Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was city.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Louis-Hébert (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act April 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I had a busy weekend, working for the development of Quebec in my riding, in the interest of this future country.

I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-333, to right a great injustice. I would like to start by thanking my hon. colleague from Durham for introducing this bill, as well as the other parliamentarians who have taken part in this debate so far.

For more than 60 years, the Chinese Canadian community has been the victim of racism, but not just any type of racism: legislative racism. This is a dark page in Canada's history. It is like a less than glorious heritage minute that went on for 60 years. Imagine the damage. Between 1885 and 1923, the Government of Canada imposed a head tax on Chinese immigrants. This was serious discrimination, which put the members of our treasured Chinese community at a terrible disadvantage.

Chinese workers wishing to emigrate to Canada had to pay a $500 tax, starting in 1903. At that time, it equaled two years' salary. It may seem paltry now but, back then, this was a considerable amount of money. This very House adopted the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923, thereby denying thousands of Chinese Canadians the right to vote and, above all, the possibility of being reunited with their families.

The Chinese community called it the Chinese Exclusion Act. As the title implies, their exclusion was total. The day the bill passed was even known as Humiliation Day. This is evidence of how the Chinese community must have felt that day. It was not until 1967, the centennial of Canada's Confederation, that this hateful humiliation was acknowledged. In 1967, Chinese immigrants obtained the same rights as immigrants from other countries. It took all those years for Chinese Canadians to be recognized as full-fledged citizens.

It goes without saying that these discriminatory measures were tied to strong anti-Asian sentiment in existence at that time. Despite everything, tens of thousands of Chinese people immigrated to Canada during that period and took part in its development, in particular helping to build the famous trans-Canada railway.

In supporting Bill C-333, the Bloc Québécois condemns the discrimination visited on the Chinese community by the Canadian government for 60 years. The Bloc Québécois salutes the contribution of the Chinese community to our economy and to Quebec and Canadian society, and it reiterates the importance of immigration and cultural communities to Quebec's future sovereignty.

A recent Ontario court ruling found that the Canadian government owes the Sino-Canadian community an apology. It must acknowledge this legacy and demonstrate good will. This ruling was corroborated and upheld in a recent resolution by the Montreal city council, which determined that the Canadian government must adopt reasonable measures to correct the injustices visited on Chinese Canadians.

Under Brian Mulroney, the Canadian government already offered an apology to Japanese Canadians for the unfair treatment they received during the second world war.

I wonder if this government could not build on that example and apologize to the Chinese community. That would be the least it could do for having exploited members of this community for 60 years while denying them the right to be full-fledged citizens. How insulting.

The last victims of this atrocity and of these discriminatory measures are still alive, but time is of the essence because, one by one, they are dying off. It is high time for the Canadian government to present them with a decent apology, to prove beyond a doubt that they are full fledged citizens and to promise that, although wrongs were committed in the past, nothing like this will ever happen again.

In 2003, a UN Special Rapporteur conducting a study of contemporary forms of racism in Canada also condemned the fact that the Chinese community in Canada still had not received an apology for being discriminated against during all those years.

In fact, some members of the Chinese community are considering turning to the UN in order to obtain justice. I have the following question. Is this the image Canada wants to project internationally—a lack of compassion toward these people, the Chinese community,who are still central to the larger society? Does it want this image of injustice to be spread throughout the world? In any event, that may suit Canada, but it does not suit Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-333 in principle, for the reasons described by my colleague, the hon. member for Durham.

Two years ago, during a visit to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, I toured one of these tunnels or underground entries that had been recreated, bearing in mind that when the Chinese community was building the railway back then, they were literally hidden in a tunnel or an underground room. They were forbidden to step out into broad daylight. It was acceptable to use the Chinese for their labour in order to build the railway, but they had to be hidden away. It is outrageous when you consider the contribution this community has made to Canada and Quebec.

What is more, the worst part of this 60 year-long heritage minute is that there is a charge of $15 or $20 to visit the underground gallery where we are shown how the Chinese had to hide underground like rats. That is how they were treated. And if a person asked for a pamphlet on this shameful period in the history of Canada, there are none to give. The exploitation continues. I do not know whether this is a private or public operation, but I do know that there is still an opportunity to visit this underground gallery where the horrible memories of the mistreated Chinese community can be revisited.

This bill will remedy that situation. Let us go back to that time, 1923. If the Chinese were good enough to build a railway, they ought to have been good enough to deserve respect. The situation continued for years, and now the victims and the children of those victims are demanding compensation and justice.

As Bloc Québécois spokesperson for Asia-Pacific matters, I take these things very much to heart. There have been attempts made in the past to remedy this injustice toward the Chinese community in private members' bills by colleagues in the Conservative and other parties.

I am seeking the support of the members of this House for Bill C-333. We are in favour of it, although of course there is always room for improvement. We can look into ways of accommodating certain requests from Chinese community associations throughout the country. Time is of the essence, however, and this injustice must be remedied.

I will put myself in the shoes of Canadians for a few moments, even though I am proud to proclaim myself a Quebecker. I do not want people to read the history of Canada and conclude that the Chinese were mistreated and nothing was done to remedy this injustice. I feel strongly that such a thing must not be associated in people's minds with Canada.

The Chinese community has proven without any doubt whatsoever that it is capable of being a full-fledged member of this society. This black mark on its past must, however, be erased, because the Chinese community is worthy of contributing to the economy, and indeed does make a significant contribution.

Bill C-333 is about the humiliation of the Chinese community. I know this community very well, having lived in China for two years. This humiliation must be dealt with now. This is a unique opportunity as all members are aware. The injustice to Japanese Canadians has been dealt with and now it is the turn of the Chinese. Common sense and pure and simple justice demand this. Hon. members, this error must be corrected by supporting Bill C-333.

Canada Labour Code April 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to conclude the debate on Bill C-263, which I had the pleasure and the honour of introducing in the House on November 4.

This anti-scab legislation seeks to prohibit the backward practice—let us not mince words—of using strikebreakers, or replacement workers or scabs, as they are commonly called. The objective is to ensure that the Canada Labour Code standards are more in line with those of the Quebec labour code.

As we know, Quebec has had an anti-scab act since 1977. This is a legacy of René Lévesque. As the member for Louis-Hébert, I am very proud to be associated, along with my Bloc Québécois colleagues, with a strong and progressive bill.

There is no question that the Quebec legislation has helped Quebec move forward in terms of labour relations, in addition to reducing the duration of labour disputes, curbing violence during strikes and lockouts and, particularly, improving the working environment.

Despite its positive aspects, the Quebec anti-scab legislation has had the effect of creating two categories of workers: those who benefit from such protection and the thousands of others who are deprived of that right, because their employers come under the Canada Labour Code.

Now, we all agree that the federal regulations are inadequate. The extremely vague provisions in the Canada Labour Code limit the use of scabs, but this is largely insufficient. Thousands of workers in Quebec currently subject to the Canada Labour Code are calling on parliamentarians to do something for them. They no longer want to find themselves helpless when replacement workers come in and steal their jobs.

In recent years, numerous labour disputes have dragged on without good reason, some in Quebec and some in Canada. For example, there were the strikes involving Radio Nord, Vidéotron and Cargill. People have not forgotten. They know that people suffered because they were replaced by scab workers.

All this is possible under our famous Canada Labour Code, which some colleagues in other parties still consider to be appropriate and adequate. However, this is no longer true, and that is why I introduced this anti-scab bill.

The Bloc Québécois are been trying for years to harmonize federal and Quebec legislation. In June 2002, my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord had tabled a petition supporting a similar bill bearing by 46,000 signatures. I hope the bill passes this time. We want to prohibit the use of scabs.

Finally, in my opinion, this bill is well suited to current conditions, and not conditions from 20 or 30 years ago. The Canada Labour Code must be reviewed in light of these changes and modern times to promote the rapid and, above all, as my colleagues have mentioned, peaceful settlement of labour disputes.

I will conclude this debate by repeating to the House that there is widespread support for this fair, equitable and modern measure. A consensus exists not only among my colleagues but among the unions and workers. In Quebec, even employer organizations have no criticism of the provincial legislation, because they find it appropriate and fair.

We hope that the House will finally adopt this bill, since it is progressive, liberal and even—dare I say—democratic. I want to thank all my colleagues in the House who have supported or will support this bill, because it is fundamental to our society.

I will close by pointing out that in November of 2003, right here in the Outaouais, I took part with my fellow journalists in a congress of the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec. That was my profession before I got into politics. At this fine congress where there was much talk of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, there were workers from Radio Nord who were handing out information leaflets.

That day, I took the first political step of my life, before I was even a politician. I invited them to my table so that they could explain to the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes what a balance of power looks like when it is distorted and faked.

I promise to dedicate this bill to the workers of Radio Nord and to all those who have seen replacement workers come along and take the food from their mouths. These are the ones to whom we promise a bill that is worthy of their confidence, a bill that is more civilized and more humane.

I therefore invite all my colleagues to vote in favour of Bill C-263.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act March 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate on the act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative). This bill was introduced by my NDP colleague, the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Essentially, the intent of Bill C-272 is to expand the right to sponsor an additional relative. Until now, there have been serious restrictions. Clause 13 of the bill changes this to permit any citizen or permanent resident to sponsor, once in their lifetime, a relative who is not a member of the family class.

Until now, some members of the family class were excluded: brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, and a number of others. This will finally allow families to reunite.

We in the Bloc Québécois believe Bill C-272 is vitally important. We therefore support this bill because this motion has already been discussed in the House. We have made recommendations, which have been heard. We have introduced measures to correct some of the lack of clarity we saw in the bill at the time. The Bloc had many reservations about the vagueness that remained and surrounded the concept of the family. Now, however, it has all been corrected. Today we have greatly improved the bill before us. That is one of the beauties of a minority government. The Bloc Québécois has been able to make changes that improve the bill introduced by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Consequently, we will support this bill because, all too often, refugees live through really incredible dramas. A person would have to come to our ridings to realize this. In my riding of Louis-Hébert, for example, we often get requests to assist and intervene from immigrants and refugees. All the refugees want after experiencing such pain and cruelty is live near their families. Often, their intentions are good but unfortunately the definition of family class is too narrow. Protection for refugees or even the way the Immigration Act was interpreted until now have worked against refugees.

We need only listen to their stories which, at times, might cause us to believe that Canada does not always live up to its commitments. We believe that it is unacceptable for families already suffering from being apart, in addition to the family drama to be subject to indefinite separation.

This bill corrects this flaw because, again, the delays in our immigration system are much too long. In half of all asylum claims, it takes over 13 months to process the claims of family members. One out of five cases takes over 26 months. It is unbelievable. At the slowest visa offices, some cases can take more than 27 months. So, people in one family can wait two years and three months. Some refugees wait even longer. These dramas are multiplied indefinitely and drag on. It is an agony for families.

This bill will, among other things, contribute to reconstituting a group of persons that will bring stability to life and help people move on to the happier times of integration. I prefer the term “inclusion” rather than “integration” because it is really about inclusion in a society. It is not about recreating here what they experienced elsewhere, but at least some things can be familiar.

The first of these are immediate family members. The previous legislation was not broad enough. It was too narrow. The bill introduced by my NDP colleague seeks to broaden the definition. We cannot but applaud this stage of integration, which then leads to times happier than the drama in which people are all too often trapped.

There is also the whole aspect of protection of family which, under this concept, is being ensured. Protection of family is an obligation stemming from international rights. International texts like the ones dealing with human rights ratified by Canada recognize the protection of family as an obligation.

In fact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.

As for the priority given to refugee claimants, there is a 60:40 ratio. Canada's immigration plan is essentially divided 60:40, which means that immigrants are selected in the following way: 60% of our immigration comes from the economic category, that is, business people, manufacturers, self-employed as well as skilled workers, and the other 40% involves family reunification, refugees and others.

Of this 40%, some 30% involves family reunification, 9% is refugees and 1% is others. Yet, headlines tell us on a weekly basis of the deportation of numerous refugee claimants who have been refused. One has to recognize that the many conflicts, crises and civil wars in a growing number of countries make it necessary for democratic countries to lend a yet more caring and compassionate ear to refugee claimants.

Once again, the fact that the budgets provided by Canada are insufficient has to be denounced. Canada continues to refuse thousands of refugee claimants every year, despite their tragic situations. Their lives are in danger in their home countries.

When, as MPs, we request interventions, it is sometimes suggested that the claimants' lives are not in danger. One need only listen to them and read the fear in their eyes as they tell us what they face on a daily basis to realize that their lives are definitely in danger. We cannot play games with people's lives.

At the very least, this bill will reunite families rather than forcing them to live in great psychological distress because the father or mother is elsewhere. It will very humanely make it possible to reunite families.

The shortage of resources constitutes a problem. Budgets must be appropriate so that Canada can not only keep its word but also meet its commitments as a signatory to the Geneva Convention. When Canada signed this, it was not just a pious gesture; it was a commitment to protect refugees.

There are not enough resources, and this is a major problem for the whole of the immigration sector. Because of the inadequate resources for immigration, we in the Bloc Québécois will support this bill. We will at least be able to discuss it in committee and make some improvements. If it passes second reading, that will force a debate in committee.

I am a member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. We can always make improvements. It is somewhat in that context that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration provides us with regular proof of its inability to meet all its responsibilities. Sometimes the willingness is there, but there are still some major shortcomings. Often it is a vicious circle, because financial resources are lacking.

This time the humanitarian aspect is being recognized in Bill C-272. We accept its referral to committee. We in the Bloc Québécois know that it shows a sense of duty and responsibility to call for sufficient funding.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-272, introduced by my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas, for the various reasons I have had the pleasure of setting out for you. First, it acknowledges the essential contribution made by newcomers, and that is important to point out. Above all, it includes the dimension of human compassion so essential to our society.

International Aid March 11th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, while the minister was making her announcement yesterday, the Chinese government was announcing a foreign trade surplus of $5 billion. It is rather surprising that the minister continues to consider China a developing country while its economy skyrockets and it threatens thousands of jobs.

Will the minister acknowledge that if she wants changes in the aid program to make it more productive, there might be better choices of targets for her aid, perhaps in Africa or elsewhere in Asia?

International Aid March 11th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, as we observe China's reluctance to recognize human rights, the Minister of International Cooperation announced yesterday that China would be among the 25 to 30 countries targeted by Canada's international aid program.

How can the minister justify such a decision when we all know that China's record on human rights and governance, according to a number of observers, at the very least, leaves—

Foreign Credential Recognition Program March 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Motion M-195. Basically, this is a motion to establish a secretariat responsible for overseeing the foreign credential recognition program.

In immigration matters, some files are simple, while others are complex; some are a little obscure, while others are more transparent. Motion No. 195 is one of the latter. The situation could hardly be clearer. In the opinion of the Bloc Québécois, Ottawa simply does not have jurisdiction on such a motion. This is not a fabrication of mine.

In fact, in a recent conversation with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, on which I have the pleasure of sitting, the hon. member for Vancouver Centre clearly recognized it. Allow me to quote her:

Credential recognition largely falls under provincial jurisdiction, a responsibility which has in the legislation been delegated to the regulatory bodies

We must understand—there are members in this House who do not seem to understand—that, in matters of immigration, the distribution of powers between Ottawa on the one hand, and Quebec and the provinces on the other hand, is very clear. It could not be any clearer, particularly for all matters pertaining to Quebec. We have the Canada-Quebec accord, which did not appear out of thin air, out of the blue. It was signed back in 1991 and is very comprehensive.

On the topic of foreign credential recognition, this accord is unequivocal: it is the responsibility of Quebec, not that of planet Mars. Section 25 of the accord is disconcertingly simple. It states, “Canada undertakes to withdraw from specialized economic integration services to beprovided by Québec to permanent residents in Québec”.

It cannot get much more transparent than that. However, there are cases where this agreement can be waived. For example, this is true for standards applicable to all of Canada. But, there can be no question of that here. In fact, it is not possible to have Canadian standards applicable to all professions, just as there simply are not standards applicable to all professional associations. This same logic applies to various regulatory bodies or educational institutions. Each one is free to create its own. It is certainly not up to the Canadian government to define the standards.

All the stakeholders involved in the foreign credential recognition process agree at least on one thing: it is extremely difficult to reach agreement with the professional associations—true—because each one, out of professionalism, has its own requirements. There has to be some consistency, and that is logical. The various stakeholders also agree that it is not possible, here, to have a package deal. The notion of standards cannot apply to the field, simply because one cannot be compared to another. This is a simple truth.

Everyone agrees too that it is essential to reach agreement with the professional associations and no one else—not with a new player joining those already in place. I do not want to give a lesson or a demonstration in this House on federalism. I will leave that to those who are still interested in it. However, it is important to remember that the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over professional associations.

The debate could even conclude here, because it simply is irrelevant in this Parliament.

What is the meaning of this Liberal motion? I can see only one: it is yet another attempt to interfere in a discussion in which the federal government clearly has no place. This is not the first time and I imagine that it will not be the last. This happened with regard to parental leave. It also happened with regard to the famous millennium scholarships—yet another intrusion.

Canada's immigration system—even the last immigration minister recognized it—is not in good shape. We are in agreement. There are considerable delays. Here is yet another reason to address these delays and finally examine the issues so as to refocus. There is enough to do here before it pokes its nose where it does not belong.

It would be possible, anyway, for the federal government to find a solution to the problem of recognizing foreign credentials, because this is something we are already working on in Quebec. We have been focussing efforts on it for a number of years. It is a lengthy process, with all manner of difficulties. How then can the federal government claim—I find this rather amusing—to go still further than Quebec, when it has to deal with more parties than Quebec does? That claim does not hold up to scrutiny.

In fact, all that this interventionist approach will lead to is headaches, court challenges and disputes, more delays, lost time and energy, and wasted resources as well. Can we afford such wasteful systems?

If, with all the parties around the table and with the involvement of the all the professional accreditation bodies, Quebec is making only slow progress, no one can expect Ottawa will find it easier. Moreover, at this point in time, the mere act of initiating discussions with the professional associations, with whom Ottawa has no right to be dealing, runs the risk of compromising the progress Quebec has already made and the discussions it has already held. Ottawa is liable to slow down the process already under way and the final outcome will be a realization that they have reached a stalemate and so it will be back to square one.

Why insist on sabotaging a process that is already a difficult and laborious one, when there are so many other problems to be solved. Moreover, there are other issues to be solved that do fall under federal jurisdiction, so they could focus on them. They could start attacking them seriously right now. This very morning in committee—this happened in the immigration committee with my colleague—they were discussing the refugee appeal division. There are considerable delays. When will they start processing immigration files faster? All these delays poison the system. This is where the federal government could get involved. This is where they can play a role in moving things ahead. But no. Instead of putting a proper refugee appeal division in place, they again start interfering in others' jurisdiction and start talking about a national secretariat. Everyone is already saying there are too many structures, too many procedures, too much bureaucracy, and yet they would like to have one more thing: a national secretariat.

In my opinion, Ottawa must resolve the issue of partisan appointments once and for all. Why go to Quebec and see what is already being done and try to correct it? The delays—I already mentioned this—are still very long. In terms of the problems reuniting families, all the riding offices are inundated with requests to do so. There are considerable delays. There is a lot of work to be done and Quebec cannot resolve all this at once. However, we are working on it. What is Ottawa doing in the meantime? I wonder.

I would say Ottawa is trying to confuse the issue. We cannot say it enough in this House; the recognition of foreign credentials is not a federal jurisdiction.

I would like someone to explain to me, since no one was able to earlier, why there should be a secretariat to coordinate activities for which money has already been paid. The money in question exceeds what is needed for setting up the refugee appeal section people want.

How can we make Citizenship and Immigration understand this? There are so many problems. Why was money allocated to the foreign credential recognition initiative before any guidelines were drafted?

It is very clear that the recognition of foreign credentials is a provincial jurisdiction. In my opinion, this has been made abundantly clear by the Bloc Québécois over the years. What was true at the time is still true now. Parliament has no business discussing this motion. The Bloc Québécois will vote against Motion No. 195. I call on all hon. members of this House to respect Quebec's jurisdictions.

Dalai Lama March 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the Dalai Lama has just issued a statement concerning the situation in his native Tibet.

The Tibetan spiritual leader deplores the fact that human rights are not being respected, that, in the supposedly autonomous region, the authority has been solely held by Chineseleaders and that, despite Peking's contention, the Tibetans are not enjoying autonomy.

The Dalai Lama states that China deserves the position it has achieved as a major player in the world, but condemns what he calls its undemocratic actions, unequalimplementation of autonomy rights regarding minorities, and lack of human rights.

The Dalai Lama is convinced that China can do better and ought to give back to the Tibetan people the freedom they deserve to enjoy.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on the Canadian government to redouble efforts to promote dialogue between Chinese and Tibetan authorities.

Film Industry March 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, Quebec filmmakers Hugo Latulippe and François Prévost recently won two awards for the film What Remains of Us : the Jutra for best documentary film and the prize for best feature film from the Association québécoise des critiques de cinéma.

This movie shows life in the world's largest prison: Tibet. We see the suffering and oppression there without the filter of traditional media.

During the making of this film, numerous Tibetans had access, for the first time in 50 years, to a message from the Dalai Lama. The film presents the extremely moving accounts of Tibetans after they view this message from their spiritual leader.

We must stand in solidarity with the people of Tibet, who are suffering, and promote a real dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama. Canada must take a leadership role. It should use its ties with China to start discussions to bring about freedom in Tibet.

International Assistance February 25th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it has been such a good week that there is four times more money for national defence than for international assistance. It just goes to show how compassionate this government is.

When the Liberals came to power, Canada's contribution was 0.43% of GDP. It then fell to 0.29%. Yet, other countries like France, Belgium and Great Britain are doubling their efforts to achieve the UN target. What is Canada waiting for to follow suit?

International Assistance February 25th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government's contribution to international assistance is more than disappointing, to say the least. Canada has dropped from 6th to 12th place among the contributing nations. Unfortunately, the budget has not changed matters.

At the rate he is increasing budgets for international assistance, will the Prime Minister admit that it will take Canada 30 years to reach its target of 0.7% of GDP for international assistance and not 10 years by 2015, as it promised the United Nations?