Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Bellechasse (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I will try to keep my contribution to this debate as relevant as possible to the subject before the House: Bill C-18, am Act to suspend the operation of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

I had some trouble following the train of thought of the hon. member for Waterloo, since his speech covered a variety of topics, including some criticism of the behaviour of Reform Party members. That is not the intent of my speech today.

First of all, I must say, it is always distressing to see a government using a motion for time allocation, for closure, to put an end to debate.

It is always, or nearly always, a distressing moment for parliamentarians to see this desire to gag a democratic debate. We did not support the motion, because it is the very essence of our parliamentary system that debate should take place without undue haste, and with as much for reflection and consideration as possible.

In the case of Bill C-18 before the House today, the debate started on Monday this week, after notice given Friday last week. And after one day of debate, they imposed closure. Why the hurry, when the government could easily have scheduled the tabling of this bill a week or two earlier?

I have somewhat mixed feelings when I speak to Bill C-18, because I strongly object to restricting the debate on a bill in this House, especially after only one day of debate. It is not a matter of life and death, and the government could have taken steps to avoid this.

On the other hand, and this is why I have mixed feelings about the substance of Bill C-18, I share a number of views held by members of the government majority. Bill C-18 asks us to suspend the current process for electoral boundaries review and would refer the issue of representation in this Parliament, including section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs; but more about this later.

Madam Speaker, 1867 was a landmark, an historic date, since on July 1, 1867, the constitutional system in this country changed and became a so-called Confederation, although it was actually an extremely centralized federation, witness the constant debate and struggle, every day and every moment, to ensure that provincial legislatures are able to operate in their fields of jurisdiction. Before 1867, Quebec had half the seats in the Legislature of the Union Parliament; 65 out of 130 for Lower Canada, and of course the remaining 65 for Upper Canada.

It was a dramatic change, and no wonder the Liberal government never consulted the population. Why did the government that was in power just before the Union-and I must make a correction here, because it was not the Liberal government, since it was the Liberal Party which requested a referendum-why did it not conduct a referendum in Quebec, in Lower Canada, on the institutional changes in 1867? Because, according to most historians, the referendum would have been a lost cause.

We started our journey into the institutional desert in 1867, when we lost the equality between two nations: Quebec and English Canada, which itself was seeking its own identity. And as we went on, decade after decade and decennial census after decennial census-since the present Constitution requires a census every ten years-we saw Quebec's political power being eroded.

Seventy-five members out of 181, and now, 75 out of 295. If the proposed redrawing of the map now before the people, as submitted by the provincial commissions, is approved, we would hold 75 of the 301 seats. Our representation would continue to be eroded!

Over the years, there has clearly been a collective loss of memory in some circles. Yet, we must constantly remind people that in 1867, Quebec held half of the seats in Canada's parliament. What could be more legitimate than to seek a status that would allow us to manage our own affairs, according to the wishes of the majority of our people. In fact, just prior to Confederation in 1867, the Parliament of the united Canada of 1840 operated according to the double majority rule, which meant that decisions made required the backing of a majority of the members representing Upper Canada and a majority of the members representing Lower Canada. Quebec enjoyed de facto a veto over all decisions affecting it. On this score, we have certainly lost ground.

I can speak openly about Bill C-18 without any ulterior motives since I campaigned right up until October 25 as a candidate who was seeking to become the last federal member of Parliament for Bellechasse. And this has continued to be my position. Therefore, I can allow myself great latitude when it comes to this bill to readjust or redraw electoral boundaries.

During my speech the other day, I mentioned that the Bloc Quebecois, which is dedicated to defending Quebec's interests and to promoting Quebec sovereignty, will never support the empty chair policy or the scorched-earth policy, regardless of what the future holds for Quebec, and that the decision ultimately rests with Quebecers and with Quebecers alone. In this regard, we must see to it that our future is protected, regardless of the decisions that will be made.

Constitution Act, 1982 March 23rd, 1994

To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to give the floor for the rest of my time to the hon. member for Chambly.

Constitution Act, 1982 March 23rd, 1994

I think that this is a debate about the kind of society we want which could go on for years, Mr. Speaker. If you wish, give the floor to the hon. member for Chambly, who could use up my speaking time.

Constitution Act, 1982 March 23rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to motion M-239, introduced by the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, which requests withdrawal of section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982, the notwithstanding clause, also known in Quebec as the "clause nonobstant".

Need I recall that the legislation we are discussing, the 1982 Canadian Charter, was passed by the Imperial Parliament in Westminster, after a debate in this House where the majority of Quebecers-there were a few exceptions-supported the request made to the Imperial Parliament?

In fact, there was more opposition to the Constitution Act, 1982, in the Imperial Parliament in Westminster than in this House. Westminster ratified this legislation, despite two memoranda by the Government of Quebec which vigorously objected to the process and also despite a resolution supported by both parties then represented in the Quebec National Assembly, the Parti québécois and the Liberal Party of Quebec, with only six members voting against the resolution.

What we have now is legislation that may have its merits but is fundamentally flawed in terms of the process that was imposed on us to adopt it. The government amended Canada's Constitution and removed Quebec's right to legislate on language matters, a right guaranteed by section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, by what was always defined as a pact between the two founding peoples. What a fallacy, Mr. Speaker!

Section 23 of the Constitution Act, 1982, ratified in London and amended in a Parliament on the other side of the Atlantic, amended section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, by restricting the powers of the Quebec National Assembly with respect to language in Quebec, and in many respects it was this section that caused so much trouble. How ironic that we should have to go to London to amend the Canadian Constitution and to incorporate in the constitutional amending formula provisions that, if they had existed in 1982, would have made it impossible to amend section 23 with respect to the powers of Quebec.

They asked London to do the dirty work, so that would be the end of it. This is a strange interpretation of democracy. And with all due respect for the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, who referred to decisions by the courts in Quebec and especially to Mr. Duplessis, I think we should not forget that in this trilogy of judgments made in the fifties, in Saumur versus the City of Quebec, the Switsman case and the Roncareli case, the Supreme Court of Canada came down on the side of those who defended civil rights and quashed the laws passed by the Legislative Assembly and Legislature of Quebec which restricted individual rights and freedoms. The rights of the Jehovah's Witnesses were recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. The padlock act, passed by the Legislative Assembly and Legislature of Quebec, was declared null and void.

But where was the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in 1970, when this House passed the War Measures Act which provided for arrests without a warrant and arbitrary detention of Canadian citizens? Government by decree, that is exactly what they did in 1970, and the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce voted in favour of this odious piece of legislation, which was last used in World War I. Was he there to defend the rights of Quebecers, when 500 were jailed without a warrant and could be detained for up to six months without trial? In most cases they received no compensation, or very little. Some people lost their jobs, their families and the love and respect of their friends. Where was the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce then? Perhaps he should tell us someday.

However, I understand some of the frustrations of the hon. member which are probably connected with Bill 178, passed by the Quebec National Assembly and proposed by the Liberal Premier of Quebec, Mr. Bourassa, which created two language categories in Quebec, one language which could be posted inside and another outside. There is nothing wrong with being able to post signs in one's own language. Bill 178 was highly questionable because it seemed to make English a language that had to be used furtively. And that should certainly not be the case.

Getting back to the crux of the matter, since these precautions were taken, section 33, the famous notwithstanding clause, allows us to interpret the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It allows parliamentarians to interpret the Charter and, depending on the circumstances, to ask themselves this: Should we or can we distance ourselves from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

At the federal level, the decision to do so is made by the houses of the federal parliament, while at the provincial level, it is made by the members of the legislatures. The decision is only valid for five years. It is a serious matter which must be studied each time and the decision that is reached is valid for a period of five years, which enables the legislator to have the final word. However, when it comes to justifying the use of the notwithstanding clause to the Canadian and provincial electorates, the

burden will fall to federal and provincial members of Parliament. And there may indeed be circumstances where the application of the notwithstanding clause is justifiable. For example, it may be justified in the case of political party funding where the sky is virtually the limit when it comes to contributions.

Perhaps a notwithstanding clause will be referred to this Parliament, thereby making it possible to adjust today's reality to the deeply felt wishes of Canadian and Quebec society. Perhaps. There are cases. In any event, when there is a charter of rights or constitutional provision, such as the constitutional amendments to the constitution of the United States, there is no notwithstanding clause. The U.S. constitution does not contain one and the legislator is bound by his own constitutional provisions which must be upheld.

The offshoot of this, however, is that if the legislator cannot do the job, the courts will do it. The courts take on the task, from time to time, of defining that which, in their opinion, is acceptable at a given point in time, based on how a society evolves. Over the decades and even the centuries now, the Supreme Court of the United States has not been shy about interpreting differently various provisions of the amendments to the American Constitution that guarantee certain rights associated with certain fundamental freedoms.

I much prefer to have this discretionary power exercised by elected officials as in our country who must go before their constituents at least every five years, rather than by unelected judges who cannot be removed and are not accountable to anyone, since this is basically a political act. If we want to take politics out of Parliament and put it in the courts, the proposal of the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce should be accepted. If political debates should go on in our stately courtrooms, let us adopt the motion presented by the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, but if we want political issues to be settled here in the House of Commons or in the Quebec National Assembly or in the provincial legislatures, please do not pass a motion like this one.

Passing Motion No. 239 would be compounding the wrong done to us Quebecers in 1982, which came on top of the insult we had to put up with in October 1970, let me remind the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in closing.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, following the comments made by the hon. member for Kamloops, I want to say that we made no secret of our sovereignist option and of the fact that we constantly promote that option for Quebec. Also, we will never resort to the scorched-earth policy. The seats we occupy do not belong to us: we are trustees. I fully agree with that observation made by the hon. member for Calgary West. Until last October 25, we had a government which thought that the whole country belonged to it. Look at what is left of that government now.

It is in this responsible fashion that the Official Opposition intends to continue to work on Bill C-18, which deals with electoral boundaries readjustment. This legislation might be in effect for the next general election, whether Quebec is still present or not.

I think it is a matter of responsibility for parliamentarians, regardless of their political affiliation, to participate in the business of the House. In my opinion, given this notion of responsibility, a party which would sit back and refuse to take part in the work of the House because of a political option or some bias, would certainly deserve to be blamed.

As I said earlier, as long as we are here, we intend to defend the interests of Canadians from coast to coast, all the way up to the Arctic. This must be very clear, and if we have to repeat it, we will constantly repeat it, being understood of course that our primary objective is Quebec's sovereignty.

However, we are not the ones who will decide; the decision rests with Quebeckers. It is Quebec voters who, on referendum day, will decide their future, in the polling booth.

Whatever their decision, we must respect it. We believe and we hope that they will say yes, and in fact we will work for a yes vote for sovereignty, for empowerment, for the opening of Quebec to the world, to the francophonie and to the English-speaking world and all other cultures of course. If, unfortunately, we cannot reach our goal from the seat we occupy here and if others take over, we will have to work to ensure that it happens later, in the best possible manner.

We are here to promote Quebec's evolution in the context of a mature political context, and it makes me very sad every time I hear expressions such as "break up" or "collapse" in reference to Canada. We do not want to break anything other than political structures. Does the redefinition of Canada's political structures mean the breaking up of anything? Was there any mention of a "collapse" when the Canadian Constitution was rewritten in 1840, then in 1867, in 1931, and finally in 1982? No, rather we talked about affirmation. When Canada became sovereign, we celebrated. When Quebec becomes sovereign, we should also celebrate.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my comments on Bill C-18, An Act to suspend the operation of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, tabled by the Government House leader, will be brief.

First, I want to say that the Official Opposition agrees with the principles underlying Bill C-18. We agree with the principles described by the Government House leader because these are general, non-partisan principles aimed at improving a system which has now been in effect for close to 30 years in Canada.

There is no doubt that the criteria set in 1964 must be reviewed. Our response might have been less spontaneous and more reserved if this legislation had been tabled just before an election, but the government deserves to be congratulated for acting at an early stage, when there is no controversy or dispute. Indeed, the government cannot be accused of gerrymandering the electoral map by referring the issue now to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, for a review of the whole process.

While our objective remains Quebec's sovereignty, it would be irresponsible on the Official Opposition's part not to get

involved in this exercise, since we must represent the interests of Canadians from Newfoundland to Vancouver, that is from coast to coast and up to the Arctic.

Once the bill is referred to the committee, we will look, without any mental reservations and with a totally open mind, at the impact of the review and we will participate, in the most positive manner possible, in the development of new criteria regarding the philosophy exposed earlier.

The Supreme Court has already indicated some parameters which we have to follow, but parliamentarians definitely have some room to manoeuvre. There are aspects which we must review, including the continuous increase in the number of MPs. Should that trend be maintained? Should we do something about the situation? How should we go about this? To correct the situation we must first look at it, and the best way to do so is certainly by referring the issue to the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

One aspect I find particularly interesting in connection with the readjustment process would be, of course, to review the well-known senate clause which allows Prince Edward Island its four seats, not that I am challenging that-that is not the point-and in any case, we have all lived with this provision. Everyone agrees it would be bizarre, to say the least, for a province to be represented by fewer members than the number of senators it may have, although that does happen in the United States.

Perhaps section 51, if it still applies to Quebec in the next election, could be used to cover cases like the Magdalen Islands. This is an entirely separate community which no longer has its own member of Parliament, because since the 1968 reform, it has been part of the riding of Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine. This is not a political issue. In fact, we find the same situation in the province of Newfoundland, where Labrador exists as a distinct entity only because Newfoundlanders are willing to have their electoral districts contain more voters than would normally be the case, so that residents of Labrador, on the mainland, can have their own representative. These are only two examples.

Perhaps more examples of truly distinct communities within this country will be submitted to the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs-I am not sure-but it would certainly be the proper place to make these submissions, as well as adjust other criteria.

I think the government made a wise decision to stop the train at the first opportunity, in other words, before it would be to expensive to do so. The Official Opposition is not in the habit of making frivolous compliments. However, I think the government acted sensibly by intervening in the readjustment process at the earliest opportunity, instead of waiting, as the previous government so often did on other occasions, until all public money was spent before stopping the train. It waited until we had paid our fare and the train had reached the station.

If the train must be stopped, and we on this side of the House believe that it should be stopped, we can at least save on the fuel and the staff we need on board that train. In any case, I do not support the argument that since a certain amount of money was authorized during the 34th Parliament, we should go ahead.

I believe that on October 25 of last year, we made a dramatic turn, at least in Quebec. We will see in the months to come whether or not this also applies to the other side. We should not feel overly bound by the decisions of the 34th Parliament, and in particular by the Lortie report already mentioned by the hon. leader of the government in this House. The Royal Commission on Electoral Reform is only a small part of what we will have to study before we come to some conclusion.

The report of the Lortie Commission should not be the exclusive background or even the only basis on which to build. In fact, the mandate does not set any limits nor give strict criteria to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Therefore, the Committee will be free to act as it sees fit.

To conclude, Mr. Speaker, the Official Opposition will use all its capabilities-God and you know we have a lot-to influence the work of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

St. Patrick's Day March 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, on this March 17, St. Patrick's Day, I am pleased to pay tribute to all our fellow citizens of Irish origin for their outstanding contribution to the development of Quebec and Canada.

In my riding of Bellechasse, the Grosse-Île sanctuary, which for many years was a quarantine station where thousands of Irish families stayed after fleeing the hardships in their country, still symbolizes the courage and determination of our fellow citizens of Irish descent.

To my Irish friends and neighbours of my constituency and to the whole Quebec Irish community, my best wishes for this very particular day which reminds us of our origins and the way we have achieved our common contribution to Quebec.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Allan Memorial Institute March 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Justice.

During the last election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada promised to compensate the families of victims of the brainwashing experiments using electroshock therapy and drugs, conducted at the Allen Memorial Institute in Montreal in the fifties and sixties, but the Minister of Justice has just refused to compensate these families.

Could the Minister tell us whether he intends to follow up on his party's promise of financial assistance or are we to understand that the government has reversed its position?

Parliament Of Canada Act March 14th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-201 which was tabled by the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester. Constitutionally speaking, I have a problem with this bill. Pursuant to section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, "the Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect".

What exactly is the relationship between the Constitution of Canada and the oath of allegiance? The provisions respecting the oath of allegiance are contained in section 128 of the Constitution Act, 1867 which I will take the liberty of reading. Section 128 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which most of us know as the British North America Act, reads as follows:

Every Member of the Senate or House of Commons of Canada shall before taking his Seat therein take and subscribe before the Governor General or some Person authorized by him, and every Member of a Legislative Council or Legislative Assembly of any Province shall before taking his Seat therein take and subscribe before the Lieutenant Governor of the Province or some Person authorized by him, the Oath of Allegiance contained in the Fifth Schedule to this Act.

The fifth schedule reads as follows:

I, A.B. do swear, that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

Of course, in accordance with the law governing succession to the throne, the reference to Queen Victoria includes all of her heirs and successors. This is the sole requirement for sitting in this House that is set out in the Constitution of Canada. And, as we have seen, the Constitution is the supreme law of Canada.

The hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester is proposing, through a simple bill, to amend section 27.1 of the Parliament of Canada Act by the addition of the following: "No person holding a seat in the House of Commons shall sit therein nor shall any funds be made available to such a person for the carrying out of parliamentary functions unless the person, in writing, has taken the oath or made the solemn affirmation provided for in Schedule II before the Governor General or any person authorized by the Governor General to administer such oath or solemn affirmation".

Schedule II of Bill C-201 reads as follows:

I, --, swear that I will be loyal to Canada and that I will perform the duties of a member of the House of Commons honestly and justly in conformity with the Constitution of Canada.

Clause 27.1 of this bill states very clearly that no member can sit in this House unless he or she takes this oath. Enacting a statutory law is certainly not the way to go about changing the oath of allegiance. What we need to do is amend the Constitution of Canada, just as a member of Parliament, Mr. Keyes, attempted to do during the third session of the 34th Parliament with Bill C-270, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (oath of allegiance).

It is clear that unless the Constitution of Canada is amended, and since section 128 applies not only to the federal government, but to the provinces as well, the amending procedure that applies here is unquestionably the one set out in section 38 of the Constitution Act, 1982, that is the 7/50 rule which requires approval of seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population. Curiously enough, we are not moving in that direction. We therefore have before us a bill that would be futile at best since it would contradict Canada's existing Constitution.

Some of the comments made by the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester about the merits of his bill surprised me a little. He told us that the oath of loyalty to the Crown prescribed in Schedule V of the 1867 Constitution could apply to His or Her Majesty as head of the Commonwealth. There is a timing problem. When we look at the situation, we see that there is an anachronism somewhere for, when the Constitution Act of 1867 was enacted, the Commonwealth did not exist. How could it have been possible in 1867 to consider a measure applying to the Queen as head of the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth was formed almost 100 years later?

It also ignores the whole evolution of the monarchy in Canada, from the imperial conferences of 1926 and 1930 and the 1931 Statute of Westminster to the Constitution Act of 1982 that definitely Canadianized the monarchy.

It is now clear that the monarchy in Canada is solely dependent on the will of the Canadian Parliament and the Canadian people. We are not subjected to any foreign monarchy. Our oath of loyalty to the Queen is undoubtedly directed at the Queen of Canada, and only Canadian parliamentarians can swear allegiance to the Queen of Canada. This oath is not required of parliamentarians in Australia, Great Britain or New Zealand who swear allegiance to their Queen; we are the only ones affected.

Canada is not a republic where the official oath is usually directed at the state. It would be rather surprising to see French parliamentarians, for example, swearing allegiance to President Mitterrand. They have to swear allegiance to the institutions of the Fifth Republic. It is the same thing in the United States of America.

In a monarchial system of government like ours, the Sovereign, the Queen of Canada, is the embodiment of the state as the official head of the Canadian state.

Like Louis XIV, Her Majesty the Queen could say, "I am the state," subject, of course, to the limits imposed by the Constitution since we live in a constitutional monarchy.

Swearing allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada is the same as swearing allegiance to Canada, everyone having their own definition of Canada. Is it the Canada of 1867 with its four provinces? Is it the Canada that existed prior to 1949 without Newfoundland? If this oath had existed, would it have been possible to allow Newfoundland to join the Canadian federation if we had sworn to keep the oath's status quo? Is this a way of singling out the members of the Official Opposition, who want to promote and eventually achieve Quebec's sovereignty in a democratic fashion and by respecting

clearly established constitutional conventions and the right of peoples to self-determination?

Those are questions I ask myself and to which I have no answer. We have always been comfortable since we have always said that we would respect the current system as long as it remains unchanged, as well as its institutions. We are showing it every day in this House, and such an oath, even though it can be voluntary, cannot in my opinion encroach on the provisions of the 1867 Constitution which are unusually clear.

Government Agencies February 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I think that the hon. minister should also maintain a direct, open and honest dialogue with the officials of the agencies involved.

In light of this new example of mismanagement, does the minister still contend to have clean hands? Will he do the responsible thing and intervene to force another agency, namely the National Capital Commission, to stop meeting behind closed doors and show more transparency?