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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is colleague.

NDP MP for Beauport—Limoilou (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 46.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île for her remarks and especially for calling the Minister of Foreign Affairs to order. The minister was yelling like a wild animal, which is beneath a man in his position, but absolutely not surprising. It was simply one more example of his lack of judgment. I thank my colleague for commanding a bit of respect in the House.

As far as my colleague's speech is concerned, I greatly appreciated the fact that she clearly exposed the fundamental contradiction of this bill, in other words this infamous clause 11, which makes the idea of banning cluster munitions impossible to achieve for all intents and purposes because of all the exceptions it includes.

I would like her to elaborate on the fact that the government will never achieve the objective of completely banning cluster munitions from Canadian operations.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. His remarks were moving because he shared with us his personal experience of what he went through during his travels to Afghanistan for the implementation of a landmine treaty.

Another troubling thing that affected my colleague was how slowly the government moved and the long and roundabout way it took to introduce legislation, when Canada participated in the negotiations of the present convention on the use of cluster munitions several years ago, in 2008, in fact.

I would like him to talk about the government's foot-dragging, not to say its near-total inaction with regard to Bill C-6. That does not even include its undue delays after introducing the bill and with regard to the treaty banning the use of landmines, when Canada had signed the convention, in addition to ratifying it, on December 3, 1997. That was a very strong and very clear act of leadership.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for her speech.

I cannot help but react to the question from the member for Palliser because of the parallel that is drawn, for instance, with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. Article 1 is very clear. It states that each state party to the convention must never use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone anti-personnel mines. This does not prevent the convention from allowing the retention of a small number of anti-personnel mines for training in mine detection, clearance and destruction.

Canada is a signatory to this convention. This bill to ban the use of cluster munitions creates some enormous loopholes that contradict the other commitment we made to ban anti-personnel mines, which has not caused problems with our allies, including the United States.

I would like my colleague to comment further on this precedent, which shows the direction we should have taken with Bill C-6. We should even have gone further in order to ensure that cluster munitions are banned.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin very much for his comment and his question.

One does not exercise leadership by constantly avoiding responsibility. What is truly unfortunate is that Canada is no longer the world leader it used to be. We have now been overtaken by many other countries that allow themselves to go the extra mile.

Coming back to the previous question, my colleague hid behind the argument that other countries had passed laws or implemented this convention and had included the principle of interoperability in order to protect the members of their armed forces from prosecution. That is treading lightly and very timidly on the path to abolishing these weapons and, unfortunately, completely losing sight of the objective.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

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

In return, I would ask her, why stop halfway and actively support the inaction by our ally, the United States, and its outright refusal to sign on to this convention?

If eliminating clause 11 created a major obstacle preventing us from operating with the United States, this would allow us to exert enough pressure to hopefully force the Americans to reconsider manufacturing and using cluster munitions. We could probably manage to do that.

Unfortunately, my colleague's position is completely indefensible because in the end we have a round of negotiations accompanied by cocktails with a rather meaningless text with no real scope. This is unacceptable. There is no other way to describe her position.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

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

In fact, I will try to answer the question with the following thoughts: if we really want to prevent people from becoming victims, then we avoid creating the conditions that make them victims. It is not always possible, but when it comes to this bill and especially abolishing the use and even manufacture of cluster munitions, Canada could completely ban their use in its jurisdiction, on its land and in its circle of influence, even from its presence around the world. I am convinced that that is the best way to prevent young children from becoming victims of these weapons. The majority of the victims are children.

Unfortunately, many of these weapons come in shapes and colours that are very attractive, making it very tempting for children to pick them up. They then are maimed or killed when the weapons go off.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by my colleague from Carleton—Mississippi Mills. However, I have to start by contradicting him. Even though Canada does not have any of these weapons, our soldiers could be exposed to their use and may have to use them in operations because of interoperability agreements with our allies, including the United States, which has refused to sign the convention.

We have to look at what does the most damage. I have to disagree with my colleague again, in a friendly way, about nuclear weapons. Back in the day, Canada was in a position where, unfortunately, it ended up bringing in nuclear weapons systems. My colleague is absolutely right about that. However, one of the features of nuclear weapons is that they are really a weapon of last resort because they are weapons of mass destruction.

Cluster munitions, however, are much easier to use because they are much easier to acquire, cost less and cause limited damage. Nevertheless, these weapons produce thousands of casualties around the world every year. I sincerely believe that cluster munitions are worse and much more cruel than nuclear weapons.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank all of my colleagues for being here tonight to debate a very important bill. I am honoured to speak to Bill C-6 because it is closely tied to our Canadian identity and to Canada's involvement in the community of nations. In addition, the bill deals with a serious moral issue.

It is crucial for us to carefully study this bill so that we can understand the extent of our commitment as we consider passing or abandoning a bill that will create so many exceptions that, in the end, the convention on cluster munitions that Canada has signed but not yet ratified will be devoid of all substance. The convention has already been undermined by the position taken by Canada, which was looking to remove all substance.

I am 47 years old. The Prime Minister has kept the promise he made to his voter base and his core supporters to profoundly change Canada. He is doing just that.

Bill C-6 is a perfect example of the profound changes that are being made to our country, transforming it to such an extent that I no longer recognize the Canada of my childhood, 25 or 30 years ago. The Canada I was proud of is increasingly becoming an illusion and a cause of embarrassment and even shame for many of our citizens. This is a very serious problem.

Canada has long been a leader and innovator. It still has quite a strong reputation around the world as a country that has promoted, defended and put in place a series of measures and actively supported and guided all the nations of this world in affirming, defending and protecting human rights so that human dignity is defended around the world.

Former prime minister Lester B. Pearson, who was minister of external affairs at the time, established the corps of peacekeepers, soldiers of peace, so that there would be an interposition force in conflicts around the world. Canada was recognized as an innovator for that.

Unfortunately, our country has now become particularly marginal in terms of its involvement and having its soldiers once again proudly wear the blue helmets of peacekeepers and serve as an active interposition force between parties in conflict around the world.

Canada also led the charge within the Commonwealth to force South Africa to abandon its apartheid system, which had been in place for decades. That particularly cruel system had resulted in intolerable situations in which people were subdued and their fundamental rights violated.

They were even killed in some instances. We remember particularly tragic episodes in the history of South Africa in which many people paid with their lives for claiming rights as simple as the right to live in dignity, to have enough to eat, to be housed or simply to have a place in society.

We can also be proud of that legacy of Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government. However, it now seems so long ago, and we appear to be increasingly moving away from the ideal that existed at the time.

In the 1990s, Canada also welcomed and supported the community of nations in implementing the convention on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines, also called the Ottawa treaty.

As I pointed out when I put a question to my colleague from Don Valley West, our government was so convinced of the validity and value of that treaty that it signed and ratified it on the same day, December 3, 1997. It was an admirable, far-reaching gesture. We can find no better example of a government moving from words to action.

Unfortunately, the effect of the bill that is before us today is to undermine a convention that has already been significantly undermined by the cycle of negotiations that the Canadian government seriously compromised. Canada forced the principle of interoperability into the convention so that our soldiers could potentially transport and use cluster munitions.

This class of weapons is far from new. Here I must admit a part of my own personal journey. When I was young, I was truly fascinated by human beings’ ability to invent all kinds of ways to gain the advantage on the battlefield and to innovate in order to neutralize and even destroy the enemy. That led me to find out about all those ways, land-based, naval and aerial.

It also helped me understand how weapons as particular, dangerous and destructive as cluster munitions could have evolved to such an advanced degree that it really sends shivers down one’s spine. Whether in bomb or missile form, cluster munitions can scatter dozens of mini-bombs or mini-missiles across the landscape. There is virtually no way to protect oneself from this type of weapon. Furthermore, once they have been used, it is very hard and dangerous to neutralize them, as is the case with anti-personnel weapons.

I listened carefully to the speeches by my Conservative Party colleagues, and I admit I absolutely failed to understand how they could defend the indefensible. I hope the image I am going to use will clearly illustrate how untenable the Conservative government’s position on Bill C-6 is.

What is being suggested as a way to prevent our soldiers from being prosecuted and convicted for using or transporting cluster munitions is comparable to my telling my son, if he sees the boy next door hit students with a baseball bat in the school yard, that I give him permission to do the same thing because I think that is fair.

This is absolutely indefensible. I do not know whether there is a better image than that, but that is the one that comes to mind. It is a deliberately brutal image. I will not conceal that fact. It is an image that shows the extent to which I think we are venturing onto a very slippery slope.

In the past three years, it has been an enormous privilege for me to serve as the member for Beauport—Limoilou and to be able to sit in the House of Commons with my 308 colleagues. I have been able to speak with people from all walks of life who have absolutely extraordinary knowledge, expertise and experience, which makes me feel quite humble. It also makes me see how far Canada’s leadership and, more particularly, the influence it can have, have declined everywhere.

I am an international relations enthusiast. A reputation is built gradually. Canada began to build its identity starting in World War I, and even before that, when the Laurier government demanded Canadian independence from the British Crown. It has benefited enormously from a particularly favourable geographic situation and, at certain times, has managed to position itself admirably on the geopolitical stage.

That heritage, that clout and the influence that Canada once enjoyed are being whittled away. Our nation still wields some influence since, fortunately, people in different countries are able to make the distinction. That is what I heard on my few trips abroad. Foreigners tend to make the distinction between the government's position and the values of Canadians. This is a very minor consolation.

It is simply not good enough to say that fortunately, people believe that Canadians still have good values, when the government has gone off track and completely in the opposite direction. We cannot just stand idly by and forsake our parents', grandparents' and great-grandparents' heritage. This heritage makes it possible for Canadians to enjoy a certain degree of privilege. When Canadians meet people from other corners of the globe, they listen to us and respect us. We have credibility when we speak.

There is something that is really disappointing about this government's approach, and that is its hypocrisy. There is no need to mince words.

We cannot claim to want to eventually banish cluster munitions without taking steps to avoid their use. The government has created a huge loophole in the convention with Bill C-6. It is just hot air, nothing but a marketing ploy, a PR exercise that will achieve very little at the end of the day, and that is truly disappointing. It betrays the trust that our constituents place in us. That is why, like my NDP colleagues, I am going to oppose the passage of this bill at third reading.

It is well nigh impossible to describe just how horrific the use of cluster munitions is.

That is why I evoked memories of my adolescence and my young adult life. I was interested in global issues, defence and the tools a country has to wage war and defend its territory. It is staggering to see the capacity of the human spirit to invent new tools that are increasingly sophisticated, broad and blind, as cluster munitions are, in order to target indiscriminately, and even primarily, civilians as opposed to combatants.

I would like to recall a very recent memory. I was learning about the advances in robotic applications and artificial intelligence on the battlefield. I will describe what I learned, which did not completely surprise me. I must admit that I was shocked to see just how easy it is to lose control. It is virtually unstoppable. We all have pictures in our heads of science fiction movies such as Star Wars, in which we see human-like combat robots deploy, fire indiscriminately and find a way of seizing the advantage on the battlefield. Indeed, the fiction pales into insignificance compared to reality.

Now, the reality is robots that have practically no humanoid appearance but a lot of characteristics found in other parts of the animal world, including the insect world. The concept that particularly struck me was that of autonomous robotic swarms. Currently, there is, for example, still some human control over the use of drones. This remote control makes it possible to keep one's distance and kill or injure people elsewhere in the world very easily while feeling a lot less implicated. This leads to huge ethical and personal conscience problems.

However, we now have very small autonomous systems that are able to cause death and destruction in innumerable swarms. I am referring to tens, hundreds or even thousands of small robots that can very easily injure or kill people wherever they are in the world and against which it is impossible to defend oneself, as is the case with cluster munitions.

When I was in university, one of the concepts that I studied in the area of international relations was obviously that of the sword and the shield. This concept indicated that for every improvement made to the sword in order to pierce the shield, the hope was to improve the shield and ward off the increased offensive capacity. Now, this concept seems increasingly outdated to me. Realistically speaking, cluster munitions are a good example of the fact that this indeed the case. It is virtually impossible to guard against swarming, a missile or a cluster bomb.

It is a system of offensive weapons that is particularly pernicious and devious. That is why I want to warn my colleagues. Our soldiers could potentially commit innumerable and immoral actions. In terms of conscience, and considering the responsibility that we have as elected members and, more fundamentally, as Canadian citizens, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we could cause our soldiers to commit such actions.

I hope that my contribution to the debate will have enlightened my colleagues in the governing party and that Bill C-6 will not pass.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Don Valley West for his speech, although I do not agree with the positions he put forward. I am sure this comes as no surprise.

The government’s bill has several troubling aspects, and I would like to ask my colleague about the length of time it took once the convention was signed by Canada, on December 3, 2008, to introduce the bill, which was not done until December 15, 2012. Now we are now debating it today in a disorderly and rushed fashion.

I wish to remind my colleague that Canada signed and ratified the convention on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines on December 3, 1997. The timeframes were much shorter. Canada genuinely met its commitments and showed leadership by being the first to move forward with the ban on landmines.

I would like my colleague to explain how the government could wait so long to introduce a bill that is so convoluted, if not contrary to the spirit of the convention.

Victims Bill of Rights Act June 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will not criticize the Minister of Justice for having the impression that he keeps hearing the same speeches. I imagine that extreme fatigue is making his ears ring.

The celebrated Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was introduced with great fanfare some time ago. It was touted as a priority. I remember Senators Dagenais and Boisvenu boasting that it would be the solution to all the woes of victims of crime.

Is the Minister of Justice not even a little embarrassed to have sidelined this issue and then stampeded it back out alongside many other bills at the very last minute? Certain victims who are putting a lot of hope in the bill will have to wait. Who knows how this will end.