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Track Francis

Your Say


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is water.

Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 64% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, what I think the Prime Minister was trying to say is that, if we want to make a tangible short-term contribution to advancing this issue, there is a lot of merit in focusing on the fissile material cut-off treaty at the United Nations level. Obviously, in diplomatic circles there is constant and ongoing discussion about all issues, and whether we are part of the more than 100 nations that are discussing a nuclear weapons ban, or whether we are not, I am certain that our officials and NGOs are very present at the international level in discussions of all kinds around a nuclear weapons ban.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member brings up a good point. While the focus today is on nuclear weapons, there are other weapons of mass destruction that are actually causing havoc today in certain conflict zones. There are weapons like chemical weapons, which to our horror, have been used in the Syrian conflict.

A global strategic approach to the nuclear weapons issue would have as a corollary a need to focus on all weapons of mass destruction, and therefore, we can bring all of those issues into our diplomatic dialogue with nations around the world, especially those that have these weapons and might be tempted to use them.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Iranian regime is a problem, of course, in many regards. The world has been seized of the danger of that regime acquiring nuclear weapons.

I am not privy to the diplomatic discussions that go on between Canada and Iran. I do not think it was particularly constructive to pull our consular officials out of Iran. We saw that the previous U.S. administration worked very hard to have a constructive dialogue with the aim of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

At the end of the day, dialogue must always be a part of any strategy for dealing with any kind of danger. I am sure the government, the foreign affairs minister, and our consular officials, being as professional and as wise as they are, understand that.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it has been a while since the hon. member and I have had a chance to work together on a committee, but we did very good work at the environment committee a number of years ago. We produced some good reports on some important energy and environmental issues.

No one is suggesting that discussions should not go on toward a nuclear weapons ban treaty, and I do not think the reason Canada is not participating in those discussions at that level in that forum is a financial one. We can always afford to send somebody to be part of those negotiations.

Canada is taking a strategic approach here, which is that as a middle power we want to build relationships and credibility, especially with those nuclear powers that are we are going to need to bring into a nuclear weapons ban treaty in the future.

There is some merit, in terms of building credibility and building Canada's image as a credible and effective middle power, to having a focused approach, which at the moment should be on the fissile materials cut-off treaty. We gain a lot of credibility by focusing our energies and our efforts and working with the nuclear powers in that context.

Obviously the ultimate goal is to have a nuclear weapons-free world. We want to be part of that process. The step-by-step approach has merit in and of itself.

Business of Supply June 8th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, in 1962, for 13 days, the world was at the brink. I was very young at the time. I was unaware of developments. Therefore, I, like many children, was spared the angst that no doubt others who were more aware of the situation, parents and other adults, were experiencing. Fortunately, a terrible Armageddon was avoided, but tensions around nuclear weapons continued throughout the Cold War. During the 1980s, for example, children, and I believe my own wife, in fact, when she was in high school, protested against nuclear weapons. Films like The Day After impacted individual and collective psyches as well.

Today we are in a very different situation, but there are nuclear tensions with rogue states like Iran and North Korea. Therefore, the permanent goal, if we are ever to have global peace of mind, is the elimination of nuclear weapons. However, it is a daunting task, which to many may seem unattainable. It is a daunting task because the nuclear powers also happen to be the permanent members of the Security Council, for example. When we think of the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, and China, they are all among the first nuclear powers, and they are the permanent members of that international decision-making body.

The challenge, however daunting it may be in the short term, does not deter activists and proponents of disarmament, like Judith Quinn, one of my constituents, Judith Berlyn, another Montrealer, or the late Joan Hadrill, who was a constituent of mine. Many years ago, she created a very small organization called WIND, West Islanders for Nuclear Disarmament. Joan Hadrill's favourite maxim was drawn from Margaret Mead, the cultural anthropologist: “Never doubt that a small group of...committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Joan Hadrill had that printed on her business card.

Earlier this week, we heard a visionary foreign policy speech from the Minister of Foreign Affairs. She emphasized the importance of international law for maintaining a stable and peaceful international order. She also mentioned that, as a middle power, Canada's greatest influence is not through economic or military might, but through the pursuit and application of legal instruments which provide small powers a measure of equal protection with larger ones, even superpowers.

Nowhere is the pursuit of legal international instruments perhaps more crucial than in the area of nuclear arms control. As a middle power with a strong humanitarian tradition and track record, Canada is well placed to be a moral voice and practical advocate for a world that is free of nuclear weapons, and to work for that goal through international legal arrangements. Let us not forget the role we played in bringing the land mines treaty to fruition. It is also true that as a principled and ambitious middle power, we can contribute to the attainment of meaningful international objectives, including in the area of peace and security. We can do that if we act wisely and strategically, among other things to maintain credibility with the actors whom we wish to influence toward a good and noble end. Indeed, this is how we are acting on the nuclear weapons front.

We are acting concretely to advance the disarmament agenda. In 2016, Canada rallied 159 states to support and pass a resolution calling for the establishment of a fissile material cut-off treaty expert preparatory group, which is an essential step towards a ban treaty.

We have also rallied the support of 166 states to pass a resolution creating a group of government experts to carry out an in-depth analysis of treaty aspects. This is important groundwork. We also supported Norway's initiative to create a group of government experts on nuclear disarmament verification. Verification, as we all know, is one of the most challenging obstacles to disarmament. All of these things that we have done in the international sphere in attempting to eliminate nuclear weapons in the long term are crucial steps. They are building blocks. We could say that Canada is helping to engineer and build the foundation of a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

There are a number of benefits to a fissile material cut-off treaty. I will read four very briefly. First, restricting the quantity of fissile material available for use in new nuclear weapons programs or for existing ones would be a significant tool for combatting horizontal proliferation, which means the spreading of nuclear weapons technology between countries, and vertical proliferation, which means the advancement of existing nuclear weapons technology in an already-nuclear state.

The second benefit of such a treaty would be limiting the pool of available fissile material, to reduce the risk that terrorist groups or other non-state actors could acquire these materials, thereby enhancing global nuclear security and preventing nuclear terrorism. Third, the fissile material cut-off treaty would also advance nuclear disarmament by providing greater transparency regarding the fissile material stockpiles of states possessing nuclear weapons. A future multilateral nuclear disarmament agreement will require a baseline of fissile materials by which nuclear disarmament efforts can be measured. By establishing this necessary baseline, the fissile material cut-off treaty would be the critical foundation of future multilateral nuclear disarmament agreements.

Finally, the FMCT would promote non-discrimination in non-proliferation and disarmament. In particular, and this is very important, a prohibition on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons could apply equally to the five non-proliferation treaty nuclear weapon states, the 185 non-proliferation treaty non-nuclear weapon states, as well as the four states that remain outside the NPT framework. Those are the benefits, the concrete tangible benefits, of a fissile material cut-off treaty.

If we wish to maintain influence in the international community, we must work with allies and Security Council members like the U.K. and France, who at this point are not part of current negotiations toward a nuclear weapons ban. Perhaps Canada can slowly lead these nations in that direction over time. Could we do more? The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that better is always possible. I encourage Canadians like Judith Quinn and Judith Berlyn, inspired no doubt by the example of the late Joan Hadrill, to continue to advocate and push the government to work toward a nuclear weapons convention that would ban nuclear weapons.

At the end of the day, in a democracy, true to Margaret Mead's maxim, persistent public attention and pressure on any given issue is the only way to move that issue forward. It is important that committed and concerned Canadian citizens continue to draw public attention to the need for progress on nuclear disarmament and continue to remind our government of its duty to work toward this vital objective. We must keep this issue alive in the newspapers and in communities across the country. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the nuclear disarmament debate, unfortunately, is not front and centre in the media these days, but that should not stop Canadians, especially committed Canadians, from taking part in assiduous efforts to keep the issue burning.

Meanwhile, our government must pursue a focused, step-by-step, realistic, concrete strategy within international institutions to create the building blocks and the foundation that are necessary if we are, in the long run, to achieve a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Firearms Act June 2nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to speak to the private member's bill introduced by my colleague from Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies. I know that introducing a private member's bill is no easy feat. One needs to consult constituents, do research, and work with the folks who draft the legal text of the bill. I therefore congratulate my colleague on his hard work.

This debate brings back good memories in a way. A few years ago, when I was on the other side of the House, I was our party's public safety critic, so I sat on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. My fellow committee members and I looked at many issues related to gun control.

One thing I learned from dealing with this issue as public safety critic a few years ago was that the gun licensing system, the regulations surrounding gun ownership, and the administration of gun ownership are indeed complex areas. No doubt, from time to time, there is a need to improve the procedures and the rules and regulations surrounding gun licensing and gun ownership.

I will be voting against the bill. It is not because I do not believe that the hon. member approached this in a spirit of good will. No doubt his motives are honourable and serve the interests, views, and desires of his constituents. However, as a parliamentarian, I do not feel that there are any compelling reasons for me or the House to support the legislation.

I understand, when we talk about these matters, and all matters in the House, that there are different perspectives motivated by different circumstances and reasons. I am not a gun owner, so obviously, I do not see the issue from the same perspective as some of the members across the way. I do not know many gun owners. I must admit that I represent a suburban riding on the island of Montreal. There are many gun owners, but probably not as many as in my colleague's riding. The gun owners I do know are exemplary citizens. They are the community volunteers. They always provide a helping hand and would give someone the shirt off their back. Perhaps that says a lot about gun owners. It says that at their core, they have a very responsible civic attitude. However, that is not the point here for me.

From my perspective, the current system, as it exists, is not a heavy burden for gun owners. I understand that I might feel differently if I were a gun owner. However, I do own a car, and I understand that it can be annoying from time to time to have to go to the licence bureau, sit there, and wait for my number to be called to renew my licence. Whenever I get the notice in the mail, I have to rejig my schedule. We are all pretty busy here and understand that it is sometimes hard to find that hour or hour and a half to go to the licence bureau to renew a licence. However, I do it, because I understand that it is part of being a responsible car owner, and quite frankly, I am glad that everyone else is doing it. I understand that circumstances change, people's health might decline, or whatever, and I am very pleased that there is an automatic system in place that checks to make sure that everyone who is driving a car is fit to be driving a car.

I feel the same way about this. As a non-gun-owner, I feel safer knowing that there are rules in place that require individuals to take the very minimal step of renewing their licences and providing additional information every five years.

If I were a gun owner, I would say that I am a great guy, responsible, I do not need to do this every five years. I get that. However, it provides the rest of us with a sense of security to know that there is a system in place and that it is fairly rigorous.

The other problem, as was mentioned by the parliamentary secretary, is that there are some aspects of the legislation that are not clear. That is especially with regard to the article on suspension, which would happen if one did not renew his or her licence every 10 years, according to this bill. That would be a new concept under the Firearms Act.

I heard the parliamentary secretary mention it, and it is perhaps not a concept that is well enough developed. In theory, a suspended licence would prevent someone from purchasing ammunition, for example, and it would prohibit the transfer of ammunition to someone with a suspended licence. However, given that the licence would not say it is suspended, as far as I can tell, there would be no way for a retailer to know whether a licence is valid or not. Having vendors call to verify that a licence is not suspended every time ammunition is sold would be tremendously burdensome for vendors, and therefore might not occur. That is one problem that I have with the legislation.

The system we have now has achieved a certain balance. Again, I do not feel compelled to upset that balance for the time being. When our government came into power almost two years ago, we did make some small changes to the system that was in place. We did not do what many people feared or believed we might do.

Let me just go over some of the very minor amendments we made to the firearms regulation in Canada. They were not only minor amendments, but also wise. For example, we stopped the previous government's practice of contradicting law enforcement experts on weapons classification. We also reversed the ministerial directive that allowed gun manufacturers to determine the classification of their own products. That seemed to make sense. I think it makes sense to most Canadians. We also upgraded Canadian laws dealing with the transportation of restricted and prohibited weapons. We are dealing more effectively with background checks, and the inventories kept by vendors.

We created a more representative Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee. It is important that this committee not be more heavily weighted toward one particular group in this debate than another. Therefore, we named retired Supreme Court Justice John Major as the chair, and both Lynda Kiejko, an Olympian sport shooter from Calgary, and Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the Polytechnique shooting, as vice-chairs.

I think we have taken a very moderate approach to improving administrative procedures. As a Liberal, I believe that procedures and laws and institutions can always be made better. I think that is what my hon. colleague from Peace River thinks and why he has presented this private member's bill.

However, I must say in conclusion that at the end of the day, I do not feel compelled to support these changes. That is why I will not be voting for the legislation. Nonetheless, I look forward to listening to the rest of the debate.

Italian Heritage Month May 15th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for King—Vaughan for this initiative. She has worked hard to ensure this motion was moved so that we can have a meaningful and vigorous debate about designating an Italian heritage month.

I am proud to rise as an Italian Canadian from Montreal. Today, not only are we recognizing the contributions of the Italian community to the culture of this great country of Canada, but we are also acknowledging all the work of the millions of Italian immigrants who helped build Canada.

As I just said in the other official language, we are celebrating all that the Italian community has brought culturally to Canada. That is something that we see every day in the restaurants, in the festivals, and in all kinds links through fashion and sports cars from Italy, but we are also commemorating, honouring, and celebrating the hard work of millions of Italian Canadians who built this country in different ways, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways.

In my own case, I would like to take a moment to pay homage to my grandfather, Francesco Scarpaleggia, who came from Italy with very little education. He came in through Ellis Island, as many people did at the time, and wound his way up to Montreal, where he was a downtown Montreal barber for many years. I even have a photo of myself as a young child sitting in his barber chair. He died in 1968, so I was very young at the time. I am very proud of what he brought to Montreal in a small but very dignified way. He had a son, my father, who went on to be educated and then to take on more responsible positions within the Montreal community. I would like to pay homage to them and also to the many Italians of my riding of Lac-Saint-Louis.

We have a very vibrant Italian community. We have the West Island Italian Association, headed by Mr. Egidio Vincelli. We have the St. Anthony's Seniors Club, headed by Maria Gervasi. We have, of course, the tireless Jack Ciampini, who makes sure that everyone is well taken care of in the Italian community. He looks after them and makes sure that they have the ability to participate in many activities at the community level.

I am thankful for this brief time to address the House on this important motion.

Ottawa River Watershed April 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon in support of Motion No. 104, sponsored by my colleague from Ottawa South. We have sat together in the House since our election, which was held the same year.

I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to my colleague, a great environmentalist and environmental lawyer who helped me a lot in my own journey on the issue of freshwater in Canada. He has often shared his knowledge with me.

I would also like to pay tribute to the hon. member for Pontiac, who is seated behind me and knew me before he was elected. As an environmental lawyer, he also offered me good advice. I contacted him before he was elected to seek his advice and to benefit from his knowledge on water and the environment.

I would like to speak a little bit about my riding because its geographical location is relevant to the debate on this motion. It is one of the reasons I am rising this evening to support the motion.

My riding could be called urban. It is a Montreal suburb covering the far west end of the Island of Montreal. What may be surprising is that it is almost 75% surrounded by water. There are few urban ridings in a similar situation. To the south of the riding is the St. Lawrence River, or more accurately Lake Saint-Louis, which is part of the St. Lawrence River, and to the north is the Rivière des Prairies. To the west of the riding is the Lake of Two Mountains, and those somewhat familiar with the local geography will know that this is where the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers meet.

The Ottawa River is a tributary of the St. Lawrence River, and its waters empty into Lake Saint-Louis. Boaters know that you can see both water flows—the one that is a bit cloudy comes from the Ottawa River, and the clearer other is the flow of the St. Lawrence coming from Ontario.

In short, what happens in the Ottawa River and the Ottawa River watershed has a direct impact on the environment surrounding my riding.

What I just finished saying in French is that what happens in the Ottawa River directly impacts my community because it is located where the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River meet. Also, as I was saying before, boaters tell me they can actually see where the Ottawa River enters Lake Saint-Louis as it is water of a different colour.

The Ottawa River is a majestic river in its own right. I will describe some of its characteristics. It is 1,270 kilometres in length. Its watershed covers 140,000 square kilometres. It has 17 tributaries. It includes 200 municipalities, including the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau. It provides drinking water for over one million people. It has 50 dams and hydroelectric generating stations. It includes 300 smaller impoundments or reservoirs and water control structures. It includes over 30 beaches. Therefore, water quality is obviously very important to the people in the watershed who wish to use these beaches for recreation and to cool off in our very humid, hot summers in eastern Canada.

The watershed includes 85 species of fish and 300 species of birds. I am told its flow is greater than the flow of all tributaries in western Europe, which is pretty remarkable. This is not a small stream or a small river. It is a major river, and its watershed is therefore a major watershed in Canada.

So far, unfortunately, there is only one coordinating body that oversees some aspects of the river's management, and of course I am speaking of the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board, which apparently was instituted in 1983. It involves co-operation between the Ontario and Quebec governments principally for the integrated management of dams and reservoirs in the river for flood prevention and hydroelectric production. The whole point of the motion that has been brought forward is that, despite this long-standing co-operative body, the Ottawa River watershed deserves greater and broader attention.

There has been a step in the right direction. The Ontario and Quebec governments have created a joint committee on water management to protect their shared water resources. Our provinces are very much linked by shared waterways. Motion No. 104 really is the logical extension, one could say, of this earlier initiative to create this Ontario-Quebec joint committee on water management. In fact, Motion No. 104 would give body to this initial joint management structure.

My riding is on the St. Lawrence River, and the St. Lawrence River fortunately has been the object of some fairly long-standing governmental attention in the last 25 years, and I am speaking of course of the St. Lawrence action plan. The St. Lawrence action plan could serve in some way as a model for the kind of co-operative council that the hon. member for Ottawa South is working to create.

The St. Lawrence action plan has created a highly integrated vertical and horizontal management structure for essentially monitoring the St. Lawrence River and the banks along the St. Lawrence River and essentially being a framework for action both locally and at higher levels of government, action to preserve the St. Lawrence River.

One of the most interesting aspects of the St. Lawrence action plan is the comités ZIP. ZIP means zones d'intervention prioritaire, and there are 13 along the St. Lawrence River. Essentially, these ZIPs divide the St. Lawrence into ecological and urban zones. I suppose we could compare them to areas of concern, which we have in the Great Lakes and so on, but these ZIPs go a little beyond simply focusing on problematic areas of the St. Lawrence. Their main objective is to involve citizen and stakeholder participation. In other words, they act to encourage communities to take ownership in protecting their stretch of the St. Lawrence River. As a group, these 13 ZIPs are managed or coordinated by an organization called Stratégies Saint-Laurent, which is a collection of Quebec environmental groups headed by the Union québécoise pour la conservation de la nature. The UQCN plays a big role in coordinating these groups' activities.

There is also stakeholder coordination at higher levels. There is what I would call a council of the St. Lawrence. It is not formally called that, but it involves many federal departments and many Quebec provincial government departments and other stakeholders, first nations, who get together to oversee the management from higher levels of the St. Lawrence.

World Water Day March 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, World Water Day gains in significance every year as it becomes more and more obvious that water, our most precious and live-giving resource, is under increasing pressure, from population growth, overuse, pollution, and the drought and flooding effects of climate change.

Here in Canada, we are lucky to have an abundance of freshwater. Of course, there are still many challenges to overcome, for example, the fact that first nations and other remote communities are often under boil water advisories and that new contaminants may be getting into our lakes, rivers, and waterways.

Canada is home to a critical mass of expertise in water resource management. World Water Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we are a water nation, with a destiny to be a model in freshwater management and a leader in promoting global water security in an increasingly water stressed world.

Preclearance Act, 2016 March 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member mentioned in his very thoughtful speech, which I listened to intently, he uses pre-clearance when he travels by air. I would imagine that at pre-clearance, if there was an incident and there was some kind of struggle, obviously the pre-clearance officer at the airport where the member uses pre-clearance would no doubt be engaged in some kind of altercation. That would probably also be considered a use of force, even though it does not involve a firearm.

The fact remains that if there is a problem, under this law the American officer on Canadian soil would be required to bring a Canadian officer into the picture as soon as possible. I think that is a reasonable provision in this legislation.