House of Commons photo

Track Francine

Your Say

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is joliette.

NDP MP for Joliette (Québec)

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

Statements in the House

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not think so.

The costs are extremely high, and 83% of those costs are borne by victims. They need help from the government.

As I said earlier, some of my family members went through this a few decades ago. Someone broke into their home and held a gun to their heads, including the children. However, they did not get any kind of assistance afterwards. They were told to sort it out on their own and to talk to their doctor. They had to move because they worried that they would be victimized again.

The government must absolutely help victims. Yes, offenders need help, but victims do as well, and unfortunately they are left out in the cold.

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

Indeed, we need to support women, and yes, the member is right, I have always worked to improve the status of women. However, this is also about the status of men, since we live in a society.

We asked ourselves many questions. I am still a member of Quebec's Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale. A few days ago we all wore white ribbons on behalf of a local branch of AFEAS to remind people that it is always women who are the victims.

Women always seem to be the victims because of a tradition that involves women being told to keep quiet unless they know what they are talking about. Women are still being repressed somewhat, even in today's society

When I saw that so many women had been elected to the NDP during the 2011 election, regardless of their age or social status, it felt like a bit of reward for all my hard work. I say “reward” but I would actually prefer for women to be able to one day defend themselves and adopt legislation that gives them the same protections as men.

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, after innumerable photo ops and press conferences, the Conservatives are finally presenting us with their draft Canadian victims bill of rights. They have been talking about it for eight years now, and in all honesty, I find it somewhat disappointing that we have ended up with an incomplete bill that has no mechanism for enforcement and no operating budget.

That said, I am prepared to support the main motion at report stage, because I want to help victims of crime. I would like us to do more, particularly after eight years of delay by the Conservatives, but every step towards improving matters for victims of crime is worth taking.

Throughout the committee deliberations on Bill C-32, my NDP colleagues were guided by a simple principle: making sure that the Canadian victims bill of rights was a good fit with the Canadian justice system and met victims’ expectations. I fully subscribe to this principle, because if the bill of rights does not fit anywhere and does not respond to what victims told us, it becomes purely symbolic and ultimately disconnected altogether from reality.

The bill is a valid response to some recommendations by victims, and that is worth pointing out. For example, the bill of rights expands the definition of “victim of crime” and codifies victims’ rights to information, protection, participation and restitution. On the other hand, a problem arises when we see that the bill of rights places no legal obligation on the other participants in the justice system. Why raise the expectations of victims, only to disappoint them if the provisions of the bill of rights do not apply?

The most practical recourse provided for victims of crime relates to a complaint mechanism within federal departments and agencies that play role in the justice system when victims’ rights have been violated. This is disappointing, to say the least. Victims have been waiting eight years for a real resolution resulting from a desire to provide greater social justice. Instead, they get a department store-style complaint office. What is more, the complaint counter at Canadian Tire is better funded than the one provided for in the bill of rights.

No funding is currently allocated for the complaint mechanism. Once again, this is disappointing, to say the least. It is not surprising that we hear such negative reactions from those who supported this initiative. One of them is Frank Addario, a lawyer who specializes in criminal law. He asserts that:

It's cynicism masquerading as policy...We did not need a new law for government to tell itself that it should communicate with victims about criminal cases.

Mr. Addario is not wrong, if we consider the narrow scope of the other measures in the bill of rights.

Some go further and claim that the Conservatives have deceived victims of crime in order to score political points. Clayton Ruby, a criminal law expert, said:

The [bill] is an example of a community that has sold itself to the Conservatives for a mess of porridge...They need rehabilitative programs and services, and compensation from the government, and they've dropped all those expensive demands in favour of shallow symbolism.

Steve Sullivan, the first ombudsman for victims of crime, agrees. He says that the government should have given victims of crime the right to appear in court and sue the government if their rights are not respected. Mr. Sullivan said that for now, all this really does is bring things in line with provincial laws. He sees nothing in this bill that would speed up the process, and that is in part because the legal process is far more concerned with the accused than the victim.

As an aside, some people in my family were victims of a home invasion at gunpoint. They had young children and they had to fend for themselves to get services.

I cannot make it any clearer. Victims are marginalized by our system. Unfortunately, this bill will not make much of a difference. That is too bad.

According to the Department of Justice, the annual cost of crime in Canada is estimated to be more than $99 billion . That is a lot of money. It is sad to learn that 83% of that amount is borne by victims of crime.

As I mentioned earlier, members of my family have had to look after themselves and we supported them in their misfortune. The reality is that it is expensive. Without money, nothing will be resolved.

The Conservatives have often invested in prisons, which is the same as investing in crime, because they have reduced prevention and victim services. That is a funny way to do things. Moreover, they have expanded the women's prison in the riding of Joliette.

They have cut key programs for some victims, such as the Indian residential schools resolution health support program. In committee, the Conservatives knowingly disregarded the recommendations of many victims and victims advocacy groups. Furthermore, as is their custom, the Conservatives rejected the NDP amendments that would better reflect the recommendations of victims and experts.

I just want to point out that the NDP was the only party that put forward substantive amendments. The only real thing we managed to get passed was an amendment requiring the government to review the effects of the bill of rights after two years. The Conservatives agreed to that review, but only after five years.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that NDP MPs have always stood up for victims' rights and we will continue to fight every day to ensure that victims' services receive better funding across the country. I will therefore support the main motion at report stage, but I think we need to do much more for victims.

I have fought for 40 years for women's rights in Joliette, and aboriginals are on my list of priorities. I would like to conclude with the words of Teresa Edwards of the Native Women's Association of Canada:

We have a long way to go, and I really hope this legislation is not just another piece of paper that the government can point to and say it's doing something about victimization. We really need to translate that into action.

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague.

In her speech, she talked about concrete measures. The NDP is determined to ensure that victims of crime get all of the support they need.

Should the government invest in services for victims and crime prevention to keep our communities safe?

Victims Bill of Rights December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, for all of the work he does for voters in his riding and for all of the work he does in Ottawa.

I would like to hear his opinion on something. Justice Canada released a report in 2011 showing that the estimated total annual cost of crime is over $99 billion, and 83% of that is borne by victims. What does he think of that? That is a lot of money.

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?