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  • Her favourite word is parents.

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, 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.

Canada Labour Code February 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to explain to my colleagues why it is so important that we pass Bill C-464.

This legislation will have major implications for Canadian families. It will have a profound impact and affect the day-to-day lives of numerous Canadians.

Bill C-464 proposes changes to the Canadian Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act that would offer better coverage for parents blessed with multiples.

The birth of a child brings such joy, but it also comes with anxieties and hard work. As wonderful an event as childbirth is, it comes with a set of responsibilities that require a tremendous amount of time and energy from the parents. And those responsibilities increase tenfold when multiples are involved. Taking care of an infant is a tremendous job; taking care of two, three or even four infants is even more demanding.

Unfortunately, the current legislation makes no distinction between these two types of childbirth. Whether one child or multiple children are brought into this world, parents receive the same coverage and support. That is a major flaw that Bill C-464 addresses to bring justice to parents of multiples and to truly encourage parents to have children.

The current legislation works well enough for those who are expecting or adopting a single child. They receive employment insurance benefits for up to 35 weeks of leave. The amount varies, but it is up to 55% of regular salary, to a maximum of $501 per week. Generally speaking, this helps new parents take care of their child during the first weeks of life, but for those who have twins, for example, it is often insufficient, given that they have twice as many demands.

As anyone who has experienced a multiple birth knows, having twins presents twice as many challenges. Parents have two mouths to feed. They have to buy twice as many clothes and twice as much food. Sometimes they have to renovate their house or even move, not to mention the fact that two children require twice as much time from their parents. These details cannot be ignored. Psychologically and physically, multiple births also demand more of parents. They have to care for, feed and nurture two babies.

I think I speak for all parents in Canada when I say that it is a challenging experience. However, our current legislation does not recognize that. It treats parents who have one baby the same as those who have two or more. But that is definitely not the reality. This only makes sense: two children, twice as many needs.

I can think of a number of good reasons to provide concrete assistance to parents who have multiple births. It is important to note, for instance, that compared to 1991, the number of multiple births in Canada has risen by 50%. At present, over 3% of pregnancies in Canada are multiple pregnancies, and we can only expect the number of multiple births to increase in the years to come.

We have to help these people. These parents need to be able to look after their children properly. We will be providing concrete assistance to Canadian families who truly deserve it. As elected members representing Canadians, it is our duty to support these families and to encourage them to add to their family for the common well-being of our society.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but it simply makes sense because it will help our society in the long term. A society that looks after its children is a healthy society, and families with less debt contribute to Canada's economic development. That is why Bill C-464 increases the maximum number of weeks of parental benefits to 70 in the case of multiple births or adoptions. It is simple: 70 weeks divided by two gives each parent 35 weeks of benefits to stay at home and take care of their children together.

We would all agree that this is a much more appropriate period of time given the responsibilities associated with the arrival of two or more children at once.

Promoting gender equality is another important reason. We have come a long way in that regard in the past few decades, but we still have work to do. Giving the same rights to all parents, no matter how many children they welcome into their family, is a step in the right direction. I am also thinking of the fathers. We must not forget them. In a potentially difficult situation, they have to be given the same support as mothers. Making it possible for fathers to stay home with their families also helps mothers and the entire family to better cope with this challenge.

Bill C-464 does exactly that. It allows the father and the mother to take enough time to deal with the challenges of a multiple birth.

I know that I am speaking on behalf of parents who have experienced a multiple birth when I say that Bill C-464 will be of great assistance to them.

Multiple Births Canada is a Canadian organization that focuses solely on this issue. After studying the main provisions of the bill, the organization provided its unqualified support. The associations of parents of multiples in Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivières also back Bill C-464. Need I say that we have strong support from Vancouver to Halifax for this bill?

Naturally, as is the case with any public policy, there is a cost associated with passing Bill C-464. In these uncertain economic times, we absolutely have to ensure that we make good use of taxpayers' money. We all agree with that. That is why I am pleased to inform you that Bill C-464 is an affordable and very effective initiative. With a modest amount of money and some goodwill, we can improve the quality of life of many Canadians and, at the same time, improve the economic health of Canadian families in these difficult economic times.

It is important to remember that the bill proposes changes to employment insurance. Taxpayers as a group will not have to foot the bill for this; workers will pay for it themselves. I sincerely believe that this is a fair, feasible and cost-effective measure. The public as a whole will not bear the burden of this new policy. It will be placed on those who will benefit from it. This is an honest and low-cost way for us to offer better coverage to parents.

What kind of money are we talking about? Experts have estimated that this change to employment insurance would cost approximately $27 million a year. As my colleagues are aware, Canadian workers already pay into employment insurance. They are entitled to these benefits. We must remember that this is not just an expense; it is an investment in the health of our families and in lowering household debt, and it is a tangible incentive to increase Canada's already too-low birth rate.

Workers who adopt or give birth to two or more children are also entitled to support. They do not deserve inferior treatment simply because they had a multiple birth. They also pay into the employment insurance system every week. It only makes sense to be fair and practical and to offer Canadian families appropriate coverage that is suited to their needs.

I believe that it is our duty as a society to help those who choose to start or expand a family. I know that my hon. colleagues here in this House share this determination to improve the lives of our constituents. The current system works well for most new parents. However, as I have already explained, there is a glaring deficiency when it comes to multiple births, which have been on the rise over the past few years.

That is why Bill C-464 seeks to help young families who are facing this big responsibility. This bill is thoughtful and efficient and would provide financial assistance to families who are greatly in need of it. The household debt of families with more than one child is often too high. Bill C-464 responds directly to that need.

We are all well aware that the issues that Canadians care about most are the economy and the importance of family. I can assure hon. members that Bill C-464 very effectively addresses both of these concerns.

It is through helping families—the heart of Canadian society—that we will improve the lives of Canadians. By so doing, we will also help Canadians get out of debt: a family with less debt is a family that can more effectively participate in Canada's economic development.

We are also responding to Canadians' demands by promoting gender equality within families. Such gender equality also benefits all Canadians who just want to thrive within their families.

Another issue that is of concern to Canadians is the dramatic drop in our country's birth rate. No doubt, one reason for this drop is that families are in tight financial situations and cannot afford to have a lot of children. Once again, Bill C-464 responds to this concern because it encourages Canadian families to have more children and provides security in the case of multiple births. Encouraging families to have children is a very good thing to do in a country with a declining population.

Finally, Bill C-464 is being introduced in the House today in order to meet the needs of parents that are not taken into consideration by employment insurance, despite the fact that, in the case of multiple births or adoptions, parents need twice as much help. This is a fair, sustainable and pragmatic bill.

For all of these reasons, I am quite convinced that passing this bill would be very helpful to thousands of Canadians.

I ask my colleagues to set side all political gamesmanship and work together to develop and improve our society as well as our economy. This is how we will move forward. Let us take advantage of this historic opportunity and deliver a clear statement that Canada is a country that is concerned about the welfare of families from coast to coast to coast.

Once this legislation has been passed, we will be able to look back with pride at what we have accomplished. Future generations will be grateful.

St. Lawrence Shoreline Erosion February 1st, 2013

Mr. Speaker, many of my constituents come to see me about erosion problems affecting their property along the St. Lawrence River. Even though each case is unique, they all have one thing in common: government inaction and indifference.

In the 1960s, the federal government built stone and concrete walls to protect land from wave action. Such walls were built in Verchères, in my riding. For many years, the government maintained these walls to ensure that they remained in good condition. A few years ago, the government stopped doing that maintenance, leaving people to grapple with the problem on their own.

The government ignored the pleas of riverside residents, deciding instead that fighting erosion was no longer a priority.

The longer the government waits, the more this costs people and the greater the impact of erosion. The Conservative government washed its hands of this problem and is now trying to download it onto Quebec. The government has lost all credibility.

Erosion is the federal government's responsibility. The federal government built the walls, and it is responsible for taking care of them.

Abortion January 30th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, 25 years ago this week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that restricting abortion is an unconstitutional attack on women's rights, freedoms and security.

We in the NDP are proud to unequivocally support women's right to choose freely. The same cannot be said of the members across the floor. Since they came to power in 2006, the Conservatives have attempted on six separate occasions to reverse that Supreme Court decision.

Why so many underhanded attacks? Why do the Conservatives want to prevent women from having control over their own bodies?

The Prime Minister promised not to reopen the abortion debate, but clearly, once again, it is up to the NDP to stand up for women's right to choose.

The Conservatives continue to stubbornly defend regressive ideas that have been rejected by Canadians. It is not up to the church or the state to decide, and it is certainly not up to the Conservatives. Terminating a pregnancy is for the individual woman to decide, period.