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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Joliette (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 11th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.

Ninety-eight per cent of victims are civilians, including children. Personally, I thought that these cluster munitions were intended to kill the enemy—other soldiers—but not civilians. Are these bombs—for they are real bombs—intended to kill civilians? Are they intended to wound soldiers who will be disabled for life? Some Canadian soldiers coming home from Afghanistan are permanently disabled. This is a terrible thing for them, their families, and our society. These people are not able to do all they once could and then they must look for work.

I think that 98% of civilian victims is really a huge number. Why make the bombs? In fact, why make war?

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 11th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent question.

Why is the government weakening this law? The question should perhaps be put to the Conservatives. I cannot in fact answer the question, because I cannot get into the minds of the Conservatives. However, I can say that I find all this quite simply a pity. When I read the bill, I thought about my eight grandchildren. Some of us have children, and we would not want those bombs to be anywhere near us.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 11th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, that was such a long question it can hardly be answered.

The New Democrats fully supported the development of a treaty to ban cluster munitions. However, this bill undermines the convention instead of ensuring its implementation. What does the government have to say to that?

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 11th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I will share my speaking time with the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

In 1997, Canada distinguished itself on the world stage by hosting the meetings on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.

Those important meetings led to the signing of the Ottawa treaty, which made it possible to reduce the number of innocent civilian victims during and after military conflicts. The treaty concerned anti-personnel mines, but there is another threat to which Canada could respond with genuine leadership: cluster munitions.

It is a brilliant invention: deploy a bomb that deploys hundreds of bomblets. Why not just deploy a bigger, more accurate bomb? That is true military genius. The bomblets, which do not explode immediately, cover an area the size of four football fields and are transformed into anti-personnel mines. Some of our soldiers are injured by those mines.

On initial impact, 98% of the victims of cluster munitions are civilians. As the bomblets are very colourful and remain in place for years after the bombing, children are the most common victims following a military conflict.

If Canada has committed to opposing anti-personnel mines, why has it done nothing tangible to combat this inhuman invention? My position on this issue is clear. I am opposed to Bill S-10 and I am going to show how it does nothing to assist in controlling cluster munitions. When I see these bomblets, I think of our children and of my grandchildren, who could be seriously injured or killed by them.

Even more so since the aim of this bill appears to be to facilitate their use.

The 2008 Oslo treaty became the next logical step after the Ottawa treaty since its purpose was to prohibit cluster munitions. Several of the greatest weapons-producing countries, such as China, the United States and Russia, decided not to take part in the Oslo process. Unfortunately, it appears that Canada bowed to American lobbyists to ensure the plan would not be successful.

Unlike the United States, Canada took part in the Oslo process. Rather than refuse to participate, it managed to negotiate the inclusion of an article permitting ongoing military interoperability with states not party to the convention in the final text of the convention. This loophole in article 21 of the convention makes it possible for a signatory country to tolerate the status quo. It goes without saying that the scope of the Oslo process was dramatically reduced.

The idea of an act to implement the convention is an excellent one, but what we have here more closely resembles an insurance policy for the military-industrial complex. Considering that the position the government has adopted is largely modelled on that of the United States, it is fair to ask what has happened to Canada's sovereignty.

What will the Conservatives say? That this is good for the economy? What economy? What will they say to the 50,000 victims of cluster munitions in Laos, who are poor people and mostly civilians?

I also wonder what arguments the Conservatives will offer our soldiers returning from Afghanistan injured as a result of the use of this icon of human technical knowledge.

I thought the Conservatives were tough on crime, but I am disappointed they have chosen to be soft on humanitarian international law, which cluster munitions violate outright.

That law includes the principle of distinction, which requires weapons to be directed at combatants with a certain degree of accuracy. I should point out that 98% of victims in this instance are civilians.

The principle of humanity is also violated by cluster munitions because they cause enormous, long-lasting damage to the natural environment.

In addition, between 5% and 40% of sub-munitions do not explode on initial deployment and are guaranteed to cause losses following a conflict.

Lastly, there are the principles of prohibition of superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering. Following combat, a site infested with cluster munitions causes even more harm to innocent victims, very many of them children who may not even have been born at the time of the conflict.

However, what is the point of reminding people that these weapons are so inhumane, the Conservatives introduced a bill to prohibit them? To put it simply, perhaps the purpose of this bill is not really to prohibit them.

Instead of implementing the convention, Bill S-10 instead affirms that the Conservatives have chosen their camp, the camp of needless slaughter.

Tough on crime? Pro-life? Really?

This is laughable. These are nothing but slogans that fail to conceal the fact that the Conservatives are soft when it really counts. Instead I see a narrow-minded group of people bowing to U.S. demands so they do not have to face their own consciences.

I am not alone in thinking so. The former prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, said it was a pity the current Canadian government did not provide any real leadership to the world on cluster munitions. He added that its approach was timid, inadequate and regressive.

The Conservatives have long since chosen to act as lackeys to the great powers, and their fawning will eventually deflate their image as tough guys. This applies to climate change and the tar sands, the Canadian economy, which they are shamelessly undermining, and now Canada’s international reputation.

But they will not drag us down when they fall. Canada is big enough and strong enough to show them the door quickly.

People will say I am using a broad brush, but in my opinion, this bill says a great deal about how this government operates with respect to legislation. They do things in a hurry, they are lazy, and they only want to please their friends. Bill S-10 is no small matter, but we have very little time in which to discuss it.

Earl Turcotte, former coordinator of the mine action program at DFAIT, led the Canadian delegation that negotiated the convention. He resigned when the government tried to impose a weak enabling act, saying that the proposed law was the worst of all the laws passed by countries that had so far ratified or signed the Convention. The worst! Not the second-worst, the best of the not bad, or the fourteenth, but the worst.

With that, I believe I have nothing more to add, except that the disproportionate zeal this government puts into the funding or promotion of its party might better be put into a healthy approach to legislation. Laws require time and study, and their objectives should be to help people. It is not enough to spend a few hours discussing such an important bill. Above all, it should not be said that this is to protect children.

These are all targets that Bill S-10 fails to hit, because this is a law that is as disastrous as a cluster munition.

I hope the members opposite understand that there will be collateral damage.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 11th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her remarks.

As the hon. member said, Canada signed the convention in December 2008. The implementation bill was introduced in the House of Commons on December 15, 2012, four years later. This is our first chance to debate the bill, and we have a very limited amount of time because of the time allocation motion.

I would like to know what the hon. member thinks about that.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act June 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, these women certainly will not be ignored for another 25 years.

This is the fourth bill that the Conservative Party has introduced, but it is no good because it is missing provisions to protect the women. Maybe provincial law should apply on reserves, which is currently not the case.

My colleague can rest assured that I will see to it that these women will not have to wait another 25 years. In 2015, we will see to it.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act June 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the question.

This bill will not give aboriginal women the same rights that Canadian women have because provincial laws do not apply on the reserves. Someone mentioned this earlier. How are they supposed to have their rights recognized?

There is a legal vacuum. These rights are not recognized under federal law, and provincial law does not apply on reserves. What are these women supposed to do? Should they go to their MP's office so that things might change one day?

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act June 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

Yes, aboriginal women were consulted, but that is not reflected in the report. Why not consider what they said? For years now, aboriginal women have been overlooked and treated as though they are not persons.

It is important to consider their opinions in matters pertaining to the status of women, just as those of so-called “other” women in Canada have been taken into account. I have worked to improve the status of women for some 30 years. It is important to consider the opinions of these women, whether they are aboriginal or of other nationalities, and we do not see that in this bill.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act June 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I shall be sharing my time with the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

One of the most conclusive proofs of Canada’s backwardness in its legislation respecting first nations comes quickly to light when we consider the issue of the division of matrimonial real property. In this case, as in many others, aboriginal people tumble into a legal void that illustrates the gap separating them from other Canadians.

Parliament has now been pondering the problems related to this legal void for 10 years. That is an eternity. We have much evidence at our disposal, and a plethora of reports from the Senate and the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, as well as private institutions.

Once again, unfortunately, the Conservative government does not seem to have done its homework, and Bill S-2 does not reflect any of the recommendations produced over the last decade. What is more, the bill is a new version of Conservative paternalism towards aboriginal peoples, since the government did not hold any consultations before drafting it.

The result is a bill that seems to have been written in haste on a restaurant napkin and may jeopardize the fundamental rights of women on reserves. For these reasons, I will be opposing Bill S-2 and encouraging the federal government to review its distressing approach to first nations.

Canada has already seen major legal proceedings rejected by the provincial courts, because provincial law cannot be enforced on aboriginal lands. The cases Paul v. Paul and Derrickson v. Derrickson, in 1986, are good examples. Some 17 years were to pass before the Senate issued a report on matrimonial real property on reserves. The report first identified the legislative void in question, which was not such a bad thing. However, it noted in particular that aboriginal women have no rights in the case of a marriage breakup and have no choice but to leave the home. The report recommended that provincial legislation apply.

Those are very fine ideas for an institution that seems more than ever to have let time pass it by. It might have been considered more useful had the government taken this study into account in drafting Bill S-2. However, since the government prefers to use the other house to reward its party friends, it may not have consulted its earlier deliberations.

No later than 2004, however, the Senate issued another report, the title of which is more explicit: “On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property: Still Waiting”. In that report, the upper house stressed the need for early action with respect to matrimonial real property. Among other things, the report recommended that the issue be referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and so it was.

In 2005, the committee in turn issued a series of recommendations to solve the knotty problem of on-reserve matrimonial real property. Among other things, it recommended that the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women’s Association be consulted on the development of new legislation or the amendment of the Indian Act; that financial assistance be provided to first nations to enable them to develop their own codes respecting real property and matrimonial assets; that any new legislation should not apply to first nations that had developed codes of their own; that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to include aboriginal persons living on a reserve; and that Canada recognize the self-government rights of first nations.

As anyone can see, these are excellent recommendations. Unfortunately, the Conservative government knowingly disregarded them when drafting Bill S-2. This is another shameful waste of public funds. The government has no vision of Canada to offer other than that of a “for sale” sign on the lawn of Parliament.

I say “waste” because the government has chosen to disregard the knowledge we have gained from extensive evidence and from reports that were carefully prepared by various players.

That is not all. In 2006, a report on the status of women put its finger on the problem by citing foreseeable barriers to the administration of an act respecting matrimonial real property on reserves. According to that report, the government should allocate adequate funding to implement such legislation, address the very serious housing shortage on reserves and conduct consultations. Those three essential factors are also not reflected in Bill S-2.

As long as they introduce pointless legislation, the members opposite should consider staying home. In 2006, a departmental report revealed that no consensus had been reached with regard to the legislative measures that should be taken to address the matter. It recommended, for example, that the competing jurisdictions model be used. However, the report specifically emphasized that the government should quickly determine the actual costs of administering provincial statutes on reserves, the solution advocated by the Senate.

The least we can say is that the government had the time it needed to consider the matter. The least we can believe is that it had everything it needed to develop a good bill. The least we can acknowledge is that Bill S-2 is largely inadequate under the circumstances.

This government has always taken an unconventional and paternalistic approach to first nations. I imagine we could not have expected otherwise. I know there are real solutions to the very real problems the first nations are experiencing, particularly as regards matrimonial real property.

There is an urgent need for us to develop a bill that provides quick access to recourse for communities that, in some instances, are far removed from urban and legal centres. We must put an end to violence against aboriginal women by developing a national action plan. We must provide better funding for communities that are part of the 2% and we must resolve the terrible housing crisis among the country's first nations.

A bill that does not take these considerations into account would be nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Criminal Code June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, it is never an easy thing to talk about a subject that concerns people who have been the victims of crimes such as violence or sexual assault. I can very clearly imagine the victims’ frame of mind.

Although the legislation permits a certain level of control over the accused or the person convicted of a crime, the restrictions with regard to the victim are not enforced immediately. At the moment, these restrictions are the responsibility of wardens, the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, and the Parole Board of Canada.

Bill C-489 makes it mandatory to impose certain provisions, which until now have been imposed on an ad hoc basis. This should help the victims of crime feel safer while at the same time giving them the tools they need to know what is happening with their attacker once the sentence has been handed down. Unlike other measures that have resulted from the Conservatives’ “tough on crime” mentality, I must admit that the bill is just common sense and it should be allowed to continue its course. I will therefore support the bill at second reading.

That said, I recommend that the government hold all the necessary consultations—I repeat, all the necessary consultations—and listen to what all those involved have to say, in order to draft legislation that is truly appropriate.

I am in favour of the bill because I fully support measures that promote fairness and protect victims. I approve of this measure in the same way and in the same spirit as I would approve of subsidized housing, for example. It is a social justice issue. It goes without saying that some victims of crime have suffered immeasurably. My desire to help them arises not from sensationalism, but from the point of view of a world where everyone is treated fairly. From this perspective, it makes sense to try to offer greater peace of mind to those who have lived through difficult and disturbing events.

That being said, the NDP will consult with victims’ groups in order to find out whether Bill C-489 really responds to their needs or whether it will only apply in rare cases. We have an opportunity to listen to them and draft a bill that is based on fact. We must seize this opportunity at any cost, and work together with the citizens of this country.

In addition to listening to what victims of crime have to say, I would also like to ensure the bill is scrupulously constitutional. Bill C-489 has all the elements for success, but we know that there is a weakness in terms of clause 1, the clause amending subsection 161(1) of the Criminal Code.

This reservation comes from the clerk of the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business, who expressed concerns about the constitutionality of such a measure, one of his reasons being because the offender is expected to know the address of the victim’s residence. It should be noted that the committee nevertheless deemed the bill votable. It is surely not a shortcoming that is impossible to correct, and I am convinced that we will be able to clarify the matter before third reading.

In order to give the victims of crime the best protection we can, I think it is important to consider these few reservations. We have before us an opportunity to improve Bill C-489 and give Canadians a bill that lives up to their expectations.

Furthermore, it is interesting to mention the point of view of Michael Spratt, of the Criminal Lawyers' Association of Ontario. In Mr. Spratt's view, Bill C-489 may be difficult to enforce in its current state, because it may lead to disproportionate measures.

This bill is quite restrictive because of the mandatory nature of the measures it puts in place.

In addition, there are already provisions that impose a minimum distance of 100 metres between the criminal and the victim, and others that prohibit contact between those on probation and their victims. We know that it is not always a simple matter to ensure this is respected.

Mr. Spratt concluded that Bill C-489 would be difficult to enforce in small communities, as well as in urban areas, as the distances are smaller. In his view, the fact that the bill could technically be used in an extreme way in the case of relatively minor offences threatens its constitutionality.

These are interesting issues that have been brought forward by someone who knows what he is talking about. We will therefore have to consider the bill in greater detail and ensure that everything is correct. After all, if the Conservatives are defending the constitutionality of an institution as antiquated as the Senate, surely they will not have any problem refining Bill C-489.

I will not go as far as to say, as Mr. Spratt did, that the bill is a disproportionate response to very specific cases, but this is my own opinion. I think that there is in fact room for providing better protection for victims of crime. For instance, the bill could allow victims to have more information about the stages in their attacker's correctional process.

It may well be very worrying for a victim to be unaware of what is happening to the person who caused him harm, once the sentence has been handed down. Will the offender be getting out of prison soon? What is his behaviour like? Has he begun the rehabilitation process? For a person who has suffered enormously from someone else’s actions, it may be reassuring to believe that it is possible to correct deviant behaviour.

Furthermore, this is the underlying principle of our correctional system. I am pleased to see that the Conservatives all believe that a person can change and correct his behaviour, as it partly opens the door to many options that the core of their “tough on crime” approach obsolete.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I support Bill C-489 at second reading because I believe we must help victims of crime for the simple reason that it is fair to do so. However, I urge the House to listen carefully to the recommendations made by those who are the most affected by considering the recommendations made by groups representing victims of crime.