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  • His favourite word is community.

NDP MP for Jeanne-Le Ber (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 44.70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, it is not a question that I, at this point, feel I can answer. I would offer, though, that we need to be careful in blurring the lines between political debate and cultural debate. Anti-Semitism is, in and of itself, an anti-cultural aspect, and the debate over what Israel does or does not do is a political debate.

I would say that, to begin with, we need to make sure that we do not blur the lines that distinguish between political discourse and cultural or anti-cultural discourse.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, we as leaders need to make sure that we set the example through our own actions. In the case of universities and institutions of higher learning, those institutions exist to debate, to challenge, and to learn. Therefore, we have to be careful not to create a situation where we stifle debate. The strongest test for democracy and the strength democracy has is allowing for that debate.

We do have laws in place, as my colleague, the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, said earlier, to remedy hate speech. If those laws are broken, those people should be charged to the fullest extent of the law. However, if we inhibit what we are actually fighting for, then we do ourselves a disservice. It is up to the universities to make sure that healthy debate is maintained, and if hate laws are broken, those individuals should be charged to the fullest extent of the law.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, there is an old saying that history is written by the victors. Because of that, a lot of history about the contributions of different peoples tends to be left out of our school curriculums. This is one way in which we need to change the curriculum to recognize the contribution not only in the context of what happened to the Jewish people, but also the contributions of the Jewish people and all other people.

I would also submit that it needs to be done at home too. I do not have children, but over the years I have had many discussions with my niece and nephew. My nephew is now 25 years old and my niece is 16 years old. We talk about race relations, including the history of the Jewish people.

I have had the great pleasure of spending Seders with my dearest friend and family, the friend I grew up with and went to high school with, thereby getting the education I needed. I shared that with my niece and nephew. It starts that small. It starts with our families, our children, and if we can get the school boards and so forth to change curricula so that they are inclusive in their teachings, as opposed to simply treating oppressed peoples in terms of, this happened to them and they are the victims, I think that will begin to change the minds of children to look at Jews and others as people who are part of our society, as opposed to seeing the issue as something that happened or as things that were done to them.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to add my voice, as raw as it is right now, to this debate, because it is an important one.

It is an important debate on many levels. Today we are living in tumultuous times. If we look back on history, whenever we live in tumultuous times certain things are guaranteed to happen. When we are going through bad economic times, it seems, historically, that the finger gets pointed at immigrants, that “the immigrants are here; they are stealing our jobs; they are taking away our opportunities.” When we live in tumultuous political times, it seems, historically, we see a rise in anti-Semitism.

A couple of statements were made, one by my hon. colleague from Mount Royal and one by my colleague on the subcommittee for human rights, that the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism itself can be considered a canary in the coal mine in many ways.

When we see a rise in anti-Semitism, we also see a rise in other forms of hatred. Anti-Semitism is hatred, nothing more, nothing less. It is hatred. It is hatred that is geared to and pointed at a particular group of people for a particular reason that is manufactured by another particular group for their own particular reasons.

We very much need to understand that process. Our understanding of that process needs to go back further. I will submit this to my colleagues that it needs to go back further than the Holocaust. The Holocaust happened for a reason, and that reason goes back centuries.

The Holocaust happened because of a longstanding hatred of the Jewish people. It was not something that just came out of an insane man's mind. It is something that has been manifested over centuries upon centuries, as all hatred is.

It is something that has been state-sanctioned. If we were celebrating the work of the Stratford Festival, we can look back at Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. I believe it was written in 1623. That was a commentary. It is viewed by many as an anti-Semitic play. I submit that it is actually a commentary on the hypocrisy of European life back in the 1600s, and even prior to that.

We can look at the ancient rite of Passover practised by our Jewish brothers and sisters, which is so important to Jewish culture. It is a remembrance of the wrongs that have been done to Jewish people. It is a remembrance of the deliverance out of Egypt. It is a remembrance of the Holocaust. It is a remembrance of all the significant acts of anti-Semitism that have been practised throughout history.

We have been discussing and agree entirely about the importance of recognizing the evil of anti-Semitism, but we would be remiss if we did not take every opportunity that we have to learn about where this kind of hatred comes from and what we can do to abate it.

Hatred is a learned process, which to me implies that it can be unlearned. The education that we need to pass on to our children is: what does it mean to be Jewish and why is it different from who we are? It is the understanding that this difference is not a threat to who we are, which is the basis of all hatred. It is the basis of the hatred towards my ancestors that we still endure today. We still find ourselves in positions where we have to stand up and fight.

The saying “Lest we forget” is very important, and why debates like this are so important. We have to remind ourselves of what we are capable of.

My colleague who spoke previously talked about his surprise as to what we as human beings can do to each other. Unfortunately, I grew up in a world that was not surprised at what we can do to each other. However, that helped me understand what my job and work was in moving forward. I continue this with the youth in my community by speaking to them and encouraging them to stand tall and stand strong.

Education is key to delivering ourselves from the hatred that is anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, and all forms of hatred of another people for a particular reason. It is up to us as leaders to make sure that we practice that education. We must take the time to learn and not hide behind dogma and rhetoric. We must take the time to learn where this comes from so that we can make sure that it does not happen again.

I thank each and every person who has contributed to this discussion this evening for thoughts and contributions. As late as the evening is, it is also heartening to see that we agree that our voices have to be unified to fight both the rise of anti-Semitism and what the rise of anti-Semitism brings in terms of other horrific acts of racial and religious intolerance that are happening around the world.

My colleagues and I hear these stories on a regular basis in the human rights subcommittee. It is disheartening at times. However, it is up to us as leaders, as people, to make sure that we do not let these voices fall silent, that we do not forget what we have done, what we are capable of doing, and also to remember what we are capable of doing in bringing an end to this type of behaviour, such as what happened where I used to live in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. It is up to us to make sure that we do not let these acts go unanswered, and that we do not let the history of these acts be forgotten.

Stratford Festival February 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to this motion. I congratulate the member for Perth—Wellington for bringing it forward.

This is a particularly warm motion for me, having spent two seasons as a company member of the Stratford Festival in 1992 and 1993.

On a trivia note, the current artistic director is Antoni Cimolino, and my first production was in Romeo and Juliet, in which Antoni Cimolino played Romeo with Megan Follows as Juliet, back in the day.

I wholly support the motion, and the intrinsic value of institutions such as the Stratford Festival is something that I will be focusing my remarks on.

The Stratford Festival, as we have heard, has a very long and storied history, starting off with $125 from a Stratford citizen, Tom Patterson. It turned into a $56 million-a-year budget through hard work, dedication, and vision.

This massive endeavour, which now supports four stages in Stratford, started off in a tent. This massive endeavour, which started off as an idea of one man and brought in the likes of Sir Tyrone Guthrie and Sir Alec Guinness to launch this dream, has now turned into an enterprise that brings in over $139 million worth of economic activity to the Stratford region. This is where we need to understand the intrinsic value of arts and culture and of the Stratford Festival.

As I mentioned, the budget is some $56 million a year, but only 2.3% of that budget is funded through government grants. The project grants afforded to Stratford upon occasion are just 2.3% of its core funding, so it generates an incredible amount of money beyond its government support.

This is not to say that it should get more money. However, it is to say that the value that the government gets in return for every dollar spent on arts and culture is massive. It is not one to one, or one to five, but rather one to ten.

A 2007 Conference Board report showed that arts and culture is responsible for $85 billion worth of economic activity in this country. In that time, I think the total arts funding was around $8 billion.

Stratford grew from a $125 venture to a $139 million revenue-generating entity. To take that a little further, the value of the work that Stratford does goes far beyond just the simple dollar value. Each year, close to 200 actors are hired by the Stratford Festival. There are close to 100 creative teams, 250 artisans, 80 stage crew, 200 front-of-house personnel, and 170 administrative and fundraising personnel.

There are more than 2,500 jobs created around the Stratford Festival every single season, and this has been going on since 1953, albeit smaller numbers in the beginning, but it has grown to this.

Over and above, there is the massive talent that has been generated by the Stratford Festival, including Canadian icons such as Len Cariou, Brent Carver, Megan Follows, or our well-loved William Shatner, our adored Christopher Plummer, Douglas Campbell, Colm Feore, Eric McCormack, and the list goes on and on. We have had international luminaries such as Peter Ustinov. We have had John Colicos, Hume Cronyn, Uta Hagen, James Mason, Brian Bedford, Nicholas Pennell, some of whom I have managed and had the pleasure of working with. This is the calibre of the performers who have graced the Stratford stages over the years.

One of the things I find quite wonderful is the pay it forward position that Stratford has taken in the arts community and on a social level as well, in the forming of the Birmingham Conservatory, where young Canadian actors can take their skills to the next level through working on the stage as well as working with renowned performers as teachers. The festival gets some $300,000 through Canadian Heritage for this practice.

That pay it forward position is something that is really important to the longevity of arts and culture in our country. It is one thing to create work that tourists and audience members will remember. It is another thing to take that energy and pay it forward to the next generation of actors, directors, and playwrights.

Stratford has been responsible for the development and/or the premiers of many plays, including Harlem Duet by Djanet Sears; The Swanne, a massive trilogy by Peter Hinton, the former artistic director of the National Arts Centre; and Fair Liberty’s Call by Sharon Pollock.

It is important that we and the government understand the value of arts and culture, because every dollar we pull away from arts and culture is $10 we are taking out of the economy. Every dollar we invest in arts and culture brings to the value of the work that is being done a social consciousness, our identity, and a strength of self that is purely Canadian.

The Stratford Festival has done this for some 62 years. I congratulate the artistic directors, past and present. I congratulate all those who work at the Stratford Festival and all those who helped build the Stratford Festival. Also, I congratulate my colleague from across the way for his initiative in bringing the motion forward.

Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, just to refresh my learned colleague's memory, this debate is about closure and time allotment. It is not about the bill. Unfortunately, this moment right now is about limiting, yet again, discussion of a bill.

We are voted into this place in order to represent the thoughts and feelings of our constituents, to hear from them and bring their concerns to this place. Unfortunately, each time that the government limits time, we are less able to bring their voices forward.

A colleague across the way said that Canadians understand this. They do not. People are calling my office and telling me they do not know what this is about and asking what it means for them.

Why is the government yet again shutting down the opportunity for Canadians to learn and understand how this legislation would affect their day-to-day lives?

Petitions February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the second petition seeks a guarantee for small farmers to have the right to save, reuse, select, exchange, and sell seeds, which is presently a custom and tradition. This is particularly concerning to urban consumers who want to buy organic food and know the sources of their food.

Petitions February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present.

The first petition has been signed by many Canadians who are calling for citizenship legislation that is fair to everyone. This petition expresses people's concerns regarding Bill C-24.

Committees of the House February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Toronto—Danforth is absolutely right. The focus tends to be on male-versus-female violence. It is not that there is a rise in non-gender-specific sexual violence, but we are hearing more about it now because of technology and the way information gets out. I do not think the report intends to say it is only a men-versus-women situation, but, yes, this is hugely problematic right across the board. I would like to think that we could approach it from a vulnerability viewpoint, so that vulnerable people, be they from the LGBT community or young boys, girls, women, and men who are threatened, can find refuge in times of conflict.

Committees of the House February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I wholeheartedly agree that education is paramount in situations like this, as it is in all situations. The only problem I see is that in countries where these acts happen, they happen because there is a sense of impunity because the judicial system does not support victims and the military and police do not support victims.

In terms of getting that education to the people who need it, the wall of impunity that has to be broken down is problematic. As my colleague said, it is a multi-pronged issue. Yes, education is important and needs to get there, but the problem is getting through the wall of impunity and the wall of resistance that allows these acts to happen. Canada can be a strong and very potent leader in moving this issue forward.