Mr. Speaker, today is December 6, and I want to join my colleagues in taking a few moments to think about the victims of the École Polytechnique massacre and their loved ones. I was 12 years old at the time, and I, fortunately or unfortunately, have an excellent memory, especially when my emotions are involved. I clearly remember, at 12 years old, the feelings of stress, distress and disbelief when I learned that women could be murdered simply because they were women. I thought that was something rare, out of the ordinary, but I now realize that it unfortunately happens far too often.
I have been asking questions in the House since the beginning of this Parliament, but since today I am making my first speech, I want to take the time to thank the people of Beauport—Limoilou for electing me and allowing me to continue serving and representing them. I also want to thank my volunteers, who whose support was invaluable during this campaign, my second. When I say their support was invaluable, I think back to my first campaign and how there were just two of us. I thank my volunteers from the bottom of my heart because they did so much, even showing up during a heat wave. That is amazing.
Lastly, I want to say hello to the loves of my life: Pierre, Zoé, Louis, Benoît and Simon. They are extraordinary, and without them my life would be empty. I love them very much.
I could speak at length about the support I received during the campaign and how grateful I am to each and every person, from 18 to 77, who donated their precious time. Now, just as they helped me, it is my turn to help improve the lives of others by adding my thoughts about Bill C-3, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code.
I have to admit that when I read the bill's preamble and eight clauses, I initially wondered how this bill could actually help people. Here is the brief analysis I did as I read the bill.
The first clause adds a definition of intimidation in health services to the definitions of offence. In short, it indicates that intimidation in a health services setting constitutes an offence. This is just one addition to the long list of what is considered to be an offence. This could certainly be simplified by indicating that any form of intimidation, regardless of a person's status or job, is an offence. However, I recognize that this was an election promise. Accordingly, stipulating that the intimidation becomes an offence based on who specifically is being targeted makes the government look good, given the current situation.
The second clause of the bill inserts a new provision into the Criminal Code, subsection 423(2). It specifies that intimidation is an offence when committed against a person seeking health services—a patient—a health professional, or any person working to assist a health professional. This includes orderlies, administrative assistants, custodians, and so forth.
In short, it would be an offence to intimidate anyone in order to prevent them from receiving or providing health services. In my opinion, this clause makes sense, not only with respect to vaccination, but also with respect to other terrible situations that patients and health care personnel could experience.
Take, for example, women who go to a family planning clinic and are confronted by people who are angrily screaming and shouting. Think of those people and the clinic's staff, whose workplace is vandalized or who have their car tires slashed. All of these acts are unacceptable and lack the minimum civility, respect, or dignity, in addition to negatively affecting the physical and psychological health of the victims being targeted.
The new section 423.2, in the second and third subsections, makes it an offence to obstruct access to a place at which health services are provided, and a maximum sentence of 10 years can now be imposed on a person guilty of this offence. Here, I wondered about this: What about workers striking outside of their workplace? Will their right to strike be respected, or will it be considered a form of intimidation?
The question bears asking, especially since Bill C-3 specifies that a person cannot be found guilty if they go to the location of a demonstration for the purpose only of communicating or obtaining information. This might include a journalist, for instance. If a person who is going to communicate or obtain information is specifically exempted from being found guilty of an offence, why is it not specified that a person exercising their right to strike cannot be found guilty of an offence either? After all, a strike is a form of demonstration in front of a place where health services are provided.
The third clause adds a definition to part XV of the Criminal Code on special procedures and powers, specifically forensic DNA analysis. This addition makes subsection 423.2 also fall under the definition of a secondary designated offence. All the bases are covered to ensure there is no way out for anyone using intimidation against health services. However, I wonder about the need for DNA analysis in the case of intimidation. The link is not clear.
The fourth clause amends subsection 515(4.1), which sets out the aggravating factors of a charge. It adds intimidating a health professional as an aggravating factor. That is good.
The fifth clause states that the offence was committed against a person who was providing health services, including personal care services, and had the effect of impeding another person from obtaining those services. That covers anyone who is directly or indirectly connected to a health service. I have nothing to add, but what does that mean exactly?
What it all means is that from now on, as Quebec has been doing for a few months now, demonstrations will not be allowed in the vicinity of places where health care services are provided, and intimidating a health professional will be prohibited, as will be intimidating a person who decides to receive health care, regardless of their age or the nature of the health care.
As I said earlier, I think this makes sense because intimidation is indecent, unacceptable, degrading and stressful, no matter the target, and is an act devoid of dignity and respect. I am repeating this because I think it is important to keep it in mind. Such acts should never be committed against anyone, regardless of their social or employment status.
That said, intimidation is already an offence under the Criminal Code. Why are these clarifications needed? I am still wondering about that. If intimidation is prohibited and is an aggravating circumstance, that applies to everyone. Are we not all equal before the law? Was it really necessary to draft a bill to clarify that intimidation in the health care sector is criminal? Everyone is equal before the law. Anyone who is the victim of intimidation, regardless of their age, social status or job, is the victim of a criminal act.
Bill C‑3 also amends the Canada Labour Code to eliminate part of subsection 206.6(1), specifically paragraph (a), which states that every employee is entitled to up to five days of sick leave per year for the purpose of treating illness or injury. That paragraph is being eliminated, because now it will be up to 10 days with a medical certificate. This will affect many employees across Canada. Here is my question. If this matter is under federal jurisdiction, could it affect negotiations with unions and workers? It is important to ensure that unions' right to strike and to negotiate their working conditions are not subject to this bill.
To sum up, the Bloc Québécois agrees with the principle of protecting federally regulated workers and health care workers. However, the committee will have to amend the bill for clarity to ensure respect for workers' other rights, such as the right to protest and the right to negotiate collective agreements in good faith.