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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Independent MP for Richmond—Arthabaska (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Democratic Reform February 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives seemed to show some common sense when a bill introduced by the Bloc Québécois forced them to speak to the issue and agree that people must show their faces in order to vote. However, the ban on voting while wearing face coverings does not appear anywhere in the Conservatives' electoral reform bill, despite the fact the Prime Minister himself said in 2007 that he completely disagreed with the Chief Electoral Officer's decision to allow people to vote with their faces covered.

Why this change in position? Why did the government not include in its bill the prohibition to vote with a covered face?

Petitions February 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present. They come from my riding and the neighbouring riding of Sherbrooke and have to do with the services being eliminated by Canada Post.

The petitioners are urging Canada Post to reverse its decision, which is a direct attack on the safety of seniors and people with disabilities and will also eliminate jobs for letter carriers, who provide an invaluable service to the community. They are also calling on Canada Post to come up with new ways of generating revenue, such as offering financial services.

Democratic Reform February 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, while Quebec is taking action against fraudulent election financing and the use of false names by reducing the maximum amount of donations and increasing public financing, the Conservatives have proposed the exact opposite.

One would have thought that after Lino Zambito's admissions to the Charbonneau commission about his use of fake names to fund the Conservative Party, or after the string of donations from 12 executives of an engineering firm in the riding of Montmorency, the government would have at least had the decency to follow Quebec's lead.

Why would this government introduce a bill that defies common sense, if not to protect itself?

Business of Supply January 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate my colleague on his speech. We live in more or less neighbouring regions, so our realities are similar.

My region, however, has more rural municipalities. Every year since becoming an MP, I have had to deal with issues around postmasters' work because Canada Post finds all kinds of ways to hold up the process and prevent us from replacing those people.

I also have to deal with issues involving the survival of postal outlets in the smallest municipalities. The problem with this government is that, citing Canada Post's lack of profit, it is gradually turning the whole corporation over to the private sector.

What if we look at what other countries are doing? For example, in Italy, profits had been declining for 50 years; worse still the postal service was running deficit after deficit. Then its postal outlets began offering financial services, and now the Italian postal service is turning a profit again.

The same thing happened in Australia, France and South America. There are all kinds of examples of ways to help Canada Post improve its bottom line. Just because there are fewer clients and somewhat fewer letters, but more packages, does not mean the postal service is to blame and privatization is the only answer.

Does my colleague think that, before we let Canada Post dismantle our essential service, it would be a good idea to look at what other countries are doing and follow their example?

Intergovernmental Relations January 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, not only is the federal government trying to impose a job training program and a securities commission on Quebec—both of which have been rejected by the province—but now it is also trying to interfere in another area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction: education.

Ottawa wants to decide on the number of foreign students and their countries of origin, without taking into consideration Quebec's unique characteristics, such as its language and cultural ties with other countries.

The Government of Quebec's position is clear: Quebec, not Ottawa, will make the decisions about recruiting foreign students.

Will the Minister of International Trade respect Quebec's jurisdiction over education and give the province the right to opt out with full compensation, as it is calling for?

Business of the House December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to repeat my colleagues' greetings, but this is the time to wish you and all my colleagues, as well as the House of Commons' staff, a very merry Christmas and a happy 2014.

On behalf of the Leader of the Bloc Québécois and my colleagues, I would like to say that this is a good time of year to be very humble. We can do this by participating in the fundraisers that are taking place in our ridings and by providing Christmas meals for the poor.

Every year, I organize a downhill ski day for underprivileged children. Their laughter and the fun they have keep me grounded.

It makes you realize that being elected is not like winning the lottery. Of course, it is a great opportunity and a great privilege, but it is also a great responsibility.

At this time of the year, we have to lead by example, and also realize that many people in our immediate circle, our riding, across Quebec and Canada and throughout the world, cope with many difficulties all year long.

I believe that we will keep that in mind when we return in 2014, and that we will be better people. That is my wish for you, Mr. Speaker, for your family and for all the people who help us do a good job as parliamentarians. I would like to thank you for your efforts these past few months, and I look forward to seeing you in 2014.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone.

First Nations Elections Act December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question. It is always hard to put ourselves in the government's shoes, when we do not think or operate the same way. We can only imagine or assume what they were thinking.

This government has no regard for the Constitution or even democracy and has not had any since being elected in 2006. Things became even worse when it won a majority in 2011.

As I was saying, aboriginal, first nations “clients” are not worth sitting down with properly, in accordance with the Constitution, as my colleague said.

With or without the Constitution, the government must sit down with the first nations to make the necessary changes with respect to transparency, good governance and accountability, but also to ensure that this is a real agreement signed between the two peoples. That is what should have been done.

Why did the Conservatives not do that? We are constantly asking them that. They have done the same thing in many other cases, such as the appointment of Supreme Court justices. There is a whole slew of cases where there is no respect for the Constitution, the Quebec people, first nations or Canadians in general. They might negotiate a little more, but only when there is something in it for them and it can win them votes. Otherwise, it is my way or no way.

First Nations Elections Act December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. Indeed, we would certainly never try to give him a lesson on these kinds of negotiations.

My colleague's question is really one for the Government of Quebec to answer. He is well positioned to go and meet with Quebec's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs or even the Quebec premier and speak with them about solutions that he has probably already come up with.

In the case of the Government of Quebec, first nations have been recognized as peoples since René Lévesque. I think these negotiations need to take place.

We would say the same thing to the federal government, the Quebec government and the governments of all the provinces and territories.

To answer the hon. member's question, or the allusion he made about the federal government keeping its hands in its pockets and not keeping its promises, I would say that the Conservative government is unfortunately shopping for votes.

The government selects clients to please in order to ensure that come election time, there are enough people in the ridings to elect Conservative members.

I think the first nations are not a clientele worth pursuing to the Conservative government. This is a government that uses marketing and determines how to operate based on the votes it can get. I get the impression that the Conservative government has made a purely political calculation and thinks that it does not need aboriginal peoples in order to win the election.

First Nations Elections Act December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to also take a few minutes to speak to Bill C-9, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations. Like my colleague, the leader of the Green Party, we were not asked to submit amendments to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. That is why the Speaker has given us permission to discuss these amendments at this point, the report stage.

Bill C-9 provides an alternative to the regime in the Indian Act governing the election of chiefs and councillors in certain first nations. As I said earlier when I questioned the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, the Bloc Québécois of course fully supports the transparency, accountability and better governance that Bill C-9 provides for.

The problem does not lie in the bill itself or in the improvements that I just mentioned. The problem is the way in which the government imposed its solutions and opinions on first nations. That is what I am going to try to demonstrate, and I am also going to introduce my amendment in the next few minutes.

The Bloc Québécois agrees with the provisions in the bill limiting terms of office for chiefs and councillors to a maximum of four years, stating that the election of a chief or councillor may be contested before a competent court, and setting out offences and penalties. However, we oppose the fact that the Conservative government did not consult the first nations before going ahead with these major changes to the Indian Act. These are unilateral changes. As usual, the government acted paternalistically. When I say the government, I am talking about successive federal governments. The government paternalistically imposes unilateral changes on the first nations when it should know that we must talk, nation to nation, when working with aboriginal peoples.

Everyone agrees that there must be more transparency, not only during elections but also during each elected official's term of office. The government can give us examples of times when band councils or other councils, chiefs, leaders and councillors—as we see in any population—failed to govern appropriately. That is not the issue. First, as the Green Party member said earlier, this bill originated in the Senate. However, before introducing this bill, the government should have done what the Government of Quebec did in 2002, which I will talk about in a moment. The government should have sat down and talked, nation to nation, in order to come to an agreement and propose changes. The government would have no doubt received the unanimous support of the House for the bill had the bill first been approved by first nations.

However, we cannot do anything without considering the first nations rights affected by this bill, the direct impact this bill will have on the structures in the communities themselves and how that can affect the communities. The first nations are not opposed to the changes proposed by the federal government. They want to be consulted and be involved in the decisions that will have a direct impact on them. That is a dialogue as opposed to a monologue.

We are asking the Conservative government to sit down and have a dialogue, negotiate, come to an agreement with the first nations. We do not want it to have a dialogue of the deaf or a monologue in which it tells the first nations what is good for them. This goes back to what I was saying earlier when I described the attitudes of federal governments since the very beginning. They have shown a paternalistic attitude towards the first nations.

I used the example of the peace of the braves, and I want to come back to that. This was a historic agreement signed in 2002 by the Cree and the Government of Quebec, led at the time by Bernard Landry, the leader of the Parti Québécois. The peace of the braves is a good example. There were some economic improvements for many peoples, but there are still many problems. I am not saying it is a good example because everything was fixed. It is a good example of how negotiation can lead to a formal agreement, so that the people and communities involved agree with the changes being proposed and carried out. The Quebec National Assembly recognized the first nations as nations, and the peace of the braves is an agreement between nations, as Bernard Landry pointed out when he was interviewed by a journalist who was reporting on what had become of the peace of the braves several years later.

I would like to remind the hon. members that Quebec made a commitment to involve the Cree in northern development and give them $4.5 billion over 50 years. In exchange, the Cree put an end to certain land claims. A few months later, Quebec signed the Sanarrutik agreement with the Inuit, which is designed to accelerate economic and community growth in Quebec's far north.

The peace of the braves and the agreement signed between Ottawa and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee in 2008 brought prosperity to Quebec's Cree. The 16,000 aboriginal people of James Bay now have some of the highest levels of disposable personal income in Quebec, according to a 2011 article in La Presse.

However, as I said, things are far from perfect. There are still health problems and a housing shortage. There is still an unequal distribution of wealth, despite the fact that some people are better off. Right now, 92% of Cree youth interrupt their schooling before earning their diploma or some sort of certification. As I said, the agreement was not a cure-all, but it is a good example of negotiation. That is the point I wanted to make about the peace of the braves.

I do not understand why governments that, generally speaking, like precedents so much could not have used that 2002 agreement as a precedent to create a bill that is endorsed by the affected first nations.

Now, I want to talk about the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, which long ago developed a consultation protocol that the government is supposed to follow when drafting bills or taking action that affects first nations in Quebec and Labrador.

This protocol includes the duty to consult and accommodate first nations before taking actions that could have a negative impact on their interests. Such actions include the modification or adoption of legislation, policy-making, planning processes, the modification or adoption of resource allocation regimes and the approval of specific projects or resource allocations. A consultation and accommodation report must be prepared.

The protocol also includes the duty to conduct consultation and accommodation follow-up. What is more, as provided in the consultation plan, provision must be made for the establishment, funding and operation of mechanisms for follow-up, mitigation measures and compliance monitoring with respect to the contemplated action.

The first nations have therefore already set out a procedure that should be followed by the other levels of government, including the federal government. It is really unfortunate that the government decided to bypass the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador's consultation protocol. We hope that the implementation of this bill is not harmful to first nations communities.

Members of the House agree that the Assembly of First Nations' protocol was not followed and that the bill will be passed because the government has a majority. That is why the Bloc Québécois is proposing to amend the bill in order to, at the very least, respect the second part of the protocol, which involves assessing the bill's impact on first nations communities. We are therefore proposing the following amendment to clause 41.1:

Within one year after the coming into force of this Act and every three years thereafter, the Minister must prepare a report on the implementation of this Act and its effects on elections of band councils and elections on reserves.

I would like to once again speak about precedents. People might ask why we are proposing this when such a measure has never been implemented before. However, this type of measure has been implemented before in Bill C-21, which pertained to the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and affected first nations. At the time, the government had a minority. The opposition required that the changes be reviewed every five years and the bill was passed by a majority vote. A precedent therefore exists.

In closing, we would have also liked to introduce funding and mitigation measures, but unfortunately, they would have been deemed inadmissible. However, we would like to take this opportunity to urge the government to implement those sorts of measures.

First Nations Elections Act December 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on her speech.

I agree with what she says about accountability, good governance and transparency with regard to this bill. Of course, these are ideas and concepts that we can all agree on. We do not have a problem with the bill so much as the illegitimate way in which the government imposed it on first nations.

I would like to ask my colleague if the governments that usually like precedents so much could not have followed the example of the Government of Quebec in 2002. That was when Premier Bernard Landry of the Parti Québécois signed the peace of the braves with the Cree. Before the government imposed a bill or did anything, there were proper negotiations with the first nations to ensure that the legislation truly came from both nations.

The Conservative government could have followed that example and sat down and legitimately negotiated, nation to nation, with the first nations in order to reach an agreement on this bill. Then we would not be here today talking about the government's paternalistic way of imposing its views and options on the first nations with regard to good governance.