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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Gatineau (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Income Tax Act December 5th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that Canada's privacy legislation prohibits the government from discussing details of specific cases like the one he raised. The government would not jeopardize the integrity of its own intelligence or that of our neighbour, the United States.

What I can tell the member is that the existing act already contains some of the toughest provisions to deny admission to or deport terrorists regardless of the accusations we have heard in the House. At present we can and do detain whenever we believe someone is a flight risk or a threat to Canadians. If anyone poses a security risk to Canada we detain and argue for continued detention.

Front end security screening coupled with the new enforcement measures of Bill C-11 which was recently passed by parliament would provide immigration officers the tools they need to do their job. They are powerful tools compared to those of the past. They would automatically deny access to our refugee determination system to anyone found to be a security threat. Bill C-11 gave us the tools to deal with security threats more quickly.

We will not let terrorists strike at our core values. These values include a commitment to the charter, which we must always keep in mind; due process, in which we take great pride in the House; tolerance, which I hope is in the heart of every member of the House; and diversity in our immigration and refugee protection program which is seen as a model everywhere in the world.

We will not allow terrorists to push us off course. Canadians want security but they want us to respect our values and traditions. We are committed to the rule of law. This is why we cannot remove persons from Canada after due process has been served. Our system works on the basis of evidence. It consists of checks and balances and due process.

The Government of Canada will not allow persons to take advantage of our generosity by engaging in any kind of terrorism. We are acting to ensure Canada will never be a safe haven for terrorists. We are doing this in ways that are grounded in the rule of law which is the basis of our democracy.

Immigration November 29th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should check his facts because the department does its work. Whenever there are any types of threats the RCMP and CSIS take them into account. They look into these matters very seriously for our security.

Canada Career Week November 8th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, this week is Canada Career Week. This year's theme is “Learning—Power for Life”. Schools, the private sector and community groups will organize career fairs, provide opportunities for individuals to volunteer in their dream job for a day, encourage role models, and disseminate information about labour trends and career opportunities.

This is also a chance to highlight government programs such as the youth employment strategy which helps young people to make the transition from school to work. Career planning is a lifelong endeavour. Individuals at all stages in their working lives are constantly developing their skills and thinking about the future.

Canada Career Week is sponsored by the Canada Career Consortium. This partnership distributes informational material and brings together members of the private sector, community organizations and government. This is a time of opportunity for those who are looking for direction in their—

Softwood Lumber November 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the Chair that I will split my time with the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

This evening's debate is of course extremely important for members of the softwood lumber industry. There is no doubt in my mind that the Government of Canada, the provincial governments and the Canadian industry are determined to protect their rights in justice to settle disputes to their advantage.

In recent weeks, and even months—time goes by so quickly—I had the opportunity to meet people from the softwood lumber industry in my region. These are major entrepreneurs who export in huge volumes. In doing so, they created many jobs in the region. It goes without saying that the industry was doing very well.

I also had the opportunity to meet business people from British Columbia's softwood lumber industry. I travelled there on business. I met these people and I was very interested in getting their views, in order to compare them with those in Quebec. I was rather impressed by how they wanted to settle the issue. Needless to say I listened to them with interest.

I would like to share with my colleagues a view that is not often heard, but which is from people who work in that industry. These people are very well informed, and I think this is a golden opportunity to present their view on this issue to the whole country. Of course I trust their judgment, because they have years of experience, they know the industry very well. Some have been working in it for over 25 years. So, these people know what they are talking about.

Over the last two decades Canada has been subjected to at least three unwarranted oppressive actions by the United States in the softwood lumber arena. People of goodwill might be willing to characterize one action as merely that of ill-informed. Subjected to a second episode these same people, given common sense, might characterize such an action as unscrupulous. A third action based on the same strain and proven false logic as the first two will cause anyone to say enough is enough.

There should be at least no other consequence, namely we should ask ourselves why the United States continues to persist in such activity knowing the difficulty it creates in our industry, and after all we are supposed to be living under a free trade agreement.

From the perspective of American industry, the most important consequence is on companies in the affected industry within the country targeted for trade action; in this case the Canadian softwood industry. As intended, each time a foreign industry, like ours in Canada, is subjected to unwarranted punitive trade measures its member companies are significantly weakened. Collateral impacts within these countries, like our own: the workers who are directly employed are affected; companies and workers whose sales, jobs and incomes are affected directly and indirectly; and, of course, government revenues and the capacity of governments to sustain social programs are also affected.

During the trade action, United States competitors sell larger volumes at higher prices with the same cost base for an extended period and capture business that normally goes to Canadian suppliers, reap a share in punitive duties and build their financial strength.

Oppressed Canadian companies have restrained or limited revenues and in some cases no revenues because of the complete shutdown, while having to cope with ongoing overheads and cuts.

Immediately after the trade action, American competitors work hard to keep the new customers, cushioned by windfall profits accumulated during the period of unwarranted trade tension.

In the case of softwood lumber, once regular Canadian production and transborder shipments resume, prices invariably drop significantly as Canadian suppliers compete aggressively in a desperate effort to regain market share and rebuild their cash position.

The impact on the competitiveness of companies within the targeted foreign industry, namely our own, should not be underestimated. I refer only to the capacity of these foreign companies to compete for sales but is important to their capacity to compete and retain capital, supplier credit and confidence, customer confidence, top management talent and, among other items, motivated and trained personnel.

Being subjected repeatedly to the likelihood of being placed in a weakened state, drives those affected, in this case our Canadian softwood lumber companies, to act more intensively and at times perhaps selfishly than they would otherwise do because of the threat they are facing. Strong, vibrant companies grow and acquire other companies. A company needs many things to go right over an extended period to achieve and maintain a position of market strength. That takes years of work to build.

Companies incapable of achieving a position of strength and vibrancy over time, no matter what their natural potential is, are relegated to a position of also-rans, incapable except under unusual circumstances of being an acquirer, at least a weak company acquiring weaker operations. Most of them for the same reason are in difficulty. They become prime material for acquisition. One case in point is the Canadian company of MacMillan Bloedel.

If any major Canadian solid wood forest companies have been sufficiently strong over the past two decades to sustain significant international expansion and investment in research and development, the United States is structurally unable to submit international trade disputes on a timely basis for resolution to impartial review panels and abide by rulings from such panels until there is compelling evidence that the underlying circumstances have changed. The U.S. industry exploits this fully.

In the case of softwood lumber, even if the Canadian position is upheld in the long run, Canadian industry loses both in the short and long runs. Within the United States, the current softwood dispute is a sly manoeuvre for greater market share and dominance masquerading as a free trade issue. It is politically sanctioned commercial oppression that is permitted. It causes tremendous damage to the softwood industry in the country.

Canada must now stand firm on this issue and it must stand collectively. To win the battle we have to make sure the government takes all measures necessary to protect our softwood industry.

There were some rather radical steps recommended. For instance, it was recommended that Canada should declare an economic state of emergency whereby the government would have the power to stop all exports to the United States and force the U.S. to deal with an export fairness panel in Canada to make sure that we were not victims of unfair trade practices.

In conclusion, I am convinced that the government will not blink. Along with the provincial governments, it will do everything in its power to address this problem once and for all.

Stamp Month October 29th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, October is Stamp Month, and Canada Post is taking part in a campaign to promote this activity by visiting schools and providing libraries with materials.

To commemorate Stamp Month, Canada Post has issued four new stamps depicting hot air balloons. These stamps commemorate the invention of hot air balloons in 1783 by two brothers in France. These stamps were first issued on the occasion of Gatineau's hot air balloon festival.

In October, Canada Post also released a stamp marking the 75th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Legion.

Stamp collecting is an activity which helps increase understanding of the world's peoples and countries, and of their history.

Supply October 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent suggestion by the hon. member regarding the statistic I gave that 40% of refugee claimants in Canada came from the United States. Maybe we should look into that. Maybe some kind of arrangement could be made whereby if someone is coming from the United States they can claim their status there and not here.

Supply October 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, when the hon. member asked this whole question previously, I mentioned that the officials of the department were looking into a lot of these aspects.

To get specifically to his question, there is no doubt that over many years there have been some claimants who did not show up for their hearings or whatever. Some may have left the country but we are not sure.

However Bill C-11 was designed to deal with some of these issues. As members know, when we had our parliamentary commission on Bill C-11, it was going to prevent many of these things. In other words, a lot of people who managed to get in by the back door did not take the front door. We are going to speed up the process in the future with Bill C-11, which will prevent a lot of people from exploiting the system by coming in through the back door.

A lot of the measures proposed by the member are already in existence. They will be even better under Bill C-11. It is just a question of time before we get all the aspects together and then we will be able to do a better job.

Supply October 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I say to the hon. member that I mentioned that we have the necessary provisions already in the law. Our immigration officers are acting as peace officers. We already have mechanisms at work to protect our borders.

The fact is that some people slip through. We have never claimed to have a perfect system. I would say to the hon. member that of course we all want safe borders but there is no doubt in my mind that the immigration officers are doing their work. Quite often they are doing it quite well. There are circumstances, and I have to say in exceptional cases sometimes there are errors, but all in all they are doing a very good job.

We do not have to debate the motion on this issue. We know very well what our immigration officers are doing.

Supply October 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Alliance has brought a motion before the House. I note that the minister replied this morning to the speech by the Canadian Alliance leader. The motion states:

That, as part of a continental perimeter initiative to secure Canada's borders and protect the security of Canadians and our neighbours, and to protect our trading relationships, this House calls on the government to:

(a) provide both Immigration officers and Customs officers enhanced training and full peace officer status to allow them to detain and arrest suspected criminals or terrorists at the border--

Obviously immigration officers have long been peace officers, meaning they have authority to arrest and detain persons who are inadmissible to Canada. This obviously includes persons they suspect of being criminals or who already belong to terrorist organizations in other countries.

Right now the existing legislation, as well as proposed Bill C-11, contain provisions for protecting our borders. It is completely wrong to suggest that we do not have such provisions. We do. Our officers have all the means at their disposal to protect the Canadian public.

The motion raises another point I wish to address. It states that the government should:

(c) detain all spontaneous refugee claimants appearing without proper documentation until their identities are confirmed and they have cleared proper health and security checks--

Here again I would mention that our immigration officers conduct an investigation as soon as an application for refugee status has been received. I wish to give an idea of the figures. Some 600 to 800 persons are detained every day by immigration officers. It is wrong to say that they are not doing their job. On the contrary, I think they are doing it rather well in the circumstances.

I am not saying the system is completely perfect. As we know, it obviously has its shortcomings but hundreds of thousands of people have been processed over the years. It is therefore not impossible that errors may occur or that someone may slip through.

On the whole, however, there are certainly safeguards. Last year alone over 8,500 persons were detained by the authorities for a full verification of their origins and their past, as to whether they had ever been charged with a crime and so on.

On the whole, as the minister already mentioned this morning, we already have in place a great number of mechanisms to protect our borders. Contrary to what has been said, I do not think a continental perimeter is required. I believe the Government of Canada has considerable experience in the field of immigration. I have visited some of our offices abroad. It may be true that on occasion there was a lack of resources. I do not doubt it. Our immigration officers work very hard. On the whole, I was impressed by both the quantity and quality of the work they accomplish. It is not insignificant. They work very well. This is a fact that we need to mention more often.

I do not mean to impute motives to the members from the Canadian Alliance, but it is unfortunate that the words “terrorist” and “criminal” come up too often when they speak in the House.

If we look at the facts--which is important--we see that Canadians on the whole very rarely use this kind of language.

Since September 11, it is all that people are talking about. We often forget the contributions that immigrants have made to our country. I would like to highlight a few facts.

First, if we look at people's files, very few immigrants have criminal records or have been in trouble with the law. It is very important to acknowledge this, and it is a fact.

Second, once immigrants settle, on the whole, very few of them require employment insurance benefits. It is important to note that these people contribute to our country, they do not abuse the system as some in this House have implied.

Third, we often hear stories to the effect that immigrants abuse the system in another way, with welfare. Obviously, when some immigrants arrive, before settling in the community, they need help. We have a very sophisticated system. Some may believe that it is being abused on a daily basis, but this is not the case. There is a social infrastructure in place to help people get settled. I believe that it is one of the great achievements of our Christian society, if I may use the term.

Another thing we have seen with immigrants over the years is that, in their first five years, the average immigrant will earn less than the Canadian average. After their fifth year of working in Canada, in excess of 50% of them earn more than the Canadian average. Once again, this gives some idea of the effort they put into contributing to this country, and not only for themselves and their families. This gives some idea, when over 50% of them earn more than the Canadian average.

There is another aspect people are neglecting to mention here. The educational level of most immigrants to Canada is higher than the Canadian average. Many are technicians or professionals. In Damascus, I had the opportunity to sit in on an interview with a man who had been working in Syria for four or five years and was seeking to immigrate. It took him about a year and a half. He had a doctorate in biochemistry, a great asset for our country.

Overall, I find that these facts are being forgotten. Too often we have been hearing “immigrant”, “terrorist” and “criminal” used in the same sentence. I do not find this acceptable, when the facts demonstrate the opposite. This needs some thought. As everyone keeps saying, we in this country are all the children or grandchildren of immigrants. We need to think about that.

There is one other point I must mention. We have heard in the past four or five weeks that some members of the U.S. House of Representatives have been pointing fingers at Canada, saying that our immigration policies were not efficient, that many people were getting around the system. I do not know where they have been getting their information, but they are completely wrong.

I would like to give a few important statistics: 40% of people who make refugee claims at the Canadian border are coming from the United States. They are on American territory and come to the Canadian border to make a refugee claim. Are we the ones responsible if they have got into the U.S. and then come to our border to make a refugee claim? How is this a flaw in our system? It is theirs that is flawed.

I would like to mention some of the comments I have heard made by Alliance members in the past weeks. I bring to their attention that quite often in a lot of their speeches they use the word “immigrants” and in the same sentence they bring out the fact that there are criminals and terrorists. That is a little exaggerated on their part and they should be very conscious of it.

What we have achieved in this country has been a tremendous advantage to most Canadians. In the past weeks many Canadians have expressed their profound belief that Canada is a peaceful and highly respected country throughout the world. They know there are problems in other parts of the world and as Canadians they feel that maybe the root causes should be attacked. More than ever we have to show restraint in what we do in Canada. It would be very wise for us to realize that some of the things we do are going to have profound repercussions not only here but abroad and for those who want to come to Canada.

I hope we can keep in mind that we have a tremendous advantage by living in this country. Many people want to come to Canada. However we cannot start making them feel as if we suspect everyone who wants to come to this country and that we want to have investigations. We do not want them to feel that way. We want them to feel welcome here. If in speeches they hear the word “immigrant” is followed every time by “criminal” or “terrorist”, that is highly unacceptable.

In closing, when Bill C-11 was examined in committee, the Canadian Alliance member for Dauphin--Swan River worked a lot with us to find ways to improve our immigration system. We sat over five or six weeks and corrected certain things.

Overall, the Immigration Act will be much more secure, because parts of it will make the system more effective. We will be able to make quicker decisions, because we will have the information at hand.

I just wanted to make these comments and I am prepared to answer questions from my colleagues.

Citizenship Week October 17th, 2001

Canada's Citizenship Week runs until October 21. It provides an occasion to recognize the value of citizenship and immigration and to focus on the privileges, rights, responsibilities and obligations of citizenship.

Canada is known for its diversity. We respect differences in culture, race and religion. Those differences all make a dynamic contribution to enriching our country. Immigration is one of Canada's essential assets.

It is my most sincere wish that Canadians will continue to be as open-minded as they have in the past, so that their fellow citizens from all backgrounds will continue to feel at home in Canada.