House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Bloc MP for Châteauguay (Québec)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Lieutenant Colonel William Barker June 2nd, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion M-251, introduced by my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River, in Manitoba.

The objective of this motion is the creation of a memorial recognizing the outstanding contribution of Lieutenant Colonel William Baker, a first world war pilot and hero of Canada and the Commonwealth.

We agree in principle, but all the facts must surely be checked. This Canadian hero downed 53 enemy planes during the first world war and was awarded the Victoria Cross, the Military Cross, French and Italian military distinctions, six citations for acts of bravery from George V and other distinctions. Surely, he deserves recognition by future generations.

I do not doubt the facts, but personally I cannot verify them. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada was created for this very purpose in 1919, and we should call on this board, in this instance. I will therefore speak about this board in order to add weight to the bill that will be introduced.

Since 1979 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has advised the government on the commemoration of individuals, of historical sites and events of national interest and the mounting of plaques to inform Canadians about their history. Over time and with changes to Canadian historiography, the board widened its scope to include military, political and geographical subjects and to the broader subjects of our social and economic history.

In reality, the board advises the minister on the commemoration of people, events, sites, structures and locations representing aspects of Canada's history of national importance. It also indicates the level of commemoration it deems appropriate, be it the installation of a plaque, the sharing of expenses with a third party or, more rarely, the acquisition or development of a site by Parks Canada.

It can provide information on important persons, places and events of the past, on the principles and techniques of site construction and preservation, and on heritage legislation. Each year, it receives over 200 requests, 50 to 70 of which result in studies by the historic services branch.

It has always viewed its plaque installation program as an educational activity in the broadest sense of the term. To date, it has installed over 1,100 commemorative plaques throughout the country. These are a testimony to its dedication to educating the public. An interesting fact is that it has broadened its definition of heritage to include cultural neighbourhoods, gardens and landscapes.

I therefore agree that the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada should be called upon for advice. We could also follow the example of the Fondation des Amis de René Lévesque, in Quebec City, which is now raising funds in order to erect a monument in his memory.

We all know that not only was Mr. Lévesque a World War II war correspondent, but that he was a member of the Liberal Party of Quebec before founding the Parti Quebecois and becoming premier of Quebec. He was therefore a very important person.

In 1960, he was the father of the quiet revolution and the father of the nationalization of electricity in Quebec; he was also was instrumental in helping the Quebec Liberal Party regain power in Quebec after decades in opposition.

We also owe him the great democratic legislation on party fundraising, which eliminates slush funds, limits contributions and allows the public to participate in the financial control of the parties.

René Lévesque was also the driving force behind the constitutional reform undertaken in the 1980 referendum to save Canada. It is well known that he was trying to achieve sovereignty association in order to put an end to this idea of a federation justifying a centralizing and dominating government.

I could go on for hours talking about René Lévesque and quoting him as an example, but I will stop here for now and conclude by saying that this great man has no lack of feats to his credit, yet it will be his friends who will be putting up a memorial.

I therefore urge the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River to take the advice of the Canada Historic Sites and Monuments Board or follow the lead of the Fondation des amis de René Lévesque regarding this memorial.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act April 30th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the remarks made by my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst.

I can tell you that, in these times of economic growth, in the best country in the world, as our Prime Minister often refers to Canada with its modern technology, it is really moving to hear this heartfelt plea to fight poverty and help those who are going hungry. I cannot help but wonder if the problem with this great country is not one of mismanagement.

Given the $14 billion sitting in the employment insurance fund, the $50 billion being paid out in interest charges on the debt accumulated by the Liberals over the years, the $750 million recently invested in submarines that were not good enough for England, and the $30 million recently spent on flags, I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he could feed the people in his riding with all this money.

Supply April 28th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I have listened to my colleague take a rather roundabout way before getting to the motion we have introduced today, which merely dealt with the striking of a parliamentary committee to try and seek some solutions to the poverty we have today.

He spoke of the 1989 commitment to eliminate poverty by the year 2000. It must be admitted that they have totally missed the boat. We have recently been given a figure of 1.5 million poor children in Canada.

He referred to common-law couples. I fail to see what this has to do with poverty. For me, poverty equals joblessness. Instead of talking about the deficit, he should have talked of the debt. The reason for poverty is the $600 billion in accumulated debt that has been run up in past years, because of needless national spending. This $600 billion cost us $50 billion in interest annually.

If we had $50 billion to invest in jobs every year, there would be far fewer poor people now.

I would just like to return to the opposition motion. I would like to hear whether the hon. member is really in agreement with this proposal to strike a parliamentary committee in order to find ways to eliminate poverty as quickly as possible.

Supply April 23rd, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I just to the member for Brossard—La Prairie. I cannot believe my ears. I hope he did not say what I think he did.

He just told me that a person who has contracted hepatitis C can live a normal life. The riding of Brossard-La Prairie is not far from my riding on the south shore. A former manager in my riding, a man who is 6'1” and weighs 200 pounds, now spends his days in bed because of hepatitis C.

I would like to know if the member is interested in coming to my riding next week and meeting this man, so that he might learn something and not give us this sort of nonsense.

Quebec Floods April 21st, 1998

Mr. Speaker, only a few short months after the ice storm, several Quebec ridings, including mine, the riding of Châteauguay, were faced with yet another one of nature's vagaries, river flooding.

Thousands of homes were flooded and hundreds of families had to seek refuge with relatives, friends or in shelters. Municipal services, municipal councils and volunteers were stretched to the limit.

However, there were visible signs of solidarity, support and sympathy everywhere in Quebec, especially in Châteauguay. Thanks to the solidarity characteristic of Quebeckers, victims found comfort and support.

On behalf of my party, I would like to thank the many volunteers and those in charge of municipal services, and to the victims I say “hang in there”.

Budget Implementation Act, 1998 March 24th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the government member. He started off by telling us about this budget that his party has balanced and about the debt and taxes in particular, which he would have liked to start reducing.

But for the time being, the government will be focusing mainly on the millennium scholarships. The hon. member addressed great national projects in areas like rail transportation, although I personally do not think it was a good example, especially since the $580 billion debt was accumulated in the past because of these great national projects.

Regarding the millennium scholarships, we know full well that the cost of education is much lower in Quebec than in the rest of Canada, which means that the student debt level is much lower. Instead of trying to bring costs down outside Quebec, they are trying to implement a program that will just add to current government expenditures.

I wonder how the government will ever manage to bring the debt down, if it keeps creating new programs in areas that fall under provincial jurisdiction anyway.

Supply March 17th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I have followed the debates since two this afternoon, and I was also present during the demonstration.

I would like to set things straight. The Liberals are sensing that the wind is changing direction pretty well everywhere, and also that the public is not thrilled about what went on, so now they are trying to dissociate themselves from it and point the finger at the Reform Party. The Reform Party, however, ought to have been aware that this is not the first time the Liberal Party has not lived up to its commitments. We saw it in 1980, when Trudeau promised to renew federalism. We saw it in 1995, when the present Prime Minister also broke his word.

Now, in this battle, this situation in the House, the Liberals are as responsible as the Reform members.

I have heard a lot of use of words like hypocrite and ridiculous, and a lot of reference to the Bloc Quebecois, which is going to break the country apart.

My question is this: with a day like today and with all its buffoonery, is the Bloc really needed to break apart the country, or will their country break apart just as a result of their own actions?

Observance Of Two Minutes Of Silence On Remembrance Day Act March 12th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I am pleased, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, to speak to Bill C-279, an act to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day, a bill introduced by my colleague, the member for Calgary Southeast, Alberta.

We do not oppose the bill. I do not intend to speak at great length, however, because I have trouble understanding the need for such a bill, and particularly what purpose it serves. Why two minutes, and not three or four, since the point of such an observance is not the number of minutes spent, but the ongoing remembrance of an event, keeping alive the memory of those who sacrificed their lives for peace? One solid minute seems fine to me.

In fact, I even wonder if we will not achieve the opposite effect by prolonging the time spent in reflection. We all know that one minute of silence in a crowd including children and the elderly, in temperatures that are not always ideal, too hot or too cold, often seems to go on for a long time, and that, after 50 or 55 seconds, people start to fidget or whisper. What will happen if another minute is added?

I fear that the effort required on such an occasion would be too much for some people and that the dignity to which we are accustomed might turn to indifference. Moreover, this period of silence originally lasted for two minutes. Indeed, history tells us that the observance of a period of silence used to last two minutes. The custom originated from a recommendation made after the first world war by a South African statesman, Sir James Fitzpatrick.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, who was very fond of vast spaces, spent a great deal of time reflecting in the silence and solitude of the vast plains of his native land. It is there that, while thinking about the past, he came up with the idea that people should observe two minutes of silence to honour the memory of those who had given their lives for their country.

Today, during the traditional Remembrance Day ceremony, on November 11, one minute of silence is observed at 11 a.m., because a period of two minutes would have the drawbacks mentioned earlier. People stand in silence for one minute and think about all those who gave their lives in the fight against tyranny and oppression.

This minute meets the objective pursued, which is to remember those who paid the ultimate price for freedom and peace. Furthermore, there are so many veterans who are unhappy with the current program, which is so complex, that this House should really be concerned with the true daily issues confronting these people. I can assure you that having an additional minute of silence is not one of them.

We regularly receive complaints from veterans or their survivors, who are entitled to a pension and have to wait months to get it. The department should cut the red tape, as Bill C-67 on pension reform intended in 1995.

The department should be encouraged to provide programs with broader scope, which are more easily administered and more readily understood by their beneficiaries—programs that meet the needs of an aging population of veterans.

I am including the veterans of the merchant marine. They took part in world conflict and were not treated fairly from the start. There are obvious discrepancies in our system, and the government should acknowledge the efforts of the merchant marine and the vital role it played in the wars.

These sailors fought hard to receive the same treatment as the veterans. The government should recall the role they played in restoring peace in the world and given them equal access to benefits.

In December, I supported the motion by my colleague from Kamloops, Motion M-75, which proposed the government consider “giving to the members of the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion and other Canadians who fought with Spanish Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939, the status of veterans under the federal legislation and making them eligible for veterans' pensions and benefits”.

Despite their sacrifices and acts of individual heroism, Canadian veterans of the International Brigades are not yet recognized as war veterans. Therefore, they were never entitled to any veterans benefits and were never given any credit for having fought for the liberty and democracy we know and enjoy, here in Canada. It seems most appropriate to recognize these people who volunteered to fight for justice and democracy.

Another inequity of the system is that we recognize veterans from the war in Vietnam, but not those who fought in Spain. Did we have better reasons for getting involved in Vietnam?

I am thinking also of the soldiers who served in peacekeeping operations and whose status is not well defined. Over time, the most consistent element of our foreign policy and defense policy has been our commitment to peace and security in the world. The active participation of Canadians Forces in peacekeeping missions has directly contributed to ease tensions in hot spots around the world.

Canada sent troops to such remote areas as Kashmir, from 1949 to 1979, Western New Guinea in 1962-63, and Yemen in 1963-64. From 1960 to 1964, these troops were involved in such sensitive operations as expelling mercenaries from Katanga and preserving the territorial integrity of what was then the Belgium Congo and is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am thinking about those who fought in Cyprus in 1964 and witnessed the atrocities of the war between Turks and Greeks. There are many others such as Bosnia, Haiti, Iraq, Koweit, Yugoslavia, etc. I do not have enough time to name them all.

These soldiers have not had the same benefits as veterans of both world wars and the Korean war. Before trying to add one minute of silence, it would be preferable for the House to grant equal status to all veterans.

In conclusion, I believe there are many shortcomings in the Department of Veterans Affairs, a lot of work to do. As for Bill C-279, an act to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day, I believe the tradition already in place meets our commitment to remember those who gave their lives in the name of peace and justice. Let us strive instead to correct the injustices of the current system.

Supply March 12th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I have listened to my hon. colleague with great interest. It seems to me that there is a common denominator, practically the same in every case, running through several fields.

Taking the application of the 1867 Constitution as one example, we know very well that Quebec and Canada have never managed to reach agreement on this. As far as trade versus free trade is concerned, we clearly remember how Mr. Turner said in 1984 that, if he were elected, he would tear the agreement up. In a word, if Canada is involved in free trade today, it is because Quebec dragged it into it.

Taking Canadian pensions as another example, the Minister of Finance recently stated that he had been dreaming for 30 years of a fund identical to the Caisse de dépôt et placement in Quebec. Today we see Canada moving into another area, education, with the millennium scholarships, once again because of the success we have had in Quebec.

So, the question I would like to ask my colleague is this: is the problem between Quebec and Canada not due to the fact that Quebec is always 25 or 30 years ahead of Canada?

The Budget February 26th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I listened to the hon. member from the NDP, and I fully agree with him. I also share his concerns.

The budget is totally silent on the issues of employment and tax cuts. It does not propose anything to eliminate the debt and, more importantly, it includes no firm commitment on how surpluses will be used. We know full well that the Liberals are merely launching new programs, such as the millennium scholarship fund, in an area of provincial jurisdiction.

We know that the debt is the result of the federal government's absolute spending power. It is the result of initiatives implemented in the seventies and designed to promote federal identity, such as Air Canada, Petro Canada, and so on.

It is often said that the Conservative government is to blame. However, the largest deficit was incurred when Marc Lalonde was Minister of Finance, in the seventies.

Does the hon. member agree that this government is currently headed in the same direction as the Liberal government of the seventies? Does he agree that we will have to put a stop to the federal government's absolute spending power in areas of provincial jurisdiction, if we are to eliminate the debt?