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

Intern Protection Act February 17th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He seems to be quite familiar with the content of the bill.

He talked about how the bill does not eliminate unpaid internships. This bill simply provides guidelines for unpaid internships. It would prevent paid positions from being converted into unpaid internship positions. Industries can therefore continue to use unpaid internships as long as they are primarily for the benefit of the intern, not the employer.

My colleague also asked about the fact that my bill would require unpaid internships to be equivalent to training offered by an educational institution. This bill is inspired in large part by a law in place in Ontario that requires unpaid internships to be equivalent to training offered by an educational institution. The conditions in this bill are the same as those in the Ontario law.

Intern Protection Act February 17th, 2015

moved that Bill C-636, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (unpaid training), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to debate my Bill C-636, Intern Protection Act. It is a particular honour for me, as one of the youngest MPs in the House, because this issue is very important for the workers of my generation.

According to Statistics Canada, the youth unemployment rate is almost twice the national average. Young workers are increasingly living in a precarious situation and are having a very tough time finding paid work.

More than ever, young Canadians who want to launch their careers feel obliged to take unpaid internships that promise to give them work experience but rarely lead to a permanent job.

Other young graduates are often buried under student debt and feel that they cannot afford to work without getting paid. The average debt for graduating Canadian students is $28,000, according to Statistics Canada. Debt often cripples young Canadians for life.

It is estimated that there are 300,000 unpaid interns in Canada today. Although some provinces have legislated on this subject, there is no federal law at present governing internships in areas under federal jurisdiction such as telecommunications, transportation, banks and aviation.

However, Ontario has started to take action against companies that use illegal unpaid internships. Saskatchewan and Alberta have indicated that they were planning to tighten their employment standards governing internships. There is clearly a desire in Canada to protect and have rules for interns.

We cannot talk about unpaid interns in Canada without mentioning the story of Andy Ferguson, a young Edmonton man of 22 who was a broadcasting student. In fact, he would have celebrated his twenty-sixth birthday today, February 17.

Andy lost his life in 2011 when he was driving home after working 16 hours at the radio station where he was completing his internship. The loss of this promising young man brought into stark relief the urgent need for rules that would prevent the abuse of interns, in particular by limiting the hours of work an employer can require of an intern.

A few months ago, I had the honour of meeting Matthew Ferguson, Andy Ferguson’s brother, when he came to the House of Commons for the introduction of this bill. He hopes that this bill will prevent other interns from finding themselves in the difficult position Andy Ferguson was in. Matthew Ferguson believes we have to start this discussion in order to prevent more abuse.

There have also been other cases reported in the media of profitable companies that employed unpaid interns to do the work of paid employees. That was the case with Bell Mobility, which recruited hundreds of interns a year under its professional management program. Last year, a former intern tried to get paid after working for Bell Mobility for five weeks under the program.

Torontonian Jainna Patel argued that the internship had no incentive value and she was doing the same work as a paid employee. Ms. Patel’s complaint was rejected by a federal labour standards inspector, but she appealed his decision with the help of a Toronto lawyer. The standards that apply to the use of unpaid internships have to be tightened to ensure that young workers like Jainna Patel do not fall into a grey area.

Given the current situation, the federal government has to act to provide rules governing internships in areas under federal jurisdiction. The purpose of my bill is to offer unpaid interns the same protections as paid employees. The first clause of this bill requires that employment standards and protections, such as rights relating to health and safety, be applied to unpaid interns.

That includes the right to be informed of any potential danger, to be properly trained for the work and to refuse to perform a task that constitutes a danger to the intern or to others. Other protections that would apply to interns include measures relating to reasonable hours of work.

Bill C-636 will also limit hours of work so that the employer may require a maximum of 48 hours’ work per week. In addition, the measures that protect employees against sexual harassment will apply to unpaid interns. Every intern will therefore have the right to be protected against any conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature that is likely to cause offence or humiliation.

These are protections that everyone deserves to have in their workplace.

My bill contains a second element that sets rules for the use of unpaid internships. Unpaid internships often replace “bottom of the ladder” jobs, and with companies tightening their belts, young workers are the ones who pay the price. The Intern Protection Act would limit abuses by ensuring that the internship is similar to training given at a vocational training centre. Moreover, the intern must benefit substantially from the training and the employer must derive little or no profit from it. The bill will also ensure that interns cannot replace paid employees.

Lastly, the bill requires that the employer inform the intern of the terms of their internship and keep a record of the hours worked by the intern.

I am proud to announce that this bill has received the support of major organizations representing interns, students and young workers, including the Canadian Intern Association, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec and other major union organizations, including the CLC and Unifor.

In addition, Career Edge, a not-for-profit organization that helps create paid internships in numerous federally regulated industries, has called this bill a huge and positive step forward. The bill has also received the support of Andy Ferguson’s family.

Incidentally, I would also like to mention the impact of this bill on gender equality. A University of Victoria study of interns found that women are overrepresented in the industrial sectors that use the largest number of unpaid internships. Clearly, Bill C-636 is a step forward for equality between men and women in the workplace.

However, it must be noted that my bill is in reality an essential first step toward protection for interns, and also that we must do more. For example, at present, it is difficult to estimate how many interns there are in Canada, whether paid or not. Statistics Canada and federal and provincial government departments do not compile information about internships. The federal government needs to instruct Statistics Canada to do this, in order to obtain data about the number and types of internships in Canada. This is the only way to get a comprehensive picture of youth unemployment and underemployment. The federal government also needs to strengthen enforcement of the standards to take action against employers that exploit unpaid interns.

Also, Canadians deserve a government that addresses the issue of youth employment. Over 280,000 young people lost their jobs during the recession, and very few of those jobs have since been recovered. The NDP has proposed a number of measures to help young workers in urban centres. The NDP previously proposed a tax credit for businesses that hire young Canadians in order to offset the high unemployment rate. Why not give our young people a country with the future prospects they deserve? We should give our young people the same opportunities their parents had and the same ability to progress through the important stages of life, such as buying a first home or being able to provide for their families.

To conclude, I urge my colleagues on all sides of the House to support this bill so that Canadian interns receive the appropriate protections they so desperately need. I will point out that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance has recently published a report that recommends the following:

That the federal government collect data on unpaid internships in Canada and work with the provinces and territories to ensure the appropriate protections under relevant labour codes.

In the same recommendation of last year's report, the members of the committee said:

Moreover, the government should study the impacts of unpaid internships.

Although the NDP emphasized in a dissenting report the importance of stricter additional measures, including changes to the Canada Labour Code, the work of the Standing Committee on Finance showed that the protection of interns goes beyond partisanship. I was actually very encouraged to hear a few weeks ago that Bill C-636 had prompted the federal government to hold consultations regarding the situation of interns in federally regulated industries.

We have to show Canadians that we can work together on these issues that are so crucial for young workers. It is time to take action by passing Bill C-636.

I would add that this bill will not cost the federal government a penny. We have to provide this protection for young workers immediately because too many of them are being marginalized in their workplaces.

I can also talk about my colleagues and people I went to school with, who are currently looking for work. Young workers often go from contract to contract or do several unpaid internships in a row before they get a job offer. I think that is a deplorable situation for young workers in Canada.

I would add that, as I said, the youth unemployment rate is twice the national average: it is close to 14%. That means young workers in Canada are quite unlikely to find paid work.

When witnesses came to testify before the Standing Committee on Finance about youth unemployment, we noted that the rate of youth underemployment was very high. The experts told us that one in three young workers in Canada are currently underemployed. Since they cannot find a job in their field, they are required to accept part-time positions, go back to school or accept unpaid internships.

I would like to come back to the fact that the current federal legislation on interns is vague. We heard the government say in the House that it was not aware of this issue. Basically, part II of the Canada Labour Code applies to occupational health and safety, and part III concerns the hours an employer may ask employees to work.

Unfortunately, we have not yet had a response from this government in the House about the protection of unpaid internships. We can see that the government is not grasping the magnitude of this phenomenon and that it does not understand how widespread the problem is.

Basically, my bill would ensure that the standards for hours of work and occupational health and safety would also apply to unpaid interns.

We have to say that this issue has been in the news in recent months, especially with respect to harassment. All workers in Canada deserve to have a safe workplace and to enjoy basic protections, whether or not they are paid. We heard terrible stories about interns who were exploited in their workplace and had no recourse under the Canada Labour Code.

Unfortunately, we have no data on the numbers of unpaid internships in Canada at this time. The federal government must also require Statistics Canada to collect data on the extent of this phenomenon in Canada.

The underlying premise of this private member's bill is that every Canadian who does the work of an employee who is usually paid must also be paid. That is the intent of my bill. It will ensure that employers provide remuneration to anyone doing the same work as a paid employee.

I encourage all members of parliament to take action on this issue that is so urgent for young workers and to support Bill C-636.

Science and Technology February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, last week, the Mont-Mégantic observatory was on the brink of closing. Fortunately, the public was able to get the government to change its mind at the last minute.

However, there is a deeper problem. Since the Conservatives made cuts to science programs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain our research infrastructure.

Will the Minister of State for Science and Technology finally get involved in this issue, which is so important to the Lac-Mégantic region, and ensure that another crisis does not happen two years from now?

Health February 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, maybe the government should tell that to the families that have to wait a year for treatment.

Only 4% of women are satisfied with their appearance, and over half of all women whose weight is normal want to be thinner. Even though eating disorders affect primarily women, about 20% of the victims are men.

I will therefore repeat my question. Will the government listen to the people working on the front lines and implement a strategy to fight eating disorders?

Health February 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as National Eating Disorders Awareness Week wraps up, Canadians are coming together to call the government to action and shed light on the seriousness of eating disorders that affect more than a million women and men across Canada. On this side of the house, we are listening, and with our new campaign, we are taking action.

For families struggling with eating disorders, it remains a battle to obtain care. For many, help comes too little too late.

Will the government join us and support our call for a national eating disorder strategy?

Eating Disorder Awareness Week February 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, during this Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it is important to remember that the images the media force on us are often modified to the extreme, portraying ideals of beauty based on extreme thinness.

That is why I launched the “Let's be real” campaign, calling on the media to promote a healthy body image and body diversity. It also calls on the federal government to immediately implement a national strategy for eating disorders. I invite everyone to go to the website and sign the petition.

Many people are already taking action to promote body diversity, including Boisbriand resident Lysa Jobin, owner of Alysé & Collections, a boutique that showcases clothing for women of all sizes, and Marie-Christine Boyte, a student at Collège Boisbriand who won a literary competition whose theme was body diversity.

Let us start the conversation, let us be real, and together we can change attitudes.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, frankly, I find the question by the hon. parliamentary secretary insulting. The government's rhetoric on how many deaths there would need to be before we would act, frankly, enrages me. They seem to suggest that we did not deeply grieve the events that happened in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

This rhetoric is extremely problematic. The government is presenting legislation that is not balanced. It does not protect the private life of Canadians and it does not actually ensure civilian surveillance of our security organizations. The government bill is completely problematic and yet at the same time the Conservative members are accusing us of being complicit with terrorists. That is completely inappropriate rhetoric for this kind of debate.

In closing, I would like to quote Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, who expressed serious concerns over this bill. He said:

It is understandable that the government would want to consider boosting the powers of law-enforcement and national security agencies to address potential gaps.

But any new tools should be accompanied by a beefed-up role for the watchdogs who keep an eye on spies and police.

The NDP agrees with Privacy Commissioner Therrien.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, that is actually a concern that many of the witnesses raised in committee. We have to take a close look at that issue. During the committee's study, the Conservative government prevented officers of Parliament, such as the Privacy Commissioner, whose job is to protect Canadians' privacy, from appearing before the committee. He was unable to appear before the committee to express his concerns about Bill C-44, and I find that deplorable.

This also shows the Conservative government's contempt for officers of Parliament and the people who are responsible for protecting Canadians and their privacy. The government also refused to accept their submission. It acted in bad faith at the committee stage. Unfortunately, the government did not take a balanced approach, and the bill does not contain enough measures to protect Canadians' privacy.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I have spoken in the course of this debate, since I spoke at second reading of Bill C-44. If members would like to know more about my feelings on this bill, they can have a look at my other speech.

I would also like to thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for the work she has done on this issue. She made an excellent speech this morning. Anyone watching at home should watch my colleague's speech if they want more information.

Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts essentially makes three substantive changes with regard to CSIS.

First, it clarifies the legal authority of CSIS to conduct security intelligence operations abroad to respond to threats from outside Canada.

Second, it confirms the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to issue warrants that have effect outside Canada.

Third, it provides for protection of identity for CSIS human intelligence sources in judicial proceedings.

The NDP does not deny that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act is in need of some changes. We do not deny that the world has changed in recent decades and that Canada's commitments abroad have also changed. The realities we face have changed. Naturally, we need to amend this act so that CSIS can act abroad in a way that is adapted to today's realities.

That is why we voted in favour of this bill at second reading. We had hoped to work with the government to improve this bill and make amendments, because even at second reading we saw some huge flaws in the bill. We had a lot of concerns about the bill, especially with respect to protections, civilian oversight of CSIS and the fact that the government does not give CSIS adequate resources.

I would like to point out that the NDP participated in the committee's study in order to improve this bill so that it would meet Canadians' criteria for civilian oversight.

We moved several amendments in committee but, unfortunately, even though we wanted to work in good faith with the government, it rejected all our amendments without even studying them. That is truly deplorable.

The amendments we proposed addressed the concerns expressed by witnesses and experts who appeared before the committee. With respect to warrants for overseas covert actions, we moved an amendment that would require the director, and not an employee designated by the minister, to make the application in every case. It is simply a question of transparency.

I know that all Canadians want CSIS to be as transparent as possible. The purpose of our amendment was to ensure that covert activities do not become routine. We wanted the director to be accountable.

I listened to the debate very carefully today, and the Conservative government has still not explained why it rejected this amendment, which would have resulted in more transparency and accountability.

Additionally, we put forward an amendment to delete the following from clause 8(2):

Without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state,...

It is important that we remove this part of the bill because we wanted to remove any contradiction with international law and the explicit granting of power to Canadian courts to authorize illegal activity in other states. Canadian activities must comply with international law. Unfortunately, the government also rejected this amendment without consideration for the opinions of experts.

We also proposed another amendment to add specific accountability for the use of warrants to authorize activities of CSIS abroad to the CSIS director. We would like the director to submit an annual report to the Security Intelligence Review Committee specifying the disposition of all such warrant applications and the activities carried out under the warrants.

In my opinion, this is simply about accountability. That is why MPs are elected. It is our job in this place to ensure that there is accountability. The committees are an important mechanism for ensuring that the government is accountable to Canadians. That is why we moved this amendment, which once again was rejected by the Conservative government.

Lastly, in order to prevent possible abuse regarding surveillance warrants, we asked the government to accept one of our amendments, which was about clarifying exactly when a foreign surveillance warrant was necessary. That is very important.

This is a concern not only for Canadians, but for citizens of the United States and other countries who are worried about the extent of surveillance and activities of organizations like CSIS.

If the investigative activity was supposed to take place in Canada and required a warrant under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or if the activity violated international law or the laws of the country where it was to take place, the Federal Court of Canada would have to issue a warrant for that activity to take place outside of Canada.

We examined this bill very carefully and, unfortunately, we cannot support it as it stands, because our amendments were not accepted.

I would also like to explain to the House the criteria we use to assess all legislative measures intended to combat threats to public safety.

Our analysis is based on three criteria. The first criterion is enhanced civilian oversight. It is absolutely crucial that enhanced civilian oversight accompany any new powers for CSIS. The second criterion is the protection of civil liberties. Having spoken with my constituents in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, I know that they are very worried about this. They strongly believe that civil liberties must be protected. Yes, we need to increase security measures, but not at the expense of civil liberties. This is an important criterion. The third criterion we use to assess public safety legislation has to do with adequate resources. We know that the Conservative government continues to cut resources in terms of funding and personnel. CSIS can definitely be given the tools it needs to do its job.

However, if CSIS does not have the resources and staff it needs, this whole exercise is pointless, and the agency will not be able to properly tackle the problem of terrorism.

Some cuts have been made. The Conservatives have cut as much as $600 million and $87.9 million from our public safety agencies. There have been cuts everywhere.

Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act January 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will have the honour of speaking to this debate a little later this afternoon. I thank my colleagues for their remarks. I will have the chance to explain why the NDP is opposed to this Conservative government bill, even though we supported it at second reading.

I would like to ask my Conservative colleague why the Conservative government refused to accept any of our amendments in committee.

Why did the government refuse to consider comments and criticisms from stakeholders and experts? Why did it refuse to enhance oversight of CSIS, which is a major flaw in this government bill?