House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Brome—Missisquoi (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Democratic Representation Act March 22nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills that it is not the rest of Canada that has protected French in Quebec, it is Quebec that has protected its French, and it is having a lot of trouble protecting it.

It is obvious that we are having difficulty, even with the federal government, in selecting the immigrants who come to Quebec. I do not think that the federal government can congratulate itself right now for having preserved French in Quebec. It is Quebeckers who are protecting their French and their culture. Furthermore, to add to what I have just said, democracy depends on the moral weight of the nation and not on the weight of numbers.

Democratic Representation Act March 22nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I think there is one fundamental reason why there are fewer federalist members in Quebec, whether they be from the Green Party, the NDP, the Liberal Party or even the Conservative Party: Quebec as a whole is sovereignist. Whether federalist candidates are members of an environmental party, a party on the left or any other party, Quebeckers are not interested in voting for them. That is one of the reasons why these parties have few representatives in Quebec.

Democratic Representation Act March 22nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, as I see it, Bill C-12, which is before us today, is completely undemocratic because it bases democracy solely on numbers. There are many facets to democracy. When one nation wants democracy within a large country, this must not be based on figures and numbers alone. We must consider the fact that democracy is based on respect for the freedom and equality of the citizens of a nation. It is not based on equality of numbers, but on the equality of the powers of the citizens of a nation.

In a participatory democracy, the people of a nation participate in conservation, in working together, and in decisions. Democracy can also be a democracy of opinion. There are many definitions of democracy which do not refer to numbers alone. Democracy can, and this is the important point, be a democracy of peoples and of nations. A nation has democratic institutions that defend it. It is not just the number of participants that matters. It is all the realities of a nation's institutions that permit democracy to defend a people or a nation.

The system for each nation is established by its constitution. I think we must return to that source—not the letter, but the spirit. We are now faced with a bill that adheres exclusively to numbers. The spirit has been forgotten. They have forgotten why this was done, and they have also forgotten the importance of having a constant proportion of seats to represent a community, as my hon. colleague from Outremont has just said. In attempting to increase the number of members in just one part of the country, and based solely on the size of the population, are we not in the end creating an aristocracy in that part of the country? I sincerely believe so, for an aristocracy can be defined by various and different things. In the present case, it would result from a disproportion in representation between the Quebec nation and the rest of Canada.

Therefore this bill on democratic representation is ill conceived, for it is based on numbers alone, on mathematics. A democracy is much bigger than that. We have never seen a democracy based solely on the number of heads, even in antiquity. It may be the case in the United States, where they have their own way of counting the voters.

Given that it was a relatively diverse group of people who recently created the United States, that might be the only place where it would be possible.

In European countries, where there are many communities, there are different numbers of representatives, and that poses no problem. But here, they want representation to be based solely on numbers.

The Bloc is demanding that this bill be withdrawn because it is one more example of Canada's dysfunction. As such, it is surprising that the Conservatives are the ones who introduced it.

The motion concerning the Quebec nation was introduced by the Bloc Québécois and then by the Conservative government on November 22, 2006. It passed unanimously in the House. How can it be that something decided upon here is not being respected? I am having a hard time understanding that. Since then, the Conservatives have systematically attacked the Quebec nation and have rejected every proposal that would give tangible expression to that recognition, even though they claim to practise an open federalism.

By proposing Bill C-12, which will further marginalize the Quebec nation within Canada, the Prime Minister and his government want to continue to reduce our political weight in the House. That is quite clear. Perhaps we bother them too much. In 1867, 36% of the seats—I am referring to that number as it reflects the Constitution at that time—belonged to Quebec. In 2014, that number would be reduced to 22.4%. But just because there are fewer of us in comparison to the rest of Canada does not mean that understanding for Quebec's needs and interests should diminish.

If one believes that Canada was built by two nations, why are attempts being made to destroy one nation by whittling away the level of representation intended for that nation under the Constitution? I do not understand why this argument has not been made across the aisle.

Quebec's National Assembly unanimously demanded the withdrawal of Bill C-56, which is similar to this bill and gave 26 seats to English Canada and none to Quebec. The National Assembly called for this bill to be scrapped because it was unacceptable. The assembly of elected representatives of the Quebec nation, the National Assembly, along with the 49 members of the Bloc Québécois, who account for two-thirds of Quebec’s elected representatives in the House of Commons, are demanding the withdrawal of this bill. In total, 87% of the elected representatives of the Quebec nation are demanding its withdrawal.

The argument will surely be made that only elected representatives feel this way, but 87% of elected representatives is a very high level of representation. Moreover, we have the support of genuine proponents of open federalism, people who respect us. One might venture to say that there is a majority of folks who are against Bill C-12. I refer to the speech that the member for Outremont just gave.

In 2007, the Conservative government introduced a bill to amend the rules for the distribution of members’ seats among the provinces in the House of Commons. This bill replaced subsection 51(1) of the 1867 Constitution Act and significantly increased the number of seats. Under the bill, in 2014, the number of seats would increase from 308 to 330, which would benefit the three provinces experiencing democratic growth. We do not wish to stand in the way of that; what we will not accept however is that the nation would not have sufficient demographic weight to enjoy representation within Canada as a whole.

Consider again section 51 of the 1867 Constitution Act, formerly called the 1867 British North America Act, which established the method for the distribution of seats among the provinces in the Commons. This provision could only be amended by London, but section 52 stipulated both then and now that, “the Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from Time to Time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.”

It seems clear to me, referring to that. I am talking about the spirit and not numbers. When the drafters of the Constitution Act of 1867 wrote these words, they did so in order to preserve a certain moral weight. They did not say that thinking every last voter would be counted and when Quebec did not have enough, it would stop. Not at all. They said that Quebec’s representation should not be disturbed. That is the word that was used. The proportion that was guaranteed is not complete if they are busy destroying it.

It is essential to go to sections 51(1) and 52 to understand how important it is to preserve not only the numbers underlying the representation of the provinces but also the moral weight of a nation. The House of Commons has determined that Quebec is considered a nation.

We have quotes. The hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse explained the Bloc’s position as follows: “Of course, if the members of the Bloc were not so stubborn and single-minded in their ideological obsession of separation...”. I said I would be a sovereignist to the day I die, but I do not see myself at all as stubborn and single-minded. I see myself as someone who has a conviction and a hope some day for a country. It is not single-minded and stubborn to hope someday for a certain result.

Insofar as an ideological obsession of separation is concerned, I will not even go there. The hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse added, “...they would see that representation by population—one person, one vote—is an underlying principle of democracy”, which is not how the Quebec nation sees it. That is not the only thing, of course.

The government recognized the existence of the Quebec nation but refuses to acknowledge that our nation has a language, which is French. It was said a little earlier that, contrary to what some people think, this is not an economic question but a cultural one. Quebec sees itself as a nation.

By refusing to consider our national culture in the application of all its laws and the operations of all its culture-related or identity-related institutions, the rest of Canada makes it impossible for some people to hope to function in Canada. I am not saying I hope to do that, far from it. It is incredible that it is precisely those people who want to protect Canada who are busy destroying Quebec’s moral weight in it. They say one thing, but do another.

They have to be consistent. If it is their hope that Quebec be recognized and be able to function, they cannot fail to recognize the moral weight of that nation. This is not the weight of numbers. That is the main thing I would like hon. members to draw from what I am saying. Democracy is not based on numbers only, on the number of people. Equality is also a consideration for nations and for communities. This is not a principle that is applied in the European democracies. Why would it be applied here? Because we live next to the United States?

The United States is a melting pot of people who come from all over the world. There is no nation within the United States. The people settled and scattered all over the country. For them the only way to have a democracy is to count the number of people. There is no moral weight to any particular place. On the other hand, this does exist in Europe. Even in England, where I have lived, there are places where there are more voters for one member. They consider the moral weight of certain regions to be more important than the actual number of voters. This bill must absolutely be approached from that standpoint.

We are asking the government to withdraw this bill. It makes no sense for a government to introduce a bill that does not recognize what that government has done with its other hand, a bill that does not recognize the Quebec nation.

I will close by offering this pleasantry: it is because of bills like C-12 that there will be more and more sovereignists in Quebec.

Democratic Representation Act March 22nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, you know that I am a sovereignist and I will definitely go to my grave as a sovereignist, but I also know how to show respect for the federalists who show respect for us. I think that the member for Outremont has just demonstrated that respect. I commend him for that. Clearly, the members opposite do not have any respect for our nation.

I would like to know whether the member for Outremont sees any similarity between the Conservative government's attitude toward aboriginal people and its attitude toward Quebeckers. In other words, the Conservatives see these people as only a number and not as a community or nation and, since they are few in number, the Conservatives can ignore them. Does the member for Outremont believe that such is the case?

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act March 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I think that we can speak of a culture of protecting veterans, particularly in Europe. Some members will probably say that Europeans have seen so much war that they have had time to develop that kind of culture.

I would like to ask my colleague if she thinks that it would be good if the committee, during discussions about Bill C-55, drew on that culture in general. I am not only talking about physical things or regulations or the way in which laws are created. Veterans are cared for differently in Europe than they are here.

We could basically say that this type of culture does not exist here. Here there are people who want to forget them. I would like to hear her thoughts about proposing that to the committee.

Canada-U.S. Border February 16th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, in Brome—Missisquoi, the hours of operation of three border crossings will be reduced to just eight hours per day, effective April 1. This decision will have a negative impact on public safety and our economy.

How can the government make such a decision without taking into consideration the views of local elected officials and the needs of the public? That is not propaganda.

Business of Supply February 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. In general, large companies make huge profits and small businesses and co-operatives make very little profit, meaning that it is not these companies that are being targeted.

Could the member explain the difference between the massive companies that make a fortune—sometimes obscene amounts of money—and small businesses? And does she not think that even if the Liberals came to power, they would have the same neo-liberal theory that is currently popular with the Conservatives?

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the very interesting question. I also thank him for appreciating the fact that I spoke about moral values.

The value of this bill lies in the fact that it gives judges the discretion to assess people who have committed such horrible crimes as murder and consider whether their culpability, depending on the circumstances, is greater if they have committed two murders at the same time, or if they have committed two murders, one after the other. Is a person a greater danger to society if he has killed three of his children at the same time or if he has killed only one of his children? That is what must be determined.

It is fortunate that judges can consider this because there is no neat mathematical formula for culpability. Moral values must always be the values on which decisions are based. There are serial killers, but they are already subject to a life sentence without possibility of parole. We are not talking about them, but about a few people who are not necessarily a danger in the long term, but who had a moment of great weakness.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act February 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-48, which has to do with parole and cumulative sentences. This bill offers an option. It is not often that we see a crime bill introduced by the Conservatives that gives judges options. In this case, it gives them the option of imposing additional periods of parole ineligibility in cases of multiple murders. It gives judges the choice of adding them. The Bloc always likes putting things in the hands of judges for obvious reasons.

In a murder case, the judge and the jury can very quickly make recommendations on parole. There is a prison in my riding and I know people who have committed crimes, who are in this prison and who will one day have their sentences reduced or be released on parole and thus return to society. These people are all prepared to do so, and I do not see why we would keep someone in prison who had one moment of weakness, a momentary lapse, or simply a lack of understanding of our society's values. I do not see why we would never give them the possibility of living a normal life.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of Bill C-48. I think it will be interesting, in committee, to ensure that the basic principles that give freedom to judges are conserved. This bill has to do with murder, the worst crime, which has the most significant consequences for victims and which affects the public the most. Bill C-48 would enable judges to increase parole the ineligibility period when they are pronouncing a sentence—not after, of course—in cases of multiple murders.

As my hon. colleague said earlier, multiple murders are very rare. In fact, only 0.2% of all murders in Canada in the last 35 years were multiple murders. These are major offences, I agree, but they are also extremely rare. What that means is that a good number of the bills now before the House deal with extremely rare incidents, probably because the government cannot find more general issues to address and, as we know too well, the government likes to say it is tough on crime and to put a good spin on it.

We all agree that the most serious crimes deserve the most serious penalties and are therefore subject to imprisonment for life. Sentences that are too light or parole that is too easy, such as parole after one-sixth of sentence—and we introduced a bill to do away with that—undermine the judicial system and only give credence to the misguided notion that criminals are treated better than their victims.

By the way, this bill does not improve the lot of the victims. The government keeps saying that we must focus on the victims of crime, but it has not done so in this bill. This bill is all about the criminals.

It seems unusual that a second murder would not result in an additional sentence. We all agree on that. Under Bill C-48, the judge would at least have the option of imposing consecutive periods of parole ineligibility. It would be up to him to decide.

But the Bloc Québécois thinks that punishment cannot be the sole objective of the legal system, to the detriment of rehabilitation and reintegration. We still believe in that, and we do not expect to change our minds soon. In fact, we are not the only ones who believe that parole, rehabilitation and reintegration are important. Last week, there was an article in the paper from a coalition of eleven Christian churches in Canada that said: “According to the Church Council on Justice and Corrections, the criminal justice policy of the Conservative government is not helping the victims or the offenders.” That rather confirms what I was saying earlier. Bills are always drafted to deal with criminals, not to assist the victims.

This article listed what the eleven churches want people to know. It asked what Jesus would do with modern-day criminals. It asked if he would let them languish behind bars even longer or if he would try to reintroduce them into society. It is an interesting question because the Conservatives often fall back on the religious view of punishment. They have built their preconceived notions of crime on a that foundation. And now the religious are reminding them of that.

That is how the eleven churches stated their position. It comes at the moment when the government, with bills like Bill C-48 and all of the other bills it is introducing, is already seeing it will need to build more and bigger prisons. In my riding as well, apparently the prison will be expanded to add 192 beds. Yet, for 10 or 15 years, the number of inmates in that prison has decreased on a regular basis. Why? Because there has been an increase in rehabilitation—more people on parole who have been rehabilitated. However, it seems that they will succeed in having more laws that will lengthen sentences and so, we will need more prisons.

What is interesting, and Bill C-48 would lead to this as well, is that 192 prison beds will cost $45 million. Simple division reveals that each concrete bed will cost $248,000. This amount represents two social housing units for prisoners, two units out in our society. The Conservatives prefer to build jails and take people out of society at the attractive price of $248,000 per prisoner. You must agree that this money would allow us to do other things on the outside.

The interesting part that I would like to share is where all of the churches of Canada are listed, be they Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, etc. This is what it says:

This group believes that incarcerating criminals for longer and longer periods, which is what the Conservative government in Ottawa is proposing, does not benefit either victims or offenders.

This is quite basic. I will continue:

I am most concerned that you and the Government of Canada are prepared to significantly increase investment in the building of new prisons.

These are religious leaders saying this. They went on to say:

Proposed new federal laws will ensure that more Canadians are sent to prison for longer periods, a strategy that has been repeatedly proven neither to reduce crime nor to assist victims.

If I understand correctly, Bill C-48 would put people in prison for longer periods of time to ensure that they do not reoffend. People are beginning to realize that it is not the length of time spent in prison that matters, but rather it is the money that is invested in rehabilitation. Offenders need to be re-educated, to be taught the moral values of society, to learn a trade, and they need to be looked after when they are released. Instead of simply giving them a cell in a prison, they must be given a place to live, a job, and a chance to return to society. Those are the ones who will not reoffend. We have a long way to go. We seem to be forgetting about victims.

I will continue quoting these religious leaders, because what they are saying is interesting:

These offenders are disproportionately poor, ill-equipped to learn, from the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups.

This is how religious leaders, who are also part of society, describe criminals.

They require treatment, health services, educational, employment and housing interventions, all less expensive and more humane than incarceration.

That is far from what is happening in Bill C-48, even though, in reality, there is nothing shocking about it. The principle is fine, but we can see that it is leading down the same path. They want to be able to incarcerate an increasing number of people.

The bishops continue:

We are called to be a people in relationship with each other through our conflicts and sins, with the ingenious creativity of God's Spirit to find our way back into covenant community.

They did not mean a community of Alliance members. What surprises me is that the Conservatives, who are so respectful of religion, do not listen to messages as important as this one and continue to think that the only way to make criminals disappear is to put them in prison.

Coming back to the quote:

How can that be if we automatically exclude and cut ourselves off from all those we label “criminal”?

There is a lot of wisdom in that. It is a pleasure for me to say so here in the House because I do not talk about religion very often. Sometimes I do, though, because I think these people have good things to say, as can be seen here. Their message is worth repeating. That is why they said it, so that it would be repeated and we could try to make the Conservatives understand that being tough on crime is not the only path but there are also rehabilitation paths.

In my riding, when the Conservatives came to power in 2006, before the second election they won, they eliminated one streetworker job.

I will not mention the town because that would be giving away too much. This streetworker made $40,000 a year. The Conservative government saved $40,000 a year even though this worker could have been out helping youths who were having difficulties and giving them advice to keep them out of jail. He could get them interested in other things such as learning a trade. He could encourage them to show more respect and give them some concept of morality, which they had not necessarily acquired in broken homes. The $40,000 that the federal government saved is not even a drop in its budget, hardly even one electron.

The opposition maintains, quite rightly, that there should be fewer crime bills. We have the impression that the government mostly just wants to make political hay by being tough on crime, as my colleague said. There were only about 45 recidivists among the 2,900 murderers in Canada over 35 years. We are talking, therefore, about an infinitesimal number. So why rework so many laws? Why not pass a general act instead of acts with such a narrow focus each time?

Here is a quote from some church members on their view of human dignity:

Our Church supports restorative justice...Both for moral and practical reasons, society should be concerned not only with how long prisoners are incarcerated for, but with their character when they leave prison. Every person is made in God's image and has received the gift of dignity...Our goal is not to be for or against a government, but to explain that there are alternatives to prison.

The Bloc Québécois also supports this type of restorative justice. These words should linger and influence current legislation.

They are not trying to engage in politics. They are trying to make the government understand that we cannot invest in prisons indefinitely. It is not a solution. The solution is to come back to rehabilitation.

Lucien Messier February 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to inform the House of the death in January of Lucien Messier, the mayor of Stanbridge Station, at the venerable age of 91.

Mr. Messier was the dean of Quebec mayors when he retired before the last municipal elections in November 2009.

Mr. Messier devoted his life to his municipality. He worked as a municipal inspector before being elected councillor. He was subsequently elected mayor 14 times, from 1971 to 2009. He served as mayor of this municipality for a total of 38 years.

The Bloc Québécois and I extend our deepest condolences to the people of Stanbridge Station, his family and his friends.