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  • Her favourite word is colleague.

NDP MP for Alfred-Pellan (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 42.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Removal of Imprisonment in Relation to Mandatory Surveys Act February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in today's debate on Bill C-625, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (removal of imprisonment). I would like to say right away that, as the official opposition, the NDP will be supporting the bill at second reading.

What does this bill mean? The title summarizes its intention quite well, I must admit. The bill officially removes the possibility of incarcerating someone who fails to comply with a mandatory survey. That is already in the provisions of the Statistics Act. I would also add, for the benefit of those watching us at home and following this debate closely, that no one has ever been imprisoned under the Statistics Act. That has never happened in Canada. This legislation absolutely must be fixed. I want to mention one other thing that is really important: the bill does nothing to address the serious difficulties currently facing Statistics Canada, difficulties that, in fact, it has been facing since this Conservative government took power. I will talk about that in greater detail throughout my speech.

As the official opposition, our position is quite clear and we have expressed it on a number of occasions. Ever since cuts have been made to Statistics Canada, we in the NDP have been speaking out against them. We do not think that is the right thing to do and for several reasons. With this bill, the Conservatives are once again trying to use smoke and mirrors to make us forget that they are waging an ideological and political war—and I am choosing my words carefully—against Statistics Canada. Instead of directly tackling the real problems and putting an end to the years of poor management of Statistics Canada, including for instance, the disastrous decision to eliminate the long form census, honestly, they are wasting their time creating problems where there are none.

The Conservatives' cuts have left Statistics Canada clearly underfunded and unable to produce data that is in keeping with international standards. When we had the long form census, we could be relatively proud as a country to have very good statistics on various subjects that are very important to Canadians and all community organizations across the country, from coast to coast to coast. The Conservatives should have supported the NDP strategy to put Statistics Canada back on strong footing instead of dismantling it, eliminate jail time, and reinstate a long form census. It is no secret that we are completely in favour of eliminating the section of the legislation that could put someone in jail. I also think that reinstating the long form census would have been more useful than cutting Statistics Canada's budget.

Let me provide some context. The modern census was created in 1971 and was conducted roughly every five years until 2006. In June 2010, the Government of Canada announced it was getting rid of the mandatory long form census and replacing it with the national household survey. This is an abridged version of the long form census we used to have, and participation is voluntary. That is one of the problems we have with the Conservative government's cuts and choices.

Replacing the mandatory long form census with a voluntary survey leads to many serious problems that will not be resolved in any way whatsoever by the bill introduced by my colleague across the way.

For many Canadian communities, the quality of the data was so poor that Statistics Canada simply refused to publish it. In order to try to obtain better data, and following consultations I had with various organizations in the Laval region, I moved a motion to that effect. I will explain.

As an MP, I have been fortunate to meet with people from such organizations as Afeas, an advocacy group for women's rights that is present in several Quebec ridings. These women want their rights to be respected and absolutely want equality for men and women. They are serious feminists who have accomplished much in the past few decades, and I thank them for it. I would also like to thank them for their confidence, because before I was elected one of my predecessors—not in the riding I represent, but the member for Laval—had introduced a bill to establish Invisible Work Day.

Invisible work is all the work done by a caregiver, mother or father in the home. It is unpaid work that has a very significant social and economic impact in our communities.

The entire House voted in favour of the bill to recognize Invisible Work Day, which is celebrated at the beginning of April. I am proud to contribute to and participate in these celebrations every year because I think it is very important. I was raised by a very courageous woman, my mother, who did invisible work and who stayed at home to raise me and my brother when we were young. Furthermore, she showed twice as much courage when she went back to work in her fifties. It is absolutely necessary that we acknowledge the invisible work done by people to meet the needs of children or parents in need.

Afeas and I decided to take this a little further together. The Statistics Canada questionnaire has never recorded invisible work, which we know has huge social and economic implications for the country. We do not know exactly what those implications are. That is why I moved a motion to recognize invisible work and set a few guidelines, such as an exact definition of invisible work. I am also asking the government to reverse its decision to eliminate the long form census and even add a section about invisible work. That would have given us reliable statistics that would probably have helped communities and organizations affected by this. In addition, I think it could have helped the government make more informed decisions about the budget, such as how to play with the budget, how to support people who do invisible work and how to properly represent these communities and these people during a budget period.

My motion is still on the table. If the Conservatives think that it is an excellent idea, then I suggest that they move it in the House or examine it more closely. The details of the proposed motion can be found on the Parliament of Canada website. If the Canadians who are watching at home today are interested in learning more about invisible work in general or about the motion that I proposed to recognize that work, I invite them to visit the Parliament of Canada website or my website for more information. However, the Parliament of Canada website will provide them with all of the information that they need and they can find out exactly what the legislation provides for and what this motion involves.

As the official opposition, the NDP believes that we must reinstate the long form census to provide social scientists, governments and businesses with the data that they need and have been calling for since the budget cuts were made to Statistics Canada. Once again, the Conservatives are trying to fool us into thinking that they are managing Statistics Canada effectively, but the agency has had nothing but problems since the Conservatives took office.

In closing, I would like to mention that this affects many minority groups. As I said before, there are women, like the members of Afeas, but there are also members of first nations who have been negatively affected by the elimination of the long form census.

With that, I would like to mention once more that I will support my colleague's bill but that it does not directly address the problem of the budget cuts at Statistics Canada.

Public Safety February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we have grown accustomed to this Conservative government ignoring Quebec's concerns on this type of issue.

Everyone here will remember Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill. The Conservatives insisted on going ahead with it until they finally realized that they needed Quebec and the provinces to enforce their laws.

Rather than rushing to pass Bill C-51, will the Conservatives learn from the past and make sure to consult all of the stakeholders affected by this bill?

Public Safety February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Quebec is concerned about certain aspects of Bill C-51. The Quebec justice minister is wondering whether Bill C-51 respects the rights and freedoms set out in our charter.

That remark should remind the Conservative government that it cannot strike out on its own on this issue and that Bill C-51 must be examined from every angle.

Will the Conservatives listen to the plea of the Government of Quebec for once?

Respect for Communities Act February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will not repeat everything my colleague from Winnipeg North said, but I fully agree with what he just mentioned.

When it comes to supervised injection sites, it is extremely important to hold consultations and there were plenty in the case of InSite. A lot of follow-up goes on to check in with the community to see if it agrees with what is happening. A number of studies were done in this case. Among other things, I can say that roughly 80% of the people asked, living or working in downtown Vancouver, support the InSite supervised injection site.

This brings me to the many consultations that were held in Montreal with a number of health groups, law enforcement representatives, community members, citizens and elected officials. Everyone agreed that Montreal should have a supervised injection site like the one in Vancouver. Consultations were held.

Let us not create obstacles and let us certainly not give a minister discretionary power over this type of supervised injection site.

Respect for Communities Act February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I find it sad that members on the other side of the House do not truly understand what a complex issue drug addiction is.

We do not support anyone engaging in illegal activities. However, I do not think that the best solution is to put on blinders, believe that the problem does not exist and shut down supervised injection sites, which help drug addicts recover. All this does is hide the problem and undermine the existing solutions that have proven their worth.

I would like to share some facts about InSite with my colleague on the other side of the House.

A 2006 study conducted by Tyndall et al. revealed that over the course of a year, 2,171 InSite users had been referred to drug addiction counselling services or other support services.

Here is how InSite works: the supervised injection site is located on the first floor, while on the second floor, a whole range of people work to help these drug addicts overcome their addiction. Furthermore, in committee we heard some clear examples of people who managed to overcome their addiction with the help of those working at the InSite supervised injection site.

If the member reads the “blues” from the committee, he will even see that most of his Conservative colleagues were quite moved by this testimony and agreed with what the witnesses had to say on this topic.

Respect for Communities Act February 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to debate Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which was introduced by the Conservative government.

So much has been said about this bill on supervised injection sites. As a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I was quite surprised to see that the government chose to send this bill to that committee even though the better part of the bill is directly related to health. It should have gone directly to the Standing Committee on Health. It is sad. I suspect that this is for partisan and political reasons, so I felt I needed to speak up about it.

We did study the bill, but not in quite as much detail as we would have liked. I will say more about that in my speech. After the speedy study that the Conservative majority forced the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to do, we have no choice but to oppose Bill C-2 as written.

That being said, I would like to congratulate my colleague fromVancouver East for her excellent work on Bill C-2 and supervised injection sites in general. She represents the riding that is home to InSite, the supervised injection site that people often refer to in connection with this bill and that has the support of the majority of the community. I will say more about that later.

For the people watching at home right now, I will explain what Bill C-2 is all about. The bill, in fact, is a thinly veiled attempt by the Conservative majority to stop safe injection sites from operating, simply for partisan, political reasons. It runs directly counter to a ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding these sites.

We know that the Conservatives do not necessarily worry too much about abiding by Supreme Court decisions, but I consider the court an essential body when it comes to these decisions. We should not go against decisions made by the highest court in the land.

Bill C-2 sets out a lengthy and arduous list of criteria that supervised injection sites would need to meet before the minister would grant them an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The exemption already exists, but the bill makes the list of criteria extremely complicated. In addition, the bill puts discretionary powers directly into the hands of the minister. This is unacceptable when it comes to an issue as important as supervised injection sites and drug addiction in general.

The minister could therefore prevent a supervised injection site from opening its doors, even if all the criteria are met. This is just another arbitrary, partisan decision. We must not take this matter lightly and turn it into a partisan issue. That is what the Conservatives are doing with Bill C-2. Under the new criteria, it will be even more difficult for organizations to open supervised injection sites in Canada. City officials and the public have been increasingly calling for these kinds of supervised injection sites.

I am saying that the Conservative Party is making this a partisan issue because it had a major fundraising campaign called "keep heroin out of our backyards”.This bill will make it virtually impossible to open supervised injection sites. Furthermore, several addiction and legal experts told the committee that this bill would have the complete opposite effect and that it could make drugs even more accessible in neighbourhoods.

Instead of basing policies on an ideology that has nothing to do with the real facts associated with this problem, the NDP believes that policies must be based on evidence rather than ideology. Furthermore, we believe that harm reduction programs, including in this case supervised injection sites, must be exempt based on proof of their ability to improve the health of a community and to save human lives, and not on ideology.

The Conservatives have been trying to close supervised injection sites for years. They do not hide this and everyone knows it. They have spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on court proceedings that have come to the same conclusion. InSite and similar supervised injection sites must be allowed to provide services in Canada.

As I mentioned, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of supervised injection sites like InSite, but the Conservatives have decided that they will not listen to reason and will continue to defend their personal ideology in a bid to raise more money for their next campaign. That is utterly disappointing in this type of debate.

We examined this bill in committee. I was a member of the committee, along with my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. We were also fortunate enough to have our wonderful colleague from Vancouver East help us examine this bill. Five committee meetings were held to study this massive bill. I want to point that out because over the past few days at meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, we have been having a lot of discussions about the importance of bringing in a large number of witnesses to talk about various bills.

We had two four-hour meetings to hear from witnesses and discuss Bill C-2, which addresses such an important issue. Only two meetings were scheduled to hear from witnesses. That is not very many since a much larger number of meetings have been held to hear from witnesses on other bills. In this case, the Conservatives told us that they thought two meetings were enough to examine Bill C-2, even though we were against the idea of hearing from so few witnesses.

I can give my colleagues opposite an example. When they were not in government, a study was conducted of the same-sex marriage bill. A total of 32 meetings were held. Hearings on this important bill were held across the country. According to the Conservatives at the time, 32 meetings were not enough, so I hope they will not tell me that they really think that two meetings to hear from witnesses were enough to examine such an important bill.

It is often difficult to explain exactly how committees work. It can seem relatively complex if a person does not attend committee meetings regularly. I completely understand that. The fact is that the Conservatives limited debate on every part of the study of this bill in committee. For example, we were given a maximum amount of time to examine the bill clause by clause, propose amendments and discuss them. Once again, the Conservatives were trying to limit debate as much as possible in committee.

Sixty-two amendments were proposed by all the opposition parties. The official opposition, the NDP, and the Liberals proposed more than 20 each, while the Green Party proposed a dozen or so amendments. The Conservatives not only ignored the expert testimony, they also rejected the 62 amendments. That is sad. I will close my remarks on that. I would have liked to go into more detail. I hope my colleagues will ask questions about this.

Montreal is currently trying to open supervised injection sites. The city consulted the public, police services, communities and addiction experts in order to develop something like what Vancouver has right now. Everyone said that it was extremely important for Montreal to have a supervised injection site like InSite, to have our own, similar model to address the addiction problem. Unfortunately, Bill C-2 will delay the efforts of the Montreal community to achieve such a result. I find the Conservative approach with Bill C-2 regrettable, and that is why the official opposition will vote against the bill.

Public Safety February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the truth is that Bill C-51 does not contain anything that would give hope to the parents whose children are being radicalized. The Conservatives are more interested in scoring political points than they are in preventing radicalization.

A serious examination of Bill C-51 is absolutely necessary. We offered to sit evenings and weekends if necessary.

Why is the minister afraid of having his bill thoroughly reviewed? What does he have to hide?

Public Safety February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we are not the ones introducing a flawed bill; it is the Conservatives. I am wondering what they are trying to hide when it comes to this bill.

Six young people left Quebec last month to go to Syria. The authorities believe that they joined jihadist groups. Everyone here shares in the pain of the parents and of the father who did everything he could to stop the children from going. Canadian communities and families now feel as though they have been left to fend for themselves.

President Obama has a real plan to fight radicalization in the United States. Why are the Conservatives doing nothing to help parents who are concerned about the radicalization of their children?

Justice February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' lack of credibility can also be attributed to their doublespeak on the subject.

They say that they are concerned about Canadians' safety, but again yesterday, we learned that the law enforcement budget set out in the estimates was reduced by 25%. Moreover, $1.5 billion that was allocated to the RCMP was diverted for other purposes.

Rather than engaging in more rhetoric, why does the minister not invest where it counts when it comes time to keep Canadians safe?

Justice February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' haste clearly shows that Canadians have reason to be distrustful of them.

A real study involving multiple meetings and key witnesses is necessary to ensure that we do not pass a bad bill. The consequences are too serious here. The minister is not even capable of explaining his bill to the House.

Why then is he trying to prevent us from thoroughly reviewing it in committee? What does he have to hide?