House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Notre-Dame-De-Grâce (Québec)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 71% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Transportation February 17th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I was absolutely shocked last week when I learned that the Superior Court stopped the transfer of all commercial air flights from Mirabel to Dorval airport.

Several moths ago the government and Aéroports de Montréal decided that all of Montreal's scheduled flights should use Dorval and that Mirabel should be used for charters, cargo and other miscellaneous operations. This was done because many international airlines, especially European airlines, were abandoning Mirabel and were using Toronto only. Montreal passengers had to first fly to Toronto if they wished to go to certain European cities that had always been served from Montreal.

Dorval is only 20 minutes from downtown Montreal while Mirabel is at least 45 minutes. The cost of taxis, transfers, shuttle services and time to Mirabel is uneconomic and an unnecessary nuisance. I urge the government and the Montreal authorities to get the Dorval consolidation back on track quickly.

Nuclear Liability Act February 14th, 1997

moved that Bill C-249, an act to amend the Nuclear Liability Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, this bill would amend the Nuclear Liability Act. Members may ask: What is the Nuclear Liability Act? The Nuclear Liability Act was passed in 1970 but was only proclaimed in 1976. Its purpose was to make operators of nuclear installations absolutely liable for damages, but at the same time it limited their liability for a particular incident to $75 million.

When I say that it made them absolutely liable, I mean that it provided that victims of a nuclear accident would not have to prove negligence against the operators of a nuclear facility; they merely had to show that the damages to their person or to their property were caused by a breakdown or by an accident at the nuclear installation. Once they did that, the defendant was absolutely liable. However as I said, the liability was limited to a total of $75 million for all claimants on any one particular incident.

The Nuclear Liability Act also protects manufacturers of nuclear facilities and manufacturers of components for nuclear facilities, such as General Electric, Westinghouse and others. It protects them from any liability whatsoever. It does the same thing for the suppliers of fuel for nuclear installations. In other words, all damage claims by victims of a nuclear power accident must be channelled to the operators who are in turn limited to $75 million.

The act also provides that where the damage exceeds $75 million, the Government of Canada may decide to pay additional amounts, but that is not obligatory.

It should be noted that all operators must be licensed under the Atomic Energy Control Act by the Atomic Energy Control Board. Of course the purpose of that is to screen out unreliable operators.

Bill C-249 which is before the House today would do two things. First, it would increase the liability limit for operators from $75 million to $500 million per damage incident. Second, it would oblige the government to pay damages when they went above $500 million, subject to certain conditions.

Why is this necessary? Why am I putting forward this bill? It is necessary because the liability limit of $75 million is totally out of date and inadequate.

There are presently 23 nuclear installations in Canada situated in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

If we were simply to adjust the $75 million maximum to compensate for inflation, the adjusted maximum calculated for 1989 would be $279 million. As members know, it is now 1997 so with further inflation adjustment the maximum would be close to $500 million.

Experience has now shown us that the original maximum was woefully too low. The 1986 Chernobyl breakdown resulted in $300 billion of damages in Ukraine and Belarus. As a result of that accident 250,000 people had to be evacuated from their farms, villages and communities.

Briefs to the Ontario Hydro hearings in 1990 demonstrated that a severe accident at the Darlington, Ontario installation would result in damages of $1 trillion. In 1990 the Business Journal stated that Ontario Hydro was not adequately insured for damage from accidents of this kind.

It should be pointed out that Toronto is closer to Pickering than Kiev was to Chernobyl yet Kiev incurred approximately $100 billion in damages in 1986. That is probably why the city of Toronto with Energy Probe and Rosalie Bertell went to court in 1986 to have the Nuclear Liability Act declared unconstitutional.

Unfortunately in 1996 after 10 years of legal wrangling they were obliged to drop their action. The principal opponents in that action were Ontario Hydro and New Brunswick Power.

Some say that these changes are not necessary because Canadian installations are extremely safe. It may be correct that the Canadian safety record is a good one, and I congratulate the operators for that, but no one will argue that our system is fail safe. Not only do we have the examples of Chernobyl in 1986 and Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979, but in 1995 in this country there were 786 unusual incidents recorded for Canadian installations and 391 were formally reported to the Atomic Energy Control Board.

In 1983 there was a serious accident at the Pickering 2 installation less than 20 miles from Toronto. The two reactors were shut down for four years. A pressure tube had burst without warning in the in the very core of the reactor system. The replacement cost was $700 million.

Ontario's nuclear facilities are not built to withstand the magnitude of earthquakes now anticipated in this region. An earthquake is considered the most likely cause of a severe accident to a nuclear power facility.

The bill is also necessary because individuals in Canada cannot get personal or household insurance which will cover them for damages resulting from a nuclear facility accident. No insurance company will cover this risk for individuals. The insured has no coverage for radioactive contamination. I was shocked to learn that but that is the case. None of us can get an insurance policy which will cover us against these kinds of damages.

Consequently the only recourse for individual damage claims from victims is the operators under this law. At present the operators are only liable up to $75 million. One can imagine what this would give to the citizens of greater Toronto if there was a Chernobyl type breakdown at Pickering or Darlington. One million people would get about $75 each.

In the United States under the 1957 Price Anderson Act recent amendments require liability coverage of $160 million per reactor. Plus, in event of claims beyond that, a fund has been established which provides total coverage of up to $7 billion. Sweden has recently increased its liability in similar circumstances from $81 million to $130 million per reactor, and Japan from $80 million to $240 million.

If you were affected by a nuclear accident, Mr. Speaker, because the winds deposited radioactive fallout over your home, business, farm or workplace making them uninhabitable for tens or perhaps hundreds of years, think of what this would mean to you, quite apart from the knowledge that you and your loved ones might contract cancer or your offspring suffer genetic damage.

Financially your means of livelihood could be wiped out and your property destroyed. You and your family could be ruined and there is no way to protect yourselves because insurance companies also fear a meltdown. Every insurance policy in Canada excludes coverage for nuclear accidents. No other industry has the freedom to destroy the health or property of innocent third parties who can neither insure themselves beforehand nor sue for compensation afterwards.

In conclusion let me summarize. The Nuclear Liability Act in its present form is not adequate to compensate victims of a nuclear facility accident. Accidents have taken place before and can take place again. The law needs to be updated and revised. The act requires other amendments as well but I am not dealing with those today. For example, in the act there is a limitation that all claims must be made within 10 years. Now they realize that such claims for such damage only come to light much later than 10 years, such as damage to offspring or cancer and so on. There have been recommendations that claims be allowed up to 30 years but I am not dealing with that. I am not dealing with that today; I am simply saying that the act requires other amendments.

I urge hon. members to send the bill to committee where witnesses could be heard and if necessary have the bill amended. I am extremely flexible on the details of the bill. If the evidence suggests that the liability should be higher than $500 million then change it. That is no problem. If the committee can find a better way of protecting citizens when the damage goes beyond $500 million I am all in favour of improvements.

On the other hand I cannot accept that this matter be ignored. Nuclear energy is too dangerous a substance. There is no perfect way to control it or its waste product. I would prefer that we stop using nuclear energy, but if that cannot or will not be done then at least let us make sure that any victims get fair and just compensation.

Employment Equity February 14th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the President of the Treasury Board. According to a recent report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the private sector does a better job of hiring and promoting minorities than the federal government.

Considering that the employment equity program has been in place for 10 years, what is the reason for this shortfall and what is the government doing to correct it?

National Organ Donor Day Act December 12th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, on November 28 I asked the Minister of Human Resources Development a question. I asked if in his discussions with the provinces regarding the transfer of labour market training from the federal to the provincial governments, he had taken steps to ensure that the principles of the Official Languages Act will continue to apply. In other words, will francophones outside Quebec continue to get training in French and anglophones in Quebec to get their training in English. There has been great concern over this matter because there were too many cases in the past when provincial governments denied services to their language minorities.

Recently, the Quebec government had bilingual signs removed from the Sherbrooke hospital and in the Ontario legislature, a government member insulted an opposition member for speaking French.

For matters coming under the federal government, services are now given in English and French throughout the country where there is significant demand. These rights should not be lost when training programs are transferred to provincial governments.

When airports were transferred to local authorities and when Air Canada was privatized, there were provisions in the legislation to protect these language rights.

I asked my question on November 28 and the government concluded the first formal transfer agreement with Alberta on December 10. In this agreement the following is stated: "In areas of significant demand, Alberta will provide access to the benefits and measures and national employment assistance service functions in both official languages".

These words are similar to section 22 of the Official Languages Act which reads in part as follows: "Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that any member of the public can communicate with and obtain available services in either official language in Canada or elsewhere where there is significant demand for communications with and services from that office in that language".

It is essential that the term "significant demand" is defined and interpreted in the same way as it is for the Official Languages Act.

In his answer on November 28 the minister said that the new Employment Insurance Act provided for service in either official language where there was significant demand. I looked through the

act very thoroughly and I was not able to find that article. I would ask the parliamentary secretary to identify the article in question.

I also want assurance from the government this evening that all the other agreements, including the one from my province of Quebec, have provisions similar to that of Alberta or even better, that they contain provisions to guarantee training in both official languages.

Entrepreneurs December 11th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, on February 2 to 4, 1997 a micro credit summit will take place in Washington, D.C. to focus attention on the provision of credit to the world's poorest entrepreneurs, especially women, in order to provide them with employment and a better quality of life.

This summit is being supported by the OECD, the World Bank, NGOs, experts and individuals from all over the world. It has been shown that by lending small amounts of money, between $35 to $300 in developing countries, one can start up small businesses and cottage industries which allow individuals to support themselves and their families.

I ask our government and all members to support this initiative. By contributing to the capital of micro credit banks, they can work wonders with small amounts of money.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David Riel December 5th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, on November 8 I asked the government when it would amend Canadian legislation to facilitate the establishment of an international criminal court which is under active consideration at the United Nations. Such an international criminal court would try individuals who commit serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity, including genocide and ethnic cleansing.

I acknowledge that the Canadian government is a strong supporter of the international criminal court, but as I said, the establishment of such a court requires amendments to our domestic law to permit the referral of accused Canadians who might be indicted by the new court.

Ever since the Nuremberg trials following World War II, which tried and judged Nazi war criminals, there has been a movement to establish a permanent international criminal court. Such a court should not be confused with the International Court of Justice at the Hague, known as the World Court, which judges disputes between nations.

The international criminal court would deal with individuals charged with massive violations of human rights, such as the accused at the Nuremberg trials and now those accused before the special tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. A permanent international criminal court would give credibility and provide deterrence to the process.

The Nuremberg court and the special tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda were set up post facto. In the case of the Nazi war criminals, the court was set up by the victors of the conflict. It would be much better to have such courts and their rules set up permanently in advance as is now proposed at the United Nations.

I await the government's answer. I know it supports the international criminal court but I would like to know when it will bring

forward legislation which would give impetus and give some movement to the whole issue at the United Nations.

Gun Control December 5th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is the national day of remembrance and action on violence against women. It is also the seventh anniversary of the massacre of 14 women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. On that occasion, Marc Lepine, a deranged young man without a criminal record, not a professional criminal, was able to obtain a semi-automatic rifle and kill these innocent women. He was able to do this because there were gaps, weaknesses in our gun laws.

Parliament has now closed these gaps and tightened the law, but the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are contesting this law in court, supported by the Conservative and Reform parties.

This law may not be perfect, but whenever access to guns is limited, the rate of crime with guns is reduced. The charge that guns do not kill, people kill, is ludicrous. It is much easier and effective to kill with a gun.

With more restrictions on guns there would be fewer homicides. Canadians should send a message to their provincial governments on this issue.

Official Languages November 28th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

In his discussions with the provinces regarding the transfer of labour market training to the provinces, has the minister taken steps to ensure that the principles of the Official Languages Act will continue to apply? Does he have an assurance that francophones outside of Quebec will continue to be able to get their training in French and anglophones in Quebec to get their training in English?

Citizenship Act November 21st, 1996

Madam Speaker, I simply want to respond to some of the speeches that were made in the House. They were very good speeches and very positive.

As I said in my opening remarks, I believe the oath must be changed to put an emphasis on Canada. I want to assure my colleagues from British Columbia and from Thunder Bay that I am not wed to the exact formula that is in my bill.

Unfortunately this is not a votable bill, but I believe the debate was important to give the minister, who is thinking about these things, a chance to hear the views of the different parties.

It seems there is strong support for changing the oath to put an emphasis on Canada. I have proposed that we pledge allegiance to Canada and to the Constitution of Canada.

I realize that the Constitution of Canada is not always an easy concept to grasp. In constitutional law we talk about the Constitution of Canada as including all constitutional documents. As my hon. friend from British Columbia pointed out, there are 30, 40 or 50 statutes which make up the Constitution, although the two principal documents are the Constitution Act, 1867, formerly known as the British North American Act of 1867, and the Constitution Act, 1981, the act that repatriated the Constitution.

This is not a votable item. However, it appears that there is consensus among the various parties of the House that a change is needed. Even my friend from the Bloc Quebecois admits that. He was on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He reported to the House that in the hearings before that committee there was a consensus for changing the oath, although he does not like the present formulation. He and I have different views on this.

He would not want to pledge allegiance to Canada as a member of the Bloc Quebecois.

That is one of the reasons I am putting forward an oath of allegiance. I do not want any ambiguity for our new citizens to be in the oath. I do not want them to be unclear about what they are doing. I want them to be absolutely clear on what they are doing. I want people who come here and become citizens to know what they are pledging allegiance to. I do not want them to think on the one hand they are pledging allegiance to a Queen who is principally British and represents the United Kingdom, although as I said there is a legal fiction that she is the Queen of Canada, and then on the other hand to be pledging allegiance to Canada.

I think the time has come when we can clarify the oath, make it absolutely clear that when you pledge allegiance to Canada as a new citizen you are pledging allegiance to this country and to nothing else.

I understand the views of the Bloc Quebecois members. They have been elected to support a movement to separate Quebec from Canada and to break up the country and they do not want to pledge allegiance to Canada. As a matter of fact, when we sing "O Canada" in the House once a week they are significantly absent because they do not want to sing that anthem and they do not want to give allegiance to our flag either.

It is for those very reasons that I want people to pledge allegiance to Canada. I think our unity is under attack. Our unity is being threatened. I want to make clear to new citizens that when they come here and become citizens of Canada and pledge allegiance I want that pledge to be meaningful. I want it to be significant. I want to make sure that their loyalty is with Canada and not with any other country, that their loyalty is to the traditions, to the way of doing things in this country.

I thought the approach of the member for Thunder Bay was emotional. Mine was rather legalistic I thought he made a very good speech supporting the bill.

In closing the debate, I hope the minister and the government take notice of this debate and bring in soon a government bill which will give us a new oath of allegiance which will emphasize allegiance and loyalty to Canada.

Citizenship Act November 21st, 1996

Madam Speaker, I understand that if there are no other speakers, as mover of the motion I may close the debate.