House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservative.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

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

However, I hesitate to make the same connection he did between this bill and the events that occurred in Parliament on October 22. We know that it takes the government months to prepare its bills and that this bill was in progress well before those events occurred.

Despite what happened a few weeks ago, we still need to take a sensible approach that protects our civil liberties. That is what is missing from this bill.

I did not really have time in my speech to talk about the fact that CSIS lacks resources, so I would simply like to quote Jeff Yaworski, who appeared before a Senate committee on Monday, October 20. He is the assistant director of operations at CSIS. Mr. Yaworski indicated that CSIS does not have the resources needed to do its job. In fact, we know that $24.5 million in cuts have been made to the agency.

It is therefore all well and good to give CSIS more powers, but the Conservative government is refusing to give CSIS the resources it needs to do its job properly. That is very disappointing.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I get the feeling that the member opposite did not really listen to my speech.

I am proud to say that I will vote in favour of the bill at second reading because it should go to committee. Committee members should also study the opposition parties' proposals, including the NDP's. I will vote in favour of this bill because it contains important measures.

However, there are many flaws in the bill. The Conservative government made a mess of this because the bill does not provide for increased civilian oversight, which the 2006 commission of inquiry into the Maher Arar case recommended. The Conservative government needs to do its homework.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other acts. It is important to note that, unfortunately, the government just limited the time we will have in the House to discuss this huge bill that will have a rather serious impact on Canada's oversight bodies. The government decided to gag the House. The House adopted a government motion to limit the time for debate on Bill C-44. It is very disappointing. That move limits parliamentarians' ability to do their job in the House and properly debate Bill C-44, a huge bill that proposes some fairly significant changes to CSIS.

I hope that this bill will be examined in depth in committee. That is very important since fairly major amendments need to be made to this bill. Basically, the bill increases the authority of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or CSIS and makes three significant changes. First, the bill clarifies the legal authority of CSIS to conduct security intelligence operations abroad in response to threats to the security of Canada. Second, it confirms the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to issue warrants that have effect outside Canada. Third, it protects the identity of CSIS human intelligence sources in judicial proceedings.

It is also important to mention that Bill C-44 amends the Citizenship Act by fast-tracking the revocation of Canadian citizenship in the case of dual citizens who are linked to terrorist activities and other serious offences.

There are three very important elements to underscore in this debate. Any legislative measure passed by the House aimed at dealing with threats to the security of Canada must reflect three principles. It must provide for greater civilian oversight, the protection of civil liberties and appropriate resources. Any bill passed by this government must take those three criteria into account. First of all, greater civilian oversight is crucial if we want to give CSIS new powers. Many stakeholders have expressed concerns about this. As we know, the Security Intelligence Review Committee does not have the necessary powers for proper oversight of CSIS. In addition, as they have been known to do, the Conservatives used an omnibus bill, the 2012 budget bill, to eliminate the position of inspector general of CSIS.

The fact that CSIS lacks civilian oversight was raised at the time of the Maher Arar affair. In 2006, the commission of inquiry on the Maher Arar case made some recommendations. One of the recommendations called for new accountability measures for Canada's intelligence agencies. Eight years have passed since Justice O'Connor made those recommendations. The government still has not implemented them.

Although the Conservative government introduced this bill, which makes huge changes to the powers of CSIS, it did not do its homework. It did not consult the experts or take seriously the recommendations of the Arar commission, which date back to 2006.

It is not just this commission that called for more civilian oversight. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Commissioner of the Environment, two officers of Parliament, called on the federal government to ensure that effective oversight was included in any legislative measure that would grant new powers to CSIS and law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, we see nothing in Bill C-44 in response to this call for increased civilian oversight of CSIS.

It is crucial and non-negotiable that greater oversight go along with any new powers granted to CSIS. As several of my colleagues mentioned, the oversight is inadequate.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee is the oversight body for CSIS. For the Canadians who are watching, the members of this committee work part time, are unelected and are appointed by the Prime Minister. Two of the five seats on this committee have been vacant for months, and it seems that the Conservatives are dragging their feet on filling these positions.

In addition, SIRC merely has an interim chair, Deborah Grey, who used to be a Reform MP. This committee does not have enough members; only three of the five seats are currently filled. That is inadequate for oversight of CSIS.

In the 2012 budget—another omnibus budget with dozens of pages—the Conservatives eliminated the position of inspector general of CSIS. The inspector general was in charge of internal oversight, ensuring that the service's activities complied with the law. We can all agree that it is a very important role. Since 2012, however, the inspector general's responsibilities have been transferred to SIRC, the committee I just spoke about that functions on a part-time basis and is lacking resources.

I would like to quickly speak about the two other principles that I mentioned. As I said, three principles must be taken into consideration each time we study a bill concerning Canada's security.

I already spoke about greater oversight, but we also need to protect our civil liberties. When I spoke to my constituents in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, they repeatedly said that we need to ensure that Canadians are safe, but at the same time, we need to protect civil liberties. That is crucial because protecting civil liberties and ensuring public safety are both fundamental Canadian values that are non-negotiable. We want legislation that strengthens our civil liberties, and this bill does not clearly do that.

What is more, every measure or bill that is designed to improve security must be coupled with the appropriate resources.

The government can give CSIS more power, but if the organization does not have the resources needed to get the job done, we are no safer. The Conservatives have cut funding to our public safety organizations for three consecutive years, for a total of $687.9 million in cuts by 2015. That concerns me. This bill must be coupled with the necessary financial resources.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 17th, 2014

With regard to the employment of interns by the government since 2008: (a) how many internships have been hosted, broken down by (i) year, (ii) province, (iii) agency, department, Crown corporation or Canadian embassy, (iv) average durations, in weeks, (v) average number of hours per week, (vi) the number of paid versus unpaid internships, (vii) average salary, if paid; (b) what was the ratio of female to male interns, and for each of these, the ratio of paid versus unpaid positions, broken down by (i) year, (ii) province, (iii) agency, department, Crown corporation or Canadian embassy; (c) how many First Nation interns were there, in paid and unpaid positions, broken down by (i) year, (ii) province, (iii) agency, department, Crown corporation or Canadian embassy; (d) how many members of visible minority groups were interns, in paid versus unpaid positions, and broken down by (i) year, (ii) province, (iii) agency, department, Crown corporation or Canadian embassy; and (e) what proportion of interns, broken down by paid versus unpaid positions, were subsequently offered permanent full-time employment within the organization with which they had completed their internship?

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, people talk a lot about child care across the country and in Quebec. It is essential to provide affordable child care, and that is why the leader of the official opposition proposed creating a national child care plan to limit the cost of care to $15 a day. It is a very important issue for young people.

My colleague also raised an excellent point. We know that the youth unemployment rate is somewhere between 13% and 14%. That is very high. That is twice the national unemployment rate. We know that nearly one in three young people is underemployed. Nearly one in three young people has to take a part-time job or go back to school because he cannot find a job or he has to work as an unpaid intern.

There is a real crisis here in Canada, and the federal government has a role to play in helping young workers.

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has made an excellent point.

An increasing number of young people are coming out of university with debt. Many students cannot accept an unpaid internship because that would be costly. They have debts to repay and they have to pay for other needs, such as room and board. Unpaid internships are often only feasible for a very small group of young people who come from families that might help them with their expenses.

That is why the NDP, in the dissenting finance committee report, asked the government to provide for better management of the practice of unpaid internships, mainly through amendments to the Canada Labour Code, in order to ensure better working conditions. That is what my Bill C-620 would do.

Committees of the House November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Davenport.

I am very pleased to participate in today's debate about the report of the Standing Committee on Finance entitled “Youth Employment in Canada: Challenges and Potential Solutions”.

I am very concerned about youth unemployment, and I will talk later about my bill, Bill C-620. I have worked extremely hard on this file with my colleague from Davenport. We have also considered the issue of unpaid internships and the best ways to protect unpaid interns.

Youth unemployment is a serious concern. We know that the youth unemployment rate in Canada is almost double the national unemployment rate.

According to the committee's report, witnesses said that young Canadians are still feeling the effects of the economic crisis.

Although job growth has been too weak across the board to recover the jobs lost during the crisis, young people have been particularly hard hit. More than 455,000 jobs for people under the age of 25 have been lost since the recession, and the youth unemployment rate remains stuck at double the rate for the population aged 25 and over.

Furthermore, if we look at the figures for young Canadians who are underemployed—meaning that they cannot find full-time jobs in their sector—we can see that one out of three young Canadians is underemployed. I find that figure extremely worrisome.

In light of the current climate, I introduced Bill C-620 to protect unpaid interns in Canada. I worked on this bill with the family of a former intern, Andy Ferguson. He was an intern at a radio station in Edmonton, Alberta. After working 16 hours straight, he unfortunately fell asleep at the wheel while driving home and was involved in a fatal accident.

He did not have the benefit of federal protections. Interns working in areas under federal jurisdiction, including the telecommunications sector, in which Andy Ferguson worked, the transportation sector and the banking sector, have no protection.

There is nothing in Canadian law to protect the health and safety of these interns. That is very disturbing. Andy Ferguson's case sparked a national debate.

We have seen other cases across the country in which unpaid interns have been abused. For example, Jainna Patel was an unpaid intern in Toronto with Bell, a very profitable company that makes a lot of money. This unpaid internship program was shut down a few months ago. However, Jainna Patel says that she did the same kind of work as paid employees, but she did not receive any compensation.

This is part of a disturbing trend in which employers transform paid jobs into unpaid internships. We think that this is an abuse of the concept or the very idea of unpaid internships.

This spring, I introduced Bill C-620, which has two parts. Unpaid interns are in a grey area and get no protection. Bill C-620 would ensure that unpaid interns working for employers under federal jurisdiction get a certain level of protection. For example, my bill will give interns the right to refuse dangerous work and protect them from sexual harassment. Harassment cases have surfaced recently in various workplaces, including in the telecommunications sector. The first part of my bill is designed to protect interns.

The second part is designed to prevent employers from converting paid positions into unpaid internships. Canadian employers need to understand that unpaid internships are not a source of cheap labour. Unpaid interns must not be exploited. If interns are doing the same work as paid employees, employers must pay them. My bill stipulates that internships must benefit interns first and foremost. We have to put a stop to the abuse of unpaid interns in Canada, and I think my bill is a good place to start.

This is also about gender inequality, as several witnesses pointed out in committee. Internships tend to be in female-dominated fields. Witnesses from the Canadian Intern Association and the University of Toronto Students' Union told us that unpaid internships are most popular in journalism, nutrition, social work, marketing, public relations and fashion. We have to improve conditions for all workers in the labour market, but it is important to note that women are affected more than men.

According to recent studies, especially one out of the University of Victoria, unpaid interns are no more likely to get a paid job after their internship. Most unpaid interns did not get a job offer after completing an unpaid internship. The Governor of the Bank of Canada claimed otherwise, but he is quite wrong. It is simply not true that unpaid internships increase young people's chances of getting a paid job. The real problem is that those jobs do not exist. The Conservative government has not managed to create jobs for young people. We should start by taking a closer look at that problem.

At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance, I had the great pleasure of asking Claire Seaborn, a representative of the Canadian Intern Association, some questions. Many of her recommendations were quite relevant and very interesting. Since I only have a minute left, I would like to draw the attention of the House to some of the recommendations of that report, specifically recommendation 9, which calls on the federal government to collect data on unpaid internships in Canada. A number of witnesses pointed out that Statistics Canada has no data on the number of unpaid interns in Canada. We need to have this information if we really want to tackle the problem.

Furthermore, recommendation 10 calls on the federal government to continue to invest in internships, especially in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That is an excellent recommendation.

The final recommendation I would like to highlight is recommendation 16, which calls on the federal government to explore ways to promote youth hiring in Canada, such as tax credits for businesses, for instance, which was an NDP proposal.

I look forward to questions and comments from my colleagues.

Veterans Affairs November 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the best way to honour our veterans is by listening to them.

The funeral and burial program has been very hard to access for years now, and yet nearly $1.2 million allocated to the program for 2013-14 was not spent. In other words, 12% of the $10 million allocated to the program was left unused, even though there is a desperate need.

Why did the government not use that money to improve access to the program?

Victims of Sexual Assault November 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this week the Fédération des femmes du Québec, in co-operation with Je suis indestructible, an initiative that gives a voice to sexual assault victims, launched the hashtag #AgressionNonDénoncée on Twitter.

I was moved by the courageous stories of victims of sexual assault. Thank you for helping us understand the silence of women who have been raped, and for refusing to trivialize their experiences and blaming them.

According to the YWCA, only 33 cases of sexual assault out of 1,000 are reported to police. Too many victims live in shame and in silence. The fact of the matter is that when it comes to consent, there are no 50 shades of grey. There are no blurred lines.

In Quebec, the helpline for sexual assault victims is 1-888-933-9007. There are other resources that provide support, such as the Regroupement québécois des CALACS.

There are many of us fighting the same fight. We must work together because together we will change the world.

Red Tape Reduction Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I did not see anything in this bill that covers the member's question. That is an excellent question.

We do not know how this bill will be implemented. It could have a negative impact and create situations where there are no longer regulations in one area but there are many more in others. This could be very detrimental to businesses.