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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was economy.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Vaudreuil—Soulanges (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act September 20th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would first congratulate the member for Burlington on his election victory. I am glad his leader finally allowed him to speak his mind six months after his victory. I hope to hear from him sooner rather than later but I guess that is for his leader to decide.

I will speak to this bill, first, to express my concerns with its shortcomings and then, to suggest to the members opposite some of the ways the government may be able to improve it.

Chief among my concerns are the effects this bill will have on children and their families. My second concern is with the effect that this bill will result in wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars on a non-existent problem and the negative effects this bill will have on our economy.

I am a family man. My daughter is a priority for me. One of the reasons I serve in this House is so she may grow up in a better world and have a better life. It is something I wish for all children, not just for my own and not just for Canadian children. I am sure there are many members in this House who have similar wishes and who wish for the well-being of children.

As members know, our country is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This month, we celebrated the 21st anniversary of its ratification. It is an important document because it outlines the international consensus of basic rights of children. So, it is with great worry that I see that Bill C-4 may jeopardize our commitment to this important convention.

I do not want to believe that the government would detain children for up to a year just because the children were trying to flee the most dire circumstances, whether it be war, famine or persecution. Unfortunately, Bill C-4 would result in the detention of children. I think many Canadians will feel shameful when they learn that our government intends to detain children, regardless of their country of origin. Perhaps the government intends to build detention centres so Canadians will not be able to see its actions in this respect. Simply put, the detention of children that would result from this bill is not acceptable and runs contrary to Canadian values.

I will outline how the government would be in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would like to explain a bit about this convention to the members opposite and to whom it applies.

Article 1 of the convention states:

For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

The Conservative government often likes to speak of the age of consent in its care for children. This convention applies to all people aged zero to eighteen.

Bill C-4 would put us in contravention of Article 2 of the convention, which states:

States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

Subsection (2) states:

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child's parents, legal guardians, or family members.

Bill C-4 would create two classes of refugee claimants with a different set of rights. In effect, the bill would discriminate against children who will fall under the category of “designated claimants”. This is in clear violation of Article 2 of the convention.

Bill C-4 would put us in contravention of Article 3 of the convention, which states:

In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

I think it is quite clear and obvious to the members opposite that this implies that refugee children must be treated in the same way we would treat our own children. I think members would also agree that they would not accept the detention of their own children, especially if their children were fleeing a war-torn area.

Bill C-4 would violate article 7(2) of the convention that states:

States Parties shall ensure the implementation of these rights in accordance with their national law and their obligations under the relevant international instruments in this field, in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless.

Even if Bill C-4 had provisions for children to be detained, it would be difficult for the government to fulfill its obligations to the convention with its detention centres because of article 31, the right to play, and article 39, the right to psychological and physical recovery of child victims, which states:

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.

It would mean that children would need to be provided with acceptable play areas, areas for cultural expression, access to psychological and counselling services and services that cater to the child's development. It is fine for the Prime Minister to use the UN to justify things like going to war, for his international position and beliefs on foreign affairs, yet reject a convention made by the same body to which we were signatory.

It is all fine and dandy to promote child and maternal health, except when the child and mother are refugees. We will have to build state-of-the-art facilities with play areas, educational opportunities, office spaces for the teams of psychologists and educators and medical staff.

This brings me to my second point, which is the costs incurred as a result of this ideologically piece of legislation.

Has the government factored in how much new detention facilities would cost? Did the government just think it could detain children, without fulfilling its obligations to the convention? Let us remind the government of its duties and obligations in this matter. Article 22(1) reads as follows:

States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee in accordance with applicable international or domestic law and procedures shall, whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of applicable rights set forth in the present Convention and in other international human rights or humanitarian instruments to which the said States are Parties.

Article 22(2) states:

For this purpose, States Parties shall provide, as they consider appropriate, co-operation in any efforts by the United Nations and other competent intergovernmental organizations or non-governmental organizations co-operating with the United Nations to protect and assist such a child and to trace the parents or other members of the family of any refugee child in order to obtain information necessary for reunification with his or her family. In cases where no parents or other members of the family can be found, the child shall be accorded the same protection as any other child permanently or temporarily deprived of his or her family environment for any reason, as set forth in the present Convention.

Rather than punish the victims, we should show compassion and help them integrate into our society. I remind members across to look at what happened in 1979 and 1980 when over 50,000 Vietnamese people arrived on our shores by boat. These refugees came from a war-torn nation that was considered an enemy of our neighbours. From listening to media reports of the day not everyone was happy with their arrival, yet the progressive government of that day showed leadership in helping the refugees integrate. The Vietnamese Canadian community have been vibrant players in Canada's economy. We have two members within our caucus who come from this community, the member for Brossard—La Prairie and the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.

I pause to think how low we have sunk with this terrible legislation.

The bill only drives home the fact that the Conservatives have given up the “progressive” label and that they fail when it comes to progressive leadership. Instead of integrating, they are saying that people have to wait five years. Instead of welcoming these people, they are detaining them and children.

We should actually love our neighbours, not fear them. We should provide, within this legislation, a part where children and their families will be able to apply for humanitarian and compassionate exceptions.

The legislation, as it is written, is not acceptable. It should be referred back to committee to be altered.

Infrastructure September 19th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the truth is that the government is cutting infrastructure spending.

The government has to stop shirking its responsibilities and start taking the necessary measures to help the greater Montreal area. Modernizing Montreal's infrastructure cannot wait. The city's economic future depends on it.

Will the government take this opportunity to promote sustainable development, carpooling and public transit?

Infrastructure September 19th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the government is planning to spend billions more on corporate tax giveaways, but it cannot find money to help address the crisis of crumbling infrastructure. Just this summer, Montrealers were shocked when a section of Highway 720 collapsed. Luckily, no one was injured.

It is long past time to act. Canadians are at risk. Why is the government now cutting back on infrastructure spending?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, simply put, I think it is the government that is disrespecting Canadians. The member's comments show his disrespect for the democratic process. This is a democratic process we are undertaking. It shows Canadians that the Prime Minister cannot just shove through sloppy, badly written legislation.

I have sympathy with the small business owner who is unable to send his flyers out, but it is the Conservative government that refuses to intervene to stop this lockout. It is the government that is stopping the work.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the hon. member. It seems the current government is dedicated to dividing and conquering the Canadian people by separating out these postal workers from the rest of Canadians.

The New Democratic Party believes in the evolution of things, and that all these rights for workers have built up over time. We strongly believe in evolution. I do not see that belief in evolution on the other side.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

I thank the hon. member for his question. I agree the recovery is slowly happening. However, we do not build recovery by stopping people from working.

There is a lockout on these workers. When working people are allowed to work, they start stimulating the economy. We have to let the system work out the way it is supposed to work out rather than intervene.

The government said it was not going to be interventionist, but obviously with this legislation it is intervening in the bargaining process. It is intervening in the ability of postal workers to get back to work. Not letting these postal workers work is actually harming the economy.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, on May 2, Canadians voted for change. The Conservatives like to say and let it be known that Canadians voted for the following:

a stable, strong, national majority government.

The ship should be called the SS NMGO from now on. That will be my name for it, shorthand.

It is as though Dorian Gray was admiring himself in the mirror believing that he was still young. Canadians did not vote for a majority. They voted for change, and they are disappointed because they believed that things would be done differently, here, in Ottawa. I can see the members opposite. They are tired and spent from defending this bad ideological law. Canadians deserve better than this. That is what we get when we allow ideologues to introduce their legislation and when they are not prepared.

I feel sorry for the members on the other side who have to defend this sloppy legislation of their leader. I had a conversation yesterday with a member of the government. The member regrets that politics in Ottawa has become so leader-centred that members must follow party leaders in every decision he or she makes. I feel sorry for that member because I feel that our caucus is based on respect and teamwork, not the leader. We respect our leader, but he respects us too. He would not present legislation that the caucus would not support.

I truly feel sorry for all members on the other side of the House who have to follow their leader's sloppy legislation, this back to work legislation.

I do not think the members opposite believe in this legislation. They have to get up to defend this terribly sloppy legislation.

Canadians voted for change on May 2. They wanted to see Parliament work differently. The Prime Minister wanted to win the trust of Canadians. Canadians trusted him to make incremental changes. He betrayed Canadians with this legislation.

I have a message for the Prime Minister and his increasingly restive caucus, that we will not let up. In four years when Canadians see how the government legislates and betrays the trust put in them by Canadians, we will be on that side. We will be the government.

The Liberals have asked us many times what we would do to this legislation. We would take the final offer out of the legislation. It is a bad way to legislate. There are judges, academics and experts who say this is not the way to legislate. It does not work. It puts all the weight on management's side. It shows bad faith on the government's part for taking the side of management. This is not a fair way to proceed. This is not the way to legislate workers in this country.

The other thing that we would change is the wage offer clawback. The government is being so unfair to workers by offering them a lower wage than the corporation itself offered. All Canadians know that is a bad way to proceed; it is a slap in the face of all working people in this country.

Some people may look at the postal workers and say, “Oh, they have it cushy. They have a good life.” These postal workers work their hardest, working their bodies to the bone. They deserve all of our respect. The government does not respect those workers with this sloppy legislation.

Apart from that, the government is sowing the seeds of inter-generational strife. It is dividing the older workers versus the younger workers. The older workers will have more benefits, the younger workers will have fewer benefits.

This is not a way to bring the country together. We need real leadership. This is not leadership but an ideological push of sloppy legislation to appeal to a very narrow base of voters. This is not what Canadians asked for when they elected a stable majority government. This is not a stable government. This is an irresponsible government because it is not taking care to properly craft legislation. It was less than two weeks ago that the Minister of Labour, at the Conservative Party convention, said that it was too early for back to work legislation. That was less than two weeks ago.

It was too early then, but on the last day of Parliament, its last sitting day, that was the time to introduce this legislation. All of a sudden it had become time, very quickly.

This legislation has been a spoke in the wheels of negotiations between the two parties because it sends a message to the management side that it does not have to negotiate in good faith. The government has been all about divide and conquer.

Some people in my riding have complained about cutbacks in the infrastructure of the postal service and the fact that it has been centralized. I want to speak to that.

The government speaks a lot about reforming the postal system and how it is not working anymore. However, Canada Post made $281 million in profits in 2009, much more than in previous years. Workers of Canada Post delivered more than 11 billion pieces of mail in 2009. It is a profitable corporation. The workers and the people who have supported all the changes that have happened deserve more than this terribly sloppy legislation.

I would like to read a letter, or in fact an email. We are not getting letters anymore. This is from a constituent: “We are writing to let you know that we support wholeheartedly the striking postal workers. It is clear that the issues in this strike go beyond the workers' immediate financial concerns. As serious as those are, there are forces at work in North America which hope to degrade the power of united working people.”

The constituent continues: “Throughout this continent, unions made the benefits of industrialization available to the masses. Within Canada the postal workers have been at the vanguard of the fight for such essential and just matters as maternity leaves and reliable and sufficient pensions.”

Let me say that this party will stand behind the working people of this country and will defend their rights, whether it is today, tomorrow, the next day, or the next four years. We are here to defend the rights of workers to bargain collectively.

Canada Post Corporation is not bargaining in good faith. The CEO makes more than the Prime Minister of the country, with a 4% increase every year. The union offered to stop rotating strikes if Canada Post Corporation came back to the table and reinstated the contract temporarily. Canada Post Corporation refused. Why? They knew this legislation would save them in the end. Why would the corporation negotiate in good faith if they knew that the government was going to back them up?

To the leadership and to the caucus of the government, take off the locks and let the workers get back to work.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, less than two weeks ago, in an interview during the Conservative convention, Stephen Taylor asked the Minister of Labour whether there would be special legislation. The Minister said there would not be because it was too soon.

“The two parties have to make real hard efforts to get a deal themselves”. Continuing, she said, “It's about pensions, it's about disabilities, so it is important issues and we have to have serious discussions around them”.

Does the hon. member think that the government took that seriously, or is the government more concerned about its ideology, which amounts to violating workers' rights, regardless of the result for the economy?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I do not think the hon. member had time to respond to the comment.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, could the hon. member tell us how unfair and how unjust it is to lower the wages and how this needs to be removed from the current legislation?