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NDP MP for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 51.00% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Victims Bill of Rights Act June 13th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île for her speech. She clearly pointed out that an abstract right does not do much to help people in their lives. The government needs to put its money where its mouth is.
Before he leaves, I would like to thank my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for giving one of the best speeches I have heard in the House in the past three years. His speech was enlightening and clearly pointed out the hypocrisy of the Conservatives' approach. The Conservatives are always very good about claiming to stand up for rights and victims, but they are taking a completely unbalanced approach and applying a double standard when it comes to the victims of residential schools and the young aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered.
I would like to reiterate, on behalf of the NDP, that this is a priority for us. Something terrible has been happening here in Canada for years. Dozens of people have gone missing, and the government is doing nothing when it should be launching an inquiry. I repeat, we want a public inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women. We do not understand why the Conservative government is ignoring this request.
To come back to Bill C-32, even though I have not done it very often in recent years, I am going to sing a little:
Just words, always words...
Nothing but words
Words, words, words
That is a song that was sung by the artist Dalida about 30 or 35 years ago. I get the feeling that Bill C-32 is a reflection of those lyrics in that it has many good intentions but absolutely no foundation. This bill will not have any effect if we do not flesh it out.
For eight years now, the Conservatives have been going on about the importance of defending victims. They say that the bad guys in the opposition are always siding with criminals, that the justice system is against victims and that they are the only ones who care about victims and are doing something to protect them. They have held so many press conferences and photo ops and put out so much advertising on this theme. They have not stopped playing politics when it comes to this issue. They have dragged this out for eight years and now they are introducing a bill that is nothing but a statement of intent.
Many interested parties warned us that this could simply be a statement of intent, some sort of lip service that would not be carried out. We are very concerned about that. We will support the bill at second reading so that we can study it carefully in committee, because we think there is room for improvement. However, as of right now, there is not much to this bill.
For example, Bill C-32 does not create a legal obligation for those who work in the justice system to enforce the rights that are set out in the bill. That is a huge problem. The Conservatives seem to have their heads in the clouds. If no one is required to enforce the legislation and follow the rules, what good will this legislation do in real life? How will it truly help people?
The devil is in the details, as the saying goes. We want to conduct a clause-by-clause study of this bill in order to find ways to improve it, so that it can be truly effective and so that we can be sure we are doing good legislative work.
Today, the Supreme Court gave the Conservative Party a good slap in the face. It told the Conservatives that they put several bills on the agenda without first waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court ruled them admissible. This could have an impact on cyberbullying victims. I am talking about Bill C-13, which could be struck down and dragged before the courts in light of the Supreme Court's ruling this morning.
The NDP asked the Conservatives to wait for the ruling we got this morning from the Supreme Court and to split the bill in two in committee, so that we could move forward with the cyberbullying provisions and be cautious about privacy and the tools being given to police forces. Unfortunately, the Conservatives refused to listen once again. They are stubborn and follow their own ideology. They told us that they did not need to listen to us because they do not have to listen to anyone.
Now, because the Conservatives refuse to listen to anyone, we will not be able to move forward, and it could become a lot more complicated to protect our children and teens from cyberbullying.
At first glance, the bill seems to address certain requests and recommendations that came out of consultations. For example, there was a recommendation to expand the definition of victims or crime, and one to codify the victims' right to information, protection, participation and restitution. However, there are no legal obligations in the justice system.
We think that it could be a major problem that this bill includes possible access to just one rather weak complaint mechanism within federal departments or agencies that play a role in the justice system when victims rights have been violated. That needs to be clarified, and that is why we want this bill to go to committee so that the necessary adjustments can be made.
Another important element is that no budget has been allocated. There is no budget to implement the measures in Bill C-32 and ensure that they are enforced. The numbers are quite striking and they come from the Department of Justice, no less.
A study released in 2011 by the Department of Justice found that the total cost of crime is an estimated $99 billion a year, 83% of which is borne by the victims. A total of 83% of the cost of crime, nearly $100 billion, is borne by the victims. We have a victims bill of rights, but there is no envelope associated with it.
I do not know how people will get support, training, psychological support or financial compensation if there is no public funding or moneys that would ensure the real-life enforcement of the rights being proposed.
I would like to use my time to speak about other forgotten victims. I want to talk about this because a motion about workers, firefighters specifically, was passed in the House. No compensation fund has been set up for families when a firefighter dies on the job. This exists for RCMP officers and for members of the Canadian Armed Forces. The motion was passed in the House, but the Conservative government has taken no action whatsoever.
We believe that firefighters who die while fighting a fire should be entitled to this kind of fund so they can provide for their families. We know that many of the firefighters who die under these circumstances are very young, so their families deserve this support.
I want to raise this issue again. There are other kinds of victims, such as victims of workplace accidents. Some people die on the job. Unfortunately, the government is doing absolutely nothing for these victims.
The government always talks about being tough on crime. For example, it does not want prisoners to have a cell to themselves. They see that as some kind of luxurious privilege. I would like to express other people's point of view on that subject.
It might sound good during a press conference or look good on a householder to talk about how harshly they treat criminals. I am concerned about another group of people, however: correctional officers.
Correctional officers have to deal with prisoners and that is a problem when there is double-bunking. This work jeopardizes the health and safety of the correctional officers. They are extremely worried about the changes to the Canada Labour Code under Bill C-4. This is going to complicate matters for workers when it comes to refusing to go to work if their health and safety are at risk.
Unfortunately, once again, the government is being insensitive to the consequences of its laws. The government is jeopardizing the lives of workers who deal with these prisoners. The risk of injury is much greater now than it was before. I wanted to point that out.
Mr. Sullivan, the former federal ombudsman for victims of crime had this to say in April:
I think the biggest problem though is that the Minister of Justice promised this would put victims at the heart of the justice system, and it falls very short of that
He was the first ombudsman for victims of crime in Canada. He also said:
The concern I have is that a lot of victims who are out there who aren’t going to read the bill, who aren’t going to go through the fine print are going to read the headlines and think that the system has fundamentally changed and it hasn’t.
Earlier today, my colleague used an expression that I will echo. Once again, this is all smoke and mirrors. We want more than just words. We want concrete measures. We have to improve this bill for victims.
Conservative Party of Canada June 13th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the history, with a capital “H” of the Conservative Party is fraught with corruption and dirty money. These revelations were made by Jean-Yves Lortie, the “man with the briefcase”, who spent at least $20 million to corrupt Conservative politicians. At a Conservative convention, he spent no less than $500,000 in cash, in part provided by none other than Karlheinz Schreiber, to promote Brian Mulroney's leadership bid.
This man who invented turnkey elections, that famous strategy scrutinized by the Charbonneau commission, proudly served the former Conservative leader.
We can see who the Conservatives hang around with. Yesterday, it was suitcases filled with cash, charter flights and all-expenses-paid trips to go to vote at a convention. In 2011, it was robocalls, to prevent people from voting, or tricks like the in-and-out scandal to circumvent the laws and election spending limits.
Today, we have the reform of the Elections Act, which will give their party an edge in the next elections, and a kangaroo court to unfairly attack the NDP. The years come and go and the methods change, but the Conservatives are just as crooked. Canadians deserve better.
Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the member for Sherbrooke on his reasonable and reasoned speech. I think that the government needs to consider the fundamental rights issues, rather than looking at reality with blinders on and focusing solely on trade interests.
The government of Honduras is the result of a coup. It has very bad human rights practices. Honduras is also a country with a lot of political violence. There have been 200 politically motivated killings in Honduras since 2010. We have a free trade agreement that is going to allow companies to sue the government.
Given the social tension that exists in Honduras, will this type of mechanism not risk exacerbating the repression? Will it not also endanger human rights activists, environmental activists and other activists who are trying to ensure that Honduras has a healthy, well-managed local economy that provides an attractive environment for investment?
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on my colleague's answer. I was astounded to hear our Conservative colleague say that he was tired of hearing NDP members repeat the same things in this debate, when we hear nothing from them.
They are silent on their own bill. This evening they have missed 18 chances to speak. They decided to extend our sitting hours until midnight. We are happy to work and debate. That is no problem. However, they are not showing up to do their job.
I would like to know what my NDP colleague thinks about that.
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I cannot do that. I would like to take this opportunity to say that this bill does not fix some serious problems.
Wait times and processing times have doubled under the Conservatives. The average processing time of 31 months could skyrocket to six, seven or eight years. That is not a respectful or dignified way to treat people who want to become Canadian citizens.
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, if a person is accused of committing terrorist acts, they must be tried and, if found guilty, they must be imprisoned in the interest of public safety. It is as simple as that. It has nothing to do with their citizenship.
One of the problems with this bill is that it does not distinguish between democratic countries that have a reliable justice system and authoritarian countries or dictatorships that will convict their political opponents of terrorism.
Can my colleague really tell Canadians whether the people opposed to the political regime in Syria are all terrorists?
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his pertinent question.
As the English would say, there is a pattern with this majority Conservative government. It is my way or no way, or the bulldozer approach, and too bad if there are judges, laws or courts in the way. All this government wants to do is impose its vision and its views and too bad if scientists contradict it. The government tells itself that it will disregard them, muzzle them and that it will thus be able to act in a very high-handed way.
This bill is unprecedented in that it creates two classes of citizens in Canada. If someone only has single citizenship, such as Canadian citizenship, it cannot be taken away no matter the circumstances. However, if this person has dual citizenship, they do not have the same rights and they could lose their Canadian citizenship. It is unprecedented. I do not believe that the Supreme Court or Parliament will permit it.
Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to participate in this broad discussion on Bill C-24, introduced by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I want to commend my colleague, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard and the official opposition's critic on this file, for her excellent work.
Unfortunately, once again, the Conservatives have failed to follow the rules and do the right thing, as serious parliamentarians should do. There was no real study of this bill in committee, even though this bill could have some potentially serious consequences. I will talk about those later on.
I do not understand why the government did not take the time to listen to the experts in committee. My guess is that it was because the Conservatives knew that the expects would probably disagree with them. That is the impression we got from the testimony during the pre-study and afterwards. People are very worried about this bill, which affects something very basic—citizenship and the minister's power to grant or revoke citizenship.
I think it is rather absurd and even shameful that the Conservatives decided to extend our evening debates in the House of Commons—which is something I am very comfortable with; I am pleased to be here tonight—but they do not show up, do not do their job and do not speak to their own bills. Since the Conservatives decided to extend our evening debates, they have missed 67 shifts. They have turned down 67 opportunities to speak, often on their own bills. That is an insult to people's intelligence. The Conservatives are flouting the rules of Parliament.
This bill is extremely serious because previously, a person's citizenship could be revoked only in cases where it could be demonstrated that fraud had occurred and the person had become a citizen through fraudulent means. Even though that was the only case where a person's citizenship could be revoked, the person could still appeal to the Federal Court so that his or her case could be heard properly. Today, that is no longer true. The government is lengthening the list of reasons why a person's citizenship can be revoked and, at the same time, concentrating a huge amount of arbitrary, discretionary power in the hands of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration alone. That is very risky and hangs a sword of Damocles over the heads of millions of individuals in our country.
I want to begin this speech by quoting some people who are somehow involved in the conversation about this bill and the type of status the government wants to give Canadian citizens.
A French writer, Amin Maalouf, had this to say, not about the bill specifically, but in general:
It is first up to your country to keep a certain number of commitments to you: that you be considered a full-fledged citizen and that you suffer no oppression, discrimination or undue hardship. Your country and its leaders have the obligation to make sure that is the case. If not, you own them nothing.
Here is another quote about the bill from Thomas Walkom, a columnist for the Toronto Star. He said:
The federal government’s new citizenship bill is a Trojan horse. It is presented as an attempt to reduce fraud and rationalize the process of becoming a Canadian citizen, both of which are sensible aims.
But it would also give [the] Prime Minister['s] Conservative government unprecedented authority to strip Canadians—including thousands born in this country—of their citizenship.
The more we read about the bill that is before us this evening, the more reasons we have to be concerned. It seems we are at a point where citizenship is like the prize in a box of Cracker Jack. Citizenship can be given or taken away on a whim or based on the minister's goodwill.
Last year, I had the opportunity to attend my first official citizenship ceremony in my riding, Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. I must say that the people who were there were deeply moved and very pleased to officially become citizens. I cannot imagine having to explain to them that now a minister can choose to take that citizenship away from them, and this is actually part of the legislation, if they have dual citizenship, meaning that they are citizens of another country as well.
The minister is giving himself the power to take away their Canadian citizenship in a number of situations, simply because they already have another nationality or another official citizenship. We already heard the former immigration minister say that it was too bad that Canada has to fulfill its obligations under international treaties because the government cannot create statelessness. I get the feeling that if the Conservatives had the opportunity to do so and if it did not contravene the treaties that Canada has already signed, they would not hesitate.
Barbara Jackman of the Canadian Bar Association said this in April:
Taking away citizenship from someone born in Canada because they may have dual citizenship and have committed an offence proscribed by the act is new. That's a fundamental change. For people who are born here and who have grown up here, it can result in banishment or exile. It's a step backwards, a huge step backwards—and it's a huge step being taken without any real national debate or discussion about whether Canadians want their citizenship amended in that way...
That's a fundamentally different concept of citizenship that needs to be addressed. It needs to be discussed and debated. We think that it could raise serious human rights concerns. It does raise serious human rights concerns. It may well contravene the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled in the past that we can't exile Canadians. By redefining who a Canadian is, you achieve exile. That's not right. It's against the Charter.
We have good reason to be very worried about this government's apparent desire to resurrect a situation that, for all practical purposes, has not been seen since the Middle Ages: forcing one of its citizens into exile, kicking a citizen out of the country. If a person has another nationality—be it French, Algerian or Burmese—and if that is enough to strip him of Canadian citizenship, that is very serious because that means condemning him to exile and forcing him to leave the country, banishing him. I do not think that is what Canadians and Quebeckers want or are prepared to accept, particularly not in the overall scheme of this bill, which, as we will see, gives tremendous powers to the minister.
In May of this year, Dr. Patti Tamara Lenard, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and an expert on the subject of ministerial discretionary power, which she was concerned about, had this to say:
Finally, the bill grants the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the discretion to revoke citizenship in too many cases. Currently, as written, the bill would give the minister discretion to revoke citizenship in cases of fraud, but there is no requirement—as there was in the previous bill, or as currently enacted now—for a court to evaluate if fraud in fact did occur. If the revocation provisions are kept, every such decision must be considered by, or appealable to, a court, even in cases where citizenship is revoked under suspicion of fraudulent applications. This is for at least two reasons. First, some forms of apparent misrepresentation are made for legitimate reasons—that is, to escape genuine and real harm. Second, judicial proceedings provide the only mechanism to protect against the otherwise inevitable suspicion that the minister is using fraud as a reason to revoke citizenship of people who are suspected of aiming to harm Canada where the proof doesn't exist.
Like many people, I am very concerned about the fact that we will kick people out and force them into exile. We will revoke the citizenship of those who should keep it. If someone commits a crime, there is a penal system for that. We must use that system to ensure that people pay for their crimes. There is nothing wrong with that.
I do not see why we have to do something as radical as revoke someone's citizenship, especially when these convictions could be handed down in foreign countries, including those for terrorism, which could give rise to concerns about the legitimacy of certain convictions. Just look at Burma, North Korea or Syria. I do not think we should rely on the justice systems of those countries to decide whether or not someone should keep their Canadian citizenship.
Mathilde Blais June 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to dedicate my statement to the memory of 33-year-old Mathilde Blais, who died a month ago under the Saint-Denis/Des Carrières overpass. You go under this overpass just as you come into Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. I happened to be there yesterday with my family, and there are still memorials marking this woman's tragic death.
Mathilde Blais died after being hit by a truck. She was on her way to her job as a speech therapist in a school. She was a vibrant woman whom the children loved. Her death rocked the cycling community. It was a reminder of how dangerous it can be when bicycles, cars and trucks share the road. The boroughs of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and Plateau-Mont-Royal have made bold commitments to make streets safer for cyclists. I want to commend them for that.
As an MP and a cyclist, I am committed to encouraging active transportation and ensuring that it is better integrated into our road networks.