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Blog > Politics > My speech against the conservative’s time allocation motion on Bill C-10
Mar 02

My speech against the conservative’s time allocation motion on Bill C-10

Honourable senators, I am usually very pleased to rise and speak in this place, but today, it is with great sadness and more importantly it is with great concern that I speak to this motion to limit the time for debate.

I would like to mention a few recent issues that clearly demonstrate the kind of federalism this government likes to practice. With regard to health care agreements, there was absolutely no consultation. The provinces were simply told, “Here is what you are getting; take it or leave it.” In other words, “It’s our way or no way”.

Coming from Quebec, this is not necessarily how I imagined the spirit of Confederation. A federal government implies some degree of power-sharing, and when this power is shared by two levels of government, they first have to agree to discuss how to address operational issues.

I remember one file that was the subject of considerable consultation: the Kelowna Accord. All that work was tossed out the window the day after the Conservative government came to power. The provinces, the federal government and all stakeholders had come to an agreement on how to address the problems facing Aboriginal populations, involving everyone and ensuring a step in the right direction. Still today, these issues are definitely not receiving the attention they deserve.

The same is true regarding justice. As we all know, the administration of justice — including the prosecutors and the courts — comes under provincial jurisdiction. Whenever changes to the Criminal Code — which is in federal jurisdiction — were being considered, there always was consultation. I used to be an MP in the House of Commons and now I am a senator, and I believe that it is the federal government’s duty to ensure that, when passing legislation whose application concerns both levels of government, both sides come together to discuss it.

One question I have that will likely remain unanswered has to do with the cost. Personally, I have not yet seen any studies regarding the cost of this bill. Where is the cost-benefit analysis that proves that, as of tomorrow morning, our streets will be safer? On the contrary, and we will have the opportunity to discuss this later, in the testimony we heard, no expert would agree that this bill guarantees any kind of improvement. Where are the federal-provincial agreements that would put a limit on additional costs?

I would simply like to remind you, honourable senators, of the position taken by my province and the Quebec justice minister, Jean-Marc Fournier. Mr. Fournier has concerns, as do I, about the lack of scientific evidence to support the Harper government’s approach to criminal justice. Mr. Fournier announced that Quebec does not intend to pay the multi-million dollar tab resulting from passage of the omnibus bill.

My proposal is quite simple: why not expect the Prime Minister and provincial premiers or justice ministers to sit down together to study the situation and come up with a solution in the best interest of all Canadians?

I am truly convinced that the government does not want to listen to the scientific evidence, and that it does not want to hear from experts. I know that, in Canada at least, Louise Arbour is one of the most renowned and admired people in the administration of justice, and she is a member of certain groups that have taken the government to task for this bill.

With regard to one of Mr. Fournier’s concerns, this bill will result in an upward spiral of imprisonment. There will definitely be no savings and no rehabilitation. Nor will there be any money — I have not seen any — to compensate victims.

I ask the question once again: where is the cost-benefit analysis?

We have only received the report prepared by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which indicates that costs will escalate by hundreds of millions of dollars and that we will have to build prisons.

I wonder if we are moving towards the American model. Will future jobs be created by building private prisons to be operated by private corporations that will hire prison guards? I do not think that this will bring us to the international forefront in terms of productivity.

One of the things that Mr. Fournier has criticized and deplores, as I do, is the undercurrent of revenge in Bill C-10.


According to him, that does not ensure safety for the long term — and I agree. The minister said:

Prison sentences do not reduce crime or recidivism. A strategy purely focused on locking up offenders is nothing more than a temporary, superficial solution.

The minister said it was a “soft on crime” solution.

Mr. Fournier also reminded us a number of times that we can lengthen sentences for young offenders, but those young people will have to leave prison one day and return to society.

I would like to remind honourable senators that I took part in developing two bills. The first was on youth protection and the second was on a complete overhaul of the Young Offenders Act under the Trudeau government. The philosophy behind them was the same, because when children need to be protected it is generally because they are at risk. Quite often they are at risk of committing reprehensible acts because they are poor, mistreated, living in the streets and have no family. The Conservatives’ solution to keeping them off the streets is to put them in prison. This solution and this philosophy are not only outdated, but they are not to Canada’s credit.

Mr. Fournier is challenging the federal government to provide facts and evidence to justify the fundamental changes it wants to make to the system. In other words, if tomorrow morning the ten provincial ministers and the federal government sat down to see how to improve the safety of our communities in Canada, perhaps the government would find that we need a bit more in terms of social services; perhaps it would find that we need to help the First Nations community a bit more; perhaps it would also find that it is important to help single mothers take care of their children. In that sense, Quebec has found a solution and that is to create day cares to allow young mothers, usually single ones, to have someone to take care of their children while they get job-related training in order to lift themselves out of poverty one day.

There are solutions, but the one in Bill C-10 is not the right one.

It seems that, nowadays, it is not in the government’s interest to put facts and scientific evidence on the table, be it from Statistics Canada or other federal institutions. I find that troubling. I think that the best way to go about solving a problem is to understand the nature of the problem itself and all possible solutions, based on what other Western countries are doing. This government has chosen an approach more akin to that used in non-OECD countries, an approach that is diametrically opposed to a philosophy of rehabilitation.

The government’s claim that we do not support improving the justice system and protecting ordinary Canadians is totally false. Nevertheless, Bill C-10 is the wrong kind of solution. That is why I think that we are missing out on an excellent opportunity to meet today to discuss Bill C-10.

Minister Fournier was not the only one to say so. Ontario’s premier said that he would not foot the bill either. Together, Quebec and Ontario represent 50 per cent of the Canadian population. So who will foot the bill? Some Canadian will have to. Either Canadians will receive two bills, one from the federal government and the other from the provincial government, or they will receive a bill from the federal government only. Regardless, Mr. McGuinty is already dealing with a difficult situation in Ontario, and he does not need more expenses in his budget. Building new jails is not on Ontario’s agenda.

I therefore urge honourable senators to ask the minister to postpone this bill indefinitely.

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