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  • Her favourite word is colleague.

NDP MP for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 44.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations October 23rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank all the security personnel for their bravery and professionalism in dealing with the disturbing events that took place yesterday in the House of Commons. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am pleased to take part in the debate on a subject as important as Motion No. 505. In my speech, I will take the time to shed some light on this sensitive issue, while the government, the majority, is doing everything it can to sow confusion.

I would like to remind hon. members of the words of the illustrious philosopher Albert Camus, which should be a guiding principle when it comes to policy development. He said, “to call things by incorrect names is to add to the world's misery”.

That pretty much sums up the Conservative immigration and refugee protection policy: adding confusion to misery and suspicion to distress.

This text, which confuses forced marriage, arranged marriage and marriage by proxy, is another blatant example.

I would like to remind hon. members of several basic concepts in order to put an end to the serious confusion caused by the majority and, of course, the government. A forced marriage is a horrendous practice that I strongly object to. A forced marriage is a marital union in which one or both of the parties is married against his or her will. This practice goes against the humanist values set out in article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we stand up for here.

In the case of an arranged marriage, the families agree to plan the marriage and the bride and groom consent. That is also the case for marriage by proxy. Marriage by proxy allows two people who are separated by circumstance, often in a country at war, to voluntarily enter into a marriage.

I am appalled that the Conservatives continually mixed up these three concepts in their remarks.

As the witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration said, forced marriages are only very rarely entered into by proxy.

If the government really intends to take measures to prevent forced marriages in Canada, why is it attacking marriage by proxy? I do not understand it. It once again falls to us to explain that this text will be useless for four main reasons.

First of all, the quantitative scope of this phenomenon is extremely limited. I will quote the director general of immigration:

Forced marriages are something very difficult to quantify. The known incidence of forced marriages in the immigration system is quite small, and the instances tend to be anecdotal.

Second, this text is useless because it establishes a correlation between forced marriage and marriage by proxy that does not exist. Many researchers and workers on the ground told us this.

Ms. Korteweg of the sociology department of the University of Toronto told the committee that the problems of forced marriage cannot be addressed through this motion. Forced marriages are not caused by marriage by proxy.

I would also add that the proposed measures are not based on any facts or statistics. There is nothing to indicate any link between forced marriage and marriage by proxy. This text is bad because it bans something that is already prohibited. Indeed, forced marriages are already prohibited in Canada, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations already compel Citizenship and Immigration to conduct thorough investigations into spousal sponsorship to verify the sincerity of marriages.

Not only is this text useless, it is actually harmful, which is much more serious. It is harmful in several ways. First of all, the Conservatives are using the victims of forced marriage as a pretext for further limiting spousal sponsorships, despite all the witnesses heard in committee.

This text also creates confusion and confuses facts that have nothing to do with denouncing forced marriage. In doing so, it lays the blame on customs and cultural communities that do not practice forced marriage, for the simple reason that their traditions are different than ours.

This text is problematic because once again it amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. I must point out that this government has amended these regulations roughly every three months since 2008.

The best way to deal with forced marriages in Canada is to give CIC officers the necessary resources to conduct investigations. These are lengthy and costly investigations that require patience, time and effort. There is no guarantee that they will protect against every case of fraud, but every case of fraud will go undetected without them. How are these officers supposed to work with the requisite equanimity when the government cuts budgets at every turn and changes the regulations every three months?

We are paying the price for this government's ideological cuts since the backlog in processing sponsorship claims has skyrocketed in the past few years. In some cases people are waiting 33 months. That is unacceptable.

It would be naive to suggest that this government made mistakes in its approach to its immigration policy. It is well aware of the catastrophic results of its constant tinkering, but it does not care. It prefers to engage in its penchant for making policy based on back-page stories and then denounce the misfortunes born of its own mismanagement.

We, the members of the NDP, are responsible people. We are getting ready to form the first social democratic government in Canada, and that is why we have clear, concrete proposals on this issue.

Before I list those proposals, I wish to remind the House that we firmly believe that a marriage must be entered into with the free and full consent of both parties. It is unacceptable that a practice as barbaric as forced marriage could take place in a country like Canada.

That is why the NDP is calling on the government to invest the material and human resources needed to hear spousal sponsorship applications under the right conditions. We are also formulating three proposals to effectively strengthen protection for women in our immigration system.

The government should start by acknowledging that violence against women transcends forced marriage. It is critical to implement a procedure that would inform potential partners of their legal rights before they arrive in Canada—when they go to the Canadian consulate to ask for their immigration documents, for example.

We believe that the concept of conditional permanent residence should be eliminated for sponsored spouses. Regardless of the intention behind this measure, the practice is disastrous.

This motion creates confusion, fuels prejudice and breeds mistrust. Consequently, I will not be supporting it.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his remarks and questions, which are always relevant.

We said from the beginning that we must not wait to take action. We support this motion because we want information. Unfortunately, as we know from the Conservatives' track record, this government does not find it easy to share information or to be transparent.

This motion is a step in forward in requiring this country's officials to give Canadians the facts.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her relevant question. I had the pleasure of working with her on the Standing Committee on Health, so we have a number of things in common.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government dragged its feet on helping West Africa. The vaccine vials given to the WHO just left Canada, and just $5 million has been sent so far, although the government promised to send $65 million.

Furthermore, Health Canada auctioned off important medical equipment to companies that are using it to make a profit. Meanwhile, West Africa is in desperate need of that equipment. There is a lack of coordination from the international community in the management of resources and personnel in West Africa. That is why we have asked the government to send equipment, through DART, to help the people on the ground.

As I have already mentioned, that is best way to nip this epidemic in the bud instead of waiting for it to hit our borders.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, a month ago, my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie called for an emergency debate on Canada's response to the Ebola epidemic. A month ago, the WHO reported that there were over 2,000 victims. Now, there are over 4,000. In one month, the number of victims doubled. A simple calculation reveals that if we do not stop the spread of the virus, in 18 months, 4 million people will have the disease.

This is an international health emergency, and members of the House have a sense of responsibility in light of this human condition. We are all very worried about what is happening in West Africa. We are following the development of this crisis, and the international response is essential, not just in terms of providing vaccines, but also in terms of making sure that medical supplies, protective equipment and human resources are on the ground.

There is not enough international aid at this time. The international community has given only 38% of the $988 million requested by the UN. The Conservative government has made some big announcements, promising international aid totalling $65 million. However, only $5 million has been paid out so far. What happened to the rest? When will the government free up the funding it promised? These are just more empty promises from the Conservative government. Here is what Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, had to say yesterday:

[The government's] financial contribution has been paltry...I've seen no evidence of any mobilization of financial or health human resources behind the fight from Canada in West Africa. The...government's theory that Ebola's coming to Canada is inevitable is true only if it remains committed to doing almost nothing to assist West Africa.

The best thing to do is to nip this epidemic in the bud, which means tackling it at the source and containing it in West Africa to prevent it from crossing our borders.

The deployment of UN-led military resources must be considered, along with access to emergency treatment. The Prime Minister has refused to send in the Disaster Assistance Response Team, even though the humanitarian organizations working on the ground in West Africa continue to call for an emergency military deployment in order to provide rapid logistical support for the humanitarian response. The WHO has said that it can meet only 21% of the need for beds in Liberia, 29% in Sierra Leone and 50% in Guinea. In September, the WHO identified 300 health care workers who were infected with the Ebola virus.

These countries have been devastated by the epidemic and cannot really fight it without adequate logistical and human reinforcements.

We have the civilian, logistical, technological and even military capacity to help the organizations working on the ground. Canada's response to this crisis should include disaster response teams that specialize in health and biohazard management, either through DART or some other mechanism.

Why is the Conservative government not considering the possibility of deploying teams that specialize in health and biohazard management? As hon. members know, Canada has that capacity. Why does the government not want to send in reinforcements to help the agencies on the ground?

I understand that we should not be alarmist and predict that contagion is imminent in Canada, but in my opinion, having the Minister of Health, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety appear before the committee is not a lot to ask and should not be so off-putting to the members across the way.

This would help reassure our constituents. Canadians need to be sure that the Public Health Agency of Canada will be able to properly respond to an outbreak of the virus in Canada. The suspected cases so far have revealed flaws in our preparedness and coordination. Holding drills and setting up response teams are steps in the right direction, but they came one month after notification of the first cases in the United States and Spain.

Communicating clearly with the public, reconsidering our investments in public health and being certain that we are doing everything possible to protect the health of Canadians are all reasons that the motion being debated today makes sense. The Minister of Health, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety need to appear before the committee to answer our constituents' questions, and especially so that we can track Canada's decisions and its operations in West Africa.

Red Tape Reduction Act October 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague did an incredible job summarizing the facts and the reality. I had the opportunity to attend the États généraux entrepreneurials de la Rive-Sud. Business owners, including entrepreneurs, consultants and the organizations that govern them, cannot believe that in this computer age, small business owners must go from one organization to another with the same piece of paper filled out 10 times with the same information: the business's name, address and number.

Does my colleague think this government will ever realize that there are some basic things to be done in this computer age?

International Development October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the World Health Organization has urgently asked Canada to send 300,000 face shields to protect those working on the ground to contain the Ebola virus.

So far, only 128,000 of those face shields have been sent to West Africa because the Conservative government is unable to find an aircraft to transport the equipment.

How can the Conservatives justify not being able to find an airplane to transport this equipment and save lives?

Citizenship Week October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be talking about Citizenship Week today. I would like to congratulate the new Canadians in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert once again. In September, 74 people in Saint-Hubert and Saint-Bruno were granted Canadian citizenship. Canada has built a reputation as a country of broad cultural diversity, and it has maintained that reputation on the international stage.

Despite our obvious wealth, there are still too many people waiting for Canadian citizenship. Processing delays for sponsorship and family reunification applications are still too often preventing people like you and me from starting a life in Canada. The government needs to know that by working together we can enhance Canada's reputation as a country that welcomes newcomers. Let us build our history together.

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his very relevant question.

I have experienced the same thing as him. For me, it was a privilege. For him, it must have been difficult to live in a war zone. However, I repeat that air strikes are not going to solve the problem. There will always be civilians who are affected by such actions, since these terrorist groups have already left their bases and blended into the population.

We are saying no to the atrocities and the attacks against minorities, women and others. We want to use other means to help these people. The local authorities never asked for fighter jets.

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform my colleague that I should have said “the member for Outremont” when referring to our leader. I am so passionate about this topic that I made a mistake. I am sorry.

I do not know whether my colleague was asking a question or making a comment. I said in my speech that this radical Islamist group was committing atrocities. I condemn everything it is doing. The NDP does not want to fight violence with violence. There are other ways of doing things. If my colleague is concerned about minorities, women, children and seniors, that is what I spoke about. In military jargon, these people are referred to as collateral damage. Unfortunately, they are civilians. We do not believe that air strikes are the right way to resolve this conflict.

Military Contribution Against ISIL October 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to say that I will sharing my time with the hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

I am very pleased to rise today to participate in the debate on the motion concerning a military contribution to the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. After weeks of silence, the Conservative government finally decided to reveal its plan. Yes, it agreed to a debate in the House of Commons, but it has already made up its mind, unfortunately. The government wants Canada to engage in war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and it has decided to do just that.

We know that the Islamic State is responsible for violent atrocities against the peoples of Iraq and Syria. It represents a genuine humanitarian and security threat for civilians. Their day-to-day lives are controlled by fear and threats because of the horrors they have witnessed and experienced. The Islamic State has taken advantage of how powerless the people feel and is spreading its oppression over an ever-expanding area, plunging the region into a genuine humanitarian crisis.

I of course believe that we should be providing assistance to local populations. However, the Conservative government plans to join the military mission against ISIL in Iraq, using air strikes. Military measures are likely to have very little impact, because the terrorists, having been warned that this will be a short mission, could simply go into hiding and wait it out, coming out again after most of the aerial bombings are over. Sources on the ground have already said that the jihadists have left the official bases and are temporarily hiding amongst the civilian population. Air strikes will therefore not have the desired effect.

As a doctor myself, I worked for the Red Crescent during the first Persian Gulf war. I witnessed first-hand the ravages of the war led by George Bush Sr., a war that was supposed to be like a surgical procedure. It was an operation based primarily on air strikes targeting the Saddam Hussein government. I was on the ground and I can assure this House that that mission was not a success. The reality was quite different. The air strikes affected seniors, women and children. In military jargon, this is known as collateral damage. The losses were primarily civilian. There is one image I will never forget: a daycare centre that was bombed by the allies. There was nothing left but the charred remains of infants, babies and children.

From the beginning, the government has been saying that we have to be good citizens and support this motion. It forgot to mention that there will be dozens if not hundreds of civilian lives lost in collateral damage, as is always the case with air strikes. Has the government planned for that obvious reality? I do not think so. It seems to care more about pleasing the United States by sending fighter jets than it does about the requests of local authorities and local populations. I would remind the House that Kurdish and Iraqi authorities have not asked for these fighter jets to be sent in.

The Prime Minister wants to take part in the conflict not under the UN, but rather as part of a coalition put together by the United States for the sole purpose of legitimizing its attacks.

More western intervention in the region will not stop the tragedy in Iraq and Syria. The tragedy will stop when we help the people of Iraq and Syria build the political institutions and security forces they need to counter these threats themselves.

The Conservative government seems to have forgotten that terrorism is not just a military undertaking. It is also a fearsome propaganda tool that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant fighters have learned to use in a depraved but savvy way by filming hostage executions and issuing diatribes against western mobilization.

Canada must provide immediate aid to local populations. They are in desperate need of any humanitarian aid we can offer, be it building refugee camps, fighting sexual abuse, protecting minorities or hunting down alleged war criminals.

Yesterday, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said that we had to support this mission because that is the Canadian way. The Canadian way is not to rush headlong into a quagmire in Iraq; it is to help local people, establish peace and keep people safe.

We played a leadership role in creating the UN peacekeepers. We should continue to adhere to those principles and remain leaders in conflict resolution, specifically in the conflict we are talking about today.

Personally, I believe that before the government makes a decision, it should consult Parliament and hold a vote. It should also provide the necessary information and answer questions about the Canadian Armed Forces' participation in this conflict. However, the government has already sent members of the forces without consulting anyone or holding a vote beforehand.

This evening we must vote on a six-month deployment of 600 troops. The debate is once again being cut short by the Conservative government, which keeps us in the dark and continues to muzzle us. Its objective is to prevent debate that would force the government to reveal all the parameters of this mission, including the financial terms. The government cuts public services, but manages to find money for a war. How much will this war cost Canadians? If the government was truly concerned about Canadians, it would have invested this money where the people need it most. It would invest in health, where there have been many cuts this year once again. It would invest in programs for veterans and for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, who saw nine offices being closed. Finally, it would invest in job creation.

For all these reasons, I oppose the government's motion and I invite my colleagues to vote for the amendment proposed by our leader, the Hon. Thomas Mulcair.