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

Veterans October 3rd, 2018

Madam Speaker, I asked the Prime Minister a question about the services provided to francophone women. I appreciate that he recognized that it is an especially troubling situation that needs to be addressed. However, even though he said he would try to take action, he did not say anything about what he would do. This situation requires immediate action. These women veterans served their country with honour. Not only is it more difficult for them than their male counterparts to access services, which is completely unacceptable in an egalitarian society, but it is even more difficult for francophone women to access these services. They are discriminated against on two grounds: gender and language.

Since the Liberals did not specify how they would go about addressing this situation quickly and effectively, I rise today to ask them what they are going to do. Women veterans are used to the military method, which has a specific objective and very detailed plans. They know exactly what they will be doing. They deserve a much more comprehensive answer than being told that the government will do what it can to solve the problem.

The services in question may be related to problems that are very difficult to explain. There is a danger in telling women veterans, especially francophone ones, that they can have faster access to services if they agree to be served in English. Some women may agree because the situation is urgent, but they are not able to express themselves as clearly in a second language, or else they do not understand all of the nuances of what they are being asked. This means that they could miss out on services or benefits to which they are entitled.

A number of cases of sexual assault and harassment have come to light in recent years. Many women veterans have been victims, and this often has huge consequences on their careers, their mental health and their personal lives. We absolutely cannot ask them to wait longer than men to talk about it and to access services related to events in their military career. It is very worrisome if the military is unable to provide these women with services in their first language or is telling them to agree to receiving services in another language so they will not wait so long.

Considering the seriousness of the health problems that may affect these veterans, particularly in terms of mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the government must do more than simply say it will look into the issue. It must give a detailed explanation of what it will do right now to fix the situation as quickly as possible.

How will this be done and how much time will it take? These women veterans deserve a clear, detailed answer.

Veterans Affairs September 28th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister himself has acknowledged, it is unacceptable that female veterans, especially those who are francophone, are not receiving the same level of service as male veterans. Since the government is running massive recruitment campaigns to encourage women to join the army and asking female veterans to go through the difficult experience of talking about attacks and harassment they may have been subjected to during their service, could the government try to understand that immediate steps need to be taken to ensure that services are delivered in both official languages?

Employment September 28th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, every time I am in my riding, business owners talk to me about all the hoops they have to jump through to stay in business because of the labour shortage.

Although they are cutting business hours, increasing wages and trying to recruit abroad, they still cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are working crazy hours so that their years of investment are not all for nothing.

The Liberals need to understand that this cannot go on much longer. Business owners are exhausted.

What is their plan?

Organ and Tissue Donation September 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to my colleague's motion on organ donation, a topic that has already been the subject of a bill and a study in committee. Although I support my colleague's motion, as I said in my question, I am disappointed that he decided not to support the bill introduced by the Conservative member for Edmonton Manning in February 2016 and that he moved a motion on the same topic. It would have been more productive to support the bill and send it to committee, where it could have been studied immediately.

I took a look at this bill and the committee's report, which is quite interesting, and I have to say that the state of our health care systems really could have been expanded further. There is a lot of talk about donations, people who do not sign their consent card and public awareness campaigns. This is all worthwhile, but it is hard to talk about organ donation without talking about what is going on in our health care systems, especially in Quebec. The federal government has some responsibility there, and it creates an additional burden when it shirks its responsibilities, especially with respect to health transfers to Quebec.

Organ donation is a very demanding and technically complicated procedure, particularly when the donor is brain dead. First, the potential donor is assigned two nurses, who must have intensive care training and know how to use specialized equipment. Because timelines are so tight, the deceased's vital functions must be maintained until the organ can be harvested and transplanted into the recipient's body. When the individual is brain dead, the body must be intubated and hooked up to a ventilator, and the heart must be stimulated to beat.

These procedures require a lot of equipment and specially trained staff. Unfortunately, nurses in our health care system are already overworked. They work 16-hour shifts on understaffed wards. Emergency rooms are often two or three nurses short, and nobody is brought in to replace them. People miss opportunities to identify organ donors because it does not occur to them in the moment. It is a complex process, and a particularly onerous one for rural regions.

If we really want to raise organ donation rates, we need to take a close look at the state of our health care systems. Nurses are vital to the organ donation process. Say a person is brought to the hospital after an accident. The person is brain dead. For a transplant to happen, there have to be nurses available who are not overwhelmed by their other duties. Discussing the options with family members takes a person who has the time to explain the process calmly. Nurses cannot manage that if they are always running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

There are a lot of health care system issues we need to consider. Unfortunately, that whole piece has been left out of the puzzle. I realize that the provinces are primarily responsible for setting up these systems, but when the federal government dissociates itself by cutting health transfers to the provinces, that is kind of hypocritical. If we want to raise organ donation rates, we need to make sure our emergency rooms are not swamped and our people are not exhausted. That is where we need to start.

Most cases of organ donation that were not decided when the donor was living, and therefore were not planned and occurred because of unfortunate accidents, are identified in emergency departments. They occur because of the alertness of emergency room staff. These workers realize right away that there is an opportunity, and they immediately inform a doctor that someone is a potential donor.

We must also understand that practices in the health field have changed a great deal over the years. Staff are much less quick to initiate resuscitation procedures. Families often ask for resuscitation to be stopped. In such cases, the person was never brain dead. Had they continued with resuscitation, the person would have become brain dead and could have been stabilized and become a potential donor.

There is also a danger when the person had a disability or attempted suicide, for example. The danger is that the resuscitation manoeuvres will be successful but will leave the person with impairments. Often, families would rather stop resuscitation than run the risk of keeping the person alive in a vegetative state. In cases where the prognosis is dismal, families often ask medical professionals to stop resuscitation, which is done much more quickly than before.

Before, medical professionals were required to do everything in their power to save a life. Now they stop resuscitation much sooner, which means that the person dies. Distance and the time it takes to move the body means that it is unrealistic to expect organs to reach recipients in rural regions on time. Often, the only way for them to receive an organ from a potential donor is to keep the donor's system functioning. The donor needs to be in stable condition. Their blood pressure, heart rate, respiration or ventilation and oxygen saturation levels must be maintained.

A potential donor cannot be moved unless they are in stable condition. Doctors have to be able to stabilize them, which takes a lot of resources. Such resources are sometimes hard to come by in the case of an accident that happens in the middle of the night. That is the reality of the health care system, and I would like that to be taken into account when we talk about organ donation. We talk a lot about the people who have not signed an organ donor card, but we also need to carefully consider the reality of our health care system. I think we need to take that into account and understand that the provinces are doing their best with their health care systems. However, we are currently dealing with a major crisis.

We need only think of the overtime that nurses are required to do. That is a total disaster. Every day nurses are forced to remain at work even though they are exhausted and do not feel they can work or think. They are forced to work for 16 hours straight. Then we wonder why they do not have the clinical reflex to initiate the organ donation process when they are completely exhausted and the health care system is broken. The federal government pretends not to be aware of this; it is backing away from health transfers, claiming that the provinces alone are responsible for what happens in hospitals, that it is not its jurisdiction.

If women are forced to stay at work, if they cannot go pick up their kids, if they leave work in tears, or decide to change careers because they are completely exhausted, I think we have a problem. I sincerely hope that we also consider what is going on in our hospitals to try to fix our public health problems, which can be serious for many people. Some people might not look at our health care situation with blinders on, like they do now.

I urge people to step up and pay attention to the crisis in our hospitals.

Organ and Tissue Donation September 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, in February 2016, the Conservative member for Edmonton Manning, whose son had three liver transplants, introduced a private member's bill that sought to create a national registry and a national strategy for organ donation. This bill was introduced a number of times in the past by Liberal and NPD members. Unfortunately, the member opposite voted against that bill.

A study was done in committee. The motion the member is presenting is worthwhile but non-binding.

Why did he refuse to support the bill introduced by the member for Edmonton Manning, which contained more binding measures regarding organ donation? That bill could have helped advance this cause.

Business of Supply September 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague and neighbour, I often go to the largest city in his riding, Val-d'Or. Many indigenous people from the Lac Simon reserve end up moving there because it is the closest city and they want access to services, groceries and stores. However, this municipality has had one of the worst housing shortages in Abitibi—Témiscamingue for decades. Indigenous and non-indigenous people alike live in terrible, unaffordable housing.

If I told the hon. member that I was going to give him the number of housing units it would take to meet the needs of Val-d'Or, what would that number be?

Business of Supply September 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, if we had tried to address every single housing-related problem in our motion, it would have been 686 pages long. Obviously, we had to simplify so everyone can grasp it. I talked about investing in rural communities. I know my colleague has probably never been to my riding, but Rouyn-Noranda is a town of about 35,000. I mentioned communities with about 300 residents. For anyone who is not aware that Abitibi—Témiscamingue has about 100 cities, towns, communities and parts of towns that have been amalgamated but are still far apart, it can be extremely confusing. I do not expect my colleague to know much about my riding, but everyone should know the difference between a city and a small town that is struggling to deliver services.

Business of Supply September 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, rural communities are in desperate need. In many cases, there has been zero investment in social housing. Many indigenous individuals live off reserve. Housing can be hard to find for anyone, but on reserve, the situation is appalling. No new houses have been built. One can tell just by looking at the buildings. Absolutely nothing is happening.

Sometimes, several families crowd into a single dwelling together. Some people feel they cannot escape domestic violence because they are reluctant to kick their partner or ex-partner out for good. This is extremely important, and the time to take action is now. We cannot wait for the government to get another term in office. We need to invest in social housing now to help our rural communities and the indigenous communities in my riding and all over rural Canada.

Business of Supply September 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, no money was invested in Normétal, Saint-Lambert, La Reine, Dupuy, La Sarre, Clerval, Sainte-Hélène-de-Mancebourg, Palmarolle, Gallichan, Roquemaure, Rapide-Danseur, Duparquet, Poularies, Macamic, Authier, Chazel, Taschereau, or plenty of other places.

Nothing has been invested recently in Témiscamingue, Rémigny, Nédélec, Guérin, Notre-Dame-du-Nord, Angliers, Saint-Eugène-de-Guigues, Saint-Bruno-de-Guigues, Laverlochère, Fugèreville, Duhamel-Ouest, Lorrainville, Ville-Marie, Béarn, Saint-Edouard-de-Fabre, Temiscaming or Kipawa.

In eastern Quebec, not a cent was invested in Launay, Trécesson, Saint-Félix-de-Dalquier, Saint-Dominique-du-Rosaire, Landrienne, La Morandière, Rochebaucourt, Champneuf, Barraute or Belcourt.

I do not think I need to go on. I have made my point: nothing has been invested in small communities in my riding.

Business of Supply September 27th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to talk about housing today since my riding, which is quite rural, has had critical housing needs for years.

In a number of communities, no social housing has been built since the end of the 1980s. Absolutely nothing has changed. Most of the existing housing is dwellings for people 55 and older, single people or older couples. In most small towns, the only affordable housing available is for seniors. There is nothing for families.

There are urban centres in the various RCMs of my riding that have benefited from some projects, but when I talk to mayors of those municipalities, they tell me that it is extremely difficult to get such projects off the ground because of all the requirements that need to be met. They tell me that sometimes it is so discouraging that they just feel like giving up.

Often the administrative requirements for social housing projects are exactly the same in rural areas regardless of the size of the projects. Whether we are talking about 200 dwellings in downtown Montreal or four dwellings in a small town like La Reine, Dupuy, or Saint Vital, the same requirements need to be met. Moreover, it often takes at least 24 dwellings to be entitled to funding. A municipality with a population of 300 would need to build 24 social housing units, which costs a few million dollars, just to be eligible for funding, when that does not in any way correspond to the municipality's needs or reality.

As long as we are going to keep the same requirements for everyone and not take into account Canada's demographic diversity, we are necessarily depriving several rural communities from funding for social housing. They are, however, the ones who need social housing the most since quite often they do not qualify for funding.

Furthermore, administrative requirements often push up the cost of a project, since the administrative fees to develop specifications, for example, are the same whether the project is to build four housing units or 24. When the cost has to be spread over just four units, the project can become very costly, because administrative requirements do not vary based on the project scope.

In addition, when the time comes to put together a project, it costs a lot of money to compile all the specifications and expert opinions needed to meet the standards, and that is without even knowing whether the funding will be granted. This represents a higher financial risk for municipalities. When a municipality spends $100,000 of its $800,000 budget, which is supposed to cover all municipal services, on a project that it cannot even be certain will be completed successfully, it is taking a massive financial risk. Large municipalities, in contrast, have multiple pending projects that they can put into a drawer, and when programs are announced, all they have to do is open the drawer and pick out the ones they want to submit. Everything has already been done.

Moreover, let us not forget that small communities do not have the same municipal resources as big cities. Cities have an engineering department, architects, urban planners and other professionals already working for them. In contrast, small municipalities have a town manager, a municipal secretary who rarely works full time, a municipal inspector and a day labourer to do all the snow clearing, lawn mowing and other maintenance. That is basically the entire team they have at their disposal.

Therefore, when the time comes to put together a social housing project and commission all these specifications, they have no choice but to turn to the private sector for their architect's drawings and engineering studies. This is extremely costly for them. They have no in-house resources to rely on.

It is important to understand what a challenge that is. At some point, the government will have to come up with a way to set requirements and manage projects at the administrative level in a way that takes into account the scope of the projects and the size of small municipalities.

In order to prevent big cities from always getting all the projects, it is important for a portion of the funding to be reserved for projects in municipalities with a population of less than 3,000. There must be funding set aside so that all of the money does not get taken by others. Otherwise, nothing will get built.

Many small municipalities are really frustrated. They need housing, but they do not know how to compete. The government has announced a lot of money for social housing, but we never know when it will be spent. We have just learned that 90% of the budget will be spent after the next election. Small municipalities that want to undertake a project will have to spend a lot of money planning it, without knowing whether this government will be re-elected. All that work might be for nothing if there is no funding available when it is time to carry out the project. This is a truly unacceptable way of managing things.

If the government is going to announce funding for housing, it should make the money available now. It should say that x amount of money is available and that there is a three-year window for submitting projects.

What it is doing right now is nothing but smoke and mirrors. The government is giving hope to people who may want to start projects, but we do not know what will happen. The election is an unknown quantity, so we cannot predict what will happen in two or three years. Who knows, maybe in two or three years, the government will announce that, just like electoral reform, the whole thing is too complicated, there are problems, we will have to wait again, yada yada yada.

Meanwhile, people continue to live in poverty and cannot get ahead. Children do not have access to anything, and their future will suffer. People are stuck in violent situations. In a number of indigenous communities, nothing has been built. In some cases, a woman experiencing domestic violence cannot just kick her husband out. If she were to do that, she would be kicking him out of the community because he would have nowhere else to live. Women are often too afraid because they say that they could not throw their husband into the street, since there are no other options. They end up giving in and staying in violent situations. The same goes if it is the woman who decides to leave, because the house is in her husband's name. She is not just leaving her home; she is leaving her community without knowing whether she will be able to find shelter elsewhere.

Housing is very expensive in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. There is a shortage of workers, and the housing shortage has been ongoing for 10 years. Nothing is happening. People are unable to pay their rent. They live in unhealthy conditions and are bullied by their landlords. People continue to believe that this is acceptable, that we can let people live like that and that these people are not important.

We have an opportunity to grow the rural economy in regions like mine. There is huge potential, but we are currently unable to grow this economy because we cannot house the people that could contribute to it. We cannot send workers there, even though there are jobs available and businesses are closing their doors because of the labour shortage. I find it difficult to understand how the government can say that they are going to invest this money in the next term of office when there are glaring needs now.

We know very well that the housing is not going to magically appear the moment the money is allocated. It has to be built, and we have to find the people to do it. Projects do not get built overnight.

Right now, what the government is doing is compromising the future childhoods of children who are yet to be born. In the small towns that I spoke about, the last time low-income housing units were built was when I was about five years old. The government is undermining these people's entire childhoods and teenage years. They will not see any investments in housing until they are grown up. I think that is unacceptable.

It is also important to understand that not having anywhere to live or spending 75% of one's income on housing causes a lot of other problems. It is unfortunate, but the adage about having to spend money to make money is true. If people are spending 75% of their income on housing, they will not have any money left over to pay for a car that will help them to earn a better salary and a better income. They need a car because they have no other way of getting to work.

There is no public transportation because there are not enough riders. It is extremely important to understand that housing is an immediate need, and I sincerely hope that the government will take into account my region's needs. It is high time that the members opposite woke up.