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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

Madeleine Parent March 13th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, Quebec lost a great woman yesterday. Madeleine Parent, a leading advocate for workers' and women's rights, died at the age of 93.

Ms. Parent campaigned for women's right to vote, fought to unionize textile workers, and helped liberate Canadian unions. She worked tirelessly to build bridges among Quebec society, aboriginals and immigrants.

Ms. Parent's legacy is great and precious. We must continue her work to create a more egalitarian society.

Thank you for everything, Ms. Parent.

Emergency Debate March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his very interesting speech.

The thing that concerns me the most is the health and safety of our fellow Canadians. Under Canadian law, we know that the government has to ensure health and safety, but even more importantly, ensure access to care and therefore access to drugs. The current shortage is the worst we have seen.

Why has the Conservative government not shown any leadership and been proactive, despite the warnings it received from a number of organizations?

Emergency Debate March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, Ms. Fry, who like me, is a member of the Standing Committee on Health. You put your finger exactly on the sore spot, if you will. If the minister were really thinking about the well-being of Canadians, she could have done something about this crisis today.

As you know, my dear colleague, the drug shortage is having a very serious impact on patients in intensive care and on terminally-ill people whose pain can only be eased with opiates. On the list of drugs produced by Sandoz, unfortunately, there is a shortage of injectable opiates—

Emergency Debate March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague and chair of the Standing Committee on Health for her question.

I never said or mentioned today—neither I nor my colleagues on this side of the House who spoke before me—that we need to impose anything on the provinces. We are just asking the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to find common solutions for Canada as a whole.

Emergency Debate March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for the question.

I think we are talking about a drug problem, not health care delivery. I realize that health care is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction, but we are talking about the Conservative government's lack of leadership with regard to forecasting shortages and coming up with proposals for imposing mandatory reporting requirements on the pharmaceutical companies. If that were already the case, we would not be here this evening having this debate.

Emergency Debate March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, this is the most severe drug shortage that our country has ever experienced. The current shortage is having serious consequences. Among other things, surgeries had to be cancelled in some hospitals in Quebec, many pharmacists, health professionals, as well as managers and administrative employees in hospitals are working extremely hard to find alternative drugs and new suppliers. Health professionals do not know whether they will be able to give the treatments required and patients are unsure whether they will be able to receive treatment.

And these are only the direct and visible effects of the current shortage. What I find even more fascinating is the government's reaction; once again, it is improvising. The government seems surprised by the shortage. I am prepared to admit that the unfortunate events that occurred at the Sandoz facility, which is located very near my riding, could not have been predicted. However, a possible drug shortage created by the temporary closure of a generic drug factory, regardless of where it is found and what drugs it manufactures, is a much more predictable situation.

We do not have to look very far back in history to see that the current phenomenon is not an isolated or unique event. It is a recurrent trend. I can list some problems that have occurred in just the past few months.

In August 2011, as a result of the temporary closure of the Ben Venue Laboratories factory, there was a shortage of about a dozen drugs in Canada, some of which are used to treat cancer and have no substitutes. The situation was the same as that at Sandoz. In December, we learned of a shortage of misoprostol, a drug used in obstetrics to reduce post-partum hemorrhaging. There is no substitute for misoprostol available on the market and, according to an article in La Presse, the drug will not be available until 2013.

Last October, the media reported a recurrent shortage of some anti-epileptic drugs. For many drugs, a shortage means that a new supplier or an equivalent drug must be found. Things are not that simple in the case of certain anti-epileptic drugs. Many of these drugs are not very profitable and thus are not manufactured by very many factories. So, when production is temporarily stopped, there are few or no alternate suppliers.

Over the past few years, some patients have been told at the their local pharmacy that their medication was out of stock. What adds to the problem is that, for patients who take anti-epileptic drugs, it is very dangerous to suddenly change medications. Change must be made gradually in order to ensure the patient's safety. The problem is that, without a mandatory reporting system for drug shortages, it is difficult for patients to transition smoothly to new drugs when their regular drugs are not available.

I have brought these facts before the House in order to make two very specific points. First, the drug shortage has real and concrete impacts on Canadians, and we should be concerned. Second, I wanted to show that the current drug shortage was a foreseeable situation but that the government ignored the warning signs.

Speaking through its mouthpiece, the Minister of Health, the government seemed so proud of its plan when the NDP questioned it during a Standing Committee on Health meeting. Today we see that the plan is completely ineffective and inadequate. I hope that the minister sees that she should have done more and that earlier shortages should have raised a red flag.

I would like to add that the Canadian Medical Association consulted its members on this subject in January 2011. The results of the consultation were very interesting. Three out of four respondents said that they had had problems with drug shortages in the previous year. Two-thirds of respondents said that the shortages caused what they considered to be serious consequences for patients.

Once again, Canadian patients are paying for the Conservatives' bad health care decisions. What is of even greater concern is the fact that patients are living in fear, wondering whether the surgery they have already been waiting a year to have will be postponed once again because of the minister's complacency. They are the ones who go to the pharmacy hoping that they will not have to run all over town to get their prescriptions.

Today, the drug shortage in hospitals has led to this emergency debate, and we must examine the problem. However, we must never forget all the Canadians who need their medications on a daily basis.

According to the Canadian Medical Association survey, the majority of drugs that are in short supply are once again, first and foremost, antibiotics such as penicillin, anti-depressants and antihypertensives. These drugs are used on a daily basis by thousands of Canadians and a shortage creates uncertainty that should not exist.

The events of the past few weeks with respect to Sandoz have highlighted a problem that has existed for quite some time.

We must now find a solution to guarantee that Canadians can have the care they deserve and to which they are entitled. We must find a solution to guarantee the supply of drugs for our hospitals and our patients.

In closing, I would simply like to say that the drug shortage is a public health problem.

We need to make people the focus of our actions and our deliberations. We need to act immediately, for the people.

Representation of Women in Politics March 8th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, despite a record number of women elected to the current Parliament, Canada still ranks poorly internationally when it comes to the representation of women in politics. I would like to point out that Canada ranks behind Afghanistan.

The UN estimates that a critical mass of 30% women is needed in order for them to have an impact on public policy. However, in Canada, we have not yet passed the 25% mark.

There are only so many ways to improve the situation. The political parties have to take measures to encourage the election of women.

The NDP has tools in place, and the results speak for themselves, with 40% of our caucus being women.

Every party should do its part for women's equality, and the Conservative Party should—

Multiple Sclerosis February 16th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise again in this House to address an issue that affects many people. I want to thank the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright for his motion. The motion essentially proposes that more information be provided to MS patients, both on the disease and on the treatments. As we know, these include the treatment for chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI, which has been making headlines in recent years.

As a doctor, I must admit that I am both intrigued with and skeptical of Dr. Zamboni's theory regarding CCSVI. I am intrigued because he seems to have achieved results and because, if his research turns out to be valid, it will be a major advance in medical research. However, I am skeptical not only because the research is not complete, but also because it is not the first time that a miracle cure for multiple sclerosis has been announced. I have in mind the 1988 announcement by a French physician, Dr. Le Gac, that the disease could be cured with high doses of antibiotics because it was caused by a virus.

It is my wish that the treatment will be available as soon as possible for all those who need it and that it will be proven effective. Patients and those close to them are putting a lot of hope into the procedure. They want to get well, and I can understand that. However, as a health care professional, I find it difficult to have someone undergo a procedure if a positive outcome has not been demonstrated and if the patient does not have all the information required to make an informed decision. I hope that the matter is cleared up as soon as possible.

The invitation to tender for clinical trials has finally been issued by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. However, the minister had announced in June of last year that these trials would take place. Once again, they will not begin before May 2012, and the call for tenders provides that these trials will be conducted over a period of at least three years. This is a very long time for a person who is confined to a wheelchair and who thinks a cure is possible. I just wonder about the time that will have elapsed between Dr. Zamboni's announcement and the beginning of the clinical trials. This is a terribly long wait. The clinical trials that were announced are good news, but they come late for MS patients.

Living with MS is not easy. The symptoms are often unpredictable. When someone is suffering from a cyclical type of multiple sclerosis, which means about 85% of patients in Canada, that person is asymptomatic until there is a flare-up. Afterwards, the person either recovers completely or has lasting effects. When a person suffers from the progressive form of the disease, MS is synonymous with a slow loss of autonomy, without any hope of improvement.

What is dramatic is that the people who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis are in their prime. They are usually between 15 and 40. So, these are young people who are active in the labour force and have a family, or people who are dreaming of changing the world and making a contribution to our society. Learning that our body is an obstacle to achieving our goals is a hard reality to accept.

In Saint-Hubert, there is the Association sclérose en plaques Rive-Sud. This organization, which could see its funding eliminated by the United Way of Greater Montreal, provides support to patients and to those close to them, so that they can learn to live with multiple sclerosis. The association has been providing these services since 1976.

The Association sclérose en plaques Rive-Sud supports people with multiple sclerosis and their families as they learn to live with and cope with the illness. The association responds to the needs of both the individual and the family, in person or by telephone, and helps to break down the isolation of people with MS by offering activities like coffee meetings, speakers and community dinners.

Living with multiple sclerosis is very difficult, and I want to congratulate them on the work they do, both employees and volunteers, and of course their board of directors. I would like to thank them for the work they do in our community and for supporting the cause of multiple sclerosis.

Like some of my colleagues, I had the pleasure of meeting some extraordinary people who suffer from multiple sclerosis last October. They came to meet with me on behalf of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. Personally, I had the pleasure of meeting with Denis Baribeau and Hana Salaheddine, who live in Trois-Rivières and Montreal, respectively. I was impressed by their will to live and by how active they are.

Denis and Hana made some recommendations that I think are important and useful. One of them is to amend the employment insurance system to make it possible to receive partial benefits. At present, 80% of people with MS are ultimately no longer able to work. As well, some people with MS have to be absent from work for treatment or when they have flare-ups. More flexible employment insurance benefits would be of enormous help to them.

They also proposed that more support be provided for family caregivers, in particular by making the tax credit for caregivers refundable, which is not the case at present, and implementing a national strategy for family caregivers. This is an avenue that should be explored, in my opinion.

It is important to provide support for people with multiple sclerosis. The illness is difficult enough, without even counting the financial complications, employment and mobility. We also need to provide the most accurate and detailed information possible about the treatments available. And we have to provide them with the best available treatments as soon as possible. I know the CCSVI phase I and II clinical trials should be starting soon, but we have to expedite the trials as much as possible so that people with MS and their families can know where they stand.

Federal Framework For Suicide Prevention Act February 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, this is Quebec's 22nd National Suicide Prevention Week. Thus there is no better time to talk about this bill. This year's theme is: “In our community, we care; suicide is not an option” and the goal is to change a certain cultural mentality about suicide.

In order to better understand this problem, it is important to know that suicide is not just an individual action. According to the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide, the act of suicide is related to the social and cultural context.

If suicide exists, it is because a type of distress exists that can take many forms and can be caused by many factors, including poverty, a sudden change in financial status, a social change, an illness or the termination of a romantic relationship.

As Rose-Marie Charest, president of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec, so wisely said:

An individual who is thinking about suicide does not really want to die. He just does not want to suffer any more. It is therefore up to us, as a society, to place more emphasis on preventing and easing psychological pain.

That is why we must put an end to isolation. To once again cite Ms. Charest:

We must fight suffering at every turn. We must try to understand and encourage all individuals while they are alive.

In Quebec, the suicide rate is 14 per 100,000. In my riding of Montérégie, the rate is below average at 12.7 per 100,000. These statistics are estimates from 2008-09. Although Montérégie falls below the Quebec average, there were still 165 suicides in 2009. That is a huge number because these deaths were preventable. When 165 people commit suicide, 165 families and thousands of friends and loved ones are affected. In Quebec, three people commit suicide every day. That is too many—far too many.

What I find the most striking is the difference between men and women. Men are far more likely to commit suicide, particularly those between the ages of 35 to 49, an age group whose suicide rate reached a catastrophic level of 33.9 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Here is another finding that will shock many members of the House: the age group that is most affected, among both men and women, is 35- to 49-year-olds followed by 50- to 64-year-olds. People who are in the prime of their lives are committing suicide.

There are also other groups at high risk. For example, the suicide rate among aboriginal people is five times higher than the Canadian average. Young people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are four times more likely to commit suicide than those living in wealthier areas.

Therefore, it is a public health issue. These deaths can be prevented. We must fund, support and coordinate a range of effective initiatives to prevent suicide. We must systematically evaluate initiatives and gaps in services across Canada. We must promote dialogue, research and the sharing of knowledge and skills among governments and stakeholders. Lastly, we must monitor trends and develop national guidelines in order to improve practices and intervention.

I support the bill introduced by the member for Kitchener—Conestoga. I support it because the evidence shows that information and sharing best practices effectively prevent suicide. This is very evident in Quebec. After adopting a national suicide prevention strategy, the suicide rate has dropped over the past 10 years and the results among the very young are quite impressive.

I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of this bill. I have always said that lives are saved in hospital emergency rooms. However, with this bill, we have a unique opportunity to help save lives.

Earlier, I quoted the president of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec, who said that we must fight suffering at every turn. An organization on the South Shore, Carrefour le Moutier, which serves part of my riding, is doing just that. Its work is amazing. Its office is located in Longueuil, but it works in the greater Longueuil community.

Carrefour le Moutier's initiative is called “Sentinelles”. This program trains people to recognize the signs of suffering and distress in those closest to them, and thus makes it possible for them to intervene. The main objective is to have these sentinels recognize the signs well before the person has thoughts of suicide. In my opinion, this is an example of a best practice that could be implemented throughout Quebec and Canada.

Carrefour le Moutier also provides a six-hours training to those who ask for it. The agency is proactive and trains the sentinels in at-risk settings such as schools, cégeps, universities and various workplaces. The agency also receives requests from some employers to train their employees on better prevention.

Sentinels are trained in the following three things: first, recognizing the signs of suffering and distress; second, using judgment to determine if the signs are dangerous or a precursor to something; and third, taking action or simply listening, or referring the higher-risk cases to professionals. I would like to take this opportunity in the House to commend Carrefour le Moutier on its initiative and its good work.

For years, the NDP has been calling on the government to develop a national suicide prevention strategy. It is encouraging to see the Conservative government introduce a bill on the serious national problem of suicide. It is time for us to roll up our sleeves and work together, starting here in the House, across party lines. Collaboration among the federal, provincial and territorial governments and agencies across the country will allow us to address the issue of suicide head-on, to the benefit of the people who sent us here. We care about every individual and suicide is not an option.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act February 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I feel just as passionate about this issue as my colleague. I think we are having a spurious debate here. It has been proven repeatedly that the registry saves lives.

I deplore the fact that my colleagues across the floor are playing around with assumptions about registered and unregistered weapons and the cost of maintaining the firearms registry, when we know that millions of dollars have been spent on keeping it up to date. I do not understand why they want to throw away the millions of dollars invested in the registry.

I also do not understand the comparison and degree of comparison between an edged weapon and a firearm. I do not understand the Conservative members' logic. This is about people's lives; it is not about money. It is not about the registry. It is not about—