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

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act March 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to rise to defend the rights and freedoms of women in Canada. As a woman, as a mother and as a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I believe that no woman should be subjected to gender-based violence. This is not a cultural problem—it is a societal one.

That is why I find the title of Bill S-7, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, offensive. We have gotten used to the Conservatives' catchy titles, since they love to turn their bills into newspaper headlines, but this one is an alarming racist stereotype. Without even reading the text of the bill, we already know that the government is targeting specific communities that act in a brutal or cruel way, which is what “barbaric” means.

All forms of violence against women are brutal and cruel. We do not need to target a specific community to address violence. Once again, the Conservative government is seeking to please a voter base without worrying about the consequences of what it is proposing.

As I said, I am a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Witnesses shared their opinions on the provisions of this bill before this committee on several occasions. I would like to draw from what they said to explain why this bill is not the appropriate response to the serious problem of gender-based violence.

With regard to polygamy, part 1 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to specify that a permanent resident or foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of practising polygamy in Canada. The bill provides for the deportation from Canada of anyone who practices polygamy.

My first question is this: will the communities in western Canada who practice polygamy be affected by this bill or is the Conservative government just trying to target immigrant populations? Does the word “barbaric” apply to everyone in this case or does it apply only to immigrant communities?

I am also concerned about the argument that the Conservative government is using to defend this bill. The government is saying that this bill will protect immigrant women. Polygamy becomes grounds for a departure order and for banning polygamist men and women from entering the country.

How can we protect these women if we are deporting them? Where are the provisions to protect them? The government is going to send them back to their own country and wash its hands of them, saying that the problem of polygamy is resolved in Canada. However, it is my understanding that even the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights submitted a report indicating that complementary measures must be implemented to address the polygamy problem. What is the point of those recommendations?

This Conservative government does not even consider the recommendations of its own senators.

Part 3 of the bill amends the Criminal Code regarding forced marriage in order to clarify that it is an offence for an officiant to knowingly solemnize a marriage in contravention of federal law. It also provides that it is an offence to celebrate, aid or participate in a marriage rite or ceremony knowing that one of the persons being married is doing so against their will or is under the age of 16 years.

It is clear that everyone in the House wants the same thing: we are fighting forced marriage, which is an attack on the rights and freedoms of women. No woman should be subjected to gender-based violence, which includes forced and underage marriage. However, criminalizing forced marriage by creating a separate offence in the Criminal Code is not a wise solution. In saying that, I am echoing what the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic said when it appeared before the Standing Committee on Status of Women last month. This organization works on violence against women and fights forced marriage. I want to emphasize that because these are the people we should be listening to as we make decisions about legislation. We cannot draft bills as important as Bill S-7 without listening to the advice of people on the ground.

Women who are forced to marry do not necessarily want to speak out because they are afraid of leaving their family or exposing them to prosecution. Once again, if we criminalize forced marriage, these women will no longer seek out assistance or legal services.

Also, addressing the problem of forced marriage by amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is a delicate matter. A number of witnesses told us that women who have a precarious immigration status and are victims of violence, particularly by forced marriage, are less protected than Canadian women or permanent residents. Because of the way the system is designed, they can be deported just for being victims of violence.

In addition to this lack of protection there is also a lack of information. Sponsored women who are victims of violence do not report their sponsor for fear of being deported, because they do not know what consequences this will have on their status. Instead of blaming them, as this bill does, we should be creating a process that ensures that women have basic information on immigration rules. The more women know about their rights, the more comfortable they will be speaking out against the violence they suffer.

Every time we talk about violence against women, the organizations and individuals we hear from mention the need to have a national strategy to prevent violence against women. Practically everyone says the same thing: education through prevention must be the focal point of our efforts to fight violence against women. In order to do that, associations and organizations must receive adequate funding and support for their initiatives. They have ambitious, promising programs that could help put an end, in the long term, to all forms of violence, including polygamy and forced marriage, as we are discussing here today.

In closing, I would like to say that people want to be protected and they want to integrate. Unfortunately, this bill targets them and makes them out to be criminals.

The use of the word “barbaric” in the title of the bill categorizes violence against women. It reinforces marginalization and stereotypes. To marginalize is to isolate the people we should be protecting and helping break free of this vicious circle.

I know that the Conservative government has a tendency to turn a deaf ear when we on this side of the House try to make changes to its bills. However, I invite the minister to hold serious consultations on a wide scale with community groups and experts in order to effectively deal with the problem of sexual violence.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act March 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my colleague on the other side. I had the pleasure of sitting with her on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

First of all, I think the word “barbaric” is very strong and it hints at xenophobia and stereotypes.

Why does my colleague think the government is targeting racial minorities by perpetuating offensive stereotypes instead of implementing constructive measures to prevent gender-based violence everywhere in Canada?

Criminal Code March 10th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Conservatives are using and abusing our legislative system to achieve their political ends.

The bill they introduced caters to their electoral base and the gun lobby. This bill provides that low-velocity rifles such as BB guns and air guns are deemed not to be firearms.

The member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette says that these weapons—and they are certainly weapons—these air guns are just as dangerous as firearms.

According to this bill, these weapons are not as dangerous as other firearms. The bill would even make them easier to access and use. Storage regulations require firearms to be stored unloaded and locked in a cabinet or a specific part of the house. This bill would remove those requirements.

Air guns would no longer be subject to this rule and could be left out in the open. They would be accessible at all times regardless of the circumstances.

Imagine seeing people carrying such a weapon attached to their belt as an everyday occurrence. If there are no regulations on transporting and carrying such weapons, that is what could happen.

This is not the wild west. We need to regulate the possession, acquisition and use of weapons, not deregulate them.

I would remind the House that the Canadian Police Association has expressed some reservations about the bill. It said that the number of convictions for transporting air rifles and BB guns is currently under 10, which is very low. Since the number is so low, the association believes that the changes proposed in Bill C-637 are unjustified, but I doubt the member opposite listened to the association.

Making it easier to transport these weapons will make the job of police officers that much harder. Such a freedom, which I would call reckless, would make their working conditions more dangerous, because it is hard to distinguish ordinary weapons from air guns just by looking at them.

To refresh the memories of members across the aisle, think about the tragic, fatal incident that happened last November in Cleveland. A 12-year-old child who was handling a pellet gun was shot and killed by a police officer, because even from less than three metres away, the police officer could not visually distinguish the pellet gun from a real weapon.

Bill C-637 could cause confusion and dangerous situations for police forces and for anyone carrying an air gun. Any way you look at it, nothing good can come of this bill.

We are giving people who are psychologically or emotionally unstable, or both, as well as criminals, another weapon to use against the police.

If this bill did not serve the interests of the Conservative Party and the Liberals, if this bill was not designed to help them prepare for the next election and if this bill truly was about promoting public safety, then the Conservatives would devote their time and energy to helping law enforcement and supporting them in their mission to keep the peace and protect the public.

It is not right to arm people against one another, or arm them against the police. Instead, we must encourage the best options and alternatives. This bill will breed mistrust and fear in our society.

The Conservatives only take care of themselves. The only party capable of forming a government that will take care of Canadians and their safety is our party, the NDP.

Taxation February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, there are fewer and fewer volunteers to help Canadians with their taxes. The Conservatives are adding to the red tape burden and reducing training opportunities for volunteers. Also, believe it or not, in 2016 the Conservative are even going to make these volunteers submit to fingerprinting. It seems the Conservatives are doing everything they can to complicate the lives of honest citizens.

Will the minister give the volunteers what they need to help Canadian families prepare their tax returns?

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech given by my colleague opposite.

Let me just say that I find our government's response to this attack absolutely shocking. The government is going to put our security services in the hands of those who failed that day—I recognize the work of the RCMP, but that day, the RCMP failed in its duty. The government is going to give the RCMP jurisdiction over the security force that managed to stop the individual, our House of Commons security service.

I would also like to point out that the motion, which uses the October 22 attack as an exercise or an excuse to give the RCMP more power, is an insult to the brave men and women who protected us so well that day.

My question for my colleague is clear: does he not think that the purpose of this motion is to take control over security in this precinct away from our Speaker and our parliamentary security services and give that power to the RCMP, which, as we we know, is controlled by the government?

Petitions February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today signed by hundreds of my constituents regarding CBC/Radio-Canada. Budget cuts to CBC/Radio-Canada are undermining the strength of our public broadcaster. A self-respecting democracy needs a public broadcaster that is independent from the government, so that it can conduct nuanced analyses of political, economic and social issues in the country.

The petitioners are calling on the government to stop making cuts and to provide adequate funding to ensure that all regions across the country receive quality service.

Mental Health February 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this is suicide prevention week in Quebec, and I would like to acknowledge the exceptional work done by the stakeholders in my riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, as well as all the work done in the greater Longueuil area.

On November 11, 2014, I invited some mental health professionals to a round table in order to identify best practices for suicide prevention.

Today I am very pleased to act as a spokesperson for those stakeholders and call on the government to grant mental health organizations the resources they need to create a network of significant, positive and constructive support.

We have to work even harder to ensure that mental illness is not ignored. It is time to invest in the psychological health and well-being of Canadians.

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and almost-neighbour from Chambly—Borduas.

I know that he works hard, since I have seen him first-hand, and I thank him for his relevant and logical speech.

In their 2014 budget, the Conservatives acknowledged that the transaction fees imposed on Canadian businesses were among the highest in the world and they promised to take action.

The result is that credit card companies only have to take measures on a voluntary basis. We have learned over the years that the Conservatives love self-regulation and allowing businesses to implement their own measures.

This shows that the Conservatives do not plan on standing up for SMEs and Canadian consumers when it could be detrimental to Bay Street interests.

The NDP called for the creation of an ombudsman to regulate the credit card fees that card issuers charge merchants.

Why does my colleague think that the Conservatives will not accept that suggestion?

Red Tape Reduction Act February 3rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague on the other side of the House, but I did not hear him talk about anything relevant to small and medium-sized businesses.

I visited SMEs in my riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, and business owners all agree that unnecessary red tape hurts them financially and causes them to lose valuable time.

Why do the Conservatives not eliminate regulations that are not in the public interest, unless it is because these regulations serve their own interests? I would like a straight answer from my colleague on the other side of the House.

Railway Safety Act January 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on behalf of the residents of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert on a matter as important as railway safety. I have met with them on numerous occasions to hear what they had to say about this issue. I can say that they are very worried and they are calling for more stringent regulations to be put in place and, most importantly, to be enforced.

It is true that additional safety measures have been taken since the terrible accident in Lac-Mégantic in July 2013 in relation to the transportation of dangerous goods, but we can do more and we have to do better.

Bill C-627, which we are debating today, would give the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors the power to order a railway company or the owners of a crossing to do certain work, not only where railway safety is threatened, but also where the safety of persons and property is threatened. For example, the bill would allow the minister to issue an order requiring that a company take corrective measures in a case where barriers continued to malfunction on a track.

As a result, if I am interpreting this bill correctly, this implies that the minister is going to have each section of track inspected and that she could require the companies to take measures to improve safety.

On paper, this bill would meet the expectations of the people calling for more pedestrian crossings and more investment in making those crossings safe. However, it does not answer all the essential questions, such as how frequently these inspections will be done, and with what resources.

The railway safety budget was cut by $5 million between 2012 and last year. This means that every year, there is a reduction in the railway safety budget. In addition, this bill talks about level crossings. The government already has a program for level crossings, but the money allocated to it is not being spent. There is apparently $3 million intended for improving level crossings left over.

My colleague from Brossard—La Prairie went to meet with the people of Verchères, next to my riding. The municipal councillors told him about something interesting. The municipality of Verchères applied for a grant from the grade crossing improvement program in 2010, to put up a safety barrier. Well, to date, it is still on a waiting list.

Now, they would have us believe that this bill will change things, and starting today, the Conservative government is going to listen to Canadians and provide them with safe level crossings? The government had money to invest in level crossings, but it has still done nothing. They must think we are fools.

The second clause of the bill caught my attention. The bill would give railway inspectors the power to forbid the use of railway works or equipment if it poses a threat to the safety of persons or property.

The Auditor General and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada have clearly said that the department does not have enough resources. The department itself is refusing to say how many qualified inspectors can conduct these audits.

We know that Transport Canada’s Rail Safety Directorate is underfunded. It does not have enough staff and the employees it does have do not have enough training.

According to the Auditor General's fall 2013 report, Transport Canada needs about 20 system inspectors to audit each of the federal railway companies every three years. Right now, the department does not have that many qualified inspectors to conduct those audits. That is not very reassuring in terms of enforcing this bill.

There are still too many deaths and serious accidents at level crossings. Protecting the public and the environment basic government responsibilities. Self-regulation and self-inspection are not working. The government must address the lack of oversight and inadequate audits. In 2009, there were 19 deaths related to level crossing accidents. In 2013, that number rose to 31.

In my riding, there was a serious accident in 2013 because there was no pedestrian crossing. How many similar cases are there in other ridings?

The NDP has long called for the federal government to tighten the grade crossing regulations and implement the TSB’s recommendations. The private member’s bill contains some good elements. The government—and I do in fact mean the government—must undertake a complete review of the railway safety regulations and how they are enforced and find ways to improve them, rather than depending on private members’ bills.

Obviously, I intend to vote in favour of measures that can improve level crossing safety or railway safety in general, but the government cannot shirk its duties. It has to take full responsibility for railway safety. A rigorous evaluation of the state of railway safety in the country is needed and we need to make that happen.