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

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise in this debate to speak in support of Bill C-283. This is the last hour of debate on this bill introduced by my hon. colleague from Newton—North Delta. This is a bill to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, and it has been moved that it be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

I am speaking in support of this bill because it would permit the sponsorship of a foreign national who is not a member of the immediate family or a relative, neither close nor distant, but someone who had already unsuccessfully applied for a temporary visitor visa.

The beauty of this is that amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act would, for instance, allow individuals previously denied entry, but whose sponsor can vouch for them, to come and visit. This could involve a person coming from a country like China.

We know it is not always easy to get to know people in a visit of only a few days. Because I lived there myself for a few years—there are people from all over the world who ask to come and meet us in Quebec, establishing more ties of friendship lasting longer than a visit of just a few days. So, the person who stands as guarantor would have that responsibility.

I would like to give a brief history of Bill C-283 of the hon. member for Newton—North Delta. It was first presented to the House a few years ago, in 2002. Then it was broadened a bit in 2003 and brought back to the House again, as often happens. The bill is essentially the same today.

It makes it possible for a resident, a citizen, to sponsor a visa applicant, subject to a deposit or guarantee. It is important to say something about the deposit; it is a form of guarantee, a condition for admission which is not given to all comers. In brief, the sponsor can be a permanent resident who is not a member of the family, a citizen for example, as often happens.

The practice has been seen in other countries such as Australia. The members of parliament are inundated with applications to bring in people they know. To facilitate the process, however, Australia instituted a reform in 2002. A system was established, and a bill similar to the one before us today was introduced. After four years, they noticed that more than 26,000 visitors had come to the country, had found it to their liking, and afterwards, not right away, applied again.

That means, in fact, that they were not only tourists but visitors of economic significance. For the economy of Quebec or Canada or any country at all, that is very fortunate; that is very good. It is not just an exchange of post cards, it is an economy in action.

And that is part of what this bill would do. The Bloc Québécois sees it as an interesting initiative to ease some of the congestion in the immigration system. Often the power is given to the minister. The minister has many powers, many decisions to make, and the officials in Citizenship and Immigration Canada also have many responsibilities.

With this new initiative, the measure applies only if the foreigner has made an application in the preceding 12 months and has been refused; that is the beauty of the thing.

There are other criteria. You will understand that a bill such as this cannot be based simply on the strength of someone we see and consider appealing. Foreign nationals cannot work, study, apply for a visa extension or for permanent resident status during their stay. They must leave the country when the period comes to an end. This is a protective mechanism provided in the law, one that has more than one advantage.

The individual must report to an officer or other representative of the Government of Canada outside Canada within thirty days of leaving Canada before the guarantee will be reimbursed. The guarantee is a very important item, being an amount determined according to certain very precise criteria.

The sponsor is answerable for the foreign national. This means that it is in the best interests of whoever is sponsoring another to ensure that the person is respectable in every way. That is part of the beauty of this bill, and also of its subtlety. The person is responsible for the other's actions and cannot make another application for five years if all conditions are not met.

The amount of the guarantee is determined according to criteria set out in the present legislation, that is to say according to the financial resources of the individual or group, the obligations relating to the conditions imposed, and the costs that would likely be incurred in locating, detaining, referring for investigation or expulsion the person or group of persons.

There are, as you can see, even costs involved in administering the guarantee. So that is what my colleague's bill is about. The system has proven itself in Australia, and there is no reason it would not be the same in Canada and Quebec, or indeed any other country with a concern for opening itself up to others.

The Bloc Québécois believes that there are sufficient guarantees in this to justify our being in favour of it in principle. We feel that it is a measure that will enable people who do not have immediate family members in Canada to obtain a visa after they have been refused one. Often there is no other recourse or process for appeal

This is a worthwhile measure and one that the Bloc does not find abusive. It supports openness to others, and also makes monitoring of people's exiting the country easier. That is one very useful aspect of such a bill.

Visitors will not be allowed to study or work. This measure is for those travelling for pleasure. But these visitors could also be potential investors coming to visit. Often, in a country's history, people travel, go somewhere and watch visitors while abroad. Travelling creates this opportunity to meet people and say, “Where I come from, we have extraordinary resources which we would be happy to share with you”. So, while providing all the proper guarantees, this bill would allow for this kind of adventure in the host country.

It will also circumvent the problem with the minister's broad discretionary powers. The Minister of Immigration has a lot on his plate. He has many matters and cases to deal with. There are many cases; there are thousands. This bill empowers individuals, by allowing ordinary citizens to sponsor someone they have come to know over the years. They may have met in Vietnam, China or somewhere in Japan, but let us bear in mind that there is always a possibility of meeting others and there might even be economic interests at stake.

In other instances, there might be health considerations involved, such as people who cannot visit their relatives because of poor health or because they are far away. Relatives who were denied visas will be able to come back with this opportunity to visit.

All in all, Bill C-283 gives a better chance to visa applicants. It curbs the discretionary power of Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials, and empowers individual citizens.

The Bloc Québécois may have some concerns and reservations. Will it be possible to sponsor one or more persons at a time? That has not been specified. Very pointed questions could be asked about that during the clause by clause study. Why not the family? Why not include couples? All this to say that there are concerns and some reservations. Can the enforceable guarantee vary from one person to another? If so, what would be an appropriate way to calculate? It can get pretty complicated. We will have questions to ask about that sort of thing.

This measure will require greater control over flows and arrivals. We know that Citizenship and Immigration Canada already has difficulty staying on top of the many applications it receives. Is this not going to clog up the system a bit? There are a few concerns, but they are rapidly compensated for by the numerous advantages in the bill introduced by my colleague from Newton—North Delta.

I had mentioned Australia's experience. In fact, the legislation is similar. Already, after four years, it is clear that it is a solution, because some temporary visitors to Australia later settled after applying to stay. They liked the country they were visiting. It is word of mouth. Here is a very positive economic solution for this measure we are applauding.

In closing, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-283, and I will paraphrase a great singer and poet, Gilles Vigneault:

Inside my four walls of iceI set my time and my placeTo make a fire, the placeFor the people of the horizonAnd the people are of my race

This bill draws its life and inspiration to some extent from the spirit of this piece.

Quebec City Bridge February 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the coalition to preserve the Quebec City bridge has been making representations for a number of years to the federal government and CN, asking them to complete the restoration of that bridge. As the minister responsible for Quebec, the Minister of Transport should realize the importance of this issue, particularly in the context of the celebrations that will mark the city's 400th anniversary, in 2008.

Will the minister pledge today to do whatever is necessary, so that the work can be completed on time for the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Quebec City?

Inter-University Trade Exchange Simulation Competition February 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on January 21 and 22, Laval University held the 17th Quebec and Ontario inter-university trade exchange simulation competition. This year, the organizers from Laval 's finance and insurance student association innovated by adding a college category to the competition.

The students from the faculty of business administration at Laval University were the winners in the university category, while those from Collège François Xavier Garneau were the winners in the college category.

My congratulations to them, as well as to the participants from the other universities and colleges and the organizers, who did a huge job in carrying out an instructional activity on one of the most visible feature of our financial system.

They have given us more reasons to be proud of the students from Louis-Hébert and the Quebec City area, who outdo themselves with every new opportunity.

Foreign Affairs February 11th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, yesterday North Korea announced that it has an atomic bomb and refuses to resume multilateral negotiations. They must resume with China, Russia, the United States, Japan and South Korea, and North Korea must abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs promise to talk to his international partners about resuming negotiations and calling on the international community to work together to bring North Korea back to the table to prevent a dangerous escalation between North Korea and South Korea?

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act December 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I also thank my Conservative colleague for having drawn the attention of the House to the insufficient number of Liberal members at this moment. We will be able to continue with Bill C-9.

As I was saying before the interruption, only Quebec can create this integrated government structure that is referred to in the bill on regional development.

You see what the scenario is now. Two half governments are involved here. Neither Quebec nor Ottawa have the resources to ensure regional development now. So we have two half governments that are involved in half development programs and only achieving--we have to be honest here--half results. This does not work very well at the regional level.

The way this bill is worded, this would involve two government levels and it would once again infringe upon Quebec's jurisdiction. But above all, in the regions of Quebec, one level of government would have the effect of cancelling out what the other government is doing. The forces would cancel each other out instead of complementing each other

I come from the national capital area. I am talking about Quebec City's, of course. Believe it or not, in that area, which is not that far from major centres—it is a major urban centre—we have the same distressing problem as in remote areas. Even though there is a minister supposedly responsible for the Quebec City area, federal money does not even reach it.

Imagine people in the Gaspé or the Laurentians, such as my colleagues here,or in other Quebec regions. Federal money does not come back. When it does, it is always with strings attached and all kind of conditions to make sure the regions are dependant on the federal government. Bill C-9 would continue in the same vein, namely exploit the weakness and vulnerability of the regions.

If Ottawa finally decides to show interest in Quebec's regions, it should start by looking after its own responsibilities. That is were it should start. We in the Bloc believe that instead of introducing a new bill, the federal government should do a number of very basic things.

First, it should respect Quebec's jurisdictions. The government seems to have trouble understanding that, but it might do so by starting by respecting local consultation bodies. We are well equipped in this regard in Quebec. They already exist. Why not give them better tools and make sure Canada Economic Development works properly? There is already an agency that should do that. It does not take one more limo. It is not needed in Quebec.

First, federal programs should be tailored to the needs of the regions. My colleagues mentioned earlier the need to re-establish funding for new infrastructure programs. There is also federal capital spending. That would be a good start, a good indication of the government's good faith.

It should not forget either to support employment insurance reform. When we talk about a reform we are not talking only about lowering or raising EI contributions. We are talking about reform. The regions are particularity hard hit by unemployment, which is very high.

Some realities are not the same from one region to the next, but all the regions of Quebec suffer the same great pain. In the Gaspé, seasonal workers are penalized by employment insurance rules. In other regions the problems are different. Life is not the same in Montreal as in Vancouver or Toronto.

The small regions need support. That support does not come from creating a department, on the contrary, it will come from taking the current structures and freeing up the money that is not getting through to Quebec's regions.

Moreover, the last thing we need is more fighting between Quebec City and Ottawa over structural issues, including a new department that would only increase bureaucracy. In the Bloc Québécois we are very sensitive to the reality of the regions. We listen to the dialogue; we listen to the people telling us that things are not going well.

It is not enough to wave a magic wand, to appear and say here is a bill and—abracadabra—a new department comes in to save the regions from the poor conditions in which they have been imprisoned. They have not been imprisoning themselves in these conditions.

They are going through terrible situations in terms of employment, resources and access. There are as we speak some regions of Quebec that do not even have high speed Internet access. Since telecommunications are in the federal domain, why is it that in 2004 there are regions of Quebec that are not yet connected?

We need some practical action much more than a bill to create a department. It does not take a rocket scientist to think of that. It is just a matter of finding the resources that already exist.

It must be understood that creating a new department will increase the weight of the bureaucracy. Moreover, there will be risks of duplication. It is true that the bill is based on similar initiatives in Canada's western provinces. Western Economic Diversification, or WD, operates quite successfully in the west. I have lived in Manitoba, and I am proud to say so, and I have seen it operating well.

At this time, however, we see that the provincial agencies have had their own legislation since 1988. They are well governed provincially.

The federal government must be reminded of its obligation to respect Quebec's jurisdiction, since Quebec must become and remain the architect of regional development.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act December 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-9, following my colleagues in the Bloc. As was mentioned earlier, the Bloc will oppose this bill for various reasons. I would like to highlight some of them.

This is a bill that proposes to create the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. This may seem a bit odd but, actually, past federal experience in the regions of Quebec has not always been successful, far from it. One need only look at unemployment numbers in the regions. It is an appalling disaster.

Would Bill C-9 do anything particular for Quebec? Not at all. From whatever angle one looks at it, it simply creates a federal department and results in a new duplication. We certainly do not need an additional federal structure in Quebec, far from it.

When we consider the bill in detail, we see, for instance, the duties of the new responsible minister, the one who would get a limousine. This might indeed be the intent behind the bill, to add an extra limousine for a minister. We do not need another federal department.

When one looks closely at the minister's powers, they are vague and far-ranging. Nor does the bill provide for an integrated federal strategy in the regions. By contrast, what we in the Bloc have been saying is that regions first and foremost need an integrated development strategy, but only Quebec is in a position to put one into place.

Foreign Affairs December 1st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs said he would look into my question concerning the case of Tibetan lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, whose only known crime is to have dared to differ.

Since the stay of his execution has ended, can the minister tell us whether he has lodged a protest with the Chinese authorities, or whether he plans to do so, in order to save this Tibetan lama's life?

Foreign Affairs November 30th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on December 2, the suspension of the death sentence against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist lama who is well known and highly respected in his region, will come to an end and he will be in danger of execution by the Chinese authorities. He has been imprisoned for two years and there are reports that he has been tortured.

Does the Government of Canada plan to bring pressure to bear on the Chinese authorities to stay the execution of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and see that he is entitled to a new trial, this time a fair trial in compliance with international legal standards?

Maison Simons November 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, recently the people of Quebec City learned that La Maison Simons was making a gift to the city for its 400th anniversary. The gift is a fountain that has been restored and imported from France, where it was located in Bordeaux's allées de Tourny, named after Aubert Tourny, a French intendant remembered for his contribution to the beautification of Bordeaux, Quebec City's sister city.

The fontaine de Tourny, which was constructed in the mid-19th century, won a gold medal at the Paris world exposition of 1855.

Peter Simons, the president of La Maison Simons, fell in love with this fountain when he saw it in a French antique dealer's. He could see it in Quebec's capital. The Government of Quebec, its national capital commission and the city of Quebec were delighted to accept this gift, and express their thanks to the Simons family for this gracious gesture on the occasion of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City.

The Bloc Québécois congratulates the Simons family for its generous donation of such a wonderful gift.

Canada Labour Code November 25th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst for his enthusiasm and his passion. It seems we are dealing with a convert, someone who has no need of further arguments. He has spoken from the heart and I thank him.

There are other people, not just those associated with the NDP, who have given ample proof of their sincere commitment to the working men and women. I will not go on. All members are aware that in the name of the CAW, Buzz Hargrove and others have said something about the anti-strikebreaking law in Quebec. That is an authoritative source.

Perhaps that answers the question raised by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, as to what the law changed in Quebec and what it was meant to do.

In August 2002, Buzz Hargrove said:

The Harris government's abolition of Ontario's anti-scab legislation proves that labour relations are in better shape when the right to bargain in good faith is protected.

He also referred to the Quebec approach.

In December 2003, Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, another voice of experience, explained that Quebec's anti-scab legislation and that of British Columbia had created:

—more harmonious labour relations and have significantly reduced the number of work days lost to strikes and lockouts.

There are many sources. Many people are able to say today, years after the Quebec anti-strikebreaking law was passed, that many people benefit from it, both the workers and the employers. We can see it: the figures were mentioned already. Everyone is happy with it, whether on the union or employer side. The fair balance of strength between bosses and workers has been restored. It is a healthy and equitable force in bargaining. Each side respects the other more.

That, in brief, is the purpose of this bill and I thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst for his support.