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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was rights.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Independent MP for Montcalm (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 53% of the vote.

Statements in the House

March 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, we heard our colleague attempt to praise our government for data collection, but that does not explain why it stopped tracking them. If we cannot track people, it is difficult to help them. It is clear that we have a difference of opinion.

What I am asking for from my colleague is a real understanding of the problems faced by Canadians living with disabilities and the realistic, appropriate and very immediate solutions to these problems for these people. What I am asking for is a real commitment from this government and a concrete action plan, one that will meet the basic needs of these people—such as putting a roof over their heads and food in their cupboards—foster their independence, and provide them with support when they return to work. That is what disabled Canadians are entitled to expect from their government, nothing less.

March 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for my colleagues in the House, I have to admit that I was very disappointed by the remarks made by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development on December 5. She told this House that to meet the needs of persons living with functional limitations, her government had created the registered disability savings plan.

I would like to draw the minister’s attention to the fact that a majority of the people targeted by this measure are low-income or living below the poverty line. This measure therefore simply does not correspond to the reality of the lives of persons with disabilities in Canada and does not meet their needs at the present time.

I would like to remind the minister that one Canadian in seven lives with a functional limitation. That is why I reiterate that we need a real action plan that will enable these individuals, in a tangible and immediate way, to enter the labour market. I strongly believe that in order to achieve this, they need support and resources to help them.

I know very well that access ramps alone do not solve all the problems, as the minister seems to think. When we talk about workplace accessibility, we have to think about adapting workstations. We can consider, for example, persons with hearing loss, for whom flashing lights must be provided in case of fire, and installing adapted software for individuals living with a visual impairment.

I would like to come back to a particularly shocking point. In response to a question on the order paper, we recently learned that since the Enabling Accessibility Fund for persons with disabilities was created, in 2007, Quebec has received barely 3% of the grants allocated under the fund. If we examine those documents, we find that nearly 85% of the $67.4 million granted by the federal government has been spent in Conservative ridings in Canada. This situation is unacceptable and Quebeckers find it hard to understand why they have received such a meagre share of that money.

I remind members once again that I am asking for nothing less than a fair division, without a hint of political partisanship, as this assistance is vital to those living with a functional limitation who need a hand to get a job. It is possible to support disabled people from a social perspective by ending their isolation and enabling them to play an active role in their communities.

If this Conservative government's intention is to truly improve the living conditions of disabled persons, I do not understand why the Canada pension plan disability program systematically turns down 55% of initial applications. This makes the process longer and more difficult. It is easy to understand why most of these people would never take the steps to appeal this decision. In my opinion, it is an act of bad faith to refuse to give first-time applicants the disability benefit when they really need it.

Having said that, if the government believes, by avoiding a census of those persons living with functional limitations, that it will make the problems these people face go away, they are hugely mistaken. It would be wrong to underestimate the potential and drive of all those people with disabilities who wish to improve their living conditions and get back into the workforce.

It is my view that this government must develop a concrete action plan to truly support all those disabled Canadians in their effort to re-join the workforce.

Status of Women March 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, this week I had the honour of meeting with the regional president and four local presidents of the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale in the riding of Montcalm. These women initiate individual and collective analyses relating to the rights and responsibilities of women and engage in activities to promote social change. These women are protecting their hard-won gains and standing up for women and families.

They want to be clear that they practice a social egalitarian feminism whose goal is equal status, freedom of choice and autonomy, to overcome the persistent inequalities in our society. They are calling on all of us in this House to help them, to amend all the legislation that keeps inequality between men and women alive.

These women maintain that every individual plays an important role in society and that enhancing equality between men and women should be made a true societal goal, so that no one is left behind. Let us work together to create a Canada that is more just and more egalitarian.

Canada Labour Code February 17th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-315, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (French language), introduced by my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières.

The bill aims to harmonize the language requirements that apply to federal businesses operating in Quebec with those in force in that province. These businesses, which include banks, shipping companies, port services, communications companies and so on, must guarantee francophone employees the same language rights as are provided by the Charter of the French Language in Quebec.

I strongly support this bill. It is important to state that there are no losers with this bill. It would simply guarantee all workers the same linguistic rights. All workers in Quebec must enjoy the same right to work in their own language.

The bill provides that federal businesses carrying on activities in Quebec will be subject to certain requirements, including the following: using French in their written communications with the Government of Quebec and with corporations established in Quebec; giving their employees the right to carry on their activities in French; drawing up communications to their employees in French; preparing offers of employment in French and publishing them in a daily newspaper at the same time, and with at least equal prominence as any offers published in a daily newspaper in a language other than French; preparing collective agreements and their schedules in French; and finally, ensuring that arbitration awards made following arbitration of a grievance or dispute regarding the negotiation, renewal or review of a collective agreement shall, at the request of one of the parties, be translated into English or French, as the case may be, at the parties' expense.

Those are very reasonable provisions. In addition to ensuring a better work atmosphere for workers in Quebec, this bill would greatly assist the translation profession.

I should also point out that the intent of this bill is not to prohibit the use of another language, but no other language may take precedence over French. This bill would make it impossible for an employer to dismiss, lay off or demote an employee because the employee demanded that a right arising from the provisions of this bill be respected.

I have an example. A woman works at a bank. She is a francophone who speaks a bit of English. Her boss is more comfortable using English. What language takes precedence? We would guess English. Under this bill, that woman could receive her communications in French and would no longer have to be uncertain about what the memos in English mean. Does this stop the boss from speaking English? No, not at all, as long as French takes precedence.

The employee will be happier at work now that she finally understands all the memos she receives; the boss will be sure to have better communication with his employees without having to limit the use of his language of preference.

This bill will be beneficial and will help maintain a healthy and convivial work environment for everyone.

The types of businesses that will be affected are governed by the Canada Labour Code: banks, airports, transportation companies that operate between Quebec and one or more other provinces, telecommunications companies and radio stations.

One provision in the bill allows for exemptions. For example, an English-language radio station working for the anglophone community in Quebec and operating in English obviously would be exempt. This business could even ask the Governor in Council to grant some exemptions to reflect this business's reality.

This is more proof that this bill is not dogmatic, but that it was designed to reflect a majority of Quebeckers and to ensure that they feel acknowledged at home in Quebec and also within the Canadian federation.

It is important to note that there are no losers with this bill. It will allow Quebec workers to work in their language and have access to all the necessary work material in French.

It is difficult to understand why or how an employee working in a bank in Quebec, for example, does not have the same language rights as his counterpart working in a credit union on the other side of the street, when both are working in Quebec.

My colleague's bill would remedy this situation. I do not understand why my colleagues opposite would vote against this bill, which is so well thought out and so important to us.

We are talking about respecting workers and their community in Quebec, without taking anything away from the other community. Furthermore, this bill does not apply to federal institutions, but to businesses. Institutions are subject to the Official Languages Act. Thus, it is very important to understand that communities throughout the country have nothing to fear and nothing to lose with Bill C-315.

Their language rights will always be protected by the Official Languages Act. Five years ago, this House adopted a motion recognizing the Quebec nation. Since then, very little real action has been taken to validate that motion. In 2011, this government appointed a unilingual anglophone to the Supreme Court and named a unilingual anglophone auditor general. What message is this government sending to francophones?

French is the language of the Quebec nation, a nation that the House of Commons and the Harper government recognized. Bill C-315, like other NDP bills, is an important contribution to the recognition of Quebec as a nation within Canada. I believe this is important and therefore I will repeat it. Bill C-315, like other NDP bills, is an important contribution to the recognition of Quebec as a nation within Canada.

The time has come to take real action. We have to show francophones in Canada that the federal government will defend their language and defend their rights as francophone workers. This government claims to be the champion of working people and people looking for jobs, at a time when the economy is in precarious shape. Here we have a way of helping those people.

This bill also protects working people. This legislation would prohibit an employer from dismissing or demoting an employee who demanded that a right arising from this legislation be respected. About 200,000 people do not benefit directly from the protections set out in the Charter of the French Language. In Quebec, it should go without saying that French will be used in businesses under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

The riding I represent is Montcalm, and it is over 95% French-speaking. For those people, this is a labour right. When a person goes to work to support her family, to make ends meet or to earn her living, she has the fundamental right to work in her language. That should be an even more concrete reality as a result of the recognition of the Quebec nation. These are language rights and issues that have dragged on for too long already.

To my constituents, the French language represents our Quebec culture, and it is unique. It is reasonable for them to want to protect it and preserve it and for them to want to work in French. I strongly urge all members of this House to vote for this bill, to show the importance of the French language. This bill is an excellent opportunity to send a clear message to francophone working people in Quebec. Let us show that we are concerned about their work environment and their right to work in French.

I congratulate my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières, for acting on this proposal. This bill is an art in itself, since it is an art to reason clearly and try to protect a language that is recognized as an official language. By voting for this bill, the federal government can finally demonstrate its intention of acting. Let us take action; let us support this bill, a bill that is extremely well reasoned and, let us say it, extremely well thought out.

Persons with Disabilities February 13th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply disgusted to see what the Conservatives have done with the accessibility fund.

Since 2007, 85% of the money has been spent in Conservative ridings, and less than 3% of the money has gone to Quebec. The accessibility fund is a good program that can truly help people living with functional limitations.

It is deplorable to see that once again, there are rules for the government and rules for everyone else. Will the Conservatives stop playing partisan politics at the expense of persons with disabilities?

Pensions February 8th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, many Canadians with disabilities count on old age security and the guaranteed income supplement to round out their income. The amounts provided are nowhere near enough to ensure a decent standard of living.

When the Conservatives were in opposition in 2004, they accused the Liberals of having a hidden agenda to increase the retirement age. It is crazy how little things have changed.

Does this government plan to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67? Yes or no?

February 2nd, 2012

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, I do not quite agree with my colleague opposite. The enabling accessibility fund is no longer truly available to organizations.

We are currently discussing child poverty. According to my colleague opposite, it is somewhat difficult to acknowledge that 52% of single mothers with children under the age of six live in poverty. We also know that children belonging to minority groups and disabled children are more likely to be living in poverty. I said earlier that two out of five parents with a disabled child work fewer hours and therefore have less income.

I am having trouble following everything my colleague said because what I am presently hearing is not at all what she just said.

February 2nd, 2012

Madam Speaker, at the end of November 2010, a report published by Campaign 2000 disclosed some shocking numbers. In 2009, there were 639,000 children living in poverty. That number represents about one child in 10. Twenty years ago, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion to end child poverty in Canada before the year 2000. Two years ago, we committed ourselves to implementing an immediate plan for everyone, to eradicate poverty in Canada. But here we are today with a child poverty rate of 9.5%.

In the riding of Montcalm, food banks have never been so busy. With the cost of living rising and households carrying more debt than ever before, we have to find ways of helping Canadian families who are having trouble making ends meet.

The Campaign 2000 report lays the problem out very clearly. In a time of economic uncertainty, adopting a plan to eliminate poverty not only serves to restore social justice, but also makes excellent economic sense. As a society, either we pay now or we pay later. Some children are more at risk than others, especially children of immigrants, aboriginal children and children with disabilities. In fact, 40% of parents who have a child with a disability work fewer hours so they can care for their child, and that affects the family’s income. As well, 25% of parents are unable to work for pay. Clearly there is a lack of support for families who are caring for their own disabled child.

Last fall, a constituent came to see me; she was truly discouraged. She had exhausted the resources available to her to help keep her severely disabled son at home. Together, we went through all the federal and provincial programs, but we could not find anything that met her son’s particular needs. Finally, she had to approach non-profit community organizations in the region to get the support she needed. That seems unacceptable to me.

Canada is still failing to meet its obligations to children. We have to do more to provide basic services for families. The NDP has proposed that certain existing measures be combined, like the Canada child tax benefit, to create a non-taxable child benefit and, over the next four years, gradually increase the support provided by up to $700 per child, while maintaining the current level of the universal child care benefit.

The New Democratic team is committed to working in partnership with the provinces and territories to establish and fund a Canada-wide child care and early learning and education program. That program would create 25,000 new child care spaces per year for the next four years and would provide for improvements to community infrastructure, in addition to creating integrated, community-based, child-centred early learning and education centres. The NDP has proposed practical solutions. It is high time for the government to listen and help Canadian families.

The numbers in the Campaign 2000 report are clear. Canada is still failing to meet its obligations to disadvantaged children and families. The report also shows, once again, how badly this government is neglecting Canadian families who are caring for children with disabilities.

When is this government going to decide to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes everyone’s right to a decent standard of living?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act January 31st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member. I did indeed say that people who have money to invest in RRSPs will have money to invest in the PRPP. But, will people who do not have money to invest in RRSPs have money to invest in a pooled registered pension plan? We need to look at this logically. By improving the QPP and the CPP, we would ensure that workers have a pension plan and a decent standard of living during their retirement.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act January 31st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member. It is true that Canadians are very concerned about this issue. That is what I heard people talking about the most when I was in my riding of Montcalm recently. It is important to note that, at present, 12 million Canadians do not have a workplace pension plan. Bill C-25 will not help meet that objective. Canadians do not need a new, private, voluntary savings plan. They need concrete measures that will allow them to retire in dignity.

I hope that I am answering the hon. member's question. Why give workers a new, less reliable savings plan—the PRPP—when we could simply improve the reliable pension plan that is already in place, the Canada pension plan or the Quebec pension plan? CPP or QPP contributions are mandatory. It thus stands to reason that improvements to this plan would help more workers than the plan proposed in Bill C-25. This would be a way of ensuring that workers have a decent retirement.