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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is conservatives.

NDP MP for Joliette (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 47.30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all the work she does on the health file.

Earlier, I mentioned that I had twins in 1968. That gives you an idea of my age. It was not easy to carry two babies. Digestion was a bit of a challenge. I took drugs to help with that. As I was saying earlier, I always wondered whether my twins would be normal at birth. Even though I was not taking thalidomide, the worry was there and stayed there for months.

I hope no one will ever again take drugs, whether they are for pregnant women or not, that give people disabilities.

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

Indeed, it is important to act very quickly to help these people who have suffered from this medical failure, which has brought about so much suffering, not only for the people born with defects, but also for their families. The families have had to provide them with constant care. It must be very painful knowing that your child cannot play or go to school like most children can. As a parent you cannot play football or hockey with your son if he has no arms, no legs, just a body that might be seriously deformed.

My colleague is right. We must act quickly to give these people and their families the help and support they need and to provide them with a better life than they have had for the past 50 years.

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Yes, we have been waiting for this baby for a long time. I am sure my colleagues join me in bidding Gabrielle welcome and wishing all the best to Stéphanie and Dany.

I would take this opportunity to draw a parallel with the motion before us today. While Gabrielle has had the good fortune to be born in good health, other children have not been so lucky. Some will say that is fate, but what we do sometimes affects the lives of unborn children. There are of course personal choices that are strongly recommended for women, such as abstaining from alcohol and tobacco. Beyond those individual choices, however, we have choices to make as a society. In this House, we have the privilege and the heavy responsibility of discussing, analyzing and considering very carefully all kinds of bills that will affect the health of Canadians.

In 1961, right in the middle of the “thirty glorious years”, probably carried away by the excitement of breakneck scientific development, the Government of Canada approved thalidomide for sale. The drug promised to control nausea in pregnant women. I should say that a few years later, I became pregnant with twin girls. I learned that I had twin girls when I gave birth, when they came into the world. I can assure you that I had to take medication during that time. Although thalidomide was no longer on the market, a slight fear persisted. It was a great scientific advance! Unfortunately, the promise of a trouble-free pregnancy quickly faded. Babies began to be born with deformities like missing organs, deafness and blindness.

Having a child is always a wonderful thing, and I know whereof I speak. When a child is born with deformities, however, it is sad for the entire family. Such a child is seriously compromised for life, and for the parents, there is an additional burden of hard work to bear in addition to the great sadness they will feel for the rest of their lives.

We are not here to decide whether thalidomide is good or bad. It is bad, and I think we have all known that for a long time. We are here to figure out how we can act responsibly and provide support and compensation for victims of thalidomide. It is surprising that we are still talking about it after so many years, if we consider that this medication was pulled from the shelves in the 1960s, but here we are. The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that drugs entering our country are safe. In this case, we may have failed in our duty. Perhaps additional studies should have been conducted; perhaps we should have waited a bit. Regardless, it is our duty to take responsibility as a government, and we need to provide support for thalidomide survivors.

It is hard to know how many Canadians were victims of this medication, how many miscarriages were not linked to this medication or how many victims have died from their deformities since the 1960s. It is hard to say.

What we do know, however, is that there are about 100 thalidomide survivors who are living today with severe, constant pain. Some of them have spinal column problems, which prevents them from getting around on their own. Others cannot look after their basic needs, such as eating or going to the bathroom. One hundred people may not be much compared to the population of Canada, but for every person who has been unhealthy their entire life, it is a daily struggle.

In 1991, the Conservative government offered a lump sum payment to thalidomide victims and asked them to sign an agreement stating that they would not ask for more. Unfortunately, this was sort of a way of buying peace, since the amounts offered were not nearly enough to look after the needs of these victims and their families, who are faced with a health care system that, unfortunately, is not designed to meet their needs.

We have not heard a thing since then. I do not want to lecture anyone, but there is no denying that there have been successive Conservative and Liberal governments since the 1960s, and I find it rather surprising that no one ever saw fit to resolve this situation.

That sends a rather odd message to Canadians: even if we make bad decisions, it is not a big deal because it is of no consequence.

These days, the number of drugs on the market continues to grow. Tonnes of products cross our borders and new biotechnologies are constantly being developed. Do we not want a responsible government under such circumstances?

If we choose to properly compensate the thalidomide victims, it will show how serious we are about the health of our communities. However, if we continue to do nothing, it will show that we do not care whether people suffer as a result of our bad decisions. Such negligence will also lead to questions about how we approve the products that come into our country. I therefore believe that we need to take action.

Other countries have given much more. In England, for instance, the government took on the responsibility of compensating survivors and their families. Interestingly enough, it also asked the drug manufacturer to do its part. In total, survivors receive some $88,000 a year. This money helps survivors carry out the most basic daily tasks in relative comfort, making their lives more enjoyable.

In Germany, survivors were given a one-time lump sum, as well as regular payments of up to $10,000. This country also created a fund worth 30 million euros to cover specific needs.

Here, the Thalidomide Survivors Taskforce is calling on the government to negotiate the creation of a program to provide a one-time payment to cover immediate needs as well as monthly payments. The amount of those payments would be based on the level of each person's disability.

I do not believe that fair, equitable compensation for thalidomide victims is too much to ask for. As I was saying earlier, it is our responsibility as a government to protect Canadians in all circumstances.

Protection does not come only from the army and the police; it is also a question of judgement. We need to make the right decisions for Canadians. The government made a mistake and now it needs to set things right. Of course, that was 50 years ago, but we are still talking about it today.

As thalidomide survivors age, they experience a lot of pain, and their families are exhausted. Even though there are not many of them, it is up to us to help them; it is our duty.

We need to find a solution right now that will enable them to live with dignity. These survivors need to know that their suffering does not arise from their government's utter negligence, but from a sad accident of history.

If the government is to take responsibility and prove to thalidomide survivors that we can do something about this, the House must support my colleague's motion. If I understand correctly, that seems to be the case.

This will enable us to mitigate the hardships of those who are suffering and relieve the burden on their families to a certain extent. That is our duty given the social solidarity to which Canada has always aspired, and we must act accordingly.

As they say, better late than never.

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to begin my speech with an announcement. This morning, at 4:30 a.m., my constituency assistant Stéphanie Roy gave birth to a little girl: Gabrielle.

Business of Supply November 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague and all of the parties, which, if I understand correctly, plan to support the NDP's motion. I would like to know one thing: should every government not ask itself these moral questions when it learns, for example, that we continued to offer a drug that another country in Europe or elsewhere in the world took off the market, as was the case with thalidomide?

Should the government not pay more attention to drugs that are causing problems in other countries? Why would our children be less likely to be affected? Knowing that the drug has been withdrawn from the market, should every government not show some moral character and protect the public, children and even adults who could one day take drugs that would make them very sick?

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

According to the executive director of the Canadian Meat Council, Canadian producers of prepared meats are worried about concessions on geographical indications made to the European Union. They are also concerned that the concessions are not reciprocal. These meat sector businesses could lose their trademarks for products with annual sales of more than $25 million.

What can my colleague say to reassure them?

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, people have told me that they were worried about what would happen to dairy products. They do not know anything. People listen to the news, they listen to what the government is saying, but they are worried. I really have nothing more to add. People are worried and they are not sure that supply management is here to stay.

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the neighbouring riding to Joliette for her question.

Indeed, I just said that last year I did an agricultural tour of the riding of Joliette. Dairy and cheese producers are quite concerned. They are wondering whether supply management will continue to support them. It takes years of preparation to get good quality cheese. Not only does it take years of work to get good cheese, but there is also all the money that goes into research in order to produce a cheese that will appeal to consumers, not just in Joliette, but throughout Quebec and Canada.

The farmers told me they hope supply management is here to stay as it is. They do not want it to change. They know they will lose out if anything changes because all sorts of cheeses will enter the market. The farmers will suffer losses. The government is telling us that the farmers will get financial compensation, but they are worried.

Could the government truly reassure them by saying that supply management will be protected?

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, all of these recommendations really need to be studied. We will see what bill comes back to us. We will study the recommendations and the bill. I look forward to seeing it. They proposed some recommendations, but we absolutely need to study this bill again.

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with my colleague from Pontiac.

We would have liked the government to introduce a bill, but perhaps it will in the near future or a bit later, before the House rises in June, or maybe even on December 12.

During the study in committee, we heard from dozens of witnesses and we agreed on a few recommendations. Free trade is the cornerstone of economic development in the agriculture sector and will certainly provide exciting opportunities for many stakeholders in the sector. Technology now allows us to produce more, and faster. Nonetheless, we have to be able to deliver the goods. The more demand there is, the more we have to provide top-quality merchandise. Many provincial and federal sectors have welcomed this agreement with open arms. I sincerely hope it will help our farmers deliver the goods.

However, I cannot say that the government's response to our report is totally satisfactory. There are some contradictions in its responses with regard to what the report called for. I would like to clarify a small detail. The recommendations that we see here are the ones the committee adopted, but partisanship is commonplace in the committees and, as they do in Parliament, the Conservatives have a majority there. There were other recommendations that we wanted to adopt following the testimony we heard. Unfortunately, those requests by the NDP were rejected. That being said, I will come back to these recommendations.

My goal here is to show that the recommendations in the report arose from a Conservative consensus. I am surprised that the government is responding so weakly to its own recommendations. For example, on supply management, the government's response clearly indicates that it will continue to defend that system. However, I was expecting the government to do more than that.

The committee's report clearly states that the removal of tariff barriers could upset this management system, particularly for dairy products. I had many conversations with representatives of the Union des producteurs agricoles, egg producers, poultry producers and dairy producers. In the summer of 2013, I went on an agricultural tour of my riding, Joliette.

All of these people told me that the supply management system, which was chosen by the industry, is valid and effective and that the government must maintain it. The president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, Mr. Smith, said that the three pillars of supply management are still in place. These three pillars are production management, import controls and farm pricing based on production costs. I am concerned that CETA will weaken those three pillars, which is why we must make sure that the supply management system has the tools it needs to survive.

In its response to the committee's recommendation about that, the government says that Canada continues to strongly support the system on the international stage. That sounds like a good answer, but what does it really mean? As the committee indicated in the report, the dairy industry wants the government to strengthen the three pillars of supply management and to ensure a 10-year transition period to eliminate duties on milk protein isolates.

The most concrete measure in the government's response is about amending Canada's customs tariff to address the problem of goods packaged in such a way as to circumvent Canadian regulations. It would be interesting to hear more about that. That is certainly one way to circumvent our tariff barriers.

We saw this with the pizza kits that were disassembled when they got to Canada so that merchants could sell the cheese and get around the supply management system.

There were also problems in the poultry industry, when American exporters were selling us turkey as so-called mature chicken. When we go grocery shopping at Christmas, we may see the label “mature chicken”.

I was a farmer and I have never seen a mature chicken. A mature chicken is a hen or a rooster that is at the end of its reproductive years. However, it was shown that the mature chicken that is imported to Canada from the United States exceeds that country's entire production. Imagine how much poultry is not being accounted for in our supply management model.

I therefore hope that the government has done its homework on this and that that is what we are talking about here. I would even ask the government to clarify this issue.

What amendments are we talking about? When were they made? Frankly, the word “recently” does not correspond to a date on a calendar and I would like to know more.

In my riding of Joliette there are many dairy farmers, some artisanal cheese makers and a winery. These industries are among those that will have the most difficulty competing with European imports, which are often heavily subsidized. Indeed, last Sunday on La semaine verte, we learned that sheep producers in Iceland are subsidized.

That is why the NDP recommended that the government keep its promise to dairy and cheese producers. Unfortunately, our Conservative colleagues did not follow that recommendation, and I would like to know more about why since producers in those industries will need help to adapt and remain competitive.

CETA will no doubt provide many business opportunities in a number of industries and thus benefit the Canadian economy. However, it could cause a net loss for some industries that are quite prominent in the riding of Joliette, such as the dairy and cheese industries.

Could the government be more clear about the compensation these producers will receive? It is all well and good to say that they will be compensated, but how much will they get? Earlier, it was said that they would be compensated on the basis of their losses, but all that remains to be seen.

Since I used to be a farmer, I know that it helps to know where you are going, and the fact that the government is stalling right now must have producers in a cold sweat.

Another recommendation that the NDP would have liked to see in the report involves ensuring transparency in the harmonization of health standards. It is a major problem. Think about the listeriosis crisis. Quebec's artisan cheese producers lost millions of dollars in production because of preventative measures, while imported cheese arrived by the tonne and was not subjected to the same treatment.

It was said that the exporting country's food safety rules prevailed. However, in the interest of public safety, is it not important to take this more seriously and include that concern in our trade agreements?

The government recently cut the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's budget by $45 million. In the wake of the XL Foods scandal, I cannot say that I, as a Canadian, feel protected.

In a world that is increasingly interdependent trade-wise, basic common sense tells us that we should work to make our trade agreements more responsible and accountable to the people.

Earlier, I spoke about partisanship in committee. Let us look at recommendation number 5 in the government's response:


...that the Government of Canada continue to pursue additional comprehensive trade agreements to open new markets...

It is all well and good to say that, but then what happens?

Free trade became the new global economic reality more than 20 years ago. Should we not be concerned by the fact that there will be other agreements?

What is needed is a better framework and more transparency to ensure that these agreements are truly beneficial to those who matter most to us in the House: Canadians.

To conclude, I know that I did not speak to all of the recommendations, but I wanted to express my views and those of my constituents on certain parts of the report.

I would like to commend the government for supporting sugar maple growers. Quebec alone accounts for 96% of maple syrup sales abroad. It makes sense to ensure that the phrase “maple syrup” appears only on the original product, not on imitation products.

If the European Union has the necessary tools to monitor that, I would suggest that this recommendation be included in other potential agreements, notably in Asia, where we have seen the proliferation of counterfeit maple syrup.