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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was liberals.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Salaberry—Suroît (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act November 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. On the contrary, I think that with this bill, the Conservatives are simply trying to keep a promise without any consideration for the thoughts and concerns of the victims' groups, the police forces, the public, or for public safety. This is truly an unwillingness to listen and to work together with all parties to advance matters in a constructive manner.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act November 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, I will make no apologies for the argument I am making about the firearms registry. If all weapons were registered, it would allow us to monitor firearms more closely and there would be fewer weapons on the black market and thus fewer untraceable weapons readily available to criminals. We need greater control to prevent situations like the one that occurred in British Columbia in 2007—as mentioned in the RCMP report—and the one that occurred on October 25 with the replica AK-47s imported from China from happening again. We need all these tools so that police can intervene in a correct and appropriate manner.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act November 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his very relevant question. I live in a riding that is both rural and urban and that is home to the Mohawk community of Akwesasne. Demands in my riding vary greatly. However, everyone agrees that public safety is of the utmost importance. Yes, there are hunters and people who use firearms responsibly, but we need closer monitoring for no other reason than to prevent crime. A statistic from 2009 shows that 7,000 registration certificates were revoked for public safety reasons. Thus, the firearms registry is useful.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act November 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in Bill C-19, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.

The NDP recognizes that there were improvements to be made to the firearms registry from the moment it was implemented. In fact, our party has proposed a number of changes to improve this registry and make it a more effective tool that does not interfere with the rights of the public. What is more, our late leader, Jack Layton, introduced a very positive proposal, which included decriminalizing the failure to register one's firearm when it was the first failure to do so. His proposal also allowed the benefits of this registration program to be maintained. As my colleague mentioned a little earlier today, the registration fees would also be dropped under this proposal.

Instead of bringing people together, finding solutions, bridging the divides between the various positions and trying to reach a general consensus, as advocated by the NDP, the Conservatives are once again imposing their vision and their ideology just for the sake of keeping their election promises, without any consideration for the thoughts and concerns of all the groups in society that are saying they are against abolishing the firearms registry. The Conservatives are moving ahead without listening and without considering the countless police officers who use the firearms registry every day in every region of Canada.

The Conservatives prefer to take a step backwards, waste taxpayers' money and erase any trace of progress. The Conservatives want to eliminate all the data at all costs, regardless of how useful it is and regardless of the estimated 2,100 lives that have been saved because of this registry.

In Quebec, we recognize the importance of such a registry in protecting the public and reducing violence against women—women who live in abusive situations under constant threat.

After the Polytechnique massacre and the Dawson College violence—we bring this up every day because these events left their mark on Quebec—women's groups said that it was important to keep the gun registry to better track licence holders and to help police locate criminals, even murderers. This is unfortunately still the reality in 2011. The gun registry is a tool that allows us to verify the licences of gun owners and to run checks on these people. If the government abolishes the registry, it will remove the obligation to verify information about licence holders or those who buy and sell guns, which runs the risk of weakening the usefulness of a licence.

In addition—we have said this a number of times but it bears repeating—the National Assembly of Quebec, the elected officials who represent all Quebeckers, last week voted unanimously to keep part of the gun registry.

However, the Conservatives are ignoring the will of Quebec's National Assembly and are telling Quebec that if it wants to create its own registry it should go ahead, but without the federal data. Once again, it is a question of public safety. The Conservatives want to tax the provinces as much as they can.

Instead of wasting the money of Quebec taxpayers, who funded the registry, why not act in good faith, in a positive and constructive manner, and give them access to the data and the information, which, I would remind members, saves lives. Furthermore, on the issue of public safety, the Conservatives are really contradicting themselves with this bill.

For example, in my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry, which is on the U.S.-Ontario border, we know that there is definitely a problem with the trafficking of guns, drugs and cigarettes. An increasing number of issues that people find to be worrisome and alarming are being raised.

Just last Friday, I met with the mayor of Dundee, who spoke to me about a growing problem: for the past year at least, landowners have been feeling more and more intimidated every day because RCMP and Sûreté du Québec police surveillance has diminished. An excellent pilot project was implemented west of the Franklin border crossing in Venise-en-Québec. However, between Franklin and Dundee, there is a section of the border where surveillance is lacking and crime is on the rise.

I have a very real example. Last winter, the home of a person who was not involved in crime in any way was set on fire by criminal groups that have not yet been identified. People are terrified by the idea that other homes may also be burned down. People are being intimidated but they do not dare to report the crimes that are being committed around them, on their property or against them.

In June, the Minister of Public Safety himself went to Dundee to determine the extent of the problem. He met with the mayor of Dundee. He assessed the situation and acknowledged that action needed to be taken to make the community safer. Yet to date, the mayor of Dundee has not received any information and the government has not followed up on the situation.

People want an increased police presence to increase surveillance, whether it be ground or maritime surveillance, as my riding borders Lake St. Francis.

Could RCMP officers not form a task force in co-operation with the Ontario Provincial Police, police on the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve and the Sûreté du Québec? Is it too much to ask the Conservative government to make sure that these areas are safe? The various jurisdictions could work together to break up these crime networks, which have not stopped growing since security was increased west of the Franklin border crossing.

With respect to the Franklin border post, I will say the same thing. The post was closed in April. This is a factor that reduces public safety in my riding, given that the customs officers who watched over that post no longer work there, so there is no longer any surveillance at that location on the Canadian side. On the American side, however, they have strengthened security. Is what has happened not absurd? We have tried to work with the Conservatives to reinstate this border crossing, but have been unsuccessful to date. We still have hope.

Instead of spending time tearing down what we have managed to build up over the years, why not think about concrete solutions to concrete problems of public safety that are increasingly of concern not just for the people in my riding, but also for people in Ontario and Akwesasne and the Americans?

There is a glaring problem in terms of the firearms registry and the borders. The Canada Border Services Agency does not exchange information with the people in charge of the registry when it comes to long arms imported under a licence to operate a business. As a result, some firearms have turned up on the black market.

My time is running short, so I would like to give two very quick examples. In British Columbia in 2007 an RCMP report explained how some firearms had turned up on the black market. Some film production companies had claimed that they needed firearms in their films and so were allowed to bring the weapons in legally. The weapons then turned up on the black market, sold to the highest bidder.

The second example is something that happened as recently as October 25, last week. The RCMP had to conduct raids at gun shops because some replica AK-47s had been imported from China in shipments of goods where they were recorded as being mere toys. The RCMP then realized that the firearms could easily be converted and that by changing no more than two or three parts, they would become deadly weapons, so they all had to be recalled. It is unbelievable that this could have happened.

I will conclude by saying that the registry is consulted by police more than 17,000 times a day. Is this useful information? I think it is. There is no consensus on this bill, and it must be rejected so that it can be reworked to take all opinions into consideration.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act November 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member opposite a question. Many people are concerned about maintaining the gun registry. For example, last week, Quebec's National Assembly—which represents the province as a whole—voted in favour of a motion stating that if the registry were abolished at the federal level, the province would create a new one. The province feels the registry is so important that it would like to create a provincial one. The people of Quebec will have to pay twice for the same registry because they want to use and keep this information so that police officers can use it for public safety reasons.

How can the government justify the fact that Quebec will have to create a second registry if this bill is passed?

Canada- U.S. Relations October 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, our most important trading partner is going to charge us a $5.50 fee to enter the United States by air or by water. That means that the people in my riding who regularly travel by boat to the U.S. will be penalized by this measure. My constituents just do not understand this move. They already lost one point of access to the United States when the Franklin border crossing was closed.

We do not expect preferential treatment from the American government, but can we at least expect our own government to stand up for our interests?

Breast Density Awareness Act October 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, breast cancer is one of the most common illnesses among Canadian women. In 2011, an estimated 23,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 5,000 women will die of it. On average, 64 Canadian women a day learn that they have breast cancer.

A breast cancer diagnosis forever alters the lives of these women. First, there is the fear and anxiety that accompanies the tests, and then chemotherapy becomes a part of their everyday lives. They must miss work and find someone to help take care of their children. Sometimes, a diagnosis can mean surgery and the loss of a breast, along with all of the pain associated with that harsh reality. There is also the exorbitant cost of medications and the red tape of insurance companies. And then there are the women who have no insurance at all and must make sacrifices to get the essential medications they need to fight this illness.

Women need support for the duration of this process. I would like to acknowledge the initiative of the member for Barrie. It is remarkable that a man, who will probably never suffer from this disease, wants to get involved. However, this bill is incomplete. It is but a modest band-aid solution to a serious and complex disease. This bill would encourage the use of existing initiatives. In my opinion, we must do more. Although breast density may be a significant risk factor, it is nevertheless just one factor to be taken into consideration.

First, what is breast density? The member opposite explained it very well. Dense breasts have more connective tissue, glands and ducts. When a woman has a mammogram, the dense tissue appears white, the same colour as cancerous lumps, which can result in a false diagnosis. Other, more precise tests are then recommended. Better results are obtained for these women with magnetic resonance imaging, for example.

However, we must be cautious. Breast density only affects a small number of women. Focusing only on this aspect of the disease will not help improve cancer screening throughout Canada. This bill abandons all other women, the majority, who need better screening and health care measures. I would like to explain what would really make a difference in the fight against breast cancer.

First, the reality is that many women will not discover in time that they have breast cancer, simply because they do not have access to a family doctor, who is often the first contact in the health system. The family doctor knows the patient's history, weight and general health, and asks questions about the patient's lifestyle, nutrition, and so forth. The family doctor does the annual exam and may detect symptoms of the disease or an unusual lump in the breast. He or she may refer the patient to a specialist for tests and further investigation.

More than 5 million Canadians still do not have a family doctor. For years, the people of this country have been calling on governments to address the shortage of doctors. What is the federal government doing? Nothing. My colleagues and I have proposed numerous measures to fix this important issue. One significant way to help would be to work with the provinces to increase the number of spaces in universities in order to train an additional 1,200 doctors. Multidisciplinary teams should also be established to improve screening and patient care.

For example, at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, general practitioners, oncologists, nurses and radiologists work together to treat patients. Early detection has increased because there is constant communication between the various health professionals. In addition, treatment includes psychological services as well as support for relatives.

Second, breast cancer screening is not routine in Canada. Programs are sometimes inadequate or completely non-existent, as is sadly the case in Nunavut. However, specialists are telling us that the earlier the diagnosis, the higher the woman's chances of survival. Studies have shown that women are at a higher risk of developing the disease after the age of 40. The Province of Quebec implemented a routine screening program a few years ago. The program targets women between the ages of 50 and 69, and involves getting a mammogram. Every two years, women are contacted by the department and are encouraged to get tested. The program is fully covered by the Régie de l'assurance-maladie du Québec. According to statistics from Quebec's Department of Health and Social Services, breast cancer mortality rates in participating women dropped by at least 25% between 1996 and 2006.

The federal government should take the lead on this and work with the provinces and territories to ensure stable funding for routine screening programs for women 40 and over. In doing so, lives would be saved.

Thirdly, another major problem is access to diagnostic tests within a reasonable timeframe. New investments in imaging equipment have increased the number of scanners available, but have not necessarily led to shorter wait times, or so says the Health Council of Canada in its May 2011 report. Between 2008 and 2010, wait times for these scans decreased in Alberta and Prince Edward Island and increased in Ontario. Governments continue to face challenges in collecting data on wait times for diagnostic imaging, in part because many scans are done outside hospitals in free-standing clinics.

There is also the question of public coverage for diagnostic testing. Some provinces cover diagnostic tests and others do not. Some provinces provide coverage at hospitals only. In Quebec, for example, tests are covered only if they are done in a hospital. Nonetheless, patients can pay out of pocket to get tested at free-standing clinics. These private-sector tests are done by radiologists who also work in public-sector hospitals, which increases the wait times and creates two classes of people: those who have the means to pay for diagnostic tests and those who do not, the less fortunate. A number of doctors in Quebec, including the MQRP —also known as Canadian Doctors for Medicare—condemn this double standard.

A federal fund for improving public coverage of diagnostic tests, included in the next health report, is certainly one solution to consider. Establishing Canada-wide standards to improve breast cancer screening for certain women, namely women with dense breast tissue, is a concrete measure that would truly help these women. Is the government prepared to commit to such solutions? I hope so.

This government has been very lax when it comes to protecting and funding the public system. Under the pretext that health falls under provincial jurisdiction, the Conservatives clearly seem to think that the best thing to do is nothing at all. However, the federal government is responsible for working with the provinces to improve the health of all Canadians. Do the members opposite need to be reminded that one of the principles of the Canada Health Act is universality. People consider equal access to health care to be a right of citizenship, not a privilege for only the most fortunate.

Fourth, the cost of medication is a serious obstacle to cancer treatment. What is the point of improving breast cancer information and screening if women cannot afford to buy the medication they need to be cured? While the health care system provides cancer-treating drugs in hospitals, half the new treatments are taken at home and patients are therefore responsible for paying for them. A lack of insurance means enormous costs for patients and their families given that the average cost of treatment for new cancer-fighting drugs is exorbitant at $65,000. Some people do not have insurance since they do not have the money to pay for a private policy.

Under the current health accord, which was signed in 2004, the federal and provincial governments agreed to create options for catastrophic pharmaceutical coverage. Since then, nothing has been done. What is the federal government waiting for to resolve this issue? Does the government have no idea how to reduce the cost of medication?

I have a few ideas. First, make better use our negotiating power when purchasing pharmaceuticals, specifically by joining with all the provinces and territories to buy in bulk. After all, there is strength in numbers. Second, reduce the administrative costs by making use of the public system. A Canada-wide catastrophic drug program would be less costly to administer than several small programs in the private sector. Third, eliminate rebates for pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists and provide funding for research based on the actual needs of the public rather than on profits for pharmaceutical companies.

Finally, breast cancer prevention could be greatly improved. This disease has many risk factors: personal and family history, obesity, and the use of alcohol and tobacco can increase the risk of breast cancer.

I hope that all these good ideas will help the members of the House to understand what a terrible illness breast cancer is. Although this bill has good intentions, it does not do enough. Nevertheless, we hope that the members opposite will propose a better and stronger Canada-wide strategy that will help all women suffering from breast cancer rather than just a few of them.

Breast Density Awareness Act October 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate my colleague opposite for his interest in and his work on the fight against breast cancer, particularly cancer in those with dense breast tissue.

To promote breast cancer awareness and prevention, should the government not work with the provinces and territories to reduce the wait times for diagnostic tests and improve access to X-rays in the public health care system?

This would give disadvantaged women better, earlier and fairer access to the breast cancer screening program, since diagnostic X-ray testing is sometimes carried out in private clinics.

Health October 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, this week, 118 countries are meeting in Brazil to develop an action plan on the social determinants of health. Nevertheless, this government did not feel it was necessary to send representatives. In Canada, 20% of health care expenditures are related to social issues such as homelessness and unemployment.

The World Health Organization recognizes that social inequality leads to health inequities. The costs are astronomical.

Can the Minister of Health explain why she is not participating in this important international meeting?

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act October 6th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I would like to ask him a question about the budget and families. The Conservatives say that the budget will help families. However, we see that there will be little help for caregivers. There is a tax credit for caregivers, but they generally do not have enough income to take advantage of it.

Have the Conservatives considered the possibility of direct tax benefits for caregivers rather than tax credits? In this way, whether they are low or middle income earners, they could receive financial assistance to continue helping the people and seniors in their family who often are sick.