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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Saint-Maurice—Champlain (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this agreement does contain a provision to protect the investments of Canadian companies planning to exploit Colombia's natural resources. Considering current trade volumes between Canada and Colombia, it seems to me that there are other priorities that the Conservative government—

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the member has made another interesting comparison. He pointed out that the United States is conducting a thorough and objective analysis of what is going on in Colombia.

The Americans do not appear to be interested in signing an agreement that would have a negative effect on human rights, particularly because they know that the Colombian government cannot or will not do anything to control violence in its country.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the NDP member compared the Canada-Colombia agreement to the agreement between the United States and Colombia. He reminded us that responsible members of the U.S. Congress realized they had to negotiate further before pursuing the agreement, all the while keeping an objective eye on the human rights situation in Colombia.

The Americans put the agreement on hold. The agreement was negotiated, but the American people's representatives have not yet signed it into law. They realized that this would be like rewarding the Colombian government for its indifference and for being unable to enforce human rights on its territory.

The U.S. government is to be congratulated on its foresight and proper management of the situation. It was able to stand up to a country like Colombia, which many consider to be one of the world's worst offenders.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, after hearing the member's question and comment, I realize that we can get statistics to say whatever we want.

The member missed part of my speech earlier. He said I was not on the Standing Committee on International Trade at the time. I want to point out that, just as there are two sides to a coin, there are always two versions of the same situation. The Conservatives, supported by the Liberals, say that all is well in Colombia, as I mentioned in my speech. But others take a different view. Other people have travelled to Colombia and say the opposite is true. That is the point I was making by quoting these individuals earlier.

They told us that the reality was not all that rosy. It is far from being as rosy as the government purports it to be. The situation has not changed, far from it. Murder and forced displacement continue. All this agreement is about is favouring and benefiting mining companies. It is far from being a true free trade agreement. The Bloc Québécois is not against free trade agreements, but this particular one does not ring true.

Since there are two different views of the human rights assessment, we believe that, when in doubt, the thing to do is to abstain. It is better to vote against this bill and wait for a real, independent preliminary study to be conducted.

CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where I left off by recapitulating. I was telling the House that I was terribly disappointed to see this bill making it to third reading, thanks to the Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals, imposing closure twice, once at the Standing Committee on International Trade and again in this House, in order to limit debate. Such reversal of position is disastrous and very disappointing coming from the Liberal Party.

The Conservatives keep telling us over and over that, in their opinion, the human rights situation in Colombia has greatly improved. I agree that the situation may not be as disastrous as it used to be, but it is far from ideal. People continue to be displaced and unionists to be murdered. Canada's former ambassador to Colombia, Mr. Matthew Levin, from whom the current ambassador took over, basically said the same thing. On the Colombian economy, he had this to say:

The [Canadian] government knows that the Colombian reality is not ideal. There is poverty, violence, lack of access to services.

There is more. When he appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade, Pascal Paradis, of Lawyers without Borders, said that the UN and the Organization of American States considered that the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet was still going on in Colombia.

It is hard to believe that a government would push us and cut the debate short to incite us to pass this type of bill. If it passes, it will do so with the support of the Liberals alone and not the Bloc Québécois. We will do our utmost to keep opposing this bill and to say to the people of Quebec and Canada that this agreement is completely unacceptable due to human rights violations.

At the Standing Committee on International Trade, the Conservatives and Liberals often say that they have been there. I was not a member of the committee at that time. They say that the situation has improved, that workers' rights are better respected, that there is less displacement of people and fewer murders. That is what we hear from the people who have been there, but there are also people who are saying the exact opposite.

How can it be that there are credible people who are testifying that the situation has not improved that much? It is impossible that Canada—which was once regarded as a leader for its defence of human rights in various countries—is now promoting a free trade agreement with a country like Colombia.

In order to get an idea of the situation, since I did not go to Colombia, I have read a lot and listened to witnesses. I know that there are four people who think the opposite of what the Conservatives and Liberals are telling us. They say that the situation has not changed. I would like to lend them my voice and my speaking time because they also need to be heard. They were silenced when the debate was cut short. They were not able to appear before the committee.

In 2008, four Canadian public sector union leaders went to Colombia. They were: John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada; George Heyman, international vice-president of the National Union of Public and General Employees; Denis Lemelin, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers; and Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

They toured the country and produced a document with joint and individual statements about the status of human rights in Colombia. Their report paints a totally different picture than what the Conservative and Liberal members are telling us in the Standing Committee on International Trade.

In July 2008, these four public sector union leaders made a one-week tour of Colombia. What they saw and heard there prompted them to share their observations in the hope of making as many people as possible understand the dangers workers in this South American country face.

Having seen the damage unregulated commercial activity causes most Colombian families, the Canadian union leaders promised to deliver a message of concern, solidarity and resistance to their millions of members in Canada—which is nothing to sneeze at—the Canadian government and all Canadians.

This document and other measures are part of that process. The document contains comments and personal observations from the leaders, who met with many Colombians and listened to their concerns about the harmful effects of free trade with Canada on the Colombian people.

These union leaders were inspired by the hope these people cling to and the growing resistance movement they witnessed. During their tour, the leaders focused on human rights.

I am delivering this message on their behalf, because the Bloc Québécois' greatest concern is that the government is ignoring human rights violations. It needs to ignore them if it is going to ratify an agreement that makes no sense.

The union leaders focused on human rights and labour rights, working conditions and the impact of privatization without guaranteed human rights and labour rights. They shared their concerns with representatives of the many sectors of Colombian society, including the Colombian interior minister and other senior officials, the Canadian ambassador and members of his staff, leaders of the central union of workers or CUT and union leaders at all levels, members of the opposition party—the Polo Democrático Alternativo—leaders of the indigenous peoples' movement, members of NGOs, groups representing Afro-Colombians and other displaced persons, as well as journalists and ordinary people.

Although three of the four leaders had never travelled to Colombia before, their unions were already familiar with the struggles of Colombian workers. All four have been working at the international level with Colombian unions for a number of years. They have been cultivating union relations as part of projects funded by their international solidarity funds and through exchanges of Canadian and Colombian workers.

You might wonder why they would embark on such a tour. After returning from Colombia, they followed up with a video on how the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, which was only a proposal at the time, would be disastrous for these workers.

All the unions opposed the signing of such an agreement, especially in light of the horrifying human rights and labour situations in Colombia. The leaders knew very well that more trade unionists had been assassinated in that country than anywhere else in the world.

To strengthen the arguments against the free trade agreement and to consolidate the union solidarity already established, the leaders decided to go to see for themselves what the Government of Colombia had done to this South American country since President Uribe gained power in 2002. What they saw convinced them that they had to oppose the free trade agreement even more vigorously and in very clear terms. The leaders were asked many times to be the voice of the Colombian people and to oppose the agreement as long as the government of Alvaro Uribe has not shown that it has solved the problem of the permanent repression of trade unionists and other activists and guaranteed their protection.

This document gives them a voice and proves them right.

What we heard from the people who took this trip to Colombia gives even more weight to the fact that, in 2008, the Standing Committee on International Trade also adopted a resolution that an independent, impartial, and comprehensive human rights impact assessment should be carried out before the Conservative government considered introducing its bill in the House.

Proof was needed, coming from an independent study, that human rights were being respected. Now, it is the opposite. The Liberals and Conservatives are breaking their word. A Liberal member even proposed an amendment suggesting that we wait for the agreement to come into effect and the bill to be passed.

They will be happy with an assessment of the situation by the Government of Colombia. Colombia will be both judge and judged, and Canada will be satisfied with that. This will allow the agreement to be adopted, when we know very well that the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement does not necessarily propose any major increases in trade between Canada and Colombia, but instead, aims almost solely to protect the investments of Canadian mining companies that will exploit natural resources and workers in Colombia.

It is truly unfortunate to watch this going on. The Bloc Québécois will vote against this agreement at third reading.

Indian Residential Schools June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight the second anniversary of the Prime Minister's official apology to the 150,000 former residential school students. It is important that we all remember what happened and take the necessary steps to ensure that it never happens again. Let us not forget that the policy was designed to kill the Indian in the child. Children were made to wear European-style clothing, and their hair was cut as soon as they arrived at school. That first symbolic stage was designed to humiliate and assimilate.

Two years ago, the Bloc Québécois leader recognized that an apology was necessary. Necessary, but not sufficient. When he endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Prime Minister had an opportunity to show aboriginal peoples that he had learned from the mistakes of the past and was prepared to make a solemn promise to the victims that their children and grandchildren will be treated with respect and dignity.

Two years have since passed. Canada has not yet signed the declaration; it has merely stated that it would ratify the declaration with some restrictions and is still compromising the future of young people. Aboriginal education is still underfunded. For example, education funding was capped at 2% in 1996 despite a quickly growing population. The education funding formula, which dates back to 1988, is out of touch with reality. School infrastructure on reserve is not up to provincial standards. Thousands of young aboriginals do not have access to post-secondary education.

The government's attempts at reconciliation must begin with the unconditional ratification of the United Nations declaration and more funding for aboriginal education to ensure a better future for them.

Forestry Industry June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, many proposals have been made, but the government rejects them, even though they are worth considering, according to officials with the Department of International Trade. Loan guarantees are legal.

Foreign governments have taken advantage of the crisis to invest and modernize their forestry industries. As the recovery is starting to take hold, these companies are ready to capture the markets. Businesses here will be emerging from the crisis weak and in debt, and will not be able to take advantage of the new opportunities that will be out there. Why does the Conservative government refuse to invest—

Forestry Industry June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, while the forestry industry is recovering from the crisis elsewhere in the world, Quebec and Canadian companies continue to experience difficulties. According to an international comparison done by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the top five Quebec companies listed on the stock exchange lost $466 million in the last quarter.

Why does the government refuse to help these businesses and workers get through the crisis with measures such as loan guarantees?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-2 is now at third reading, and I would like to begin by saying that I find this rather strange and even a bit anachronistic. I am very disappointed that we have gotten to this point.

Both in committee and in the House of Commons, we have seen the Conservative government use closure to put an end to extremely important, interesting and relevant debates, especially about respect for human rights, and to prevent witnesses, including Colombians, from testifying about what their lives are like. The issue of human rights affects them directly, yet the government is using procedural tactics to prevent them from talking to the committee and is putting an end to this debate to prevent witnesses from being heard.

Moreover, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster raised a question of privilege in the House about what happened in committee, where, with the Liberals' support, the government denied members access to the committee clerk to check some information.

So it is disappointing that this bill is at third reading today, especially since the government has imposed closure to put an end to this debate. With the issue of human rights a top priority, it is particularly significant that the government is using closure, seeing as how it is bound, bent and determined to do whatever it takes to implement an extremely controversial bill.

What the government is doing goes completely against the unanimous position of the Standing Committee on International Trade, which had unanimously recommended two years ago that the government wait before implementing this agreement, because the Colombian government's respect for human rights was highly questionable.

A number of people have still not had a chance to be heard to this day. Even though Colombia has one of the worst human rights records in Latin America, the Conservative government keeps on saying that Colombia's human rights situation has greatly improved.

In all honesty, the situation may not be as bad as it was a few years ago, but it certainly is not ideal or worth celebrating, as the Liberals and Conservatives are doing by implementing a free trade agreement with a country whose trade with Canada is quite insignificant compared to other countries.

Is trade the real reason the Conservative government is so eager to implement such a trade agreement with support from the Liberals?

It begs the question. We believe that the government is not trying to promote trade through this agreement. The government is instead trying to help Canadian mining companies exploit the natural resources of another country.

They want to go after the natural resources at the expense of human rights. I said earlier that Colombia has one of the worst human rights records. It is a country where the government tolerates extreme violence. I will continue after—

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Liberal member a question. How can she explain such a drastic change in the Liberal Party's position since last fall, both in committee and in the House, regarding possible support for a free trade agreement with Colombia?

This support was very clearly expressed at the Standing Committee on International Trade. Unanimous consent was reached regarding the need for an independent study—before Canada ratifies the agreement—on the Colombian government's respect for human rights and what it is doing to prevent human rights abuses.

Why such a difference between the Liberals' position last fall and their current position, whereby a report submitted a year later will suffice? With all due respect, their words sound like empty rhetoric to me. This seems to completely contradict their position, which was well argued, entirely plausible and reasonable.