- His favourite word was quebec.
Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Berthier—Maskinongé (Québec)
Lost his last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Business of Supply March 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I note that the hon. member is not answering the questions. I will continue to ask him questions pertaining to this motion because that is today's subject.
Yesterday, for the third time in one year, the Speaker ruled that this government had breached parliamentary privilege. I would like our Conservative colleague to tell us how he will avoid explaining to our audience at home yesterday's ruling by the Speaker to the effect that his party lacks transparency and does not respect democratic rules.
Business of Supply March 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the Conservative Party speech and noted that, again today, the government is still not willing to respect democratic rules. It considers this Parliament as somewhat of an obstacle that it must get around.
It uses euphemisms to avoid stating the truth. It referred to Canada's economic action plan and inferred that it was the core of the motion. We are not talking about Canada's economic action plan. We are talking about the $250 million used for a pre-election campaign during a parliamentary constituency week.
I would like the hon. member to explain in more detail his position on the use of public money for a pre-election campaign, which is what they did, and to talk more about the motion presented by the Bloc Québécois concerning this government's many scandals.
Business of Supply March 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Québec on her excellent presentation on democracy and lack of transparency in the House.
I would like her opinion on the funding of KAIROS. We have seen the Minister of International Cooperation change her mind and not answer questions here in the House, often with the protection of her House Leader. In my colleague's view, what prevented the Minister of International Cooperation from saying from the start that she was rejecting the public servants’ recommendation and from explaining why?
Veterans March 9th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, Mark Campbell, a soldier who stepped on a bomb in June 2008 in Afghanistan and lost both of his legs, has said that the new veterans charter is an abject betrayal, since it robs wounded soldiers of 40% of their income. The new lump sump payments pale in comparison to the lifetime pensions that were paid until the Conservatives made this abject decision.
Why is the government trying to save money at the expense of the new generation of veterans?
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak at third reading on Bill C-473, An Act to protect insignia of military orders and military decorations and medals that are of cultural significance for future generations.
When the member for Perth—Wellington introduced this bill, the Bloc decided to support it at second reading, so that it could be studied more carefully by the members of the committee.
We had a number of questions about this bill and we thought carefully about whether we would support it, since it would preserve a piece of Canadian heritage.
All governments must do what is necessary to protect the culture and history of their peoples. Military history is an integral part of the history of a people. Thus, the federal government must preserve that history to the best of its abilities.
However, when we studied this bill in committee, we listened carefully to the witnesses who spoke out against it. I believe that a committee studying a bill must consult the people affected by the bill, the experts on enforcement of such legislation.
According to the amended bill, only the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian Forces can purchase the medals. That excludes a good number of Quebec, provincial and local museums. Other museums or veterans' organizations could very well be interested in purchasing medals.
The bill has limitations. To be effective, the museums will need enough money to buy the medals. Based on what we saw in committee, most if not all museums have very limited acquisition budgets. The Director General of the Canadian War Museum told the committee that most of the medals acquired by the Canadian War Museum have been donated and that it lacks public funds for that purpose. The Canadian War Museum has very rarely purchased medals for its collection.
If this bill were passed, the museum might need additional funding in order to purchase medals. However, there is no guarantee that the museum will be able to obtain additional funds. This is obviously the case for all museums.
This criticism was repeated by representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion when they appeared before the Committee on Veterans Affairs on October 19, 2010. The legion believes that the bill has limitations because, to be effective, the museums require adequate funding, which is not the case. To be effective, there should have been at least a provision for an acquisition budget, but that is not in the bill.
In addition, and this is an important factor, the Royal Canadian Legion, which includes veterans and others who made an essential contribution to these military missions, stated that the bill would not effectively restrict the transfer of military insignia, decorations, orders and medals.
In short, we gave medals to these people and this bill now imposes conditions on the disposal of these medals, after the recipient's death, for example.
Let us not forget that the aim of Bill C-473 is to preserve Canadian military medals, orders and insignia of cultural and historical importance.
We give a medal to commend an individual for acts of honour in the theatre of operations and then, several years later, we take it upon ourselves to decide what that individual can do with it. When I am given something, if no conditions are imposed at the outset, I believe I have the right to do what I like with that object. This bill sets out a legislative framework for soldiers who received medals for the bravery they demonstrated during their military service. We cannot allow the House to impose legislation on people who received medals, orders and decorations for military service.
Representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion said they were concerned that this bill will not close all the loopholes and that important medals could leave Canada, which could possibly lead to the underground sale of these medals.
There is also the issue of property rights. Royal Canadian Legion representatives said that Bill C-473 would violate Canadians' rights to own and dispose of their own private property as they see fit. This is a right that should not be taken lightly.
I am very much aware of the arguments raised by some people, for example, that medals, certain medals, should not have any monetary or commercial value.
Veterans have sacrificed much of their safety, their well-being and their health. We must ensure the well-being of veterans who were wounded or disabled. The Bloc Québécois has always defended this principle. In its parliamentary work, the Bloc has always been concerned about the support given to veterans and it will continue to demonstrate that concern.
We are voting against this bill because many witnesses spoke out against it. We are voting against this bill out of respect for veterans.
Petitions February 16th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present a petition signed by approximately 110 people. They are asking the federal government to amend the Veterans Charter to restore the lifetime monthly pension as a means of compensation for injured soldiers.
Although the minister introduced Bill C-55, which includes new assistance measures for our injured veterans, he is still refusing to give them the best solution for them, which is a lifetime monthly pension for all injured soldiers. We hope that this petition will open the federal government's eyes to this legitimate request from the people who have signed this petition. And we hope that the government will finally fix the mistake it made when it replaced the lifetime monthly pension with a lump sum payment for injured veterans.
Honorius Thériault February 16th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the commitment of an extraordinary volunteer: Honorius Thériault, from the famous little town of Saint-Élie-de-Caxton. Mr. Thériault, who will turn 80 on March 8, is and has been involved in fundraising for many charitable causes, including the Red Cross, childhood diseases, multiple sclerosis, the Canadian Cancer Society, Opération Enfant Soleil, Operation Red Nose and Noël du pauvre. This big-hearted man has put all of his energy into generously and willingly helping his neighbours.
This tireless volunteer was also the founder of the Saint-Élie-de-Caxton optimist club, the first rural optimist club in the movement. Mr. Thériault is also dedicated to the sovereignist cause. He has been involved in the Quebec nation's quest for freedom since the founding of the RIN.
Mr. Thériault, you are a role model and an exceptional man, which is rare these days, and I admire that. You should be proud.
Highway Accident in Sainte-Geneviève-de-Berthier February 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I were saddened to hear about yesterday's tragic accident on Highway 158 in Sainte-Geneviève-de-Berthier, a municipality in my riding.
This loss reminds us just how fragile life is. Events such as this seem unreal, incomprehensible and, above all, unfair. At times like these, words fail us. However, my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I would like to offer our deepest sympathies to the families and friends touched by this tragedy.
My colleague from Joliette and I invite everyone to take a moment to think about all those who are directly and indirectly affected. Our warmest thoughts, most comforting words and sincerest condolences are with you. May life grant you the serenity you need to get through this difficult time.
Business of Supply February 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this motion, which I will now read to the House.
That this House issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated, and that the Speaker of the House send the representatives of the people whose properties were expropriated and of their descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.
It has already been 40 years since the people were forced out of Forillon. Such injustices are not uncommon. For instance, consider the seniors who for years were cheated out of the guaranteed income supplement. I hope that in the next few years—and it should not take 40 years—the government will issue a public apology for the fact that some seniors were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement for many years.
The same thing goes for employment insurance. Once again, the government should one day issue a public apology for having often deprived unemployed workers. Very recently in my riding, an unemployed worker from Saint-Barnabé-Nord needed 595 hours in order to receive employment insurance benefits. He complained about the fact that he could not receive benefits because he had accumulated only 581 hours. He was only 14 hours short of the number of hours required, while everyone knows that there is an accumulated EI surplus of between $50 billion and $60 billion. Still, the government deprives people who work very hard to be able to access those funds.
These situations are unfair, which is also true in the case of the people who were mistreated and are the subject of this motion. They feel strongly about the fact that, for over 40 years after the expropriation, the federal government never publicly apologized for the major inconveniences they suffered as a result of the government's decisions.
Before I explore the matter any further, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
The current government could have committed to making an apology in this matter. Instead, it made do with half steps. The initiative came about when the then federal minister responsible for national parks, Arthur Lang, floated the idea to the mayor of Gaspé of a national park on the Forillon Peninsula. In the 1968 framework agreement, the federal government earmarked $8.3 million to develop Forillon National Park. Negotiations with the Quebec government dragged on, and in April 1969, Jean Chrétien, the federal minister responsible for national parks, made known his impatience regarding the refusal of the Bertrand Union Nationale government to cede the Forillon land to the federal government.
This is a clear example of the contempt shown by the Liberal government—in the person of Jean Chrétien—for Quebec and its institutions. The Quebec government caved in, however, under federal government pressure, and came down on the side of nature conservation. The land was expropriated by the Government of Quebec and then ceded to the federal government. In keeping with the National Parks Act, the federal government stipulated that the land be returned to its natural, undeveloped state. The creation of Forillon Park therefore meant that land had to be expropriated from at least 983 people in five municipalities.
The experiences of those who had their land expropriated at Forillon are well documented and unambiguous.
I have been lucky enough to make a number of visits to the magnificent Gaspé countryside, for many one of the most beautiful regions in the world, with views of the sea, forest and mountains. Of course, people in this region have their own culture, poetry and songs, and they are good-hearted. Thousands of people visit the Gaspé and many stop to see Forillon National Park. Most of these people are undoubtedly oblivious to the fact that over 225 families were pushed off their land and evicted from their homes in the early 1970s in very trying, unfair circumstances.
In fact, across the entire area, from Cap-des-Rosiers to Grande-Grave, L'Anse-au-Griffon, Penouille and Rivière-au-Renard, the establishment of Forillon National Park in 1970 led to the complete expropriation of each and every one of these families, who were uprooted from their homes. This does not include the thousands of other Gaspé residents who lost part or all of their land. It was a terrible injustice.
After the residents were brutally cast off their land, their homes, barns and outbuildings were burned. Residents had been backed into a corner and there was widespread outrage. There was anger and revolt in the face of what amounted to government-mandated injustice. That is why we are calling for an apology to be made to these people, who were treated unfairly.
Still today, although some Gaspesians will talk about it, this is a taboo subject that has been concealed by the federal park authorities, hidden and ignored for years. Since the creation of Forillon Park, there has been no human presence there apart from interpretation activities. Visitors to Forillon Park were not told about the lives of the residents of Forillon before the expropriation, let alone about the tragic expulsions that happened in 1970. It was a hidden tale; no one wanted to talk about it. The government was ashamed to talk about the truth of what happened in the 1970s.
Yes, last year Parks Canada did decide to present an exhibition about the residents of Forillon and their lives before the unfortunate expropriation. And recently, the people of Forillon have received a three-generation passport allowing them to enter the site free of charge. It was not until very recently that they were able to see their homes again or go to pay their respects to their ancestors in the cemetery. But this is not enough.
They are asking for an official apology from the government for each person whose land was expropriated. They are also asking that the passport be extended to the 1,500 families whose homes were expropriated and their descendants to the fifth generation, not just the 225 families who owned land.
For five years now, the government has been boasting about its glowing record, including on the economy. The facts are quite different. The government has a very poor record on social and environmental issues. I am sure the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie will be able to say a few words about this. As I said, the facts are quite different and this case is one illustration of that.
The Conservatives could easily have agreed to offer an apology. Instead, they have made do with inadequate measures. This morning, there is nothing that tells me officially yet, after hearing a speech from a Conservative member from Québec, that this government will vote in favour of this motion. The people of Forillon whose homes were expropriated deserve better.
In conclusion, we have here an opportunity for all members from all parties to do what has to be done, to have this House offer its official apology to the people of Forillon Park whose homes were expropriated, for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated.
It would not be the first time that a government agreed to reform and offer apologies to people who have been affected. It was done for Canadians of Japanese origin who were interned and stripped of their property during the Second World War. It was done again recently for those whose land was expropriated for Mirabel. It is now time to do it for the people of Forillon who were uprooted from their community, who lost their homes and their land. These people are entitled to a public apology. They should be given their place in the official history of Forillon Park.
Business of Supply February 10th, 2011
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on his excellent speech and the way he spoke on behalf of the Liberal Party to ask that an apology be given to the people whose land was expropriated for Forillon Park.
Recently, the people of Forillon and the three subsequent generations were given a pass granting them free access to the site. Some will go and see their houses again, and others will visit the cemetery to pay their respects to their ancestors. In the past, they had to pay to visit Forillon Park.
Now, they are asking that the government extend the pass to the 1,500 families whose land was expropriated and their descendants, up to the fifth generation, and not just to the 225 families who were owners. In fact, 225 families were owners, which amounts to over 1,500 people.
I would like my colleague's opinion on this request.