House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was health.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know why the member does not agree with the idea that it takes money to implement a functional bill, as well as these measures. This bill is about providing child protection services in indigenous communities, which means people will need to work on that. That means there will have to be a budget for establishing this service.

Why did they not agree to include the funding associated with the bill in the bill itself?

How much money does he think the various communities will need to achieve the purpose of this bill?

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies May 28th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, in the summer of 2018 the die was cast. Without victory, winter would prove eternal.

Two armies prepared for battle in Abitibi-Témiscamingue: the Pirates in the south and the Huskies in the north. When the army from Témiscamingue, the Pirates, won a decisive victory over the Ravens and won the Russell Cup, the battle began in the north.

Led by champion Pouliot, the Huskies racked up a historic 59 wins, successively took on the Cataractes, the Tigers and the Océanic and then vanquished the formidable Mooseheads to bring home the President's Cup.

Nevertheless, the “pack” knew from experience that the battle was not yet won. During the final assault, they were almost wiped out by Suzuki's storm, but they rallied and claimed victory over the Raiders and the Mooseheads. The Huskies made it through the final storm with ease and then won the final battle against the Moosehead warriors.

The invincible Teasdale, the tireless Dobson and the impenetrable Harvey brought home the coveted Memorial Cup.

After they won three regional cups, the courageous Huskies' victory parade will surely be the highlight of the summer.

Rural Digital Infrastructure May 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, although I am pleasantly surprised that the government has finally decided to do something about rural telecommunications, I am a little disappointed that it comes in the form of a motion proposed so late in its term. I suspect that some of the things the motion calls for will not be feasible in light of the constraints of the parliamentary calendar. The motion mentions two committee studies that will probably not happen due to time constraints.

I want to commend my colleague, the member for Pontiac, for making an effort to raise the issue of rural telecommunications infrastructure, but I must say that I would have liked to see the government take the first step, seeing as I have been asking it to do something about cellphone coverage for over three and a half years now. Right now, some major roads in certain rural areas do not have cell service. That creates a lot of public safety issues.

Furthermore, one of the weaknesses of this motion is that it calls for the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to undertake a study to prove that improving wireless communications will enhance public safety. Well, everybody already knows it will. When someone gets in a car accident in an area without cell service, they cannot call for help and may have to walk five kilometres in the middle of the night, with kids in tow, in -40°C weather, with wild animals around to boot. Anyone can see that this scenario is not very safe and could easily be avoided with modern technology.

Cell phones did not exist in the 1970s, so it was normal to walk if you were in an accident in the middle of nowhere. Now, however, technology is accessible, and when people travel to parts of Africa they are often surprised to see that there is cell service everywhere. I did a humanitarian placement in Senegal and there was cell service everywhere. It was only in a very remote region of western Africa in a village called Tiaré, about a two-hour drive from Kaolack, that cell phones no longer worked.

However, in Canada, a G7 country, there is still no cell coverage along some highly-travelled roads. I think we can all agree that this is unacceptable. It is a matter of public safety, and a functioning cell phone can save lives in many situations.

It makes absolutely no sense to ask the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to study this issue to show how important a wireless telecommunications network is to public safety. I think that the Minister of Public Safety has enough data at his disposal to make investments, considering the impact these investments could have on public safety.

Another important thing we need to talk about when it comes to wireless communications is the lack of a national strategy. In fact, that was mentioned in the Auditor General's report on high-speed Internet access in rural regions. The government takes a piecemeal approach to its programs and investments without ever establishing a national strategy or knowing where it is going. That has considerable repercussions.

Often programs are put in place or subsidies are given to certain companies so that they can have a faster Internet connection. As a result, the companies that are granted these subsidies crush their competitors who receive nothing and the cycle starts all over again. Unfortunately, the money invested in rural infrastructure is not being optimized. In other words, this creates a value-for-money problem. It is not clear if we are creating competition or if this is truly working.

It is also unclear whether investing in the private sector is more effective than investing in co-operative style businesses. It is too bad that a comprehensive vision was not explored.

We are also seriously behind when it comes to implementing wireless communications programs. For example, the latest programs earmarked slower speeds than the ones proposed in the recent CRTC rulings. According to current usage of high-speed Internet and wireless telecommunications, the CRTC believes that people should have access to 50 megabits per second.

Unfortunately, in the latest programs, the speed is often 5 megabits per second. We are perpetually behind. By the time various measures included in a program are implemented, the program is proposed, proposals are received and reviewed, money is disbursed and the program finally rolls out, it is already obsolete and fails to meet current needs.

I would also like to have seen something else in this motion. It makes no mention of the different areas in which wireless communications are especially important, particularly telemedicine. Telemedicine is an important technology that enables people to communicate with specialists, particularly people in rural areas, where access is limited. High-resolution videos make it possible to transmit live images of an X-ray, for example. Different things can be done and people can have access to specialists who will advise their local health care providers.

Education is another important aspect of wireless communications and high-speed Internet. Many people take distance education courses from Laval University, for example. They do the courses from home. Unfortunately, that requires quite a bit of bandwidth. Many people do not have high-speed Internet and are unable to take distance education courses because their Internet is too slow. Sometimes they do manage it, but they then have to pay exorbitant amounts for their data usage.

At the end of a session, it is not uncommon for students to receive monthly bills of $200 or $300 for watching the various videos required by their courses. I think there is a problem if people living in rural areas do not have the same access to education as those living in urban areas.

I appreciate my colleague's efforts, but I believe that this motion could have been better had it been drafted differently. That is why I would like to move, seconded by the member for North Island—Powell River, that Motion No. 208 be amended by: (a) deleting the words “, particularly wireless telecommunications infrastructure,”; (b) replacing the words “caused by extreme weather events” with the words “and for telemedicine purposes”; (c) adding, after the words “fundamental fairness; (d)”, the words “reliable and accessible digital infrastructure is critical to education given the development of distance learning, to access to government services and to full participation in cultural life;”; (d) by replacing the words “(d) the government should (i) continue in its efforts to support Canadians, especially those in rural regions, in accessing the digital infrastructure they need to innovate, create economic opportunity and maintain public safety, (ii) examine the possibility of enabling further investments in rural digital infrastructure, including by reviewing the terms and conditions of the federal infrastructure program Investing in Canada, to incentivize investments in rural connectivity by the private sector and by leveraging funds from other orders of government, (iii) continue to work with telecommunication companies, provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous communities and relevant emergency response organizations to enhance rural connectivity and ensure maximum preparedness in emergency situations;” with the words “(e) the government should (i) continue in its efforts to support Canadians, especially those in rural regions, in accessing the digital infrastructure they need, (ii) ensure value for money from investments of public funds in rural digital infrastructure, including by reviewing the terms and conditions of the Connect to Innovate program to include wireless in the program and reduce the risk that public funds replace private-sector investments, (iii) continue to work with telecommunication companies, provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous communities and relevant emergency response organizations to enhance rural connectivity;”; (e) replacing the words “(e) the Standing Committee on Industry” with the words “(f) the Standing Committee on Industry”; (f) deleting the word “significant”; and (g) deleting the words “and (f) the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security should be instructed to undertake a comprehensive study on the public safety dimensions of wireless infrastructure deployment in rural Canada, and report to the House at its earliest convenience”.

Ethics May 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals promised Canadians that the nomination process would be open and transparent. Appointments should be based on merit and skill. The Liberals, however, are using a partisan tool to determine whether potential candidates have previously donated to the Liberal Party or whether they voted in the last leadership race. A person's affiliation with the Liberal Party should never sway a judicial or senatorial appointment.

The Prime Minister promised to do politics differently. What happened to that promise?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship May 2nd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, labour shortages in rural areas are disastrous for many businesses, but the government still has no plan to do anything about it.

Everyone agrees that immigration is one solution to the problem, but the complex application process and processing delays are unacceptable. The Government of Quebec has opened offices in the regions. Two years ago, I asked the Minister of Immigration to follow suit and open an office in Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

Are rural residents second-class citizens? Why won't the minister provide them with the same level of service as everyone else?

Criminal Code December 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, we are talking specifically about the two Senate amendments that deal with sexual consent. The government's bill talks about the complainant being unconscious or incapable of consenting for any other reason. Unfortunately, “any other reason” remains rather vague and is subject to interpretation by the courts.

Senator Kim Pate's amendment talks more specifically about the notion of sexual consent, including when the person is unable to understand the risks of the sexual activity in question. This brings us to vitiated consent, for example when one partner removes the condom without the other partner's knowledge and exposes the latter to risks of bodily harm such as an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.

These cases are often rejected by the police. Victims who call the police are told that this does not constitute sexual assault. If the amendment had been adopted, we could clarify such cases.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about the fact that the military police has recently reviewed many cases of sexual assault to ensure that there was no misinterpretation by the police forces when it comes to determining whether or not certain acts constituted sexual assault.

Would we not be better off adopting the Senate amendments, which will go a long way to clarifying sexual consent, including in cases of vitiated consent?

Criminal Code December 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the definition of “for any [other] reason” often depends on judges' interpretation. This can lead to cases like the Hutchinson case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court to determine whether the reason in question was covered by the phrase “for any [other] reason”.

Senator Pate's amendment is much more specific. For instance, it talks about the ability to understand the risks. This amendment could therefore help ensure that cases are settled in the first instance, rather than having to go all the way to the Supreme Court to determine whether a reason qualifies as “for any [other] reason”.

That is the problem. Since the law is not clear, several cases have been dropped because those involved knew that it would probably have to go to the Supreme Court to determine whether it constituted sexual assault. Senator Pate's amendment gives a much clearer definition of consent. I think this will help settle some cases at the trial level.

This will also make it easier for police officers, who are not constitutional experts, to rely on the Criminal Code to determine whether the victim they are dealing with has in fact been sexually assaulted and whether to refer the case to the director of criminal and penal prosecutions.

At this time, some police officers take it upon themselves to decide that some cases do not constitute sexual assault and choose not to take the matter any further. Thousands of cases are not even being looked into right now, and law enforcement is currently reviewing thousands of past cases to determine whether they do constitute sexual assault cases that were misinterpreted.

Criminal Code December 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, even $1,000 billion more would not make any difference if the law does not specify which activities are considered to be criminal. If the law does not clearly state that taking off a condom during a sexual activity constitutes sexual assault, we are not moving forward.

At present, when victims file a complaint, the police tell them that what they experienced was not assault. In those cases, it is not a problem of access to justice, it is a problem with the definition of what constitutes consent and sexual assault, and no amount of money can fix that. Legislative amendments are needed if we want to change the way in which our police forces and the justice system interpret the Criminal Code when they must determine what is consent, vitiated or not, to a sexual activity.

Criminal Code December 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, in my speech, I will focus on the two Senate amendments that, unfortunately, the government rejected. That is the motion before us now.

I think it is very important to point out that the Senate amendments to the bill were proposed by Senator Kim Pate.

Senator Pate was appointed through the independent selection process. She has been on the job for over a year. According to the government, the purpose of the process is to appoint distinguished senators, citizens who can make a unique contribution to the Senate.

In theory, it would seem that the Senate selection committee chose Senator Pate because she is a distinguished jurist whose opinion is highly respected.

Interestingly, the amendments she proposed are very similar to the NDP's amendments, and I think they carry considerable weight. The amendments are about sexual consent. The government bill refers to circumstances under which a person cannot give consent, such as unconsciousness and other reasons.

The Senate amendments refer to a person who is unable to understand the nature, circumstances, risks and consequences of the sexual activity in question, unable to understand that they have the choice to engage in the sexual activity in question or not, or unable to affirmatively express agreement to the sexual activity in question by words or by active conduct. When it comes to the ability to consent, I think that unconsciousness clearly falls under the third point.

I think that is very important, because one of the problems that victims are currently having with sexual consent is the difficulty of proving that they did not give consent in situations that fall in somewhat of a grey area. I want to speak specifically to that.

Often, when we talk about sexual consent, we are talking about voluntary consent. The problem is that consent may be vitiated. I will give a few examples that will help members understand.

A person can freely consent to a sexual activity without understanding the risks or circumstances that are involved. The first case that I want to talk about is the Hutchinson case, which is very important in understanding what follows.

This man poked holes in the condom he was going to use with his partner so that she would get pregnant. If I remember correctly, he was worried she would leave him, and he wanted to get her pregnant so that she would stay with him. Unfortunately, the partner did get pregnant, and she ended up finding out the truth about the pierced condoms. She pressed charges against him, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had to study this case specifically to determine whether there had been a problem. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that the consent had been vitiated because, in this specific case, there was a risk of bodily harm, and harm did actually result because she got pregnant. The consent had therefore been vitiated, so this constituted sexual assault.

The complainant had to take her case all the way to the Supreme Court to prove that she had been sexually assaulted. This was not a case where the justice system worked swiftly. If the concept of sexual consent had been clarified from the outset, including the ability to understand the risks of a sexual activity, it could have been immediately established that the complainant was unable to understand the risks of the sexual activity because her partner had not informed her that the condom was pierced. She was therefore unable to properly assess the risk that a pregnancy would result from the sexual activity.

Unfortunately, in this ruling, the problem is that we are really talking about the risk associated with pregnancy as major bodily harm.

However, if someone were to remove the condom without telling his partner, but she was unable to become pregnant because of sterility or menopause, the jurisprudence would not necessarily apply. That is according to experts who refer to Hutchinson to determine whether stealthing—removing a condom without the partner's knowledge—is a form of assault.

In cases involving women who can become pregnant, experts believe that the precedent set in Hutchinson may apply because there is a risk of significant bodily harm. However, in cases involving women who cannot become pregnant because of menopause or for some other reason, and if the partner does not have a sexually transmitted infection, there is no clear risk of sexual harm, and the jurisprudence may not apply.

The same is true of homosexual relationships unless the partner is, say, HIV positive. In such cases, it is possible to prove that a person was exposed to a risk of bodily harm when the partner removed the condom without the person's knowledge. In every other case, the jurisprudence does not provide grounds for proving the existence of risk, and it is not clear there would be grounds for sexual assault.

When people report cases of stealthing to the police, they are not taken seriously. The police tell them that they have not been sexually assaulted and so they are sorry but there is nothing they can do, despite the enormous stress this puts on victims.

According to victims' testimonies, this causes a lot of stress about potentially being exposed to disease. Victims may also have to take emergency contraceptives because they do not want to get pregnant. There is also the stress of waiting for the test results to come back. Stealthing can also affect relationships. Victims may have a hard time trusting others after something like this happens.

One victim recounted the following story in an article in the Journal de Montréal. She said, “After a night of drinking, I had sex with a guy I was seeing. A few days later, while doing some cleaning, I found the condom that he had supposedly used behind my bed. It was still in the torn wrapper. I realized that he had just pretended to put it on and that I had not noticed. I had to get tested for STIs.”

When we read these stories, we realize that this could be a form of assault because there was vitiated consent. When someone consents to having protected sex, it is because that person has assessed the risk and decided that she is willing to have protected sex but not unprotected sex because of the risk of disease or pregnancy. From a public health perspective, there is currently an epidemic of sexually transmitted infections, and yet there have been delays in bringing the legislation into line with the jurisprudence for these kinds of cases.

If it were clearly illegal and criminal to engage in such an activity because it vitiates consent, I think that much more immediate action could be taken. In the few cases where a victim actually has the courage to report what happened, the police would not have to tell her that what she experienced was not a sexual assault, despite the risk of bodily harm.

There is currently a problem with sexual consent as there are grey areas where consent was vitiated. Bill C-51 does not address all the issues of vitiated sexual consent. Yes, the person voluntarily consents to a sexual activity, but does so under certain conditions. If these conditions are intentionally disregarded, the consent is vitiated and this could constitute an assault. If the justice system is incapable of recognizing that fact, it is turning its back on these victims.

The Senate amendment directly addressed that case. It could have settled the issue once and for all. The judges could have relied on a new, much clearer law and such cases would not have to go all the way to the Supreme Court to be recognized as assault. I seriously believe that the government is making a mistake with its motion and that the Senate amendments, which resemble those moved by the NDP, should have been adopted.

Criminal Code December 6th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I would like to come back to the Senate amendments.

Does my colleague really not believe that they would clarify the concept of sexual consent and remove any doubt regarding certain sexual activities? At present, when people file complaints, the police say there are no grounds for sexual assault.

Would these amendments not keep certain cases from winding up in the Supreme Court before it has been determined whether the activity in question was in fact sexual assault?