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

Education April 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today I want to acknowledge the courage and commitment of the people and the mayor of Franquelin, who have been fighting for the survival of their elementary school for a few years now. To preserve this essential infrastructure, the municipal council will start offering attendance incentives this year, including a credit to new property owners with children as well as rebates for fees and school supplies. These kinds of measures are unheard of in my riding of Manicouagan.

All Canadians should take an interest in the efforts of small communities on the north shore to combat the rural exodus and save their schools, since education and equal opportunities are among the fundamental values of this country.

Without the opportunity to go to school in my community and pursue post-secondary education, I would not have been able to achieve the position I have here, and I know that the same is true for many of my colleagues in this place.

That is why I want to assure my constituents in Franquelin and elsewhere in Manicouagan that I stand with them in their fight to maintain schools close to home, and I hope that everyone here in the House supports them as well.

Citizen Consultation Preceding Natural Resource Development March 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will use this right of reply wisely and focus on the points raised by my colleagues in their remarks about the motion on public willingness with regard to natural resource development.

I would like to dispel some of the doubts and reservations that were expressed by members of the House who believe that the expression of public willingness is equivalent to a right of veto.

That is not the case. We need to put the whole thing in context. When I talk about taking into account public willingness, I am talking about one criterion in the permit process. There are other criteria, which seem to be more important to some, such as the economy, jobs, the environment and health. The expression of public willingness would be part of the criteria that are already taken into account out of necessity before a permit is issued to develop a mine or extract a natural resource.

In her speech, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources emphasized the need for the public to provide evidence to back up their claims regarding natural resource extraction undertakings. She said: “People's views need to be substantiated with evidence”.

I agree, and that is why the information about resource extraction or mining initiatives must be made available to the public. Canadians need to have access to all of the information, not just when the matter is closed and everything has already been signed, but in the preliminary stages, when people are called upon to express their opinions and take a position. It is essential that everyone have all the information.

Making all of the information about a given project available is an inherent part of the notion of expression of public willingness, which is at the heart of the motion before the House.

The parliamentary secretary stressed the need to base a position on facts and science. I would like to acknowledge the informed position taken by a number of people, including people in Sept-Îles. I am talking about people like Mr. Bouchard and Ms. Gagnon, who have based their position on scientific data. It was a huge job, especially if you consider that they did not have extensive financial resources at their disposal. They did everything they had to do to get the information they needed. Now they are practically experts. I am, of course, referring to Mine Arnaud, a proposed apatite mine in Sept-Îles. These are people who taught themselves over the years and developed expertise out of necessity.

As I said, I think it is essential that the public have access to all the information associated with a project. That is precisely the problem with Mine Arnaud. At the end of the day, the information does not get beyond the employers and the industry. The information is not passed along, which is why we are seeing this public outcry from the people of Sept-Îles and other places.

The fact that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources demonstrated openness to people taking a stand by telling the House that claims have to be based on evidence suggests to me that all parliamentarians can work together to reduce the harmful impact of public opposition to economic initiatives in Canada. I have talked about that harmful impact several times in the House. Every public outcry has a direct impact on stock market value. We can see that by looking at stock market value. At least for corporate entities that issue IPOs and are publicly traded, we can see the effects of public uprising: their market value plummets.

I would also like to talk about my meeting with the parliamentary secretary to the minister in her office because I want to illustrate the inclusiveness underlying this motion. I told the parliamentary secretary that I was open to amendments and that I wanted to work inclusively and collaboratively with the Conservatives, the Liberals and my own colleagues. That remains the key feature of this motion. It would ease tensions across the country and prevent that uprising.

The Conservatives could really benefit from this motion, since we will be having an election In October, and that is pretty bad for their brand.

I submit this respectfully.

Northern Development March 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, nutrition north Canada is yet another program that is not measuring up because of the Conservatives' incompetence.

Recent statistics show that the number of northern households that cannot afford healthy foods grew during the first year of the nutrition north Canada program. We are not the ones saying that. That is from the latest Statistics Canada report.

Instead of continuing to boast about the merits of nutrition north Canada, will the Conservatives acknowledge that they have failed?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act March 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this opportunity that I have been given to talk about the bill that seeks to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples allows me to share my initial thoughts on the utilitarian relations that gradually took the place of the ideals that form the historical foundation of our country. We have heard this before and my colleagues made reference to it: when it comes to a nation-to-nation relationship, there has been many a slip twixt the cup and the lip in 2015. I will talk more about that later in my speech.

By way of information, I will read article 38 of the declaration, which states:

States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take the appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration.

I would now like to talk about the ongoing attempts to undermine officials elected under the Indian Act and how that affects economic stability.

This morning it was brought to my attention that, of all the ridings in Quebec, Manicouagan has the second largest aboriginal population. There are obviously quite a few of us.

Just recently I attended a meeting that was to be historic and it was the same old story. That is deplorable, and it is the reason why I am mentioning it here. All too often, partnerships or joint ventures are put forward with utilitarian ideals. Members of aboriginal peoples, members of first nations and too often those elected under the Indian Act are perceived as tokens or as elements required for certification, somewhat like an ISO standard. In 2015, entrepreneurs, proponents of resource extraction initiatives, are fully cognizant of the fact that the presence, or at least the visible and—to use a term that is popular these days—ostentatious presence of aboriginal peoples and representatives is indispensable if they want to move forward.

Thus, we have this sector of the industry. All too often, in terms of legislation and the government, the representatives elected under the Indian Act are put forward as tokens or window dressing simply to promote the inclusive nature of a given decision or initiative. That is where the problem lies because when the will is lacking, when it is missing, this is all just smoke and mirrors.

That is why, when we talk about working inclusively, when we talk about real partnerships, we need to ensure that first nations are included. I am not just talking about officials elected under the Indian Act. We also need to ensure that special attention is given to the redistribution of benefits, whether they are financial or social. A redistribution of benefits must result.

This morning in committee I had another discussion with one of the witnesses. We agreed on this point. If we truly want to make our communities better economically, culturally and socially, we need to focus on redistributing and passing along the benefits that should, in theory, result from these agreements that are publicized with much fanfare. The government does this a lot, but we also see it at the provincial level. We see it in Quebec. All too often, these framework agreements are put forward and touted as a new alliance, a new partnership. If we look closely we can see that that is meaningless.

I will continue in a few weeks.

Aboriginal Affairs February 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's mismanagement has also taken its toll on education.

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is now turning to the Auditor General of Canada to get things done. Yesterday, the organization gave the Auditor General a thick file outlining the mismanagement of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

What is the minister waiting for? When will he take action and respond to the demands of aboriginal peoples who, like everyone else, just want a quality education for their children?

Aboriginal Affairs February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as federal ministers prepare to sit down with provincial, territorial and aboriginal leaders to discuss the crisis we are facing, with more than 1,200 missing or murdered aboriginal women, we have learned that the Minister of Status of Women did not consult key groups, such as the Native Women's Association of Canada, before launching her so-called action plan last September.

Why does the minister refuse to listen to these groups and immediately launch a national inquiry?

Child Poverty January 30th, 2015

-Mr. Speaker, it is said that a bad start in life translates into inequality during childhood and is associated with the underutilization of individual potential. The motion on eliminating child poverty, despite its wording, focuses on the socially vulnerable aspects of the parents or guardians.

I will now introduce the 2013 social statistics indicating that two out of five children living in an aboriginal community grow up in poverty. There are nearly 15,000 aboriginal constituents in Manicouagan, my riding. Out of a population of 90,000 that is quite remarkable. Some communities are remote and cut off from the rest of the world. I am thinking about Pakua Shipi, Unamen Shipu, Matimekush-Lac John, Kawawachikamach. It takes a 12-hour train ride to get to the latter two communities or thousands of dollars in plane tickets. Communities like Unamen Shipu and Pakua are simply cut off from the rest of the world. There are no roads to get there.

When I was working for Innu Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-utenam, my own band council, the numbers brought to my attention indicated that more than 60% of the population was dependent, directly or indirectly, on Mitshim Shuniau, in other words social assistance, for money to eat. That was roughly six or seven years ago, when I was working for my band council, that more than half the working-age adult population was directly or indirectly dependent on transfers from social assistance.

Some might say, and perhaps rightly so, that the amount of social assistance paid to aboriginal communities is a bit higher than the base amount in Quebec. Nonetheless, if we take into account the cost of food and the cost of living in the remote regions, this amount is not enough for properly raising children.

Beyond the financial considerations, it is also important to address the shift in the parental model within many communities affected by the clear deterioration of the social fabric.

I believe that a massive injection of funds into dysfunctional clans should not be seen as the only solution to child poverty. The Conservatives like to talk about how their action plan focuses primarily on massive injections of funds. They toss out staggering numbers—hundreds of millions of dollars invested in communities. What I am saying is that massive injections of funds will not necessarily solve the problem once and for all. It can be part of the solution, but we certainly cannot think of it as the only answer to all of the problems in socially dysfunctional communities.

When I talk about the absence of parental models, dysfunctional parental models or even dysfunctional guardians, I am referring to statements that I made here in the House when we talked about issues related to street gangs. Members of Parliament with good memories will recall that, at the time, I pointed out that street gangs crop up when children do not have parental supervision and are forced to meet their own needs themselves. They band together and take over a house.

I am thinking about life on the reserves. Gang members take control of a house on the reserve because the parents have gone off somewhere. They often decide to turn to questionable methods to meet their needs, to feed themselves. The result is that there are houses with about fifteen young people, all minors, living together. It is a bit of a free-for-all. This happens because many parents or guardians are simply not there to supervise these children.

It is important to mention that this is not the case with all families. These are somewhat isolated cases, but they still need to be mentioned in the House. When parents receive social assistance, they revert back to being adolescents themselves. They go join a group of adults who, one might say, have veered off course, and children, particularly those who are 10, 11 or 12 years old and fairly independent, are simply left to fend for themselves. Sometimes older members of the family, often the grandparents, will decide to take care of these children. However, many children are left to fend for themselves and turn to crime.

That is unfortunate, but that is what is happening. A 10- or 11-year-old child has no other choice. These children start by stealing from malls and then it all snowballs as the years go by.

The fundamental findings of developmental psychology have shown the negative, long-term impacts of growing up in a home that does not have the financial resources required to meet the family's basic needs.

I will now talk about the insidious nature of daily exposure to negative influences within dysfunctional social units. Even children in my community who come from a functional, educated, relatively well-off family are nevertheless exposed to the same negative influences as all other children, especially in isolated communities where transportation costs are high.

When I talk about negative influences, I am referring to hardened criminals who have been incarcerated in several federal institutions. This includes sex offenders, murderers who ride around on their bicycles in the community and known HIV carriers. Promiscuity being what it is in communities, people know who is who and what everyone is doing.

In a community of just a few thousand people, such as Uashat-Maliotenam, which has a population of about 3,000, it does not take long to learn everything there is to know about each and every person. In the summer especially, because everyone lives outside, children can be exposed to all kinds of behaviours. It is not uncommon to see an alcoholic sleeping with his head on a case of beer beside the corner store, someone urinating in his pants or people who are in a toxic psychosis because they have taken PCP and need to be talked down by paramedics.

When I was a teenager, I used to invite my Quebec friends over on the day people received their social assistance cheques to have some fun. I had lost my moral compass and I considered that entertainment. On Mitshim Shuniau day, I would invite my friends over to have fun watching my neighbours consume just about anything. I would tell them that the paramedics would be coming and going all day and the show would be worth their while. That is what I thought back then.

Today, I see that it was wrong and detrimental to everyone's personal affirmation and societal betterment. However, at the time, I thought it was quite funny. Thus, on Mitshim Shuniau day, I would give my friends a bit of a guided tour of my community. We saw all kinds of things, like people walking around naked because they had taken PCP in public. Nothing mattered.

Children are exposed to these harmful influences and might consider this to be normal by the time they are 12, 13, 14 or 15 years old, especially those who do not have the opportunity to leave the reserves. They may believe that it represents the norm in Canada, which is really not the case. There are dysfunctional communities just about everywhere in Canada. However, broadly speaking, most of the Canadian population is not dysfunctional and we do not find this type of anything-goes behaviour.

A child's environment and the people around him have a great influence on his brain development. It has also been proven that just a few years of poverty can have a lasting negative impact on a child's development. The negative effects of poverty on a child, from the prenatal stage through to age five, can be especially harmful and lasting.

When I say prenatal stage, I am of course referring to fetal alcohol syndrome. Children who are victims of fetal alcohol syndrome have a lesser quality of life starting at birth. It is not always the case, but most often, there is a correlation between alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the possibility that the young person will join the workforce in the future and stay far away from alcohol use.

The NDP believes that to eliminate child poverty, we must improve the economic security of families and provide them with access to child care services, culturally integrated psychosocial services, housing and affordable nutritious food.

Today I asked a question about the nutrition north program, but we also need to focus on culturally integrated psychosocial services. Too often, the psychologists who are sent to communities to address their pressing needs have the academic training but not necessarily the tools to deal with the adversarial nature of the realities on reserve.

On July 1, Mitshim Shuniau can sometimes turn the whole community into a zoo. Every month, a single social worker might be doing the work of two to five of them, depending on how many kids are referred to the youth protection branch. Safety cannot always be guaranteed. I have seen cases in which a social worker was hit in the head by a client who was not happy to have her children removed. It was simple: this meant less money for her. When she saw the social worker at the grocery store, she hit her in the head with a can of Chef Boyardee.

That is the reality. Violence is everywhere in these communities, and social workers need to be well equipped and prepared before they show up there; otherwise, we are just throwing them to the wolves.

I submit this respectfully.

Northern Development January 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the reality for too many northerners is seeing their seniors scrounging for food in garbage cans and being unable to feed their children nutritious food at a reasonable cost.

The Conservative solution is to continue to sing the praises of the nutrition north program, while everyone else, including the Auditor General, agrees that it has failed. Why are the Conservatives not acting immediately to address this crisis?

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He clearly has more information and knows much more about this topic than I do.

Could my colleague repeat his question? There were too many details and I cannot remember them.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 28th, 2015

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

According to information that has been brought to my attention, members of civil society must be allowed to contribute and really examine the powers given to the authorities—powers that ultimately allow them to infiltrate and intrude into the private lives of Canadians.

It is essential that a third party ensure that this system works properly and that no wrongdoing is committed in this type of situation.