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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

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act September 23rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-4 has a very clear short title: Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act. That sounds right, pertinent and unequivocal. We expect a well thought-out bill that would help our law enforcement agencies catch criminals who are involved in human trafficking, a very serious crime that is punishable by life in prison.

Except for in this title, there is no other mention of smugglers. They vanish just as quickly as they came. There is not another word about them, and the emphasis shifts immediately to refugees, the very victims of the smugglers mentioned in the title. And how are these refugees treated in this bill? They are described as potential terrorists, fleeing criminals or people abusing Canada's goodwill and the hospitality of its institutions.

In fact, the bill seems to be suggesting to Canadians that the current refugee processing legislation is naive. It needs to be updated and reflect the current focus on international terrorism. We quickly realize that the real short title of this bill is something along the lines of “the arbitrary radicalization of the legal treatment of refugees act”.

We should not think that we do not already have a law that targets smugglers. This phenomenon was not discovered last week. This criminal act is already punishable by a very severe sentence, the most severe sentence in fact: life in prison.

Why does this bill focus on refugees? Why does it want to make them guilty of other people's crimes?

What is a refugee? Must I remind the House? From the outset, we are talking about almost unbearable situations. We are talking about men, women and children who have only one simple hope left. They have just spent several weeks at sea in unsanitary conditions. They are put on unsafe boats with no guarantee of safety. When they finally reach land, they often do not have passports or any money. They have basically been denied their human dignity and who has done this? The smugglers that this bill supposedly wants to bring to justice. However, these smugglers cannot be found. They are still abroad where they continue to engage in illegal practices. In return for large amounts of money, these smugglers lead less fortunate, persecuted people who do not feel safe in their own country to believe that they will have a better life in a developed country. Those people are victims and nothing more. They are in the most vulnerable state possible.

What is the Conservative government proposing we do to lighten the load for these victims whose courage and determination brought them to Canada? The Conservatives are proposing that we persecute them even further by treating them like criminals and looking for terrorists among children. Who will be given the right to do this? A government institution that is well-equipped with experts? The RCMP? No. To our great surprise, it is the Minister of Immigration who would have this right. I would like to ask why.

Why would a minister be granted such power? It is completely unjustified. It would be a backward move, a legal anomaly that would be fundamentally unCanadian. In this country, we do not place such a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of a minister.

From a strictly legal point of view, this could violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-4 could be contrary to section 9 of the charter, which pertains to arbitrary detention. By creating two categories of refugees, Bill C-4 could violate section 15 of the Charter, which pertains to equality before the law. The NDP is of the opinion that Canadians do not feel there is any justification for questioning such things. The charter is a building block of our state. If we circumvent the charter, we are circumventing democracy.

If I may, I would like to give an example to show just how weak the government's argument in favour of Bill C-4 is. I hope I have the Conservatives' attention. I repeat, the NDP takes its legislative responsibilities very seriously, especially when it comes to the safety of Canadians. That is our duty. Consider the case of a refugee who has been detained as a designated foreign national under Bill C-4, but decides to exercise his rights and take the government to court over these violations of his basic charter rights. It must be understood that this person was incarcerated without any valid reason whatsoever. Well, there is a provision, in section 1, that allows reasonable limits on Canada's basic rights and freedoms. That said, the burden of proof lies with the government, which must prove that a rule of law that it is adopting can override the charter.

Such exceptions are justifiable only within reasonable and demonstrable limits in the context of a free and democratic society. As proof, in R. v. Oakes in 1986, a judge described very clearly what has since become known as the Oakes test, to determine whether such limitations on basic rights are justifiable in the context of a free and democratic society.

How does the Conservative government plan to prove that 12-month, arbitrary detentions imposed by a ministerial decision will satisfy those criteria? I am referring to the minimal impairment criteria. Will the new legislation the government wants to use to achieve its objective repudiate a charter right in the smallest possible way? Will the limitations on basic rights be proportional to the objective of this new legislation? No. From a legal perspective, that is all untenable. This government cannot justify limiting basic rights like that.

The problem lies in the fact that the smugglers are the real criminals in this matter. And where are they? Are they in the makeshift boats that land on our shores? Do they accompany their victims? No, they are long gone and untouchable. And the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism cannot do anything about it, regardless of the powers he gives himself.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the only organization capable of cracking down on human smugglers. The RCMP's expertise is a precious and available resource. Its legal role has already been established and there is no risk of abuse. The NDP believes that our police force should be provided with the resources required to go after these criminals. The NDP does not understand what future immigration ministers would accomplish by incarcerating these refugees.

There is no justification for this bill. It does nothing to improve the security of Canada and its population. It punishes people who need us. And, above all, it does not provide the RCMP with the necessary resources and wastes its expertise. The measures are arbitrary. Yes, the problem does need to be resolved. We must pass legislation against smugglers. Unfortunately, the Conservative government is taking the wrong approach. It is proposing to indiscriminately put all refugees through the wringer. It is trying to kill a fly with sledgehammer. What criteria will be used to determine who is a designated foreign national? Why is the bill not clear in this regard? It is unacceptable to introduce such vague legislation.

Canada was not built by giving such absolute discretion to a minister. We realistically expect that laws be rational and predictable. That is not at all the case with Bill C-4, and I am disappointed.

In closing, who are the biggest abusers of the immigration system? It is the Conservatives. Taking their cue from a vague feeling of xenophobia, they are claiming to deal with a scourge, yet they are doing nothing more than playing politics, and rather shamelessly at that. They are trying to appropriate abusive powers, nothing less. They are trying to tarnish Canada's good name. That is unwarranted. Our country is a symbol of justice throughout the world. For millions of people living precariously, Canada is a symbol of hope and humanity.

Does the Conservative government, which incessantly proclaims its patriotism, truly want to diminish our greatest achievement just for a shameful power grab? There are not many countries like Canada, and it is our duty to maintain its generosity, which is legendary and the reason why Canada is held in high regard throughout the world. More powerful nations would give anything for such an illustrious reputation.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act September 23rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, looking at this bill, which attempts to legislate against smugglers and human traffickers, we see potential for some worthwhile legislation against this type of trafficking. However, this bill is far from what it claims to be. It is a direct attack against this category of refugees who arrive in Canada seeking asylum. I would like the hon. member to comment on the fact that there are no real measures in this bill that truly address human trafficking.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Apparently he makes less than $100,000. In any event, the important thing in this case is that Canada Post makes a profit. It is a profitable corporation. There is no reason to cut the workers' salaries. I do not understand why they would do that when this corporation makes millions of dollars in profits every year.

[For continuation of proceedings see Part E]

[Continuation of proceedings from part D]

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, he certainly does not make $500,000. In any case, we can agree on that. Frankly, I have no idea.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question. Personally, that is what affects me the most in this conflict because what I see is a bill that is trying to impose measures on young people to really show them that they will never be able to have a salary that is equal to what it used to be. So many people have fought for decent wages to ensure they were sufficient to meet the needs of their families. But when the young people come along, they are being told that they are not entitled to that, that they do not have the same rights as those before them, that their work is worth nothing, that their work is second-class. I think the message is very sad.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I believe that 94% of employees were in favour of those pressure tactics, so I do not see what the point is here. The employees clearly want to work. It is the employer that is preventing them from working. I do not understand the point that is being made, because that is what is happening.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to try to clarify a few things this morning. As we have said repeatedly, as recently as last year, in 2009, Canada Post made some $281 million in revenues. Over the past 15 years, Canada Post has made $1.7 billion in profits and has paid the federal government $1.2 billion. The Canadian postal service is profitable, we can all agree on that.

That being the case, why are the workers being asked to make these financial sacrifices? Need I remind the House that it is thanks to them, thanks to their dedication, determination and hard work, that Canada Post can operate and make such profits?

I would like to know why these workers, who are simply trying to enforce their rights, should be the only ones to compromise and make sacrifices in this whole affair.

This government must understand that it does not have the mandate to take the place of Canada Post management. The employees indicated that they wanted to continue working during the negotiations under the same working conditions as before.

Why did the government not let the negotiations continue out of mutual respect for both parties until an agreement could be reached?

Once again this morning, I rise here to repeat that these thousands of men and women who work tirelessly for us day in and day out deserve better than what this special bill is offering. Canada Post employees deserve better than to be so rudely discriminated against based on their age. Reducing the wages of new employees in such a draconian manner sends a clear message to the workers of my generation: their work is worthless and their contribution is not up to snuff. They will never be recognized for their true worth.

Let us imagine what would have happened if, when the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage was first elected in 2000, that he had been told, “congratulations, but we are going to pay you less than your predecessors”. He would have disputed that, and rightly so.

Imposing these vastly inferior working conditions on new employees will create a gulf between the generations. It will drive a huge wedge between the young and not so young. It is also likely to create a tense and dismal work environment for employees of different ages when the mail service resumes.

Now more than ever, we need to support and defend young workers. The following was posted on on June 14, 2011, and was based on a very recent study by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada:

Canadian families face ongoing balance-sheet battle...According to the report, household debt has reached a new all-time high of $1.5 trillion...“The report confirms that more than half of indebted Canadians are borrowing just to afford day-to-day living expenses like food, housing and transportation,” adds Anthony Ariganello, President and CEO of CGA-Canada. “For these individuals, there is little hope for improved financial condition.”

It is unacceptable that at a time when households are carrying so much debt, the government wants to refuse to provide young workers with a decent wage to meet their needs and the needs of their families. They can continue to accumulate debt; they can continue to pay huge interest rates to credit card companies. Is that really the message we want to send my generation?

The article continues and reveals that:

Some 27 per cent of non-retired Canadians commit no resources whatsoever to savings, even for retirement. More Canadians are carrying debt into retirement, with one-third of retired households carrying an average debt of $60,000 and 17 per cent carrying $100,000 or more.

In light of all of this, how can the government want to impose such harmful measures on workers' pensions?

Why does it want to punish the workers, who have been reasonable and who showed good faith by holding a rotating strike—a way to put pressure without seriously affecting mail operations?

Why did Canada Post decide to lock its doors, affecting a large number of vulnerable people and small businesses, as the members on the other side of the House remind us so often.

Most importantly, what message does the government want to send by imposing wages that are lower than what was offered by Canada Post?

The government did not need to interfere in this labour negotiation between the employer and its employees. The reality is that Canada Post employees want to get back to work as quickly as possible. They are probably the ones who most want this dispute to resolved as quickly as possible. Right now, it is impossible for them. The employer locked the doors to their workplace. Canada Post is currently forcing a lockout that is hurting everyone. They must let the employees return to work.

Let them continue to provide services to the public as they have faithfully done for so long. Stop punishing them because they have exercised their legitimate rights and take immediate action to correct the situation with respect and dignity for all.

I do not know if you remember the evening of this past May 2 when the Prime Minister celebrated his new government that came into power with a little under 40% of the votes. He then made a promise, noted by many in the media, that he would govern for all Canadians.

This week, the mask has come off. The hon. members on the opposite side of the House will not hesitate to set unionized workers against non-unionized workers or young workers against the not-so-young to achieve their ideological purposes.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I can only respond in the same way as I did earlier. It is not the workers' fault. This is a lockout. The only thing that is currently preventing these employees from working and contributing to the Canadian economy is the locks on the doors. Unlock the doors and the mail will continue to be delivered and the situation will resolve itself. Let the parties negotiate.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. Clearly, as a young woman, I cannot help but feel terrified by the idea that this type of precedent could be set at Canada Post. Frankly, young people have the right to their place, the right to jobs with good working conditions and decent salaries. I am truly terrified at the idea that a decision could be made that would create such a gap between the generations and that would have such a negative effect on working relations between employees.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to respond to the constituent who wrote to you. In fact, this is not a strike; unfortunately, this is a lockout. The workers should not have to pay for this decision, which was made by management. Canada Post just has to unlock the doors and end the lockout and the situation will work itself out.