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NDP MP for Verchères—Les Patriotes (Québec)
Won her last election, in 2011, with 43.30% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act December 6th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague for her speech. I would like her to talk about the reform of the grievance system.
The NDP proposed an amendment that stipulates that at least 60% of the members of the grievance board must not be former officers or members of the Canadian Forces. This amendment was adopted in March 2011 as part of Bill C-41, but it was not retained in Bill C-15.
Could my colleague tell us why it is so important to include this new amendment?
Status of Women December 6th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, the UN has said that reproductive choices are fundamental rights. Ideology should never take precedence over women's health.
Many were shocked to see the Minister for Status of Women vote in favour of reopening the abortion debate. We know that many women and men wrote to her to let her know that they did not want a rollback of women's rights.
Will the minister change her position and commit today to defending women's rights?
Canada Labour Code November 7th, 2012
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-464, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (parental leave for multiple births or adoptions).
Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce my bill concerning parental leave for multiple births or adoptions. As some of you already know, I am the proud mother of a little boy, and this has led me to research the challenges faced by Canadian parents. I discovered that parents of twins or triplets face even greater challenges, not just because their daily lives are more complicated, but also because the law puts them at a disadvantage.
Parents who have twins or triplets only have 35 weeks of parental leave, the same amount as parents who have one child. However, welcoming multiple children at a time into their lives is not the same as welcoming one.
My bill would help these families by providing them with more leave, up to 72 weeks. The sole purpose of this bill is to help Canadian families, and I am certain that my colleagues from the other parties will support my bill as they care about the physical, mental and financial health of their constituents.
I would like to thank Ms. Kimberley Weatherall, of Multiple Births Canada, an association that has been working for several years advocating for the rights of parents of twins and triplets, as well as Mr. Christian Martin, who is the proud father of twin girls and who appealed to the Federal Court to be eligible for the same parental leave as his wife. Ms. Weatherall and Mr. Martin have supported my efforts in this regard, and I would like to thank them for their assistance.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
The Environment October 26th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, the many lakes and rivers on the south shore are the pride of our region. Thousands of Quebeckers who go boating every year, or fish for the makings of an excellent meal, or who simply take in the peace and quiet while walking along the shore enjoy these waterways.
However, the minister has eliminated protection for many lakes and rivers afforded by the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Why is he not protecting our waterways?
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 October 26th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Brossard—La Prairie for his excellent speech and his excellent analysis.
In a true democracy, legislators take the time to study the bills they introduce, to discuss them and, most importantly, to listen to expert testimony. Once again, the time we have to study Bill C-45 has been cut short by the Conservatives. I would like to know what my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie thinks of the message the government is sending Canadians by invoking closure for the thirtieth time, at least, to prevent us from having a real debate.
Poverty October 18th, 2012
Mr. Speaker, yesterday was the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which was created to encourage poverty-fighting initiatives. This was the perfect opportunity to support the Dignity for All campaign for a poverty-free Canada. In my riding there are a number of organizations working every day to improve people's lives. There is the Table itinérance Rive-Sud, which works to help the homeless on the south shore, and the Maison de l'entraide, which supplies food vouchers to a number of economically disadvantaged families in Sainte-Julie. I must also mention the work done by the Knights of Columbus and the Daughters of Isabella, who are dedicated to raising money to help the poor. Lastly, there is the Centre d'action bénévole, whose primary mandate is to promote volunteerism.
Today, on behalf of all of my constituents in Verchères—Les Patriotes, I want to thank all those who are fighting poverty in our region. Together we can make a difference.
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act October 3rd, 2012
Mr. Speaker, this is a real disaster. The Conservatives advertised this bill by using very high-profile cases of notorious offenders, who are very few in number. These cases are very well known because of the broad media coverage they received. This raises some concerns for individuals and for the organizations that my colleague just spoke about. Unfortunately, this issue must be examined more closely before decisions can be made.
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act October 3rd, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. Giving such discretion to the minister is like giving him a blank cheque and asking him to decide the fate of these people. He can decide to deport them without giving them the fundamental right to appeal. I believe this is a violation of the rights of these residents, who, as was said, contribute to our economy and are members of our society. They have the right to appeal a decision that they could believe is arbitrary.
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act October 3rd, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his excellent question. I touched on this aspect without going into too much detail because of the short time I had. Once again, this is about the discretionary power that will be granted to the minister. There will no longer be any humanitarian considerations, which will be a serious problem.
As the hon. member said, in terms of criminal matters, legislation can vary from one country to another. Processing the cases of new residents without having the time to really go over them in depth will be very problematic.
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act October 3rd, 2012
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Jean.
The debate on Bill C-43, dealing with the removal of foreign criminals, is one I am particularly interested in. This is another step in the comprehensive reform of our immigration system that the Conservatives are doing their utmost to undertake. As the stakes are high and as the decisions made in this House will have major repercussions on many people's lives, it is essential to thoroughly study the changes proposed in this bill.
Ultimately, this bill proposes to do away with the control mechanisms that allow the immigration system to respond to exceptional circumstances in a flexible way. Powers are being taken out of the system and placed into the hands of the minister, who, more than ever before, will be able to decide unilaterally what is good and what is not good for individuals and for our country.
I have to say that this trend leaves me confused in a number of ways. My first concern is with the concept of serious criminality. At the moment, as we know, someone who is not a Canadian citizen can be sent back to his country of origin if he is convicted of a crime punishable by two years or more in prison. This is intended to keep Canadians safe, while leaving some room to manoeuvre for individuals making a simple mistake. There is a good balance between compassion and public safety, in my opinion. But Bill C-43 would reduce the prison term triggering deportation from Canada from two years to six months. This would considerably broaden the categories of crimes punishable by removal from our country, pure and simple. I believe that this major change requires more thorough study.
Which crimes would henceforth be considered serious enough to justify deportation? Are there not cases in which deportation would be out of proportion to the offence? I feel that we must think about this before we act, given the dramatic consequences of deportation.
I believe that the government is trying to show its muscle here as it has done with various other bills in the past. This is their no-nonsense, tough on crime approach. But have the consequences of that approach been seriously studied?
I would like to quote the president of the Canadian Somali Congress, Ahmed Hussen. In describing the potential consequences of Bill C-43, he said that a good number of the people who are likely to be captured by this new law are first-time offenders who, if given a chance, could reform and change their behaviour.
This means that if we lower the bar from two years to six months, we could end up disproportionately punishing people who, although they made a mistake—it happens—are capable of turning things around. Where is the compassion that helped our country become what it is today? I do not see that in this bill.
I must point out that the immigration minister promoted this bill by using examples of extremely dangerous offenders. Of course we all agree with the idea of preventing dangerous people from walking freely in our streets. I am just as concerned as the minister about the safety of my fellow Canadians. I recognize the need to have an effective justice system in order to deport serious criminals who are not citizens.
However, emotion must not win out over reason in such a complex debate. Blindly and indiscriminately lowering our threshold of tolerance without considering each individual's particular circumstances is not a good solution.
Now let us talk about the vast discretionary powers given to the minister. I cannot support the removal of the appeal process for certain people. Furthermore, I cannot agree with giving the minister unilateral power to prohibit a foreigner from becoming a temporary resident for a period of 36 months, if he feels that it is justified by public policy considerations. That power is much too vast and too vague.
In addition, there is a problem with Bill C-43 that the government does not seem to have thought about. We could end up deporting offenders who came to Canada at a very young age and who no longer have any ties to their country of origin. That has happened before. A young person who immigrates at the age of two with his parents has no memories of his country of origin. He considers himself to be Canadian. His friends are here, as are his social network and family. He has gone to school and worked in his community. When he makes a mistake and commits a crime, however, he does not have the same rights as a citizen and risks being deported.
It is not a fundamentally bad concept. We all understand that serious crimes must be punished severely. That is why the rule regarding a two-year prison sentence is justified. However, by reducing that time frame to six months, we run the risk of deporting people who commit relatively minor crimes to countries they do not know.
The problem I have with this bill is not so much its intention, but rather the means it uses. Protecting society from dangerous criminals is one thing; cracking down indiscriminately and imposing disproportionate punishments on anyone who makes a mistake, no matter how minor, is quite another thing. Does the government realize how difficult it might be for someone to be deported to a country they do not know? I urge the government to seriously consider this question. In short, I would like to say this: let us make the system tougher when it comes to removing criminals if need be, but let us not do so blindly.
Another aspect that really worries me is mental illness. The minister does not say very much about this aspect in his press conferences on the bill, but many convicted criminals have mental health problems.
His bill deprives judges of a great deal of their discretionary power to consider the circumstances in which a crime is committed. I do not think this is a good idea.
According to Michael Bossin, a lawyer who specializes in refugee rights and has extensive expertise in that regard, in many cases, people who have mental illness problems often commit crimes when they are not treated. That is a well-known fact. Many convicted criminals struggle with mental illness.
What do we want as a society? Personally, I think proper treatment should be provided to offenders whenever possible. Locking these people up or sending them to their country of origin only covers up the problem; it does not solve it. It means off-loading the problem onto someone else. That is not what I expect from a country like ours.
People struggling with mental illness must receive care, even if they have committed a crime. This is not being soft; it is being compassionate and wise.
Since Bill C-43 practically ignores this troubling aspect of criminal behaviour, we have a right to question the bill's real intentions.
This leads me to my last point. This reform does not seem to based on any true facts or hard evidence. The government seems to be taking the same approach it used to amend the Criminal Code. It is clamping down without any sense of the outcome.
Can the minister tell us what crimes will henceforth be punishable by deportation? Can he explain why a person with a mental illness would be better off in prison or in his country of origin than at a hospital? Has he calculated the cost of his reform?
The cost associated with Bill C-31, for example, is $34 million. How much will Bill C-43 cost? We do not know.
Nor do we know the current number of deportations that are the result of a conviction, or how many cases involving a deportation order for a serious criminal offence have come before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
Without such crucial data, how can we assess the potential repercussions of this reform?
I am convinced that it is possible to prevent non-citizens who commit a serious offence from abusing our appeal process without trampling on their rights. Like the vast majority of newcomers, I would like to have a government that is focused on improving the immigration system to make it faster and fairer.
On top of all the questionable changes that I have already mentioned, this government's modus operandi makes me wonder what its real intentions are.
The Minister of Immigration seems to be contemplating a two-tier system. Just look at the treatment Conrad Black received recently. Mr. Black committed a crime for which he served a sentence abroad, but when he wanted to return to Canada, the minister said he did not want to get involved and that the case should be left in the hands of the officials.
However, through Bill C-43, the minister is now asking for much more freedom of action. He also wants to have more discretionary power in order to intervene in cases involving the deportation and entry of criminals. We cannot always get everything we want in life. We cannot call for an independent system one day and ask for vast discretionary powers the next day.
What is good for Conrad Black has to be good for everyone else. If Mr. Black's file is reviewed by officials, then every file should be. In that sense, the proposed reform in Bill C-43 seems out of touch with reality. Does the minister want judges and officials to enforce the rules, or does he want to decide on everything himself?
This doublespeak does not seem very fair to me and makes me wonder about the minister's true intentions.
I am going to summarize my opinions about Bill C-43.
We all want to be tougher on non-citizens who commit serious crimes in Canada. However, like many experts, I am concerned about this Conservative bill that increases the minister's arbitrary powers. Judges will have fewer powers, and individuals who are mentally ill will be treated with indifference. The government is making these changes even though the vast majority of newcomers to Canada are law-abiding individuals who do not commit crimes.
I remember that, in 2006, the Conservative government promised to increase the number of police officers on the streets in our communities. But, for various reasons, the government did not keep its promise. I do not know if that was because the government lacked the will, because it was out of touch with reality or because it had misplaced priorities. What I do know is that the government cannot now make permanent residents pay the price for its inaction. Why not focus once and for all on protecting our communities, rather than on demonizing newcomers? Portraying them as future dangerous offenders, as the Minister of Immigration did in a news conference, is not helping. It looks as though he is trying to divert attention to a certain category of individuals rather than doing something useful.
For all these reasons, I think that Bill C-43 should be studied further in committee. A number of questions and concerns remain unanswered, and the only way to make the right decision is to think more about it.