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NDP MP for Laval (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 43.30% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Combating Terrorism Act April 23rd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member. He is absolutely right.
I agree that there should be a more thorough and meaningful review process before the bills are introduced. The bills should also be validated, checked and confirmed through other processes.
Unfortunately, this bill comes from the Senate. Everyone here knows how we feel about the Senate. Therefore, I do not think it would be a good idea to continue with this process, which is an affront to justice.
Combating Terrorism Act April 23rd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague for Winnipeg North has been expressing himself very well about old topics and old arguments from previous parliaments. However, I think that we should return to what is currently under discussion, which is Bill S-7.
This is about showing utmost respect for human rights. That is what makes living in a democracy good.
As to his allusion, I believe that the context was very different at that time. I do not really think that I can provide him with further details.
Combating Terrorism Act April 23rd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, all of my colleagues on this side of the House have clearly expressed their opposition to this bill. However, I am disappointed that there were barely seven or eight members on the other side of the House today to listen to the arguments put forward by my honourable colleagues about the many problems with this bill.
It is worth recalling that everything in it comes from Bill C-36, which was tabled in 2001 following the events that occurred in the United States. From that time on, an international policy was developed and Canada has unfortunately simply been following it.
Canada should not even be involved, because everything was done according the foreign policies of our neighbours to the south. In reality, Canada was never really exposed to these kinds of constraints. Canada's foreign policy has always been fair, particularly in terms of non-interference in the foreign policies of other nations. In a word, Canada has no enemies.
On the other hand, after those events, the government of the day felt that it was important to introduce anti-terrorism legislation, so it did. However, it was pointless because we are not in that situation.
My honourable colleagues from this side of the House said that we did not really need to impose all these constraints on all Canadians, despite the efforts that were made to improve the resolution and return to the wording that was rejected in 2007.
Giving powers to certain peace officers—such as police and military personnel—to apprehend ordinary citizens suspected of committing acts of terrorism is pure madness.
Furthermore, everyone knows that the Canadian legal system already has measures to prevent actions like these, which are contrary to common sense. The effective way to combat them is to provide our public safety and security systems with the funds they need. And yet in last year's budget and even this year’s, cuts to such funds were and are being made, which is absurd. In other words, members on both sides of the House are being illogical. The Liberals seem unable to seize this opportunity to send a clear message to the Conservatives about protecting public safety without compromising basic rights.
Do not forget that the 2012 budget made major cuts of approximately $687 million, and the Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service suffered the most as a result.
These two agencies, which have some latitude and the power to act in order to detect acts that could potentially endanger Canadians, have no power over Canada's foreign policy, and Canada is not really exposed to a genuine terrorist threat.
Peace officers can interrogate an individual if something abnormal is suspected, whether on cultural, racial or religious grounds. The individual can be forced to appear in court, before a judge, to explain certain actions or types of behaviour that the peace officer considered abnormal. In a way, laws that protect the civil rights of citizens are circumvented as a result of aggressive action of this kind.
New Democratic members are opposed to Bill S-7 because there is no justification for it. To begin with, the bill would amend the Criminal Code. Our view is that the Criminal Code is fine just as it is, although it could be improved in certain areas. Secondly, many of the amendments suggested in committee were quickly rejected by most Liberals and Conservatives.
The bill would also amend the Canada Evidence Act. Potentially sensitive information about the trial of an accused could be disclosed, which in my view would be a blatant infringement of human rights.
The bill would also amend the Criminal Code to add new offences. However, it is impossible to determine ahead of time whether a person who has left the country or attempted to do so will commit a terrorist act. These are subjective questions linked to suspicions and unsubstantiated beliefs.
I can see that even though several colleagues on the other side of the House have arrived, they do not appear to be really interested in listening to what we have to say about this bill even though they should be willing to admit that they are on the wrong track in a way.
As I was saying, and I will repeat it once more, the key factor to be taken into consideration is the budget cuts to the agencies responsible for public safety. I hope that the members who are now entering the House will understand precisely what it is we wish to say, and I trust that they will make changes to the bill before it is voted upon in the next few minutes or days so that we can really tackle this issue.
The Conservative Government April 15th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, March 28 was a dark day for the House of Commons. On that day, three important bills were arbitrarily rejected by the Conservative caucus.
The Conservative caucus overwhelmingly voted down the good intentions of providing justice and giving the Government of Canada the opportunity to do the right thing and support some just and worthy causes. Bill C-380 would have prohibited imports of shark fins. Bill C-459 would have helped consumers, in particular air passengers. Bill C-464 would have supported Canadian mothers in the event of multiple births.
On March 28, the ignorance of our honourable government colleagues was on display again. Even worse, they failed to grasp the negative consequences for which they will be held to account in the next election.
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights March 22nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, given the remarks of my official opposition and government colleagues, it seems even clearer to me that a bill such as the one I have introduced is essential.
Like me, members on the other side of the House have demonstrated their support for air passengers. My Conservative colleague, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, who chairs the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, was quite right when he said: “Consumers have the right to expect to be treated fairly by airlines.” That was on February 7 of this year. What he said is a fact, and it points to the problems that led to the drafting of this bill.
Comments by some government members lead us to believe that existing mechanisms already allow for impartial inquiries when individuals feel they have received unsatisfactory treatment from an airline. That is not true. Many airlines do not see why they should be proactive when it comes to passengers' rights.
The current legislation does not encourage being proactive in the least—quite the opposite, actually. Canada's policy on passengers' rights is based on a disconcerting dichotomy of intimidation and insecurity. The intimidation starts with the very first paragraph on the ticket purchase agreement, where it states that the buyer agrees that the airline assumes no responsibility. Insecurity is created in collusion with insurance companies, which try to force consumers to buy protection. Both aspects employ mechanisms that require passengers to file a complaint themselves in order to receive compensation for the airline's negligence. This bill addresses that approach.
The air passengers' bill of rights that we are discussing today will require all airlines doing business in Canada—apart from the clearly indicated exceptions—to comply with standards for respecting passengers' rights. The main objective is to regulate the sector, as is already the case in Europe, so that compensation for a change in travel plans becomes the standard and not the result of long, expensive legal proceedings.
All it takes is talking to a few victims of bad practices to understand just how very long and particularly awkward the compensation process can be. We must recognize that some airlines already offer good compensation. Moreover they are not necessarily the ones that offer very expensive tickets, as some government colleagues claim.
The goal of the bill is to standardize the practices of airlines when it comes to compensation and, at the same time, to ensure that the rights of passengers are protected fairly and reasonably. We are trying to eliminate misunderstandings and the frustration that result from these abnormal situations.
When this bill was introduced, immediately after the first hour of second reading, my offices in Laval and in the Confederation Building were inundated with emails and calls from across Canada. We managed to compile a record of testimonies ranging from simple delays and minor processing errors to really illegal, if not cruel, actions.
I would like my colleagues across the way to understand that Canada needs to do something about this and that it must adopt a bill like this one.
Dominican Republic February 27th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to recognize the 169th anniversary of the independence of my home country, the Dominican Republic. Every year, over 800,000 Canadians visit this wonderful and prosperous country, located on the island of Hispaniola.
The Dominican Republic has strengthened its position and built the second-largest economy in the Caribbean, and Canada is one of its major trading partners. In 2012, Canadian exports to the Dominican Republic amounted to $128 million, and imports to Canada from that country totalled nearly $283 million.
I would also like to recognize the civic engagement and excellent conduct of Dominican nationals in this extraordinary country, Canada.
Happy birthday, Dominican Republic. Feliz cumpleaños.
Airline Industry February 15th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, Canada lags far behind the United States, Europe and Asia when it comes to protecting passengers against the shoddy practices of airline companies.
The bill on the air passengers' bill of rights would ensure that Canadians' vacations are not ruined by airline companies in the wrong. Some Conservative members have openly said that they will vote against the air passengers' bill of rights.
Why are the Conservatives abandoning Canadian travellers?
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights February 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, yes, that is what happened. We took the former project that was submitted in the previous Parliament and we analyzed all the clauses from a to z. In fact, I was surprised by the conclusion of the report by the committee because there were only small changes that we had to make to make it more specific.
The reason that was given was the word “fundamental” had not been included throughout the clauses. Therefore, we revised it completely from a to z and we changed and rephrased many phrases. All of them were improved and updated.
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights February 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Québec.
As I was explaining, in 2004 legislation was enacted that covers most European countries and sets out specific dollar amounts for passenger compensation in the event of a poor practice such as a delay, denied boarding or other inconveniences.
This is becoming the norm. Naturally, airlines have also adopted standards, as I was explaining about risk assessment. Airlines do not expect all passengers who have purchased a ticket to show up. They know that some passengers will be inconvenienced, and all they can really say is that it is their fault. This law is proactive.
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights February 7th, 2013
moved that Bill C-459, An Act respecting the rights of air passengers, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to commence debate on my private member’s bill—Bill C-459, An Act respecting the rights of air passengers.
The important thing to mention is that there is nothing new here. This is not the first time that a private member’s bill of this kind has been introduced. In the second session of the 40th Parliament, there was an attempt to pass a bill that was somewhat similar to this one in certain respects.
At the time, the bill had been aborted clumsily following the release of the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Most of the Conservative members made the patently irresponsible mistake of deciding not to pursue study of the bill, for a reason that made no sense. They had understood that the act was an attempt to assign air carriers a nonexistent responsibility.
I must admit that I was surprised to learn why the study was abandoned and the process leading up to it. I was dumbfounded and could simply not understand it. I asked myself how members of the committee that is basically responsible for adding certain details or simply some clarity to a number of sections could possibly have failed in their duty by ruling so arbitrarily on the matter without any further justifications.
On the one hand, I am convinced that the House will view this bill as a second opportunity to correct a past mistake and to rapidly approve a good, more exhaustive and more precise act. On the other hand, if it should prove necessary to refer it to a committee, then the committee should at least do a serious and non-partisan analysis of it. This committee strikes me as far better prepared and more aware of issues surrounding respect for consumers.
My view is that the improvements made to this bill emphasize passenger rights and create conditions favourable to an approach that makes everyone in the relationship a winner, both passengers and carriers. We have placed a clear emphasis on eliminating poor business practices, such as deliberate overbooking.
We are trying to make the Government of Canada understand that it can no longer remain so isolated and insensitive to responsible business practices. Such practices often result in customer loyalty. Customers appreciate being shown respect, and treated fairly and transparently.
An approach in which everyone wins is clearly a better idea. The improvements and added clarity in this new version of the bill eliminate any ambiguity in situations where it is obvious that responsibility ought to rest with the air carriers. The bill specifically states that weather events are not the fault of the carrier.
That is also the case when one of the government agencies decides to ground a plane and prevent it from taking off because there is an identifiable danger to passenger safety.
These agencies also have improved operational processes and adhere strictly to a set of regulations they are required to follow by law. What we want to tackle is the dishonesty on the part of a carrier that deliberately, for its own benefit, exploits the practice of overbooking or invents false weather conditions.
Overbooking often results from poor risk assessments. To put it clearly, this is what happens when a carrier sells seats it does not have, and charges its customers for them, over a period of several weeks. To put it even more clearly, after assigning a plane with a capacity of 200 seats to a particular route, it sells 210 tickets. After assessing the risk of no shows, as they are called in the business, it can expect that a maximum of 195 passengers will ultimately come to the counter. In that case, it can be said to have assessed its risk properly, and so it is not in danger of any constraint under this bill.
This practice has become so common that mistakes and miscalculations by managers are in fact commonplace. The situation then becomes unacceptable when all 210 passengers do show.
Disinformation is rare, but it does happen; the goal is to conceal the real cause of a delay or cancellation. The carrier does not want to admit that a mistake was made and uses every means necessary to try not to look like it is at fault.
What the bill seeks to do is hold the carrier accountable so that it will deal with the situation transparently and offer to refund the value of the ticket to passengers who are adversely affected, in addition to compensation for the inconvenience, and do so proactively and with full acknowledgement of its mistake. The carrier must formally undertake to offer rerouting at no extra cost, and with compensation, if it knows that another flight has seats available for the same destination.
Offering rerouting often involves a lengthy wait. Depending on how long the passenger will have to wait, refreshments, meals, accommodation, transportation and calling cards are provided for as additional compensation.
This bill is also a step forward toward international standardization. It will put Canada in the vanguard, or at least enable it to catch up in comparison to existing legislation in this area.
In Europe, there has been similar legislation since 2004 and some Canadian carriers are required to abide by it. There is legislation in Asia, particularly in the Philippines. And more recently, in December, our American neighbours enacted an equivalent law.
If the previous version of this bill had been passed in 2009, Canada would not be lagging behind and would not be seen as a follower, even though the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization is in Canada.
Right now, we have the opportunity to quickly pass this good bill and to give our hon. colleagues a chance to fix their past mistakes. We can be sure that this initiative will have tangible benefits for passengers and will also have a positive economic impact on the air carriers.
In closing, I ask all members in the House to consider this bill. I urge them to support this initiative that is widely supported by the public.