House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was help.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Vimy (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Gender Equality Week Act June 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on the private member's bill introduced by the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore, Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week.

Before I begin, I would like to commend the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for the incredible work that he has done. He made a concerted effort to work with all members in a spirit of collegiality to reach a broad consensus on the need to pass Bill C-309, which is an important symbolic gesture for Canada and which will result in an extensive public awareness campaign.

Every year, we will spend a week marking the importance of achieving gender equality in Canada and throughout the world in order to put an end to the systemic discrimination that threatens women on many fronts.

Gender equality week will be a time to shed some light on the obstacles women constantly face in their daily lives and to let Canadians know what they can do to advance this cause.

I mentioned systemic discrimination, and I think everyone here is familiar with the obstacles and the various forms of discrimination that women face in their personal and professional lives. These obstacles are outlined in some detail in the bill's preamble, which describes the various types of challenges women face. It reads: Canada, women are more likely than men to be victims of gender-based violence, including sexual assault and intimate partner violence;

Whereas Indigenous women, be they First Nation, Métis or Inuit, are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and sexual exploitation;

...Whereas Canadian women face barriers in pursuing and completing post-secondary education and pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics;

...Whereas Canadian women face challenges in being promoted to executive or board management positions, and those who do reach such positions are often paid less than men in similar positions;

Those are just some of the things that women in Canada and abroad experience. I thank the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore for including them in this bill.

We know we have to raise people's awareness of these problems and tackle them by adopting pragmatic policies that position us to support women throughout their lives, to provide them with services that are flexible enough to adapt to the new professional and day-to-day realities facing Canadian women, to enable women to achieve their professional goals, whatever they might be, and to end violence against women. This bill was introduced by a male member of the Liberal caucus, which I see as a good sign. More men need to stand up for women's equality in Canada.

Awareness is key. We need to promote a cultural and ideological ideal. We need to build a society that fights for gender equality and does not perpetuate stereotypes and their preconceived notions of inferiority and natural tendency.

This is another step toward dismantling social concepts of masculinity and femininity that use poorly defined behavioural standards to restrict how people interact and participate in public and private spaces.

We know that every aspect of society benefits when different points of view are expressed. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women, of which I have the honour of being a member, heard many accounts describing the benefits of having women on boards of directors, in politics, and in every aspect of management in our businesses and public institutions.

Businesses are more successful and generally project a more positive image when they have many women on staff as well as in management positions. This is not a statistic, it is a fact, and yet women are often left out of positions where they might contribute to decision-making, which is unfortunate for society as a whole.

The time has come to do away with the prejudices and concerns around hiring women that stem from preconceived notions. Bill C-309 can serve as a catalyst toward helping fulfill Canada's commitment to gender equality education and awareness.

Everyone knows that to achieve true gender equality and to lift countless women out of the cycle of poverty, discrimination, and marginalization, there needs to be a major cultural shift in how we recognize women's contribution to society, both in their public and private lives.

It is important that we recognize the work that goes into supporting the family unit. This work, often undervalued, continues to fall on women because traditional gender roles still result in women often being the ones to provide care. This prevents women from entering the workforce and permanently delays or degrades their economic potential and, by extension, the economic potential of the entire country, through loss of talent. We need to reverse this trend so that women can work in the same areas and have the same responsibilities as men, both at home and in the workplace, so they can be empowered, become independent and fully achieve their social and economic potential.

The federal government, with its many initiatives, is working to improve gender equality in Canada and around the world, including through the following investments: $7 billion over 10 years to create and maintain high-quality child care spaces; over $11.2 billion over 11 years for an inclusive national housing strategy; the new tax-free Canada child benefit, especially helpful for families headed by single mothers; a new $40-million fund from the Business Development Bank of Canada for technology companies headed by women, made up of venture capital and growth capital; and an additional $10 million for regional initiatives to help women start businesses.

This bill will support the commendable efforts already underway by officially institutionalizing gender equality. It will create an annual week recognizing women’s equality in Canada, so that gender equality will finally be recognized as a cultural norm. As well, by promoting women’s empowerment, the bill will ensure that we can finally see more women on corporate boards, more women in politics, and more women in science and technology. This will be the ideological centrepiece for a series of pragmatic, feminist policies.

In closing, I wish to point out that Bill C-309 is a very important step toward launching a comprehensive and extended awareness-raising campaign on gender equality. The only way to drive real change is to educate and raise awareness on this issue. I hope that my colleagues will vote in favour of this bill, with amendments, in order to support our ongoing efforts to achieve gender equality in Canada. The more we fight for this cause, the more Canadian women will benefit.

Citizenship Act June 12th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his eloquent speech.

Since he is an immigrant like me, does he not believe that by allowing newcomers under 18 to obtain citizenship this bill makes it easier for them to integrate and helps them feel more at home, while it further enriches Canadian society? What does the hon. member think about this amendment to the legislation?

International Trade June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the government is working to support the middle class by diversifying trade and updating existing agreements.

The Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine works to promote gender equality. This week, the minister and his Chilean counterpart signed a modernized agreement that includes a chapter on trade and gender equality.

Can the parliamentary secretary tell the House why this chapter in the modernized Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement is so important?

HPV Prevention Week May 30th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about the excellent work being done to prevent the transmission of human papilloma virus infections, many of which can cause different types of cancer.

The Federation of Medical Women of Canada has organized events on Parliament Hill to promote the first-ever HPV Prevention Week, which will take place the first week of October. This is a first step toward raising awareness about this extremely contagious virus.

I am proud to say that Canada has been a world leader on this issue for over 10 years now. I call on our government to maintain its support for prevention strategies as we strive to eradicate HPV. Imagine a Canada without HPV and the cancers it causes.

Petitions May 15th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to present petition e-721, signed by 4,066 people from across the country. The petition calls upon the Minister of Transport to restore licensing and to remove the ban to operate direct flights from Canada to Beirut, highlighting the underlying economic benefits for both countries should these routes become available.

Canada is home to one of the largest Lebanese diasporas, whose members would benefit greatly from this change.

Knar Bohjelian Yemenidjian May 1st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the last survivor of the Armenian genocide in Canada, Knar Bohjalian Yemenidjian, passed away in January in Montreal at the age of 107, just shy of her 108th birthday. Knar was a living example of resilience and strength whose life story serves as a reminder to stand vigilant against violence and injustice.

I had the privilege of meeting her at the 100th commemoration of the Armenian genocide in Ottawa, and last week, I had the honour of reading the Prime Minister's letter at the 102nd commemoration in Laval.

Her story and the fate of thousands of others like her who were not as fortunate are a constant reminder that we, as legislators and community leaders, still have a tremendous amount of work to do.

We cannot rest until we have rid the world of injustice, intolerance, and violence.

Rest in peace, Knar.

Vimy April 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to talk about the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, celebrated on April 9, and an important person in my riding, the late Fernand Trépanier.

The significance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge not only showcased the unity and perseverance of Canadians, it was also a defining moment for Canada on the world stage.

Mr. Trépanier, a World War II veteran, fought for decades to have the federal government pay tribute to Canadian veterans by naming a federal riding after Vimy.

Mr. Trépanier saw his dream come true before he passed away. In 2015, the riding that I have the honour of representing was created. Today, on behalf of the people of Vimy, I want to thank Mr. Trépanier and all veterans, to whom we owe a great debt. Lest we forget.

Family, Children and Social Development April 4th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, today is national family caregiver day. Those who help sick or dying relatives deserve great recognition for their dedication. Budget 2017 sets out new measures to support these people, who sometimes have to take time away from work to care for their family members.

Could the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development tell us about the new program for family caregivers?

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis March 23rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion No. 105, which was moved by my esteemed colleague from Humber River—Black Creek in order to reaffirm and consolidate our fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a fatal motor neuron disease that causes the dysfunction and then destruction of the neurons that control voluntary muscle movement. If it is a horrible disease to think about, it is a thousand times worse to live with. The causes of this disease, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, are unknown in 90% to 95% of cases, and there is no cure.

At a time when medicine and health care are evolving so rapidly, it is possible to make a difference. We have the financial, scientific, and technological resources to fund and implement research activities that will lead to revolutionary breakthroughs. Two infectious diseases have been eradicated worldwide in the past 40 years, and we now look forward to the possibility of eradicating four others.

In fact, smallpox, a common illness, has now been eradicated. It is one of the greatest achievements of medical innovation and global co-ordination ever carried out. Furthermore, on October 14, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization announced that rinderpest, the other viral disease of cattle and other ruminants, has been completely eradicated thanks to human efforts. The four other diseases that are being eradicated are polio, guinea-worm disease, yaws, and malaria. These diseases could conceivably disappear in our or our children's lifetimes.

This large-scale global mission is no small task. It requires time, money, and sensitivity. Above all it is necessary. We have the tools to put an end to these debilitating diseases that cause so many deaths. I was very pleased to learn that Canada has joined Project MinE, a multinational study of the DNA profiles of 22,500 people. The goal of this project is to identify the genetic commonalities of people affected by ALS. It is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. Only 62.25 DNA profiles have been collected in Canada, which represents 7% of our goal. Today, I support my colleague from Humber River—Black Creek in her efforts to ask the government to reaffirm its commitment to finding a cure for ALS.

About 1,000 people die of the disease and 1,000 more are diagnosed with it every year in Canada. At least 3,000 Canadians and 200,000 people worldwide have the disease. This number may seem low compared to other infectious diseases. That is not because the disease is uncommon; it is because 80% of people with ALS die within two to five years of being diagnosed. Once the degenerative progression begins, sufferers know their life will be cut short. According to ALS Canada, the cycle is like a revolving door because people do not recover from the disease and there are no effective treatments.

We all watched our dear friend and colleague, the Hon. Mauril Bélanger, succumb with startling speed to the disease. In November, the member for Oakville North—Burlington rose in the House to bid farewell to an active member of her community, Tim Robertson, who died of ALS. This disease can strike anyone, so it deserves our attention.

As with many matters brought before the House, cost is always an issue. What does it cost taxpayers and people with ALS? I cannot answer the first question, but I can share some facts in relation to the second.

The costs involved for people with ALS and their families range from $150,000 to $250,000. Costs include care and equipment, as well as potential loss of income if patients or their family members are forced to stop working. Most people with this disease receive treatments outside of hospitals, and they count on their families and the community to meet their medical needs.

We saw how the viral success of the infamous ice bucket challenge helped raise awareness about ALS. In Canada, nearly $20 million has been invested over the past two years in research into this disease thanks to funds raised as part of that challenge. Brain Canada, with the support of Health Canada, matched all funds raised. This proves that people care about this issue, they want research to be subsidized, and they want a cure.

In Canada, funding for ALS research usually amounts to between $1.5 million and $2 million. That is not enough to discover new treatments that might put an end to this debilitating and fatal disease. Canada has always been a leader in science and technology research.

Let us take advantage of our wealth in human capital in these fields in order to make lasting progress. Imagine what leadership from the government would help accomplish for Canadians and for the global fight to find preventive and proactive solutions to ALS. Imagine alleviating the huge financial burden on our health system and our patients. Imagine the relief of all these families who can only helplessly watch their loved ones fade away.

This goal is not unattainable. It could be reached sooner than we think. Let us promise a future where our children and grandchildren will one day hear the news of a medical breakthrough to cure ALS.

I will close by quoting Dr. Charles Krieger, professor at Simon-Fraser University, chair of the Scientific Medical Advisory Council of the ALS Society of Canada and member of the ALS Society of Canada board of directors.

He said that having been focused on ALS research and care for over 25 years, he had seen the evolution of our understanding and ability to treat this disease since the beginning of the genetic era. Discoveries of the last few years, combined with recent technological advancement, make this an unprecedented time where we now can conceive of a day where ALS is a treatable disease, but reaching that point will still take many years without some funding beyond grassroots fundraising. He added that an investment by the federal government at this critical time will yield impactful results that will accelerate our ability to reach this amazing goal.

I think he is right. By strengthening our resolve, we can make ALS a thing of the past.

International Women's Day March 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating International Women's Day, our annual tribute to women's contributions to society and a reminder that we are working diligently to achieve gender equality.

As a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I had the privilege of addressing the 338 delegates from Daughters of the Vote, to highlight the achievements of many women pioneers in Canada and to discuss the importance of continuing to lead the way in the fight for equality and women's rights.

Equality matters. The work being done by community organizations as well as Status of Women Canada and its Standing Committee on the Status of Women is of vital importance. Equality is crucial because an inclusive society that strives to make women independent is more prosperous than one that marginalizes them.

I invite everyone to work together to achieve gender equality.