House of Commons photo


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

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day Act May 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, when someone asks me what we could do to make our society more inclusive, two things quickly come to mind: accessibility and transportation. I would like to focus on transportation, because right now, that is really the biggest problem for people in wheelchairs who need to get to work. Often these people do not have access to transportation. For example, if I take the Montcalm commuter train, not all of the exits are wheelchair accessible. Some exits are, but not all of them. Nevertheless, this infrastructure was just built in the past few years. There is therefore an enormous amount of work to be done to make transportation and buildings accessible.

I would like to add that just because there is a sign saying that a building is wheelchair accessible, that does not make it true. One of the biggest problems we have is simply going to the washroom. Wheelchairs cannot always fit through the washroom door. The member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia is laughing, but I know he knows exactly what I am talking about.

I would like to invite all of my colleagues to come spend an entire day following us around in wheelchairs and to do push-ups every time we have to transfer in and out of our wheelchairs. They will see that it is very physically demanding.

With regard to both transportation and accessibility, there is still much to be done.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day Act May 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to research I naturally think of the Rick Hansen Institute. The institute has done much to advance research on spinal cord injuries.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but nevertheless there have been some significant advances. I am not a doctor, but rehabilitation centres are currently working very hard to ensure that spinal cord injury victims are taken care of as quickly as possible after their accident. Over the years, they have come to realize that the earlier you can operate on these individuals, the greater the chance of their muscles responding to rehabilitation.

National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day Act May 29th, 2015

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to present my bill entitled An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. I am very pleased that it has reached this stage and that it was all done so cordially.

This bill made it through all of the previous stages and has progressed nicely to this point. That is the result of everyone working together, and I sincerely hope that this will be a turning point in the lives of people living with a spinal cord injury.

I must also mention our partners who have supported us throughout this process and who were all involved in some way in the development of this bill. I am thinking about the Rick Hansen Institute, which provided us with data, Bobby White, the director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, and Walter Zelaya, from MEMO-Que, who gave their full support without reservation.

With this bill, we want to designate the third Friday of September as national spinal cord injury awareness day. After a number of discussions, we concluded that this awareness day could be very useful to individuals, employers and stakeholders in various fields. It will certainly also have a very positive and significant impact on people living with spinal cord injuries.

I am quite certain that I will be able to show my esteemed colleagues that implementing this bill, which will not cost anything, can have a major and meaningful impact on people with spinal cord injuries. It will do so much to raise widespread awareness of their needs and abilities.

This bill would designate the third Friday of September as national spinal cord injury awareness day. Why that day? We took a number of factors into consideration, including two major ones: accidents that happen in the summer and accidents related to winter sports. The third Friday of September is also symbolic. There is an analogy here. When someone has just suffered a spinal cord injury, it is like autumn: they see dark days ahead. In the months after a spinal cord injury, patients have to cope with a kind of darkness that is comparable to a difficult and trying winter.

This simple and effective bill that will cost nothing provides one more tool to those involved in helping people with spinal cord injuries, as well as to agencies that work on prevention and raising public awareness and recognize the harsh reality just outside the door of the rehabilitation centre. That is exactly when spinal cord injury patients first feel that those around them really are looking at them differently, that each and every outing will require considerable effort and that their new limitations mean that they have to dig to the very depths of themselves as they try to improve their lives each day and start living anywhere close to the way they did previously. They have to have the courage to forgo some activities or to summon the perseverance they need to adapt those activities to their new reality.

This bill has three components. Naturally, raising awareness among our fellow Canadians is the first objective. We want people with spinal cord injuries to feel more encouraged to take an active part in society without any prejudice towards them. If possible, they should be encouraged to develop a talent and, even better, to use it for the benefit of others. In my view, that is a fundamental part of human activity.

This day will allow people with spinal cord injuries to communicate with each other, gather information about the possibilities open to them, and listen to people with experiences to share.

It is also about recognizing the determination of those with spinal cord injuries to build a new life. One of the biggest accomplishments for anyone with a spinal cord injury is understanding that life is going to have its challenges and costs. The higher the injury is on the spinal cord, the more severe the physiological damage is and the faster the aging process seems to go.

Even people whose work requires little physical effort run into problems in terms of getting around, transfers, personal care, housekeeping, ice, snow clearing and so on.

We also want to recognize the dedication of the people who help out on a daily basis. Thanks to them, the injured persons can resume a nearly normal life. This help goes a long way toward alleviating anxiety, problems of all kinds, and especially physical exhaustion. However, what is most important in my view is that these people gently force the injured to be disciplined and to tune out the little voice in their head that tells them in the morning that they do not have the desire, energy or need to get out of bed. Believe me, that little voice is tenacious and having someone to rely on during those times is truly a blessing.

I want to acknowledge the perseverance of scientists who, through their research, are improving the lives of thousands of people with spinal cord injuries. In recent years, there have been significant advances in the neurosciences, which study everything to do with the nervous system, such as the mapping of the sensorimotor cortex.

At the trauma unit at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, you learn that the spinal cord is made up of nervous tissue and cells and that it looks like a cable the thickness of your little finger. It begins at the base of the brain and passes through each vertebra, ending between the first and second vertebrae. Basically, the spinal cord is the communication link between the brain and the body.

Adapting to a spinal cord injury is very difficult and takes a long time. It requires a great deal of personal effort by the injured person and the people around him or her. It turns a person's life upside down and is often accompanied by many negative emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger. It brings long hours of reflection interspersed with highs and lows.

However, as with any situation, there are also positives. Those with new injuries are taken care of by an interdisciplinary team that quickly addresses the objectives identified by specialists based on the injuries.

For several years, the notion of inclusion has dominated the debate on the place of people with disabilities in our society. A so-called inclusive society adapts to individual differences and anticipates people's needs in order to give them the best possible chance of success in life. As a result, in order for a society to be truly inclusive, collective will and collective mobilization are needed, on the part of society and the economic and political communities. They need to change their way of thinking and the way they organize things in order to integrate people who are sometimes more fragile.

Every little action to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities requires a collective and political effort, and I think that we are making such an effort today.

I also believe that as elected representatives, we must promote inclusiveness. We must position ourselves as open people who create bridges with our living environments. Of course, the inclusion of people with disabilities in society cannot be done without the support and knowledge of the medical, social and political sectors.

Finally, I sometimes get the impression that we have incorporated the notion of inclusion into our speeches, but it is difficult for a person with a disability to be convinced that political authorities are truly committed to the notion of inclusion because so much remains to be done in terms of accessibility and home care.

It is important to understand that the bill to designate a national spinal cord injury awareness day is much more than symbolic. It has the potential to help save lives and reduce the number of spinal cord injuries that happen in Canada every year.

Let us not miss this opportunity to help everyone. As I often say, spinal cord injuries do not discriminate.

As I went through the process that got me to the point of talking about this bill again today, I believe that I developed a better understanding of the real needs of people with spinal cord injuries. Let me explain. Naturally, people might think that I do not really understand them, but talking to other people can sometimes help us see other problems.

I gained a better understanding of what this special day on the calendar can contribute. This bill is representative of the political work we are all here to do because it helps us all better ourselves as a society in meaningful ways.

Sometimes we get the feeling that we are not doing enough, but in this case, even though this bill seems like a modest initiative at first glance, it is an incredible tool that leads us to a new stage in our progress toward accepting people with disabilities in Canada.

This step forward will lead to others and so on. The quality of life of all our fellow citizens, whether they are affected by spinal cord injuries or not, will certainly improve.

Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day will ultimately significantly help improve health care, promote treatment advances, technological innovations and research in medical science, and even contribute to the Canadian economy.

Raising hope is a winning strategy, and today, the first thing we must do is make sure that this bill continues to make its way through the legislative process. We also need to make social acceptance more universal and to raise awareness among employers of the unsuspected qualities of those with spinal cord injuries, thereby making our communities more effective, productive and just.

The practical nature of this reality and the idealism of these principles work well together in this much-needed bill. We have to promote acceptance within social networks and value inclusion because it is both compassionate and for the common good.

I should mention that governments are doing their part when it comes to research, but most of the funding comes from appeals to the public's generosity. Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day will allow for new fundraising opportunities. It will not cost us anything to provide this opportunity to organizations that offer services to persons with disabilities, and the potential returns could be extremely beneficial.

To sum up, this bill will help raise public awareness and acceptance of spinal cord injury victims. It will maximize funding and research initiatives and stimulate volunteer support and personal involvement in general. It can help communicate and draw attention to specific issues, while bringing together people on similar paths. It will validate the help and support provided by loved ones, family members, colleagues, neighbours and specialists, as well as the exceptional contribution of researchers in this area of expertise.

We are all equal before this terrible scourge and every bit of progress is a victory for all. My personal experience and that of the people I consulted, as well as the conversations I have taken part in, have convinced me that creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day is a productive, effective, economical and sensible way to do our part for Canadians with disabilities.

I often say that people living with a physical limitation who meet daily challenges have the same very strong abilities, qualities and character of people drawn to extreme sports. I am sure that my colleague across the way will agree with me. They have to have determination, courage, perseverance, and especially the will to improve their daily lives.

I think that we can do a better job of equipping these people to deal with what others would see as insurmountable obstacles. I recognize that it is often stressful and painful for the people around us, because they are not living it and do not truly understand. It is up to us to reassure them, if we want to maintain their friendship and respect, and to recognize that they may be an incredible, and even vital, source of support.

Health May 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, after years of negotiations among lawyers, doctors and Health Canada officials, thalidomide victims were finally made an offer that was deemed acceptable by the parties involved. The lump-sum payment of $250,000 seemed to be a fair compromise, but for unknown reasons, the government's final offer dropped to $125,000.

This morning, I spoke with a victim who told me that there was no justification for this arbitrary decision. The government has caused considerable harm by substituting its own decision for that of responsible and informed stakeholders.

Who at Health Canada made this decision?

Social Development May 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I honestly feel as if we were participating in two different debates. I am talking about the enabling accessibility fund. Rather than dealing with productive programs that have proven to be effective on an ad hoc basis, doling out funding in dribs and drabs year after year, it would be better if the government made the enabling accessibility fund into a well-established, transparent program with recurrent funding.

Given the urgent needs of the organizations, which at this very moment are waiting for the next call for proposals to be announced for this program, can the government at least give the applicants some more information?

The government can help change these people's lives, and I am convinced that it has the power to live up to its intentions. I am therefore asking the government whether it could, at the very least, post the date when the next call for proposals will be held, make funding recurrent and improve the transparency of the program. In so doing, it would provide a little more stability for organizations that help people with disabilities.

Social Development May 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this morning I was speaking with a woman from my riding of Montcalm, Ms. Francoeur, of the Résidence coopérative Quatre-Soleils in Saint-Lin–Laurentides. She was very pleased to have finally received funding from the Government of Canada for accommodations at her centre.

I would like to recognize the efforts that are made every year in Quebec and Canada to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. The resources invested mean a great deal to people living with physical limitations. The government plays a key role, but there is so much work still to be done before we can talk about a truly inclusive society.

These resources, as much as they are appreciated, are certainly very modest. Investing in the integration of people with disabilities and in accessibility is something that goes far beyond compassionate or altruistic considerations. To put it simply, such investments are good social decisions and actions that demonstrate the goodwill behind the government's public policies.

I have said it before and I will say it again: an investment in people with disabilities is, above all, an investment that is good for everyone and one that contributes directly to our communities.

Had we gotten into the habit of handling funding requests for projects that meet the needs of people with disabilities the same way we handle economic requests, we might have much more effective practices for those people now.

People with disabilities are people first, and each step toward social inclusion is a sure way to help all of them and all affected families thrive.

I deplore the lack of stable programs and the dearth of information about their recurrence. The government has to be consistent and offer more independence to people with disabilities and greater social cohesiveness for all.

The enabling accessibility fund accepts applications at much too unpredictable intervals, making it impossible for organizations to prepare applications in advance for specific projects.

When an organization that helps people with disabilities has a specific need, it asks many community groups for help finding solutions. Everyone—from family caregivers to workers in the network, advocates, professionals and volunteers—pitches in to improve services and contribute to a solution. Funding is piecemeal. Donations from members of the public, private interests and civil society all do their part.

To give an idea of the situation, these organizations often survive thanks to charitable individuals and the generosity of their community. However, there comes a time when the federal government must take responsibility and encourage such efforts, resourcefulness and ingenuity.

Good programs do exist, and their impact has been measured at length. They are clearly beneficial. Unfortunately, the lack of consistency of programs provided to organizations that help people with disabilities, as well as the stability, recurrence and coherence of the programs, must be vastly improved.

Would it be possible to make the enabling accessibility fund a permanent program, with recurring application dates everyone is aware of, in order to improve the stability of government assistance provided to organizations that help people with disabilities?

I realize that reviewing the enabling accessibility fund requires that we be prepared, above all, to implement diverse solutions in order to improve this program's performance. I also believe that as elected officials, we must promote inclusiveness. We must position ourselves as open people who create bridges with our living environments.

The inclusion of people with disabilities in society cannot be done without the support and knowledge of the medical, social and political sectors. It is difficult for a disabled person to be convinced that political authorities are truly committed to the notion of inclusion because so much remains to be done in terms of accessibility, transportation, home care and so forth.

Taxation May 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the government is distancing itself from the majority of Canadian families with its tax policies, such as income splitting, which will only benefit a handful of wealthy Canadians. The government's current tax policies show its lack of universality.

Sound management is important, but can the government review some aspects of the budget and increase its commitment to Canadian families and seniors?

Montcalm Daughters of Isabella May 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to talk about the Montcalm Daughters of Isabella and the work they do in their community, work that we do not often hear about.

The Daughters of Isabella meet every week to discuss important issues and enjoy each other's company. Their motto, “Unity, Friendship and Charity”, permeates their everyday lives. They are present in our communities, working hard to improve living conditions for women and families and give women opportunities to get together in a spirit of friendship, compassion and fraternity.

I would like to single out the Arc-en-ciel Circle #1304 in Saint-Lin-Laurentides, which provides much-needed support to those going through difficult times.

These women put their faith in me in 2011, and they stand by that choice to this day.

Well done, and thanks to all of you, dear ladies.

Social Development May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, after dismantling a large part of the EI program paid for by workers, the government held back nearly $100 million intended for disability support, literacy and youth unemployment programs. These programs help the most vulnerable in our society.

Will the government finally commit to cutting back on the assistance it gives to multinational corporations and making our society fairer and more equal?

International Trade May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in March, Maude Barlow, a former UN advisor, denounced the fact that the current government sacrificed our drinking water in order to promote its plan to make Canada an energy superpower. Canada has a responsibility to preserve our water because it is essential to our survival and the survival of biodiversity.

Has the government changed its laws to ensure that our fresh water is protected from the effects of the oil industry?