House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was women.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Abitibi—Témiscamingue (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions June 19th, 2019

Madam Speaker, today I am presenting a petition calling for the creation of a national strategy to combat plastic pollution in our waterways.

This type of pollution is extremely worrisome, particularly because it affects aquatic fauna. I have been fishing for as long as I can remember and I am deeply concerned about the increasing number of fish that ingest plastic, which then ends up in our food chain.

This is a critical issue, especially if we consider the communities for which fishing is a traditional activity.

Abitibi-Témiscamingue June 18th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I first came to this world in a town called La Reine.
It captures my heart, again and again.
At the edge of the world, where the air is so clear,
The Abitibiwinni have lived for thousands of years.
To the sound of their drums is how my heart beats,
To the rhythm of their oars, the cadence repeats.
Bright, starry nights envelop, surround me,
I am Témis. I am Abitibi.
I was born in the autumn with colours ablaze,
But each season brings some beauty to praise.
An idyllic place to learn and to grow,
Where the Okiko River steady does flow.
A place of peace, rest and tranquillity,
I am Témis. I am Abitibi.
In this part of the land, mother earth gives her wealth,
And my little treasures were born in good health.
With all that they need to grow and to flourish,
They are raised in love, they are cherished and nourished.
Precious new life in need of nurture and caring,
We are mothers both, into eternity staring.
Here fertile soil helps to feed,
Nurturing every little seed.
Ancient forests embrace, enclose
All those in need of some repose.
My feet have travelled your breadth and length.
In you my heart has found its strength.
I am Témis. I am Abitibi.
I am Témis. I am Abitibi.

The Environment June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. I am going to miss her, but I know that my babies are also going to miss her. I am not sure how many babies stopped crying thanks to her. She is a magical grandmother, and I know that her grandchildren are in good hands.

No matter what party we represent, as women, we must help one another. I did not take up the fight to have the whole issue of parenting recognized in Parliament for my own sake or for my party alone. I took up this fight for all female parliamentarians, regardless of the party they represent. I did it to ensure that every woman who wants to become a parliamentarian, even if she is Conservative and her opinions go totally against mine, is able to be a mother while serving in Parliament and feel comfortable doing it.

The Environment June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to develop quite a few extraordinary relationships, even with members of other parties. During this Parliament, I worked alongside MPs who served their country in the Canadian Armed Forces, including Conservative MPs, people who served during the Afghanistan war in the 2000s. Those relationships gave me a chance to get to know people I might never have gotten to know so well and to swap stories with them about our time in uniform.

It is important to get to know people, to hear about their experiences and find out who they really are beneath the surface. I have learned surprising tidbits about the private lives of many MPs. I have also learned to see their potential. That takes sincerity and openness. It is hard to get to know people when you are always trying to fit into a mould. I think people are at their best when they can be themselves. That makes politics so much more human and so much more interesting.

The Environment June 17th, 2019

Madam Speaker, this is probably one of the last times I will rise in the House, and I want to take the time to thank the people of Abitibi—Témiscamingue for allowing me to represent them. My constituents are brilliant, creative people who are full of ideas. The ideas are sometimes crazy, but that is what makes my riding a great one to represent. We become involved in these crazy projects and ideas.

The people working for organizations in Abitibi-Témiscamingue are extremely creative, motivated and passionate about the region. One example is Randa Napky, an ambassador for Abitibi-Témiscamingue. I cannot think of anyone better to represent our tourism association. All of these people make coming to work a pleasure, and it is truly wonderful to have this opportunity, as a member of Parliament. People are welcoming, they open their doors to us and they are always there to help.

I had three children during my time as an MP. When I attended events, people would take my babies from me and look after them. I was comfortable with that. So many times I felt as though I was visiting family, no matter where I went. It was like always attending a family party where people took care of each other, asked questions and asked how I was doing. They did not just do it out of politeness, but acted as though I were really a member of their family. Those were some really great moments, and I absolutely loved representing those people.

There are also my employees, who did a wonderful job. They became my close friends. There is Alain, who has been with me from the start and who got to know me extremely well. Now, when he has to write anything, it sounds as though I wrote it myself. We now finish each other's sentences. Over time, I got to know his wife, who is a nurse like me. I think Alain hates it when his wife and I talk because, when two nurses get to talking, the stories can get kind of gross. Chantal is a wonderful woman. I loved getting to know her, and I hope we will remain friends for a long time.

Yves also joined my team. He came from Service Canada, and according to his resume he was a very skilled and competent public servant. He also has a very crazy side, which I saw at one of the murder mystery events. This theatrical side may go unnoticed, but it is fun to see. He is also extremely dedicated to people. With his help we managed on a number of occasions to do things that the media never report on and we never talk about. Several times we were able to recover $20,000 in family benefits that were not paid because the CRA continued to ask for paperwork. No one reports these types of stories, but I can say that when we manage to do this for people, it really improves their lives.

There is also Ghislain, who is very intellectual and passionate about history and archeology. He cares so deeply about indigenous peoples that his master's thesis was about the role of traditional dance in the healing of indigenous people. It is a highly specialized topic, but this shows how much he cares about indigenous peoples.

Then there is Daniel, who seems unflappable. He has an incredible desire to learn, a thirst for knowledge and a great sense of calm. I am also lucky to know his wife, Maude, who has a truly unique personality and is very vivacious. They are outstanding people. I am very pleased to have met them.

Nicolas has been part of my Ottawa team for a long time. Even before he came to work for me, we were both candidates in a few of the same elections. Nicolas is always upbeat. He is the type of person who never gets discouraged and you cannot knock down.

Then there is Jean-François, who left for Iceland, where he is also a citizen, this spring. He was a down-to-earth guy I liked talking to, and I could talk to him about the politics of pretty much any country in the world. These people have been extremely important in my my life. There are also people from the whip's office, like Christian and Anthony, who know every detail of our lives. We have no choice; we have to tell them everything. Their job is to reassure and comfort us. They know all kinds of things about us.

Many of my colleagues have also changed my life. Lots of people think everything started with the orange wave, but plenty of other things happened before that. I myself was in the forces and a member of the NDP. Eventually, I decided to leave the army, and it just so happened there was an election around that time. I spent my last enlisted years under the Liberal government. The cuts were disastrous. We even had to train with snowballs a lot of the time. I made up my mind to leave the army.

Since I was no longer part of a system where I could not be politically active, I decided to get involved. At 22, I made the crazy decision to participate in the NDP electoral campaign. I also decided to move back to Abitibi-Témiscamingue. I talked to a young woman, Rebecca Blaikie. We spoke for an hour. Finally, she said that the party was looking for a candidate like me. She asked if I felt like getting into politics. The party was prepared to give me a chance.

I talked to my parents about it and decided to run for the first time. I was 22 at the time, in 2006. I was a candidate in 2008, but it was finally in 2011 that I was elected as part of Jack Layton's team. After 2006, I started getting involved. I also attended conventions. I remember spending time with Thomas Mulcair and the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. We spent evenings having discussions with Mr. Mulcair's wife, Catherine. She became a friend.

I also met the member for New Westminster—Burnaby. I doubt he would remember this, but we shared a taxi. He gave me his business card and said he was available to answer any questions I might have. That stayed with me. At the time, I had not been elected yet, but he was there for me.

Then I was elected. I became a mom while serving as an MP. I also remember Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, Rosane Doré Lefebvre, Alexandrine Latendresse, the member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski and the member for Salaberry—Suroît. We became moms around the same time. Former MP Alexandrine Latendresse had a baby shortly before I did, and she became a close friend, even officiating at my wedding.

I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing people, like the Assistant Deputy Speaker and member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, who is basically my kids' third grandmother.

I have gotten to meet some incredible people. I want to thank them for being part of this adventure.

Before I leave, I just want to tell people to be bold. If I had not made that call, I probably would never have experienced this adventure. Members need to have the courage to stand up, to show some backbone and think for themselves. Canadians expect us to be honest. They want us to say what we really think.

Canadians are sick of canned speeches. I urge members to stand up, say what they think and stop parroting talking points. I think that advice applies to many members of the House. They need to reconnect with the public. The parties need to stop telling their members what to say. In my view, we did not go through 150 years of feminism for women in Parliament to just say and think as they are told.

I urge everyone to be brave. I sincerely hope that the next elected members will have the courage of their convictions and the will to stand up, as Canadians expect them to do.

Health Care Delivery in Rural Canada June 5th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to clarify something about the motion. Although the federal government does have jurisdictional powers over certain aspects of heath care, including that of ensuring that all Canadians have equal access to health care services, the actual implementation of health services is a provincial responsibility.

The federal government provides health transfers to the provinces, but it is up to the provinces and the provinces alone to decide how to use those funds. Managing all health services falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. This motion is aimed at improving the delivery of health services. It therefore interferes directly in a provincial jurisdiction. The member himself even admitted it. Strategies and communications technologies pertain to health care management, so this motion extends beyond the federal government's general jurisdiction. Only the provinces can deliver health care directly to Canadians and are able to develop the strategies needed to change health care management.

The NDP recognizes the importance of respecting provincial jurisdiction, especially in Quebec. That is why we adopted the Sherbrooke declaration, which acknowledges Canada's asymmetry and affirms Quebec's right to opt out with compensation. The member's motion directly interferes in an area under provincial jurisdiction.

Let me say that the timing of this motion is peculiar. When the member answered my question, he said that he did not choose when to present his motion, but the fact is, he most certainly did have a choice. He could have chosen to present any number of measures over the past four years.

For example, I myself presented a number of bills and motions that I believed merited the attention of the House even though I was well aware they would not be debated. Unfortunately, members have only one chance to introduce a bill of their own, and that is if they are lucky. The member presented the motion a month ago knowing full well it would probably never be voted on. This motion would have to go to committee, but that will never happen.

If the member truly wanted to improve the health outcomes of rural Canadians, which, I recognize, is a very important issue, he could have chosen measures that do not overstep federal jurisdiction. For example, he could have asked that federal health transfers be increased by the amount requested by the provinces. The Quebec health minister has said that the federal government must stop meddling in provincial jurisdictions and that it start by increasing our health transfers.

Lack of money is one of the biggest obstacles to the implementation of different technologies that could help rural Canadians. Hospitals are already accumulating deficits because they pay nurses a lot of overtime due to the shortage of staff and staff burnout. Unfortunately, the increase in health transfers is not enough to meet provincial needs. That is one thing that the member could have requested and that would have fallen within federal jurisdiction.

With respect to the labour shortage, there is another useful measure that falls within federal jurisdiction: improving the immigration process and the recruitment of foreign professionals. I have often been told by hospital administrators that they had found a very interesting candidate, a specialist from abroad. The specialist was interested in the position but was discouraged by the process and chose to settle in another country where procedures are much less complex. The process is expensive and very complicated. Also, immigration services do not exist in rural regions.

A hospital board that wants to recruit abroad does not even have access to services in its region where it can get help and support and find out the most effective way of handling the process. If the board wants access to those services, it has to manage by telephone, by Internet or by talking to agents who do not really understand all the ins and outs of the process. It is extremely complex. The member could have asked for immigration services to be set up in rural areas. That would also have helped in terms of recruitment.

To help improve care and services in rural areas, the member could have done something about travel. Patients often have to travel long distances, which gets expensive. That is difficult from a financial perspective.

In order to be entitled to the medical expense tax credit, which can include travel expenses, a person must be making a certain income. If that person did not pay any taxes, he or she is not entitled to the tax credit. In the end, we are not helping those who would benefit the most from this help, those who cannot afford to pay for travel expenses.

There are quite a few concrete measures that the member could have chosen instead of moving a motion calling for a committee study that will never be done. That is why the motion does not sit well with me. I can see that the member is genuinely concerned about health care in rural areas, but I am having a hard time understanding why he chose such an ineffectual way to address the issue. It is most unfortunate, especially considering he has been an MP for four years. Some of us have been here longer, but the member has been in the House of Commons for four years. He could have sought advice. He knows enough about how things work that he should have realized this was not the best way to proceed.

If the member is really interested in what has been going on with new technologies, he could have asked the research service for help. All MPs have access to the services of the Library of Parliament for conducting research. For instance, the member could have asked the Library of Parliament to perform an exhaustive search for different strategies that have been used in various regions across Canada or around the world to improve services in rural areas. That would have generated plenty of fascinating reading material for him.

When new technologies become established, scientific, medical or nursing journals often publish articles highlighting their positive impact. The data on the methodology are already available and accessible to anyone who is interested.

Once again, I understand the member's desire to improve health care services in rural areas, but I do not think that we should be trying to make improvements by interfering in provincial jurisdictions.

I suggested a number of ways to find a much more effective solution for our rural areas. These methods fall within federal jurisdiction.

I strongly urge my colleague to talk to his colleagues and to listen to Quebec's minister of health and social services. She has suggested that the current government stop interfering in provincial jurisdiction over health care and immediately increase federal transfers to the provinces so that they can implement the measures that are already on the table but cannot be implemented because of a lack of money and commitment from the federal government.

Health Care Delivery in Rural Canada June 5th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know why the member only moved one motion in the last four years. The motion was tabled last April.

Why is this the only motion he tabled? Why did he table a motion that is not binding instead of a bill that would have been a lot more binding? Why did he move a motion calling for study in committee, when we know that will never happen? The House will adjourn in two weeks and we will surely not have time to vote on the motion.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act June 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, one of the most important things is communication.

In Abitibi-Témiscamingue, we have put a lot of effort into integrating the reserves. Some thought we would not be welcome at powwows. Today, powwows are promoted through the regional tourism association, and many people, including me, have chosen to attend. The members of the indigenous communities in my riding have a lot to share.

I was lucky enough to go to a powwow and be invited to a dance when I was pregnant. My daughter was introduced to the drums and the music before she was even born. Now every time Daphnée goes to a powwow and sees the dancing, she is enthralled. She gets to see the traditional garments that the men and women wear, and she loves the colours. To her, this tradition is part of the history of the land she is on. It is no longer something that belongs only to other people. Now it belongs to her, as a resident of the Abitibiwinni territory. She knows that it is part of her history too, not something that is completely separate.

I am grateful to the people of Pikogan and Abitibiwinni for sharing this with us all these years.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act June 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the important thing is that there were a number of meaningful days for indigenous peoples over the past few years.

I acknowledge that all parties worked on improving the life of indigenous peoples, including some members who are no longer here. That being said, a number of files have been dragging on for years and it is important that we not try to take credit for this issue. We have to acknowledge that people from all over wanted to improve the living conditions of indigenous peoples, even though it is true that some could have moved more quickly.

The important thing is that there were several other meaningful days for indigenous peoples. We must not stop now. This is a long process and we must not stop working for indigenous peoples as long as they are being treated differently.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act June 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to speak to this bill because I believe that the health and well-being of indigenous children is one of the most important issues before us as federally elected representatives. We are responsible for them and, sadly, we have made too many mistakes that affect them. As elected representatives, it is our duty to fix those mistakes. That is why this bill was crafted following court rulings stating that indigenous children were victims of a discriminatory funding system and identifying our obligation to remedy that. It took five court rulings for a bill to be introduced.

It would have been really nice if the committee had agreed to amendments to the bill, regardless of who proposed them. I believe that all the committee members sincerely wanted to improve the lives of indigenous children, but I think many more amendments would have been agreed to if the members truly wanted to set aside partisanship in order to improve the lives of these children, even though this parliamentary session is almost over. I am sad that the vast majority of the amendments put forward in committee were rejected.

I myself wanted the chance to speak to this bill at second reading, but I chose not to do so because I did not want to unduly delay adoption at second reading, so the bill could be sent to committee. Now I am fortunate to be the last member to speak to this bill before it goes to the Senate. I really wanted to emphasize the importance of making quite a few of these amendments because children's well-being is at stake. We do not want to have to start all over again. This I humbly submit to the senators who will study the bill and who may choose to revisit some of the amendments.

When I leave Ottawa to head home, I drive north for at least six hours. Each time, I pass through Kitigan Zibi, a reserve just outside of Maniwaki. As an aside, Parliament is located on their ancestral land. Every time I make this drive, sometimes twice a week, I see the photos of Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander, two teen girls who have gone missing since 2008 and have not been heard from since. Community members are still worried about them.

This is why I am particularly pleased to speak today. We must recognize that many indigenous children have had some very difficult experiences. For example, some children were placed with foster families who do not understand their traditions or language. A huge proportion of these children are placed in foster care every day, and, unfortunately, not all of them are lucky enough to live with people who understand their culture and their identity.

Many of these children are placed with foster families who do not understand their realities, while others still are raised by parents who did not have the chance to be raised by their own parents, who were forced to send their children to a residential school. This generation must now raise teenagers without having learned from their own parents.

I believe that members of indigenous communities deserve our admiration, because they are doing the best they can to pass on all aspects of their culture to their children, to show them who they are and where they come from, even though they themselves were unable to learn these things from their own parents.

As an MP, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of schools in indigenous communities and to see young people learning the Algonquin language, using charts with Algonquin words written on them. Young people are starting to learn the basics of Algonquin. When I was a young adult, I shared an apartment with a young Algonquin girl who had never had the opportunity to learn the language. She had a workbook that her mother had found for her. She was 18 or 19 years old and had never had the chance to learn the language.

This generation is trying to catch up. To do so, they need to be involved with child services on a daily basis. Indigenous peoples have a very different way of raising children. Over time, working as a nurse, I realized that everything related to pregnancy is very different for them. Too often, we tend to judge based on our own perspectives.

In indigenous communities, it is not unusual for teenagers or 18-year-old girls to already have two or three children. That often does not make any sense to us, and we think it must be a problem situation. However, when we talk to those girls, we realize that they do not have the same view as we do of getting pregnant at 15 or 16 years old. If we continue to judge these sorts of situations from our own perspective, unfortunately, it could result in child placement services being called in, even though the girls see the situation completely differently.

Children are placed in care when there is a concern for their safety and their development is at risk. However, we are somewhat responsible for some of those risks, because no new housing has been built on reserves in 30 years and we are failing to provide clean drinking water and schools that are not falling apart. All we have to offer these children is mould-infested schools.

When children have absolutely nowhere to play and community infrastructure is in a pitiful state, child development may well be compromised. How much of this is the parents' responsibility? At what point should there be consequences? In fact, most of that responsibility falls to the system the children are forced into. It is up to us as elected officials to change the system and give power back to the communities, so that they can invest, build housing and make sure that pregnant teens can continue their education while also looking after their children. It is up to us to make sure that schools full of mould quickly become a thing of the past.

I was lucky enough to see a beautiful school built in my riding, in Long Point First Nation. It has made such a difference. Kids used to have to go to a mould-infested school that was eventually shut down by the school board. Since the school was located in the next town, the kids had to take a bus. That building was in really bad shape. Teenagers went to school in their own community, but they had to take classes in the gymnasium, where there were no windows, because there was mould everywhere else. The young people were self-harming. It was a disaster. It took years for them to finally get their school.

The design of this school is quite unique. It is well lit, a lot of wood was used, and it is in the shape of a hive. The children are put in a circle so that they can see each other and communicate with one another. We can see on their faces that these children are doing better. The community knew that the children needed a nice school that they could be proud of in order to be happy.

Today I am calling on the House to pass Bill C-92, for it to be referred to the Senate, but also that we not forget that the indigenous communities need to be allocated a significant amount of funding to ensure that the children are happy. It is the responsibility of elected members to ensure that indigenous communities can benefit from funding to fully develop and that children can stop being exposed to discrimination.