House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 18% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we would not separate a 14-year-old kid from his parents. That is basic. That is our position and I do not understand why that would not be the position of the Canadian government.

Unfortunately, this evening no Conservative members are rising to speak and answer questions. I have heard some twisted analyses in questions to us. It would be good to hear a Conservative speak to this Conservative bill so that we could ask questions and get some answers.

I think that Canadians across the country are watching us and would like some answers to their questions. As the official opposition, we are doing our job and would like some answers to our questions and an opportunity to contribute to this parliamentary system.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thought there was a law that said that the hon. member for Hamilton Centre always has to speak last. With all the energy he has, there is a different atmosphere in the House after he speaks. I would like to recognize the excellent work that he does and the excellent speech that he gave just before me.

Today, I am rising to speak to Bill C-24, which was introduced at first reading on February 6. According to the minister, this bill is very important, but it was all but forgotten after February 27. The media spoke about it a little bit, but it was not debated again until May 29. The government did not put this bill back on the House's agenda for many months.

It is also important to note that the committee began studying this bill before the end of second reading. This is a 50-page citizenship reform bill that has been needed for nearly 30 years. It was touted and heralded and did not even go through normal House procedures. We debated it for one hour and then it was shelved. Then, all of a sudden, we were forced to study it in committee before second reading had even finished.

This approach will have a negative impact on experts and people in general. It will prevent them from having an opportunity to study the bill, testify before the committee and contribute to the study of this bill. Many people have talked to me about this in my riding. They wanted to know how they could contribute to the study of Bill C-24 with their analysis and their expertise. Unfortunately, we have had to tell them that it is already too late. The usual procedures went out the window. Experts and individuals were not able to contribute because the government rushed the committee's work and because we were not allowed to have a normal debate in the House.

The NDP wanted to call more witnesses but our requests were denied. The NDP put forward a number of amendments in committee. The Conservative committee members rejected our amendments. Then debate resumed in the House. A week later, it was report stage. The Conservatives rushed the committee's clause-by-clause study. Because a reasonable study was not done, we have before us today a poorly written, botched bill.

The NDP wanted to remove several clauses or at least study them in depth. Many experts and individuals are concerned about these clauses. The government rejected all of the amendments proposed by the experts who appeared and by the opposition.

One of the problematic measures is that Bill C-24 places a lot of power in the minister's hands. This is an unfortunate trend we have seen across many different bills. One of these powers is the power to grant citizenship to dual nationals or revoke it from them.

The government has a marked tendency to create laws that concentrate power in ministers' hands, which is something the NDP does not support. We cannot and will not trust it, and by giving a minister new powers, we are exposing ourselves to the possibility that the minister could make arbitrary, politically motivated decisions. It will be sad if that is how things turn out. That is what is happening in other countries, and it is bad for democracy. I truly hope it will not come to that.

The very idea of giving the minister the power to revoke citizenship raises serious questions. Canadian law already includes mechanisms to punish people who commit illegal acts, so why would the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration need to make that type of decision? The minister could revoke citizenship when he, or one of his authorized employees “is satisfied on a balance of probabilities” that the person has fraudulently obtained citizenship.

Until now, these issues were generally sent before the courts and cabinet. This element poses serious problems in that the minister would have the power to revoke citizenship based on suspicion, without an independent court ruling on whether or not the accusations are true.

In the United States, the government may file a civil suit to revoke an individual's citizenship if it was obtained illegally, if the individual concealed information that was relevant to eligibility for citizenship or if the individual made false statements. In that situation, the individual in question has the legal right to refer the matter to the courts. Every ruling can be appealed, and the individual is guaranteed due process. However, here the government wants the minister to have the right to veto.

The minister could revoke the citizenship of someone who was convicted under section 47 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to imprisonment for life for treason, high treason or espionage; or someone who was convicted of a terrorism offence as defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code—or an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute a terrorism offence as defined in that section—and sentenced to at least five years of imprisonment.

The problem is that this measure makes absolutely no distinction between a terrorism conviction handed down in a democratic country with a credible and reliable justice system and a conviction in an undemocratic regime where the justice system could very well be corrupt or beholden to political interests. This revocation process can be used without the Federal Court ever seeing the file. In addition, the measure is retroactive.

What is more, candidates between the ages of 14 and 64, instead of 18 and 54, will now have to pass the test that determines their knowledge of French or English. A 14-year-old child belongs with his parents. Denying him citizenship on the grounds that he still has not mastered either official language is questionable. In this case, family reunification is paramount and that child is young enough that he has enough time ahead of him to learn one language or even both. Again, a 14-year-old child belongs with his parents.

Last but not least, this bill could be subject to constitutional challenges. The use of revocation of citizenship as a legal consequence for dual citizens could, in some circumstances, be inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Revoking the citizenship of those found guilty of treason and terrorism by a Canadian or foreign court could be perceived as a punitive measure imposed in addition to other criminal sentences.

Among other problems, treating people with dual citizenship differently by exposing them to the possible loss of their citizenship creates a double standard and raises major constitutional questions, particularly under section 15 of the charter. This section states that everyone has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Section 11 of the charter could also be invoked in cases of revocation of citizenship, when the legislation is not about revocation for fraud, but rather imposes a punishment after the fact. If the revocation is perceived by the courts as an additional punishment for crimes, then it is even more likely that the accused will point to the key elements of section 11, including the presumption of innocence and the right to be heard by an independent and impartial tribunal, which are fundamental rights in our country.

Increasing the government's powers to revoke citizenship causes not only moral problems, but also constitutional problems, which might occur because of this bill.

The government is doing away with the process of passing a bill in the House at first reading, at second reading, in committee and at third reading.

Then it moves a time allocation motion to limit our debate in the House. That shows utter contempt for our parliamentary institutions. We have a duty to make excellent laws for our constituents, and I think this Conservative government should keep that in mind.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague just touched on something I wanted to ask a question about. She talked about the minister's discretionary powers to deny or approve immigration applications.

What concerns does my colleague have about that, since we are talking about a major overhaul of how this department works? I would like to hear my colleague's concerns about that.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, who always gives such incredible speeches that are nuanced and balanced. I congratulate her.

When the bill was studied in committee, all the amendments were rejected. The Conservatives are also not rising to discuss this bill, defend it or answer questions. I have difficulty understanding why the Conservative government takes this tack when people want to improve the bill. The government, which has probably already made up its mind, does not want to listen at all and is letting things go. It is not allowing Canadians to contribute to the debate.

Can my colleague talk more about this?

The Environment June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, like many of my fellow Canadians, I am worried to see that the Conservatives are refusing to shoulder their responsibilities to ensure that a fragile ecosystem in the St. Lawrence River is protected, especially in light of the potential development of the Gros-Cacouna oil terminal.

Our riding has the tremendous privilege of bordering on some incredibly magnificent and biologically diverse areas. We have the Charlevoix World Biosphere Reserve, the Saguenay-Saint-Laurent Marine Park and the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals. Those world-renowned organizations in our region are a huge asset for the environment and a key component in developing our tourism industry.

I am prepared to fight on behalf of future generations so that any development is accompanied by an open, public, and thorough environmental assessment.

Justice for Animals in Service Act (Quanto's Law) June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou on his work. He gave a fine presentation on the issues and the impact of our choices in Ottawa.

I would like him to talk about the fact that the NDP and other members of the House have introduced bills against animal cruelty and the Conservatives have voted against all those bills.

Some Conservative members stood up to say that they were against all forms of animal cruelty, but they are voting against any related bills brought before Parliament.

However, the Conservatives are introducing in the House a bill that targets only one category of animals. I find that odd. Could my colleague elaborate on that?

Canadian Heritage May 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has been waiting for an answer from the minister for three months. We want to know if she plans to sign the convention for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.

Last time, I was told that the minister was looking at the matter and would follow up. The convention has been around for 11 years. How much time does the minister need to think it over? Does the minister plan to sign the convention or not?

Volunteers April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the remarkable contributions and the excellent work of our volunteers and all of our community organizations.

We must show them our gratitude for everything they have accomplished. I want to thank all volunteers, whether they volunteer with youth or seniors, in the health care field or elsewhere. One hour, one day or one year is something quite remarkable.

I cannot overlook their passion and generosity. These volunteers play a very valuable role in our communities. They are role models for everyone.

Next week is National Volunteer Week, when we have the opportunity to use the Volunt-Hear hotline to thank a volunteer. It is a small gesture, but it can make a big difference.

Industry March 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, does the government intend to do something about the General Cable manufacturing facility in La Malbaie, whether it is to provide funding or support or to hold discussions with company executives to help the workers reopen the plant?

Industry March 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is really sad. My colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup is doing an excellent job and wants to work for his constituents. It is very sad that there is no concern or help for people back home.

Unfortunately, on February 12 workers at the General Cable factory in La Malbaie received bad news, as we have been seeing far too often under this Conservative government.

In exactly one month, this factory, which manufactures wire, cable and optical fibres, will close down for good. As Mr. Couturier, the mayor of La Malbaie, said, another bomb has fallen on our region, which has already had its share of economic struggles. This will be the third electrical cable factory to close in Quebec in five years.

General Cable has closed factories in Quebec City and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in the past few years. Jobs have also been cut at the Saint-Jérôme and Shawinigan facilities. Unfortunately, the company plans on transferring contracts to the United States.

Today, I want to inform the House that General Cable won the contract to supply electrical cable to connect the Churchill Falls power station to the Newfoundland grid. However, despite what the company led employees to believe, this cable will now be manufactured at an American factory, while the company continues to close down Canadian ones. That is rather suspect.

I must say that I share the opinion of the workers and the committee that was put in place. They feel that the manufacturing facility should reopen and continue with the same activities or that we should go with plan B and transform the facility so that it can be used for another type of manufacturing.

Anything is possible. The expertise of the workers is one of the many strengths that would lead to the successful completion of this project. Given the draconian employment insurance measures that are having a direct impact on our corner of the country, we all want this facility to reopen. We all want the facility to be up and running again, and we all hope, of course, that the workers will be able to continue to have a decent standard of living.

However, is that what the current government really wants? The government has not done anything, has not provided any help to these people who have been working so hard to find a solution to the closure of this facility. It is also important to note that meetings are planned with General Cable executives to discuss the acquisition of the facility in La Malbaie and its equipment.

As Sylvain Tremblay, the reeve and a member of the committee, said, could the government not intervene in these discussions with the company and actively participate in helping the plant to reopen, which is what workers want? There are a number of possible solutions, but unfortunately, this government is once again not doing anything.

I imagine things would be quite different if we were talking about friends of the Conservatives today. No doubt the government would provide immediate assistance. In the most recent Conservative budget, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Infrastructure bragged about an emergency fund.

In my region, 60 people are waiting for help from the government. That is an emergency. Will the Conservatives one day realize that entire regions are in a state of emergency every day?

Before I close, I would like to make one more point. The closure of the manufacturing facility in my region is not an isolated incident. I think it is insulting to the people in my riding to say that this plant closure is an isolated incident.