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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Bloc MP for Trois-Rivières (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Oxfam-Québec March 26th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend Oxfam-Québec for establishing a fundraising campaign to assist victims of the war in Iraq. I would also like to commend the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the Fédération des caisses Desjardins, the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec and the Union des producteurs agricoles for taking part in this humanitarian campaign.

The campaign organizers are counting on donations from the public and funding from international organizations.

The funds raised will help to provide drinking water, assist refugees as they arrive in the camps and build health care facilities, which Oxfam is doing in cooperation with various UN agencies in Jordan, Iran and Syria.

I join my hon. colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois and Oxfam-Québec in making an urgent appeal for Quebeckers to show solidarity and give generously.

Les Patriotes de Trois-Rivières March 25th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, all of the Mauricie is deliriously happy, particularly its hockey fans, because the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes won their fourth university hockey championship this past weekend in Fredericton.

Coach Jacques Laporte was able to instill in his team an extraordinary competitive drive that no doubt made it possible for each member of the team to give his all.

What more can be said about the merits of goalie Éric Desjardins, who was selected best player of the championships, which pitted them against our Nova Scotian friends from St. Francis Xavier University?

Or about Alexandre Tremblay, last season's top player in Canada?

Throughout the season, assistant trainers Sylvain Beauchesne, Olivier Denis and Dominique Ducharme all worked tirelessly to get the best performance from each and every team member.

Bravo, Les Patriotes, and long may you reign. Your team is fully deserving of its name.

Iraq March 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, what is the Canadian government planning to do to ensure that other members of the international community participate in Red Cross efforts to help the victims of this war?

Iraq March 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the war in Iraq highlights the immense vulnerability of civilians. The International Red Cross launched an urgent appeal yesterday to collect funds to assist the victims of the war.

Given this urgent appeal by the Red Cross, does the Canadian government intend to become more involved and surpass its usual obligations in order to minimize the terrible consequences of this war?

Petitions March 19th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition that appears to me to be very relevant in the context of the conflict between Iraq and the United States, and also as regards Canada's involvement in that conflict. The petition reads as follows:

“We, the undersigned young members and supporters of Amnesty International, having gathered for our annual convention, are very concerned because the use of military force is one of the options being considered by some members of the UN Security Council on the issue of Iraq.

We urge the House of Commons of Canada to give paramount importance to the protection of human rights and to humanitarian concerns relating to the lives and security of the Iraqi population. We do not want Canada to get involved in a military operation decided unilaterally, against the wishes of the United Nations, by a superpower, as the United States are currently undertaking”.

This petition is signed by some 500 supporters and members of Amnesty International.

Situation in Iraq March 17th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Rosemont. This speech tonight might be the most important speech I make in the House since being elected in 1993, because these are very troubled and tense times that the world is experiencing.

We know when a war starts, but not when it will end. It will no doubt start in about 48 hours, according to the ultimatum served earlier by President Bush to Saddam Hussein. Knowing Saddam Hussein's position, and given his reaction this afternoon, we can unfortunately predict there will be an armed conflict. Our job is to express our views, but we must not lose sight of what is important.

What is important, in my opinion, lies in the three notions of this debate that have divided international public opinion. But there are many more people who have taken one of the sides in this debate, and I believe that it is the minority that is imposing its will.

So there are three notions that we must consider. They are the legitimacy of this war, the legality of this war and the necessity of this war. Nowhere have these three notions been proven: not at the United Nations, not at the Security Council, not in worldwide public opinion, nor in the international community has anyone demonstrated that this war is legal, necessary or legitimate. Colin Powell has not managed to prove it, nor has Tony Blair. The same is true of the UN inspectors, who maintained their neutrality, despite the pressures they were subjected to. On the contrary, the UN inspectors had to acknowledge, ultimately, that the Iraqi regime was in fact cooperating with the whole process.

Therefore, we must question the current position, because if we cannot find plausible reasons, then everything is arbitrary. That is what I want to emphasize, because we must ask ourselves in good conscience how this war is justified, how we can explain it. American leaders have so far failed when it comes to providing reasons that appear valid.

In this respect, several possible explanations have been put forward. Are the Americans motivated by the need for oil, and the fact that Iraq still has huge oil reserves, which could help protect American reserves? Is it to fight terrorism? But no link could be made officially or scientifically between the regime in Iraq and al-Qaeda. Could it be to usher in a new geopolitical order in the Middle East? If so, at what price? And, as everyone knows, there is direct connection with another very complex situation known as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Is it simply because the American leaders want to impose a presence and their power in the Middle East, in keeping with a concept that pervades the American culture and which is called the manifest destiny, that is their manifest destiny whereby they never stop expanding their hegemony?

Is it to push for Saddam Hussein's regime to be replaced? If so, where does it stop, as the Prime Minister of Canada pointed out? How far shall it go? Who will be next on the list of political leaders to be replaced?

Or is this—I hope this is not serious and that the idea put forward by some is unfounded—an elaborate diversion tactic to distract attention from the terrible scandals that have rocked the American economy in recent months? I think of Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia where, as we know, thousands of small investors have been cheated in their investments.

Thousands of jobs were lost. This, we know, shook the U.S. economy and affected mainly, in terms of their credibility, stock markets in the U.S..

I do hope that this is not true, but could this not be a huge diversionary tactic? American leaders are currently, I think, very isolated from the international community. Only two countries support the United States. They are now being condemned throughout the world by millions and millions of people.

The United States in particular, despite the media concentration we are familiar with, is being condemned by important figures in the international community. I am thinking of Nelson Mandela, who spoke in very harsh, virulent terms. I am thinking of the Vatican, which has said that if there is any military intervention in Iraq without UN approval, it will not be a war but aggression. Words are important in diplomacy. That is what the Vatican said. Jesse Jackson, the black leader, has taken a stand against the U.S. administration. Jimmy Carter, a former President of the United States, very courageously condemned his government's intention to take unilateral action, without UN approval.

We must be clear. When we talk about having or not having UN approval, we must remember that the UN is the custodian of international law. When action is taken without UN approval, that action is illegal. The UN authorizes or prohibits war. It is not a detail, a secret or a whim. This organization gives the authorization. If a state does not follow UN law, it is a rogue state. That is exactly why the League of Nations was founded in the 1920s and the United Nations in 1948.

It would be a huge step backward for mankind and perhaps the first moments of a crisis that, unfortunately, could degenerate and have very negative, incommensurable consequences.

Because they have been so brutally attacked by the media in the U.S., I think that in this entire debate we should commend the countries of Europe. I am thinking especially of France, which has defended itself and put up a very courageous fight in this debate. It has demonstrated leadership and determination. It is perhaps because Europe—I am thinking about France, Germany, Belgium—consists of countries with people who have experienced the agonies of war and suffering. They know that we always know when a war begins, but not when it is going to end. That might be what is motivating the leaders of these countries in the courage they have had, despite threats of retaliation; it is no secret. They do not know the future, but despite these threats, they have stayed the course, which is peace, not war.

Based on what we know about the American strategy, there will be 3,000 bombs dropped in the first 48 hours, if all goes according to plan. However, 3,000 bombs in the first 48 hours will result in a massacre and carnage. Faced with such a situation, there is a clear risk that this will degenerate across the world and spread from continent to continent. In fact, specific groups of people—namely Arabs and Muslims—could very well feel targeted, attacked and humiliated. Where will this end?

Before I conclude I would like to express my sympathy for the Iraqi people who have been suffering since the gulf war in 1991 and under the embargo. Some 500,000 children have been affected. Some 200 children die each day because of the embargo imposed by the international community, which has been maintained—it seems—more arbitrarily than not, more often than not.

I would also like to commend the Canadian position. I think we are currently adopting the right position. We must not do indirectly what we do not want to do directly, that is maintain troops in the region to make it easier for other countries to fight against Iraq by taking their place in Afghanistan. I think we have to show true courage and openness.

Iraq February 25th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, is the UN's relevance not obvious since its role is to maintain peace and ensure that Iraq is disarmed through peaceful means?

Will the Prime Minister recognize that the UN is fulfilling its intended role and that, by not taking a clear stand, Canada is helping to undermine that role?

Iraq February 25th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the American President has harsh words for the UN and the role of the Security Council. He is even questioning its relevance by stating that the council is risking its credibility if it votes against the British-American resolution.

Can the Prime Minister tell us if he shares President Bush's assessment of the relevance of the Security Council and the UN?

Canada Elections Act February 18th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-24 regarding political financing. I would first like to correct, as it were, the comments made by the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, former leader of the Canadian Alliance, former leader of the Reform Party, at the end of his speech, when he suggested, in response to the remarks by the former Minister of Finance, that it would be wrong and probably shameful for Canadian democracy to finance the Bloc Quebecois, a party which promotes Quebec sovereignty, as you know.

This may seem annoying, but such is the price of democracy. These people should understand that. If Canadian democracy is held up as such a wonderful model, then we should be only too glad to take it to its full and logical conclusion.

We could make the same complaints in Quebec, as sovereignists. We know that the legislation in Quebec, which I am going to talk to you about shortly, allows for opposition parties in Quebec to receive funding, just as does the Parti Quebecois.

However, these parties, both the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Action démocratique du Québec want to consign the people of Quebec to the provincial category once and for all; they want to “provincialize” Quebec forever.

We, as sovereignists, tolerate that. We allow these people to receive public financing. They want to place limits on Quebec. And we allow them to receive this funding. The complaints of the former Minister of Finance, like those of the former leader of the Alliance, are either entirely founded—and allow us to make the same complaint to the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Action démocratique—or completely ridiculous.

I am going with the latter. These remarks, especially when they pop so spontaneously out of the mouth of the former Minister of Finance, can be described as simplistic, not to say crude, in the context of democracy.

I am now getting to the main thrust of my remarks. It is with great pride and even emotion that I welcome this opportunity this morning to speak on the federal bill on more appropriate and sounder political party financing. We know that, thanks to René Lévesque and thanks to the Parti Quebecois, Quebec is one step ahead, one very long step ahead, not only of Canada but also of all political parties in the western world or almost all, with the possible exception of a few I may not know about.

This is very advanced legislation providing that only—and this is the fundamental intent of the law—voters, those individuals who have the right to vote, may make contributions to political parties—this is a major aspect—subject to an annual limit of $3,000 per voter.

In practical terms, this means that, through this kind of sound financing, a Quebec government of any stripe belongs to everyone and no one. The latest study shows that, out of four or five million voters, 58,000 made contributions, and 82% of these contributions were under $200.

This shows how democratic this financing is and how the Government of Quebec, regardless of who is in office, belongs to everyone and no one. And the Parti Quebecois in particular, which was behind this bill and introduced it, is reflected in it.

All this to say that, as everyone knows, Quebec society is therefore a very advanced society which can truly be an inspiration to other governments, and that is what has happened with the Government of Canada. It took some time. As we know, distance can make communications difficult, and Ottawa is far away from Quebec City. There are bureaucrats and technocrats everywhere. There may also be preconceived ideas to the effect that anything coming from Quebec is as good.

At any rate, they woke up. Before moving on, the Prime Minister and member for Saint-Maurice saw fit, and this was wise of him, to introduce this bill which, if enforced properly, will bring about—this is something we must realize—a complete overhaul of electoral procedures in this country.

We know that historically it is the oil and gas companies, the banks, the timber companies, the arms producers, the pulp and paper companies, the steel producers who had the government's ear and privileged access to influencing this government's policies, thanks to the secret campaign fund that existed in this country. All you had to do was to call the right person, at the right time, and say that the bill under consideration was not well regarded by such and such an industry and that it would be appreciated if the government could remedy the situation.

It was understood that things worked this way, and things will continue to work this way until the bill passes. Furthermore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage made a somewhat naive admission when she recently said that, in fact, she had witnessed government policies or bills being amended in some cases in response to pressure from people who had made large contributions to the party. They could not afford to ignore it during a given debate or when a certain political will became apparent. It was essential to listen to the wishes and concerns of these people who had been so generous over the past few months or years.

Not only is Canada involved, so is the U.S.A., and we all know how much influence they have on us. According to my knowledge of the situation, and to what I have heard from others, the situation is worse in the United States. A person cannot be a candidate unless he or she is a millionaire to begin with, and also has the support of a specific industry, be it oil, sugar, forestry, lumber, highway construction or whatever. Anyone wanting to get into politics as a senator or member of the House of Representatives in the United States needs to have backing. That is the way things are now in that country. A person needs a whole lot of money to get into politics, to run for office successfully in the United States.

It is not just a matter of money, but also of the way it affects democracy. This is a totally negative situation. The more private sector financing there is, and the more hidden that financing is, the more negative the effect on democracy. There is no such thing as a free lunch, as they say. The greater the effect on democracy, the more the government serves private interests rather than collective ones. That is what we have tried to avoid in Quebec. I believe we have been more successful than other governments that are rather close to us geographically.

If he wants to use Quebec as a model, then the Prime Minister and member for Saint-Maurice should have gone further, and based the bill on Quebec's referendum legislation. He should have announced that he was going to abide by the spirit of that legislation, even if he does not have such legislation himself.

There is the issue of the financing of political parties, but there are also public consultations. There are elections, but there are also public consultations, in Quebec in particular.

In Quebec, there is legislation that covers such consultations. There is the referendum bill, which, as we know, was completely ignored and flouted by the rest of Canada. In the dying days of the 1995 referendum campaign, Quebeckers were treated to a love-in, and told how much Canadians wanted them to stay. We know that the federal government spent money freely then. It gave its employees the day off. It helped the cause, even if it was in violation of the spirit of Quebec's legislation. The law was ignored, was flouted. Companies such as Air Canada, Via Rail and others contributed what they could. The same thing for private sector companies, which, in some cases, sent out threatening letters to employees, to vote no under the threat of reprimands. They all should have abided by the spirit of Quebec's forward-thinking legislation.

A major asset that we have in Quebec in terms of democracy is the way returning officers are appointed. Again, in Canada, we are behind the times. The Liberal Party of Canada has been in power for 69 years over the last century. It is very tentacular. If you are not a Liberal, a former riding association president, a former defeated candidate, and so on, you have no chance of being appointed a returning officer. In Quebec, this is done through the most calculated and scientific competition possible. People are appointed based on their qualifications. Canada should also adopt this practice.

Canada would benefit and this would meet the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada to depoliticize the system. It would allow him to fire anyone who does not do a good job on election day. Since he did not appoint them, he cannot fire them, at present. This too is very serious for democracy and taints the electoral process.

Our complaints are rather legitimate and I have already said as much to the Chief Electoral Officer here, in Ottawa. There is a negative bias; there is an adversary among us, before us. I hope Canada will learn from this.

Iraq February 13th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, in an article in Le Nouvelliste , published in Trois-Rivières on February 11, it was reported that opponents to the war in Iraq had a new ally, namely Shawinigan, the Prime Minister's home town.

In fact, the municipal council of Shawinigan passed a resolution stating that the town:

opposed Canada's participation in any military action against Iraq without the backing of a UN Security Council resolution and Canadian law.

Knowing that several municipalities in Quebec, Canada and the United States have already passed resolutions opposing any declaration of war without UN approval, we can only hope that the Prime Minister will finally get with the program, knowing that his own constituents in Shawinigan have joined their voices to those of millions around the world.

The Prime Minister must know that this war can be avoided and that he has a role to play in opposing any unsanctioned military action.