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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was finance.

Last in Parliament September 2007, as Bloc MP for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 56% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Citizenship Act June 13th, 2006

I know that this is of very little interest to some Conservative members, but the bill is important to thousands of parents. That is what helps me keep my cool and say what I think about this fantastic bill.

There would have to be procedures, therefore, to ensure that as soon as the country of origin approves the adoption of a child who is already on Canadian soil, there is a quick arrangement to provide the child automatically with Canadian citizenship. This could be a form to fill out after the receipt of authorization from the country of origin or a Citizenship and Immigration Canada form with an annotation in the upper right-hand corner saying: “Adoption”. Citizenship and Immigration Canada could even be required to grant citizenship within a reasonable amount of time, for example a maximum of 30 days.

This would make it possible to take into account the specifications of the countries of origin of certain children who will not be in a position to take advantage of the bill.

If this is done, it would greatly facilitate the work of parents, which often goes on for two years between the time when their file is forwarded and the adoption order is issued. The result would be less red tape for parents who want to adopt from countries like those I mentioned: Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan too. I would have to check on Taiwan actually, but I am certain about Thailand and the Philippines. So their task would be simplified.

Apart from the bill, an amendment like that would be a kind of acknowledgement added to the federal tax credit for adoption expenses. The Bloc Québécois has introduced this measure on a number of occasions because we thought that these parents deserved some kind of support. These two signals would send adopting parents a clear message that when we talk about family, demography, and the future of Quebec and Canada, children who came from elsewhere to be adopted by parents here must be considered. This is the finest gesture that we could make because it is much more difficult to complete an international adoption than is generally assumed.

It is not just an administrative ordeal, but a deeply human ordeal, experienced by aspiring parents who are practically stripped of their privacy having to put so much on the table: their life, their feelings. Sometimes they undergo an all-out interrogation. And so it should be. A child should not be entrusted to just anyone. Children are precious; they are the most precious gems in the world.

However, this would give some recognition to these parents by virtue of being considered true parents and these children considered true Quebeckers and Canadians, who will enrich our society and be good citizens in the future. It starts here by taking those measures that we can. We do not have any authority over decisions taken by foreign countries. They have already been kind enough to trust us as adoptive parents; they have been kind enough to entrust one of their own to us so we could give these children a future and help them become citizens of Quebec and Canada.

I think that parents here should be recognized for what they are: true parents, not unlike birth parents, with children who must live here without any discrimination. When I say discrimination, this goes for parents as well. This bill, with the desired amendments, will truly address what we want.

The Bloc Québécois feels strongly about everything to do with family and demographic growth. Rest assured that we will work very hard for these amendments to be integrated into the bill. This time the bill must be passed quickly for parents like my wife and I who are in the middle of the adoption process anxiously waiting and hoping to know their baby boy one day.

Citizenship Act June 13th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, a while ago I listened to my Liberal colleague say that it was because of the election that we were not able to pass this bill. The Liberals were defeated and that was the explanation for it. I would remind her that they had 13 years to table such a bill, which was awaited by thousands and thousand of parents wishing to adopt.

It was not the Liberal Party of Canada’s priority to grant adopted children a status similar to that of those born here or born abroad but to parents who are Canadian citizens.

It is not a privilege. It is also linked to an international convention commonly called the Hague Convention. Under this convention, parents and children, regardless of their origins or whether the parents are biological or adoptive, must be treated equitably and similarly, without discrimination.

It is understandable that after nearly 30 years and five abortive attempts at passing such a bill, we are happy with this outcome, as are thousands of men and women across Quebec and Canada.

I am not an expert in international adoption. I am quite simply a father who has experience in international adoption. My wife and I are experiencing it still today. We adopted a little girl 19 months old eight years ago now. Today this little girl is 10 years old. We are in the process of adopting a little brother for her from Thailand—Bangkok, to be more specific. I know better than anyone, with my wife of course, all the worries, all the work, all the sweat it can take to prepare an adoption file and deliver it. And then there is the interminable wait and all the steps taken before, during and especially after.

I am in a good position to know that this bill, though it does not resolve all the problems and does not substantially reduce the administrative work, will nevertheless be a great help. It is being well received by thousands of parents who have already adopted or who are in the process of adopting, as is the case for my wife and myself.

There is no reason for having let this debate drag on for so long. There is no reason for not having adopted an accelerated procedure so that such a bill might see the light of day.

First and foremost, this bill is meant to remedy the unfair way that parents in Quebec and Canada are treated. If a child is born outside Canada to Canadian citizens, the child is automatically considered to be a Canadian citizen, even if he or she is born outside the country. On the other hand, a child who comes to Canada as a result of an international adoption is not entitled to the same treatment, even if the parents are citizens of Canada. To begin with, we will have fairer, non-discriminatory treatment that complies in all respects with the spirit and the letter of the Hague Convention.

There can be several months, and even years, of waiting between when the adoption process is begun and when it ends, culminating in citizenship for the adopted child. For parents waiting for a child, this seems like an eternity. They have to be sure that they have all the papers, and a complete file to send to the country of origin of the child who is about to be adopted. It takes months and months of work and of psychological assessments of the adoptive parents.

We often forget this aspect. If we made birth parents undergo all these psychological assessments and tests to evaluate their parenting skills—this is what happens especially for a child coming from somewhere else—I am quite sure that many might be disqualified.

The assessment is thorough: your childhood, your relationship with your parents, and so on. It is never-ending, and it is right that this should be so, because this is how it was intended.

Adoptive parents, or candidates for international adoption, must be able to prove that they will be good parents, that they will be able to include a child who has come from elsewhere in the world in their family, and rear that child, when often, in the case of some countries, they do not know the age or sex of the child.

For months, there are lots of requirements to be met, and there is also anxiety, because while we may all be parents and have good opinions of ourselves as potential parents, doubts will always arise. We have been through this, my wife and I. Thousands of adoptive parents or would-be parents go through it as well, year after year. It is a cause of great anxiety, before the evaluation report comes back to us and tells us, finally, after all of the assessments, that we are going to be good parents.

The Immigration Canada procedure also has to be followed; then there is the Youth Protection Branch, for Quebec; there are even procedures that have to be followed at Sûreté du Québec or RCMP offices to get certificates stating that you have no criminal record, for example; and there are administrative procedures with the registrar of civil status. In other words, there are months of work before a file is complete and can be sent to the country.

After that, when the file is complete and has been sent off, there is the waiting. For that interminable waiting period, day after day, there is anxiety, there is excitement, and there are plans. We try to imagine—and we are going through this right now, my wife and I—what the child will be like. We try to imagine ourselves with this child. Everyday, or almost, we have dreams, we build virtually an entire life plan for this child, whom we do not even know.

It is no different for mothers, for example, who are carrying a child, and for the fathers who, too, are waiting. It is exactly the same thing. It means waiting. It means hopes. It means building plans for a life. It even means having a very fertile imagination, so that you imagine, at some point, walking down a path in the woods, having this little one who is coming there between us, sometime in the next few months.

A lot of castles in the sky are built, but a lot of administrative stumbling blocks are also encountered. Even if the files are complete when they leave here, the authorities abroad sometimes ask for further verifications and more documents to be included in the file. Then the anxiety starts all over. Is it all right? Do the authorities consider this application to be completely legitimate? In the eyes of the foreign authorities—Thailand, in our case, my wife and I—are we considered to be good parents?

These months of waiting culminate in the trip to the country where the child so long awaited is currently living. Once we arrive there, it is not over. There remain interminable procedures and incredible red tape. For those not accustomed to working in administration, to shuffling papers, to going through these sorts of procedures—I am not talking about an MP or a lawyer—these are mountains to be crossed. Even for us, this red tape is something very arduous and very demanding, both psychologically and physically.

Once in the country of adoption, it is necessary to deal with the embassy and also with a local doctor. We still do not have the child. Three or four days may go by before we finally meet the child we have been waiting for, often for a year and a half, two years, in some cases two and a half years. Next, as if that were not enough, the country authorities often carry out their own evaluation.

The two adoptive parents are at a table with five or six local officials, whether social workers or university deans. They are asked questions for a period that can range from a half hour to three hours. They are bombarded with questions about their parenting skills, their family history, their connection to the child. If biological parents were asked to take such tests, there would be certain surprises, because this is very demanding and extremely complicated.

This continues after we come back with the child. Six to ten months may go by, even a year, before the adoptive parents become the parents of the child. In Quebec, to confirm an adoption decision, it is necessary to go through further administrative procedures with the youth protection branch, the international adoption secretariat and the Court of Quebec.

I am very happy to have this sort of bill. However I know for a fact, from having discussed this particular bill with my colleague from Vaudreuil—Soulanges who is the immigration critic, that a few amendments should be made to this bill. It is absolutely necessary that this bill be passed quickly to prevent it from meeting the same fate as the five other bills tabled over the last 30 years. There are some minor amendments to be made.

The rules might not apply in certain countries where people go to adopt children. For example, Thailand is a country where the rule of immediate citizenship might not apply. In the Philippines, this bill might not be enforced. Why? Because as long as the authorities of the country of origin—in this case the authorities of Thailand or the Philippines—have not authorized the adoption, something which can take six, seven or eight months, one cannot be the legal and legitimate parent of that child.

“Progress reports” are required, that is, one has to undergo other assessments from month to month. Thailand, for example, requires three progress reports. These reports mention such things as whether the child is integrating well and whether the parents have a good relationship with the child. Once again, the parents are waiting for six or eight months before the Thai authorities decide that the adoption can go ahead.

In the meantime, one has to apply for a placement order upon arriving in Quebec. That makes the parents the legal guardians of the child. As long as the Thai authority has not issued its consent and the assessment reports have not demonstrated that the people are good parents and the child is integrating well, immediate citizenship cannot be granted to the child born in Thailand or the Philippines. A few other countries operate the same way.

There should be a provision in the bill for those countries of origin where the authorities have to provide their approval—an approval that the Court of Quebec must await before it can issue its adoption order. This provision would ensure that when the authorities in the country of origin—

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 June 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is always a great pleasure to listen to my colleague talk about the budget, particularly since, as a Liberal by trade, he has only recently been thrown out of the other side of this House. He is now in opposition.

I recall that during the 13 years of Liberal rule, and particularly during the last 11 years, we in the Bloc Québécois were continuously putting the question of the common good and improving people’s lives back on the agenda. During that time, the Liberals were cutting transfers to the provinces, and not the least important transfers: health transfers, where there was a drastic cut starting in 1995; cuts in post-secondary education transfers, to such an extent that the education system everywhere in Canada has been undermined and we no longer know what to do to improve the level of infrastructure and the quality of education.

There were also cuts to social assistance for the most disadvantaged people and the tightening of the Employment Insurance Act. That meant that 60% of people who would ordinarily have been entitled to employment insurance were also thrown off, just as my colleague was thrown out of power a few months ago.

I wonder, if the common good was so important to him, how it is that when he was on the benches opposite and we were trying to persuade him that the government should take action in the public interest and for the common good, he did nothing? How can it be that this man, a colleague whom I do respect, did not stand up for the people, took part in, and even supported, measures that harmed the people, that raised the poverty rate and denied the unemployed the benefits they would ordinarily have been entitled to?

Equalization June 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, does the Minister of Finance realize that this formula goes against the principles of equalization which consist in measuring the overall provincial tax capacity—and not just part of—and therefore that by adding the amount of $653 million for Quebec this proposal only corrects one quarter of the problem, in the opinion of the Quebec Minister of Finance, Mr. Audet?

Equalization June 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has just received a second report on equalization reform recognizing that the status quo is unacceptable and calling for, as a first measure, changes to the formula. Although the report favours the use of the ten province standard and an adjustment to property tax, it suggests that only half of tax revenues from natural resources should be included.

Can the minister tell us if the government intends to implement the solutions put forward by this report?

Equalization May 30th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, since the 1970s, the federal government has invested $66 billion in the oil, coal and natural gas industry. Through their tax dollars, Quebeckers have paid 25% of that staggering amount, while they, and they alone, pay for the development of hydroelectricity in Quebec.

Will the government ever realize that, in order to correct the fiscal imbalance, it must review the sharing of all resources, including oil, gas and coal revenues?

Equalization May 30th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister announced that he was seriously considering excluding non-renewable natural resources such as oil, gas and coal from the equalization formula. This would translate into a net loss of $872 million a year for Quebec.

Does the government not realize that, with its policies on matters such as Kyoto, new day care spaces and equalization, far from correcting the fiscal imbalance, it will only add to it considerably?

National Patriots Day May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, next Monday we will celebrate National Patriots Day. On this day, we will remember the battles fought by men and women who risked their lives to stand up for ideals of justice, equality and freedom, and who bequeathed to us a fervent desire for emancipation.

The Patriots' battle continues to this day, but the circumstances have changed. Democracy has replaced bullets, and oppression has made way for the kind of majority rule that makes Quebeckers a minority in a country that does not belong to them and in which governance decisions are made by others.

We must recognize the thousands of activists who are keeping up the fight for freedom as they follow in the footsteps of the Patriots along the road that leads to Quebec sovereignty.

On May 22 in Saint-Hyacinthe, Bernard Landry, a great Patriot and long-time activist, will be honoured. We want him to know that he continues to be a source of inspiration and energy, and that we will work together to win the Patriots' battle and attain Quebec sovereignty.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 May 15th, 2006

: Mr. Speaker, I know that my colleague shares our analysis from a social point of view, particularly with respect to helping the most disadvantaged families. I have just stated our point of view: we would have preferred to see this $1,200 payment in a different form.

However, there are two things I would like to say. Last year, we voted against the $800 million in the NDP budget because with that bill, the NDP got conned as if they were schoolchildren. There was no firm commitment from the government. It even said that there had to be a $2 billion surplus at the end of the year, and it also said: unless the government had other priorities.

The New Democrats were conned. They were patting themselves on the back about Bill C-48, when they had achieved absolutely nothing.

Second, when a friend or a colleague makes a commitment and makes a firm promise to carry out the projects that are dearest to our hearts, do we come down on them when that firm commitment has been given? We wait to see whether the commitment is honoured. That is our fundamental reason. Perhaps there are those who behave differently in society, but we are civilized people.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 May 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

In fact, the refundable tax credit would have been preferable to a cash transfer. However, I disagree with his statement that families should have had to wait until the end of the year, when they prepare their tax return.

I will give a good example. The government can determine family income levels when the time comes—and even in advance—to provide tax credits, GST credits, for example. Those credits are paid quarterly. The same principle could be applied with the refundable tax credit.

I heard the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance say that the Bloc Québécois does not want Canadians to receive a cheque with a flag on it.

They are aware of it, they started the propaganda with the Canadian flag all over the place, and more than once. But that is not the point. There could have been a refundable tax credit, payable by cheque with a Canadian flag or two—if they want 10, they could put 10 on—or even on a whole flag, but quarterly like the tax credit for the GST. That would be no problem.

The benefit would have been twofold: the jurisdictions of the provinces and Quebec would have been respected and the amounts would have been totally tax free. This is not currently the case.

As I was saying, the families not paying for child care, in which one parent stays home—the folks the Conservatives are targeting—will the big losers. They will get $486 less a year if they have two dependent children under six and were getting the national child tax benefit. This is what is incongruous in the Conservative approach.