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

Business of Supply November 17th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The accord he is referring to was not brought to my attention. Members will understand that I am new to the House.

There is certainly some complacency on the other side of the House since this situation has yet to be fixed, even though it is nothing new. The quality of water in isolated communities has been in the news for years, and I have yet to see any measures introduced to resolve this problem. The industry still has a strong presence in isolated regions and contributes nothing, with its drilling, to improving these communities and even less so to improving the quality of the water, basins and groundwater.

Business of Supply November 17th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. If the considerations and concerns raised by the AFNQL—I was talking about Quebec and Labrador—are not taken into consideration by the government, know that I am all ears, as are others in the NDP. During our last meeting with that assembly, we talked about the integrity of resources and groundwater. These topics were also discussed directly with Chief Picard. The other chiefs who belong to this assembly also shared their concerns. This problem is being studied right now, especially with respect to the effect of radon gas and its presence in groundwater.

Business of Supply November 17th, 2011

Madam Speaker, considering the ethnological concepts that will be addressed in this speech, it is important to provide some context in which to frame the intellectual exercise about to take place.

Having spent the past few months in this House and at a number of different meetings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, today I can offer some underlying reasons for the almost total lack of aboriginal popular support for Canada's political dynamic.

The first nations' historical passiveness toward the democratic process, as observed in this House, reflects a desire to distance themselves from the utilitarian relationship that has gradually developed between the aboriginal communities and the Canadian government. When I talk about a utilitarian relationship, of course I am talking about it in a purely pernicious sense since, too often, aboriginal identity issues are used for advancing some sort of political platform.

It seems that too often the socio-cultural issues of the first nations are brought to the public's attention only if there are political gains to be made by the various parties sitting in this House.

This perception stems from certain aboriginal apprehensions associated with the fraudulent manoeuvres of supposedly bygone days and is fuelled mainly by a strong sense of powerlessness against a system that is removed from the social realities of contemporary tribal communities.

I am deliberately putting the emphasis on the concept of “community” since my argument focuses mainly on the living conditions of Indians living on reserves. I differentiate between Indians living on and off reserve because during the last committee meeting, a representative of the commission on aboriginal peoples indicated that there was a certain inequity, there were certain noticeable differences between the living conditions of Indians living in urban centres off reserves and those living on reserve. I am emphasizing that difference today.

For six months now, I have been doing my best to introduce my colleagues to a culturally relevant vision of the Indian issues that enter into our debates and parliamentary work. This has led me to comment on certain statements made by my colleagues on issues such as access to housing and essential services for remote reserves in Canada.

I am bringing this up today in connection with the comment made by the hon. member who spoke before me. At the beginning of the week he sent me a press release on the situation as experienced by members of the Attawapiskat community.

He began by saying that aboriginals living in that community are now reduced to living in camps. In response, I jokingly said—jokes are a typical Innu way of changing the subject and defusing the tension—that aboriginal communities have been living in camps for 30,000 years. There is nothing new under the sun. But what is distressing is that this is not a choice for these communities; they are being forced into it out of necessity. I feel that this is a sorry state of affairs in 2011 since access to basic services should go hand in hand with the notion of being a Canadian citizen.

It is sometimes wise to boil ideas down to their most basic concept. This is one tactic, one characteristic of my nation—we always try to return to traditional reasoning when faced with a difficult situation. Often, we find solutions to uncomfortable situations in the community.

This vision, which is part of the community I come from, is extremely useful when looking at possible solutions to the daily problems faced by the Innu nation. It is one of the reasons that we ask questions of elders, who take on the task of applying a traditional vision when it comes to contentious issues and issues of identity. And when I say contentious, I mean situations that pit certain community members against one another.

In the past, we used a consensus process; it was a type of community justice. If there were disputes between people in the community, this process resolved many issues in the end. There was an adversarial aspect: people would openly state the problem and a solution would often be found through collaboration.

That said, even those with ancestral knowledge, the elders, within my home community fully realize that they cannot completely dismiss modern socio-economic realities when looking at the living conditions of band members. That is why I must agree with the argument presented by my colleagues who say that access the basic commodities, such as running water, potable water in fact, is one of the intrinsic rights of a Canadian citizen.

The simple fact that nearly 2,000 aboriginal households in Canada do not have access to running water illustrates the urgency of the situation. This alone is enough to justify a unified effort by all levels of government in order to address this matter of national interest. Needless to say, it is the federal government's duty to preserve human dignity in this country. In that regard and under international law, drinking water is recognized as essential and a prerequisite to exercising human rights. Without drinking water, exercising human rights would be rather difficult, since, after two or three days, there would no longer be any humans.

With that in mind, in my speech I plan to highlight certain industry practices that specifically affect the integrity of water resources in Canada's isolated communities. Exploration and mining activities north of the 50th parallel present a significant risk in terms of contamination of groundwater, which is vital to isolated communities that have only limited recourses when it comes to access to drinking water. I am addressing the issue from the perspective of the 50th parallel because it is relevant to my culture and my background. Many resource exploration initiatives are taking place at this time, either near or north of the 50th parallel. History shows that these lands are inhabited mainly by remote aboriginal communities that are cut off from the rest of the world.

I emphasize this little-known aspect—the harmful impact of industrial practices on the living conditions in aboriginal communities—because many instances of damage and deterioration in first nations' water resources have been brought to my attention in the context of my job. In fact, I plan to go to Kitigan Zibi over the weekend—along with one of my colleagues whom this concerns directly, since the community is in his riding—in order to address some concerns raised by residents there. I will be able to shed some light on the situation and update the House when I return.

My brief experience in this Parliament leads me to believe that the current political and economic climate favours the indiscriminate extraction of mineral resources in remote regions. This suits the unfortunate plans of an all-powerful industry that cares nothing for the concept of corporate social responsibility because each social unit north of the 50th parallel is so isolated. With this speech I am giving notice that I will be keeping an eye on industry practices in traditional first nations territories. Damage to the water resources in isolated communities is just one of the adverse effects of putting economic interests first in this country.

I assure the House that I will use all means at my disposal to ensure that social and environmental considerations will temper the initiatives put forward by a government which, through wilful blindness fueled by purely mercantile considerations, is contributing to the ruin and perdition of the nation.

Status of Women October 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, last week there was an article in a weekly paper in my riding about the status of women in Fermont. The article confirmed what everyone already knows: violence; verbal, physical and sexual abuse; geographic isolation and distress are commonplace for women in Fermont.

During a recent visit to my riding, I witnessed the extent of the social tragedy currently playing out in Fermont when I met with staff at the shelter that provides assistance to women. This centre has seen a 300% increase in demand for its services over the past year. The cost of living in the region has also increased.

These women have had enough. I am calling on the Minister for Status of Women to come up with a contingency plan and concrete assistance measures for isolated regions experiencing an economic boom, in order to fund projects that provide a safe place and housing for women. The women of Fermont also have a right to health as well as physical and economic safety.

Copyright Modernization Act October 18th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The text of the bill makes no mention of aboriginal people, contrary to the 2004 study, which was carried out by Parliament. It makes one wonder if people were paying attention. At the time, aboriginal groups pointed out what they needed and wanted. This bill, which updates the Copyright Act, clearly pays very little, if any, attention to the transmittal and protection of ancestral knowledge and the expression of oral culture. We all know that ours is a predominantly oral culture. It is marginalized, as it always has been.

Copyright Modernization Act October 18th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. As regards communities, I am always going to refer to my own community, namely the Innu of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam. One should realize that they are not at all familiar with the debates that are taking place in this House, particularly in the case of the current bill.

One should also realize that my community is very distrustful and rather reluctant to share its information and culture, for reasons that are now rather obvious. There have been problems like embezzlement and abuse, whether on a cultural or other level. So, it goes without saying that implementing the measures proposed in this legislation will not improve dialogue, and even less so the sharing because, ultimately, it is the industry that will hold the key and enjoy all the privileges. The artist as such will be pushed aside and will play a very minor role.

Copyright Modernization Act October 18th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He will agree with me that social considerations carry very little weight on the other side of this House. This is a pattern that we are going to see in the coming years, namely that those who detain the monetary and economic power will always prevail over those who care about other considerations, whether environmental, cultural or social. The legislation before us today is no exception and it is a reflection of that pattern.

Copyright Modernization Act October 18th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, this speech is in line with my previous speeches and came about as a result of my thoughts on whether the current government is truly willing to protect and promote the public interest.

The purpose of the bill before us is basically to replace the current Copyright Act. Those present in the House all agree that this is necessary. Social and technological realities are, by definition, constantly changing and it is important to have legislative tools adapted to the current global economy, in which massive amounts of information are constantly being transferred electronically.

Both sides admit that the letter of the Copyright Act must indeed be modernized; however, the text of the bill proposed by the Conservatives does not address a number of key issues. As a result, the proposed solution could prove to be more risky and problematic than truly innovative and functional.

The opinion of a number of experts on the issue disputes the legitimacy of certain elements and even the adoption of such provisions by the federal legislative body since many issues addressed in the bill actually overlap with areas under provincial jurisdiction.

The legislative exercise must involve weighing the pros and cons. Given that the desired outcome of this exercise is to update a law on so-called progressive materials, the government must support an approach that strikes a balance between the rights of consumers and the rights of content owners.

Taking into account current practices in arts and technology, this bill favours major industry players, the ones that ultimately hold the prerogative power associated with copyright. I will now explain all the concepts associated with licensing and the transfer of ownership.

The agreements binding creators to stakeholders in the arts and culture industry in Canada make systematic use of provisions granting licences or transferring the rights of a creator to the benefit of major industry players. In addition, the real winners of Bill C-11 are the large movie studios and record labels, not Canadian artists and consumers.

Since I come from a family of artists, I was able to witness first-hand the terrible consequences related to the inequality of power that is common in the artistic production sector in its broadest sense.

As an illustration, I will delve into empirical studies by sharing a story about something that happened to my father. My father is an author-composer-performer who speaks Innu almost exclusively. Like me, he comes from the Uashat mak Mani-Utenam community. In the early 1990s, he went to the United States to promote culture and perform.

During his time in the United States, a digital recording was made of his voice while he was singing time-honoured songs from thousands of years ago. Some say that that is in the public domain, but someone made a digital recording of his voice and when he came back to Canada many years later, he was surprised to hear the recording in a major American film, of which millions of copies had been distributed. It was difficult for him to understand how his recording had ended up in a Columbia Pictures film. But nothing came of it and he still has a bad taste in his mouth when he thinks about what happened.

Next I want to talk about sharing. I will talk about the traditional way of looking at information sharing. This link with the sharing of traditional aboriginal knowledge is relevant in analyzing the situation before us. While first nations have thus far had limited recourse to Canadian laws pertaining to intellectual property to protect creations resulting from their traditions, it is recognized that unauthorized copies of works by groups and communities; the appropriation of aboriginal themes and images; artist copyright infringement; culturally inappropriate use of aboriginal images and styles by non-aboriginal creators and the exclusive appropriation of traditional knowledge without compensation are quite common within socially deprived communities.

Now, when I say “appropriation without compensation”, that is a direct reference to the pharmaceutical advance that resulted from traditional knowledge the indigenous people had on the land. When I talk about indigenous people, we may go as far away as New Guinea and Australia, but here in Canada, we know that the pharmaceutical and pharmacological industry has drawn on traditional knowledge on the centuries-old use of plants on the land. Today, there are multitudes of medications that derive from that direct application. There is a recognition, in a sense, of the contribution of the Innu and indigenous people in general, but very few patents, in my opinion, have been issued to the indigenous nations.

It goes without saying that the proposed legislation does not answer any of the considerations raised by the indigenous communities and highlighted in the study entitled “Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property Rights”, prepared by the Parliamentary Research Branch in response to a request in 2004. In addition, the bill to modernize copyright will allow a third party to establish a system of digital locks that will supersede virtually all other rights that may be exercised by the indigenous nations over their ancestral works.

As we can see, the imbalance of power that can be observed in the arts industry gives rise to appalling situations, a reality that has unfortunately eluded the text of the bill. The proposed legislation simply exacerbates the disadvantage the artist is at, for the benefit of recording and movie studios that have enormous resources at their disposal for creating a system of digital locks that will supersede virtually all other rights provided in the legislation. Ultimately, this practice will enable the industry to protect its declining capacity to generate enormous profits.

Regarding the concepts of licence and assignment of rights, these are usual clauses that we see in contracts: the artist is not in a position to bargain since most often they are presented with a standard form contract. The clauses already exist. Assignment is a little rarer, but explicit licences are included and the artist is then bound by them. The artist has very few rights, other than the moral right in respect of the ultimate use made of their work, and they are not in a position to stand up to the armada of lawyers who work for the industry.

The government must therefore amend the provisions relating to digital locks before this bill is passed. Apart from its negative effects on artists’ income expectations, that measure grants exorbitant powers to the rights holders, the players in an already very well-off industry.

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

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

Simply reading the title of the bill or its subtitle, we might consider that someone wants to get tough on crime, but at the end of the day, when we look at it, we can easily see that there is too little focus on smugglers and the problem they represent. Misappropriation takes place and can be seen on the ground, but too much effort is put into repressing and strictly controlling new arrivals to Canada. This can be distorted and deserves a full re-evaluation.

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

Madam Speaker, this is perhaps the lawyer in me speaking, but upon reading the proposed legislation I came across a number of areas that could be challenged, and I can tell you that right now this bill will certainly cause more problems than it will provide solutions, and that it is well outside the current scope of the legislation.

As a lawyer, it is clear to me that this legislation could be challenged, and I am probably not the only person in Canada to feel this way. From a constitutional standpoint—and again this goes beyond the scope of my current remarks—you can believe me when I say that the constitutionality of this legislation is questionable.