House of Commons photo


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

National Strategy for Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) Act December 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Etobicoke North, for the energy and passion she has put into the cause of multiple sclerosis.

Canada is one of the countries most affected by this illness. It is believed that between 50,000 and 80,000 Canadians are affected, and three new cases are diagnosed every day in Canada. 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 your body is an obstacle to achieving your goals is a hard reality to face and difficult to accept. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary from person to person. They range from blurred vision and extreme fatigue to trouble speaking and muscle stiffness. The most severe cases can involve memory problems and partial or full paralysis. With this illness, you need help from your loved ones, at least some of the time. So I hope that this government will do more for informal caregivers, who often must take time off work and bear the costs of caring for their loved ones.

The reality is no rosier for patients. Almost 80% of multiple sclerosis patients end up unable to do full-time work. So it is urgent to give those people the flexibility they need so that they remain active and stay out of poverty. This is even more important when we realize that 75% of patients are women. I remind the House that more women than men live on a low income. One of the objectives of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is to improve the system of employment insurance sickness benefits so that compensation can be paid when work is missed because of flare-ups. I hope the government is listening.

At the moment, multiple sclerosis is incurable. A number of treatments can slow the progress of the disease and reduce the frequency of the attacks or the intensity of the symptoms. But nothing yet lets patients tell their loved ones that they are cured. So we should not be shocked to learn that a 2009 announcement of a potential cure gave Canadians a lot of hope. But they are frustrated at not having access to it here. The treatment in question was developed by Dr. Paolo Zamboni. He feels that an obstruction in certain parts of the system of veins in the neck and the head makes that system unable to drain the blood effectively from the brain and the spinal cord. This could be the cause of the iron deposits in the central nervous system which provoke an immune response associated with multiple sclerosis.

The proposed treatment, the possible therapy, consists of an angioplasty, in which veins are opened and a small balloon or a vascular stent is inserted. The first trials that Dr. Zamboni conducted were very promising. But the scientific community is still very cautious. In fact, the cause of the disease that Dr. Zamboni suggests was not considered by experts until now. After the shock that the initial discovery caused, a number of studies have been undertaken on various aspects of the theory; the results are inconclusive to say the least. Some support Dr. Zamboni's conclusions, others reject them.

As a physician, I have to admit that I am both intrigued with and skeptical of the theory that Dr. Zamboni is putting forward. 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. But 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 doctor, 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 are putting a lot of hope into the procedure.

International Trade December 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, this government's wait-and-see attitude is deplorable. Canada has the fourth highest drug costs and with these EU free trade negotiations may go to the top of the list.

In this period of economic uncertainty do we really want to further burden the sick?

Will the Minister of Health defend the interests of Canadians and ensure that they do not end up paying the price of the EU free trade agreement?

International Trade December 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, with its poor negotiating skills, the Conservative government is going to be holding the short end of the stick in the European Union free trade agreement. Canadians already pay a lot for their medicines and will have to pay almost $3 billion more to have access to them. This will put $3 billion more in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies without us obtaining anything in return.

Does this government realize that medicines are not a luxury but a necessity for sick people?

Points of Order November 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, although my colleague, the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs and member for Ottawa West—Nepean, is not here, I would like to remind him, regarding what he said during oral questions last Friday, that I am the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, and my name is Djaouida Sellah, not Pauline Marois.

Health November 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to health accords, the federal government's role goes beyond just reaching for its chequebook.

We still have not seen much progress on the government's commitments with regard to electronic health records, a national pharmaceutical strategy, and access to health care for aboriginal people.

When will the government stop denying it has failed when it comes to the health accords? Where is the necessary leadership for improving our health care system?

Copyright Modernization Act November 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague on the other side for her question about the protection of copyright.

Unfortunately, as we have already heard, this bill does not really benefit creators. It gives more latitude and powers to major corporations. I understand and I am also concerned about piracy. However, as my colleagues mentioned this morning, young people say that they can break digital locks. The digital locks we have been talking about will not be very useful for the average creator and producer. We are not talking about stars of Hollywood proportions.

Copyright Modernization Act November 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his important question. As you heard, I focused on the fact that the average artist is barely making ends meet. I was not talking about stars, nor about the people who cannot make ends meet at all. They are the people we are concerned about. Unfortunately, with this bill, major corporations will have the right to provide services and not the average artist.

That is my main concern, and this also has to do with accessibility for students. Unfortunately, after 30 days, their course books will be erased. Once again, this makes people even poorer by indirectly taking away a source of income.

Copyright Modernization Act November 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I wish I knew what the Conservatives have against this country's workers. After the tax cuts to large corporations, the subsidies to oil companies and all the inappropriate expenditures for the G8 and the G20—always with Canadian taxpayers' money—the government now wants to target our artists' income.

Many of the artists we love, admire and appreciate are not rich. The majority of them have a very modest income and, because of the nature of their occupation, it is not a stable income. They must accept contracts and work at many jobs to provide for their needs and those of their family.

In Quebec, the average income of artists is estimated at $24,600 per year, based on the 2006 census data. We are talking about $24,600 to pay for rent, food and transportation, to send one's children to school and look after their needs. That amount must also cover heating costs and the material needed to create. What makes things even worse is that, with an annual income of $24,600, Quebec artists are considered to be the richest in Canada. That same year, the average income for artists in Canada was estimated at $22,700 per year.

These numbers reflect the reality of our actors, painters and singers. Our artists are struggling to make ends meet. While all the evidence should convince the government to provide increased support to our creators, it prefers, as in Bills C-10 and C-19, to ignore the facts and please the cultural industry's big businesses. This bill is going to hurt artists and make them poorer. And they certainly cannot afford that.

The Union des artistes is worried about its members' income and so are we on this side of the House. How can artists continue to create if they do not have the means to do so? Copyright royalties are an important source of income for Canada's creators. This government must ensure creators receive their fair share and are paid for their work.

I wish this government would take out its earplugs and start listening to the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, which is asking that the bill be amended so that artists are compensated fairly for the use of their creative work in the new media.

I also wish it would listen to the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada, which is telling it that this bill is going to have a significant impact on creators' income and that it needs to be amended in order to strike a balance between the interests of creators and those of consumers. Unfortunately, as with Bills C-10, C-13, C-18 and C-20, this government prefers to turn a deaf ear.

Passing this bill would have a very negative impact on our country's cultural industry, and it would have a direct impact on creators' income. Moreover, many people are worried about producers and publishers, who would not enjoy the same protection as holders of scientific patents.

We are not stupid. Canada's copyright laws need to be reviewed. Former Bill C-32 was reviewed in committee, but the Conservatives chose yet again to ignore the recommendations made by the witnesses who appeared before the committee.

This bill could potentially create more problems than it solves. That is why I cannot support it in its current form. Even the Union des artistes finds that some of the wording is ambiguous and that court challenges are inevitable. For example, they cite the concept of fair dealing for the purpose of education and that of reasonable grounds.

Why is this government still refusing to listen to opinions that differ from its own? Why does this government not want to work with all the players involved in copyright in order to reform it properly and adapt it to the reality of the 21st century? Such stubbornness would not be so bad if Canadians did not have to bear the consequences of the government's bad bill. Copyright in the digital age has to build on two fundamental principles: accessibility for consumers and remuneration for the artists.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government has not respected either principle. It is directly compromising the millions of dollars in royalties artists receive under current copyright legislation, and it is encroaching on consumer rights by adopting provisions on digital locks.

The fact is that this bill gives consumers rights they will not be able to exercise. The general provisions on digital locks will allow the companies to decide which legal rights can be exercised and which cannot. This unbalanced perspective will end up harming artists and educators. That is also quite worrisome.

I urge this government, the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, to review this bill in light of what was said in committee during consideration of the now defunct Bill C-32 and to listen to what the artists have been trying to get across, in order to ensure that this copyright reform is balanced and beneficial to everyone.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act November 15th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, because of my background, I am very interested in Bill C-13 regarding the partial forgiveness of student loans for doctors and nurses.

I would like to make a comment to the hon. member opposite. I listened closely to his speech. This measure is not sufficient to help doctors and nurses in rural areas. The criteria—including those that may prevent specialists from practising in rural areas—exclude a large number of people who are filling the positions we greatly need filled across the country. This measure does not really solve the problem of the shortage of doctors and nurses. It does not include any initiatives to increase registration in medical schools and nursing programs. It does not solve the current shortage of front-line medical professionals. It simply serves to move health care professionals from urban to rural areas.

Purple Day Act November 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, here on this side of the House, we support the principle of the bill introduced by the hon. member for Halifax West. Given that Canadians with epilepsy still face a great deal of prejudice, parliamentary recognition of a day dedicated to epilepsy awareness represents an excellent initiative. I thank the hon. member for Halifax West and Cassidy Megan, who first suggested declaring such a day back in 2008.

Thus, I support this bill in principle. Unfortunately, as it stands, the bill contains a few translation errors. The most significant error in the bill is the use of the expression “Journée pourpre” in French, when the term recognized by epilepsy advocacy groups in Quebec and the official term used by the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance is “Journée lavande”. I will be very happy to propose this amendment once the bill is referred to committee. I would also like to draw the House's attention to the French word “condition” instead of “maladie”, as suggested by France Picard, the executive director of the Association québécoise de l'épilepsie.

As I mentioned earlier, I support this bill in principle. We need to raise awareness among Canadians about a condition that affects more than 300,000 people in Canada, including 45,000 in Quebec, along with their families, relatives and friends. Those affected face many myths and prejudices every day. Some of these prejudices are minor but others have more serious consequences. In Montreal, a young woman was fired by her employer after indicating on insurance forms that she has epilepsy. Her employer was unaware that, like two-thirds of those affected by epilepsy, this young woman uses medication to manage her seizures and the likelihood that she will miss work because of seizures is low. This is an example of the type of prejudice that people with epilepsy still have to deal with today. These prejudices have a serious impact on their lives. It would be easy to say that this example is only an anecdote and an isolated incident, but organizations working in this field regularly see such cases.

Prejudices against people with epilepsy and the fear of epilepsy create additional obstacles for those living with the condition. As I just mentioned, employment can be affected, although not everyone with epilepsy has been fired or is unemployed. Organizations working in this area have clearly stated that people with epilepsy are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed. Access to education is also an obstacle for some people.

Prejudices cause mental health problems. Rejection by school friends or colleagues due to ignorance about epilepsy affects one's social life, love life and self-confidence. The resulting isolation translates into higher rates of depression and, unfortunately, higher rates of suicide than the Canadian average.

Raising public awareness will definitely have a positive effect on the lives of all Canadians affected by epilepsy. Knowledge can dispel prejudices arising from ignorance. Furthermore, educating health professionals is also desirable and a day of awareness will help.

For certain people with this illness, surgery is the only possible treatment. But there are currently too few specialists who realize that surgery is no longer a last resort for treating epilepsy—far from it, in fact. There is now a tool available to health care professionals that allows them to evaluate whether a patient should be referred for surgery or not. It was created by a team led by Dr. Nathalie Jetté from the University of Calgary. It is available online to all health care professionals. I would like to congratulate them publicly for this tool.

An epilepsy awareness day would educate the public and health care professionals about epilepsy, its consequences and treatments.

For the majority of people with epilepsy, treatment is simple: medication. Medication allows them to live their lives without the perpetual fear of a seizure. Medication also allows them to get a driver's licence and hold down a job.

Right now, a lack of certain medications is threatening to leave many cases of epilepsy untreated. The Canadian Epilepsy Alliance sounded the alarm in October and it was unequivocal: lack of medication can endanger the lives of those with this condition. Lack of medication means that the seizures will start again. Changing medication can also have the same effect.

How can the government see this situation and sit idly by? We need to put words into action. If the House supports this bill—which I hope will be the case—it also has the moral obligation to ensure that those living with epilepsy do not have to deal with additional obstacles due to factors such as the quest for profit or the fact that certain companies are no longer producing less profitable drugs.

The minister and this government must take immediate action to solve the shortage of anti-epileptic drugs and many other drugs. This government must not allow itself to be fooled by the pharmaceutical industry. It must take action to ensure that all Canadians have access to the drugs prescribed by their health professionals. Furthermore, Canadians have the right to know what measures this government is taking to ensure our drug supply and, if that is not the case, to know why this government feels justified in endangering the lives of thousands of Canadians because of its inaction.

The drug shortage is not a new phenomenon, and this government needs to be accountable and explain why it has not taken any action or any effective measures to resolve this problem.

I truly hope that this bill passes and that March 26 is declared Purple Day. It is important that this House recognize the initiative put forward by a young Canadian, especially since it is already recognized in over 45 countries. I can only hope that this bill will ensure that the Minister of Health pays special attention to this issue and tries to solve the drug shortage. Now would also be a good time to implement some of the measures we suggested during the last election campaign, such as a family caregiver tax benefit, which would certainly help the families of those with more severe cases of epilepsy.