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

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I particularly appreciated my colleague's speech. It was very enlightening, and it will serve as inspiration for my own speech, which will be taking shape shortly.

During his speech, he mentioned that the Conservatives put forward a measure in order to replenish their coffers, implying that there was some sort of financial transaction.

Would my colleague like to expand on that so that I can draw from it later?

Aboriginal Affairs June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister does not seem to be taking the matter seriously. I wonder how he would react if his home had no access to drinking water.

The problem of drinking water on reserves affects hundreds of people. By not living up to their commitment to provide resources to ensure access to drinking water on reserves, the Conservatives are leaving the communities exposed to shortages, or worse, to the contamination, of their drinking water.

We do not want to know what the excuses are; rather, we want to know how the minister has managed to allow this situation to deteriorate and what he is going to do to correct it.

Aboriginal Affairs June 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today, thousands of Canadians and first nations members are joining the Our Dreams Matter Too walk, calling for better education and health care for first nations children.

This walk is being held as the Conservative government is gearing up to eliminate on-reserve early childhood intervention programs, effective July 1.

This decision, which is pushing families to leave their community to get services, is currently before the Human Rights Tribunal.

Why is the minister targeting the most vulnerable children?

Youth Centres in Quebec June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last Saturday, for the first time in 20 years, I got on a bike to join the clients and supporters of the Centres jeunesse du Québec in the 2014 edition of Une route sans fin, a cycling challenge.

Although the ride may have seemed like just one of a politician's professional activities, my involvement in the Baie-Comeau section of the event was primarily motivated by a desire to discreetly gather information and observations that might allow me to assess the cultural appropriateness of the approach used by those caring for a vulnerable clientele, 42% of which is made up of Innu and Naskapi young people.

As a result of conversations with Mr. Huard, the director of the Centre de protection et de réadaptation de la Côte-Nord, I come back to the House to report that the services are well tailored to the realities of a provincial clientele of young people, 117,000 of them each year, who most often come from dysfunctional social units. Having surreptitiously listened in on the discussions during our bike ride, I have no difficulty in concluding that the residents of the centre in Baie-Comeau enjoy outstanding guidance that is in clear contrast to the negligence that too often has marked their short lives.

Victims Bill of Rights June 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will begin my speech by assessing the merit of what is new about Bill C-32, which creates the Canadian victims bill of rights.

As I have done in the past, I will assess this bill's merits, meaning that I will focus on specific components of the legislation we are looking at today. Given that Bill C-32 is quite broad and I do not want stray off topic, my comments will address specific elements.

Some provisions in this legislation introduce changes to administrative rules and rules about the admissibility of evidence. During my speech, I will try to define the potential impact that this will have on the practice of criminal law, for both the prosecution and the defence.

I often try to relate bills to my former profession. That is why I will try to take the principles of the bill and apply them to the practice and reality of someone who practises law. That is my goal for the next few minutes.

I will also talk about the possibility of a victim's spouse testifying if the victim is deceased or incapable of acting on their own behalf, as long as the couple has been in a conjugal relationship for more than a year. That is one of the components of Bill C-32; however, the Canada Evidence Act already addresses that issue.

It seems to me, based on my evaluation, that the government is simply trying to take credit for that measure, since most Canadians are not necessarily aware of the subtleties of the Canada Evidence Act and the rules governing the presentation of evidence. It is quite possible that the government is introducing concepts in its bill that already exist and are automatically applied by lawyers, legal practitioners and those involved in the justice system. This would give the government a certain amount of media coverage.

This aspect of Bill C-32 merely codifies a pre-existing override to the best evidence rule. This rule is set out in the Canada Evidence Act and applies to all criminal and civil proceedings and any other matters under federal jurisdiction.

The best evidence rule is one of the first notions students learn in criminal law courses. According to this rule, jurists and judges must always try to find the best evidence. If a witness has evidence to present or wants to be heard, then technically, he or she must be allowed to testify.

The same is true under the Canada Evidence Act. Under Bill C-32, if victims are physically or emotionally unable to appear in court and testify as a result of the incident that occurred, their spouse could testify on their behalf. There are terms, conditions and technicalities that go along with that, and the victim and his or her spouse also must have cohabited for a period of at least one year, but the fact remains that the spouse could come and testify on behalf of a victim who is unable to do so.

The Canada Evidence Act already provides for that eventuality. Subsection 6(1) of the Canada Evidence Act, entitled “Evidence of person with a physical disability”, reads as follows:

If a witness has difficulty communicating by reason of a physical disability, the court may order that the witness be permitted to give evidence by any means that enables the evidence to be intelligible.

This provision covers any physical disability that would technically prevent an individual from testifying in court.

I would also like to quote subsection 6(2), entitled “Evidence of a person with a mental disability”, which reads as follows:

If a witness with a mental disability is determined under section 16 to have the capacity to give evidence and has difficulty communicating by reason of a disability, the court may order that the witness be permitted to give evidence by any means that enables the evidence to be intelligible.

What the government is trying to codify today with this victims bill of rights is, to a certain extent, already covered. My colleagues opposite will likely object and say that minor details have been changed and updates have been made, including the length of time that the couple must have been cohabiting before the spouse can testify on the victim's behalf. However, this eventuality is already covered. I will come back to the idea of updates later.

By way of information, I am going to read subsection 6(3), which says the following:

The court may conduct an inquiry to determine if the means by which a witness may be permitted to give evidence under subsection (1) or (2) is necessary and reliable.

The rules are flexible and apply case by case. The court has to determine whether, under the Canada Evidence Act, the witness who should technically give evidence as an individual is in full possession of his faculties and competent to do so. There is significant latitude and discretion here.

That is more or less how criminal law works on the ground. Judges enjoy significant latitude, and legal interveners in general enjoy significant latitude in applying the rules of evidence. I have seen situations in which witnesses were called to testify even if they were in a separate room or a special booth set up for that purpose. There is equipment set up in the courts to handle any situation, such as when it is a child or a victim who does not want to face the attacker. All kinds of situations are taken into account, and the justice system being what it is, it has to adapt to the realities and vagaries that come up from time to time in a jurist's life.

The main objective of the NDP legal experts assigned to study this bill in committee is to ensure that the Canadian victims bill of rights is a good fit with the Canadian justice system and responds to the victims' expectations and recommendations. That is the problem because aside from all the window dressing and highly publicized media events, we must first and foremost focus on the essentials. I keep saying, like a broken record, that we must focus on the position expressed not by just a few individuals or groups whose message provides a good sound bite, but also by all Canadians. In this case here, we know that there are many victims all across the country. Rather than using victims for purely utilitarian purposes, we must truly listen, take note and adjust our own legislative tools accordingly.

The bill before us has all the hallmarks of a utilitarian initiative geared toward gaining—

Marine Mammal Regulations May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up where I left off a few months ago. If memory serves me correctly, my speech was about the Marine Mammal Regulations.

I was talking about genealogy and etymology when I concluded my previous speech on this topic. I am often told that my speeches are not altogether relevant. However, I would say that I transpose reality and provide some insight into comparative law, which means transposing one reality onto another riding or, often, another country.

In this case, we are talking about the ethics of hunting and fishing marine mammals. I felt it was important to put this into context, from the point of view of aboriginal nations and taking into account the realities in the communities, on reserve and in remote communities. I was talking about etymology because I mentioned my cousin Atshuk, who is actually a distant cousin. Atshuk means “seal”.

The fact that a person could have a name that also refers to a marine mammal demonstrates just how relevant that etymology is. It also highlights the close relationship that exists between aboriginal peoples and, in this case, marine mammals.

As I said last time, according to the oral tradition and the information that was brought to my attention, the Innu of Uashat were not necessarily hunters or sealers, but this has been part of a healthy and balanced diet for several centuries.

I mentioned all this to reinforce the fact that the most ethical methods of killing the animal for human consumption are those used by the first nations. It only stands to reason considering it took 10,000 or 20,000 years of trial and error to get to this point. We can all agree that after occupying a land for 10,000 years we have better knowledge of how to slaughter an animal ethically. The simple fact of naming one's children after a marine animal is a testament to the respect for and importance of that marine animal in the oral tradition, and also in the community's own social structure.

I know that the bill before us deals with seal fishery observation licences. Incidentally, the head of the Canadian Sealers Association said that groups and protesters come too close and interfere with sealers' activities. He added that sealers have powerful boats and weapons, and that groups and protesters try to interfere by resorting to dangerous manoeuvres.

Therefore, I understand that this bill seeks, by virtue of a written document, to put some distance between observers and the marine mammals. However, as I said during my last speech on this issue, a certain proximity exists, particularly on the ice. I am thinking about my father. In his house, which directly faces the St. Lawrence River, he can see seals in the morning. If he wants to, he can go on the ice and meet them, which is not really recommended. This is why he does not do so but, from a strictly practical point of view, it would be possible, given the proximity, the prevalence and the overabundance of this resource.

It is somewhat deplorable to consider seals as a resource, but there are too many of them right now and this is a real issue. It is quite something to see seals on a daily basis during the winter. We can see the atshuk at a certain distance. We can even see white coats. That is why it is necessary to support this special relationship and the methods that were developed over tens of thousands years by aboriginal people to kill the animal quickly. This expeditious method may sometime seem to belong to another era, especially to foreigners, to people from across the Atlantic Ocean, or to Europeans. However, I rely on knowledge and oral traditions to judge the ethical and expeditious nature of the techniques used.

In this regard, I wish to point out that the NDP unequivocally supports humane and sustainable seal fishery and, consequently, an eventual return to traditional practices or, at the very least, an in-depth study and real attention to ancestral practices that are expeditious, but that also spare the animal unnecessary suffering.

This reasoning can be applied to many other issues.

Aboriginal Affairs May 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, for several days, I have been asking the Minister of Justice about the reasons for the disappearances and murders of aboriginal women.

The minister keeps saying that this is no longer the time for talk, that it is the time for action. I agree completely. However, in order to act, we still need to identify the problem. The minister is incapable of answering a simple question: what is the main socio-economic reason leading to the murders and disappearances of these women? With women continuing to go missing and to be murdered, does the minister believe that his measures are effective?

Aboriginal Affairs May 14th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, while the minister gives us meaningless answers to the effect that the root cause of crimes against aboriginal women is criminals, thousands of aboriginal women are still missing or murdered and the victims' families are left without answers.

The Minister of Justice keeps talking about studies. Can he tell us what those studies indicate are the main socio-economic causes of the disappearances and murders and what specific measures his government has put in place to address those causes?

Aboriginal Affairs May 13th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, day after day, the Conservatives keep telling us that they are taking steps to protect aboriginal women, yet still these women continue to disappear and be murdered. Whatever it is they claim to be doing is not working.

The Minister of Justice keeps telling us that the time for studying the situation is done. I would like him to tell me what, based on previous studies, is the main cause of these murders and disappearances, and what specific measures the government has come up with to prevent more women from going missing and being killed.

First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act May 1st, 2014

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

I would say that this kind of message and reasoning was already at the forefront in my own community. Now that I am in Ottawa, I am in a position to pinpoint the types of things that are truly hindering the expansion, emancipation and self-determination of the peoples.

One of these things is that key players and first nations members are almost always left out of the process when these measures are introduced. There may be some Indians who come to testify in committee, but most often I would say that these measures are introduced and implemented behind closed doors. First nations members are rarely asked to participate. That is rather outrageous, but I am starting to get used it after three years.