House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was workers.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Jonquière (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2019, with 25% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Code November 8th, 2018

Madam Speaker, in its own report on the stakeholder consultations, the Department of Justice admitted that the strain on our system is largely due to social issues. Nearly all the participants in the round table raised the same major concerns. They said that the people coming into contact with the criminal justice system are almost all vulnerable or marginalized individuals, many of whom have issues with mental illness, substance addiction or violence.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the notion that the government should invest more in addressing the root causes of social inequality and stop criminalizing people in need of help.

Employment November 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Lowe's announced that it is closing 24 Rona stores, including nine in Quebec. In 2016, when Lowe's bought Rona, the NDP asked the Liberals to review the foreign investment review process to ensure that it is transparent and that potential job losses are considered. We also wanted the buyers' intentions to be spelled out. People have the right to know.

Do the Liberals intend to review the Investment Canada Act to prevent workers from always being sacrificed?

Veterans November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, since 2016, the $372 million promised to our veterans has been left on the table. Our veterans deserve high-quality services. It is not like there are a hundred different ways to improve services; the Liberals have to invest the money they promised.

The motion we put forward today calls for the government to automatically carry forward all annual lapsed spending to the next fiscal year, which would solve the Department of Veterans Affairs' financial problems.

Will the Liberals make the right choice, put partisanship aside and support our motion?

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party closed nine offices that provided direct services to veterans and left $1.1 billion sitting in the coffers for 10 years, so the Conservatives are in no position to lecture the government.

However, we are talking now about services. Earlier, I talked about some of the projects that would help my region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. There are people who volunteer in our legions every day to provide services to our men and women in uniform. These people are ready. I therefore hope that the government will be open to the idea of the care centre for people in uniform that I spoke about earlier. That would be a great help to the people of my riding.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

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

There has been a bit of progress, but the government promised us major investments. It allocated funding, but now the department has a surplus. That money is not being used.

Last year we worked with one of my constituents for a year. We supported this individual and listened to him. However, when I asked him simply how he was doing, he said he has not been able to reach a person by telephone, just to ask whether his application was accepted. This means that problems still exist, if our constituents still have to come to our local offices to let us know that they have not been able to speak with a person.

Investments have been made, but right now we are talking about services and money that was allocated. Surpluses are accumulating, so there must be a problem somewhere.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, but that was a rhetorical question.

We had to move a motion in the House because there are still people waiting. The government's website shows that 12 of its 24 service standards have not been met. That is not even at 80%.

I said this in my speech, but I want to repeat it. The Liberals left $80.9 million unspent in 2016, $143 million in 2017, and $148.6 million in 2018. We are debating this motion moved by my colleague in the House today because there are still problems.

I have many more examples of the glaring lack of services, which I could perhaps talk about in response to another question.

Business of Supply November 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to salute the men and women in uniform who are watching us on TV right now here at home or abroad.

I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to talk about veterans. They represented Canada proudly, but I find that government after government has neglected them.

Veterans do not have access to all the services they deserve and are entitled to. That has to change. One example of how little consideration governments have shown veterans is the Harper government's decision to close regional offices. That decision felt like a harsh betrayal to veterans, who felt they should be able to count on personalized help, and they said so.

They felt the closures would make it harder for them to get the essential front-line services they need because of their health issues. They were right. At the time, veterans and Public Service Alliance of Canada people representing employees at the shuttered offices went to Ottawa to meet with the minister in an attempt to reverse Veterans Affairs' decision to close the regional offices, but their efforts were in vain.

Things have not gotten any better under the Liberals, either. As I said in question period last week, the Liberals are making promises to our veterans that they cannot even keep. They authorize spending but then keep the money, just as the Conservatives did. On the surface, this might look good, but the reality is altogether different.

The Liberals left $89.9 million unspent in 2016, $143 million in 2017, and $148.6 million in 2018. Without that money, veterans cannot access the services they are entitled to. As everyone knows, other departments also do not spend all the money allocated to them. When it comes to veterans, however, the full budget must always be used in order to give veterans a better life.

Since the government is accumulating a surplus within the department, since it is not spending all the money it budgeted for veterans, I definitely agree with my colleague's motion, which we are debating today. This is an absolute necessity, and I hope that all parties will vote to support the motion.

If the government is not sure how to spend the money that is allocated for veterans, I will gladly offer some suggestions today.

I am the granddaughter of a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who worked as a mine clearance expert on small navy vessels during the Second World War. My father worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 35 years. He is currently retired. I am all too aware of what these people need and the challenges they face.

I have also been involved with legions and veterans since my election in October 2015. I am very attuned to their expectations and especially their needs. I also want to acknowledge the dedicated efforts of all the men and women who, day after day, volunteer in the legions in my riding, Jonquière, and everywhere in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. They give their all to their volunteer work, without counting the hours, because they believe in what they are doing and they want to help their loved ones. I learned a lot from talking with them about what they do and also about what we could do to fix certain problems.

Today, I would like to talk about a few projects aimed at improving the situation in my riding of Jonquière and in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. I would like to propose some solutions in case the government has money left over. That money could be invested. We see that there was a surplus, that the money was not all spent. Branch 235 in Chicoutimi already has a project that it wants to implement. The president of that branch told me what had been discussed with Legion members. They want to open a care facility for people in uniform, a place where men and women in uniform with operational stress injuries could get treatment. They could be treated directly in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. Right now, because of service cuts, they are unable to receive care in the area. They have to travel over 250 kilometres to get treatment, to have access to services.

That would take its toll on anyone. Often, when people have to leave their region, their home, and travel long distances, their family has to go with them. That can sometimes cause collateral damage and it creates stress. When people are unable to receive care in their own region, their injuries may take longer to treat.

The centre for military members project is ready to go and it could already be under way. The problem is that there is no appropriate federal program to make this project happen.

Presentations have been made to the government and Veterans Affairs. The department responded that it cannot buy the building because there is no program for this type of project. There is definitely a will to see this care facility open, but there is no program.

This could be a great opportunity for the government to develop a program that would make it possible for our veterans, like members of the Chicoutimi Legion Branch 235, to get this project off the ground. This centre for military members would finally be able to provide care to our men and women in uniform, who could then receive services in the Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean area.

As I was saying, I have been regularly attending these events for three years. I salute the members of the Arvida Legion branch 209. I will be there on November 9 to mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice and on November 11 to join them in remembrance of our men and women who fell in combat.

Every time I go there, which I will be doing again soon, the men and women talk to me about infrastructure. Many legion branches have facilities that require considerable investment over time. I already know that the government will say there are programs available to help. That may be true, but most of the programs they apply for require them to supply 35% to 50% of the funding themselves.

For these organizations, that is a lot of money. If the government could tweak its programs, it would make a huge difference, because these gathering places are tremendously important. Many veterans who are watching right now could tell us how vital it is for them to have places where they can meet up, reflect and talk about what is going well and what is going not so well.

I want to mention a wonderful initiative that, again, was created as a way to address the lack of services. Once a month starting in 2019, the Royal Canadian Legion branch 235, Chicoutimi, will open its doors for anonymous meet-ups where men and women suffering from operational stress can come to share their experiences and unburden themselves, as well as to learn about best practices and feel better knowing that they are not alone.

My time is running out, but I just want to close by saying that I hope that any future funding allocated to veterans is spent and goes towards services. Our men and women in uniform have worked to keep us safe. They are present every day in our communities.

I hope the government and all members in the House of Commons will vote in favour of the motion put forward by my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni today. I want to thank him for his work in the community and for bringing this motion to the House.

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities November 2nd, 2018

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Motion No. 192, which calls on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to conduct a study on episodic disabilities and potential legislative and policy changes that would support people with these disabilities.

As a New Democrat, I am pleased to support this worthwhile initiative, which shows that we can set political differences aside to stand up for what is important to our fellow Canadians in need. I think it is essential we gain a better understanding of the needs of people with episodic disabilities to get a better idea of how workers interact with income support programs over time.

We must learn which policies are working and which ones are not, in order to improve government support at all levels. Episodic disabilities must be part of the disability legislative framework so that our laws finally provide for assistance to people with episodic disabilities. A growing number of Canadians are living with episodic disabilities such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, HIV, diabetes and some forms of mental illness.

Here are some numbers: over four million Canadians suffer from arthritis, and an estimated 100,000 of our fellow citizens live with multiple sclerosis. Those are just two examples among many, but I think they paint a picture of the huge number of people affected by an episodic disability.

People living with episodic disabilities face many problems related to income and employment. They experience recurrent periods of poor health, so it is harder for them to work at all, let alone full time. Most people living with an episodic disability have to rely on health insurance and disability benefits, but the strict policies and definitions governing those benefit programs make it difficult for many people to participate in the labour market when they are healthy enough to do so.

An episodic disability is characterized by varying periods and degrees of good and poor health. These periods are unpredictable, and some individuals live with both permanent and episodic disabilities. People with this type of disability can participate in the workforce on an intermittent and unpredictable basis. Lack of day-to-day stability makes it difficult for them to work and to access health benefits.

However, the system as it currently operates does not help them. We must push for an in-depth study by the committee in order to have a report on the situation, create an effective action plan and resolve this problem. Insurance companies, government benefits and legislation tend to focus on permanent disabilities and ignore episodic disabilities and the resulting problems. Consequently, health care providers are often ill-equipped to meet the needs of people living with this type of disability.

Income support may be suspended during periods when the person's health seems to improve, and more often than not, getting it reinstated can be difficult. This often results in serious financial problems. Moreover, people living with episodic disabilities find it difficult to obtain the supports reserved for people with disabilities.

Episodic disabilities are often invisible and, by their very nature, unpredictable. This means that it may be difficult to access programs designed around the premise that disabilities must be the result of a stable illness. For Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco, an expert specializing in HIV research in Toronto, current programs were designed for people with permanent disabilities.

These programs do not meet the needs of persons living with episodic disabilities. The status quo means many people with an episodic disability will continue to live in financial insecurity and poverty.

This is an urgent situation. We are talking about several million people who are living in a quasi legal vacuum that leaves them all alone to cope with the unique challenges they face in the labour market. Acknowledging these challenges has to be the first step in helping people suffering from episodic disabilities.

Raising awareness among employers and the general public would help improve the quality of life of persons living with these disabilities. Several initiatives have already been developed. The Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation offers online courses on episodic disabilities.

There are a number of other organizations dedicated to persons with specific disabilities that also provide training or information that can be useful for raising awareness about the unique needs of persons living with episodic disabilities. Dr. David Grossman of the College of Family Physicians of Canada said:

My patient is feeling better right now and would like to return to work. But if he returns, he will be cut off from his long-term disability benefits. He has decided not to return to work because the fear is too great.

Getting back to work is very important to these individuals. If they cannot get back to work, it can lead to feelings of failure. It is time to ensure that all workers with episodic disabilities are able to work and have a sense of pride.

In Canada, in the case of many income support programs for people with disabilities, the disability must be stable. For example, to qualify for Canada pension plan disability benefits, a person has to have a severe and prolonged disability. When people go back to work within 12 months, their disability does not meet the criteria of a prolonged disability.

Under the current system, a person with an episodic disability will not have contributed enough at work to qualify for benefits.

To qualify for EI sickness benefits, which are never provided on a part-time basis, a person must be completely unable to work.

Provincial income support programs for people with disabilities are often restricted to people with long-term disabilities. Meanwhile, short-term disability insurance may not allow a person with an episodic disability enough time off to recover. In order to qualify for long-term disability insurance, the person has to be completely disabled.

People living with an episodic disability are therefore always in limbo. For many years, they have been calling for more flexibility regarding the payment of disability and EI benefits so that they can better cope with their periods of illness and periods of work when their health improves.

In closing, I hope that, following my speech, all of my colleagues will vote in favour of Motion No, 192.

International Trade November 2nd, 2018

Madam Speaker, for the workers currently on the floor of steel mills in Hamilton or at SMEs in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the negotiations between the United States, Mexico, and Canada are not just some game to be won.

The unfair U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum are a serious threat to jobs and my region. Workers always need to come first in trade negotiations.

Will the government promise to refuse to sign the agreement as long as the tariffs have not been lifted?

Veterans Affairs November 2nd, 2018

Madam Speaker, the Liberals are making promises to our veterans that they cannot even keep. They authorize spending but keep the money.

They left $80.9 million unspent in 2016, $183 million in 2017, and $148.6 million in 2018. Without this money, veterans cannot access the services they are entitled to.

Will the Liberals keep their promise or will they fail our veterans?