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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Bloc MP for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 54% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 November 21st, 2006

Baloney. You're lying. They've been consulted.

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 November 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would almost like my colleague from the New Democratic Party, who has just spoken, to take back his words. He said some inappropriate and false things.

Yes, the Bloc Québécois was pressured, but the pressure to support Bill C-24 did not come from the political environment. This pressure came from the business community, from the people who own sawmills and paper manufacturing plants. Besides these businesspeople, the unions unanimously asked the Bloc Québécois to support this agreement, which is not all that good, but which for them is a question of survival.

My question is as follows. What would the member opposite have done if the people from the steel sector in the Hamilton region, that is, the workers, union leaders and employers, had put pressure on him to support a bill that, in his opinion, was not right? What would he have decided in such a situation?

Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 November 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my friend and colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé on his excellent speech.

It is a rather sombre speech. If I understand correctly, my colleague is not very enthusiastic about this agreement. I would like my colleague to tell me more. Will this ill-advised, incomplete agreement help the industry? Does he anticipate further cuts, more job losses or price increases? What do the paper mill manufacturers think about the agreement? I would like to hear his comments.

Canada Elections Act November 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have been in this House since 1997 and unfortunately, during that time, I have noted a decrease in voter turnout. We have got to the point where hardly 60% of the voters on the voters list go to vote.

I would like to ask the Government House Leader if he feels that having people vote on Sunday would improve voter turnout? In the majority of Canadian couples, both the man and the woman work and lack availability. So would Sunday voting improve turnout?

Business of Supply November 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the floor just sparked a long debate. The role of the ombudsman is to protect citizens. He should report to the House, and not to the minister.

How could an ombudsman who reports to the minister remain objective? As the saying goes, don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Consider, for example, André Marin, the former ombudsman who submitted a fine report sometime around June 2003 regarding that infamous insurance, SISIP. His recommendations were so good that the Liberal government of the day told Mr. Marin that it would not renew his contract on July 5, 2005.

An ombudsman must report to the House, otherwise, it would be useless. The opposite would be impossible. We could not do any worse.

I do not lay blame on the ombudsmen. I would do the same thing. In order to save my job, I would not bite the hand that feeds me. It would mean one's livelihood.

The Public Protector Act has existed in Quebec for over 30 years and it is working well.

According to the presentation given by Mr. Marin yesterday before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, legislation exists similar to that of Quebec and it is working well. He said that New Brunswick has similar legislation that works and that produces good results. Manitoba has legislation regarding ombudsmen that works well and produces good results. It is going very well in British Columbia, as well, and they are seeing good results.

What is Ottawa waiting for? The messiah?

Business of Supply November 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I heard what our colleague just said. Yes, there are some good stories, but there are also some bad ones.

There is something about all this that really strikes me. I will ask a question and I would like someone to answer. How is it that the majority of members, especially those who sat with me on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs—I will not name them, they know who they are—before coming into power, when they sat on this side of the House, accused the Liberals of being a bunch of crooks who did nothing and so forth, and today, now that they are in power, they have changed their story as easily as changing their hat or shirt? Previously, they told a tale similar to mine.

Let us be serious. It is not a question of defending one position or another. We must treat younger and older veterans equally. That is what we have to do.

I will talk about the case of another friend. I will give his name because I like to give people's names. That way you can always check. Vic Smart is a veteran from Rivière-des-Mille-îles, in my riding. At a party like the one I am going to hold this weekend to pay tribute to the deceased, Vic told me: “The young soldiers of today are no longer strong between the ears. In my time, we were tough and things went well. We did not suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome”. I did not reply. His wife said to him: “Vic, remember that when you went to war you were a good family man. When you came back, you treated your illness with lots of gin. You use gin to cope with your post-traumatic stress syndrome”.

The father of the member for Laval was in the army. She told me about the horrors experienced by veterans. Unfortunately, they would not complain. The “old guys” were not crybabies. Our fathers and grandfathers were not crybabies. It was normal, there was nothing to it. They were satisfied with what little they had. Those days are long gone. We must look after our young and old veterans, those of every age. We must do everything possible for them.

Business of Supply November 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate this afternoon.

I want to begin by congratulating my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore on introducing this motion and making it the focus of an NDP opposition day. I think that my speech will not deal with the motion at all, because my colleague from Saint-Jean and my colleague from Magog have done a very good job of stating the Bloc's positions on this motion. The Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the motion. I only hope that the government will not put the motion in file 13, the round file, but will draw conclusions from it and make something of it.

I would like to remind this House of how the people in government treat our veterans. I will start with the case of one veteran, whom I will name: Armand Pilon. This Montrealer, along with other veterans, has been fighting since 1987 to receive a pension because of his injuries. I will briefly tell the story of Armand, a man over 80 who fought for democracy, freedom, peace and justice in the world.

At the tender age of 17 or 18, Mr. Pilon enlisted in the Canadian Forces. Unfortunately, Mr. Pilon is not a big man. He stands 5 feet, 2 inches tall. He was sent to a training camp in Rimouski, in my colleague's riding, Rimouski—Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. During a night exercise, while skiing, he fell into a hole. A number of his comrades fell on top of him, injuring his back. He sustained injuries to his L1, L2 and L3 vertebrae.

Hon. members will recall that in the early 1940s, many people enlisted to make a decent living while serving their country. Canada had just been through a depression and money was scarce.

My friend Armand is hurt. That still happens nowadays as we saw in the report of the army ombudsman, Mr. Yves Côté. His superiors tell Armand to not report his injuries, to not go to see the doctor, that the nurse will take care of it because it could hurt his career, because perhaps he will not be able to continue in the army and because he may be forced to leave. Armand stays at home, does not say a word, massages himself, takes or is given my grandmother's treatments—I have nothing against them, there were some good ones—because that is the way it was in those days. They rub him with Minard liniment and he is given six to eight weeks' leave, the time needed to get him back on his feet.

I think that the army brass realized that Armand would never be able to go to the front because of the injury that was not reported in his medical file on the advice of his superior.

Armand is sent to the coast of Newfoundland where he will specialize in sending messages in Morse code to aircraft. He will do this work until the war ends. After the war, he is told that because he is not in good shape and he is not very big there is no longer a spot for him. And he is sent home.

Armand returns home and still has back pain. At the time, Armand felt, just as an old hockey player would, that he should keep his injury a secret out of fear that someone would take his place and out of fear that upon his return he would no longer have a job. Armand said to himself that it was better to work with some pains here and there and that they would go away.

Armand returns home. He is in pain all the time and often sees doctors. His son, who is a lawyer, told me that when he would get out of his car he had difficulty standing up and moving. The son had always known him to be like that.

In 1952, Armand was unemployed. He was married and had children to feed. In the early 1950s, he has the opportunity to enlist in the army to work in Saint-Hubert, in the Montreal area, where there is a naval base and an air traffic control service. Armand has experience in that field. He goes there, has a medical exam and nothing is detected. Armand does not say he has a bad back because if he does, he will not get the job. He needs to earn money to take care of his family. He enlists.

After two or three years, he can no longer take the pain and decides to leave. He spent his whole life suffering and using Quebec's health care system. This happens in other provinces as well. Every month, two or three times a month, Armand went to his doctor, a physiotherapist and other specialists to take care of his problem.

It was in 1987 that his real problems began. He applied for compensation, for a disability pension because of his bad back. He submitted his claim and told his story. The Department of Veterans Affairs explained to Armand that there was no evidence that he was injured and therefore it could not pay him benefits. Armand said he hurt himself skiing and told the story that I have just relayed.

Armand decided to appeal, which made matters worse. Anyone who is familiar with the appeal process knows it can be complicated. The first time someone appeals, a group of blue collars and white collars, who have no medical experience, review the file amongst themselves, flip through some documents only to uphold the decision.

Since when can a court of justice—because it is court of justice—take decisions without even giving the person concerned the chance to give his testimony?

That is how Veterans Affairs operates. Armand did not provide testimony and his case was dismissed. The process took two or three years, from 1987 to 1988, from one court of appeal to another.

Finally, in 1988, Armand had all the documentation. He went to see doctors and their reports proved that his L1 vertebrae was fractured, and that it happened when he was young. Armand said that he fell while he was skiing, which could indeed cause this type of fracture. Armand had all the documentation. However, since it had not been reported in 1946, or while Armand was training, he was not be entitled to a disability pension.

Armand is like a bull dog, and by that I mean he does not give up easily. So, he went back. This time, in order to increase the pressure, he appeared before the tribunal, along with his wife and child.

He was represented by a lawyer paid by Veterans Affairs Canada. As the adage goes, don't bite that hand that feeds you. Furthermore, I must wonder if the lawyer was more faithful to his client or the department. Armand appeared before the tribunal and testified. The three commissioners told him that they believed him and that they thought his documentation was valid. No one thought he had lied, and no one thought his wife had lied. The documentation served as evidence and an expert, Dr. Tadros, confirmed that it happened during a skiing accident when Armand was young. Everyone believed him and, yet, the ruling remained unchanged. This is now 2006. The only thing Armand should now do is take civil action against Veterans Affairs Canada.

What is even more amazing, as I was telling my friend, the member for Ahuntsic, is that he had to pay for all the examinations and assessments that the Department of Veterans Affairs requested. Armand had to pay $600 out of his own pocket. A mere $600. That is nothing for a man who served his country and went to war for democracy. It cost him $600, and he is still owed that money. He has never received his $600. He has never been repaid. He is still owed that money.

The last time he went to court was in 2001. I have hope for my friend Armand, because I have requested a meeting so that he can plead his case to the minister. I do not know when this will be over or how it will turn out, but I believe that his only hope is to lay down some more money and launch a civil suit. I know that he will, because he is like a bulldog.

His life and his marriage have been destroyed because of that blasted injury. He has suffered from it for his whole life. In my opinion, it is time to give him the benefit of the doubt. The law says that, but it is not put into practice. When it is difficult to hand down a decision on a case, the court should always decide in favour of the soldier or veteran. But that is not what happens. A court has never handed down a favourable decision based on hearsay or given the soldier or veteran the benefit of the doubt. I have never seen it, even though I have handled a number of cases. Armand's case is typical, and there are many others like it.

Now, I would like to talk about my other friends, the people I affectionately call “my messed-up buddies”. These are people suffering from psychological problems as a result of serving as peacekeepers, young people suffering from post-traumatic stress.

I will name a few of them, to please them and let them know I remember them. Max Steben, I am thinking of you; François Gignac, I am continuing to work for you; Simon Bois, we are going to win; George Dumont, we have to keep on and not give up. There is also Yves Côté, my friend Louise Richard, Joy Anderson of London, Shane Bruha. These are only a few of the young men and women—the same age as my son and daughter—who suffered enormous pressure during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which caused them psychological problems.

Even though it is dinner time, I will tell a story, which I hope will not turn anyone's stomach.

How might we react if we were walking along one day and saw a pregnant woman whose stomach had been cut open like a stuck pig, and whose baby's throat had been slashed. Would we not be left with some mental problems? I would certainly think so.

Considering all the atrocities these young people have witnessed, it is only normal that they have problems and are suffering from PTSD. It is time that the government acknowledge these young people. It is time we all join together to give them what they need.

That is how we treat our veterans. I am not even referring to those who went to war, but those who served on peacekeeping missions. Consider, for instance, Somalia and General Dallaire, who threw himself into the Rideau Canal, here in Ottawa, because of post-traumatic stress problems. General Dallaire is now a senator. He is a very intelligent man. He is a wise man who served in Somalia. Imagine young people who have less experience. Some of them experienced war much earlier. Think of these young people.

What are we doing for our young people who participated in Desert Storm, where they were exposed to toxic gases and depleted uranium? What are we doing for Louise Richard? Since she came back, she has been fighting little by little. Fortunately, yesterday, Yves Côté, the National Defence ombudsman, gave us a reason to hope. He told us to make recommendations, and that those recommendations might make a difference. The Department of National Defence says it somehow lost some medical documents and cannot find them. Were those documents lost accidentally or on purpose? Half of these young people's medical files are missing. They have disappeared.

What are we doing to provide fair treatment to these young people who are fighting for democracy? They are fighting not for Canada, but for democracy around the world, to bring it to Afghanistan and to bring it back to Kosovo, and elsewhere. We have to take care of these children, of my children.

I wish I had two more hours to say all I have to say. It has been exactly seven years since I began meeting these young people every day, and every day, I cry.

I will stop now because I cannot go on any longer. But before I finish, I want to take a deep breath and calm down by reading some lines by a well-known Quebec singer-songwriter, Raymond Lévesque. Had I not shouted earlier, I might have enough of a voice left to sing.

When people learn to love each other
There will be no more misery
My brother

I might add:

When people learn to love each other
There will be no more war
My brother

Veterans Week November 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that no one wishes armed conflict. Battlefields are places of horror where no one would want to walk. Nevertheless, women and men of Quebec and of this country, year after year, arm themselves with courage and go to defend the values and principles in which we believe.

In the face of such courage, we owe a debt of gratitude and admiration. We all have a duty to remember these men and these women.

As November 11 and Veterans Week approach, I remember all these men and women who have served in uniform, with bravery and tenacity, in times of war as in times of peace.

I remember those destroyed cities, where only dust and rubble remained, that they have rebuilt. I remember the sacrifices made by them and their families. I remember the tears wept on piers and platforms, a mother’s wait without news of her son or her daughter, a young woman already widowed and a child orphaned.

I remember, however, that it is in the shadow of these sacrifices and these dramas that our society has been able to thrive and become what it is today.

I remember the democracy, equality, freedom, justice and peace which have not just been given to us. No, these ideals have had to be earned with labour and suffering.

I remember the price paid by these soldiers and their families, by those who have fallen in combat, but also those, fortunately more numerous, who have come home.

I remember these men and women who have risked their lives and too often lost them, so that we can live our lives in better conditions.

I remember that I have a duty never to forget their feats and their courage. I remember that, because of their sacrifices, I have a duty to convey this memory to my friends, my children and my grandchildren.

I also remember that I have an obligation to protect and build on, with my modest means, the heritage they have left us so that I in turn can pass on this legacy of justice, equality, freedom and democracy.

I remember that we owe an enormous debt to our veterans and our only way of repaying it is to never forget and to perpetuate the memory of their stories, from generation to generation.

I remember.

Business of Supply November 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask our colleague a question. To begin with, I recognize that the charter brings significant improvements to the lives of our veterans. However, the charter says nothing about one major concern: it does nothing about veterans or former military personnel.

The problems at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown with agent orange and agent purple; or the people, the young people with post-traumatic stress syndrome—these are not mentioned in this charter and there is no plan to improve their situation.

I would like to ask my colleague who just spoke whether the government is planning to help these young people by modifying our basic charter, which is pretty good despite all this.

Business of Supply November 2nd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I would like to greet you and wish you a good day.

My colleague opposite sits with me on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. We are currently looking at creating the position of ombudsman for veterans.

I would like my colleague to say what he thinks of that possibility. I would also like to know whether the future ombudsman would report I see to the House or to the Minister of Veterans Affairs.