House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was elections.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Louis-Saint-Laurent (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am in the House today to present a petition to stop the cuts to our postal services.

I was able to collect the signatures of thousands of people. The petition today is smaller than the others, but I presented the petitions with the rest of the signatures earlier this week. It is very important to stand up for Canada Post and our postal services across the country, and to stop the completely unwarranted cuts that are now under way.

Health June 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Supreme Court, our country's highest court, handed down a unanimous ruling regarding the use of medical marijuana. The ruling had barely been announced when the minister declared, “Frankly, I'm outraged by the Supreme Court.”

Once again, the Conservatives are trying to discredit decisions by our highest court. Unfortunately the Conservatives have a habit of thinking they are above the law.

Will the minister stop denigrating our justice system?

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île. It is true, I have not really talked about where my constituents stand on this, the people of Louis-Saint-Laurent that I represent here. However, every time we asked them questions, either through mailings or in discussions, my constituents were always deeply affected by the subject. People are always horrified to see acts of cruelty committed against pets.

In the more specific case of the bill we are talking about today, many people were not necessarily aware of the fact that there was a legislative gap. In the case of the police horse that was killed, there is uncertainty, a grey area that does not allow us to impose a specific sentence on the perpetrator of this crime to reflect the reality that it is not right to kill a police horse or dog. People understand that, but they do not necessarily realize that it is not covered by the law.

All that to say there was generally strong support for this. There is really an appetite for doing more to protect these innocent creatures. It is our responsibility to protect them.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his question. That is one of the most important points, something that everyone needs to remember every time we introduce this kind of bill dealing with the criminal justice system. Basically, I have a problem with mandatory minimums because they take away the discretionary power of our courtrooms and courts of justice. It is really a problem. In a case like this one, it is even more problematic because we really get the impression that the Conservatives just want to prove that they are tough on crime, without really looking at the real consequences of this kind of measure for our communities and the provinces.

My colleague raised an excellent point: these people will be sent to provincial jails, and the provinces are not necessarily willing or able to receive a lot more people. This is not the first time we have seen the Conservatives introduce bills like this one, bills that amend the Criminal Code and that have serious repercussions on the provinces. They passed an omnibus bill at the beginning of their term, Bill C-10, which did exactly that, and which involved huge costs for all the provinces of this country, although the Conservatives dismissed that without a second thought.

I truly think that introducing mandatory minimum sentences in this bill is problematic, even though at the end of the day we all agree on the essence of the bill.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is a pretty strange question. I have a lot of respect for my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. I know that he is a hunter, and that is something very important to him. However, he has a hard time understanding that people can love animals and that, as MPs or activists, they might want to defend the rights of animals.

Everyone gets that we want to fight animal cruelty. Nobody wants inhumane cruelty. Nobody wants to hurt animals and kill them for no reason. However, it can be done with respect, and people can continue to hunt respectfully. Canadian farmers have tremendous respect for the animals that enable them to make a living. They know how to treat their animals with respect and love. In fact, that is the best way for them to make their farms as prosperous as possible.

I have tremendous respect for all of the people who understand that there is a way to respect and love animals and fight cruelty towards those same animals.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful to my colleague from Toronto—Danforth for his question. I have a lot of respect for his intelligence and for what he brings to the House of Commons. He is very well versed in law and has a lot to teach us.

I am sure this will end up heading in that direction. It is not always easy to legislate on this kind of issue and figure out exactly when to draw the line, but there is a way to keep going in that direction and see what can be done with changes to criminal law in that regard.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, over the past four years, I have had an opportunity to debate a wide range of topics.

Although the matter before us today might seem like a strange blip on the list of government priorities, I do not wish to denigrate it, because it is indeed important. However, it does seem like a strange fixation, to go to the wall defending dogs. Nevertheless, Bill C-35 was even mentioned in the throne speech, which, in my view, is going a little too far.

I would remind everyone that last night, Canadians were treated to the 100th gag order to expedite the debate, because we are supposedly in such a hurry and so many bills need to be rammed through as soon as possible. At the end of the day, we are using our time in the House for time allocation motions and to debate Bill C-35. There is not enough time for the budget or for Bill C-51, but let us talk about animals.

Today we are discussing one aspect of animal rights, more specifically, one very precise category: animals that have been trained to work with law enforcement or military personnel, or those that assist people with a disability.

Under Bill C-35, anyone who physically harms such an animal with the clear intent to act in bad faith will be sentenced to a minimum of six months in prison. If a law enforcement animal is injured or killed in service, the sentence for that offence would be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed on the offender.

I am very pleased to say that I intend to vote in favour of this bill, despite the reservations I have about its scope. Bill C-35 is a very kind initiative that no one can oppose, except maybe to say that this issue does not necessarily need to be debated by the entire federal legislative apparatus.

Out of respect for voters, I would therefore suggest that my colleagues quickly express their kindness and their love for animals, which is somewhat boring, so that Bill C-35 can be sent to the Senate as quickly as possible and we do not have to talk about it any more.

In case there is any doubt, I really love animals. I have never felt inclined to crush baby chicks or skin cats. I completely understand that police horses and guide dogs benefit society and that these animals represent a significant financial and emotional investment.

It should also be said that many of these animals often carry out heroic acts under some extraordinary circumstances. After all, there is a tradition of recognizing the courageous war-time efforts of these animals. A commemorative bas-relief adorns the Memorial Chamber located in the Peace Tower in the Centre Block. Dogs often show admirable courage and save lives.

In committee, all the witnesses supported this initiative, but they must have been a little surprised to be testifying in such a formal setting about a topic outside of the usual parliamentary discussions. Animal cruelty is quite frankly deplorable and shameful, and we must combat it.

Bill C-35 amends the Criminal Code and will not so much combat as punish, or avenge, these crimes, which is in keeping with the Conservatives' obsession with the illusory absolute justice that they seek everywhere but do not find. It is not easy to reinvent oneself.

Conservatives believe that judges are always too accommodating and too often forget their discretionary powers. They want to decide for the judges; justice is an election issue. Punishment must always be meted out in an absolute and grandiose manner.

Although I support this bill, I always have a hard time with minimum sentencing. I agree with creating an offence to ensure that offenders who abuse or murder a service animal are punished. However, I think that our judges are capable of determining the most appropriate sentence for those who commit these crimes.

If the judge feels that the criminal should be sent to prison, he can do so. However, once again, setting minimum sentences takes away the courts' discretion.

Bill C-35 also opens the door to a grim topic no one really wants to touch, which is legislating animal rights. Since the dawn of humanity, we have had a hard time accepting that the death of an animal—of any kind—can have an impact on our lives and our future as human beings.

Bill C-35 promotes a specific category of animal to a superior status protected by law. To be legally valid, this new category can only make sense if these animals are considered property with monetary value.

After all, they had to be trained by humans who were paid for their work and their expertise. Otherwise, we will fall into an endless debate on whether animals have souls, which would be extremely difficult, if not completely absurd.

We are legislators and esoteric considerations have no place in our debates.

Bill C-35 presents an interesting solution to the lack of a special category for abusing or murdering animals. Supporting this bill is a good thing, and that is why I will encourage all of my colleagues to support it so that it can move to the next stage.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from British Columbia for his speech.

He shared an interesting point of view since he was once an RCMP officer. I really liked the stories he told about the service animals he worked with. I am glad that he was able to protect all of his body parts at the right times.

However, my question has to do with a more specific aspect of the bill. I imagine that many of my colleagues here know that minimum sentences are somewhat problematic. I heard my colleague ask the member for Toronto a question earlier. He made an interesting point about situations in which an animal was killed and the person who did it could not be sentenced.

However, in cases where the judge has the discretionary power to decide whether a prison sentence should be imposed, why does the member think that it is necessary for this bill to set out minimum sentences? I would like him to explain that further.

Members not seeking re-election to the 42nd Parliament June 10th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I am truly honoured to be here today to give my farewell speech in this wonderful House of Commons that I have been a part of for the past four years.

In the fall of 2008, when my friend Christopher Young asked me if I wanted to be an NDP candidate, I never really expected to be here today, having completed a term in office, saying my goodbyes. It would never have occurred to me.

When the same thing happened in 2011 and I was asked to run, even then I did not think I would be so amazingly lucky as to be part of this wonderful team.

Four years ago, almost to the day, I spoke for the first time in the House of Commons. I had just been made the critic for democratic reform, and of course I asked a question about the Senate. It is crazy how some things in life change and others stay exactly the same.

In my four years as the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, I had the opportunity to be a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I will cherish wonderful memories of the work we did in that committee, and I would like to say that the committee chair, the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London, did an excellent job and always did his best to be fair.

He always did his best. It was an honour to be his vice-chair and to work with him. I will probably think about him for the rest of my life, especially when I am having an egg sandwich.

I would also like to salute my two NDP colleagues who are also members of the committee. I really enjoyed working with the fiery member for Hamilton Centre, famous for his filibusters, and the member for Toronto—Danforth, whom I worked with on the democratic reform file. It was a privilege to work with such brilliant and dedicated people.

I say thanks to both of my friends. It was really wonderful.

I must also wholeheartedly thank my entire team: Marilyne and Nathalie, who work very hard to meet all the needs of my riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, as well as Myriam and Jean-François, my dear friends who are here in Ottawa. I also want to salute Yves, Boris and Antonin, who no longer work for me, but who have been a tremendous source of support throughout my term. Thank you to everyone.

I have had the opportunity to form friendships with many people from all the parties over the past four years. Whether it was on parliamentary trips or during our prayer breakfasts, I was able to learn more about my colleagues from all parties. I think it is important to recognize that although we may disagree on many things, we all came here with a desire to make our country a better place. We may not always agree on what path to take to get there, but the only way to get there is by working together.

Speaking of working together, I would like to thank all the members who supported my bill on bilingualism for officers of Parliament. I am very proud to have contributed to the enhancement and promotion of bilingualism and the French fact in this country.

It was a rather extraordinary experience to see my bill go from a draft through each parliamentary stage and to know that that bill is now the Language Skills Act. For that I want to commend and thank my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst for all his support. We will continue to hope that one day, similar legislation can be passed for Supreme Court justices. I know that the hon. member is not seeking re-election either, but I am sure that he will keep working on this cause because he is a caring man. We will all miss him very much.

As hon. members know, I had some wonderful times during my term here. However, to be honest, it was not always easy. I also had to deal with some very dark sides of politics. I went through some very tough times. I saw how complicated being a young female member of Parliament can be. I saw how partisan politics could become harmful and toxic. There were days when things were not really easy. However I was able to remain hopeful and persevere thanks to the love and support of my gang here.

First and foremost there was my leader, who was always there when I needed him and who always gave me his support. I sincerely believe that he is an extraordinary man who has his heart in the right place. I really hope that he will be our prime minister one day.

I am addressing my entire team, each of my colleagues. I have had some truly special moments with many of you, and you know who you are. I have had an extraordinary opportunity to be part of the NDP team and to represent the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent for the past four years.

I know that we will all continue to do our best to make Canada a better country. We will all continue to give it our all so we can be proud of our work and the country in which we will continue to live.

I would like to say to all my colleagues that I love you. As they say, this is farewell and not goodbye.

Free Votes May 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Motion No. 590, moved my by my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain.

There are just three weeks left before the 41st Parliament is adjourned, so this is probably one of my last speeches. Like my colleague who sponsored this motion, I will not seek another term in October, so this speech is a very special one to me. I cannot imagine a more perfect ending than a philosophical debate.

I would like to read out Motion No. 590:

That, in the opinion of the House, all Members of Parliament should be allowed to vote freely on all matters of conscience.

I think I read in the papers that my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain thinks this motion is quite straightforward and that he does not anticipate any opposition from the government or opposition sides. I want to set him straight and also reassure him. Motion No. 590 certainly is short, but it is not straightforward in the least. Nevertheless, I am determined to support this motion and I think that my colleagues will do the same, based on what their conscience tells them.

Parliament's job is to pass laws for Canada. Even though a motion is not a parliamentary document with the same scope or weight as a bill, it does have to be moved in legal language. What, then, is the legal definition of conscience? My colleague provided his personal interpretation during his speech, but if we have to use a concept such as conscience, it cannot be limited to the uncertain and relativistic confines of a philosophical definition. On the contrary, it must be imbued with a clearly identifiable and established legal meaning understandable to all.

What, therefore, is the legal definition of a matter of conscience? One might say that all human beings know what conscience is, that it is unique to humans and that it is recognized automatically much like humans recognize beauty or truth. Esteemed colleagues, that is what Plato said. Even though philosophy is the noblest endeavour of humankind, our job here is to manage the federal Canadian state with just and constitutional laws, not to add new material to the western philosophical canon.

In order for that motion to be applicable and have any value at all to the parliamentary exercise that it is supposed to improve, a legal definition of the concept of conscience is crucial. Without that, this is nothing but hot air. However, we will never get that legal definition because it simply does not exist. This means that my colleague's motion could just as easily read as follows, “That, in the opinion of the House, all members of Parliament should be allowed to vote freely on all matters of beauty”. Good luck with that.

The problem here is the abstract notion of conscience. Even when we look at the substance of the motion, we come up against another question. I mean no offence to my hon. colleague, and I am surprised he does not know this already, but members can already vote freely. Nowhere in the rules of this House does it state that members are obligated to betray their values or their beliefs in exercising the mandate that they have been given—nowhere.

It is a bit embarrassing and I am disappointed at the public admission we are witnessing today, that not once during any of his terms in office was my colleague ever informed by his party that he could vote according to his conscience or, if he was, that he was not supported by his Conservative colleagues when they twisted arms and forced people to vote against their beliefs.

I know that many Conservative MPs have a fiercely electoral view of the parliamentary system and that they are quite committed to defending personal and local values in Parliament, even if it means being dysfunctional and spending their time torturing their souls in abstract debates. They hide their discomfort very well, I have to say. I did not see anyone on the government side suffering from a crisis of conscience when they all voted in favour of Canada's involvement in the Syrian civil war in support of Bashar al-Assad. Mea culpa, I should have paid a bit more attention. However, during that time, my conscience certainly bothered me, and I mourned the human suffering that befell the people of Syria.

I can say unequivocally that at no time during the past four years did I feel oppressed at vote time. I was not unduly pressured in any way and no one ever tried to compromise my conscience, regardless of its nature. Debate within our party is lively and salutary. We try to compromise according to what is best for Canadians in general and for each one of us in particular. The NDP takes an inclusive approach. We meet every week to discuss the votes on the agenda and to decide together what position we are going to defend. Every one of us contributes to what goes on in this building and every one of us is free to express his or her opinion.

We never rule out the possibility of a free vote. However, in the majority of cases, my colleagues and I arrive at a consensus that is acceptable for everyone.

To maintain their commitment to the parliamentary electoral system, and for the benefit of their political base, the Conservatives often congratulate themselves for having a few dissenting voices among their members in votes on private member's bills, as though this dissent were proof of inclusion or democratic vigour. Personally, I think this inability to agree amongst themselves is not something to be proud of, quite the contrary. Belonging to a political party is also an act of will and a choice freely made. You join a party because it represents your values. Once elected, members have the right to vote as they wish in the House, and they have the duty to inform their peers of their views on any upcoming votes. If a member votes against his or her party and there are consequences, that is between the member and the party. However, ultimately everyone can vote as they wish in the House and that will not affect a member's position in the House of Commons.

We are all free men and women, with our own free will and freedom of choice. Our duty is to come to an agreement with our colleagues and not to blindly defend our personal obsessions. That is why I believe my NDP colleagues should support this motion because, in the end, all of us are already free.