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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for La Pointe-de-l'Île (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2008, with 56% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply December 10th, 2009

Madam Speaker, it seems to me that the government chose the worst possible way to manage this situation. As my colleague said, the Dutch and the British are much more transparent about the situation they find themselves in because of this awful war.

Furthermore, from the beginning in 2005, the agreements should have been more similar to the Dutch and UK agreements. I am sure the whip will recall that that is what I recommended back when he was the defence minister. He did so in the end, and he told the committee on April 25. The agreement was signed on May 3, but when he told the committee, it was a done deal, which surprised us.

Business of Supply December 10th, 2009

Madam Speaker, the important thing is to launch an inquiry. We need an inquiry to figure out who is responsible for what and to restore Canada to its rightful position.

Business of Supply December 10th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I would like to point out to my colleague that many of the soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan were Quebeckers. I would also like to point out that Quebeckers are brave and disciplined. Not a single officer has reported failure to comply or even to participate. They are enthusiastic and energetic in their work and in engagements.

I am a separatist, and yes, my goal is independence. However, those of you who have been listening will have heard me say that the situation we find ourselves in is one we share. We are still part of Canada because that is what Quebeckers want. We are loyal, and we participate in the debates. You should be glad that we care about working to restore Canada's reputation.

Business of Supply December 10th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I cannot wait to read it.

I was saying that since 2001, a number of countries—the United States first and foremost, but also NATO, which is growing larger with the addition of the eastern European countries—have plunged into another world. That means that we have to review and take a fresh look at the principles that will apply. I say “we” because I am putting everyone in the same boat to start.

It is not easy, because this is not a traditional war. We are fighting a dirty war over there. We therefore have to develop principles that are going to allow us—we are still thinking about that—not necessarily to win the war, but to enable the Afghans to regain control of their country and develop it with our help.

By the way, I am anxious for us to talk about this. We are supposed to discuss it in committee first, and then in Parliament, but we must do so. How are we going to keep going after 2011? We have to carry on, not to wage war, but to help Afghanistan develop.

Canada sent soldiers into this situation and was supposed to know how to comply with the Geneva conventions. I do not know to what extent they were studied. It may be that they were not studied at all. It seemed that what was most important was to be strong, to win the war and to help the people.

We hear ministers and generals talk about how hard they have worked. I do not doubt that, but the fact remains that the Geneva conventions were drafted to tell countries how to treat detainees in war time, or if they are in a war zone and they are taking detainees.

We have to read the Geneva conventions. We certainly have all the documentation we need right here. The respect we owe the detainees, from the accommodation we provide them to the way we treat them, in every way, shape or form, is nothing less than respect for their rights, even if we view them as criminals before they even go trial. That is the rule.

And the rule is such that if a country responsible under the Geneva conventions—either the country providing assistance or the country receiving assistance—detains someone, transfers him and suspects that the detainee will be mistreated or tortured, that country has no right to transfer the detainee.

Does that pose real problems? I am sure it does. We have been told repeatedly that Afghan prisons are poorly built and poorly equipped and that the prisoners are malnourished. This has been well documented. We have also been told, and this too has been amply documented, that the conditions in the prisons are conducive to torture and there is indeed torture. These are standard practices. Just read the report of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The commission conducted a major study on a sample of 398 prisoners. Of those, 57 detainees from Kandahar were identified as having been tortured. That is a substantial percentage.

Was it difficult to manage under these conditions? I think it was extremely difficult. Other countries have taken a different approach and have not agreed to transfer detainees to the Afghan authorities, knowing the state of the prisons and how the detainees are treated there.

That is not the purpose of this debate. However, it does help explain our anger. This is a false debate. We are right in saying that, in most situations, the signs were there and the government should have stopped transferring detainees. The government has said that, at first, it relied on the Red Cross. However, in the first agreement that was quickly negotiated and signed by General Hillier, Canada did not have full access, nor did the Red Cross.

Full access was necessary. In other words, they should have had access to the detainees at any time. There was a responsibility to keep exact written records of the detainees in order to know what happened to them. We should not forget that, in the Afghan prisons, these detainees could meet guards whom they had fought, or relatives of the guards might have been killed or injured by the detainees. When exact written records of detainees are required, there must be access to them. Without access, you cannot keep the records.

I tried to read the redacted documents we received. The bits that are visible at least allow us to understand that there was a great deal of discussion about transferring the detainees, under what conditions, and about the fact that they were unable to keep records. Someone said—and these were the exact words—“We have not tracked them for two months. Imagine what can happen in two months.” Someone wrote that.

There was no follow-up between December 2005 and May 3, 2007. There may have been good intentions, but there was no follow-up. Who can guarantee, in such cases, that the prisoners were not tortured after being transferred, even though we placed our trust in the process? After all, someone also wrote that Afghanistan was assuming responsibility for them.

This is explicitly prohibited in the Geneva convention. The country that is transferring the prisoners remains responsible and cannot transfer that responsibility.

Since that country remains responsible, if prisoners are transferred and the conditions are what they are, if there is a serious risk that the prisoner could be tortured, this contravenes the Geneva convention. That means that we could be penalized for contravening the convention.

I tried to paint a general picture. When I was young, I was a history teacher. I always made an effort not just to learn, but also to understand. What has been going on for the past few weeks? The government prevented Mr. Colvin from handing over documents that he had sent to a number of people as warnings. He had sent 18 or 19 documents all over to say that this or that could not be done. I think he said that it made no sense and that Canada would probably tarnish its reputation.

I hope that after this debate we will be able to see the documents in question.

We also heard testimony from individuals without any admission that a mistake had been made.

It makes sense that this issue would become explosive during oral question period in the House of Commons. But that is not what we want. What we want is to find a way to allow Mr. Colvin to testify, to get the documents and to restore Canada's reputation.

Business of Supply December 10th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to see you in the chair this afternoon.

Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed extraordinary events in the House. I was first elected in 1993, and I have seen a lot of brouhaha since then, but never like this. This is the kind of brouhaha that prompts us to ask questions about the role of parliamentarians.

I read a legal opinion provided by Rob Walsh, law clerk and parliamentary counsel. He is a senior parliamentary officer. He produced a document concerning the constitutional role of the House and its committees. I will read excerpts from it because I think he makes a good point and a strong one in the context of this debate.

He says:

As I indicated in my earlier letter, it is important to remember that the Committee, charged by the House with reviewing Canada's mission in Afghanistan, is at all times to be seen as carrying out its constitutional function of holding the Government to account. This is fundamental to responsible government and more particularly to the relationship between the Government and the House and its committees—

Is that strong enough? I will go on.

—and provides the constitutional basis for the demands made by the Committee upon the Government for information and for the Government's obligation to provide to the Committee the information it needs to carry out this function. The law of parliamentary privilege provides that this relationship operates unencumbered by legal constraints that might otherwise seem applicable.

I invite my hon. colleagues to read the rest of this legal opinion. Not only does it confirm the legitimacy of the motion that was moved this morning and has the support of the opposition parties, but at the same time, it confirms the importance of the parliamentary role of the committee as well as the constitutional role of parliamentarians and the committee. I invite my Conservative colleagues, some of whom might feel like they are being attacked by some of our questions or opinions, to reflect carefully on this. It is directed at all members—not only the opposition members, but also members on the government side. It says much about the importance of committees.

I would like to thank Mr. Walsh for having written this opinion and I think it could prove very useful in the future. However, why was this needed?

On the one hand, a great deal of time would be required, but my colleagues have already taken quite a bit of time. On the other hand, I would like to revisit a few crucial aspects.

After the attack on the twin towers in 2001, our world, not the entire world, but our world—where “our” world ends is up to each of us—found itself thrown into a state of war unlike any we had seen, I think, since the second world war and the Korean war. It is a context to which our minds, hearts and politics are not accustomed, a context which deserves our attention, and one in which we need to identify our principles.

Afghanistan December 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, a number of law professors believe that this government could be convicted of war crimes. According to Errol Mendes of the University of Ottawa, the law is clear: when there is a substantial risk of torture, there is an absolute obligation to stop transferring prisoners. We learned yesterday that the government has known since 2006 that prisoners handed over to Afghan authorities are at risk of being tortured.

Are these serious accusations not enough to justify a public inquiry?

Afghanistan December 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence tried to minimize his government's complicity in the torture of Afghan prisoners by saying that the government did not deliberately hand them over to be tortured. However, the Geneva convention is clear: Canada is obliged to ensure that the prisoners handed over to Afghan authorities are not at risk of being tortured. Doing otherwise constitutes a war crime.

Does the Prime Minister not believe that it is high time to dismiss the Minister of National Defence, who refuses—

Afghanistan December 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the credible information we heard in committee confirmed that a great many witnesses, if not all of them, knew that there were problems with the Afghan prisons.

Every day, new information is coming to light about the torture of Afghan detainees. All this information tends to confirm that Canada failed to meet its obligations under the Geneva convention.

Before the House rises for the holidays, will the government announce that it is setting up an independent public commission of inquiry on the torture of Afghan detainees?

Afghanistan December 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the government has waged a smear campaign against diplomat Richard Colvin, who sounded the alarm about Afghan detainees. The government's attitude has been unworthy, or rather it has been worthy of McCarthy, the American senator who systematically lied and defamed his adversaries.

Will the government at least have the decency to apologize to Richard Colvin?

Afghanistan December 8th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the government does have the right to do is to say that, under the Geneva Convention, our soldiers did not have the right to transfer prisoners if there was any chance of them being tortured.

The government still refuses to shed any light on its role in the torture of Afghan prisoners transferred by Canada. The Minister of National Defence cannot say why he waited a year and a half before taking any action. Several ministers have tried to discredit Richard Colvin, and the government still refuses to disclose relevant information.

Since we cannot count on the government to tell us the truth, when will we have a public inquiry?