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  • His favourite word is important.

NDP MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 44.80% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Aboriginal Affairs February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, section 35 of the Constitution protects the rights of aboriginal peoples. Most aboriginal people feel that Bill C-51 threatens that protection. Given how often law enforcement has described our demonstrations as illegal, I cannot help but be concerned that we will be lumped in with terrorists.

Will the minister realize that Bill C-51 is unconstitutional and threatens the rights of aboriginal peoples?

Aboriginal Affairs February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is not an either-or choice between investment and an inquiry. Families deserve both actions to end this crisis and answers to help them get much-needed closure.

I want to know what the government is still waiting for to finally commit to concrete actions with its provincial and territorial counterparts and call for a national public inquiry.

Aboriginal Affairs February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of the government to protect and ensure the safety of all its citizens, no matter where they live.

People who live on reserves in Canada are 10 times more likely to die in a fire, but what is the irresponsible minister doing? He is avoiding our questions.

Does he think it is okay for children to be dying in fires in Canada in 2015 while adults argue over a bill?

Status of Women December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister does not seem to understand that their plan is simply not working.

Aboriginal girls and women continue to be victims of violence. Nearly 1,200 of them have gone missing or been murdered. Aboriginal communities are calling for a national inquiry so we can finally take a serious look at this issue.

Will the government finally listen to reason and launch a national public inquiry?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in light of your comment, I will try to wrap up this debate on a positive note. I hope I can. As always, I am very honoured to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-6.

I am honoured in the sense that I always have the opportunity to raise issues that are important to me as the member for the northern riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, which is home to a diverse population. I would like to point out that the riding includes 14 Inuit communities, nine Cree communities—soon to be 10, I hope—and two Algonquin communities. In addition, the cities in the riding depend heavily on natural resource development.

It is therefore always a privilege for me to rise to speak to these issues that are important to the constituents in my vast and magnificent riding.

I am particularly honoured to speak to this bill because I would like to raise two critical issues relating to the debate that I am wrapping up. The first is the fact that, in a way, Bill S-6 dismantles the environmental assessment process developed by and for Yukoners. The second is about the whole issue of consulting and accommodating first nations, which has been debated at length this afternoon.

I keep telling the House that these issues are constitutional obligations that we have as a country and that the government has towards first nations. We cannot ignore these very serious issues. They are not fluff and, in fact, I think they are very important.

This very morning, I introduced Bill C-641 in the House. The bill would ensure that the laws of Canada's Parliament are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That international document is the only one that specifically covers the rights of the 370 million indigenous people around the world. I believe that we need to find a way to embrace this important document in the House.

When the declaration was adopted in 2007, the UN Secretary-General spoke of this document as the path to reconciliation between states and indigenous peoples. I wholeheartedly support this declaration. It would keep us from going through the kinds of situations we are seeing right now concerning the whole issue of consulting and accommodating aboriginal peoples when legislation is studied in the House.

Article 19 of the declaration states that indigenous people must be consulted and accommodated, in addition to providing their consent, when legislation that would directly affect them is being considered.

I introduced Bill C-641 this morning, and I am very proud of it. It would put aboriginal people and all Canadians on the path to reconciliation, which is so desperately needed in this country right now.

What will happen remains to be seen, and I hope the House will support and pass this bill. I also hope for the support of every Canadian, as this affects us all.

In the Delgamuukw case, the Chief Justice clearly indicated that we are all here to stay. That is a statement I believe in, so let us try to find a modus vivendi so that we can live together in peace and harmony.

I can speak from experience about the environmental assessment process we are talking about in this bill. I chaired the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment, which is provided for in section 22 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. This committee oversees the implementation of the environmental and social protection regime outlined in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Having chaired this committee for many years, I could speak at length about it because I currently understand the importance of having a clear, independent and impartial process.

The James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment for the southern part of the James Bay area is made up of Cree representatives, members appointed by the federal government and others appointed by the provincial government, the Government of Quebec in this case. It is therefore a clear process.

In this regard, when the environmental assessment process and the powers and mandates of the assessment committees are clear to everyone, development goes well. Development in northern Quebec is going well because people know what to expect. They know the rules and standards set out in the the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. When these things are clear, everyone understands the rules and knows what to expect, whether it is the aboriginal people who are directly affected or the natural resource developers, particularly in the territories. Everything goes well.

Since I will be concluding the debate, I would like to quickly address the issue of consulting and accommodating aboriginal peoples. That is an essential point that has been discussed all afternoon. I was here all afternoon and I listened carefully to both the speeches and the questions and answers on this topic. It is important to consider all of these issues.

My colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan quoted a few examples of the objections expressed to this government concerning the changes it wants to make with this bill. First, she quoted the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada. She also quoted the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, which expressed its opposition to the bill and its support for the aboriginal peoples in the context of the changes to be made under Bill S-6. I want to quote that tourism association, which is in the territories:

TIA Yukon asserts that taking land use planning decisions away from the Territory will ultimately give tourism operators in the Yukon less of a say over land use issues where resource extraction interests conflict with interests of tourism businesses.

I would also like to read from a letter written by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon Chapter. This letter was sent to the government and to other members here in the House, including some opposition members. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says it is against some of the proposed changes in Bill S-6, and mentioned four points in particular. The first is, and I quote:

...providing the federal minister new powers to give binding policy orders to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board as this amendment undermines the independence of the Board....

I just talked about the independence of these processes.

I will close by saying that the first nations directly affected by this bill complained that they were not properly consulted and that their concerns were not reflected by these changes.

We must never forget that we have a constitutional obligation to the first nations. We cannot deny that obligation, simply say that the first nations were consulted and then do nothing to address their concerns. We have a dual obligation to consult them and accommodate them. We must never forget that.

Again, our fear is that these matters will end up before the courts yet again and that once again the courts will side with us. That is our concern.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the member for Labrador feels about this issue, but the member for Winnipeg North kept on referring to “our first nations” when speaking about aboriginal peoples. I just want to remind the member for Winnipeg North that I am nobody's Indian here, nobody's first nation here.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated the presentation by the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. It is always interesting to hear him speak about the issues that have been brought up in today's debate.

I heard the parliamentary secretary talk about consultations again. Must we remind him that in addition to the constitutional obligation to consult first nations, there is also an obligation to accommodate them with respect to the concerns they have raised during those consultations? The Conservatives are often content simply to hold meetings, but it does not work that way.

In the 2004 Haida Nation case, the Supreme Court said that the duty to consult can go as far as full consent of the nation on very serious issues. The Supreme Court did not go into detail about what constitutes serious issues, but in my opinion, the environment is a serious issue to first nations.

Having read the Supreme Court ruling in the Tsilhqot’in Nation case, I believe that at least nine paragraphs are about consent and at least 11 paragraphs are about control of first nations' traditional territories. We need to take another look at those issues.

Why does my colleague think that the government has not taken an approach that includes partnering, co-operating and collaborating with first nations? Every time it has the opportunity, it fails to meet its obligations.

Northern Development December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, you know, shaving $100 off the cost of a basket of groceries that costs $1,000 or $1,200 is not a lot.

In the Minister of the Environment's riding, dozens of people are reduced to rummaging through garbage to find food because the Conservatives are incapable of setting up a program to cut prices. Those who speak out against the situation are threatened with legal action by their own MP.

Will the minister also apologize for the government's failures and her bullying?

Northern Development December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, now that the Minister of the Environment has recognized that it was a bad idea to read the newspaper during question period, maybe we can get her to answer our lingering questions over the food crisis going on in her riding and throughout the north.

Will the minister now recognize that the nutrition north program is a failure and will she act now to ensure that none of her constituents have to resort to landfills to find food, especially over the holidays?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I remind the parliamentary secretary that in the Haida case, which was 10 years ago now, the Supreme Court indicated that the broad spectrum of consultation includes the full consent of the first nations on important issues. I think that the environment is most definitely an important issue to the first nations. I simply want to remind the parliamentary secretary of that.

I have a very simple question for my colleague. I have noticed a common thread in all of the government's actions since it got a majority in 2011. It has been weakening all of the environmental assessment processes to make it easier to develop natural resources. That is unfair to many people—the first nations, of course, but also people who live in the north. They need to be involved in the decisions that affect them, especially when it comes to the environment.

My colleague mentioned a number of important stakeholders in this process, such as the tourism association and mining companies. Are there any others she could mention to show that the first nations are not the only ones who are upset here, but that there are many people living in the north who care about the environment and the economy?