House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was languages.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Drummond (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2021, with 11% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Official Languages April 10th, 2019

Madam Speaker, it is always an honour for me to rise in the House to stand up for Franco-Ontarians and continue to call on the government to ensure that the language rights of francophones across the country and those of the anglophone minority in Quebec are respected.

On November 28, I asked the Liberal government a question about Franco-Ontarians and the cuts being imposed on this minority community. Of course, I was talking about the elimination of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and Ontario's French-language university, which, unfortunately, will not become a reality. That was a serious blow not just to the francophone community in Ontario, but also to francophone communities all across the country. That is why the meetings that were held between the party leaders to discuss this crisis were so important. That was the least that could be done, given the circumstances. More action is required. That is why I said that the first ministers should hold a federal-provincial-territorial forum to talk about official languages and other issues. Official languages should be on the agenda, especially since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act.

I would like to talk about Drummond's anglophone community. Education plays an extremely important role in the development of our official language communities. In Drummond, the City of Drummondville is funding the construction of a new English-language elementary school. I would like to point out that the greater Drummond area has a very vibrant anglophone community.

I recently had the opportunity to view a superb intergenerational art installation involving the residents of Manoir Drummond and Drummondville Elementary School students. Local artists also participated in this art project, and young and not-so-young people created works of visual art. I congratulate all participants, especially teacher Nancy Catchpaw and guest artist Mance Di.

I also invite the citizens of the greater Drummond area to view the exhibit “Once Upon a Time... La petite histoire des écoles anglophones de Drummondville” organized by the Société d’histoire de Drummond. It tells some of the story of Drummondville's anglophone community. I would like to acknowledge the exceptional work of the entire team of the Société d'histoire de Drummond, including Geneviève Béliveau, director, Gabriel Cormier, cultural projects officer, Martin Bergevin, archivist, and all the members of the board of directors.

As I mentioned, the crisis continues in Ontario. Sadly, the services of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner have been cut and made the responsibility of the ombudsman, which has resulted in job losses. The federal government must absolutely show leadership and set an example. We would have liked to see money in the budget for Ontario's French-language university. We do not understand why the government did not choose to include these investments in the budget.

Petitions April 10th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the other petition has to do with the mandatory labelling of GMOs. I have been tabling petitions on this issue for years.

In light of Health Canada's approval of the sale of genetically modified salmon, Canadians believe that the government should give Canadian consumers access to all necessary information with respect to genetically modified foods, or GMOs.

Accordingly, they are calling on the Government of Canada to pass legislation on mandatory labelling for genetically modified foods.

Petitions April 10th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise in the House to table two sets of petitions.

The first set of petitions has to do with tax havens. Given that the Government of Canada recently signed two new tax information exchange agreements with notorious tax havens, namely Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda, and given that the use of tax havens results in massive revenue losses for the public treasury, the petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to cancel its agreements with tax havens, beginning with the ones it just signed with Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda, in order to reduce social inequality in this country.

Official Languages April 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, we had an eat-and-greet this morning with the Assemblée francophone de l'Ontario to celebrate Ontario's francophonie. One of the guests was Lydia Philippe, the new president of the FESFO, the Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne. She shares our young people's desire to have a future and continue studying in French. That is why we need the French-language university in Ontario.

Lydia Philippe is just 17 years old, but she is already very involved and has a vision and ambitions for Canada. She wants to protect Ontario's francophonie and promote diversity in Canada. We must stand up and show leadership for young people like Lydia. Young people in Ontario and across Canada want our government to take concrete action to give them hope that they will be able to study in French at this French-language university. There are approximately 800,000 francophones in Ontario, but we do not even have one French-language university. That is not right.

Official Languages April 9th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House once again to talk about official languages and Franco-Ontarians.

Just this morning, we had a breakfast eat-and-greet here on the Hill, attended by many members of Parliament, in celebration of the Franco-Ontarian community.

On November 26, 2018, I asked the Liberal government a question about the importance of protecting official languages and the French language at every level of government. The provincial and federal governments have a collective duty to support our two official languages and, naturally, our minority communities. Unfortunately, the Franco-Ontarian community has been facing an injustice for some time now that is setting back their language rights. The cancellation of the French-language university project in Ontario was a serious blow to the vitality and development of Franco-Ontarian communities.

My question for the Prime Minister was:

Will the Prime Minister request an urgent meeting with the Premier of Ontario and commit to contributing his fair share to a French-language university in Ontario?

Unfortunately, that did not happen. The federal government and the Ontario provincial government have some major differences of opinion, and the two sides were not able to come together and reach an agreement with respect to Ontario's French-language university. It is unfortunate, because the Ontario government is about to present its budget, probably tomorrow, if I am not mistaken. Stakeholders in the Franco-Ontarian community have high expectations for Ontario's French-language university, but unfortunately, they will likely be disappointed.

Beyond any partisan considerations, the federal government has a very important role to play in convincing its counterparts to comply with official languages legislation. The provinces also have a role to play in protecting and promoting the vitality of official language minority communities.

Today, ONFR and Benjamin Vachet reported that, on top of abolishing several positions at the Ontario ombudsman's office, the government has decided to dismantle the former team at the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner by eliminating two key positions. There will no longer be a legal counsel or a communications specialist, two positions that existed within the previous structure.

Let me quote what Linda Cardinal, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa who specializes in language policies, had to say about it: “The francophone community believes that the office's integrity should not have been attacked. Every person represented a link in the chain. There was a unique dynamic that helped everyone work together.” She went on to say that moving the legal counsel to the ombudsman legal team takes him out of his natural environment, adding, “From an administrative point of view, it may be more functional to have all the lawyers working together, but it is going to change the dynamic of the commissioner's office. It will impact the work that is done.”

We expected better leadership from the Liberal government. In order to demonstrate such leadership, the Liberals should have called a federal-provincial-territorial forum on official languages and invited all the ministers and premiers. Unfortunately, the Liberals did not do that.

What is the government waiting for? When will it organize a federal-provincial-territorial forum on official languages?

Official Languages April 4th, 2019

Madam Speaker, yes, the minister wrote letters, but since this was a crisis, we would have liked to see her pick up the phone to request an urgent meeting and sit down with her provincial counterpart. We would like the Prime Minister to call for a federal-provincial-territorial forum to talk about the situation.

We are in a crisis and this calls for the appropriate action. Unfortunately, the government has not taken strong enough action and has not demonstrated enough leadership. That is what we need.

Official Languages April 4th, 2019

Madam Speaker, it is once again my honour to rise in the House to talk about official languages and the importance of promoting the French language across the country.

On November 21, as a language crisis rocked Ontario's francophone community, I again appealed to the Liberal government about the Ford government's disastrous decision to eliminate Ontario's Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and scrap plans to build a French-language university in Toronto. That decision is affecting not only Franco-Ontarians, but also francophone communities across the country.

Francophones have a well-earned reputation for fighting for their rights and their language. At every opportunity, the Prime Minister says that he stands up for francophone communities, but at this point in time, nothing is happening and Franco-Ontarians are paying the price for political inaction.

I want to start with Ontario's French-language university. In an open letter published in Le Devoir on November 21, 2018, historians from the Institut d'histoire de l'Amérique française eloquently conveyed the importance of a university for a community:

...the abolition of Ontario's French-language university violates the hard-fought, vested rights of franco-Ontarians to post-secondary education in their own language....To our knowledge, this is the first time in modern history that a state has abolished a university for budgetary reasons.

...universities are crucial institutions to any community, and even more so if the community is in a minority situation.

Members will understand why it is so important to make every possible effort to defend Ontario's French-language university. It is now April 4, several months after the start of this crisis, and talks between the federal government and the Government of Ontario are going nowhere, as they have made no progress on protecting French-language services in the province, where some 800,000 French speakers still do not have their own university.

This is why people in Ontario and in all francophone communities across the country asked why the government did not take real action, including expressly allocating its share of funding for Ontario's French-language university in the budget. Unfortunately, the government is not listening to the people of Ontario.

In addition, Ontario plans to alter the mission and role of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, an independent body, by creating a French language services commissioner position within the ombudsman's office. Unfortunately, the French Language Services Commissioner will issue his last report on April 16. We must take action.

What more can the government do to improve the situation in Ontario?

Dutch Heritage Day April 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House this evening to speak to Motion No. 207, which proposes designating every May 5 as Dutch heritage day.

This motion was moved by my colleague from Chatham-Kent—Leamington in Ontario. I will read the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, in recognition of the sacrifices made by Canadians in the liberation of the Netherlands, as well as the contributions made to Canada by those of Dutch heritage, the government should recognize every May 5 as Dutch Heritage Day to honour this unique bond.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my NDP colleague from Vancouver East, our multiculturalism critic, for her excellent work in promoting all cultures represented in Canada.

The NDP will support the motion to designate every May 5 as Dutch heritage day. The NDP is always proud to support diversity, inclusiveness and harmony. This particular motion recognizes the contributions of Canadians of Dutch heritage.

We must pay tribute to the courage of the Dutch people, who suffered a great deal under Nazi occupation for part of the 1940s.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedication and courage of the veterans of the greater Drummond area, who fought for peace and freedom.

In the same spirit, I also want to thank Branch 51 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Drummondville for being socially involved in our community. We have a duty to remember our veterans and it is important to acknowledge that.

Speaking of diversity, inclusion and living together, I want to use this forum to remind everyone that the Drummondville cultural diversity festival is fast approaching. It will be held on May 24 and 25. It is a time to come together and celebrate the richness of our cultural communities. I invite everyone to come out in force to the celebrations and shows and visit the many kiosks.

I also want to acknowledge the remarkable work done over the years by an organization that is extremely important to the greater Drummond area, the Regroupement interculturel de Drummondville. It is the driving force behind the Drummondville cultural diversity festival and the only organization that deals directly with newcomers in the Drummond RCM, making it much easier for them to integrate into the community. I congratulate the entire team led by Normand W. Bernier, the director general of the organization. He has been involved in our community for many years.

On that note, I would like to say that immigration has made a significant contribution to the Drummond community. Immigration contributes to our cultural and culinary richness, to citizen involvement in several areas and to the workforce. On this point, accessing affordable housing is an added challenge in our community of Drummond.

I am proud of my party and where it stands on having a social housing program that is much more affordable and much more accessible. We cannot settle for the Liberals' half-measures. We have to move forward and bring in a strong agenda that will quickly meet the increasingly urgent need for social housing across the country, including in Drummond.

At the municipal level, the City of Drummond's immigration, cultural diversity and inclusion commission is made up of organizations and residents who are committed to the social and professional integration of newcomers.

I would like to commend the organizations and residents on this commission, which is led by its chair, Dominic Martin, the vice-chair, Cathy Bernier, and a municipal councillor, Yves Grondin.

With this motion there is talk of observing and studying best practices in the Netherlands, a forward-thinking country in social and environmental terms. I want to highlight some of the Netherlands' successes and accomplishments. One example is the cost of living and tuition fees. Tuition fees in Canada are quite high. Our students are drowning in student debt.

When we speak to young people, such as the Daughters of the Vote, as some of my colleagues and I did this week, they tell us that the amount of debt they are carrying is one of their biggest problems. The NDP also has some very progressive policies to address student debt, which is holding back our young people and causing them considerable stress. We must tackle this problem and solve it. It is important to note that tuition fees are much lower in the Netherlands than in Canada. It is a great source of pride and something we should aspire to. There is a reason why we want to recognize May 5 as Dutch heritage day. We should also be guided by their social measures. That would be a good thing to do.

Urban cycling is something else that is very important in the Netherlands, and we should take a look at that. Cycling is very popular and even a culture in the Netherlands. This country has made incredible progress in moving away from car-based urban planning. Instead, it has focused on such things as active transportation and cycling by building safer, greener roads that are more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

I would like to come back to our youth and the Daughters of the Vote, who were here all week. They met with MPs and senators, and they saw how our democracy works. When they made speeches in the House, they said that we need to do more to take care of the environment. We need to take care of our planet because there is no planet B. We need a clear plan to fight climate change. We need more than the half-measures put forward by the Liberals, who bought a $4.5-billion pipeline and continue to provide billions of dollars a year in fossil fuel subsidies. They do not have a real and meaningful plan. What is more, they kept the same targets as Stephen Harper's Conservatives, when we know that his government won all the fossil awards at the time.

We need to listen to our young people. They are talking to us about the environment. Hundreds, even thousands of them, took to the streets in cities across Canada to say that the environment must become a priority like in the Netherlands. We need to follow the Netherlands' lead and support active transportation. On that point, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni who bikes everywhere and encourages others to do the same. Even my leader bikes all the time. They are good examples to follow. We need to make Canada's urban areas a lot more bike-friendly and do more to encourage active transportation. That is extremely important. Let us follow the example of the Netherlands.

Official Languages April 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the Netflix saga shows no sign of ending. First came the tax breaks, and now the Liberal government is giving in to Netflix's demands without even requiring the American giant to produce French-language content. This is an assault on the language rights of francophones across the country, an assault we must condemn. It may not be Netflix's job to promote official languages, but it is the government's duty to protect them.

When will the government take its job seriously and demand that Netflix produce an appropriate amount of French content?

Official Languages April 2nd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I want to conclude by saying that Franco-Ontarians have gone through the latest budget with a fine-toothed comb.

I asked my colleague what more she had done for francophones. Franco-Ontarians asked us whether the budget explicitly said that the Liberal government was prepared to fund its fair share of the French-language university in Ontario. They wanted the budget to be clear on that.

The action plan for official languages sounds good, but we need to see a commitment from the Liberal government in the budget. This is what representatives of Ontario's francophone community are asking for. This is why the Liberal government should have made a gesture in the budget or shown some will—