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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Laurentides—Labelle (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there is a somewhat shameful aspect to this agreement. Becoming a partner of the regime means becoming its willing accomplice, in a way. Indeed, of all royalties our mining companies will be paying, 25% will go directly to security. I do not know the exact amount involved, but we can assume these are significant amounts, since they will be used to purchase vehicles and weapons, as well as pay staff. Are the companies going to war or digging a mine?

I would ask my colleague to comment on that.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we see this every day in our constituency offices. Wait times are sometimes so bad that the health certificates sent in with applications expire. This delays the process by several months. No one wins at the end of the day.

I even saw one case in which a citizen was forced to return to his country. After being attacked by fanatical Islamic terrorists, receiving death threats and being attacked in his own home, he left his country and his business. He then tried to return to settle his affairs and recover some of his property. Because he was absent for a few months, he was forced to start the process over. The last I heard, he was still facing deportation.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is always the same thing with the Conservatives. They try to claim that we side with criminals, terrorists and pedophiles. If someone commits a crime, they should be punished. If that person has not yet been granted citizenship or just recently became a citizen, they could even risk losing their citizenship. That could make sense in some cases. What bothers me is the fact that the government is creating two classes of Canadian citizens and that some citizens would have more rights than others. I find that worrisome.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House this evening.

So far, I have found that all of this has been too complicated. Citizenship is a universal human value. It is a right in all civilized countries. Citizenship is a fundamental human right. We often send our troops to defend that right, to protect a country's citizens and their citizenship, as in Ukraine, for example. Some Ukrainians are going to find themselves with Russian passports without having asked for them.

Citizenship is part of our identity. Citizens of every country, wherever they may be in the world, know that they have a country they can depend on to help them and support them in difficult times. They know that that is an inalienable right.

There are a few exceptions. Some countries have unfair systems. For example, there are people who have been living in Switzerland for five generations who have not been able to obtain their citizenship. A public referendum is required to obtain Swiss citizenship. That is completely unfair.

The Poles have known the greatest suffering that can be inflicted on a people. They have been passed from hand to hand many times since the Middle Ages and have spent time as part of East Prussia, Russia and Ukraine. The borders were extremely fluid, which caused major problems for the Polish people.

There is the case of the Ukrainians, who lived under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some of them came to Canada with Austro-Hungarian passports and were interned in camps during the Second World War because they were citizens of an enemy power. However, that enemy power no longer even existed because the empire had been dissolved. Canada was unable to sign a peace treaty with that country. These people, who were law-abiding citizens, were interned and forced to work under terrible conditions.

There is also the case of the Kurds in Syria. For 30 years, the Syrian government has refused to issue them identity papers and give them passports and travel documents. These people do not exist.

Our citizenship should be much simpler than that. We should meet the conditions for becoming a citizen and commit to obeying the rules for a certain time for confirmation. If all goes well, then we become a citizen. This should be irrevocable. If we commit a crime, then we should face the same punishment as other Canadian citizens. I do not see why there would be two categories.

Where there are arbitrary decisions, there is always injustice. Crime has to be dealt with by the justice system and the courts. That is what we make laws for. If we decide to punish someone by revoking their citizenship, we are adding extra punishment. That is where we start to violate section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by imposing the equivalent of extra punishment because we do not consider these people will already have been sentenced by the justice system.

On top of that, they have to go back to a country they once fled, usually for their own safety.

When we think of people convicted abroad for crimes punishable in Canada, that means we may be putting our trust in countries that are not governed by the rule of law. For example, in China, the Uyghur have been beaten, tortured and persecuted by the Chinese government for decades. They end up in prison for completely frivolous reasons. Many have criminal records. They might suffer as a result of such a measure. We must not create more victims. There are already too many in Canada, such as the Italian and Japanese citizens who suffered during World War II.

By making arbitrary decisions and creating a very complex maze, we are making things complicated for people for no good reason. Citizenship is not just a privilege that we give to someone. For example, a British lord who renounced his British citizenship and his Canadian citizenship can become a Canadian citizen again, even when he gets out of a U.S. prison. There are limits. We have to look at whether we are giving the same value to human life and the same rights to everyone, without making distinctions or creating categories.

As for the slow-moving immigration system—and all of my colleagues will likely agree with this—the majority of the work being done in my offices consists of dealing with endless immigration cases, which go on forever. I have seen only one satisfied person in three years. That was last month. He was able to bring his wife of eight years to Canada. He was happy that day because it was the culmination of eight years of working to bring his wife to Canada.

There are plenty of little traps and arbitrary things in this bill. There is a lot of information that is to be kept secret, but that kind of thing should be left to the KGB or its modern-day equivalent. We are not in that kind of country or, at least, we never used to be and we never want to be.

I hope that my colleagues opposite will think things through. It is a waste of time to pass a bill that will very likely be rejected by the Supreme Court. Winning a vote and then screaming like a band of Vikings bursting into a church in the Middle Ages does not lend legitimacy to the bill or the process. It takes frank and honest discussion to create a legitimate law that offers a solution to a problem. The government should not be trying to set traps.

There may be some good ideas in the bill, but the Conservatives usually find the wrong way to do the right thing.

There are still some flaws. For example, it is good that the government is taking action against the fraudsters who exploit immigrants and use extortion. There are some good measures, but we need to discuss all of the other points more seriously.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand one aspect of the question from the member for Calgary Northeast. Does he realize that if we committed the same offence, he could be treated differently than I would be because of his background?

Would my colleague like to comment on that?

Agricultural Growth Act June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister is getting a little carried away. He is attacking our credibility.

I do not live in a skyscraper. I live in a rural area, and to get home I drive an hour through dairy farms. That is all in my riding, and these are the people who pay my salary. They sent me here to debate and study bills and to represent their concerns.

There may not be extraordinary orators on the other side, and I am no master myself, but we have the right to stand up for the people we represent, and we have the right to point out a bill's flaws. I think that is simple.

He says that he is letting us speak, but since his buddies are not even showing up to work, I think that is a bit of a stretch.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, is a large part of the problem due to the fact that the Conservatives are incapable of using a long-term perspective to manage anything? If they were capable of doing that, they would be concerned about global warming, rail safety and many other issues.

If we send 40,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, it is reasonable to expect that tens of thousands of them will come back with very serious injuries and in need of care. The structure that will allow us to take care of them should already be in place. We should not be improvising now that the mission is over.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, three of my uncles landed at Dunkirk and one of them died. To me, there is no difference between a Second World War veteran or a Korean War veteran and our young people who were recently in Afghanistan.

If there is a difference, it is that the latest generation of veterans experienced events that were even more traumatic and highly publicized in a context that was less clear-cut than in the days when my uncles went off to fight fascism. Now the causes are harder to understand. However, there should be no difference in the way veterans are treated once they come back to the country having carried out their duty.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we ask people to go and defend our convictions and our principles. They are brave, motivated people who put their lives and health at risk. The least we can do when they come home is to ensure that they have no more worries and provide them with a decent quality of life and standard of living.

I base my remarks on the experience of my uncle, who fought in World War II. He was wounded in a landmine explosion in which his brother was killed right before his eyes. He went through something absolutely horrible. When he came home, despite the therapy he received, he was no longer able to live in society because he was shattered. He went to work in a logging camp for 20 years until he could return to some kind of balance.

Today I believe we should do more for our veterans and ensure that they do not have to suffer misery after the trauma they have gone through.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Public Service Employment Act, concerns a top priority: our veterans. No one will say otherwise.

It is not enough to say that we are behind them. We must take action. After these people have put their lives and health at risk, it would be hypocritical not to provide them with all the assistance and support they need to return to civilian life.

This bill is an amended version of Bill C-11, introduced in the fall of 2013, which the government allowed to die on the order paper after seven days of debate. Even though we feel this bill does not go far enough and the main flaws in Bill C-11 have not been corrected, we nevertheless support Bill C-27 at second reading.

Enough time has been wasted, and much work remains to be done in committee. We must work to ensure that this bill truly helps veterans return to civilian life.

In its present form, this bill will not help veterans who are finding it hard to make the career transition from the armed forces to civilian life. The vast majority of them do not have a university degree, which is necessary to secure a position in the public service, whereas others simply are not interested in that kind of career. I understand why because soon there will be no more public servants.

Under subsection 39(1) of the Public Service Employment Act, preference is given to veterans of World War II and the Korean War. However, surviving spouses of former members of the Canadian Forces who served less than three years will not have access to this preference, unlike the surviving spouses of World War II veterans.

We disagree with this proposal because we believe all veterans deserve the same treatment. By creating so many classes, the Conservatives are abandoning the principle of a single class of veterans, those who risked their lives for Canada.

In view of the staff cuts in the public service, veterans do not have access to as many positions as they did previously. Employees who have been victims of the cuts take precedence.

There also appears to be a flaw in the bill regarding the period during which veterans have hiring priority over other candidates. We feel that the period during which employment priority applies is quite short.

Veterans wishing to earn a university degree will need about four or five years, in certain cases where the position requires a master’s degree. This five-year period begins when the member is released. Consequently, if a member challenges the reason for his or her release or whether an injury is service-related, the priority period will continue to run during the proceedings, which may extend over several years. The member would therefore be put at a disadvantage relative to another member who would not have to challenge the matter before an administrative tribunal.

Private sector co-operation must be improved because people in the private sector are unaware of veterans’ skills. Human resource departments do not know how to interpret the curricula vitae of veterans who apply for jobs.

The government has announced that it will reimburse veterans up to $75,800 for training and transition costs. That amount will be spread over five years, and the budget has a ceiling of $2 million. If the maximum amount is granted to every veteran, only 27 will be able to receive it, roughly five a year. When we think of the tens of thousands of veterans returning from Afghanistan, we wonder how many veterans will be able to take advantage of this program.

In a recent advertisement, which focuses more on the government’s image than the service advertised, the Conservatives show a veteran standing in front of his closet. He hesitates between his uniform and a suit, as though he is merely making a clothing choice. However, the reality is completely different.

I cannot help but think of another veteran I saw. At the Remembrance Day ceremony on November 11, 2013, a man in his fifties leaned on his cane so that he could lay a floral wreath in front of the cenotaph. Having been wounded in training, he was forced to retire from the armed forces two years before he was eligible for a full pension. Today he must live on a pension that has been reduced by 35%, which puts him below the poverty line. He told me that he had enlisted in the armed forces to fight for his country and that now he had to fight against his country.

To sum up, there are two major classes of veterans: those the government presents to us in its advertisements and those who are fighting through an administrative maze against a bureaucracy that is preventing them from living their lives.