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  • Her favourite word is children.

Independent MP for Verchères—Les Patriotes (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 43.30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Respect for Communities Act November 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comment.

What I can say, in conclusion, is that the government is still using the same old strategies to cut back services to citizens. It is not concerned with health or with public safety. These are important issues. When dealing with these issues, we have to put partisanship aside and make sure our citizens, Canadians, have a safe place to live.

Respect for Communities Act November 18th, 2013

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

Yes, for the last little while, the members on the other side have been saying that the NDP wants to encourage people to take drugs. In fact, the only thing we want to do is keep people affected by this problem safer.

People who use drugs have a problem. We have to help them; we have to be proactive and set up agencies that will help them and allow them to use drugs safely, precisely in order to stop the spread of diseases transmitted by dirty needles. I am absolutely certain that the people in my riding would rather have a facility like InSite than see dirty needles when they are taking a walk in the park.

Respect for Communities Act November 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, there are numerous associations that I could name. For example, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association both criticized the fact that the government introduced this bill. They believe, as do we, that these types of organizations should be encouraged.

Pivot Legal Society, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition issued this statement on the bill:

The bill is an irresponsible initiative that ignores both the extensive evidence that such health services are needed and effective, and the human rights of Canadians with addictions.... It is unethical, unconstitutional and damaging to both public health and the public purse to block access to supervised consumption services.

I will provide some numbers that demonstrate how effective these sites are, just as my colleague asked. With regard to public safety, 80% of people questioned who work in Vancouver or who live in that part of Vancouver support InSite. They have come to realize that it is very effective.

I can also say that the rate of overdose-related deaths in east Vancouver has dropped by 35% since InSite opened. That is not an insignificant number. In addition, during a year-long study, there were 273 injections at InSite and none of them were lethal, thanks to the on-site nurses and doctors.

Respect for Communities Act November 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to set the record straight. Are the Conservatives aware that, in September 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of InSite? The court noted the effectiveness of the site and the very need for it in Vancouver's east side. I do not understand why we are still debating a law that will ensure that these kinds of organizations will not be able to exist in Canada.

Let us put this in context. We should begin by talking about what is happening in that Vancouver neighbourhood—and many other Canadian cities, I might add—and then try to understand why a place such as InSite is critical to the safety of the neighbourhood and why it is beneficial.

Vancouver's downtown east side is home to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our country. There are nearly 4,600 intravenous drug users there, which represents approximately half of the entire city's intravenous drug users. That is significant. That proportion is not at all reflective of the actual size of the neighbourhood, which is very small and has few houses. There are various factors that contribute to the high concentration of drug users in that area of the city. We could talk about the numerous rooming houses, the deinstitutionalization of people with mental health issues, the effects of drug policies throughout the years and, of course, the availability of illicit drugs on the street.

Before InSite came about, the things you could see on the streets were mind-blowing: people sitting on the ground or sitting on steps, putting on a tourniquet and shooting up. That was a common occurrence in this neighbourhood. Drug addicts come from all kinds of backgrounds, but the one thing they have in common is that they all had difficult childhoods or experiences that led them to drugs. Anyone walking through that neighbourhood, including children, would come across dirty needles.

The researchers who came up with the idea of InSite thought long and hard about how to create a site that would address all of these problems. InSite was developed as part of a public health project by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and its community partners, in response to a twelve-fold increase in overdose-related deaths in Vancouver between 1987 and 1993. At the time, the Vancouver area was seeing huge increases in the rates of communicable diseases, such as hepatitis A, B and C, and HIV, among injection drug users.

InSite first received an exemption in 2003 for conducting activities for a medical and scientific purpose, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, so it could provide services and conduct research on the effectiveness of supervised injection sites. Section 56 of this act gives the minister the authority to approve facilities that use drugs for a medical and scientific purpose or for a law enforcement purpose. In 2007, the drug treatment centre OnSite was added to the facility.

In 2008, InSite's exemption under section 56 expired, and the Minister of Health rejected InSite's renewal request. This decision sparked a string of legal challenges leading to the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruling that InSite should be granted a new exemption. The federal government brought the matter to the B.C. Court of Appeal, which also ruled that InSite should remain open. Finally, in 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the minister's decision to close InSite violated the charter rights of its clients and was “arbitrary, undermining the very purposes of the CDSA, which include public health and safety”.

The court based its decision on section 7 of the charter, which states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”. The court stated:

The infringement at stake is serious; it threatens the health, indeed the lives, of the claimants and others like them. The grave consequences that might result from a lapse in the current constitutional exemption for Insite cannot be ignored. These claimants would be cast back into the application process they have tried and failed at, and made to await the Minister’s decision based on a reconsideration of the same facts.

The Supreme Court ruled that InSite and other supervised injection sites must be granted a section 56 exemption when the opening of such sites “will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety”. After this decision was handed down, public health authorities and agencies in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal began planning to open supervised injection sites.

Why are we here debating this issue when we clearly did not need to come back to it? We are doing so because once again the Conservatives decided to change a law so that it reflects their ideology. They came up with a deeply flawed bill that is based on an anti-drug ideology and false fears for public safety. This is another attempt to rally the Conservative base, as evidenced by their “Keep heroin out of our backyards” campaign that started mere hours after Bill C-2 was introduced in Parliament. This bill will make it almost impossible to open safe injection sites and will put heroin back in our neighbourhoods.

The NDP feels that decisions about programs that could benefit public safety should be based on fact and not ideology. Evidence has shown that supervised injection sites effectively reduce the risk of contracting and spreading blood-borne diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C, and reduce deaths from overdoses. Evidence has also shown that these sites do not negatively affect public safety and that, in certain cases, they promote it by reducing the injection of drugs in public, the violence associated with such behaviour, and drug-related waste. Safe injection sites make it possible to strike the appropriate balance between public health and public safety. They also connect people in urgent need of health care with the services they need, such as primary health care and drug treatment services.

This bill imposes a far too heavy burden on communities, which would have to prove what the benefits of such a site would be and could then still be denied an exemption. As the Supreme Court pointed out, this bill brings us back to the arbitrary decision made by the minister against InSite in 2008.

The NDP believes that any legislation introduced by the Conservative government must respect the Supreme Court ruling and strike a balance between health and public safety.

This bill flies in the face of the 2011 decision, which ordered the minister to consider granting exemptions for supervised injection sites in order to strike a balance between public health and public safety. That decision ordered the minister to examine all the evidence in light of the advantages of supervised injection sites, rather than coming up with a long list of principles on which to base decisions.

In closing, I would like to add that the NDP believes that any new legislation regarding supervised injection sites must respect the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling, which this bill does not do. We believe that harm reduction programs, including supervised injection sites, should be granted exemptions based on evidence that they will improve public health and save lives, not on ideology.

Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor April 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to trade, we have no idea where this government is headed.

In 2007, the Conservatives signed a memorandum of understanding with the governments of Quebec and Ontario to develop a strategy for the Ontario-Quebec continental gateway and trade corridor.

Six years later, we are still waiting for this great strategy.

The Prime Minister was to make an announcement about it on a number of occasions, but each time he put it off.

How much longer will we have to wait before we find out what the Conservatives really have in mind? When will they ratify the agreement.

People of Saint-Amable April 26th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Saint-Amable, a thriving municipality in my riding.

I would like to congratulate the people of Saint-Amable for their perseverance. In 2006, when a parasite decimated potato crops—which have long been the economic mainstay of the municipality—the people did not give up. They rolled up their sleeves and got innovative. Now they grow asparagus and hemp, and there is even a vineyard.

As well, the municipality decided to use the infestation as an opportunity to create a research centre at one of the affected sites, in partnership with the Marguerite d'Youville local development centre and the Université de Sherbrooke.

Another example of this community's perseverance is Ms. Lamarche's company, Béké-Bobo, which has been making teddy bears and other products for infants and children since 1999. These organic products are made in Quebec. I would like to say hello to her daughter, Camillie, who is in the hospital. Get well soon.

To conclude, I would like to take a moment to honour my mother, Khédija Bouchnak, who passed away nearly two months ago. We miss her dearly. She was dignified and upright, an exceptional woman. Everything I am today, I am because of her.

May her soul rest in peace through the infinite mercy of God.

[Member spoke in Arabic, as follows:]

Allah yar7mek ommi la3ziza.

Employment Insurance February 13th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the only study the minister has is the study on the quotas for cuts she is imposing on her department.

Workers looking for jobs will have to leave the local businesses in Verchères—Les Patriotes and clog up the road system going to jobs that pay 30% less in Montreal. Productivity will drop at local businesses as invaluable expertise leaves.

Why does the minister want to weaken local businesses?

Canada Labour Code February 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for asking that excellent question.

A multiple pregnancy generally results in some health problems and multiples, for example those born prematurely, may have serious health issues. A woman who gives birth to multiples may also experience serious postpartum health problems.

Therefore it is very important to allow the mother the time she needs to recover, with the help of the father who stays home to care for one or both babies in order to give her time to catch her breath, slowly get back on her feet and return to work later. Even her employer will benefit, because she will be healthier, both mentally and physically, when she returns to work.

Canada Labour Code February 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the bill that I have introduced would clearly meet the needs of Canadian parents of multiples, whether these are the result of multiple adoption or multiple birth.

We are prepared to study this issue in committee, and we would gladly welcome any amendments, if need be.

Canada Labour Code February 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, obviously studies have already been done on this subject. Of course, the figures vary from year to year, depending on the number of births.

Where is the money going to come from for this program? Parents already pay EI premiums. This bill is an attempt to mitigate an injustice in the present system. While all parents pay premiums, the fact is that a parent with a single baby is currently entitled to 35 weeks of benefits. A parent of multiples is also entitled to 35 weeks of benefits.

A parent who subsequently has a second child is entitled to an additional 35 weeks of benefits, for a total of 72 weeks of benefits, whereas the parent of multiples will have been entitled to only 35 weeks of benefits overall.

Of course it is up to the government to decide where it wants to invest its money. We know that we want to invest these dollars in the health of Canadian families.