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Crucial Fact

  • 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

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Chair, it is difficult to answer because she was unable to finish her question. We could perhaps speak outside the House because I did not understand the end of her question.

I would like to thank her for her co-operation. The NDP is one of our good partners when it comes to veterans and others.

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my colleague for saying that the Bloc Québécois thinks about Quebeckers as well as all Canadians. I would even say that we think about everyone on this planet. We are not against anyone. We simply want to manage a country and our own social, economic and political development.

And the issue of Ste. Anne's Hospital is somewhat similar. I visited Ste. Anne's Hospital with my colleague, the NDP member, and with Liberals and Conservatives. Many of the wings in this hospital are empty. It is a major challenge. In west Montreal right now, there is a need for long-term care beds. Negotiations are currently under way between the federal government and the Quebec government to see what can be done with the available long-term care beds. Will a new reception centre or nursing home be built when there is a perfectly good hospital that could provide services to other elderly people? I do not necessarily think that we need to go against veterans' interests, but I do think that the space needs to be used for everyone's benefit—

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Chair, there is some worthwhile work being done in the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. We have had some discussions, and we do not always share the same opinions, but that is democracy.

Is the Conservative government taking more action than the previous Liberal government did? I have always said that the Conservatives and the Liberals are cut from the same cloth, and I said it earlier during question period. Luckily, the Bloc Québécois is here to ask the right questions, forcing the parties in power to think, to be more critical and to progress.

And that is why I believe that the committee members, no matter what party they belong to, have an interest in continuing to develop veterans' services. I believe that this sensitivity needs to translate into programs and concrete action.

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague for her excellent question.

To get back to what I was saying, we see problems like post-traumatic stress disorder with our veterans. I would like to offer my condolences to the family of Brian Dyck, who had ALS, which the member mentioned.

Our veterans experience other problems, such as suicide and difficulties with social integration. We have even seen cases of homelessness. An organization in British Columbia, I believe, specializes in homelessness among veterans.

I think that follow-up and research are important. Research is important to understand the social, psychological and physical problems veterans experience. Follow-up is also important, since they are essentially being abandoned once they return from their missions. My colleague from Shefford saw a veteran in psychological distress who was abandoned in Granby. He receives a call once a month to see how he is doing. That is not psychosocial follow-up. You cannot determine whether someone is truly doing well if you call them once a month or once every six months.

These people went through something difficult. They experienced stress or a situation that affected them personally. We must ensure that they are followed over the medium and long term. We must invest. We invest huge amounts of money in military missions, so we must invest just as much in the soldiers once they return.

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Chair, from November 5 to 11, people will be celebrating Veterans' Week. It is very important to commemorate, as all parties in the House are doing today, the courage and bravery of the men and women who have worn the uniform and who have put their lives at risk to complete their mission.

In addition to remembering their courage, we must not forget that all of us, especially those of us who are parliamentarians, have an important collective responsibility with regard to our veterans.

After their service, after they have completed often courageous and difficult missions, it is our duty to ensure their well-being and to provide them with good living conditions when they leave military service. We must admit that our government does not always meet all of their needs.

The new veterans charter has improved certain services. The charter was originally implemented by the Liberals, as the minister just said, and then continued by the Conservatives. There are still a lot of improvements to be made, as we have discussed many times in the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. I will come back to that.

The current government keeps talking about the Canadian Forces' involvement in various military operations. It is a fact. The government does not hesitate to spend significant amounts of money to procure military equipment. The Canadian army goes to high schools to recruit new soldiers and send them to sometimes difficult and dangerous missions. But what are its responsibilities? The government has to meet the needs of soldiers returning from a mission damaged, disabled and injured.

Soon our soldiers will be returning from Afghanistan. A number of them will have gone through dangerous situations and will unfortunately be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Some are already returning disabled or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. There are also the families who have had to cope with the suicide of one of these soldiers. Is the government up for this new challenge? Will it respond appropriately to the needs of our veterans? Those are some of the questions being asked in our committee. We believe that the government is not responding appropriately and that it has to make a number of improvements.

The government has to be as dynamic when the time comes to take care of veterans as when it recruits people for military missions. There needs to be greater investment when these people return injured or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Statistics show that one person in six experiences some kind of post-traumatic stress. The government has to invest in research. The government has to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder and invest in research to reduce the negative impact on soldiers who participate in military missions.

The prevailing culture among Veterans Affairs Canada decision-makers has been the subject of much criticism. Critics, including the veterans ombudsman, say that the culture is based on institutional obstructionism and inaction. For a long time, the system has denied veterans the services to which they are entitled. Their files get lost in unbelievable tangles of red tape. That is the truth, as we have seen in committee.

The ombudsman raised these issues and submitted a report. I hope that the Minister of Veterans Affairs will read it.

It contains some important elements. I have repeatedly raised the issue of the right to privacy. This scandal emerged over the past few weeks, months and years. Since 2005-06, veterans' files have been made public and available to just about anyone working for Veterans Affairs Canada, including the minister—not the current minister but the former one. Anyone could look at those files. There is a lot of work to be done in Veterans Affairs Canada and, as I said, a lot of research.

Another area that needs improvement is service delivery times. It takes far too long to assess cases and give people the compensation to which they are entitled. It takes too long. These are lengthy delays lasting three months, six months, even a year. People have to wait. Veterans have to fight to obtain services. They get discouraged. That is not right.

I spent several years as a social worker in a CLSC. People called for services, and our response time was 48 hours. At the time, we had 48 hours to respond to people's requests. There should be benchmarks for responding to veterans' compensation claims. They should not have to fight Veterans Affairs Canada.

Of course, the lump sum payment is a very important issue. The Bloc Québécois is calling for changes in that respect. The hon. member for Québec circulated a petition that was signed by over 6,000 Quebeckers. Based on certain reports, it seems that the lump sum payment was not enough for some young people. Of course, for people 30 or 40 years older, it could be worthwhile, but for a young person who receives the maximum amount of $280,000 at 22 or 23 years old, it is not enough. The same is not true for a colonel who receives it at age 40 or 45. That is not the same reality. Unfortunately, when the lump sum is paid and the individual spends it all, it is usually the family that ends up paying for that individual's education, rehabilitation or living expenses. We heard this from witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. For instance, one woman told us that her son had unfortunately spent almost all of his lump sum payment. Thus, it is important to restore the monthly payments that existed before.

The minister said we were against the veterans charter. We are not against it, but this is one part of the veterans charter. In fact, the new veterans charter, as we have seen, provides better local services for veterans, services for caregivers and many other services that are truly improved. However, the issue of the lump sum payment instead of monthly payments still needs to be addressed.

Lastly, to conclude, I would like to talk about the ombudsman's independence. As we know, the ombudsman held his position for three years and tabled one report. In my opinion, in order to be effective, an ombudsman must be in that position for a longer period. People always say that an ombudsman should be critical of the government in order to further the cause of veterans, but that can sometimes displease the government. I would propose, as the Bloc Québécois has in the past, that the ombudsman be independent and not come under the department.

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Chair, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech. She and I are both members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Her work shows that she is a sensitive and thoughtful person.

I would like to ask her a question about the decision not to renew the ombudsman's mandate. The ombudsman told the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs about a number of issues. Of course, there was the confidentiality issue and, most importantly, the endless delays in processing veterans' compensation claims. Apparently it was taking a long time for people to get responses to their compensation claims, and that often caused problems. There was also the matter of the lump sum payment. Like the Bloc Québécois, the ombudsman supported reinstating the lifetime monthly payment and eliminating the lump sum payment, which saves the government $40 million at veterans' expense.

I thought that the ombudsman was very critical of the government, and I have a few questions. Why, according to my colleague, was his mandate not renewed? Is the fact that he is accountable to the minister a good thing? Would it not be better for the ombudsman to be accountable to a more independent entity instead of directly to the minister?

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Chair, I have two short questions for the minister. Last week, we saw important internal documents from Veterans Affairs, which indicated that officials knew from the outset that a new benefit system would result in less money being allocated to veterans. We are talking about a savings of $40 million. I would like to hear what the minister has to say about that.

Furthermore, there have been a fair number of scandals over privacy and confidentiality of medical, psycho-social, economic and financial information of veterans. We are familiar with the case of Sean Bruyea. More than 650 people consulted his file. We do not know why. There is also the case of Louise Richard, a retired military nurse, who experienced the same thing. Even the veterans' ombudsman told us in committee that he was the victim of such abuses.

We were pleased when the minister apologized publicly. However, he said that the privacy rights of a number of other veterans had been breached.

The minister has said that he will investigate. I would like him to tell me what mechanism will be put in place to ensure that veterans' privacy rights are respected.

Veterans Affairs November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, Liberals or Conservatives, it is the same thing.

Veterans’ Week will begin this weekend with a parade where veterans demonstrate against the despicable way they are being treated by the Conservative government. In particular, they will protest its cavalier disregard for privacy and the lump sum payment.

Will the government finally restore the monthly pension for life for all our wounded veterans, as they are asking?

Veterans Affairs November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, internal documents show that officials in the Department of Veterans Affairs told the government from the outset that the new benefit system would mean less money for wounded soldiers.

Why did the Minister of Veterans Affairs try to save $40 million at the expense of veterans?

Veterans Affairs October 29th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, those are not the desired changes. For weeks we have been calling for changes to the veterans compensation system. The minister tells us they are coming. It is the minister's Marshall plan. We hear a lot about it, but it never comes.

Can the minister at least commit to changing the charter to restore the lifetime monthly pension, as veterans are calling for?