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

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation Act February 19th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-391, an act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of Aboriginal cultural property.

While I am on my feet, I would like to begin by acknowledging that the lands on which we are gathered here in Ottawa are part of the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin people.

According to current knowledge, the lands of the greater Drummond area were transit points where the Abenaki, Mohican, Huron, Algonquin and even Iroquois peoples stopped to portage, camp or fish.

Yolande Allard of the Drummond historical society has prepared a map that very clearly indicates the various sites that were used and their Abenaki names all along the Saint-François River transportation network. She and the Drummond historical society have done an excellent job of helping us better understand how indigenous peoples used these lands.

This bill refers to a very important issue. We are finally beginning to recognize the historical events that led to the erosion of indigenous cultural heritage. That is why the return of seized objects is an important part of the healing process for communities and for reconciliation between the colonial state and indigenous peoples.

The connection between returning objects and healing and reconciliation is extremely important. We have been working on this issue for years, and it is very important to us.

The NDP will support this bill at second reading, but we do have some questions. For example, we would like to know who was consulted about this bill.

Any time a bill affects indigenous peoples, they must be the first to be consulted so they can provide guidance. We do not know exactly who was consulted as this bill was being drafted.

As I said, it is extremely important to enable indigenous peoples to preserve and protect their ancestral, religious and cultural property and to have access to that property.

The Government of Canada and foreign governments must respect the collective rights of indigenous peoples with respect to the return of ancestral remains and sacred, funerary and culturally important objects.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms this right, and the Government of Canada fully and unconditionally supported this declaration and plans on supporting Bill C-262. That bill was introduced by my New Democrat colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. During the 41st Parliament, he also introduced Bill C-469, an act to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

That bill set out the fundamental restitution rights in international law and then became Bill C-262 when it was introduced in 2016. The bill is now at committee stage, and we are confident that it will be improved and strengthened.

My colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou is working with the government to make sure that the bill truly reflects the objective of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Radio-Canada recently published an article online about the repatriation of indigenous property and how it keeps a culture alive. It was interesting to see how Sandy Raphaël, an indigenous woman who is the heritage and culture director of the Mashteuiatsh band council, felt when she was able to repatriate some cultural property.

I will read a few excerpts from the article.

Why repatriate?

Sandy Raphaël remembers exactly how she felt when she saw some objects that belonged to her nation, such as drums, tumplines and a moosehide coat, at the National Museum of the American Indian, or NMAI, in Washington.

This is what Ms. Raphaël said:

It is quite moving to see the beauty of these objects, their life, their history, because they were made by our people. If they could speak, I would want them to tell me their story. I already had a sense of attachment to them.

A little further on, Sandy Raphaël states the following:

Seven grade nine students from the community, accompanied by Sandy Raphaël, went to the museum in June 2013. The young people returned with shining eyes, feeling even prouder of their identity.

I am reading out these excerpts to show why it is important to repatriate the cultural objects of indigenous peoples. It will give them back their identity, their culture and their history. That is extremely rewarding.

Studies have shown that young people who have access to strong cultural components, such as their language, ceremonies, ancestral property and education, are less likely to commit suicide, drop out of school, become addicts or engage in other harmful behaviour. It is clear that these elements and the repatriation of cultural property are important.

Bill C-391 is a step in the right direction. There is currently no federal legislation designed to facilitate the return of property stolen from indigenous communities. That is why it is important to pass this bill. As I already mentioned, Bill C-391 will have a positive impact on many members of Canada's indigenous communities.

A law to facilitate the repatriation of property will help indigenous youth connect with their culture and their language. Young people are the leaders of tomorrow. It is important that they are familiar with this identity and culture, so it is in our interest to give them the tools they need to thrive. In the case of indigenous youth, we also need to make sure that they connect with their culture by facilitating the repatriation of property.

The return of stolen cultural artifacts will also empower women and help restore the traditional balance between men and women. These artifacts teach about identity, the cultural nature of gender, roles in the community and the personal behaviours that enable individuals to define themselves. That is also a very important benefit.

The repatriation of property will also enable two-spirit people to reclaim their heritage.

However, I have some concerns about the bill. First, the bill does not contain any enforcement measures. It talks only about promoting and encouraging, and that is problem. Second, the implementation is not cohesive enough. There are so many stakeholders that there could be inconsistences and contradictions. Fourth, some communities are unable to conserve their artifacts even if they want to and will be forced to give them to museums because of budgetary constraints. There are no financial resources allocated to help preserve these precious and sometimes fragile artifacts. Fifth, the bill does not take into account the complexity of the repatriation of cultural heritage. Furthermore, the bill does not propose any concrete solutions in cases where organizations refuse to return legitimate property. Finally, indigenous peoples were not consulted enough during the drafting of this bill, and something needs to be done about that.

I am sure that the corrections needed to improve this bill can be made when it is examined in committee.

Natural Resources February 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals broke their promise to protect the environment and fight climate change when they bought the Trans Mountain pipeline. What is more, according to Équiterre, every dollar invested in renewable energy will create six to eight times more jobs than a dollar invested in fossil fuels, and yet the Liberals still decided to give billions of dollars of taxpayer money to big oil companies.

Why did the Liberals choose to invest in yesterday's energy instead of investing in the energy of the future?

Natural Resources February 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report confirms what the NDP has been saying all along: buying the Trans Mountain pipeline was not a good decision.

The Liberals overpaid for aging infrastructure that will lose value.

Canadians are facing record debt levels, but instead of helping them, the Liberals chose to take our money and buy an old pipe with it. Unbelievable.

Why do the Liberals always choose to help big business instead of the people who really need help?

Official Languages February 1st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the official languages situation in this country is taking a worrisome turn. New Brunswick just cancelled plans to host the Jeux de la Francophonie. Uncertainty about the future of New Brunswick's linguistic duality is just one of many threats facing Canada's official languages.

Other examples, such as the Doug Ford Conservatives' decision to abolish the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and scrap plans for a Franco-Ontarian university, and uncertainty around the possible abolition of school boards in Quebec, point to an urgent need to take action.

That is why, in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, the NDP is calling on the Prime Minister to hold a pan-Canadian summit on official languages. I will be presenting a request to the Standing Committee on Official Languages to organize a first ministers' summit to celebrate Canadian bilingualism.

Business of Supply January 31st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the government that it is possible to have long-term plans but, when there is a housing crisis like the one we are currently experiencing, immediate investments are needed.

The problem is that the investments are being made too slowly. The government cannot wait 10 years in the midst of a housing crisis because 90% of the funding will be allocated only near the end of the 10 years. That is too late. The government needs to invest more.

We are calling for an investment to deal with the housing crisis. I explained how many Canadians are $200 away from insolvency because of all the difficulties they are going through. The government needs to take action and resolve this situation. The housing crisis is extremely serious for indigenous people. The time for talk is over. It is time to take action. The motion is very respectable, honourable and balanced. I hope that the Liberal government will support it.

Business of Supply January 31st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise for my first 10-minute speech in this new House of Commons. I have already had the opportunity to give a few short interventions, but this is my first speech in this new temporary House of Commons, although 10 years is more than temporary.

What an honour it is for me to speak to a subject that is so important to the people in my riding of Drummond and across the country. I am talking about the housing crisis and the importance of access to affordable housing and social and co-operative housing. This is a very important subject, and I thank my colleague from Saskatoon West for moving this motion on housing. She is calling on the Liberal government to create 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing within 10 years and to commit in budget 2019 to completing 250,000 of those units within five years. As we have said, the situation is urgent. We have explained several times during this debate why this is a serious and urgent situation.

As we have shown, there is a housing crisis right now. Housing prices are skyrocketing, rent is going up, and there is a rental housing shortage. There is a long waiting list for low-income housing in places like Drummond. The Drummond housing corporation needs space, especially for single people and seniors. The need is great right now.

The housing crisis also calls for immediate measures because the lack of social and affordable housing is a social problem we need to tackle without delay. As I believe we have said repeatedly, the Liberal government is not doing enough. It does not hurt to say that again. Families are suffering, but the Liberal government is telling them they just have to wait because 90% of the money earmarked for the national housing strategy will be not be distributed until after the next election. People need that money now. About 1.7 million Canadian families are living in inadequate, unaffordable or unsuitable housing. We cannot wait 10 years to tackle this housing crisis.

As we have said again and again, we in the NDP believe that housing is a right and that it is extremely important in the fight against poverty. First and foremost we must ensure that everyone has a roof over their head. Housing is not just an expenditure, it is an investment in our society. That is why we can no longer wait, as the Liberal government is asking us to do.

As I said earlier in one of my comments, it is important to remember that one in five people in Canada spend more than 50% of their income on housing. It is probably roughly the same percentage in Drummond. An increasing number of people are just one pay cheque away from homelessness. As we heard earlier, in a survey conducted recently, 52% of participants reported they were just $200 away from not being able to pay their bills and their various debts. It makes no sense for people to live with so much debt and so much financial insecurity. That is why significant investments are needed. As we have pointed out, investing in social housing will go a long way in relieving the stress and anxiety weighing on Canadians.

Since I am on the topic of inequality, I would add than an Oxfam report, which members have probably heard about, has shown the importance of fighting inequality. According to the report, the world's richest 1% get 82% of the wealth.

That is completely unacceptable. I will repeat: 82% of the money generated last year went to the richest 1% of the global population. As for the 3.7 billion poorest people in the world, they did not see any of that wealth or growth.

We need to take action, and the measures we are highlighting are the important ones. Things are difficult in Drummond. According to the latest CMHC data, the vacancy rate in Drummondville is 1.7% or about half the break-even point of 3%. This is a worrisome situation. According to Véronique Laflamme, the spokesperson for the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, which works on social housing, the situation must be addressed, or the people of Drummondville will have a housing crisis. We are in a precarious situation that requires concrete measures.

Housing is an extremely important issue for me. The NDP has been interested in social housing for a long time. Jack Layton made housing one of his top issues. I began working on this file in Drummond in 2011. I helped L'Envolée des mères, a housing organization, by sponsoring a house with my own money and I named it after Jack Layton. There is a house bearing the name of Jack Layton. That was my contribution to Drummond's social housing.

All kinds of investments are being made in housing, and a number of organizations are helping the homeless in Drummond. One example is Maison Habit-Action, which primarily looks after young adults aged 18-30 who are struggling. There is also the Réseau d'aide le Tremplin, which is a support network for people struggling with mental health issues. Another example is Ensoleilvent, a short-term emergency shelter. There are many similar organizations operating in Drummond. I want to acknowledge the excellent work done by all those who work at these organizations, who are members of the boards of directors and who are helping improve the lives of people in Drummond. I am proud and happy to support them. This is another reason why I think this motion is important.

Let us not forget the housing crisis that is affecting indigenous peoples across the country both on reserve and off reserve. There has been much talk about that in the House of Commons, including during question period. It is another issue that is extremely important to us. Just look at the indigenous community of Cat Lake in northwestern Ontario, where a state of emergency was declared because of the disastrous housing conditions, including the presence of mould. Ninety houses, or 75% of the homes, have to be demolished immediately.

The presence of mould in homes on reserve is frequently caused by shoddy construction and overcrowding. That is not the only problem, either. There are broken windows, holes in the roofs, crumbling foundation piles, and so on. Something has to be done. I would add that it is critical that first nations housing be designed by them and for them. They are best placed to fix this situation.

In closing, I am very proud of this motion moved by my colleague from Saskatoon West on social and affordable housing. I hope the government will support it.

Business of Supply January 31st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for explaining that a lot of people are having trouble making ends meet.

She mentioned a recent study showing that 52% of participants were within $200 of being unable to pay their debts and bills. That is very troubling. Statistics show that one in five Canadians spend over 50% of their income on housing.

Does my colleague therefore think that we should invest in housing immediately instead of waiting until after the election, as the Liberal government is doing?

Business of Supply January 31st, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question about housing for indigenous people.

In my opinion, it is clear that the needs are enormous. During question period, the NDP showed several times how concerned it is about this problem.

We are seeing a real housing crisis both on and off reserve. For example, mould is a big problem. That is a serious health concern, particularly for indigenous adults and children and first nations people living on reserve. A national household survey showed that almost 40% of homes in indigenous communities need major repairs, and close to 35% are not suitable for the family's size. In some Inuit communities, the proportion of unsuitable housing exceeds 50%.

Does my colleague agree with me that indigenous people living both on and off reserve are experiencing a real housing crisis and that the government needs to take immediate action to address this very harmful situation?

Petitions January 30th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise in the House to present a petition about the national seniors strategy.

The petition is signed by people from all over greater Drummond who want to draw the attention of the House of Commons to the growing social inequality in this country, which affects seniors in particular. They are asking the Government of Canada to adopt a national seniors strategy to meet seniors' needs in terms of health, housing—which has been getting a lot of attention lately—and financial security, thereby improving their quality of life.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns January 28th, 2019

With respect to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages: (a) to which branch of the government does the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages belong, according to the Official Languages Act; (b) before the most recent appointment process for the Commissioner of Official Languages, had the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages ever covered the expenses of the appointment process for the Commissioner of Official Languages; (c) if the answer to (b) is negative, why did the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages agree to pay the expenses for the most recent appointment process for the Commissioner of Official Languages; (d) who precisely approached the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages to have it sign and pay for a contract with Boyden for the most recent appointment process for the Commissioner of Official Languages; (e) has Parliament ever authorized the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages to pay for expenses incurred by the government; (f) if the answer to (e) is affirmative, what are the authorizations in question; (g) did Parliament have access to the services from Boyden for which the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages paid in relation to the most recent appointment process for the Commissioner of Official Languages; (h) if the answer to (g) is negative, why; (i) how, in detail, did the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages ensure that the money that it spent for the most recent appointment process for the Commissioner of Official Languages was used for the appropriate purposes; (j) does the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages have all the details of how the money that it paid for the most recent appointment process for the Commissioner of Official Languages was spent; (k) has the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages ever authorized Boyden to subcontract services; and (l) what was the total amount that the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages was prepared to pay to cover expenses related to the most recent appointment process for the Commissioner of Official Languages?