House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Compton—Stanstead (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 27% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, sometimes we hear all kinds of things in the House. From time to time, we have to show some humility and move forward to debate a matter as important as this one. This is an important subject for us and for many of our constituents.

In recent weeks, I have spent time with a number of World War II veterans, including those who took part in the Normandy landing. One of them honoured us with his presence in the House a few weeks ago.

When these soldiers go to war, they do not want to kill anyone. The only thing they think about is saving lives and ensuring that the country they are fighting for, whether their own or an allied country, can live in peace. It is not true that Canada is not a pacifist country. That is absolutely and utterly false. It is insulting to hear such words. When soldiers go to war, they do not go to start a war; they go to end a war, to live in peace and to secure democracy in a modern and prosperous country. Canada is a modern and prosperous society.

When our soldiers went on a peacekeeping mission in Cypress or Sarajevo and had to engage in combat, they did so in order to protect themselves and return home after completing their mission. These soldiers leave on a mission. They are not always aware of the collateral damage of their battle or their fight, and that is probably what is most perverse about cluster munitions. When soldiers leave the battlefield, what is left behind? That is what we have to examine. We have to look at that more than the Oslo convention or the bill. We have to know what the collateral damage is. Why do we have to ensure that the weapons we use cause the least amount of collateral damage? It is difficult because at that point, soldiers are on the front line, in an industry of war.

There was Agent Orange in Vietnam, and then everything that happened with the attacks in Iraq. There was collateral damage. I am talking about nuclear enrichment and weapons. They always create collateral damage. Canada is a country that promotes peace. It has often been involved in talks and was even a leader, notably with Princess Diana, when it came to establishing specific rules to combat the use of landmines. Despite all those efforts, our soldiers and the local population in combat zones are often victims of collateral damage.

I will say it again: that is the worst part of all of this. That is what we need to address, instead of trying to pass a bill that contradicts itself. According to clause 11, our soldiers could come into contact with these weapons, which are prohibited under clause 6. That is both absurd and worrisome. When our soldiers are engaged in combat alongside our allies, no matter who they are—most times it is the Americans—they obey their orders. On the ground, soldiers must obey any orders that are given. Soldiers want to be sure that at the end of the mission, there is peace. It does not matter where on the planet they are.

It is important to point out that Canada is a leader and always has been. Just think about Lester B. Pearson's peace missions. He even won a Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement. It is important to remember that. That is leadership.

It is important to say that because leadership must be perpetuated. We must perpetuate it. In spite of everything, we live in quite a prosperous country. There may be controversies, and we may debate economic development issues, for example, and hold contradictory opinions because we do not agree with each other. However, when the Canadian Armed Forces go into combat or on a mission, their purpose is more to save than to destroy.

I was astounded by one figure I heard: global stockpiles of these weapons amount to approximately four billion bomblets. Four billion. One-quarter of those bombs are held by the Americans, with whom we often go on peacekeeping or combat missions, and there will be other similar missions. Let us look at what is going on in Syria and Africa. Who knows when we will be called upon to take part in a future mission? Once again, our soldiers will be in contact with these weapons. It is therefore somewhat meaningless for a bill to include one clause that contradicts another. I do not understand that based on what little law I studied. A bill must be completely harmonious. However, this one contradicts itself.

As regards collateral damage, 22 members of the Canadian Armed Forces were killed in 2006 and 112 were seriously wounded in Afghanistan by these kinds of weapons, either cluster munitions or anti-personnel mines.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, along the same lines, I would like my colleague to explain why Canada often hesitates to make decisions regarding humanitarian causes. Canada has a long history of peacekeeping missions and particularly leadership when it comes to cluster munitions and landmines. Why ruin that by keeping clause 11, which would cause Canadian soldiers to be involved in the use of these weapons against the wishes of most Canadians from coast to coast to coast?

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank and congratulate my colleague for a wonderful enumeration of what income splitting will do to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

These are measures that do not help the Canadians who truly need them. It would be better to propose a measure such as a guaranteed minimum income that would help all families and all Canadians, nationwide. Such a measure would cost from $50 million to $100 million a year and would stimulate the economy.

What we want—and what the government wants—is for the economy to prosper. However, constantly giving to the wealthiest Canadians is not the way to make the economy thrive. The people who need the money are the ones who frequent food banks and thrift stores. They the ones who need this money. They will immediately reinvest the money in the economy, especially the local economy.

Not so long ago, our party proposed a guaranteed minimum income. What impact would a guaranteed minimum income potentially have on the middle class?

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is the same old story, day after day. Our colleagues across the way have no comprehension of the immense gap between the rich and the poor. Every week, approximately one million Canadians use food banks to feed single-parent families or families with two or three children. This is happening right across Canada, in every region, in both rural and urban communities, even here in downtown Ottawa.

I wonder why the Conservatives deny the importance of a social fabric here in Canada. What will be achieved by consistently giving more to the rich and less to the poor? It will lead to still more poverty and a high crime rate. The food banks are practically empty because people are donating less and because more and more Canadians are using them.

The members opposite continue to bury their heads in the sand. Could it be that they no longer even walk down the street in downtown Ottawa and see the endless lines at soup kitchens and food banks?

Why is this government ignoring reality?

Agricultural Growth Act June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a little insulting to hear comments such as those the hon. minister just made to the effect that we have small lobby groups while they have big lobby groups such as Cargill and Monsanto and we have to listen to his lobby groups.

Well, our little groups represent people who sometimes work night and day to save their land, and their land is important to them. It is important to Quebeckers to eat healthy food. Bill C-18 ignores everything that is happening in agriculture in Quebec and Ontario. However, in terms of debate, we can talk a long time about what these time allocation motions mean to democracy. This is the 69th such motion, which makes no sense.

Could the minister rise and finally say that he will listen to everyone across Canada?

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to commend the hon. member for Churchill.

There has been a lot of talk about defending labour rights, human rights, and environmental rights. However, I would like my colleague to talk about how important it is to have a good trade relationship so that the two countries can fully prosper from that trade. The process needs to ensure mutual respect.

There is talk in this bill about Canadian investments in Honduras, but those investments require a healthy, proper atmosphere. If we do trade with a country that we respect, investments will increase and our trade deficit will finally return to an acceptable level.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

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

The answer is simply yes. We even want to help all countries on the planet prosper, but first we must ensure that they respect democracy and the environment, which today is a global issue. We must ensure that we protect people, human rights, equality and job opportunities for men and women, and we must also ensure that children go to school. Education is important. It is extremely important.

There are prosperous countries out there and trade with them could benefit both parties. However, we are spending all this time on one country, Honduras. Of course, we must help that country get out of that situation in one way or another, but we should not be the only ones responsible. We have to help our economy, and to do that we have to ensure that free trade agreements respect, I will say it again, human rights and democracy, but above all the economic development of all of Canada.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would once again like to thank my colleague for his question.

All we see is crass improvisation, day after day. My colleague just touched on an extremely important issue, that of temporary foreign workers. When something is wrong, all we need to do is find out what is happening on the ground. However, it would seem that the Conservatives prefer to pat themselves on the back about having brought in a new FTA. There are still many issues right here that need work, like EI, old age pensions and temporary foreign workers. It is hard to pinpoint what the government's true priorities are. It should be squarely focused on economic development and maintaining our social fabric, given that for decades, we were pioneers in the area of protecting minorities and those in need in Canada. Now, all of that has been pushed aside to focus on Alberta oil. That is all we do here. As we have always said, we are not opposed to resource development and trade, but they need to benefit all Canadians.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for his question.

This is an example of the bogus democracy propagated by this government. When you want to make a democracy come alive, you participate in it. Not only is this government not participating in it tonight, nor on previous nights, but it is also preventing us from letting our constituents speak when it abruptly shuts down these debates. That is what the time allocation motions are doing. They deprive our constituents of their voices: they can no longer speak before you, Mr. Speaker. They can no longer have an honest and democratic dialogue from which our country can benefit and become democratic once again.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate all my colleagues. For the past two weeks, they stood up in this House while the Conservatives and the Liberals voted for extended hours but did not show up at work. We show up at work. We care about Canadians.

Now on to Bill C-20, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, the Agreement on Environmental Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras.

In terms of labour and the environment, this government has simply abandoned Canadians across the country. I feel this bill is a flagrant act of deception.

The short title, the Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act, does not reflect any of that. Members will recall that Honduras is a very poor country with repressive, undemocratic policies. Its human rights record is shameful.

The previous government, led by democratically elected President Zelaya, was overthrown by the Honduran army under the pretext of a constitutional crisis. The coup was largely criticized throughout the world, particularly by neighbouring countries in Latin America, EU countries, the United States, and even the UN General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Canada made a notorious decision not to impose sanctions on the current regime or condemn the abuse inflicted on its opponents. Once again, human rights were ignored. Non-governmental organizations have reported serious human rights violations, including murder, the arbitrary detention of thousands of people and very tight restrictions on public protests and freedom of speech.

Speaking of freedom of speech, I just want to point out that there have been 68 time allocation motions in the House in three years. Freedom of speech also means that every party has the right to talk about bills in the House without being chastised every time. Three of those motions were moved in the past two weeks.

The situation in Honduras is extremely troubling, yet we are getting ready to do trade with a country where delegations of business people will have to visit in order to ensure the success of the agreement and future trade.

A number of elements support the NDP's position against this agreement. Among others, Honduras is characterized by its anti-democratic practices. It has a corrupt government, inadequate institutions and a record of human rights violations. This is unacceptable to Canadians across the country. Honduras also has low humanitarian standards and has negligible strategic value for Canadians.

The agreement was negotiated without any transparency, despite repeated requests from stakeholders in several Canadian economic sectors. During the negotiations, the Government of Canada was never willing to release the text of the agreement, as is also the case with the European Union treaty.

Furthermore, the bogus environmental assessment for this free trade agreement released in October 2013 ignored the impact of Canadian investments in Honduras, because this information was deemed confidential. Again, this is a lack of transparency. This means that side agreements on the environment and on labour are inadequate, because they do not include concrete mechanisms to ensure their implementation and assess their impact.

The extractive sector is certainly a major business interest for Canada, and for the NDP, as evidenced by the introduction, earlier this evening, of Bill C-584 on the social responsibility of mining companies, by the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

A number of these companies, such as Goldcorp, were involved in controversial local conflicts with citizens and indigenous groups. They are the target of allegations of environmental contamination. This is why my colleague introduced her private member's bill and why the NDP is worried.

There is a lack of transparency in this type of free trade agreements. Canada is a major producer and extractor of natural resources. Therefore, when our economic ambassadors have holdings or businesses abroad, they must absolutely respect the environment, human rights and labour rights.

Speaking of labour rights, Gildan Activewear, a large garment manufacturer based in Montreal, owns factories in Honduras and is named as one of the beneficiaries of the agreement. However, Gildan Activewear had businesses in India where nine-year-old children were on the production lines. They were paid $5 per day, and sometimes per week. That is unacceptable.

Let us also keep in mind that Honduras is becoming a major clothing and textile manufacturer with a cheap labour force. This is why we must be vigilant with agreements such as the one negotiated with Honduras.

Clearly, the NDP recognizes the importance of international trade to our economy and is in favour of opening up new markets and providing a suitable environment for our Canadian exporters.

In my riding, there are several companies that say they are ready to move into foreign markets. They just need a little help from the Canadian government via embassies in various countries. They say that this could open doors for them, but the embassies, even though they are right there on the ground, do not work for them. That is unacceptable.

The NDP would like to increase trade with countries that respect Canadian and UN values. Our party wants to sign trade agreements that will benefit Canada's economy.

Earlier, my colleague talked about a trade deficit. In university, I had a macroeconomics professor who, after NAFTA, told me that the potentially acceptable trade deficit would be substantially exceeded, and that the cost would likely be irreversible.

Over the past seven or eight years, things have gone from bad to worse under the Conservatives. This is jeopardizing thousands of jobs in Canada, especially in my riding where the decline of the manufacturing sector is really hurting people.

Let us not forget that Canada has always been a leader in human rights and labour rights. It must continue to lead. Unfortunately, we have not really been able to promote these values since the Conservative government came to power. What a shame.

Part 2 of this bill amends existing laws in order to bring them into conformity with our obligations under the agreement. It changes things like Crown liability, proceedings, the importation of intoxicating liquors, and commercial arbitration. Canada has not even been able to enforce compliance on the softwood lumber agreement with the United States or with trade agreements with other countries.

I would like to talk about the very important criteria for assessing trade agreements.

For example, does the proposed trading partner respect democracy, human rights, and acceptable labour and environmental protection standards, which are values that Canadians hold dear? Is the proposed partner's economy of significant or strategic value to Canada?

Unfortunately, the free trade agreement proposed does not necessarily meet those criteria. We really want agreements with countries that will make our economy prosper and through which we will be able to make sure that fundamental human rights, labour rights and environmental rights are respected.