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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Bloc MP for Saint-Maurice—Champlain (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 55% of the vote.

Statements in the House

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act November 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we are talking today about a bill that I am extremely proud of and which seeks to recognize the rights of aboriginals and provide them with the legislative framework they need to develop. This is something we have long called for.

I was a member of the Quebec government under René Lévesque. In 1984, Quebec became the first province to recognize the rights of the first nations and also to recognize that they had the same rights as all other nations, more, in fact, since they were here before us. They helped us to settle in this country. It is thanks to them that we managed to survive, but they have long been forgotten and they are still being forgotten.

I did not appreciate what the minister said at the start of her remarks just now. She said that if an election is called, the first nations will pay the price. I would point out that it is November 2005 and that this party has been in power for quite some time now. Whenever I talk to aboriginal people in my riding and throughout Quebec, they tell me that they have long been forgotten. This is nothing new. Just because an election call is only days or weeks away does not give them the right to say that, if everything is not agreed to today, there will not be enough time to properly consider a bill affecting the first nations, thereby depriving them of legislation they need.

I can say that we have worked hard. I have worked hard in my riding as a member in Quebec City and now here, in order to give the first nations the rights to which they are entitled.

We need only visit the first nations' territories in my riding or elsewhere in Quebec to see the terrible conditions in which they live. I do not want to hear that a legislative framework was needed to help them. Political will was all that was needed.

CMHC has amassed billions of dollars, but does not spend what is necessary to provide the first nations with decent housing. It is very close to indecent, the way the first nations are living in my riding, in Quebec, and in Canada

Of course we are in favour of this bill. We would, however, like to have the time to consult the first nations. Some have been consulted in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, but not in Quebec. A letter has been sent to the chiefs indicating they were consulted, but this is false. I think they will probably agree. Let us stop this paternalism. These people are capable of deciding what they want.

Two weeks ago, I met with the first nations chiefs in my riding and the neighbouring ones. They asked me when we were going to realize that they are human beings with all the rights of any other human being on this planet and in this country. They asked me when we were going to stop thinking for them and deciding what is good for them, and start asking them what they want instead.

This is a good bill and had input from a number of first nations, but I would like to see the input of the first nations of Quebec and of my riding included. We are therefore consenting to adoption of the bill at second reading, because we will be able to continue to improve it when it gets to parliamentary committee, and particularly will be able to ask the first nations of Quebec what they think of it.

I do not know if some of my colleagues watched the report on the first nations of Abitibi on Radio-Canada's Le Point this week. I had phone calls this morning from some people who had not seen it but could report to me on the situation there.

There are people living off reserve and cramming in huge numbers into houses 20 feet by 24 feet. Their children are taken away from them at the beginning of the week and returned to them for the weekend. The houses do not have running water or electricity. Now, do not come and tell me that this is showing respect for the people who have been living on this land for 12,000 years, who were here before us and helped us settle in this country.

It is an attempt to hide this government's incompetence and mismanagement when it comes to the first nations to claim today that we have to rush this bill through for them. I recognize that some things need to be fixed, and we, in the Bloc Québécois, will certainly not stand in the way of that. However, I find it rather indecent to be told that, by having an election called, the opposition would be depriving the first nations of the tools they need and that we would be to blame.

I think we can never do enough to give back to the first nations all that is owed to them. In my riding, we have aboriginal people living approximately 100 kilometres from La Tuque, in the northern part of the riding. It is the nearest town to them. The Weymontachie aboriginal people, for instance, have hardly any decent roads or means of transportation. A train goes by from time to time. I am trying to ensure that they at least have a paved airstrip on which planes can land anytime. At present, if a disaster happened in the north in the spring, no plane could even land because the airstrip is gravel. It is dangerous. There is just no way.

It would have cost $200,000 to build an airstrip over the summer. I did everything in my power to get that strip, but was told no every step of the way. And now, they are telling me that, by delaying passage of this bill, we are denying aboriginal people the assistance they need. That is not true. There is a little too much hypocrisy in that.

I still support passage of the bill as quickly as possible. However, could native peoples in Canada and Quebec please be considered as adults? They are entitled to be consulted and not at the last minute or by government letter? If they do not answer the letter, they are assumed to be in agreement. The time must be taken to go and visit them and ask them what they need. Time has to be taken as well to help them out once their needs are known. Their housing, road and airport requirements are known. There is no need to consult them on these, as they have been bringing them to our attention for quite a while. In terms of health care and education and the right to retain their culture and their language, their needs are known and the right is theirs. It enriches us at the same time.

Nothing is more extraordinary than going into a native community that has next to nothing for its development and seeing that everyone in the community, 125 km from La Tuque, is bilingual. They speak their first language and either French or English, sometimes both. Despite us, they have retained their culture and share it, enriching us. That is really extraordinary and makes us proud.

Why are they so neglected? Why not give them what they need to develop their community? Why say today that this legislation is urgent, when it has been urgent for decades to respond to them and especially to consider them an integral part of Canadian and Quebec society? They have the same rights as everyone and, I would add that they perhaps even have more, since they were here before us.

The fact that we are here now is very much because of their help in the past. So they have the right to develop their community in a way that preserves their culture, their language and their economy.

Pacific Gateway Act November 16th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I like what my colleague said and the way he answered the rather unfortunate question the Liberal member has just asked. I do not know if he has realized we are in the era of globalization. We do not need to be next door to every country in the world to do business with them. In this era, the planet is shrinking. No need to worry. When Quebec is sovereign, we will do business with everyone in the same way or even much better, since we will be representing ourselves.

There is, however, one aspect of C-68 that worries me. My colleague touched on it in expressing his reservations. I would like him to return to the option the government is again giving itself of infringing on provincial jurisdiction. We have to evaluate this reservation before supporting such a bill.

Old Age Security Act October 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is indeed correct. On the one hand, they say they are concerned about it. We have had an announcement of the upcoming speech. They are concerned about it, but it is rather curious. They will say these people will be given $2.7 billion by 2010. But these people have been deprived of $3.2 billion over the last 10 years. In the meantime, 15 years will have gone by. The people who have been denied this money will not receive it, because they will be gone. I am afraid they are banking on the disappearance of the clientele. One day, these people will be granted their rightful retroactivity, but perhaps someone is waiting for the clientele to decrease in numbers. I find that appalling.

I cannot but applaud the increase to the guaranteed income supplement and pensions. Of course I do. Over the last 10 years, these people's purchasing power has fallen by 10%. So we should start by giving their due to the people who have been denied their due.

Old Age Security Act October 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure you of my respect for the Chair. I have myself held such a position on committees in the Government of Quebec. I also liked to be respected. Therefore I have great respect for the decisions you make. However it is not the decision I am criticizing, but the fact.

Here in the House, certain words are banned, for example, saying that someone is lying. As we know, the French language revises its vocabulary from time to time. It might be a good idea to adjust it. Adjust it, for example, to reflect the fact that if there is one word that should not be banned, it is “lie”. However that may be, we do not have the right to call someone a liar. However, is the truth being spoken here, on certain occasions? Sometimes one might doubt it.

To respond to the question of the hon. member opposite, indeed, there are still people who are forgotten. Of course, there has been an improvement. In that regard I must pay tribute to Ms. Jane Stewart. My colleagues and I have gone on tours. I hope that others have done so as well, although I know that when I went to Vancouver, I was the first to speak about this. In short, in the wake of the work that we have done, Ms. Stewart has improved things immensely. For example, now a person answers the telephone. Furthermore, the application form has been simplified and its length reduced. On the other hand, in a letter, she told me that there is just one thing she could not change: retroactivity. But that is what has to be done. That money has to be returned to the people it belongs to.

I do not want to call anyone a thief. I know that is not permitted. But I have certain suspicions. When money that belongs to me turns up in my neighbour’s pocket and he keeps it, I suspect his intentions.

Old Age Security Act October 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am told to obey the rules, but we should obey them too and give people what is owing to them but was stolen from them. That is how one obeys the rules. I will never accept being unable to say that this money is in the government coffers, $3.2 billion, of which $800 million is for Quebec. And this amount is constantly increasing. During my travels around Quebec, I learned that about 30,000 people had not received what was owing to them. There are still about 40,000 who are not receiving their due. As I meet them, I tell them that they are entitled to more. People call me every day in my office to check their files. And we see that they have not received what is owing to them.

Eleven months retroactivity here is unacceptable. It is unfair and dishonest. Regardless of the rules that I am supposed to obey, when something is dishonest, it is dishonest. It has to be possible in this House to speak the truth. In my view, the senior who died at 88 years of age had $90,000 stolen from her. Do not tell me that she was not robbed, because she was. Why did she not get what was owing to her? It was simply because things had been made complicated. The information was not getting through. She had to call in order to receive what was owing to her. But at the other end of the line was an answering machine. Sometimes people had to wait two hours on the telephone to get an answer. When people got the form to make their application, it was so complicated that I myself, who have spent my life filling out forms, was exhausted just looking at it. It was unbelievable. An expert was needed to fill it out. So just imagine what that means for older people who are often ill.

I knew someone who had had a stroke. He lived alone and could not figure all this out. So he just threw the form in the garbage. He said to himself: “If they do not want to give me the money, let them have it. I am fed up having to fight to get what is owing to me. At this time in my life, I should be able to get it.”

We should have a government that is honest enough to ensure that these people receive their due. I know that this bill requires royal assent. However, it pains me to learn that we will not be able to vote on so honest and logical a bill and say that the 11 months retroactivity makes no sense. If a senior realizes that he has been owed money for five years, why grant him only 11 months retroactivity? Yet if a citizen has owed money to the government for five years, the government is going to go after its five years of retroactivity.

I find it painful to think of these citizens. They are of inestimable value. Seniors have made sacrifices. They have built this society of ours. They have had to toil and struggle to earn their living. They have raised large families and worked up to 20 hours a day. That has been the lot of mothers. In fact, most of those who have been deprived of the guaranteed income supplement are our mothers. It is curious that the poorest of the seniors in our society are women, mothers. For example, there is one mother in Sherbrooke who raised her family. After providing society with eight or ten children, her reward was to be allowed to be poor in her old age, even though some of her money was in the government’s coffers.

When we see waste such as the sponsorship scandal, we can talk about it. Money flows like water here. We only need look at what is happening. Consider the past president of Canada Post, for example, and you will see that when some people retire, they don’t retire poor. That is the case in other fields as well. Money flows here as if it were nothing. But when it comes to giving it to the most vulnerable in our society, that is apparently too much to ask.

That requires money from the government. As a result, it will be difficult to get royal recommendation. Allow me at least to say that much. This is not to come down against your decision, but I find this painful.

I hope that one day we will be honest enough to reimburse the money we owe to the most vulnerable people in our society. These people have earned this money; they have not stolen it. So we will continue to fight until they obtain their due.

Old Age Security Act October 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to initiate debate on Bill C-301, although what you have just said does not augur well for the process. It is not that I wish to contest your ruling, but when it is said that the bill involves money, we need to know whose money it is. In my opinion, it already belongs to seniors, and we are not asking the government to spend any new money. The bill is merely asking it to return to senior citizens who have been deprived of the guaranteed income supplement the money to which they are entitled.

The public did not call for royal recommendation to deprive them of their due. The period of retroactivity has been reduced to 11 months since 1995; before that it was 5 years. They were not asked to consent to being deprived of their rights and the money coming to them.

I find it immoral that we cannot now call upon the government to show some conscience and provide the least advantaged of seniors with what they are entitled to, after it has used every means possible to deprive them of it.

I sat on the committee that examined the GIS question in 2001. We came to realize that 270,000 seniors among Canada's least advantaged—since those who are entitled to the supplement certainly do not have money in tax havens—have been deprived of the GIS, including 68,000 Quebeckers. The government is sitting on $3.2 billion that does not belong to it; this money belongs to seniors.

While I do not challenge the Speaker's ruling, I will never accept being told that a bill like this one cannot be voted on, on the pretext that it would deprive the government of money. That is wrong. The money in question is not the government's money but money owing to the most disadvantaged of seniors.

If you do the math, you will see that in Quebec alone since 1995 those who already have the least have been deprived of some $1 billion. Some people aged 72, 75 or 80 are having to live on $6,000 a year because they do not get the GIS, not having been properly informed about their entitlement to it. Disadvantaged seniors often live in conditions that keep them from getting the necessary information. They are not the ones responsible; the government is responsible for depriving these seniors of what they are entitled to by making the situation so complicated.

I find it totally immoral that an issue like this one can only be discussed, and not voted on. As I said at the beginning of my speech, no royal recommendation was required to deprive seniors of what they were owed.

I have toured Quebec with my colleagues from the Bloc. We have held 43 meetings across the province with seniors who were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement. The meeting in Sherbrooke comes to mind, as I was particularly struck. It was held in a church basement on a Monday afternoon, and so many people showed up that extra chairs had to be added. Three hundred and fifty people attended that meeting.

We learned that, among those present, perhaps 10 or 20 were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement. I met the daughter of an 88 year old woman who has since passed. This woman did not contribute much to society: only 10 or so children. That is already something. As Yvon Deschamps would say, she never really found time to work; she had too much to do at home. In her later years, she had to live on $6,000 a year and, after she passed, the government was left with $90,000 that belonged to her.

If a royal recommendation is required to go after that money, let us get it immediately. It makes no sense that more justice cannot be restored. It makes no sense that, while there is so much talk about all kinds of violence, we can be so violent here. No doubt about it, it was violence against this woman.

I can provide names of people this has happened to in Quebec. In my riding, there is a couple in their 70s, who thanked me because as a result of my efforts they now get $4,000 more a year. They each got $2,000 more. I asked them when this started. They told me they got only 11 months of retroactive payments. However, $4,000 a year for five years equals $20,000. The government therefore took $16,000 belonging to that couple. This is happening everywhere.

I went to Vancouver where I met with some of these people. The government brags about being good administrators. It is scandalous. They say they are good administrators, but they take money from those who are less fortunate. They can pay down the debt that way, but it is nothing to be proud of.

They say they are good administrators, but they take money from the unemployed. Again, that is nothing to be proud of. The members opposite who are bragging about achieving zero deficit on the backs of seniors, the unemployed, the sick and the provinces, certainly have no reason to claim to be good administrators. I would never admit such a thing.

My bill asks only one thing and that is to re-establish the most basic justices. Seniors are absolutely not responsible for being inadequately informed about what they are entitled to receive. Why not treat them the way we would want to be treated.

If we stop paying our taxes for five or six years, does that mean we owe the government only 11 months of back taxes? I doubt it. When we owe money to the government, it has the right to go into our wallets and take what it wants. It will even impose penalities and interest.

My bill simply asks the government to be honest. It has $3 billion that does not belong to it. There is a lack of honesty. I am sorry, but there is a lack—

Old Age Security Act October 24th, 2005

moved that Bill C-301, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (monthly guaranteed income supplement), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Centre d'entraide aux rayons du soleil October 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on August 17 last, the Centre d'entraide aux rayons du soleil launched its 2005-06 fundraising campaign at the Auberge Santé Lac des Neiges.

Among the many scheduled activities to raise $50,000, this campaign's objective, is a fundraising dinner, which I will be proud to host in an honorary capacity. This event will be held on October 15, at the Sainte-Flore golf club, in Grand-Mère.

Centre d'entraide aux rayons du soleil is an organization in the field of addiction working with a mixed clientele, which addresses a real need in our community.

I wish every success to this fundraising campaign. I encourage the public to take part, to show their solidarity and support to people who are greatly in need of it.

Criminal Code September 28th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I too find this debate on an issue that we have been hearing about for a long time most interesting. Indeed, everyone finds it illogical that criminals should benefit from the proceeds of crime, even if they are found guilty, or if they admit guilt and receive a sentence.

Based on what we are hearing, this will no longer be the case. Indeed, measures will be taken to determine if a person's assets are proceeds of crime or personal property.

I wonder if the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles could tell us what will happen with the proceeds of crime. What does the bill provide, since such proceeds will no longer be given back to criminals? How will these moneys be used?

Criminal Code September 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, every day we learn something else that stands our hair on end.

I would like to congratulate the member for Winnipeg Centre. I have been here since 2000, and every time I have been in a parliamentary committee or elsewhere with that hon. member, I have observed that no one could ever say he makes up stories. So we can assume that what he has revealed here is something that he has looked into and that it is real.

I am scandalized. Here we are, in a supposedly developed country, in the year 2005, a country that has long taken pride in calling itself the best in the world. Yet every year, every month, new scandals are being discovered. It is no longer the sponsorship scandal, it is something far more serious. It is the scandal of trafficking in human beings, including trafficking in women for the purposes of prostitution. The member has even said that there were lawyers working for Citizenship and Immigration who own places where these women can be exploited.

Have I understood properly? Does he believe these lawyers are still working for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration or can we assume that this is a past event and hope the matter is now settled? If he feels that it is not, do these lawyers still work for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration?