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

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

The problem is that the Conservatives are twisting the concept of terrorism to suit their own interests. They are doing so quickly and abruptly, simply for election purposes.

They have trademarked themselves as the “tough on crime” party. Now they are using terrorism to pursue their agenda, because it fits in nicely with the narrative they have presented. A large portion of the Canadian population responds to that kind of message.

However, using this kind of concept in such a twisted sense and for purely elitist and election purposes is highly questionable and reprehensible.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will briefly address the need to prevent our media and politicians from descending into xenophobia and populism.

The gunman here in Ottawa, regardless of his ethnic origin or religion, was first and foremost a drug addict. There are some reals risks associated with giving CSIS these new powers without proper oversight. Rather than clarifying things, this bill opens the door to a number of legal problems and could very well be struck down by the courts. In addition to legal problems, this initiative exploits a certain social malaise fuelled by a populist, sensationalist narrative that feeds the gutter press and the most base form of politics.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this speaking time I have been given allows me the opportunity to share my initial thoughts on the routine nature of the government's surveillance activities. Why routine? It is simple. In the past few years, we have been introduced to a number of government initiatives that would allow the government to intrude into Canadians' private lives. It has become recurrent, hence the routine nature. It has become so routine that even in the north, environmental activists came to see me recently for some legal and political advice on the chances of their being investigated and followed simply because of their actions during demonstrations and their environmental activism. Slowly but surely, Canadians have become paranoid. In a way, that paranoia is justified and has been fuelled by these initiatives that have been gradually introduced over the past few years. I have seen a number of them, and this bill, this initiative before us today, is no exception.

Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts, contains amendments that will considerably enhance the power of our intelligence agencies to act abroad in the context of investigations related to threats to Canada's security.

I will now stress that certain isolated incidents are hastily labelled as terrorist acts so that they can be fitted into a narrative to instill fear in the population for electoral purposes.

I will provide a very simple example of an event that was hastily labelled an act of terrorism. The day after the October incident in the House of Commons, I was invited to a televised debate at a television station. I was accompanied by a Liberal colleague and a Conservative colleague. The Conservative colleague did not hesitate, at every turn, barely 24 hours after the incident, to label it terrorism. He already had speaking points, a prepared and spoon-fed message. It was already deemed an act of terrorism.

We should also realize that although there was media hype and biased reporting by some media, one English newspaper reported the information a few days later and mentioned that the person who had gone to Parliament Hill with a hunting rifle was first and foremost a drug addict. I think that should be mentioned. In fact, he was a crack user. Crack is a crystallized form of cocaine that is made using ammonia.

This is my bailiwick. At the risk of repeating myself, as hon. members know, I am a criminal lawyer and I worked mainly with mental health-related cases. The vast majority of my clientele was made up of hard drug users. They can be unpredictable at times. During a court appearance, a client might decide to sing, cry, shout or utter threats. Even judges in our legal system are used to seeing that. When you see thousands of people like that in a single year, you start to get used to it. When a client like that is put on trial, the defence lawyer will often tell the judge that he thinks that his client is currently in a fragile state of mind and that he is not necessarily in full possession of his faculties. The lawyer then suggests that the hearing or trial be postponed for a few days to give his client enough time to come back down to earth, because he will utter threats to everyone and he is currently aggressive. It often takes a number of police officers to control these people. Clients on freebase, or crack, are hard to control.

Accordingly, regardless the individual's allegiance, origin, or even religion, he was above all a hard drug user who had mental health problems. I think we also have a societal duty, because the individual is in very good company. I have been in Ottawa for four years, and I have seen that there are countless hard drug addicts. A few minutes' walk from Parliament Hill, in front of the shopping centre, you will see people selling crack in front of McDonald's in broad daylight. Young people can see this go on all day long. Hard drugs are being sold near Canada's Parliament. We have seen situations like what happened here, where an individual blows a fuse—if I can put it that way—and decides to wave a shotgun around in public.

We have seen others in Ottawa. It is not limited to this city. You can see this kind of thing everywhere. However, a distinction needs to be made here.

Rather than talking about terrorism, we should be talking about addiction to hard drugs and mental health. That is a lot more relevant. People living in Ottawa who see that on a regular basis will probably agree. This is a social problem.

What measures and resources would help drug addicts? The media reported that the individual in question used a shelter not far from here and that he was in contact with other drug addicts. This is a societal issue that deserves a little more thought than labelling something terrorism 24 hours later.

The Conservatives have used recent events to justify giving the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more powers. They claim that this bill is necessary to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from carrying out attacks in Canada.

Still, we should consider the warning that Justice Iacobucci issued about the spillover effects that rushing to expand police powers can have on freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom of expression; the possible tainting of Canada's Muslim community; and the risk of overreaching by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service when sharing information in a global fight against terrorism.

I just want to point out that Justice Iacobucci, a former Supreme Court judge, is studied in law faculties across the country. I studied him for six years, and he is highly respected. He says that there is a risk of tainting Canada's Muslim community because that information is sensationalized by media outlets of dubious repute just to sell copies. Some people try to blame everything bad in the world on the Muslim community, and because of Islamophobia, we end up with situations like the one going on in Sept-Îles right now.

There are not many Arabs or Muslims in my home town. There is one who is tyring to build a mosque, and a few times now, some misguided individuals have smashed the walls of his building. He was forced to put up a barbed wire fence. We are talking about the 51st parallel. It is -25 degrees Celsius there today. While conditions are already difficult for someone from the Middle East or the Arab world, he also has to put up with the fact that the local media and our own government are misinforming the population and trying to demonize that community. This is not good for Canadian unity or for the intellectual evolution of our country and our youth. We need to put an end to this kind of discourse.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

Despite the virtuous aspect of the bill before us, our study has shown that there is no envelope associated with it.

As I was saying, the government is not living up to its environmental obligations. Nor is it living up to its social obligations. It often blindly delegates management and public administration to NPOs or organizations that do not necessarily have the economic foundations needed to implement a program that is supposed to be collaborative and effective on the ground.

In this case, the funds were not necessarily redirected back to the resources on the ground or intended to get there. Although those funds are essential to implementing the project and having an effective impact on the ground, the money is just not there.

There will be a real reckoning in the next few years.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The government says it consults people, takes notes and is free to take their views into account or not, but I think that seeking the people's consent will be the norm in the future.

Still, the government has shown at least some flexibility even though it has a fairly limited understanding of the concept of consultation. At least it made the effort to find out what people think.

Of course, we can hardly expect a radical change of heart from this government, and that is why economic interests and the industry's interests prevailed.

However, the winds of change are blowing. As I said, the 2015 election will be pivotal and will prove that these priorities cannot be left out of politics and public administration.

Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

The underlying impetus for this legislative tool to amend the Canada National Parks Act in order to create the Nááts’ihch’oh national park reserve is indicative of the environmental citizenship emerging in Canada. The very study of the bill before us today is indicative of the emergence of a discussion that is being held across the country and advanced by the media.

If we look at the media landscape and the evolution of thinking across Canada, it is not difficult to discern that people are mobilizing. In this case, it is happening at the opposite end of the country, but it is also happening in northern Quebec, where I am from, and New Brunswick.

Social and environmental considerations are front and centre, and it is highly likely that these issues, which people really identify with, will be included in some election platforms in 2015. October 2015 is quickly approaching, and some political parties are trying to do some damage control.

My colleagues mentioned that Canada had made commitments to protect biodiversity, fauna and flora. However, despite these commitments, UN rapporteurs have come to Canada over the past few years and our international environmental rating has gradually dropped.

Recently, Canada has been criticized with regard to its greenhouse gas emissions and environmental protection in general. Scathing reports have been published by various national and international authorities.

This government is preparing itself for the 2015 election and must therefore improve its image. As a result, in the bill before us, the government is being more open or, at the very least, has softened its previously strong stand that favoured investment, industry and economic prosperity above all else.

In 2014, the problem is that the government is pitting social and environmental imperatives against economic imperatives. As I have often said in the House, public involvement and environmental considerations should not be seen as a hindrance to economic expansion; rather, they should be a prerequisite to and an integral part of economic development. There is a way to strike a balance and to put such claims into perspective.

In this case, it seems that most people who are affected by the measures set out in the bill thought that the park would be bigger. When I examined the documentation related to this bill and the bill itself, I saw that consultations were held. Meetings were held with people in a remote region and public officials compiled their concerns and objectives.

However, what I noticed that everyone was saying, at least in the comments that were brought to my attention, was that they wanted the protected area to be bigger. Local residents, community stakeholders and people on the ground all indicated that they would have liked the protected area to be bigger, even though the mere fact that we have a bill before us today to create a park and a protected area shows that the government is being more open and has made some progress. Nevertheless, stakeholders indicated that more openness would have been appreciated and would have been beneficial in this case.

The area proposed for the national park reserve has long been recommended for conservation in land use processes by the aboriginal people of the Sahtu. Such conservation would also align with the Government of Canada’s commitment to conserve the greater Nahanni ecosystem and the ecological integrity of the area.

Despite these commitments, our country has a poor rating and a poor international and local reputation when it comes to protecting the environment and taking the public's concerns and wishes into account.

The upcoming election will be key, and there is a very good chance that these critical issues will come up during the 2015 election campaign.

Despite its commitments, the government agreed to the demands of the mining industry and excluded vital wildlife areas to allow for mining development in these areas. This information was also brought to my attention. Goodwill aside, and although the protections in this bill are non-negotiable, economic considerations and industrial lobbies had an influence here. The bill we are studying today was made to order, if I can say that, since some areas that are better for investment and natural resource extraction were excluded. Some consideration was given to protecting economic interests and the interests of industry on this land. Although there was some desire to protect resources, the government still chose to exclude certain areas that are more conducive to economic development.

With that in mind, there are some concerns with the size of the park, including the omission of vital caribou breeding grounds and lack of protection for source waters for the Nahanni River. I have been here for nearly four years, and we have seen how the government has gradually offloaded its environmental responsibilities. It has also offloaded the protections that are in place for resource conservation, biodiversity and ecology. The government has offloaded those protections to serve the goals of big industrial lobby groups.

That is also why we have been seeing a growing resistance and more citizen engagement right across the country. The public has had to make up the lost ground because the legal and government protections that should take precedence have all simply been removed from the political reality of 2015. The government is being open today because it knows that environmental, public and social considerations will be top priorities during the next election. The government is changing course, but only very slightly and a little too late. It is a fairly weak protection, but at least it shows some foresight.

To conclude, I would like to quote the words of Rocky Norwegian, president of the Tulita Renewable Resources Council who said:

We accept what is in front of you today in the hope that in the not too distant future the boundaries will be expanded to include more land.

Even stakeholders and those directly involved are aware of mounting opposition and the emergence of these concepts and considerations that, for far too long, were dismissed outright. In 2015, with climate change the way it is right now, people know that future governments are going to have to deal with the issue. If it is an NDP government, I can assure you that the size of this proposed park will be expanded and that environmental and wildlife considerations will be the top priority. The pendulum will swing back again in 2015. It would be commendable and welcomed by everyone.

I submit this respectfully.

Northern Development November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, instead of accepting the Auditor General's findings that the nutrition north program is a failure, and instead of helping people in her own riding, the Minister of the Environment demanded an apology from authorities in Rankin Inlet, who revealed that 50 to 100 people are scavenging for food. She should be ashamed.

Will the government acknowledge that it has failed to deal with this crisis and will it commit to changing its program to help people in the north, who are struggling with exorbitant prices?

Drug Awareness Week November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the 27th edition of Drug Awareness Week was held recently.

This was an opportunity for the Centre d'intervention le Rond-Point in Sept-Îles to raise awareness of the problem of drug use among 10- to 24-year-olds and to promote the support, assistance, shelter and social reintegration services it provides to people with substance abuse problems.

Services are also available for family members and friends, and prevention activities are held at schools and workplaces. I have personally seen the work this organization does and have had the opportunity to talk about the harmful effects of industrialization on the social fabric of the north shore.

I would like to point out to the House today the importance of the work done by social services organizations across Manicouagan, work they do despite receiving little support from the government.

Citizen Consultation Preceding Natural Resource Development November 21st, 2014

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

If people are protesting and taking action in 2014, it is because they do not have any other recourse and the only thing they can do is to band together.

Opposition to resource extraction is not widespread. There is an industrial initiative set to begin soon in Port-Cartier. Although it does not involve the extraction of natural resources, it is a progressive project. We are going to give the company the benefit of the doubt and believe that it has good intentions.

However, given what we are seeing and what we have seen to date, history has taught us that, all too often, natural resource extraction and mining projects open the door to abuse. Companies work behind closed doors. They work in a vacuum. They make sure to talk to just one group. No information is shared. Environmental reports are given only to government. People are left in the dark. That is why people are protesting and these protests can end up interfering with a company's plans and slow down its project. If economic development is based on fraudulent practices and a lack of public consent, it will eventually hit a wall.

Citizen Consultation Preceding Natural Resource Development November 21st, 2014

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

I think that the crux of the matter in this case is that the other side has the wrong idea about consultation. If first nations were truly consulted, we would not have near-riots on Parliament Hill, where dozens of chiefs tried to break down the main door to be heard. If there were true consideration of aboriginal interests and prerogatives, we would not have these problems.

I think that the government is mistaken about the notion of consultation and consideration of the results in particular. If it holds consultations and then shelves the results, aspirations and concerns, that really is not consultation. The government has to follow through. I hope, and they have one year because there will be an election for everyone in 2015, that the Conservatives change their approach. We are going to assume that they will show goodwill in the future.

This does not just concern first nations. This concerns all Canadians because clean air and the environment are vital to the Canadian people.