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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was years.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-18 is in keeping with that trend. Here again, there are many areas where the government is saying it will legislate with Bill C-18. There are the so-called plant breeders' rights and farmers' “privileges”.

There are many imperfections in the bill, but topping it all off is the right to amend the impact of the legislation through regulations and authorities that are as dumb as any minister who would get directly involved. That is a serious problem.

There is a pile of bungled omnibus bills that have not taken expert opinions into consideration. They affect a lot of different aspects of a sector and include the possibility of, for example, regulating other things if the bills do not work. This is an appalling admission that these bills have not fully matured. If that were the case, the government would not have to say that it will do something else if the bill does not work two weeks down the road. That is very worrisome.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, UPOV 1991 is part of what I was discussing at the beginning, namely the fact that we are giving great consideration to the protection of plant material and the balance between protecting patents and this legacy.

Will we sign these agreements because of Bill C-18? It is not clear to me or to our critics who have worked very hard on this file.

Furthermore, Bill C-18 is vague with respect to long-term intentions. This could be part of the long list of things about the bill that we must unfortunately criticize. Once again we were unable to amend it despite the goodwill of the witnesses and the official opposition.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I cannot find it in my notes, but there was a whole section on the flexibility of advance payments. Back home, people have mixed feelings about advance payments. Some farmers are experiencing financial difficulties. When the time came to negotiate the remaining payments on this program with the federal government, things did not go well.

One of the first things I want to do, now that we know that Bill C-18 will unfortunately pass as is, without amendment, is to go back to these people to see whether this flexibility could actually have helped them, in the context of what happened to them five, six, seven or eight years ago.

This measure could perhaps be made retroactive to make it clear that these people need flexibility to resolve their financial issues. These are proud farmers who have worked hard, and they had no control over the events that led them to the brink of bankruptcy.

I will then make sure that this flexibility will be considered for these people as well. We cannot lose our farmers in the regions.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-18. The official opposition supported it at second reading but will be opposing it at third reading. I will explain why in the next few minutes.

Bill C-18 amends certain agricultural and agri-food laws. Bill C-18, so that people understand, is part of a top-priority, major debate for the ones who will follow, to paraphrase a film titled For Those Who Will Follow, which is well known in my region. This is a debate about patenting life forms. It is a great thing when it is done well. Patents can acknowledge the efforts put into research and the associated costs. They can provide a return on investment for people who have invested in research. That is as true for agriculture as it is for other industries. Patents can make the corresponding knowledge available to everyone.

The advantage of a patent—if it is done properly, if it is not sold for a fortune and if a fake patent is not invented with fake benefits—is that once someone has invested in that knowledge, in the results, and the patent is made public, a great number of people can benefit from it.

However, because we are talking about things we can eat, the very stuff of life, companies that already have many patents on gene sequences, microorganisms and GMOs should not be allowed to patent the genes of varieties developed by groups of farmers over decades. In some cases, we are talking about species that took hundreds or even thousands of years to develop. We absolutely have to protect that while acknowledging that, in some cases, patenting can be a good thing to do if it is done properly and regulated properly.

Probably the most disturbing case, which happened not long ago in Canada and has a bearing on this discussion about patenting living things, involved a farmer called Mr. Schmeiser. Monsanto took him to court for violating a patent. The company discovered that some Roundup Ready was growing in one of Mr. Schmeiser's canola fields even though he swore he had not planted any. A trial court judge sided with Monsanto in the case even though nobody was able to prove how the contamination happened or why Monsanto's products ended up in the farmer's field. Mr. Schmeiser even proved that he had never used Roundup. If Monsanto seeds grew in his field, he did not benefit from it. You have to know how Monsanto products work to take advantage of them because you have to apply Roundup to kill everything else so you can reap the benefits. The farmer proved that he never reaped that benefit. He probably never intended to benefit from the seeds and violate Monsanto's rights, but he was convicted as though he had committed a crime.

The NDP therefore believes that a balanced approach is essential when it comes to the protection of plant breeders’ rights—consider Mr. Schmeiser. Bill C-18 does not meet that objective. As a result, the NDP will oppose this bill at third reading.

In the comments that follow, you will hear the word “breeder”. I want to make sure that those who are kind enough to watch us on CPAC understand what a breeder is. A breeder is the organization that produced, by voluntary selection or genetic manipulation, a plant that is sufficiently stable, homogeneous and distinct from other varieties of the same species to be considered a new variety. If an organization can demonstrate that it succeeded in obtaining such a variety by genetic manipulation or crossbreeding, in many cases, then it should be given the rights associated with the years of research and investments.

As I was saying at the beginning of my speech, we tried to support the bill at second reading in the hopes that the governing party would act in good faith and allow us to amend aspects of the bill that we and many associations are very concerned about. The NDP proposed 16 amendments so that the rules would be fairer for both the breeders, who have the rights to these new varieties, and farmers.

All of our amendments, without exception, were rejected by the Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. No improvements were made, even though the witnesses essentially agreed with the NDP that the bill needed to be improved.

Here is one example. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is calling for protections for producers from claims of patent infringement with respect to natural or accidental spreading of patented plant genetic material. This is very similar to the case of Mr. Schmeiser. The NDP therefore proposed an amendment that would have required the intent to infringe on patent protection to be proven, which would have made it possible to distinguish between deliberate patent infringement and the accidental spreading of a patented plant genetic material.

This amendment was rejected, even though it was based on the testimony of witnesses and on the case of a Canadian farmer who had a very difficult time for reasons that, in my opinion, did not make sense. Unfortunately, we will have to vote against the bill at third reading, despite the goodwill of my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Worse still, in a similar vein, there are no provisions in Bill C-18 to ensure that legal fees do not impede farmers’ defence in such cases. Imagine if a large biotechnology company were to accidentally spread some seeds. In my region, there was a huge issue with spinach that was possibly genetically modified. Some producers of non-GMO spinach in the region wonder what they will do if such an accident does happen and how they can prove it and defend themselves against the company.

It there is any bad faith on the part of a big multinational like Monsanto, for example, how is a small producer supposed to defend himself if, from the outset, the law does not provide sufficient defence? He could go to court and try to defend himself by saying that he did not deliberately contaminate his field with a patented plant from his neighbour's field, but how much would that cost him? He would not be able to prove that in court if there is no regulatory framework to provide him with minimal protections, which is what we wanted. This could drag on in court forever, and small producers are certainly not going to be the ones to come out ahead in a process like that.

The amendment was proposed, but it was not included in the bill. Like many other amendments, it was rejected by the Conservative majority. Furthermore, the NDP is concerned about the powers being granted to the minister, including the power in the regulations to unconditionally exempt rights and privileges, not of those who obtain the patent, but once again of farmers, on a case by case basis. To sum up why the NDP does not support Bill C-18 at third reading, the bill does not explicitly protect farmers and it puts too much discretionary power in the minister's hands. We oppose this bill.

The bill includes some things that not everyone agrees on, but at least they make sense. However, it also includes many new exclusive rights for plant breeders: reproduction, conditioning, sale, export or import, and stocking for the purpose of exercising other exclusive rights. This is all meant to give rights to plant breeders.

What is more, it also gives farmers what it calls “privileges” and not rights. It is odd to think that after Bill C-18, someone who is growing a natural variety, developed over hundreds of years literally by his ancestors, will no longer really have the right to grow that variety. However, there would be some sort of tolerance or privilege to allow him to do so. In our opinion, this should be called a right. Ethically, this should even be a right that would trump the rights of patent-holding growers who aggressively come after those people who farm our centuries-old heritage products.

In closing, I want to address other amendments suggested by the NDP that were rejected as well. For example, we wanted to protect farmers from abusive litigation. Other members have talked about that. We wanted to ensure that farmers are consulted on the implementation of the bill and the subsequent changes to the rules and regulations.

Since this could have a serious impact on the industry, we wanted to ensure that Bill C-18 would be reviewed regularly and that people in the agricultural sector would always be included in those reviews. This too was rejected. We wanted to prohibit the cascade of royalties, as my colleagues were saying, to ensure that contracts would prevent harmful royalties from being added at every processing stage. This is not settled either.

Finally, I want people to understand that we are against this bill at third reading because it was impossible to improve a bill that should have been improved out of respect for our Canadian farmers.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, with my Liberal colleague today, I am reliving one of the biggest problems I have when I am in my riding: people with a completely reasonable point of view on a situation simply cannot understand where the Conservatives are going, and they want me to help them understand. I cannot explain this to my dear colleagues, because I do not understand myself.

I am well aware of the trend in some of the southern American states, which have made extensive use of cumulative minimum penalties, in spite of any kind of case law. That trend has been around a lot longer than this government, so they now have a little distance from which they can look at the results. The results are simply not there.

Reasonable people are asking why the Conservatives are taking a path that has failed time and time again in other jurisdictions. Like my colleague, I see that it makes no sense.

As for trying to explain it, perhaps I could one day, if ever I have a Conservative brain. However, I hope my colleague is patient, because that will probably never happen.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker I thank my colleague for his question.

Certainly, we have a responsibility to uphold the rule of law in our society, even though both the law and the society may be imperfect.

We cannot take all the people who commit serious, terrible crimes and send them to Mars for 150 years. That will not work.

Two of my colleagues opposite rose to ask, with indignation in their voices, why the NDP was against minimum sentences for child abusers. If my colleagues on the other side of the House could demonstrate, with facts from criminologists, sociologists and the like, that every time the minimum sentence is raised by 12 months, the number of victims decreases by 20%, I would be standing on my desk—not just on my chair—demanding that it be increased by seven years. At seven times 20% there would be no more victims and I would be very happy.

The problem is that things do not work that way, in a black and white fantasy world. More intelligence is required.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am not entirely pleased to be rising in the House today. It is not because of you, Mr. Speaker. It is always nice to discuss bills in your presence. However, I have a keen interest in this bill. Why? Because it deals with one of the most despicable kinds of crime, namely sexual abuse, and even worse, sexual abuse involving children.

To ensure that the people at home, who are civic-minded enough to watch CPAC, can follow my speech, I would like to specify that I am speaking to Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, to enact the High Risk Child Sex Offender Database Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

We are currently at second reading stage of this bill. It was introduced by the government and will be supported by the NDP. I believe the Liberals will also be supporting it. It seems pretty clear, then, that this bill will be supported by an overwhelming majority of members in the House at second reading. Again for the people at home, this means that the bill will be sent to committee, where it can be analyzed, and hopefully, perhaps even improved, if there is any good faith on the part of the governing party, which has a majority.

Before I talk about all kinds of considerations, I want to be very clear: the NDP has zero tolerance for sex offences, and especially for sex offences involving minors. I want to be crystal clear on that, as we have been somewhat frustrated in the past regarding the level of debate on these issues on the part of our colleagues across the aisle.

I will give a brief overview of a few of the points in Bill C-26, just to make sure we all understand what we are dealing with here. The bill increases existing mandatory minimum penalties and the maximum penalties for sexual offences against children. It also increases maximum penalties for violations of prohibition orders, probation orders and peace bonds.

Obviously, the main point of this bill is to increase sentences. Now I am going to take a critical look at the bill. Again, it is very important. I am the father of young children, including a 5-year-old little girl. I want all Canadians and my colleagues opposite to understand that if anyone were to hurt my little girl, I would turn into an angry bear, as any father in the country would. Nonetheless, we live in a society governed by the rule of law, and even faced with this obligation to legislate on sentencing for sexual offences against children, we must be able to have an intelligent debate.

A question comes to mind right away when we talk about increasing sentences. The debate has been public for a few days. I wonder what the repercussions will be for our provincial partners, who will end up with larger prison populations. Across Canada, provincial prisons have seen increases of 10%, 12% or 15% in the number of prisoners, and that is because of all the increased minimum sentences imposed by the current government.

Never mind determining which minimum sentences were logical and justified and which ones were not. As a matter of principle, we think that the provincial partners should not be left to deal with the problems caused by federal legislation. That is a problem in and of itself. At third reading—the stage that makes the bill—even if everyone agrees, this type of problem will one day have to be taken into consideration by this Parliament, and above all by the party that is in power, at least for another 10 months or so.

I noted another point in Bill C-26. It seeks to ensure that a court that imposes a sentence must take into consideration evidence that the offence in question was committed while the offender was subject to a conditional sentence order or released on parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence.

Too many cases of potential reoffenders have been documented fairly regularly in television reports. These were people who had served fairly long sentences and failed to meet requirements such as staying away from children’s playgrounds. That is an example of a fundamental aspect of the bill. We have to think about it and see if we can improve the situation.

Bill C-26 is based almost totally on a repressive approach. Unfortunately, that is not enough. We also have to ask ourselves how we can contribute to the much broader aspect of prevention, which is essential and an absolute priority.

The Minister of Justice himself admitted that there has been an increase, estimated at 6% over the last two years, in sex offences specifically against children. If I rely on the figures, and if I correctly understand the proportions, that means that dozens of families—parents, fathers, mothers and children—have had their lives affected and terribly damaged by the behaviour of a pedophile predator.

Suppose an individual has abused a six-year-old girl. Admittedly, being able to tell the girl’s mother that he will go to prison not for seven years, but for nine, because of the changes made by the government, may be a form of consolation. However, the only true consolation that should exist in such a horrific scenario is to be able to tell the parents that the person was going to act out against their child, but the resources put in place prevented him from acting out and their child was not abused. That is the only scenario in which we should invest a maximum of resources as a priority, because that is the only scenario for the population of Canada as a whole. I hope I am making myself understood.

I am therefore not opposed to every form of minimum sentence. In some cases, if competent people believe that harsher sentences are required, then I agree. The only thing that counts, however, is to take early action and have a maximum of resources available in the field so that we can tell parents that the worst thing that could happen to their child did not occur. When the worst has happened, it is not a true consolation to families experiencing such trauma to tell them that now that the worst has happened, the offender will spend 12 months longer in prison than if he had been sentenced two years ago.

This leads me to discuss the near-failure of the policies of the last six years, which have followed a tough-on-crime approach in greatly increasing sentences. We are therefore facing two problems: there is nonetheless an increase in the number of children being abused and in the number of people serving long prison sentences, and our provincial partners are going to be short of funding to manage it all.

In committee, our colleagues across the aisle will have to convince us that the path we are on will not add to our social problems, but help decrease such problems. For example, legislative measures have been used in the past six years to increase surveillance. However, we cannot discuss surveillance unless we can ensure that the RCMP and other police forces have the resources they need to do their work.

The government should not take $650,000 away from Correctional Service Canada as it has done, because CSC has been getting results, although they are imperfect. However, these situations are completely imperfect, involving criminals and sick people who commit the most awful acts. Still, if the resources provided make it possible to prevent just five offenders from reoffending, that is a step forward. I do not sympathize with those who reoffend. As a father I have trouble feeling sympathy for someone who committed a revolting act 15, 20 or 30 years ago, even if he has served his time.

No, I am thinking of the victims. If five offenders do not reoffend, there are five fewer victims.

Minimum sentences are not the only thing for us to consider in this debate. We must also think about the essential resources needed to decrease the number of victims.

South Shore Youth Foundation November 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Nelson Mandela said that “the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. For over 20 years now, the Fondation-Jeunesse de la Côte-Sud has been supporting organizations that help young people to integrate into society and escape poverty.

Every year, the organization hosts an event to honour young people who have overcome difficulties in order to achieve their goals. On October 25, Gabriel Morin, the honorary chair, recognized the achievements of five young people from my region.

I would like to invite my colleagues to join me and the 200 guests who attended the event in congratulating Raphaël Fortin of Montmagny, Laurent Lacasse of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Jessica Mignault of Saint-Pascal, Noémie Dubé of Saint-Épiphane and Christopher Lee Ouellette of Dégelis on their success.

To add to Mr. Mandela's words of wisdom, there is greater glory still in rising when life has been conspiring against you from day one.

It takes great courage and perseverance for a troubled youth to succeed. I would therefore like to close by thanking these wonderful young people, who gave us great hope and made us very proud on the evening of the event.

The Environment October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where to start. Members opposite spend a lot of time hiding behind the fact that there were strict conditions.

First of all, the strict conditions were set out by a signatory who was not even a marine mammal specialist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and they were not supported by any scientists in the field.

What is more, if the Conservatives were up to date on this matter, they would know more about these so-called strict conditions. We now know that the noise from the drilling exceeded 120 decibels. We know that, even though the company was only authorized to conduct drilling, it was doing other exploratory work that exceeded the noise limit of 120 decibels at a distance of 540 metres by five times. The 120-decibel noise carried over an area five times larger than what was authorized. Has the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans not been following this issue?

Furthermore, we know that three boats were being used at the same time, when the company had been limited to one vessel.

Even the unsatisfactory strict conditions were not met. The Conservatives need to come up to speed and get their heads out of the oil sands because, in this case, the strict conditions were not met. None of them were met.

The Environment October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to revisit a question I asked on September 24. I will remind the public of what that question was about.

A Superior Court judge had to suspend drilling off the coast of Cacouna. In her decision, she criticized Quebec, which never received the scientific opinions requested from the Science, Oceans and Environment Branch at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The scientists' inability to speak up resulted in the premature commencement of an oil company's operations, with complete disregard for our environmental obligations. Contrary to what the minister said, they were drilling in beluga habitat without knowing what beluga experts thought of the undertaking. Will the minister finally let the experts speak and will she provide the scientific opinions?

A lot has happened since I asked that question. Many things directly related to this file have happened since then. Let us have a look back at those events.

There was drilling at the time. In mid-September, drilling had begun off the coast of Cacouna and a large number of experts pointed out that the decision to authorize those activities was made by the provincial government. This was test drilling ahead of planning for the construction of a potential oil terminal off the coast of Cacouna. Many experts said that authorization was given without the backing of any credible scientific expertise, in other words, advice from Fisheries and Oceans Canada experts in marine mammals and species at risk.

Something rather uncommon in the history of our environmental obligations in Canada happened here. A group brought this matter all the way to the Quebec Superior Court, which is the highest court in Quebec. The group demonstrated that, despite repeated requests for months by the biologist in charge of the project at the provincial level to obtain credible scientific opinions, the Fisheries and Oceans Canada administration acted in such a way that a scientific opinion was never submitted. Something was submitted, namely some sort of briefing that was one and a half pages long, which is not considered to be a credible scientific opinion by any expert whatsoever. That is what was used as grounds to authorize the drilling. Nonetheless, the Superior Court decided to prohibit the drilling and issued an injunction.

That was the context for my question. Nevertheless, the minister replied—and I will give the broad strokes—that the ruling had to do with the provincial government, as though Fisheries and Oceans Canada was not a key player and the source of the problem.

Had Fisheries and Oceans Canada done its job, had it fulfilled its responsibility with respect to international agreements on species at risk, had it provided the necessary information, the Superior Court would never have been involved. The problem is the fault of Fisheries and Oceans Canada alone, but the minister is telling us that it is the fault of the provincial government.

With her incredible ignorance of the file—which continues because the problems have been compounded and she repeats the same empty answers every time—she told me that Fisheries and Oceans Canada had conducted a review of the project and approved it based on scientific evidence. The government cannot say that the day after the Superior Court imposes an injunction on a project because the judge realized that the scientific advice had not been provided.

That is just not good enough, and that is why I asked for an adjournment debate. I hope we will start to get answers that, at the very least, will suggest to Canadians and Quebeckers that someone in government is starting to understand the fundamental problem with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and this file.