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

Official Languages February 10th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, Canada has shown the world its real bilingual face in Nagano. The Canadian heritage minister says it is unacceptable and the foreign affairs minister says it is unfortunate.

Last summer, when war veterans were there, Major Brossard, our military attaché in France, had to ask for some French to be spoken during the historical briefing on German bunkers.

In Vimy, in November 1997, before an audience made up of 300 French people, a lady asked me, during speeches by the veterans affairs minister, the Canadian heritage minister and the secretary of state for parks: “Why don't you have interpreters? You're not here as conquerors.” I answered that this is Canada's own brand of bilingualism.

The day Quebec is sovereign, you will see what being respectful of minorities really means. For the time being, Canadian-style bilingualism is restricted to “mesdames et messieurs” and “merci beaucoup”.

Ice Storm February 6th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, the recent ice storm hit every community in my riding, and the municipalities of Saint-Isidore, Saint-Rémi, Saint-Édouard, Saint-Mathieu and Saint-Jacques-le-Mineur in particular.

On behalf of the people of the riding of Châteauguay, I would like to salute and thank all volunteers. While most were themselves affected, they selflessly directed operations and helped those worse hit by the storm.

I thank the various levels of governments, town councils, police forces, artists, armed forces and, above all, to Hydro-Quebec workers. Having worked there myself for 35 years, I know full well what motivates them: the pride of serving their own people. To rebuild an entire hydro-electric system in a few weeks requires courage, determination, hard work and pride.

Quebec will come away enriched from this exercise of generosity and solidarity. To the great builders that we are, many thanks, the future is ours.

Ice Storm 1998 February 4th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this special debate on the ice storm for a number of reasons. First, I myself suffered the effects of the storm for seven days; five days in my office, and in the riding between 3 and 28 days. I will therefore speak about the riding of Châteauguay.

I will give my impressions of the storm as it unfolded, the strengths I noted and the areas we will have to improve for the well-being of the population in the future.

There are, in my riding, three agglomerations that also form a triangle. To the west, Châteauguay, Léry, Mercier and Saint-Isidore; to the east, Saint-Constant, Sainte-Catherine and Delson; and to the south, Saint-Mathieu, Saint-Rémi, Saint-Édouard, Saint-Michel and Saint-Jacques-le-Mineur.

Although the Châteauguay-Ste-Catherine points of the triangle were without electricity, the major damage to Hydro-Québec's systems was in the municipalities of the St-Rémi point of the triangle, and it was these municipalities that were without electricity the longest. I therefore pay tribute to the mayors of the riding of Châteauguay, who worked tirelessly for their municipalities.

I sympathize with all these storm victims. I found seven days without electricity long and difficult. I therefore have a great deal of respect for those who lived with this problem for four weeks and longer.

On behalf of the constituents of Châteauguay, I would like to extend my sympathy to the families in Quebec and in other provinces who lost loved ones during this storm through illness or accident. I would also like to thank all the volunteers, often without power themselves, who directed operations and brought assistance to the most disadvantaged in our community in the large shelters.

Thank you to both levels of government for quickly putting disaster funding in place. Thank you to the army, to police forces, to municipal councils, to performers, to people from other areas, and also to the employees of Hydro-Québec. Having worked with that organization for 35 years, I know first hand what motivates these people: pride in serving their fellow citizens. Rebuilding a network covering several kilometres in a few weeks calls for determination, courage, hard work and pride. I remember the smile on the faces of these two linemen, Messrs Laberge and Marien, and their pride at having restored power to my home, at 5.30 a.m. on Tuesday.

I thank the people in charge of communications, Messrs Crête and Hébert, for their availability and for patiently hearing my demands. When power was restored, my staff and I acted as liaison between the victims and Hydro-Québec and we visited every affected site as well.

In 1962, I had seen another ice storm, as an employee, but it was not as bad as this one, because the transmission systems between the distribution centres had not been affected. So, I knew that, however extensive the damage to the network, Hydro would act methodically and diligently to restore power to all users.

Hydro-Québec chairman André Caillé and Premier Bouchard were great at reassuring the public with their leadership and control over the situation. This was a serious situation, but at no time did these men let on that there was any doubt in their minds. We can say that, when Quebec is allowed to make its own decisions, it produces excellent results. This is a most interesting finding, given the major decisions that lay ahead.

The municipalities have done a great job, in spite of the fact that their emergency plans were not always up to date. Emergency planning was deficient in some instances, but one would have had to work miracles to respond to requests for assistance from 300 municipalities all at once with a staff of only 40 or so employees.

In the future, responsibilities in that area should be devolved to the RCMs. The fact of the matter is that those municipalities that had first line equipment and whose emergency plans were up to date made it through pretty well.

It is too early to assess the cost of the losses in the riding of Châteauguay; estimates are currently being made. One thing is sure however: almost no one was spared by this disaster. I am thinking of employees, farmers, businesses, sugar bush operators, greenhouse growers and the municipalities in particular.

Let us hope that the programs the government is proposing will respond to the needs of the people without too much delay, that the 1998 budget surplus will be used to compensate losses and not to create new health and education programs. The people need it.

Unfortunately, the federal-provincial accord on disaster assistance was not the only official voice for these programs throughout the crisis. In recent days, a number of federal ministers have felt the need to propose assistance programs to the public that do not always meet a need. Their guidelines were very muddled or did not reflect the remarks of their officials, such as the employment insurance program on the subject of the grace period and the waiting period. The members of the Bloc Quebecois will draw this to the attention of the minister tomorrow at noon.

In closing, I want to tell the people in my riding that they may contact my riding office for further information. I will be happy to give them all the support I can in solving their problems.

Quebec will come away enriched from this exercise of fraternity, generosity and solidarity. To the great builders, many thanks, the future is ours.

Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion December 11th, 1997

Madam Speaker, as the Bloc Quebecois critic for veterans affairs, I am pleased to rise today to support my hon. colleague from Kamloops in asking that the members of the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion be recognized as veterans.

The MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion, named after the leaders of the 1837 rebellion in Upper and Lower Canada, was made up of 1,300 Canadian volunteers who served in the international brigades to support the Republican government against the authority of fascist dictator General Franco during the Spanish Civil War, between 1936 and 1939.

In spite of their sacrifices and their individual heroism, Canadian veterans of the international brigades are still not recognized as war veterans. As a result, they have never been eligible for veterans' benefits and, more importantly, their merit in defending the freedom and democracy that we, in Canada, enjoy and benefit from today was never recognized.

The purpose of this motion is therefore to ask that official recognition be given to the courage of the men and women who did not wait for the government's formal approval to fight for our fundamental freedoms and against the horrors of fascism. These Canadians went to Spain, where they risked their lives alongside other brave people from around the world to fight for freedom and democracy.

Unfortunately, the Spanish Republican forces and the international brigades, including the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion, did not win that fight, but history tells us that the Spanish war was the prelude to the downfall of fascism at the end of World War II in Europe. It seems appropriate that these fighters and their willingness to fight for justice and democracy be recognized.

Dare we ask? Why did Canada not accept to provide assistance to Spain at the time? Why did it pass the Foreign Enlistment Act on April 10, 1937, one year after the beginning of the Spanish Civil War? Why did Maurice Duplessis, on March 24, 1937, pass an act to protect the province against communistic propaganda, better known as the “Padlock Act”? Why this discrimination toward our soldiers when they came back? Why give the status of veterans to those who fought in the Vietnam war, but not those who did so in Spain?

I will try to answer these questions from a historical perspective. It may be that, at the time, Canada was a British colony and England, like France, feared a second world war. It may be because the battalion's name was MacKenzie-Papineau, in memory of the 1837 rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada. As we know, these patriots yearned for freedom and democracy, something which may not have pleased Canadian royalists.

Around 1835, Louis-Joseph Papineau, member of the Patriote Party, wanted a democratic and bilingual country open to free trade with the United States, a country where Church and State would be independent. At the time, each group had its own parliament. Members of parliament in both Upper and Lower Canada were elected, but they did not have any executive power. This power was exercised by the governor, who was appointed by London. This is the main reason why these rebellions took place. Quebec was hit first. Villages were burned, hundreds of people killed, 1,000 arrested, 108 tried, 60 deported, and 12 hanged. The authorities could have hit Upper Canada first, because the rebellions were just the same but, when it comes to reprimanding, history tells us that it takes place in Quebec.

The federal Foreign Enlistment Act and Duplessis' Padlock Act were, to a large extent, adopted in response to requests from the clergy and the right wing. It was also to keep the Canadian right happy when these veterans returned home that they were subjected to job discrimination and RCMP surveillance, and turned down when they tried to enlist at the beginning of World War II.

Finally, I do not understand why Canada recognizes veterans of the war in Vietnam but not the war in Spain. We had no more business being in Vietnam than we did in Spain.

I followed with great interest the deliberations of the standing committee on veterans affairs in 1986 regarding the participation of Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, and the testimony shows that the sole interest of the veterans who appeared before the committee was to stop the progress of fascism and to defend the oppressed. History proved them right. The war in Spain was the prelude to World War II and the end of two dictators, Hitler and Mussolini.

These civil wars between the forces of the right and the Spanish Popular Front government began with clashes over economic and social structure. The landowning class, often noblemen, dominated a country that was essentially agricultural, poor and lacking in social programs. This upper class relied on a clergy that was very rich and, on the whole, very conservative. It also relied on an army whose many officers came from its ranks.

The people were primarily farmers, an underpaid agricultural proletariat, miners or factory workers, and engaged in several violent struggles to fight unemployment and low wages.

On two occasions, the working class had managed to assume democratic power and to implement social, military, ecclesiastical and agrarian reform, early release from the army, the separation of Church and State, some degree of autonomy for Catalonia, and universal education. I should point out as well that this was a time of heavy ideological struggles between communists, fascists and liberalists just about everywhere, but in Europe in particular. In 1934, those reforms were abolished after the right assumed power, but when the left returned in 1936 and these programs were resumed, the right went into action and the civil war ensued.

During that war, according to the statistics, 52 countries in the world were involved in recruiting 40,000 people for the Spanish cause despite the non-intervention agreement.

In short, history proves that these veterans fought for freedom and democracy. This civil war was a class struggle between the landowners, the army and the clergy on the one side, and the people, the proletariat, on the other. It was also an international ideological struggle between communism, fascism and liberalism. It was the prelude to the Second World War and to the downfall of fascism and its dictators. The Mackenzie—Papineau Battalion wanted to share that yearning for freedom and democracy.

For these reasons, I am calling on the government to recognize the sincere contribution of these veterans who enlisted in order to defend freedom and democracy, and to award to surviving Canadian veterans or their widows the benefits to which they would have been entitled if they had been regular members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Supply November 25th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I listened to our colleague speak about the Calgary declaration. I would simply like to remind him of several points. First of all, the sovereignty of Quebec, once again, is not a problem, it is a solution. I would just like to inform him that Quebec as such is not a province like the other provinces and that it will never be like the other provinces. The Province of Quebec is the cradle of this great Canada. The development of this great Canada did not begin in the west and move east, but began in the east and moved west.

The hon. member says that we are all people who are identical and the same, but there are differences. I would like to point out to him that the difference is greater between Quebeckers and anglophones in other provinces than between anglophones in Canada and Americans. Therefore if, according to him, we are all the same and we should all be in the same boat and be identical, I would like him to tell us whether he would prefer that Canada simply join the United States. Why would he not agree that Canada should simply join the United States? Because Canadians are different from Americans, because Canadians want to keep their culture.

If he considers it is good that Canada does not join the United States, why not allow what would be a good thing for us, Quebeckers, that is to be who we are and what we want to become?

Remembrance Day November 6th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, today, as the Bloc Quebecois critic for veterans issues, I would like to pay tribute to our veterans. This week, we will carry out together the promise that was made to them by the 35th Parliament, that is to extend the period of commemoration of Remembrance Day.

Indeed, on November 2, 1995, at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war, Parliament decided to honour the courage and sacrifice of its military personnel by designating the week preceding Remembrance Day as veterans week.

The main reason that motivated Parliament in its decision was to educate the present generation, which has been fortunate enough to live without any major conflict for more than half a century, on the sense of duty and the freedom dearly won by Quebec and Canadian military personnel. To preserve the present peace that is still too fragile, we must remember the lessons of history and apply its teachings.

Let us remind all that democracy has a cost and, as such, it must be preserved at all cost.

More than 1.5 million Canadians served during the two world wars and in the Korean war and, we will never say this often enough, more than 110,000 soldiers lost their lives during the two major world conflicts, while several hundreds of others died during the Korean conflict and in peace missions under the United Nations.

We must not forget either all the civilians who gave their lives for the cause and those who, behind enemy lines, steadfastly prepared the final victory of the allied forces and democracy.

We must not forget the scope of human misery, the extensive human losses and the horrible suffering endured by all populations during these wars. During the second world war alone, civilian losses were estimated at more than 40 million.

It is up to us to remind each new generation of young Quebeckers and Canadians of the sacrifices made for a noble cause by an entire generation, be it at Dieppe, in Hong Kong, Korea, concentration camps, not to mention the deportations, and the list goes on.

One of the primary responsibilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs is in fact to keep the memory of their deeds and sacrifices alive.

Those are memories I had in mind when, last August, I participated in the ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of the landing in Dieppe, in Normandy, and with equal gratitude, this weekend, I will be attending ceremonies on the old continent with parliamentarian colleagues and veterans, as part of the Canadian delegation.

Humbly I shall pray at the military funeral service for Canadian airmen who died in the second world war but whose remains were just recently found in Belgium, reminding myself that the future of our children was built on the tombstones of our dead.

This week, let us pay tribute to our veterans. We must learn from these dark hours of history so that never again we will have to relive such sad events.

Our thanks to all veterans and to those who are no longer with us. At the going down of the sun, we will remember them.

Veterans Affairs November 5th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, today the Bloc Quebecois expresses its thanks to all those who served in the army, navy, air force and merchant marine, all the nurses and all of the other men and women who risked their lives, or gave their lives, to enable us to overcome tyranny.

As the years pass, and the veterans of that time get older and pass on, each new generation has a duty to perpetuate the memory of their sacrifice and courage.

On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I honour the women and men who gave their lives to defend freedom and democracy during the two world wars, the Korean war and the numerous UN peacekeeping missions.

We salute you all.

Quebec Sovereignty October 31st, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I wish to rise today to inform this House of the creation of a new line designated 1-976-CATASTROPHE.

With the support of impartial and non-partisan organizations such as the Quebec Committee of Canada, this new parapsychic counselling service is designed for people who want further information on delirium anti-separatum, the equivalent in Canadian political circles of the mad cow disease in Great Britain.

Featured this week are the predictions of our funky astrologists Michel Demers and Marcel Côté, who state that the rest of Canada is so bent on suicide and is so undemocratic that it wants to force Quebec to declare its sovereignty unilaterally, whereas everyone knows that common sense will lead to a mutually beneficial partnership agreement.

Next week on the 1-976-CATASTROPHE line, you will learn that after a yes for the sovereignty of Quebec, federalists will prevent the earth from turning and the sun from shining on Quebec.

Call now.

Speech From The Throne September 25th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the remarks of my colleague from Shefford.

She spoke on a number of subjects, including finance, programs, children and the deficit, but the most important point the Prime Minister raised yesterday was Canadian unity. I heard no mention of that, particularly with respect to the people of Quebec.

I would like to ask her a question, because it is all very well to talk of the economy, but I think the most important thing is simply to reach a common understanding. What is the role of each province in the Constitution?

Does the hon. member acknowledge that the government's legislative program denies the existence and the culture of the people of Quebec? Does the member acknowledge the existence of the people of Quebec?

Canada Endangered Species Protection Act April 24th, 1997

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-65, the Canada Endangered Species Protection Act.

Although there were a few federal laws allowing the federal government to intervene in order to protect these species, there was no federal legislation directly devoted to protecting endangered species. This was not the case in Quebec, which has had its own law since 1989, or in other provinces such as Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick, however.

In 1978, a body was created which brought together certain organizations such as government agencies, the provinces, certain territories, four federal bodies, and three national conservation organizations.

Before this bill was tabled, the Minister of the Environment brought his provincial counterparts together in Charlottetown to

draft this bill. We are often told that there was an agreement in principle but, four weeks later, this agreement in principle was obtained without the bill, or the texts per se, being tabled and we know there was an enormous difference.

The Quebec Minister, David Cliche, made the following statement on November 26, 1996: "The federal minister has just tabled a bill in the House which worries the province of Quebec considerably. I must place this in its context, for it shows the difficulties of federal-provincial relations. I recently defended the interests of Quebec in relation to the environment and wildlife, while representing Quebec at Charlottetown. We reached agreement, and even signed a document to the effect, as I have already said, that if the federal government tabled legislation for the protection of endangered species under federal jurisdiction, it ought to respect the jurisdictions of the provinces, and in particular of the territories".

Mr. Cliche went on to say: "We thought we had reached agreement with Ottawa on the following principle, a simple one besides, and this is where all of the problem lies in this bill, I believe: If we agree that a species is endangered, it is up to the level of government with jurisdiction over the territory and the habitat of that animal to ensure that it is properly protected in its natural habitat".

Once again, we have before us a bill that I might describe, in a nutshell, as an attempt by the federal government to use the convention on biological diversity to justify encroaching on a provincial jurisdiction and centralizing powers at the federal level. But as we can see, that is not the case. They are trying to enact a law that goes against existing provincial legislation. Again, in yet another area, we will end up being governed by two acts, which will just create more enforcement problems.

What major problems are we looking at? There are four of them. First, we submit that Bill C-65 is a direct threat to provincial jurisdiction. This is the fundamental problem with this bill. The government is interfering in an area of provincial jurisdiction and, with this bill, tries to tell the provinces what they should do from now on.

As I said a moment ago, under the pretence of attempting to comply with the terms of the international convention on biological diversity, the Liberal government is trying to interfere in provincial areas of responsibility. That is the first problem with this bill.

Second, Bill C-65 ignores the distribution of powers provided for in the Constitution-I will come back to this in a moment-and the usual interpretation of this provision, because it is based on a much broader definition of territory and overlooks the fact that, under the Constitution, the federal government and the provinces share responsibility for certain species.

The third major problem is that Bill C-65 gives the Minister of the Environment broad discretionary powers to decide, among

other things, who will be appointed to the COSEWIC. We will recall that this is the committee established in 1978, whose work was done on a voluntary basis. With this bill, the members of this committee will not only be selected by the minister but they will also be paid.

Finally, the fourth major problem is that Bill C-65 excludes provincial authorities from the designation and recovery of threatened and endangered species. This attitude directly contradicts what was said by the Liberals, more specifically in statements by the Minister of the Environment and the Prime Minister and in the throne speech, which were all about harmonization and partnership.

If we look at the Constitution, the protection of species and their habitat is not included in the division of powers under the Constitution Act, 1867, which is to be expected. It is not clearly defined.

However, under this act, the provinces have jurisdiction over the management of public lands belonging to the province, in section 92 on property and civil rights,and over all matters of a merely local or private nature. These powers are sufficiently broad to enable the provinces to pass legislation on plants and wildlife, both on provincial public land and private land.

In other words, we see that although the Constitution Act, 1867, does not clearly define these responsibilities, the provinces have as much jurisdiction over land as the federal government. Today, the government wants to pass legislation that would practically eliminate provincial responsibility and establish federal responsibility once and for all, as we have seen in so many other instances. In fact, we have the same problem with respect to duplication and overlap.

In concluding, I want to say, as I said earlier, that the members of this committee, which has been existence since 1978, at the time worked on a volunteer basis. They will now be paid, which will be an additional expense. Furthermore, they will be selected by the minister.