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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2021, with 8% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Food Safety October 3rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Newton—North Delta.

This is a major crisis we are going through. The facts are clear. This is the largest meat recall in Canadian history, affecting more than 1,500 products across the country, and that is not insignificant.

A number of things concern me about the safety of our food, in this case in particular. First, it was the Americans who first discovered the E. coli bacteria in the meat, before our Canadian inspectors did.

I know that the Conservatives, including the Minister of Agriculture, said today in Calgary that there were just a few hours between the time when the U.S. inspectors sounded the alarm and the time when Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors did, but the fact remains that the Americans were first.

If memory serves me correctly, this is the second major crisis discovered by the Americans. The same thing happened when the Sandoz drug manufacturing plant closed in January. I am not questioning the competence or dedication of the officials. I am questioning the reliability of the system in which they are working.

Canadians have to have trust in their government inspection systems, but in this case they have reason to doubt. We must restore their confidence. Unfortunately, the way the Conservatives are managing the current crisis is doing nothing to reassure the public. It took far too long for the products to be recalled and the abattoir to be closed after the E. coli bacteria was discovered.

The statements by the Minister of Agriculture, who initially said no tainted products made their way to grocery store shelves and then had to issue a recall, do nothing to inspire confidence, especially when we see the list of recalled products getting longer every day.

The worst thing in all this is that the health of Canadians was put in jeopardy by the government's inaction. The E. coli bacteria is not innocuous. Most of the people infected will show no symptoms; others will have relatively minor, but very unpleasant stomach ailments, such as cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, headaches and fever.

Symptoms can appear within 5 to 10 days following contamination, and infected people can also pass on the bacteria to their loved ones. The number of people affected is therefore likely to increase beyond the five confirmed and 23 suspected cases. In the most serious cases, the E. coli bacteria can cause life-threatening symptoms, including kidney failure, epileptic seizures and stroke.

In some cases, fortunately a small number of cases, the bacteria can cause permanent damage such as kidney damage, especially among high-risk groups, which include pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, young children and seniors. I was very upset to learn that a young boy is suffering from kidney failure.

The second thing that concerns me is the rhetoric being spewed by the members opposite regarding food inspection. I know my colleagues opposite received the same emails that I did. I received hundreds of emails from the people of my riding expressing their concerns about the cuts to food inspection and the changes made regarding labelling. Considering the crisis we are now facing, they are right to be worried.

And yet how many times—today alone—have we heard the Conservatives say that food safety is important to this government and to Canadians, or that our food inspection system is one of the best in the world?

If our system is so good and if food safety is a priority, why was the Canadian Food Inspection Agency not spared from the budget cuts? Why did the government cut more than $46 million and why were more than 300 positions eliminated? Why will funding for the food safety program be reduced from $355 million in 2011-12 to $337 million in 2014-15? Are we aiming for a middle-of-the-road food safety system? Canadians deserve better. They deserve the best system.

These cuts are even more surprising when we consider that, according to the Public Service Alliance, the minister was apparently warned in January 2009 in a briefing note from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that the inspection program could not handle the workload and meet delivery requirements. I do not understand why the minister is now reducing the number of inspectors.

When it comes to food safety, there should be no compromising because Canadians' health is at stake. The Conservatives have been telling us for months that cuts to the public service will not affect Canadians. We know that this is not the case. Cuts of more than $46 million and the elimination of more than 300 positions, including 100 CFIA inspectors, will have consequences. I could say the same thing about the $5 billion in cuts and the 19,000 jobs lost in the public service.

There is something wrong with the system, and we have the right to answers from the Minister of Agriculture. The fact that American authorities were the first to discover the contamination is disturbing. But there is nothing more disturbing than learning that, despite the positive test results on September 4 and 5, the public was not notified until September 16. That is quite simply unacceptable because Canadians' health was put at risk. We need to know what went wrong and ensure that it does not happen again.

Health September 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, we support a strong universal health care system and, unlike the Conservatives, we do not invite far-right supporters to committee meetings.

Canadians think that health should be a priority, but the Conservatives prefer to make budget cuts. Today, the NDP launched its campaign to improve our health care system.

Will the Conservatives join us in finding ways to modernize our health care system?

Petitions September 21st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition signed by Canadians across the country who strongly oppose Motion M-312 put forward by the Conservatives.

Many Canadian women are stating their clear opposition and are hoping that not just the government front benches but all benches will support a woman's right to choose and that they will not revisit a debate that was dealt with decades ago.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act September 21st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her question. I know these are topics that concern us all. As for the connection between poverty and criminal behaviour, we know very well—and it has now been scientifically proven—that social factors play a very important role, both in the criminal behaviour and the health of individuals.

So we want to reduce criminal behaviour and, to do that, we need to backtrack and reduce the poverty that might be one of the factors at the root of criminal behaviour.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act September 21st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his questions. I think I have made it clear that we, in the NDP, are concerned about a judge's discretionary power. I think I said that we agreed that the government should think about the victims of crime. We are also as concerned as the members opposite about taking away judicial independence, but we are also concerned about taking away their discretionary power, which is why we were talking about exceptional cases. As I mentioned in my speech, the cases of people visibly affected by mental illness come under these exceptional situations.

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act September 21st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on a very important bill, Bill C-37, the Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act. This bill would amend section 737 of the Criminal Code to increase victim surcharges. Specifically, it would double the amount of victim surcharges imposed on offenders from 15% to 30%, and if no fine is imposed, the surcharge will increase to $100 for offences punishable by summary conviction and to $200 for offences punishable by indictment.

I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Beaches—East York.

Back to BillC-37. It is important to note that, contrary to what the members opposite have said over and over again all over the place, the New Democratic Party cares about victims' interests. That said, let us talk specifically about Bill C-37.

First, what is a surcharge? It is an additional penalty imposed when a guilty offender is sentenced. The surcharge is collected and kept by the provincial and territorial governments to finance programs and services for victims of crime in the province or territory where the crime was committed.

This would be one way to increase funding for programs to assist victims of crime. The existing services cannot keep up with the demands of so many Canadians, and additional means would be most welcome.

According to the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, crime cost Canadians around $70 billion in 2003. Of this, $47 billion, or about 70%, was assumed by the victims themselves. Those numbers are huge.

What concerns me about this bill is the repeal of section 737.5 of the Criminal Code. This section allowed judges to waive the surcharge if they felt that imposing it would cause problems or undue hardship for the individual in question. I am deeply concerned about this. I am not convinced that we can anticipate every possible situation. I am very comfortable with the idea of giving judges the flexibility to determine if the surcharge will cause more harm than good to society. We have a strong criminal justice system and competent judges. We should let them do their jobs. They have been appointed because of their competence and their sound judgment, and we should let them use those skills.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the courts have already ruled on judicial independence. I recall one particular judgment of the Ontario Court of Appeal on minimum sentences that was handed down last February. The court ruled that some mandatory minimums could be considered cruel and unusual punishment and therefore were in violation of the Charter.

I am not suggesting that this is exactly the same thing, but it follows the same principle. We cannot possibly anticipate every situation, and we should give judges the flexibility they need to determine the best outcomes. I think it makes sense to maintain the discretionary power of the judiciary, especially since there are many extenuating circumstances in which forcing an offender to pay the surcharge would have an unnecessarily harsh effect.

I am particularly concerned about offenders who have a clear history of mental illness and who may be unable to pay that surcharge.

We must seriously examine the impact that this change will have on our justice system. I hope that, if the bill is passed at second reading, the Standing Committee on Justice will examine this issue seriously and thoroughly, and that the members of the committee will keep an open mind when listening to the witnesses.

Some organizations have already expressed their concern. I am thinking of the Elizabeth Fry Society, which is concerned about the impact that these additional fines will have on disadvantaged aboriginal people. The John Howard Society is worried that some fines will be disproportionate to the crimes committed, but does not have a problem with monetary penalties.

The idea of allowing people who cannot pay their surcharge to participate in a provincial fine option program strikes me as a worthwhile approach. However, the bill does not take into account whether such a program exists in the province or territory where the crime was committed. There is no other alternative if this type of program does not exist. I hope that the committee will take this into account and will find a solution for such cases.

Like many of my colleagues, I am also wondering about the link between this bill and the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry's Bill C-350, and the mutual impact they will have if they are passed. Time and time again in this chamber, we have seen the government use private members' business to pass more controversial measures.

In closing, I am very pleased to see that the government is concerned about the funding of victims programs. However, I have reservations about taking away from judges the power to choose not to impose the victim surcharge under certain specific circumstances that are currently set out in the act, particularly since they will have the flexibility to choose to impose a higher surcharge.

I hope that this will be seriously examined in committee if the bill is passed at second reading. We must not contribute to the vicious circle of poverty and crime but, rather, we must work to reduce crime in Canada in the short, medium and long term.

Petitions September 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present this petition signed by women and men from across Canada who are opposed to Conservative Motion Number 312 that will attempt to reopen the abortion debate in Canada and the debate that Canadians had a decade ago. Canadians are ready to move on. The women and men of Canada look to move forward and not back and finally achieve true gender equality in Canada.

National Defence September 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, when will the government stop sticking its head in the sand when it comes to health care for our Canadian Forces?

The ombudsman's report is clear. The Canadian Forces do not have an adequate number of mental health professionals. They have a very heavy workload and work in a very difficult environment. Some information even shows a chronic shortage in Petawawa.

Why has there been no increase in the number of mental health professionals within the Canadian Forces since 2010?

Prostate Cancer Awareness Week September 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, this is Prostate Cancer Awareness Week, so let us take a moment to think about the men who have this terrible disease, those who have died from it or who will die this year. In 2012, 26,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,000 men will die from it. That means 11 Canadians a day will be lost.

We in the NDP can never forget the loss of our leader, Jack Layton, on August 22, 2011, after his fight against the disease. We salute his courage in sharing his battle with the public, since it helped to increase awareness.

Awareness is crucial, because this form of cancer is treatable if it is caught early. A man can have the disease for 10 years without knowing it or showing any symptoms. I encourage all men over 40 to check with their doctor. Early detection can save lives.

Children's Health June 20th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the NDP caucus has decided to vote in favour of Motion M-319, introduced by the member for Ottawa—Orléans, because obesity rates are skyrocketing and they will have a considerable impact on the health of Canadian families and on our health system.

It is important to raise Canadians' awareness of this issue and to create a dialogue that will attack obesity rates in Canada. This is a good initiative and I would like to thank the member for Ottawa—Orléans bringing it forward.

I support the principle of the motion. That being said, and although it is important to make people aware of the impact of childhood obesity, the Conservative government continues to avoid implementing concrete measures that will really attack the problem.

Even worse, some of its new policies, contained in the mammoth Bill C-38, are contrary to this motion. It seems that the government does not have a truly coherent policy to fight childhood obesity. I will come back to that.

As I indicated earlier, I support the principle of this bill because this is a worrisome problem. Obesity is defined as an abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat, which can be harmful to health. Over 60% of adults age 18 and over—14.1 million Canadians—are overweight or obese. Overall, 26% of Canadian children between the ages of 2 and 17 are overweight or obese. So, it makes sense that this could result in significant costs.

Recent estimates of the economic burden of obesity in Canada range from $4.6 billion to $7.1 billion a year—and I did say “billion”.

The causes of obesity are complex. They can be social, cultural, environmental or behavioural, to name a few. However, two major risk factors for obesity are physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Obesity dramatically increases the risk of many chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, liver and gallbladder diseases, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and more.

In light of these facts, the Conservatives are content to merely table a motion that invites the government to continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories and health stakeholders and encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity. However, everyone knows what these factors are. Instead, the government needs to take active measures to combat obesity.

Instead of simply encouraging dialogue, the government must take real, concrete action, such as establishing obesity rate reduction targets, funding physical activity programs for everyone and regulating processed foods. The government is not taking an active role in fighting rising obesity rates. It simply produces documents entitled, “Declaration on Prevention and Promotion” and “Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights”. These documents have to do with health promotion strategies and focus especially on healthy living awareness campaigns.

In 2007, however, the Standing Committee on Health released a report entitled, “Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids”. Announced by many progressive—