint and grievance process is a tool that helps ensure transparency and accountability. It shows that some corrections policies are ineffective and that there are problems in Canadian prisons. As a result of the measures proposed by omnibus Bill C-10, the prison population will no doubt grow rapidly, which will lead to major problems in terms of prison management. The government should therefore focus its efforts on increasing the correctional investigator's capacity to investigate so that he can quickly identify the problems in prisons. Instead, the Conservative government is using this bill to try to limit his capacity. In my opinion, the Conservatives do not want us to see just how much worse their policies will make the situation in our prisons. I do not think that they want us to be able to measure the negative impact that these policies will have on prisons.

We also believe that the number of complaints is a problem. However, we do not believe that reducing access to the complaint and grievance process is the solution. This new bill will reduce the safety of inmates, guards and other prison staff. We also believe that the most effective way to guarantee open access to the complaint and grievance process, while reducing the volume of complaints, is to create mediator and complaints coordinator positions. The Conservatives ignored all the recommendations of the experts and internal and external review committees. Many of them mentioned the importance of establishing these types of positions, which would allow prisons to maintain an open-access complaint and grievance process while reducing the volume of formal complaints through informal resolution. Our approach is supported by many stakeholders in the corrections field, including the John Howard Society and many correctional law and criminology experts.

To summarize, the bill will give disproportionate and unbridled discretion to the commissioner making it possible to have the inmate designated as a vexatious complainant. Set criteria for decision-making must be established so that decisions are not made in a subjective and biased manner. I find it quite unreasonable to make the administrative process more cumbersome and to discourage inmates from complaining.

Is the government trying to muzzle inmates who would like to shed light on prison problems?

The changes that the Conservatives would like to make to the complaint process are contrary to the principles of our judicial system because they would reverse the burden of proof. The internal process mechanism would limit access to judicial review for inmates. That is completely unacceptable. Access to judicial review is a basic principle of our judicial system.

The complaints and grievances process was instituted to channel inmates' frustrations and discontent and to deter them from using violence to express their dissatisfaction. The process was also established as a tool for ensuring transparency and accountability when identifying problems in our prisons. This is a vital tool that allows correctional investigators to carry out their work in an appropriate manner.

I will repeat, the government does not want us to discover that its prison policies are ineffective and exacerbate existing problems. The government does not want to be accountable for these problems.

Finally, I would like to point out that the government is trying to depict prisoners as a group of complainers whose complaints are not justified. As I explained previously, the picture of inmates painted by the Conservatives bears little resemblance to the reality.

For these reasons the NDP cannot support this bill. We are opposed to the bill not only because it limits the government's accountability with respect to prisons, but also because it will reduce the safety of guards, workers and inmates in the correctional system.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act December 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by the member for Scarborough Centre and I have closely examined her bill. I have some comments to make about this bill.

This bill has the laudable goal of reducing the number of complaints by offenders who repeatedly make complaints that are not in good faith. Correctional Service Canada has indicated that about 20% of all complaints are made by offenders who make multiple complaints. During a discussion we had with the correctional investigator, he mentioned that the vast majority of these people are not making complaints in bad faith to discredit the correctional service. They are people who have a much higher level of education than the others, who have low levels of education, and they make complaints on their behalf. Many of these complaints are written by these individuals. Few of the measures in this bill set clear criteria for the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada.

Why does the government give the commissioner greater discretionary powers in this bill to designate an offender as a vexatious complainant?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act December 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. Some parts of the current bill are indeed vague.

We want to prevent people from using greater force than necessary to make an arrest or defend themselves. Some provisions will have to be clarified in committee. I am not a legislative drafter, but some provisions of the bill seem unclear to me, including the part that the hon. member mentioned. I therefore think that it is very important to hear from legislative drafters and experts in the field in committee to clarify the situation. We do not want people to use more force than necessary in self-defence. It is important to clarify certain provisions in this part of the bill.