House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was city.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Québec (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 27% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, concerning the much talked-about CSIS.

This bill makes three important changes regarding the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. First of all, it clarifies CSIS's legal authority to conduct security intelligence operations outside our borders in order to address threats to Canadian security. Second, it confirms the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to issue warrants that have effect outside Canada. Finally, it ensures greater protection during legal proceedings for human sources that provide information to CSIS.

Before looking at the specific provisions in Bill C-44, it is important to put the bill into context. The Conservatives had already planned to introduce Bill C-44 before the events that took place in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on October 20 and of course before the events that we all remember and that took place here in Ottawa on October 22.

As we have done in the wake of other tragic incidents, we need to carefully examine legislation and security procedures to ensure that they are adequate, while making sure that our civil liberties are protected.

The government claims this bill is intended to modernize the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, pointing to the fact the CSIS Act has not been amended since CSIS was created. In 1984, Parliament passed legislation to create a civilian security intelligence service. This legislation not only gave rise to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, it also gave CSIS the mandate to gather intelligence on threats to Canada's security. CSIS provides that intelligence to the government so that it may put in place the necessary measures. Now, 30 years after its creation, CSIS is not the same organization it was in 1984. As it celebrates its 30th anniversary, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is concerned about its rapid expansion and the increase in missions abroad.

The government says that C-44 will allow CSIS to act abroad to improve the effectiveness of its investigations into threats to Canada's security. For many years, it was assumed that CSIS’s security intelligence mandate was not limited to operations in Canadian territory, because the enabling legislation makes reference to threats to the security of Canada that originate from both inside and outside the country.

In fact, CSIS has been conducting intelligence operations abroad by using a loophole in the CSIS Act regarding what constitutes Canadian soil and a section of the Act which allows CSIS to provide technical assistance to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defence.

Another important part of this bill deals with protection for our sources and informants abroad. We would have appreciated receiving more detailed information to determine how this protection will be provided. Legal experts have expressed their concerns about the fact that it will be more difficult form this point forward to examine CSIS evidence in criminal cases in particular. This could create an obstacle to the successful prosecution of those involved in national security threats. The ability of an accused to confront their accuser and to test the evidence in a court is a fundamental part of Canadian criminal law.

It is not appropriate or constitutional to considerably expand the powers of a civilian intelligence agency without having a debate, here in the House, and considering the advice of the many experts who are concerned about the changes that will be made by Bill C-44.

The recommendations of the 2006 Maher Arar commission of inquiry called for new accountability measures for Canada's intelligence agencies. However, eight years later, these have yet to be implemented.

At their annual meeting, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Information Commissioner of Canada called on the federal government to ensure that effective oversight was included in any legislative measure that would grant new powers to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner, said that it was understandable that the government would want to consider boosting the powers of law enforcement and national security agencies to address potential gaps, but that any new tools should be accompanied by a beefed-up role for the watchdogs who keep an eye on spies and police.

This is why it is very important, before increasing powers for CSIS, to create oversight mechanisms. At this point, there is no mechanism in place to act as watchdog and provide oversight for our intelligence agencies. Claiming that there is, as the government is doing, is simply dishonest.

In the 2012 budget, the Conservatives abolished the position of Inspector General of CSIS. He took care of internal oversight by ensuring that all the work of the agency was in conformity with the law. To find the balance between national security, civil liberties, and individual rights and freedoms in Canada, the government should be bringing in accompanying legislation that provides that parliamentary oversight. On the one hand, it would ensure that the agencies are doing their jobs, and on the other, it would ensure they are not going too far and violating the civil liberties of Canadians.

The Conservatives are cutting funding for public safety agencies by a significant amount over three consecutive years, for a total of $687.9 million by 2015. The CSIS budget is being cut by $24.5 million in 2015, while the position of CSIS Inspector General was abolished in the 2012 budget.

We are concerned about the impact the cuts will have on the government’s ability to exercise adequate oversight over these agencies. If the Conservatives want to ensure that Canadians are protected, they should review the resources available to public safety agencies, such as CSIS, after three consecutive years of budget cuts.

Protecting civil liberties and public safety are both core Canadian values. As I mentioned earlier, these are two essential obligations. They are not suggestions or compromises. New Democrats want legislation that improves public safety and strengthens our civil liberties. We also want a real debate. The government rejected all of the amendments the NDP proposed to improve Bill C-44 and did not provide any real reason.

In conclusion, I want to share a quote from the Information Commissioner of Canada and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who addressed the tragic events that took place in Quebec and in Ottawa. They called on us:

To adopt an evidence-based approach as to the need for any new legislative proposal granting additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies; to engage Canadians in an open and transparent dialogue on whether new measures are required, and if so, on their nature, scope, and impact on rights and freedoms; to ensure that effective oversight be included in any legislation establishing additional powers for intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

We have talked a lot today about public safety. As I said, there are a number of Canadian values that we must honour in this Parliament.

I urge the government to consider these values and to ensure that civil liberties will be respected as much as public safety. We cannot make compromises.

Unfortunately, I am disappointed that the amendments proposed by experts who work in the area and who are familiar with the situation were not incorporated into the bill.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, do we all agree that the protection of civil liberties and public safety are two fundamental Canadian values that are not a suggestion or something on which we can compromise? They are both necessary.

Too often, the current government asks us to choose between civil liberties and stronger public security. Too often, we are being asked to choose between economic development and the environment. We should not have to make those choices. We should be able to accommodate both values that we cherish and with which we work to progress.

What does my colleague think about that? Is it not time to stop pitting these values against each other? Could we not simply establish that both of these values must be present when bills are introduced and worked on in the House?

Veterans December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, who would have thought that there were so many reasons for the Minister of Veterans Affairs to resign? He closed the service centres. The Auditor General criticized his mediocre performance with respect to veterans' mental health. The minister saved $1.1 billion at their expense and gave bonuses to his department's managers. He even fled the country and all his responsibilities in mid-crisis.

Now we have learned that the Conservatives tried to mislead veterans by telling them that they were only cutting red tape and not services. In reality, one-third of the 900 positions cut since 2009 were in the pension and benefits team, not to mention the 372 positions cut from health and rehabilitation.

Not only has the minister abandoned veterans, now he is hiding the truth from Canadians. That is shameful. Our veterans deserve better.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to my colleague and especially to the parliamentary secretary across the way.

I sometimes get the impression that the government takes this country for the set of a John Wayne movie, where there are good guys and bad guys. Unfortunately, there are rarely any grey areas in this government, but reality is full of grey areas.

I heard my colleague's speech. When I think of the outstanding work he is doing to save Radio-Canada, I feel like taking the Conservatives, pulling them out of their John Wayne world, and putting them directly into a world that helps us better understand the federal prison setting, namely the excellent show Unité 9. This show helps us understand how important it is to have human resources to better serve inmates and especially to ensure that they do not end up back at square one, that they make progress and become better citizens.

What does my colleague think about that?

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to make laws and do everything possible to have them enforced so that every little crime in Canada is punished. I understand that, but the process costs money and inevitably requires more resources.

First, we need to determine what kind of society we want. I think that far too often the provinces are left to foot the bill.

I think we need to be proactive with the issue and understand what our young people are going through, so that we can help them with clearly defined resources and prevent them from breaking the law. If we hope to identify mental health issues, we need to invest the resources. This could help prevent crime and reduce the likelihood of people going to prison. We need to address this problem proactively.

When someone is incarcerated, we need to look at his or her case and provide adequate resources. Right now, all I see are punitive laws, more people in prison and fewer resources. These people will commit the same crimes if they do not receive help in prison, and this will end up costing us a lot of money in court and prison costs.

We have to be consistent and look at everything in context.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his remarks.

I am a very practical MP and I am in close contact with community organizations that do exceptional work with very few resources. They need more resources so that they can do more.

Quebec City has many shelters, including the YMCA, the Salvation Army, Maison de Lauberivière, the Aumônerie communautaire de Québec or Maison Revivre. Many homeless people have mental health issues. Many of them will eventually get fed up, commit a wrongful act and end up in prison.

We are living in a society where we need to ask ourselves how we can improve the situation in the face of such distress. Our objective is not to fill our prisons. That costs a lot of money and does not allow those individuals to participate in the community. Sending people to prison is not good for anyone.

Prisons are very short on staff to help inmates. They need people such as chaplains and psychologists to listen to inmates, guide them and help them, slowly but surely, recover from their addictions so that they can integrate into the community and be good citizens.

This requires resources, not just on the ground, but also in prisons. That is something we should consider.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This bill is designed to eliminate drugs in prisons. It makes it clear that the Parole Board of Canada may use positive results from urine tests or refusals to take urine tests for drugs in making its decisions on parole eligibility.

We will support this bill, since it gives clear legal authority to an existing practice of the Parole Board of Canada, which we already support. The NDP has been steadfast in our support for measures that will make our prisons safer, while the Conservative government has ignored recommendations from corrections staff and the Correctional Investigator that would decrease violence in our prisons. Since that is our main concern, I think that the only good way to reduce crime, violence and drug use is to invest in human resources, which is what I will demonstrate. I think this is very important, since the problems and solutions can be found in the prisons themselves. All we have to do is listen to corrections staff to better understand what we can do to eventually improve the situation, because that is truly what we want.

The title of Bill C-12 is misleading as this bill will do little to eliminate all drugs from our federal prison system. The government is actually making our prisons less safe by cutting funding to correctional programming, such as substance abuse treatment, and increasing the use of double-bunking, which leads to more violence.

Our priority should be ensuring community safety by preparing ex-offenders to reintegrate into society and making them less likely to reoffend. I still think that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that we need to consider all of the scenarios. That requires human resources.

I recently met with staff of the Aumônerie communautaire de Québec, a community organization that promotes the social reintegration of those with a criminal record. The chaplaincy's mission is to support offenders, and their loved ones, as they reintegrate into society. It is a difficult situation for everyone. The organization wants to help them become active members of society who obey the law. The people at the Aumônerie communautaire de Québec are doing a great job. We should continue to support these organizations, which all too often lack resources.

Here is a very good example. People might not know this, but in Quebec City, from 7 to 9 in the morning, there are not a lot of places where people can go to have a cup of coffee and a chat with others who can really be excellent resources. You cannot put a price on that because when people turn to those resources to talk and unwind, they can avoid committing more crimes and make better use of their time. That benefits society as a whole. That is why I am so grateful to the Aumônerie communautaire de Québec, which does unique and exceptional work that we have to support at all costs.

According to Correctional Service Canada, the $122 million that the Conservatives have spent since 2008 to keep drugs out of prisons has not reduced drug use behind bars. A 2012 study by Public Safety Canada reveals that drug-free prisons are not a realistic possibility. Even so, the Conservative government, wedded to its unfounded, ideological stance, continues to invest money in pursuit of an unrealistic, utopian goal for the simple reason that it wants to please its base, and that is just deplorable.

I have to say there has been a very unfortunate side effect of this emphasis on interdiction, and that is that it has interfered with family visits. We know that family support is crucial for social reintegration, especially for those with addictions.

Therefore, spending the $122 million wasted money, interfered with family visits and hurt rehabilitation programs.

However, such an approach is very consistent with the Conservative policy on drugs. Indeed, the Conservatives' misguided approach to public safety has resulted in more prisoners with mental illness in our prison system. A very high percentage of the offender population is struggling with mental illness. At the same time, the budget allocated for core correctional programs, such as drug treatment, has been reduced, and the Conservative government has even closed treatment centres for inmates with serious mental health disorders. The Conservatives have failed to address the growing problem of prisoners with addiction and mental illness. In 2011 for example, 69% of female offenders and 45% of male offenders received a mental health care intervention. That speaks volumes about the federal correctional system, and that is what we should be focusing on here. Once again, this of course comes back to the issue of human resources.

We do know from testimony to the House of Commons over the past 10 years that federal offenders often have to contend with long waiting lists to access core correctional programming that includes addiction treatment. We also know that the conditional release of an offender is regularly delayed due to a lack of capacity to provide timely programs. In seven institutions surveyed in February 2012, only 12.5% of offenders were enrolled in a core correctional program, while 35% were on the waiting lists to access these programs. This results in offenders simply being released after their time is served, with little or no treatment, and this leaves them more likely to reoffend.

This should signal a red alert. Prison should be just a short stint in a person's life, not a final destination with no way out. The most important thing is that once a person gets to prison and has served his full sentence, he must be welcomed back in society and be able to integrate fully into it and become a hard-working, active member of the community. That is what we really want. We want the offender to be able to integrate into society, but he needs to be given the tools to do so. As I said, we must also ensure that he is in optimal health so that he is able do so. The data we have show that we need to be more concerned about that and perhaps change our approach in order to be more effective.

The Correctional Investigator has stated in numerous reports that the corrections system risks unintended consequences when simplistic solutions are applied to the complex issue of drugs in prisons. He has suggested measures such as proper assessment of prisoners at intake into correctional programs to identify addiction problems and provide better access to rehabilitation programs as ways of reducing drugs and gang activity in prison.

As I mentioned, making prisons drug-free is, at best, a legitimate aspiration and, at worst, just a political slogan. It simply is not a policy. We cannot have a policy to eliminate drugs from prisons. We must tackle the problems of addiction and mental health in prisons.

Once again, coming back to our party's real policies, and not the scare tactics the Conservatives like to use, the NDP has always been steadfast in our support for measures that will make our prisons safer. The Conservatives, on the contrary, have ignored recommendations from corrections staff—who are the experts—the corrections unions and the Correctional Investigator that were aimed at decreasing violence, gang activity and drug use in our prisons.

The NDP is determined to create safer communities by providing treatment and rehabilitation programs for inmates that will tackle the problem of drugs and gangs in our prisons and better prepare inmates for their release into society.

There will be less crime, less harm and fewer victims.

The Conservatives' public safety policies are not effective. Inmates who are released find themselves in the same circumstances as before and thus our streets are even less safe.

We have to think carefully and adopt much more significant measures than the ones being brought forward, because we have a serious problem and a critical lack of resources. We have to come up with a much more serious approach.

André Laurin December 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Quebec lost a great man with the passing of André Laurin. Mr. Laurin, a resident of Quebec City, was an ardent defender of consumer rights. His actions led to the creation of family finance co-operatives, the Quebec Consumer Protection Act and legal aid.

Mr. Laurin realized a long time ago that there was a need to address the problems of debt and poverty and to help families in crisis. That is why he chose to help workers and poor people take control of their financial situation. He was committed to various causes, which led to the creation of car insurance and the Caisse d'économie solidaire de Québec. He was also very involved in the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

He received Quebec's Prix de la justice award in 2009 and was made a knight of the Ordre national du Québec in 2012.

André Laurin was guided by the fundamental values of justice, sharing of the collective wealth and co-operation. We sincerely thank him for that.

National Defence December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very familiar with the armoury, as I live just a few steps away. I have lived there for many years. I am originally from Quebec City, so I am obviously familiar with the history of the armoury.

The problem is with what the Conservative government did. This armoury caught fire in April 2008. Budget after budget after budget after budget, this government did nothing. It has not taken action and it is leaving gutted buildings in a key area for tourism in Quebec City. That is absolutely shameful. The government tells us to wait. Quebec City is tired of waiting. We want this armoury ready as soon as possible.

I do not think that the government understands that we are on a very tight schedule now, since it is complicated to organize all of the highly specialized workers for this project, and there will not be enough time if unforeseen circumstances arise. Unforeseen circumstances always arise. We are in politics, and everyone here should know that unforeseen circumstances always arise. We do not understand. There will be scaffolding during Quebec City's Carnaval in 2017, for sure. However, I do hope it will be gone by the summer of 2017.

I expect some serious answers. The same goes for the Quebec Bridge. That is a heritage gem that is part of the very identity of Quebec City, which is incredible. This government needs to take action and needs to understand the historic importance of the most beautiful capital in North America.

National Defence December 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise on behalf of the people of Quebec on this important issue. I am obviously speaking of the Quebec City Armoury.

On October 31, I asked a simple question in the House: Quebeckers have been waiting over ten years for the government to refurbish the Quebec City Armoury. They waited for six years, almost seven, for an answer that would allow them to go ahead with other tourism and cultural projects that are very promising for Quebec City. Having waited over six years, can they finally believe the minister when she says that the work really will begin in 2015 and will be completed for the 150th anniversary celebration in 2017? We asked: When will we see a backhoe on the armoury grounds?

Now we are being told that work will begin in summer 2015. We learned that the department planned to have a backhoe on the Plains of Abraham in summer 2015. The 150th anniversary celebrations will take place in summer 2017. That is a short timeframe.

I have good reason to be skeptical, since even the department itself acknowledges that the deadline is very tight and that, given its complexity, the armoury project will require an extremely skilled workforce. We are talking about expertise in masonry, tinsmithing, metal roofing and heritage woodworking to maintain the historic style of the Quebec City Armoury. This is a heritage gem that is of crucial importance to Quebec City; it is located next to the Plains of Abraham, which of course are very historic. We must not cut corners here. This must be beautifully and properly done, and it must be done now.

It is appalling that we have had to wait all these years, more than six years in fact, as though this was not important to Quebec City. The people of Quebec City are feeling abandoned on this matter. It seems that the Conservative government, which promised to rebuild the armoury in both the 2008 and 2011 election campaigns, might have to make the same election promise again next time. People are fed up. Frankly, it makes no sense. I deplore this attitude, because it is absolutely ridiculous.

The deadline is extremely tight for a project as complex as the armoury, because it is a heritage building. I therefore think it is unfortunate that the government did not allow for contingencies. Unforseen circumstances may arise. The Plains of Abraham was a battlefield. During the reconstruction, artifacts or even bones may be found. When the labour schedule was drawn up to ensure that the work on the armoury is finished by the summer of 2017 for the 150th anniversary celebrations, was any time allotted to deal with unforeseen circumstances? If something unforeseen does happen, will it throw off the entire schedule so that the scaffolds will be up all around the armoury for another five years and for the 150th anniversary celebrations?

Is that what Quebec City deserves? I say no. It does not make sense that the Conservatives abandoned Quebec City when they promised not to drop this file.

This evening, I am asking for a straight answer because this situation is really shameful. The armoury is an important part of our heritage.