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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

Textile Industry December 14th, 2004

Mr. Chair, I want to congratulate my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry, who has been working relentlessly on this file. Already, during the election, there were rumours about it in his riding. Huntingdon is a town that essentially depends on textile. Through my colleague's speech and tireless work, one can see that he is very much aware of what is being done and also very sensitive to the fate of workers in the town of Huntingdon.

Twenty years ago, when I was twenty years old, in Victoriaville, three textile plants shut down, namely Rubin, Utex and Fashion Craft. At that time, some 2,000 people lost their jobs. Actually, I know very well the impacts of such a closure in a single town. In my riding, I remember very well the accounts given by families of workers who were totally flabbergasted and devastated by this situation.

Since getting this news, my colleague has no doubt heard from many hard-hit families that did not receive adequate assistance from the federal government. I would very much like to hear from him what these people have to say, how they feel the federal government treated them, as well as the kind of assistance that they have received or not. I am certain that we will hear, unfortunately, some very sad things. I would like to know how the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry feels about it.

Textile Industry December 14th, 2004

Mr. Chair, first I want to thank my colleague of the New Democratic Party for his excellent speech. I used to know him before we both became members of Parliament and I can say that he is very sensitive to workers, especially during times as difficult as the ones that workers in Huntingdon are going through right now.

He is right when he says that it is not only Huntingdon. There are other regions. I come from a region where there is a textile and clothing industry. About 1,500 people work in this sector. There used to be a lot more, but this government's inaction has caused all the problems that my colleague opposite so eloquently described.

I would like to ask him what he thinks about the statement of the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada, which said earlier that the government does not talk to unions. It only talks to employers, it seems. Is this not a symptom of this government's action or inaction to precisely ignore unions, for example, which is totally unacceptable? We heard him say this a few moments ago. I would really like to know what my colleague thinks of this.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit War Veterans December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to recognize the initiative of the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, who introduced Motion M-193 in the House. The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should acknowledge the historic inequality of treatment and compensation for First Nations, Métis and Inuit war veterans and take action immediately to give real compensation to these veterans in a way that truly respects their service and sacrifice.

In all fairness, we must also recognize the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, who initiated this motion in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources on November 4. The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, the Bloc Québécois' aboriginal affairs critic, and I also supported this motion on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. This motion was finally introduced in committee by the hon. member for Calgary Centre-North. I also recognize his efforts in this cause.

I confirm completely the claims of the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River when he related what happened in the committee in front of the first nations and Métis veterans. At the end of the committee meeting, in front of these people, the Liberals started to hesitate and to not want to recognize everything these veterans had done for us in wartime. It was a bit of a disgrace and we strongly condemn their attitude.

That is why I am recognizing today the initiative of the member, who agreed to introduce such a motion to right, so to speak, this wrong. I hope that, this time, the Liberals will listen to reason.

At that committee meeting, we had heard from the following witnesses: David Chartrand, of the Manitoba Metis Federation, the Métis National Council, and Edgar Borchert, president of the National Métis Veterans Association. I said then that it was thanks to people like them, veterans who had fought for our freedom and our democracy, that we are able to lead the lives we are living today.

We know that approximately 3,000 members of our first nations fought for Canada during the second world war, and that several hundred fought in Korea. Unfortunately, approximately 500 of them lost their lives. Other historical facts have been confirmed. First nations veterans did not receive the same compensation as other veterans. This is called discrimination. Those who were compensated were excluded from programs the other veterans were entitled to, such as spousal support, training, or even employment assistance. The Métis were treated even worse: they got nothing at all.

In 2000, as hon. members know, the federal committee recommended that each aboriginal who fought for the country receive $120,000 in compensation. However, that amount was awarded to Hong Kong and merchant navy veterans. It is not that they did not deserve the compensation, far from it, but we do not understand why the recommendation was not applied to aboriginals.

Two years later, as we all know, $20,000 in compensation was given by the federal government, and this is totally inadequate. It does not in any way correct the injustice that was created at the time.

In our opinion, Canada violated the international covenant on civil and political rights. This is continued discrimination. I said in committee, and I am saying it again today in this House.

I also remember what Mr. Borchert replied, when I put my question to him. He said:

My veterans have not sat down and put a dollar-and-cents figure to what they feel they're owed, because they are not looking for a get-rich scheme. They are simply looking at a government that has marginalized them since Canada began. But we have been there at every battle—Seven Oaks, Nile Voyageurs, the Fenian raids. We have always been there with Canada.

He continued his testimony by saying that he would like “to see the government at least say thank you”.

Métis war veterans suffered many humiliations. Some of them had difficulty getting basic medication, necessities such as hearing aids, and some of them were even denied a military funeral. The Métis, first nations or Inuit war veterans were left to fend for themselves by the federal government.

As evidence of this, I can mention the $20,000 per person agreement that the Liberal member who spoke before me praised. Hon. members will agree that this is a totally inadequate agreement that was proposed after years of negotiations, and following threats of legal proceedings on the part of the aboriginals who fought during World War II and the Korean war.

Worse still, Métis soldiers of European and aboriginal descent, and non-status Indians living off reserve were excluded from the agreement. Members opposite do not boast about this. The war veterans who accepted the agreement had to waive their right to initiate proceedings against the government. Being now close to 80 years of age, several of them, needless to say, accepted the offer, rather than continue to fight for justice.

I remind the House that, in 2000, a committee appointed by the federal government recommended that compensation of $120,000 be provided to each of the aboriginal veterans. At the time, just under 2,000 people—that is 1,800 in total, 800 veterans and 1,000 spouses— were entitled to this compensation from Ottawa, which represented just under $40 million for the federal government. The motion is aimed at correcting this injustice.

Certain historical facts deserve to be mentioned. After the second world war, veterans, identified as Indian veterans, were penalized in the administration of section 39(1) of the Veterans Land Act, titled Indian Veterans. An application for assistance under the Veterans Land Act contained a number of provisions which did not apply to veterans of non-Indian status.

For example, section 39(2) stated:

An Indian veteran shall submit reasonable evidence that he is personally fit and able to carry on the occupation by which he proposes to gain his livelihood and that by reason of his character, habits, knowledge and experience, he is capable of carrying on that occupation successfully.

The families of first nations soldiers received the same allowance that non-aboriginal soldiers did; however, in 1941-42, certain allowances were placed under the control of the local Indian agent. From then on, the first nations soldiers and their dependents had to invest in Indian trust funds if they wanted to maximize their benefits.

First nations Canadians actively contributed to the national war effort by working in factories and by increasing agricultural production on their reserves. Furthermore, they handed over their reserves, so the land could be used for airports, firing ranges and defence posts.

The contribution of first nations women to the war effort deserves special attention. They cared for sick and wounded soldiers and took part in patriotic leagues as well as Red Cross societies. They also collected food, money and clothing for overseas expeditions.

Some first nations Canadians enrolled in the United States army during both world wars because the Americans offered better wages and there was less discrimination. First nations Canadians who joined American units and moved to the United States were eligible to receive the U.S. war veterans allowance. However, it must be said that the United States did not have special provisions for so-called “treaty Indians”.

Industrialization and urbanization, the opening of remote areas, and better communication in the post second world war era did not benefit aboriginal Canadians. Aboriginal soldiers earned a minimum of 17 decorations for bravery during the second world war, participating in every major battle and campaign, including the Dieppe landings and the Normandy invasion. There were also at least 16 Indians and Métis in the Hong Kong force; nine died from wounds or illness as prisoners of war.

During both world wars, enlistment of aboriginals was encouraged by the government, and the response was far greater than their pre-war treatment merited. There was enduring patriotism among aboriginal veterans and their families, in spite of wartime sacrifices. Most viewed their war service with pride, although there was some bitterness and anger lingering from neglect in their history.

Aboriginal Canadians, strongly encouraged to enlist, paid a significant toll in killed, wounded and sick. In contrast to their countrymen, who made political and economic gains, the situation of many Aboriginals remained the same. Their sacrifice achieved very little for them politically, economically or socially in post-war years.

As indicated thus far, the Government of Canada failed almost entirely in establishing legislation or regulations and procedures which took into account the special circumstances of aboriginal veterans. Using the re-establishment credit available to other veterans as a basis, it should be both feasible and appropriate for the Government of Canada to establish a figure for compensation based on the amounts available as War Service Grants Act or Re-establishment Credits, but recalculated in regard to a formula for investment yield based on a term extending from 1945 to 2002.

The first nations veterans package compensated a number of veterans but not all, and not always fairly and equitably. This was obvious from the remarks of my hon. colleagues from the Conservative Party.

Aboriginal, Métis and Inuit veterans want the federal government to recognize that they served their country honourably in major conflicts. They demand equitable treatment. The Bloc Québécois supports them wholeheartedly, and this Parliament could do the same by voting in favour of Motion M-193.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-20, the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act.

Like my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent—the Bloc Québécois Indian Affairs and Northern Development critic—who also delivered a speech at second reading on November 19 in favour of this bill, I agree with this act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

This bill essentially provides the first nations with financial management tools. Like many other bills, the bill being presented to this House today is not perfect, but it could help in creating a environment that would help first nations to assume their financial independence.

It was very important for us to support this bill to help the first nations to assume a certain financial independence or least much more than they had in the past.

I sit on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources with the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, and we heard from a number of first nations officials, who supported this bill, not to mention those whom we met privately, as part of our parliamentarian duties.

Everyone knows that the Bloc Québécois cares about the self-government claims of the aboriginals, since we too have many such claims in Quebec. In fact, we prefer the term “sovereignist”. In our opinion, true self-government is achieved when a nation controls all of its economic levers. First nations that will avail themselves of the services provided under Bill C-20 will be able to play a more active role in their economy and promote private investments on their territory. This legislation will give first nations access to tools that are already available to other levels of government and in turn access to financial markets, among other things.

However, we warn the federal government not to succumb to the temptation of using Bill C-20 to opt out of its fiduciary responsibilities towards aboriginal people. It remains the government's job to address inequality between aboriginals and non-aboriginals. I can assure the government that we will keep a close watch.

For the benefit of the public and of those members who may not be very familiar with the bill, I should mention this legislation proposes the establishment of four financial institutions. I will explain them briefly.

The first one is the first nations tax commission, which will replace the Indian taxation advisory board. It will be responsible for the property tax rule approval process, and its streamlining will also help strike a fair balance between the interests of the community and those of taxpayers, when rates are set.

The second institution is the first nations financial management board. The board will set financial standards and provide the independent and professional property assessment services required by first nations that want to take advantage of the borrowing pool of the first nations finance authority.

The third institution, namely the first nations finance authority, will help first nations communities that will adhere to the legislative scheme to issue securities collectively and to raise long term capital at preferential rates for highways, water supply systems, sewers and, of course, other infrastructure projects.

Finally, the first nations statistical institute will help all first nations communities to meet their local data needs, while encouraging participation in Statistics Canada's integrated national systems and their use.

The establishment of a new financial relationship between the federal government and the first nations is nothing new. Already in 1983, the Penner report, a report by the special parliamentary committee on aboriginal self-government, recommended that the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the first nations be redefined. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples made the same recommendation in 1996. Bill C-20 is a step along the road toward greater economic autonomy for first nations.

Here is a brief historical overview of Bill C-20. Before it established a supervisory structure to administer the new legislation, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development created the Indian Taxation Advisory Board in early 1989. In September 2003, 107 first nations began to tax real property. After the Kamloops amendments, in 1988, if I am not mistaken, a number of events strengthened the existing support for the restructuring of financial relations between the first nations and the federal government.

In 1991, the Department of Finance undertook a review of its policy on Indian taxation and, in 1993, made public the Working Paper on Indian Government Taxation.

In 1995, the First Nations Financial Institute or FNFI was created and, at the instigation of the Westbank First Nation, it was then federally incorporated. The main objective of the FNFI was to provide investment opportunities to first nations in order to ensure long-term financing of their public debt. With the adoption of Bill C-20, the FNFI will become the First Nations Finance Authority, which was discussed a bit earlier in this debate.

In 1995, a round table of representatives from the Department of Finance and the Assembly of First Nations led to the adoption of a resolution on taxation. The following year, the participants at the annual general meeting of the Assembly of First Nations adopted resolution 5/96 supporting the establishment, between the first nations governments and the Government of Canada, of new fiscal relationships based on the principles of flexibility, equity, choice, the assurance of government services comparable to those provided by other governments, economic incentives and efficiency.

The Chiefs' Committee on Fiscal Relations was created two years later to review fiscal relations between first nation governments and the federal government. That is known as resolution 49/98 of the general assembly. It recommended the establishment of first nations financial institutions. In 1999, the Assembly of First Nations expressed its support for this initiative when participants in its annual general meeting supported the creation of the first nations financial authority, and backed the Indian Taxation Advisory Board's efforts to establish the first nations tax commission. Those are known as resolutions 6/99 and 7/99 respectively.

In December of the same year, the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations signed a memorandum of understanding concerning the creation of a national round table on financial relationships, with the objective of establishing solid bases for these relationships through an exchange of information, capacity building and the establishment of benchmarks.

In 2000—we are getting closer—the Assembly of First Nations maintained its support for the creation of the first nations statistical institute and the first nations financial management board, pursuant to resolutions 5/2000 and 6/2000 of the Confederacy of Indian Nations. The general assembly then passed resolution 24/2001 supporting the recommendation by the chiefs' committee regarding the establishment of the four new first nations financial institutions by federal legislation. The legal validity of this resolution was questioned, however, since some people thought that it had not received the support of 60% of those present required, as we know, under the charter of the Assembly of First Nations.

On August 15, 2002, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development released a draft bill with the intent to carry out public consultations before introducing it in the House. Several first nations then raised deep concerns with the way the bill was written. Of course, the Bloc Québécois shared these same concerns.

As a result, the AFN convened a special chiefs assembly in November 2002 and passed a resolution rejecting the proposed first nations fiscal and statistical management bill. According to Resolution 30/2002, the proposed legislation violated the historic nation to nation relationship, infringed upon aboriginal and treaty rights, and was otherwise so flawed that it could not be corrected by mere amendments.

An additional so-called accommodation resolution was also passed, that is AFN Resolution 31/2002 respecting the right of those first nations to enter into local and regional agreements, but not in the context of national legislation.

On December 2, 2002, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development tabled Bill C-19 on first nations fiscal and statistical management in the House of Commons. That bill, which died on the Order Paper in November 2003, was reinstated as Bill C-23 on March 10, 2004. That bill also died on the Order Paper after third reading. It was reintroduced very recently, on November 2, 2004, with some significant changes. We are debating this new Bill C-20 today, after studying it for not too long, but, say, carefully in committee.

However, former Bills C-19 and Bill C-23 were unacceptable both to us and to first nations. We had concerns about the fact that the act could work against aboriginal rights and reduce the federal government's fiduciary obligations toward the first nations. We were also concerned that the institutions would only serve a few first nations.

Bill C-23, for example, like the Indian Act, delegated tax authority to first nations communities, which came down to making aboriginal governments municipal entities, if you will, when their legitimate desire was to enjoy greater financial autonomy.

Moreover, the preamble to Bill C-20 uses language that reflects the government's strongly municipal approach to the first nations.

With respect to Bill C-19, we had a number of critical comments. First, the definition of “specific claims” was too narrow. Access to the tribunal was nearly impossible; the $7 million ceiling excluded most claims. Neither the commission nor the tribunal were independent or impartial. The minister had the power to accept or reject claims. Finally, there was doubt about the impartiality and flexibility of the process.

Fortunately, two very important changes have been made in the bill before us today. First, a schedule was added to ensure that the legislation applies to those first nations who wish to participate, because participation is optional, something we feel is very important. Second, a non-derogation clause was included to protect the aboriginal and treaty rights of all first nations.

These changes ensure consistency with the Charter of the Assembly of First Nations as well as the principles of self-determination, the approach taken by the first nations, and the optionality provided for in recent resolutions of the Assembly of First Nations, which were passed in Saskatoon and ratified again in Charlottetown.

This economic disparity exists because some lands do not have services, investors are uncertain and the cost of starting a business is still too high.

A backgrounder produced by the First Nations Fiscal Institutions Initiative says that a dollar of first nation tax revenue buys 30% to 50% less in capital works than it does for other governments. The problem lies primarily in the legislative and institutional framework.

For 130 years, the Indian Act has perpetuated this state of affairs, this lack of fairness. It has prevented first nations from creating their own institutions and participating in the economy.

Will Bill C-20 completely correct this situation? No, but we think it is a step in the right direction, as long, of course, as the federal government does not use this bill as a means to opt out of its financial obligations with respect to the first nations. I repeat, the government has a fiduciary obligation to the aboriginal peoples and it cannot opt out of that.

There are so many things to improve in the living conditions of the first nations that they will not be settled by this bill, but only through real political will exercised by the current government.

Housing conditions, education and health are inferior compared to the rest of the population. On the reserves, 65% of families live in substandard housing. The Bloc Québécois is deeply concerned about the fact that the lack of adequate, affordable housing for aboriginals has implications beyond housing standards. We know that various medical and social problems are related to poor housing conditions and quality of life. The Government of Canada must make the necessary efforts to correct the situation without offloading the problems to the first nations.

Bill C-20 will help first nations who so desire to participate significantly in their economy and encourage private investment on their lands, which is more difficult at present. First nations wanting to borrow money to develop their community infrastructure face transaction costs, processing delays and interest rates that are far too high, even prohibitive.

Despite the positive aspects of this bill, we must not lose sight of some of the basic principles it must respect. First, will it protect the first nations' right to self-determination? Will it benefit first nations, particularly those in Quebec? Will it protect the rights of first nations that opt out of the legislation and the obligations toward them? Will it help redress the fiscal imbalance of first nations that take advantage of this legislation? We may not get all the answers today, but we will make sure the minister does not forget these questions.

For the Bloc Québécois, aboriginal independence claims are very important and must be respected. Recently, with Bill C-14, we supported the aboriginal peoples' right to self-government. Bill C-14 was about the Tlicho people. This bill will help those first nations who so desire to access the financial tools they have been lacking and that the other levels of government have been using for a long time.

That is why we are in favour of Bill C-20.

Aboriginal Affairs December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on November 2, in response to a question from the Bloc regarding negotiations with the Cree nation in the James Bay issue, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development said the negotiations were moving along nicely. The Cree are worried now, and a breakdown in negotiations could have serious consequences.

There is not much time left before the March deadline; can the minister guarantee, here in this House, that negotiations will occur within this time frame and will conclude by March 2005?

Foreign Affairs December 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, despite the government's reassuring statements, the Royer family continues to worry about Nicolas, who disappeared on November 27. His father is critical of the attitude of the Department of National Defence, which he described as pitiful. “They could not even tell me where to find dry food for the expedition”, he commented.

How can the Minister of National Defence explain that, despite the urgency of the situation, he has not yet authorized military people from Valcartier to go to Peru and help with the search operations?

Foreign Affairs December 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, this family is in urgent need of help.

I also want to know, did the Minister of Foreign Affairs make special provisions with the Government of Peru so that these military personnel could clear Peruvian customs with their specialized equipment without any problem?

National Defence December 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, a man from my riding, Nicolas Royer, has disappeared in Peru under dramatic circumstances. Mountain rescue specialists from Valcartier have indicated their willingness to take part in the search operation as volunteers.

I am therefore asking the Minister of National Defence whether he plans to authorize these military personnel to take leave in order to go and volunteer in the search?

National Defence December 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, this is merely pressure exerted by the world's most important and most powerful leader.

The Prime Minister argued that he had obtained assurances the missile defence shield would not result, in its initial phase, in any form of militarization of space. Yet, the report of the Department of National Defence alludes to the possibility of providing Canadian assistance for the development of weapons.

Is this not yet further proof that the missile defence shield will result in the weaponization of space and that Canada intends to participate in it?

National Defence December 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister stated that he had not received any specific request from President Bush on Canada's possible participation in the missile defence shield. However, a report from the Department of National Defence indicates that Canada could do a lot to accommodate the Americans in the development of this shield.

Can the Minister of National Defence tell us if these are the proposals that were conveyed to the U.S. government?