House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was nations.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Manicouagan (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 18% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions March 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to submit to the House a petition that attests to the need to give special status to Gatineau Park to preserve it for future generations.

Aboriginal Affairs March 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, their measures are not working, because no one has a proper understanding of the problem, since there has been no public inquiry.

Staying on the topic of the incompetence of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, over $33 million has not been invested in first nations education, despite the crisis that exists in that regard.

Can the minister tell us exactly when that $33 million will be allocated to education infrastructure, as initially planned?

Aboriginal Affairs March 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the appalling comments made by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development are inexcusable, because they are recurrent. Furthermore, they clearly demonstrate that the minister is not taking this situation seriously.

Over 800 aboriginal women have been murdered or have gone missing since 1990. Their families, friends and communities want justice. The measures the Conservatives have brought forward are not working. Women continue to disappear.

Instead of making inappropriate comments, will the minister finally take this matter seriously and launch a public inquiry?

Marine Mammal Regulations March 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, unlike many of the issues that are brought before the House of Commons, which are quite abstract, this bill on the Marine Mammal Regulations reflects the contemporary nature of traditional practices that are part of everyday life in Canada's northern communities.

When I say “quite abstract”, I am referring to the theatrics that often go on here in the House, which I myself am guilty of from time to time. However, the subject of marine mammals, seals in particular, brings us down to earth because it is a tangible reality that can be seen in the everyday lives of northern communities, so much so that the term atshuk, which means “seal”, has become a proper noun. It is a name. My own cousin is named Atshuk.

Traditionally, the Innu community is not made up of fishers, at least not the community of Uashat. I know that there have been some fishers among the Mamit Innuat. People still fish for seals today. However, for the Innu of Uashat-Maliotenam, seals are simply something they see every day. They go about their everyday lives simply knowing that mammals, including seals, are there, since the St. Lawrence River is so close by. Uashat-Maliotenam is a coastal community. Its residents are able to see seals on a daily basis.

My father has sharper eyes than I do, and he will often tell me that he saw a seal that morning. We can call them seals or whitecoats. There are a number of terms that can be used. I am not an expert, and I am going to assume that it is seals people are seeing. My father's house faces the river and, in the winter, you can see seals on the ice.

Although the bill before us prohibits anyone who does not have a seal fishery observation licence issued by the minister to approach within one nautical mile of a person who is fishing for seals, the reality in coastal communities is that people live in close proximity to certain marine mammals.

I find it hard to imagine this distance of one nautical mile since these marine mammals live so close by. You can see them with the naked eye. When I read the bill, I realized that this distance pertains to activists and the way their activities and protests may interfere with fishing.

That has not been a problem in my riding. However, I have seen pictures of this sort of thing, just as every other Canadian has. I know that it can happen and that it can result in confrontations and people going out there and drawing international media attention. For example, we saw this with the Europeans.

These marine animals live close to humans. I am thinking of the bay in Sept-Îles, among other places. This distance of one nautical mile for observation or close contact with humans seems more or less right, since these animals get quite close to humans anyway.

We must also understand that the practice of hunting and fishing seals is a traditional practice. When I said “traditional” at the beginning of my speech, I was referring to the culture. For thousands of years, marine animals have been part of the daily diet of many communities.

As I was saying today, the last time this type of food and collective practice was brought to my attention, it was among the Mamit Innuat. These people live in the eastern part of my riding, from Natashquan eastward. Some communities make extensive use of this on a daily basis, but that is not necessarily so in my own community.

A quick read of the elements underlying the need to implement measures to define the distances from which to observe marine mammals suggests the sort of interference associated with groups and demonstrators who are ideologically opposed to the seal fishery.

I do not fish, myself, but I know that some communities do fish for food and use the fishery extensively, and that only bolsters what I have to say today. I think that my colleagues also believe in the importance of this practice. We must therefore support this essentially environmentally friendly practice.

Aboriginal Affairs March 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in 2007, the Prime Minister announced that he was committed to resolving the some 800 specific claims that were gathering dust on a shelf. However, that was just another promise for the Conservatives to break. As of April 2014, significant budget cuts will be made to the organizations that are researching the specific claims, which means that first nations people will no longer be able to finalize outstanding claims. How can the minister justify these cuts?

Aboriginal Affairs February 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the action plan for first nations youth released today is about more than just a commitment to invest in education. This report shows that the government needs to focus on building a promising future for aboriginal youth.

The requests being made today are quite simple: respect, a listening ear and immediate change. We need to improve the living conditions in aboriginal communities and bring hope and healing to our young people.

Will the minister listen?

An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act (duty to examine) February 14th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, given the contemporary nature of the issue before us, that is, the compliance of statutory instruments with the principles of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, I think it is essential to highlight the fact that the concept of sustainable development is sometimes ambiguous and flexible.

I will first talk about how proponents of the extractive industry have misappropriated the concept of sustainable development. A decade ago, this concept emerged and became popular in universities and law schools. I remember studying it 11 or 12 years ago. It was promising, even then. I remember doing an assignment on Syncrude. Corporate social responsibility was also part of this concept, and there were many implications.

Since I come from a region where resources are being extracted all over the place, I can say that this concept has been misappropriated as a validation tool. Often, industry players will say that they work in sustainable development, just to give a degree of integrity to their actions or at least to add the appearance of respectability to their operations.

For the record, and to support my analysis, I would like to point out that, under this bill, sustainable development is a principle according to which a policy meets the needs of the present generation without compromising future generations. It is based on three pillars: the environment, society, and, to a lesser degree, the economy.

I did tamper with that a little. The economy was second on the list, but I decided to put it last and add “to a lesser degree”. The factors, then, are the environment, society—because without humans, there is no economy; there is nothing at all—and, to a lesser degree, the economy.

The stated objective of the legislation before us would make sustainable development central to all federal public policies in order to make Canada greener and more prosperous. However, it is essential that we avoid any undue appearance of integrity imparted by extractive industry players' habitual use of the concept.

I said “habitual” because it has become a reflex. People who propose resource extraction initiatives will always try to stick a “sustainable development” label on their proposal. It is practically the norm; we see it all the time.

As for certification bodies—I am thinking back to my own schooling—about 10 years ago, there was the ISO 14001 standard, which had to do with corporate social responsibility, and it always looked really good. I think that ISO standards are still used for certification. A company would display the banner and it looked good. However, there were enforcement measures and checks to make sure that the company displaying the banner met the standards set by the ISO certification body.

We are trying to do something similar in this case with sustainable development. However, as far as I know, there is no body that ensures that a given company or industry is applying the principles of sustainable development to the letter. This is a flexible concept, and it is too often seen as a type of certification. It is sometimes used as a trademark, for example, in the economic action plan.

There are people using the concept of sustainable development as a trademark and a type of certification. That is absolutely disgusting, since the public, environmental groups, as well as environmental and social stakeholders are increasingly wary and skeptical about the use of this concept, which was once noble but has lost its sheen over the years. This concept has become devoid of meaning and has lost a lot of its flexibility and prestige.

For the purposes of this bill, it is important that the Government of Canada support the principle whereby sustainable development is based on the need to make decisions while taking all environmental, social and, where appropriate, economic factors into account. Once again, I deliberately put the economic aspect last, but I am a little biased. I think Canadians, and my colleagues here, can detect that I am somewhat biased, because the economic aspect predominates all too often in our speeches and in the public policies that are brought forward. The economic aspect often takes precedence over other considerations, which will, in the end, lead to our demise as a nation and as a species. I wanted to point that out. We will not delve too deeply into philosophy this afternoon, but we can see that the economy without human beings and without some return and proper redistribution will lead us to our own demise.

The current Federal Sustainable Development Act is not really effective because of the government's lack of political will. There is currently a law that applies to federally regulated situations. However, given the fact that the economy and development outweigh other social and environmental considerations, we have seen very little interest in that. I even wonder why we still have an office and a commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. I submit that to you. However, this is indicative of the rather pronounced tendency of this government to promote economic growth ahead of other considerations that are nevertheless essential.

The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, a position created by the Federal Sustainable Development Act, notes that that the efforts to integrate the sustainable development strategy are incomplete. Our own Commissioner, here in Canada, has informed us that the application of these measures and of the specific principles of sustainable development is not enough. Bill C-481 would address that deficiency. That is why I felt it was imperative that I rise today, especially in view of the reality of my own riding, Manicouagan, where there is extensive natural resource extraction every day.

Bill C-481 would make it possible to strengthen the Federal Sustainable Development Act by ensuring that the House of Commons is advised of whether a bill does or does not comply with the federal sustainable development strategy implemented under the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

I really like the idea of “the House of Commons is advised”, because until recently, there have been very few notifications to the House of Commons and the general public on environmental issues—anything to do with navigable waters, for example—and any measures and initiatives that have been amended or implemented. I think the same is true today, since environmental assessments have simply been ignored. As a result, no one ends up being notified. That is really reprehensible, given the major impact this can have.

I submit this humbly and I hope you all have a good weekend.

The Budget February 14th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there is a gathering on Parliament Hill today to commemorate Shannen's Dream, the dream that all first nations children can have access to decent educational facilities, no matter where they live.

We wholeheartedly welcome the end of the spending caps on first nations education, but we are wondering why our children will have to wait until 2015 to see any results. Why should first nations children, who have suffered from chronic underfunding for years now, have to wait another year?

Northwest Territories Devolution Act February 14th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, our friends across the aisle would do well to take some notes on land occupation, because the lack of support and the general outcry can be felt and heard here in Ottawa, from first nations groups that are more sure of themselves and increasingly bitter. Furthermore, the government will have to negotiating with them on a day-to-day basis. It should therefore pay attention to these matters related to Indian identity, on the one hand, and on the titles that apply to the lands and land occupation, on the other hand. That is the crux of the issue, the name of the game, and the government should take note.

In short, this government would do well to focus more on winning the approval of first nations members and not simply go and negotiate and ratify agreements with band representatives. Once again, let me clarify, they are elected under the Indian Act. Their responsibilities, their “Indianness” and their jurisdiction are limited to reserve lands. The Indian Act is limited to reserve lands, and I cannot emphasize this point enough, even though, technically, this kind of reasoning does not necessarily apply to the Northwest Territories or Bill C-15 today. However, this is a recurring theme. These things warrant discussion and the entire Canadian population needs to know.

When I am in Manicouagan, I personally tell members in my own community that the band council has no authority over traditional territories. When agreements are ratified, the transparency of which is sometimes negotiated, I tell the members of my community that it is important for them to take a stand and that the government should seek their consent; they should not just be satisfied with an agreement ratified by the government and the band council only.

In short, if the government is interested in promoting dialogue and creating a more harmonious environment for dealing with aboriginal issues and disputes, it would do well to focus on these concepts, including the use of traditional lands, which is a key component.

I submit this respectfully.

Northwest Territories Devolution Act February 14th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will continue in the same vein as my last speech on Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act. Today I will talk about the capacity for alienation of the collective heritage in terms of aboriginal rights and the practical outcome of the ratification of modern treaties and agreements between the crown and the first nations. I spoke to this bill at second reading about three days ago, so it is still fresh in my mind.

Bill C-15 provides an opportunity to talk about a number of topics that are too often ignored or that remain obscure to the Canadian public. The prerogatives that are exercised in relation to traditional territories, as well as these matters and clarifications, will help elucidate why certain groups raise objections when the government decides to sit down with a band and sign an agreement or document that could potentially alienate or be detrimental to other communities.

The case we are talking about today has been challenged by other bands. The Canadian public has noticed a lack of homogeneity, and that is true. Dissent and overlapping claims can lead to opposition when an agreement is ratified with a group or a band. That is not limited to this situation with the Northwest Territories. We see it all across the country, which is why it is necessary to focus on this today, so that we can shed new light on the issue.

I want to point out that this particular piece of legislation was negotiated and there was consent. There are no doubts about this in the case of Bill C-15 and the associated agreement and regulations. A number of stakeholders in committee said as much and spoke about economic growth. We must always keep that in mind. Above all, we are talking about an economic agreement and initiative. There is no question that this was negotiated and there was consent. However, there are a number of other similar vagaries and problems that we can examine.

Our support at third reading also shows that we recognize that this economic initiative is based in negotiations. However, this leads me to the issue of overlapping claims and overriding prerogatives.

I often talk about a quasi-proprietary title. This points to the fact that first nations members—even though the title is often collective, it is in fact divisible—enjoy prerogatives in relation to given territories. In this case, we are talking about traditional territories, and the same is true for me and for the Innu and Naskapi communities of Manicouagan. Traditional territories come with prerogatives for first nations members.

When bands are called on to negotiate, there may be a sort of disavowal on the part of community members. It is always important to keep in mind that Indian bands are products of the Indian Act. In my informed view, that is why negotiations and agreements ratified by bands lose legitimacy to a certain extent when members do not fully participate.

It is also important to keep in mind that those titles and prerogatives are divisible even though they are collective. That is why this government should always both consult and seek approval. It must do more than just consult, because consultations are quite restrictive. So far, the Conservatives have demonstrated a rather limited view of consultation, which boils down to taking notes at the bottom of the page and covering up issues that have resurfaced, in order to move forward with their economic development agenda.

When there is consultation or, rather, when it is looking for approval, the government—or future governments, because I hope that this will be considered by whoever governs next—should first and foremost look for approval from the public, from first nations members as individuals, through a referendum or other democratic means. This would limit opposition and there would be more support from the public. It would be easier for the public and first nations members to support a given initiative, and it is clear that certain initiatives in 2014 do not have that support.

Opposition to economic initiatives, even joint ones, that have an effect on the prerogatives of third parties illustrates the need for the government to recognize the pre-eminence of the quasi-proprietary title that first nations members have to their respective traditional territories. I will also discuss the highly contentious and recurrent nature of the overlapping occupation of territories, and I will talk about the collective, but also divisible, nature of prerogatives that are exercised in relation to the territory.

In light of the prerogatives that are exercised in relation to territories—