Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 1997, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Regional Airports December 11th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I understand that they are all wound up, but I would like to at least have the opportunity to ask my question. My question is for the secretary of state responsible for regional development.

The matter of transferring the regional airports in Sherbrooke, Charlevoix, Forestville and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is still dragging on, and the municipal representatives are anxiously awaiting answers from the federal government. The federal government is the one responsible for withdrawing from airport management, and thereby imposing unacceptable financial burdens on the municipalities.

Is the secretary of state aware that, unless the federal government rehabilitates these airports' infrastructure, the Government of Quebec will not sign the agreement to transfer these airports, as the Quebec Minister of Transport has recently stated?

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human Rights December 10th, 1996

Madam Speaker, as the official opposition's human rights critic, it is obviously a very great pleasure for me to take part in this debate to mark the fact that 1998 will be the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to note, as the Deputy Prime Minister has done, that this declaration was written by a Canadian, John Humphrey, a citizen of Quebec, and by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Although respect for fundamental rights is now guaranteed the people of Quebec and of Canada through their respective charters, this is not the case in certain countries, where governments are still trampling citizens' individual freedoms and fundamental rights.

We, as parliamentarians, have an opportunity today to restore the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to its rightful place in the forefront of national and international debate. The 50th anniversary must mark the renewal of the declaration and not just the commemoration of a date.

My colleagues will have a chance to go into more depth on the historic evolution, present situation and probable future of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and its enforcement throughout the world. But I will begin, if I may, by recalling briefly the birth of this declaration, certainly one of the major historic events in humanity's evolution.

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This marked the turning of an important page in the history of mankind.

Indeed, the horrors of the second world war greatly contributed to raising world awareness and truly expanding the concept of human rights. As early as June 1945, the United Nations Charter and the statutes of the International Court of Justice were ratified in San Francisco. The following year, the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women were created.

Finally, after adopting the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the UN passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which we are celebrating today.

Since then, there has been continuous progress in terms of respect for basic individual rights almost everywhere in the world. I say "almost" because, unfortunately, in certain areas of the globe, there is still a great deal of progress to be made.

Right from the start, in order to better ensure respect for basic human rights, and to promote their implementation, the UN decided to set international standards, protect human rights and provide technical support where needed. In order to attain these objectives, however, the United Nations Organization had to draw up clear rules relating to human rights, hence the necessity of adopting this Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This universal declaration may be the keystone of United Nations declarations on human rights, but it is not the only one. In fact, the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development, and the 1992 Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance strengthened the United Nations' moral interventions.

It is, moreover, important to keep in mind that all of these declarations are not legally binding, and that the UN, lacking a real United Nations military force, performs more of an international ombudsman role.

Fortunately, on the other hand, the international conventions and covenants have force of law in the states ratifying them. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both drafted in 1966, are highly binding on signatories.

International conventions, on the other hand, focus on more specific attacks against human dignity such as the 1969 convention on racial discrimination, the 1981 convention on discrimination against women, the 1987 convention on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and finally the 1990 UN convention on the rights of the child.

All these measures have achieved concrete results such as stays of execution, the release and medical care of prisoners, and sometimes even a complete overhaul of legal systems emphasizing the importance of human rights.

For instance, Bulgaria, Malawi and Mongolia recently received assistance in drafting a new constitution and new legislation, both conforming to the conventions on human rights.

Even more recently, in 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution creating the position of High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose duties consist in preventing and managing crises, sometimes by providing technical assistance to states in transition and co-ordinating interventions aimed at promoting fundamental rights.

As we can see, we have come a long way over the years in our respect for human rights, and we should proudly emphasize events like the one that brought us here today. The future celebrations around the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be more than just that. This great event should not be just another occasion for organizing huge banquets, cocktail parties, receptions and shows for the benefit of venerable dignitaries the world over.

We are all familiar with the propensity of our leaders to slap each other on the back as a sign of satisfaction and to congratulate each other while singing the praises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It will be available in pocket format, as a poster either laminated or beautifully framed in acrylic, and it will be seen at its best. People will shout that they love it, they venerate it, and they will very pompously wish it a very happy 50th birthday.

But for thousands of victims of torture and summary imprisonment by unscrupulous governments, this anniversary will not be a joyous occasion. In fact, for all these people, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains nothing more than a hope based on the action of countries, which, like Canada, protect fundamental rights and might have some influence on the leaders of those countries that still refuse to do so.

Often, this declaration is universal in name only. There was nothing universal about it when the Government of China decided to crush the student movement for freedom in Tiananmen Square barely a few years ago.

There is nothing universal about it for the victims of oppression in East Timor or for the children exploited in India or for the political prisoners in Indonesia or for the demonstrators in Belgrade and other major Serbian cities.

Canada has an important role to play in this area. We must develop a policy of international trade that includes respect for human rights. We can no longer simply close our eyes to these atrocities in the name of profit. We must make it known to the entire international community that Canada will make no human rights compromises out of a need to trade with these countries. Is it not both deplorable and embarrassing when the Prime Minister of Canada signs lucrative trade agreements with countries heavily criticized by Amnesty International without any mention whatsoever of human rights?

I might point out that barely a few years ago, when the whole world knew that the communist regime in Romania was systematically ignoring the fundamental rights of its citizens, Canada welcomed its dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, with open arms and great pomp. Madam Speaker, I will conclude, if I may have one minute. I would not like this situation repeated.

In conclusion, we must continue to promote basic freedoms wherever necessary. We will stop the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is truly what it is supposed to be: universal. The whole world will have achieved its goal: peaceful co-existence of peoples and respect for human dignity. Are we dreaming?

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human Rights December 10th, 1996

Madam Speaker, first of all, with your leave, I would like to ask for the House's consent to split my time with my colleague, the member for Mercier, giving us both 10 minutes.

People With Disabilities December 4th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, this is unbelievable. I have never seen such a bad performance in the House before. The minister can congratulate his colleagues, he can tell me to get lost, but when it comes to people with disabilities, we expect action from the government, not just lip service.

Let the minister wait. I am not through with my question. In any case, we are in no hurry, because we will not get an answer. Will the minister admit that his inaction amounts to shelving the report of his Liberal colleagues and confirms his contempt for the needs of people with disabilities?

People With Disabilities December 4th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. I hope to have more luck than my colleagues in getting an answer from the minister.

In its report tabled in October, the Liberal task force on people with disabilities recommended that the federal government continue to financially support national organizations for people with disabilities. In its report, the group said that the federal government's commitment in that respect should include, but not be limited to, core funding totalling $5 million per year.

Can the minister tell us if this recommendation means that the financing of all organizations promoting the rights of people with disabilities will be restored to pre-1994 levels?

Quebec Week Of Disabled Persons December 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, this week, and until December 8, all Quebecers are invited to mark the Quebec week of disabled persons. This year's theme relates to the integration of disabled people into the workplace.

Under the theme "My right to work", this awareness week will allow disabled people to reaffirm their basic right to work as full-fledged citizens. At a time when searching for a job is becoming increasingly difficult, the task is even harder for a disabled person, because several physical obstacles and social barriers remain.

The Quebec week of disabled persons provides all of us with an excellent opportunity to better understand the plight of disabled persons. It is essential to take all necessary measures to ensure that, some day, every person with a disability will be able to say "my right to work has now become a reality".

Persons With Disabilities December 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I think the minister's gesture only discredits the minister and underscores the lack of substance in his message and his failure to act in this area.

I shall, if I may, get back to the subject of my speech. I said the minister should read the 1995 report of the human rights committee tabled in this House a year ago in December. This unanimous report was endorsed by the members of his party, the government party, by the members of the opposition and the members of the Reform Party. It provided a concrete response to the demands of persons with disabilities.

Almost a year later, his predecessor decided to use taxpayers' money to set up a partisan committee, which fortunately was joined by representatives of groups of people with disabilities from all across Canada. This committee tabled its report in October. Here is what the Liberal group, the minister's group, said in the first few pages of its report, which the minister has not read-as his comments clearly show. The report says: "While their arguments have been listened to at the political level and by governments, there has been a growing gap between saying and doing".

A little further along, the report states: "At the federal level", this is the Liberals talking, "responses to the report tabled by the human rights committee in 1995 have been equivocal and in some cases non-existent". The response to the framework document, the latest report of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities intimated that the status quo was good enough. This is the government's response.

And what do they have to say? All puffed up today, the day of persons with disabilities, the minister offers us six or seven pages worth of his desire for governments, various provinces and various departments to co-operate. People with disabilities do not want co-operation, they want action, they want constructive action.

No one is expecting the minister to introduce measures during the election campaign or in version two of the red book; they want action now. However-and I will close on this-the minister's response appears on the first page. You have to read between the lines. On the first page, the minister says: "The measure of a society is based on how it includes all of its members in an active manner-". Fine lip service. The paragraph concludes: "The issues facing them", people with disabilities, "are not theirs alone". That is the government's response. In other words, line up and, when your turn comes along, maybe we will attend to you, if

we have the time. This is not how the official opposition sees things and this is not what we are going to defend in the weeks to come.

Persons With Disabilities December 3rd, 1996

I suggest that the minister take a deep breath and listen to what I have to say. I have worked with disabled persons for many years, and I do not need any advice from a political upstart who does not do his homework and does not know what he is talking about.

To prove this, I have two documents that I suggest he read carefully. The first one is the report of the human rights committee, tabled in this House in 1995. The report was unanimous, in other words, it had the support of the members of this government and the members of the official opposition.

Mr. Speaker, I see the minister-

Persons With Disabilities December 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity, on this International Day of Disabled Persons and in what is known as the Week of Disabled Persons in Quebec, proclaimed for the first time this year, to pay tribute to disabled persons across the country who, faced daily with their disabilities, need tremendous courage not only to overcome these disabilities but also to overcome the barriers facing them in their personal and professional lives and in their social activities.

I also wish to pay tribute to the families who are responsible for their care. Families take on these responsibilities in sometimes difficult circumstances and in many cases have to face the same restrictions as the individuals for whose care they are responsible, which may be an emotionally draining experience.

Finally, I would also like to pay tribute to the volunteers who are active in all kinds of organizations to support and promote the rights of disabled persons so that our society will become more open in this respect, and who also provide better services at a time when most, if not all governments are reducing their involvement in this area.

When I heard the Minister of Human Resources Development make a speech which basically only paid lip service to a number of principles, I was disappointed, but I also consider this further proof of this government's contempt for the disabled.

Regional Airports December 2nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am not asking the secretary of state for regional development to defend the transportation policy. Everyone knows that it is disastrous for regional development.

Does the secretary of state realize that his government now has an opportunity to take action on infrastructure issues that are not just useful but indispensable to the economic future of these regions?