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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament November 2009, as Bloc MP for Hochelaga (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Human Rights April 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for the Deputy Prime Minister, if this had been a question on an examination, she would have failed her exam.

May I remind the Deputy Prime Minister that the Minister of Justice promised to proceed with a thorough review of the Canadian Human Rights Act and that on several occasions during the election campaign, her government repeatedly made a commitment to recognize sexual orientation as grounds for discrimination. When will this government stop its double talk and ask the Minister of Justice to go ahead and introduce legislation that will guarantee an end to discrimination and recognize the rights of same-sex spouses?

Human Rights April 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister. A month ago, an adjudicator at the labour court in the Vancouver area handed down a ruling ordering Canada Post Corporation to guarantee the social benefits of the same-sex spouse of one of its employees. We heard that the Minister of Justice did not intend to appeal this ruling, which caused considerable consternation in the gay community and among all those with a concern for human rights.

I want to ask the Deputy Prime Minister what her government's plans are with respect to extending guarantees and recognition of the rights of same-sex spouses?

Income Tax Act April 15th, 1994

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. We were both in our seats when you asked if we wished to proceed with the debate. We answered by saying " débat '', because we do want to speak on this bill. I do not understand-

Defence Industries April 13th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in an important statement in the Quebec National Assembly, Gérald Tremblay, Minister of Industry and Trade, asked the federal government to meet its commitment to support conversion of defence industries.

The federal Minister of Industry was reassuring about the future of Oerlikon in Saint-Jean and referred to an apparently well-filled order book.

However, it is not clear whether the company will be able to maintain its operations in Quebec. If the Minister of Industry were to act in a manner consistent with the commitments of his own party to defence conversion, he would examine the company's plan for diversifying toward environmental technologies, which would guarantee its long-term survival.

Yesterday, the Quebec Minister of Industry and Trade said he was prepared to consider such a proposal, provided the federal government agreed to participate. What is the minister waiting for?

Product Packaging April 12th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, last March 18, I asked the Minister of Justice what I felt was an extremely important question which was also very much in the news following the release of the annual report of the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Mr. Yalden. The question had to do with sexual orientation and more specifically with the recognition of same-sex couples.

At that time, there was a controversy and the issue made the news. Since 1979 Commissioner Yalden and his team have reminded us that it is a basis of discrimination and that, although various common law courts across the country have rendered decisions on the issue-and later we can go back to specific cases which set precedents-the Canadian Human Rights Act and, more fundamentally, even the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, do not specify that sexual orientation should be a prohibited ground of discrimination.

This creates a rather absurd situation in that no appropriate safeguards exists because the legislature has not, at least in any substantial way, updated the Canadian legislation since it was first passed in 1977. By contrast, most provinces, including Quebec which has always been a leader in that field, recognize in their charter that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination.

I was very surprised to see that the minister, who was said to be courteous as well as one of the more liberal members of Cabinet, pussyfoot around the issue and seemingly unable to give clear indications of his government's intention to make very specific changes to correct this injustice.

By rising in the House this evening, I hope to get some additional information and some genuine assurances that, as we are hearing from departmental circles, a bill will in fact be tabled in the fall, as many groups are demanding. The Human Rights Committee has heard representations on the subject from a number of witnesses and groups.

I see that you are signalling to me that my time is nearly up so I will conclude my remarks. It is important to remember that this kind of discrimination takes many forms. Consider, for example, one case that was before the courts involving a homosexual couple that had lived together for nearly 15 years. When the father of one of the partners died, the other was unable to get leave to attend his father-in-law's funeral. A major effort is needed in this area and I hope that we can count on the minister to act speedily and with an open mind to bring about the necessary changes.

Military Industries April 12th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, is the minister aware that because of his pussyfooting and in the absence of a short-term strategy, high-tech industries such as Paramax and Oerlikon will soon have to resort to massive lay-offs? We do not feel like waiting. Action is needed right now. Why abandon all thought of putting in place civilian research and development programs to help the defence industries?

Military Industries April 12th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

During the campaign, the Liberal Party, in its red book, promised to assist military industries in their conversion to civilian production. Once in power, the government started by cancelling the helicopter contract and then reduced the Defence budget without introducing a defence conversion program. As we can witness today, this government's decisions have had a disastrous impact on companies such as Paramax and Oerlikon.

Is the Prime Minister ready to recognize how important it is to implement, as soon as possible, a defence conversion strategy, as he promised, in order to alleviate the impact of military budget cuts on employment?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994 April 12th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit surprised. First of all, I would like to invite you to visit the beautiful riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve with your wife and children. You know that the Olympic Stadium is in that riding, along with other tourist attractions which you will certainly enjoy.

On a more relevant point, I am quite surprised by the amendment proposed by our friends in the Reform Party. Surprised, because this does not seem consistent with what they were advocating in the past.

You cannot say that what is good for the goose in not good for the gander. If one has proposals, a strategy regarding public finances, as they claim to have, I say with due respect that one has to be consistent.

I would like to make two points. The first one is that they are trying, clumsily, to make us believe that there is a crisis, an imminent democratic peril. This rather unsavoury hotchpotch is unfocused. It is presented as if the fact that electoral boundaries will not be revised in the near future is going to deprive Canadians of their right to vote and vitiate the democratic process.

A short while ago, I found rather humorous the reference to fair representation. There was one occasion in the history of this country when fair representation was really threatened, and that was in 1840, at the time of the union of Upper and Lower Canada. One cannot say that by not supporting the amendment proposed by the Reform Party we put democracy in peril.

This is my first point and I find questionable, to say the least, this attempt to take us into a process which may involve the spending of public money. I admit that 40 or 50 years ago, when Canadian and Quebec society was evolving rapidly, readjustment of electoral boundaries had to be done without undue delay. Universal suffrage had to be fully established, since entire sectors of society were still disfranchised. It was also a time when rural life was making way for urban life.

I do not think that, at the present time, we are in a position to use this kind of argument. I think that we can live with a moratorium, provided that it is not forever-nobody wants the status quo to last forever-but we think that in view of our present financial situation and given the current political agenda, there are other priorities and urgent problems the Canadian government should deal with, before we undertake such an exercise.

I could mention some of these problems, as we have done previously. There is of course, among others, the question of unemployment. In terms of a democratic emergency, I am much more concerned about the 50,000 unemployed workers who might be excluded from UI in certain areas of Quebec because of the proposed reform. When it comes to democracy, I am much more concerned by this kind of legislation than by the redrawing of the electoral map.

Speaking of democratic emergency, and I discussed it with colleagues from the Reform Party, I think that the real emergency is to initiate an in-depth review of the subject matter of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which we on this side, together with other Canadian and Quebec groups, have been calling for. That is a real emergency.

If we as parliamentarians and opposition parties are truly concerned about democratic rights, I believe that it is legislation of this kind that we must bring to the attention of the Parliament as a priority.

On the other hand, as the member for Ahuntsic said-you could say he is my neighbour since, in Montreal, we are all more or less neighbours-we have every right to be concerned about the kind of boundaries the commission is proposing. Let us take, for example, the riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve which, if we went ahead with the present proposals, would be merged just like that with the town of Saint-Léonard, which is poles apart in social and economic terms.

I do not want to say anything bad about Saint-Léonard because I know that it is a town with many attractive features, a town where things worth mentioning happen. Nevertheless if, as lawmakers, we want to promote coherent environments, I believe that it would be somewhat incongruous to propose the merging of Saint-Léonard with the federal riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve which, as everybody knows, is a working-class area proud of its roots, and where 92 per cent of the population is French speaking. They are, as we know, two

different entities with their own social and economic make-up, and you do not need a Ph.D. in sociology to understand that you cannot ask two dissimilar entities to live in harmony.

If you are a member of Parliament and want to speak in public and represent people, you should at least do so with some consistency. That is real democracy. Real democracy means ensuring that the conditions of representation are such that the member can reflect the social and political interests of his constituents, not to engage in a process that would soon lead to some strange situations which my colleagues have not failed to point out. That is why I cannot understand the amendment proposed by the Reform Party.

We also find in other ridings some anomalies like those we could come up with if the revision process were rushed. Not only did they want to combine the city of Saint-Léonard with Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, but they wanted to take from us, to amputate, dare I say castrate, the Angus Shops, a recent residential development which is the middle class of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and helps us achieve some social balance. The people of the Angus Shops always felt that they belonged to Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and always co-operated in the social and community life of the riding. Redrawing the electoral map could cut them off from the riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

So I think that we must be careful when dealing with questions like that and certainly not create emergencies where they do not exist. I fully realize that it is useful to revise riding boundaries periodically. Yes, things evolve and people move, but I do not think that we should do so now, under the conditions presented to us.

We should ask whether we do not have better things to do as legislators. Could we not find something better to do with our time than to engage in a debate like that? You know how the Bloc Quebecois was able to identify, on the basis of Quebec's interests-I see some government members nodding; they agree with the excellent work of the Official Opposition and it is a pleasure to know that we could co-operate with them on things like that-the Bloc Quebecois was quick to identify some areas where we think the government must act and make proposals to us, areas which involve the vital democratic interests of Quebe-ckers and Canadians.

I was just talking about the eagerly awaited reform. Many groups in our society long for a reform, which is what Parliament is all about, since it involves the Canadian Human Rights Act. This law was passed in 1977 and has basically never been amended. It is urgent to do so for the sake of democracy. How is that urgency expressed? Just think of the whole issue of employment equity. We know that in his latest report, Commissioner Yalden, who is respected by Canadians as he has been a public servant since 1956, told us that we are far from the goals for employment equity set in the early 1980s. The same goes for recognition of same-sex couples.

All that is to say that we should keep things straight. We think that it is unhealthy to rush this process because we see no urgency for democracy, unlike our friends in the Reform Party. We think that when it comes to redrawing the electoral map, we should take the time to do things right because democracy and issues of representation are at stake. For these reasons, I cannot support the amendment.

The Information Highway March 23rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the information highway is unquestionably the technological issue of the day. Once completed, the information highway will bring together telephone, cable and computer technology with a view to providing a wide range of interactive services to consumers.

The information highway will alter consumer, work and education habits and impact on the private lives of Canadians and Quebecers.

Therefore, the Minister of Industry must commit publicly to holding public, open, transparent and accessible hearings on this subject, not consultations behind closed doors, as the committee is expected to hold.

As Ottawa prepares to put in place the administrative machinery to manage the information highway, protecting the privacy of Canadians and Quebecers must be one of the federal government's main concerns.

Income Tax Act March 22nd, 1994

Madam Speaker, I understand that you are giving me the floor regarding a question I asked the Deputy Prime Minister, on February 18, about the POWA Program.

I will remind the House that, on February 18, I asked the Deputy Prime Minister what her intentions were regarding the support program for workers affected by collective lay-offs. The POWA Program is a joint federal-provincial program 70 per cent of the cost of which is covered by Ottawa and the remaining 30 per cent is paid by the provinces. At that time, the Deputy Prime Minister was, unknowingly I believe, in the wrong when she said that this program was in some way connected with the Canada Labour Code, which is totally false, of course.

I rise today to point out that the POWA Program, which replaces the Workers Assistance Program created in 1988, discriminates against workers in the Montreal area. Everybody knows that, under the terms of this program, for workers to be eligible for benefits, which are half-way between unemployment insurance and social assistance, there must be a certain number of workers laid off. In the Montreal area, with a workforce of over 500 000 people, the administrative agreement says that at least 100 workers must be laid off for them to be eligible for benefits.

However, with its clothing and textile sectors, the industrial fabric of Montreal is such that most businesses that would apply for the POWA Program have a workforce of between 20 and 30 people. It is so true, so disturbing and alarming, that 83 per cent of all applications made by Montreal companies under the POWA program, the Program for Older Worker Adjustment

which is, let me remind you, a joint federal-provincial program, have been rejected.

This goes to show, Madam Speaker, that this is a very discriminatory program. I would like to remind the House that the members for Saint-Léonard and Saint-Henri-Westmount have tabled petitions on that subject. They decided to represent the workers so that the government, Tory in those days, would remedy the situation.

There is an enormous consensus in Montreal. The mayor, unions, employers, and naturally workers, all pray that a much-wanted and almost urgent modification be implemented very soon. At the end of my speech, the minister suggested I table a private member's bill. You all know how much I always make it my duty to please the Deputy Prime Minister so I am happy to announce that I will indeed be tabling a private member's bill. As concerns the respect for workers, the challenge is now to find out if the government majority will be consistent, will stand by the Bloc Quebecois, will support that bill and make sure it is votable so that we can put an end to that unacceptable discrimination as the various sectors of the Montreal community have requested.