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

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

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. It is true, the community I come from makes it a point of honour to ensure that these traditional philosophies remain the basis for our values and what the people in my riding have access to. So, yes, it is still true in 2011. The Innus from Uashat make it a point of honour to show great openness to others, which also benefits us.

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

Madam Speaker, let me start by saying that my speech today will stress a fundamentally philosophical tone. Thus, I do not intend to debate the form and the letter of the bill we have before us. My analysis is going to essentially look at background, culture and history. I will still refer to some of the concepts and terms used in the bill, but not more than that.

Although the purpose of the proposed legislative measures is officially to prevent smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system, we can easily see that a number of the elements that are tackled in the bill actually deal with immigration principles in the wider sense. Given the intrusive nature of those measures and the delegation of power that allows decisions to be made arbitrarily, we cannot avoid feeling that this draconian trend is a harbinger of the initiatives that this government is going to introduce in the coming years. This is not the first issue to show this shift to the right.

Although the wording recognizes the social issue underlying the need for such a bill, it seems that it is no more than a pretext for imposing restrictive measures intended to reposition the Canadian government in immigration matters. If we study the bill before us, we can easily see that far too little effort is made to crack down on crime, that is, criminal wrongdoing or human trafficking. Rather it is a roundabout attempt to regulate immigration and the arrival of newcomers in Canada.

My thoughts are thus informed by the historical background of immigration to Canada. I was born in the community of Uashat, an Innu community 700 kilometres north of Quebec City, and so my remarks will also be influenced by that concept.

If the rules the Conservatives want to establish had been in place in centuries past, Canada as we know it today would simply not exist.

The country and the society we live in today are the heirs of the “irregular arrival”—I am using the terms used in the bill—of immigrants to the continent. In short, a good number of Canadians, if not almost all Canadians, are themselves descended from sometimes massive, uncontrolled, disorderly and even self-interested immigration. When I say that I come from Uashat it is important to understand—and this is what history teaches us—that Jacques Cartier very likely landed close to the current location of my community of Uashat. History also tells us that the Innu displayed boundless tolerance and acceptance. They even lavished the new arrivals with care, and the existence of so many Canadians today serves only to support this undeniable fact.

Let us simply imagine that in the 16th century, when Jacques Cartier arrived, new arrivals suffering from advanced malnutrition had been put into preventive detention—so that their files could be reviewed—or that the authorities refused to consider the cases of immigrants suspected of the slightest criminal activity. There was no bureaucracy or those kinds of procedures at the time, but it serves to highlight a number of truths. It is unthinkable, is it not? We also understand that Canada was very likely populated by people who simply wanted to leave Europe or who had every reason to do so.

And yet this is what we are witnessing today: measures that run counter to the generous and open character of Canada, where traditionally we have not had immigration policies designed to circumscribe the admission of newcomers to the land. Traditionally, the Innu had a somewhat broad, somewhat vague vision of the concept of land ownership, which is still true today. So when the newcomers showed up, they simply shared the land, which was huge in any event, as well as the resources. They exhibited unbounded openness. This is the approach that should be taken in measures to regulate immigration to Canada, in keeping with that traditional intent and the interaction that took place several centuries ago.

That said, it is important to consider the social aspect that underlies the enactment of legislation of this nature. My eyes stopped on certain provisions that even provide for an inference of criminal activity or criminal organizations in the group. So there is very little guidance here, to my mind, and without a lengthy preamble, there is no definition of certain concepts in this new bill.

Without a lengthy preamble, there is no definition of certain concepts in this new bill.

Given the coercive nature of the proposed legislation and its excessive delegation of discretionary powers to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, it stifles much of the immigration we see in Canada. The door has been opened too wide. The definition and the discretion are too broad. Everything is subject to interpretation and there is nothing objective about any of it.

When taken as a whole, and in its present form, the bill contravenes Canada’s obligations in relation to human rights and the rights of refugees, and breaks with a Canadian policy, we might even say a Canadian tradition, that is firmly entrenched and that takes a positive view of immigration and the admission of refugees, a century-old tradition.

As I understand the text of the bill, we would be well advised to reassess a number of the proposed parameters for the methods of punishing human trafficking that it contains and transfer authority to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which already has skilled investigators among its members, and allocate it a budget proportionate to the workload associated with managing human trafficking cases within Canada.

The legislation, which has gone off track, should therefore have certain provisions removed, at the very least, and this authority should be transferred to an organization that has already demonstrated its investigative prowess in the past.

The bill clearly will not reduce the extent of human trafficking within Canada; rather, it will bring with it a lot of stigma that will ultimately be borne by all immigrants and legitimate refugees in the country.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I am well aware of the hardship being suffered on both sides. However, social imperatives must prevail in this case. The effort to make our points is truly worthwhile for Canadians. In fact, that applies not only to this situation, but also to situations that will arise in future. That is why we are here today and we are making these points.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, which follows on what I was saying.

That is correct, the ideal approach in this situation would be for the parties to sit down together, because in any event this is a power struggle and we are going to see this every day, whether we like it or not. So, it is better that the parties themselves be the ones who ultimately have to decide their fate. That is the normal way of doing things, and in this society it is how it should be done.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I would note that this kind of delay is inherent in the situation the workers and the employer are in. Events in that situation were fluid and that is how it should have continued: the parties involved had a responsibility to each other to sit down, and they would have reached an agreement, as has happened in the past. There was no urgency to intervene, let alone interfere, in that practice, which is proper and normal.

[The member spoke in Innu-aimun.]

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act June 24th, 2011

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned when I spoke previously, I am from a community which has historically distanced itself from political issues and from most of the Canadian dynamic. Growing up north of the 50th parallel on an isolated reserve conferred a certain number of advantages that I can gauge at their fair value in light of the situation we are dealing with today. The Innu have always made it a point of honour to oppose any kind of pernicious state interference in community management.

I want to emphasize the word “pernicious”, as it certainly applies here. State intervention in the form of social policy, to help people in need, is essential if we are to ensure that we do not let the neediest and most disadvantaged people fall through the cracks. The state has an important role to play in helping communities, be it through funding infrastructure or collecting data that allows it to determine the socio-economic profile of a community, and thus identify socio-economic problems as well as possible courses of action to solve those problems.

It is ironic to see this government, too often blinded by its ideology, seeking private subcontractors, at any price, to provide services to Canadians and fill the jobs associated with them. Although, in a labour conflict such as this one at Canada Post, market logic should dictate that the government allow both parties to find a solution to the conflict, the government's reflex has been the opposite: it has intervened although it did not need to. And what is worse, the government, by taking this action, has upset the natural equilibrium between the parties in question. The reason we are in this House today is to restore that balance and to ask the government to withdraw certain provisions in this bill, in particular the one that pertains to salaries.

We must allow the arbitrator and the two parties to arrive at a negotiated settlement that is acceptable to all. We can restore the balance and reach an agreement so that Canada Post lockout ends and service to the population resumes. In the final analysis, that is our goal here today.

I would like to get back to what I was talking about earlier, pernicious government interference in community management. When the message does not get through and the government takes measures compromising the independence of our management structures and the general self-government of my nation, the members of my community do not hesitate to act and express that independence in a radical way.

I want to make this perfectly clear: I would not want to urge the Canadian population to resort to roadblocks to make its voice heard, even though we are clearly faced with a situation involving government interference with the right to freedom of association and labour relations. I would advocate another approach, that of restoring the balance I was just referring to.

The government is attempting to create a precedent that clearly indicates the type of approach it is going to adopt with regard to the Canadian population during this mandate. As we can plainly see, this approach is akin to the authoritarianism of certain regimes that are currently being criticized by international observers. It is not my intent to quote figures and authorities to support my statements in this House, as my position rests on the heartfelt conviction that is a hallmark of the Innu community.

It is that conviction that enables me to offer a human viewpoint on any situation that arises. We must never avoid the human aspect inherent in the situation that concerns us at this time. The government's interference in the human relations that are part of the dialogue between Canada Post employees and their employer opens the door to improper government intervention in labour relations between all employees and employers.

In this regard I want to come back to the imbalance created by the Conservative government with its special bill. We will recall that the postal workers had offered to extend the collective agreement while bargaining continued. That is what the bill provides, but the bill goes further by setting the parameters within which the arbitrator must operate.

Why do they want to substitute themselves in advance for what should be happening down the road? Why not let the negotiations take their course and give the parties involved room to bargain in good faith? Imposing special legislation is a draconian measure that should be considered only in situations where the Canadian public is at risk of serious harm. That is not the case here; we are not in a crisis. I would caution everyone, however, because a crisis point can be reached very rapidly.

The Canadian public has expressed its views on the role of government in the past, and the current situation in the House of Commons is setting the tone of the social dynamic that is imposing itself on the Canadian public.

The measures proposed by the Conservatives belong to a bygone day.

Labour relations are in a constant state of change, and I suspect that this progress lies at the root of the measures proposed by the Conservatives.

They will have to reassess their positions and policies if they are to keep abreast of the wishes expressed by Canadians.

Obstructing the exercise of the right of association and the flow of bargaining that happens in labour relations is direct repression and negation of the concept of free will.

We can be assured that the presence of the NDP in the House will influence the government's decisions. Therefore, opposition members have not hesitated to debate this essential question and will continue to do so tirelessly.

I therefore urge the Mamit Innuat, the Pessamiunnuat, the Chimonnuat, all Innu in general, as well as the Naskapi, to support the postal employees and to support them massively and visibly. Make yourselves seen, brothers and sisters.

We will see that when we pool our efforts, big things happen.

All Canadians need to heed the warning that this issue is very likely to herald a dark era. It is up to the public to take a position and make the decision-makers understand that they will not remain passive forever.

Quite apart from the interruption in postal services, these recent events will perpetuate the power struggle going on in the public and private sectors. It is essential that people mobilize to support the desire of Canadians to express themselves and to flourish.

If I must, I am prepared to sit until the royal couple arrives, so they can witness the dedication of the New Democratic Party members of this House.

In passing, I salute the superhuman effort made by the party's support staff, some of whom are sleeping only a few hours a night, to ensure that our efforts are coordinated.

Without them, we would not be able to sustain our opposition to the policies of the Conservative government. With their support, we are making history today.

And last, I send greetings to the people in my riding, people of all origins, and I wish them all a wonderful time at the festivities that have been organized throughout the region.

I would have liked to be with them, but my presence is more useful in Ottawa.

Aboriginal Affairs June 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that three years after an apology was given to aboriginal people, virtually nothing has changed. Too many aboriginal communities have been abandoned to their fate. Access to education is dramatically lower than elsewhere. Many people have trouble accessing clean drinking water, and the housing situation is deplorable. Families are piled on top of one another.

We thank the Prime Minister for his apology, but we want more than fine words. When will we see concrete action to help aboriginal people break out of the socio-economic stagnation they live in?

National Aboriginal Day June 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, on this National Aboriginal Day, I am pleased to draw attention to the inclusive measures that the New Democratic Party introduced last weekend in order to ensure that the aboriginal point of view is truly taken into account.

I understand how apprehensive many aboriginals are at the idea of joining the ranks of a political organization, since this is a concept that is foreign to my home community's way of life and reality.

However, I am pleased to note that the NDP is devoting a significant amount of time and effort to bridging the cultural gap and sharing a vision of Canada that reflects its cultural heritage. I have rarely had the opportunity to see aboriginal leaders from communities across the country set aside differences and join forces in pursuit of a common goal.

In the future, I will work to ensure that inclusive measures leading to this cultural unity become the norm, in order to meet the progressive expectations expressed by the Canadian people.

Mamu Atussetau

Manicouagan June 13th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity during my first speech in the House to acknowledge the several thousand members of the Innu and Naskapi nations who mobilized and placed their confidence in me on May 2.

Such aboriginal participation in federal politics, and Canadian politics in general, had never been seen in 500 years of shared history. The fact that my non-native constituents also opted for a culturally integrated vision of regional development and social relations lays the foundation for a new alliance between the Quebec, Coaster, Innu and Naskapi communities in the riding of Manicouagan.

Given the reality of northern development, this solidarity will be essential for giving precedence to citizens' interests, social imperatives and environmental ideals over purely commercial considerations.

Accordingly, my interventions during this Parliament will focus on preserving and enhancing the unique dynamic of my riding.