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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Laval—Les Îles (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 20% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Respect for Communities Act November 21st, 2013

Mr. Speaker, my question is somewhat related to the question the member opposite just asked.

Would my dear colleague rather not know whether her children can walk around and play in parks because there are needles? With a facility like InSite, needles would all be in the same location, and not in parks.

Respect for Communities Act November 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. I will not say the name of his riding, since it is even more complicated than mine.

As I was saying, that is a concern in my community. We would really like to have a place like InSite. Many people would be willing to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which I have been a member of for a few months.

Indeed, I know many people who would be willing to come and tell the committee how beneficial it would be to have a place like InSite in their community.

Respect for Communities Act November 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for her question. I would have to look at my notes, because I do not have the exact figures. However, I agree that it is disgusting that the Conservatives are using this issue to raise money and that they launched a campaign with a title like “Keep heroin out of our backyards”. That is the exact opposite of what will happen.

I live across from a park and I sometimes see people there at two in the morning. I do not need to go over there to know what teens and other people are doing at that hour. Contrary to what the Conservatives claim, I think that having a place like InSite in my neighbourhood would keep heroin out of my backyard.

Respect for Communities Act November 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Drummond for his excellent question.

I come from an area where there are a lot of drug addicts and there is no facility like InSite. I see people from day to day, and it is clear just from looking at them that they have a lot of problems. I even know some people who died from an overdose. If there had been a place like InSite, they would probably still be alive today.

Respect for Communities Act November 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to debate Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The bill before us today brings into sharper focus what is happening under this Conservative government. This bill is driven solely by ideology and completely ignores the facts. That is nothing new for the Conservatives. Bill C-2 is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to put an end to supervised injection sites.

As we have seen routinely for some time, this government has no qualms about introducing bills that disregard recent rulings by the highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada. In fact, in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that InSite provided essential services and had to remain open under the exemption set out in section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The Court also ruled that the charter authorized users to access InSite services and that the provision of similar services should also be authorized under the same exemption.

In addition, a number of studies published in major scientific journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal, describe the benefits of the InSite supervised injection facility.

We have noticed over the past few years that the Conservatives are not fond of scientists who express their opinions, particularly when those opinions are critical of the Conservatives or when they go against the Conservatives’ ideology.

A government’s mission is not to muzzle scientists or to gag members of the House of Commons a record number of times. The government’s role is to take note of the facts and, on the basis of those facts, make the best decisions for Canadians. With Bill C-2, the government is again falling into the embarrassing trap of grandstanding and ignoring facts that clearly prove that supervised injection facilities like InSite have a wide range of benefits for the general public.

Just a few hours after introducing Bill C-2, the Conservatives launched a campaign called “Keep heroin out of our backyards”, designed to rally grassroots support and, once again, to fuel the public’s unfounded fears about safety. I am really looking forward to hearing the arguments they make to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Let us just take a few moments to think about this seriously. Are the Conservatives really so keen on magical thinking that they believe that, if InSite were closed, heroin use would automatically disappear? I hope their cognitive reasoning is a little more advanced than that. The reality is that, after the closure of supervised injection facilities, heroin use would not disappear but would once again be widespread in neighbourhoods and could at that point become a real danger for the general public. This is the exact opposite of what the Conservatives are claiming.

This is a fact. Let us forget the Conservatives’ ideological inflexibility that results in the exact opposite of what they claim, and talk about the facts, the real facts, about InSite and the positive benefits of supervised injection facilities.

The InSite project was set up as part of a public health initiative by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and a number of other community partners following a 12-fold increase in the number of overdose deaths in Vancouver between 1987 and 1993. Over that seven-year period, the Vancouver area also saw a disturbing increase in the rate of blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis A, B and C and HIV/AIDS, among injection drug users.

In 2003, InSite secured an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for activities with medical and scientific applications, in order to provide services and conduct research into the effectiveness of supervised injection facilities.

In 2007, the Onsite Detox Centre was added at the same location.

In 2008, InSite's exemption expired. The Minister of Health denied its application for renewal, in a portent of the bill now before this House.

The Minister of Health's decision triggered a series of court cases, following which the British Columbia Supreme Court found that InSite had to be given a further exemption. The Conservative government appealed that decision, but lost its appeal in the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which also found that InSite should remain open.

Finally, in 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Minister’s decision to close InSite violated its clients’ charter rights, was arbitrary, and was contrary to the very purpose of the Public Health and Safety Act. In the NDP, we believe that government decisions should be made in the best interests of the public, and not in accordance with an ideological stance.

Evidence has shown that supervised injection sites are effective in reducing the risk of contracting and spreading blood-borne diseases and overdose-related deaths. It has also shown that such sites are not bad for public safety and that in many cases, on the contrary, they promote it by reducing drug injection in public places, the associated violence, and the waste materials that result from drug use. They also make it possible to strike a fair balance between public safety and public health and to connect users with the health care and drug treatment services they need in order to escape the hell of drug use.

In this case, the facts are clear and unequivocal. Between 1987 and 1993, before InSite opened, the number of overdose-related deaths in Vancouver rose from 16 to 200 a year. Since it opened, the number of overdose-related deaths in east Vancouver has fallen 35%.

For our Conservative friends who believe that InSite is a dangerous place that poses a threat to the public, here are some more facts. Over a one-year period, 2,171 InSite users were referred to addiction counselling and other support services. People using InSite's services at least once a week are almost twice as likely to enrol in a detox program than those who visit only occasionally.

There was a very significant drop in the number of discarded needles, injection-related waste materials and people injecting themselves with drugs, just in the year following the opening of InSite. It was found that 80% of respondents living or working in Vancouver's downtown east side support InSite. A number of studies have looked at the possible negative impact of InSite. Not one produced any evidence of harm to the community.

The facts are clear. An initiative like InSite is a step in the right direction in terms of public health and public safety. In contrast to what the Conservatives claim, it gets drugs off our streets and moves them to supervised sites where people are attended to and strongly encouraged to explore the possibilities for drug treatment and social reintegration.

That is why we will be voting against Bill C-2, which is based—as is all too often the case on the other side of the House—on magical thinking, rather than facts.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act June 13th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, my daughter lives in Oka. When I go to visit her, I go past stands with signs saying “Illegal Cigarettes” in big letters.

No one is arrested, because the police, due to the lack of resources, cannot arrest people who sell illegal cigarettes right now, even if they do have big signs.

Does my colleague think that, without funding, this bill will do anything to change this state of affairs?

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act June 13th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very fine speech.

He told us that there had been many budget cuts. I would like him to go farther and tell us whether he thinks that in committee, the opposition will be able to convince the Conservatives to put in place the necessary funding to enforce this bill, which, after all, is a good bill, provided the necessary funding is forthcoming.

Seniors June 10th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, in March I introduced a bill to help seniors who need to pay for funeral arrangements in advance. My bill allowed them to withdraw up to $2,500 without affecting the calculation of their guaranteed income supplement benefits.

Instead of increasing the retirement age, will the Conservatives help the NDP find tangible solutions to help pensioners living in difficult circumstances? Will the Conservatives work with the NDP to pass Bill C-480 and reduce poverty among seniors?

Old Age Security Act June 7th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, in reviewing the Conservatives' approach to my bill, something struck me.

The Conservative approach does not take into account the fact that every retiree who receives the guaranteed income supplement can already deduct $3,500. What is more, the Conservative approach does not take into account the fact that not all retirees are fortunate enough to have an RRSP. Finally, this approach assumes that all eligible retirees would prearrange their funerals in the first year.

That is not what my bill is about at all, even though I would certainly like to be able to give our retirees $81 million. By the way, $81 million is only 1% of the total envelope.

Unfortunately, my approach just seeks to correct a glaring injustice done to some of the least fortunate retirees. Let me explain. If tomorrow morning, every Canadian withdrew money from an RRSP in order to prearrange their funeral, only 9,000 of them would take a hit to their income in 2014. You heard right: out of 37 million Canadians, only 9,000 of the least fortunate would be penalized, according to official data from the Library of Parliament.

To me that is unfair and unacceptable. This bill is about those 9,000 people, and that is where the $132,400 figure comes from.

Why take two different approaches in the same bill? For the simple reason that we did not have the time or the opportunity to sit down together and take a close look at the purpose of my bill. That is why all of the parties in the House should at least have a chance to take a thorough look at my bill in committee.

I am therefore asking all members of the House to give this bill a chance to go to committee for thorough study and debate. The committee is the only place where we can make amendments to align the two objectives in my bill and find a solution that makes everyone happy.

As I have been saying since the beginning, I am open to amendments because my goal here is not to make political hay; it is to help Canadian seniors who really need help. Let us not forget that, as I have said, this bill targets a small number of people who unfortunately belong to one of the neediest groups in society. These are people who built our great country, who made it what it is today. They deserve all of our respect, and they especially deserve to have us find a solution to a problem that affects only the poorest seniors.

As I said earlier, no other Canadians are penalized income-wise the year after they withdraw money from an RRSP to pay for a pre-arranged funeral. Only these nation-builders, who worked so hard their whole lives and managed to put some of their hard-earned money aside in their RRSPs, are penalized. If they want to help their families cope with the grieving process once they depart for a better world, they will be penalized.

I am therefore asking all members of the House to set partisanship aside and support my bill so that we can work together to find a way to help our poorest seniors enjoy their well-deserved retirement a little bit more.

In closing, I would like to thank all of the members who spoke to my bill. I appreciate that very much.

Seniors April 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, in this very chamber, we had the first hour of debate on my bill.

This bill, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (funeral arrangements), would help lift seniors out of poverty and provide peace of mind for their heirs. My NDP colleagues and I are very committed to this bill. It seems that our Liberal colleagues also support it.

The cost of the measure in Bill C-480, which will provide real assistance for our seniors and their families, is $132,400 a year. As incredible as it may seem, the Conservative government has indicated that it will vote against the bill.

It seems that an annual investment of less than an MP's or senator's salary in order to reduce poverty among Canadian seniors is too rich for the Conservatives.

I invite the Prime Minister and his caucus to set partisanship aside for once and to work with us to reduce poverty among seniors. The most—