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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was quebec.

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

Won her last election, in 2011, with 32% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House November 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, tabled on Wednesday, November 21, 2007, be concurred in.

I am pleased to rise for the first time in this House as the Bloc Québécois heritage critic. My first thoughts are for my colleague from Saint-Lambert, who has done such a wonderful job as critic since 2004. I thank him for all the work he has done. I would also like to assure all the stakeholders in the cultural community in Quebec and even Canada that, like my friend, the member for Saint-Lambert, I will listen to them and be an ardent defender not only of culture, artists and artisans, but also of the right of nations to exist as strong and different entities in the world. To me, cultural diversity should never disappear.

Before I get to the substance of my remarks, I also want to recognize the people of Ahuntsic. The name Ahuntsic calls to mind our historical heritage. Ahuntsic was the Huron name given to the French assistant of Récollet missionary Nicolas Viel, whom we have all heard of. Both men died in the rapids of the Rivière des Prairies in 1625.

What is important is that today, Ahuntsic is a magnificent cultural community. I wanted to pay tribute to the teams behind FestiBlues, an international festival, as well as Cité Historia, Maison de la culture, Ressart, Artisans de la rue, Foyer de la danse, Musique Multi-Montréal, Violon de Grand-mère, and our libraries and educational institutions. As hon. members can appreciate, Ahuntsic is a riding where culture is really very important. I also want to pay special tribute to the people behind the project to create the Maison des arts et des lettres, a very important addition to our community and something we are going to work very hard for at the federal, academic, municipal and provincial levels.

We have decided today to focus on issues that are important to the Bloc Québécois and Quebec because culture is an important part of our identity and the survival of our nation—and by nation, I mean Quebec. However, culture is also vital to Canada as a nation. The same is true of the environment, which is a crucial issue for the generations to come. And what is this government doing? It is systematically proceeding with a demolition project and muzzling the opposition in Bali. The same is true of broadcasting and telecommunications policy, where we are also seeing veiled demolition projects—the government does not act directly—and where the government is keeping the opposition out of the debate.

Hence this morning's motion, aimed at setting the record straight to some extent and raising the alarm with this government which, it should be remembered, is a minority government. The motion we are debating states, and I quote:

That, in the opinion of the Committee, any new directive to the CRTC from the Governor-in-Council amending the interpretation of the Broadcasting Policy for Canada or the Canadian Telecommunications Policy be first put before the House through the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for its consideration.

This motion, which I put forward at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and which was adopted by a majority of committee members, reflects a profound uneasiness with this government turning its back on its democratic duties when it comes to presenting its policy directives to Parliament.

If this government wants to let the free market prevail, that is its philosophy. But if it wants to amend the legislation governing the CRTC, it should do it through the front door and let us have a debate in this House.

In fact, if we are debating this issue here today, it is because of this government's unacceptable behaviour in refusing to put its policy directives into a bill. This government, which is still a minority government, is bringing major policy changes in through the back door, without any real debate.

It seems fundamental to us that the partners have their say on issues of such importance to Quebeckers and to Canadians as well.

Talking about changes to broadcasting is really something fundamental that affects the protection of culture for the Quebec nation as well as for the Canadian nation. That is why we want these changes debated here in this House.

If they want to change the legislation, they should introduce a bill.

I know some people will insist that no major changes are being contemplated, and they will suggest that people are getting upset over nothing and that opposition members of Parliament are blowing things out of proportion, but that is not true. On November 6, the current Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages made an important announcement. She did not make it here, nor did she make it in committee. She made it at the convention of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. She said, “I challenge you to be open to change—because change will come.”

I would like to ask the minister what changes she thinks are in store. Everyone here would like to know. The Conservatives are doing their best to avoid talking about these fundamental changes that will affect our ability to protect Canadian and Quebec culture.

Let us talk about these changes. During the ADISQ Gala on October 28, in response to recent CRTC decisions that indicate a shift toward policies that put market forces ahead of the duty to protect culture and society, 18 groups of artists and businesses operating in the cultural sector, including 17 that work mainly in Quebec, strongly urged the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages to use her power to issue policy directives to the CRTC to avoid this major shift.

This protest from Quebeckers received unanimous support from Quebec's National Assembly. Then, on October 29, in response to this urgent appeal from the cultural sector, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages told my colleague, the member for Saint-Lambert, that “the CRTC is an arm's length agency”. Nevertheless, 11 days before that, on October 18, that same minister had ordered the CRTC to review its decision to amend the broadcasting licence of Avis de recherche inc. So she did intervene. On the 29th, the CRTC was autonomous, but on the 18th, she intervened in a decision. That is contradictory. Perhaps she was trying to hide her real intentions. Perhaps on the 18th, she was revealing her true intentions.

The truth came out during the minister's speech on November 6. The minister told those attending the Canadian Association of Broadcasters convention that her first priority was “—an increased reliance on competition and market forces—”. She made that very clear. Later on, she said, “The status quo is no longer an option".

The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages could not have been more clear. She said no to the Quebec and Canadian cultural communities and to the National Assembly. And she said yes to the financial free market. Regarding broadcasting, whether on the radio, television or Internet, the minister's approach is, in fact, to defend the interests of large corporations. She treats culture first and foremost as a consumer product, even though Canada signed the convention on cultural diversity.

I think this conservative approach will be detrimental to culture and to the Quebec nation, which the Prime Minister and his government claim to recognize. Furthermore, in the speech made by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages on November 6, there was no mention of the concept of nation. In fact, there was no place in her speech for the Quebec nation. For the Conservative government, nation is merely a word and is not linked with any action or real commitment thus far. We must denounce this, because we are not a “nation-concept”, but rather a real nation that truly exists and we must have our powers. It is even more upsetting when this kind of behaviour is seen in a minister from Quebec.

At present, artists are worried, and with good reason.

Unfortunately, we cannot count on the “Quebeckness”—that is, a sense of belonging to a nation called Quebec—of any Conservative members to defend the interests of the Quebec nation when it comes to broadcasting and in other areas.

Under the Conservatives, Canada is unfortunately following a path driven by market forces rather than the defence of national identities. Not only is the Quebec nation worried, but the Canadian nation is also concerned. The Quebec nation must not be dragged down this path, which, in the end, serves no purpose but assimilation into what could be called global cultures. We are here to defend our culture of course, but I really encourage the other members from Canada to also defend Canadian culture, just as we, the Bloc Québécois, can do for Canadians.

We therefore repeat that, in order to support our culture, it is crucial that the application of radio and television broadcasting policies be left to the Government of Quebec, our national government, and that it be allowed to determine the regulatory framework within its borders.

When the current Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities of the Conservative government was communications minister in Quebec, he defended the following statement:

Quebec must be able to establish the rules for operating radio and television systems, and control development plans for telecommunications networks, service rates and the regulation of new telecommunications services...Quebec cannot let others, meaning Canada, [member's emphasis] control programming for electronic media within its borders...To that end, Quebec must have full jurisdiction and be able to deal with a single regulatory body.

The member for Pontiac, like his Conservative colleagues from Quebec, is now contributing to the threat facing Quebec society and its culture.

Now, more than ever, Quebec needs its own CRTC. We cannot trust the Canadian government or a pan-Canadian body to protect our Quebec nation and its culture.

A Quebec body would consult and make decisions based on the priority interests of our nation, and only our nation. Furthermore, the power of direction would be assumed by the Quebec government.

Having recognized Quebec as a nation, the federal government must now do something tangible about it and at the very least agree to a devolution of power, if not give up that power under the Constitution. This could be a first step in showing that it truly recognizes us as a nation.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government is characteristically anti-democratic, implementing policies without debate and presenting parliamentarians and the general public with a fait accompli.

In fact, this government does not respect what the majority of Quebeckers want and it is abusing its prerogatives.

It does so on the environment—as we have seen quite recently—and on the gun registry. We saw what it did to Status of Women Canada and Canada Summer Jobs. I could go on and on. The only time there was any kind of agreement was in connection with the war in Afghanistan. That is all it cares about. But there again, the government has hijacked the mandate. Unfortunately, instead of striking a balance between humanitarian aid and security, the government has put the entire focus on war.

As far as broadcasting and telecommunication are concerned, this government is using its power of direction over the CRTC in order to weaken the regulatory framework without any real debate in this House.

When the CRTC drifts toward deregulation and ignores its responsibility to protect culture, this government does not say a word.

I strongly encourage the House to pass this motion in order to make this government more accountable to the people of Quebec and Canada before this Parliament.

In Quebec, as anywhere else in the world, our national identity depends on the strength and vitality of our creators. When they sound the alarm as they did in October, we cannot sit idly by, especially when the Minister of Canadian Heritage says she recognizes the nation of Quebec and she herself is from Quebec.

Universal Children's Day November 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, as part of Universal Children's Day, Initiative 1, 2, 3 GO! Ahuntsic, RePère, the Bureau de coordination des services de garde d'Ahuntsic, the Pacific Path Institute and Centres Jeunesse have brought back a children's advocacy exhibition by an Ahuntsic artist. In 1997, this internationally renowned artist received an honourable mention from the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec. November 20 marks the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

The advocacy exhibition by Thérèse André entitled “Tendresse-tendresse” will give my community an opportunity to reflect, in the hope that one day all the children of the world, including ours, will be free from violence, poverty and exploitation.

There are far too many children suffering. Governments must heed the call and take action.

Public Safety June 13th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, on May 1, the Minister of Public Safety let it be known that he shared my concerns about the presence of a sexual predator, Clermont Bégin, in a halfway house located on a Government of Canada property near an elementary school. On May 23, the trustees of the Montreal school board unanimously voted in favour of a resolution demanding that pedophiles no longer be assigned to halfway houses located near schools.

Has the Minister of Public Safety directed Correctional Service Canada to cease this practice?

Walid Eïdo June 13th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Walid Eïdo, a Lebanese politician, was killed today in a bombing in Beirut, along with his son and six other people. Mr. Eïdo, who was in his sixties, was a member of the parliamentary majority led by Saad Hariri. This attack is strangely reminiscent of the tragic death of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in February 2005, and the assassinations of MP Gebran Tuéni and Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.

Several countries have already condemned these acts of violence, including France and the United States. On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to Mr. Eïdo's family, to the families of the other victims and to the people of Lebanon.

Freedom and justice are not achieved through violence, nor will they be stifled by violence.

Ahuntsic-Cartierville Housing Committee May 15th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, today I want to commend the remarkable work of the Ahuntsic-Cartierville housing committee, which, on Monday, May 7, organized a demonstration in my riding. This is a grassroots organization that raises awareness about the needs in social housing.

The new government has indeed invested in social housing, but investment is down 25% if we take into account inflation since 1993.

In May 2006, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights looked at Canada's housing record and described the situation as a national emergency. In Montreal, the waiting list for low-income housing has 23,000 names on it, including 2,000 from the Ahuntsic area alone.

While respecting the various jurisdictions, the government must contribute to the development of programs to deal with this national emergency, as it is defined by the United Nations. This is a matter of fairness and social peace.

Petitions May 2nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is from a group of seniors in the riding of Ahuntsic, who are asking that the Kyoto protocol be respected, as it was originally signed.

Petitions May 2nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling two petitions today.

The first one deals with the Canada summer jobs program. The petitioners are asking the government to not only maintain the program, but to improve it. They are opposed to the cuts announced for next year, and they are also opposed to those that have already been made.

They also point out that this program is very useful to students looking for a first job, and they hope that the government will maintain it in its original form, and improve it.

Public Safety May 1st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, a halfway house in my riding, located very close to an elementary school, houses Clermont Bégin, a sexual predator whom the National Parole Board still considers very dangerous. My constituents are worried.

Setting aside the fine work being done by the staff at this halfway house, does the Minister of Public Safety think it is right that a facility like this, located fewer than 300 metres from an elementary school, is housing sexual predators?

Arab and Lebanese Communities March 21st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight the dynamic integration of the Lebanese and Arab communities in Quebec, particularly in Montreal.

These communities must be involved in all areas of society. I would like to salute the work of leaders who are contributing to the unity of these communities and to their integration into our society.

As a result of their efforts, Montreal now plays host to events such as the Lebanese festival, which gathers together almost 80,000 people from all over for four days. We are also seeing the rise of institutions such as the Lebanese Islamic centre, the Muslim cultural centre of Montreal, the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Canada and the Muwahiddun Druze community.

In the spirit of unity and respect for differences, these leaders are putting an end to counter-productive views and fostering the kind of communication that is vital to allaying fears and discovering the beauty of the other, who is, essentially, our neighbour.

Human Trafficking December 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak in support of the motion tabled by my colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul. I would like to thank her for agreeing to let me co-sponsor this motion. I believe that when we are talking about human trafficking, political party divisions disappear. All that counts is a united approach to solving the problem.

The member's motion asks that Canada condemn the international trafficking of women and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and calls for a comprehensive strategy to combat it, which is fundamental. In this age of globalization and economic liberalization, human trafficking has become a lucrative business for traffickers and procurers, as well as States. We must have the courage to speak that truth.

According to the UNODC, 92% of victims of human trafficking are sold into prostitution. Of those, 48% are children. The European Union's Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities reports that 90% of trafficking victims are sold into prostitution.

According to UNICEF, 1.2 million children around the world are victims of human trafficking every year.

According to the 2005 report by the U.S. State Department on human trafficking, 600,000 to 800,000 persons are trafficked each year throughout the world. Of this number, 80% are women and girls and 50% are minors.

According to a 2005 report by the World Trade Organization, 98% of the victims of sexual exploitation are women and girls.

Finally, the United Nations Population Fund estimated in 2006 that roughly 50% of the victims of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation are minors.

Can we say, then, that this is happening only to other people and is not happening in Canada? We cannot.

Clearly, we cannot talk about international trafficking without talking about trafficking within Canada. In light of this, since September, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women has looked at the issue of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation in Canada. We will release our report shortly. In addition, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I personally introduced a motion that was passed unanimously by the committee, recognizing the problem of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation within Canada.

We know that Canada is a country of origin and a transit point on the way to other countries, such as the United States, but it is also a consumer country. Some witnesses who testified before our committee stated that Canadians and Americans were major consumers of sexual tourism. Unfortunately, we have a lot of work to do to protect women and children.

In addition, we must be very careful to distinguish between trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and trafficking for the purposes of forced labour or organ harvesting. We therefore cannot talk about the form of trafficking we are talking about today without mentioning prostitution. There is a very clear link between prostitution and human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. According to various sources, 90% to 92% of the victims of trafficking are traded for the purposes of prostitution.

The Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee of the European Parliament, in its notice of September 18, 2006—which is quite recent—quotes the 2004 report by London Metropolitan University on prostitution. This report demonstrated that legalized prostitution leads to child sex abuse, violence against women and a marked rise in human trafficking around the world and, of course, in countries that blithely approve this sort of “work”. There is also a significant increase in the number of women and children from other countries in countries where legalized prostitution is widespread.

The commission also concluded that legalization of prostitution facilitates the buying of sex, including from victims of trafficking, and recommends that member states recognize that diminishing the demand for trafficking is of vital importance.

I think the major issue underlying trafficking is prostitution. That is the basic issue. We must therefore ask ourselves the following question. Is prostitution a job or is it exploitation?

Personally, I believe there is no such thing as voluntary prostitution, in comparison to forced prostitution, because prostitution is a form of violence in itself, direct and systematic violence that is perpetuated by exploiters. Besides, the few women who say they do it to make ends meet and who do not have pimps all want one thing. They want to get out of it and do something else with their lives.

Trivializing prostitution is a violation of fundamental human rights. This trivialization is society's curse. What we are doing is trivializing prostitution. We have all heard that it is the oldest profession. No, it is not the oldest profession. It is the oldest form of exploitation. That is what prostitution is.

The 2001 Criminal Intelligence Service Canada report stated that the average age of entry into prostitution in Canada is 14 years. Does anyone choose prostitution at the age of 14 or 12 or 8? I doubt it.

Children are simply brainwashed and groomed to become prostitutes to fuel this human meat market. Their spirit is broken so that they feel worthless. They are broken to become sexual slaves, even in adulthood. They have never known anything else in their lives other than being exploited, being an object or a piece of merchandise. What do we expect from them? What do we think they will do at age 18 or 19? Do we think they will find work? We will talk about that later.

No one chooses to be a prostitute when they are an addict, a victim of family violence, incest or psychological abuse, when they lack self-esteem because they have been beaten their entire life. No one chooses to be a sexual object. No one chooses to be called all sorts of names. We know that the word prostitute is not always used. A number of other terms are used, which I will refrain from uttering in this House, as a matter of decorum. No one chooses to be forced to service several clients—some talk of 10, 20 or 30 clients—in one day. That would surprised me greatly.

Some people say prostitutes like it, and it is a job that pays well. Let us stop trivializing this violence against human beings. Most of these people are women. Let us ask questions.

Prostitution is conducive only to unequal relations between people. I believe it is highly important that Canada never take the path to legalizing pimping and brothels. I also believe that the Netherlands is a very good example of how this has failed.

Because I have a time limit, I suggest that my colleagues do some research into this. They will see, for example, that in 1981, in the Netherlands, there were 2,500 prostitutes. In 2004, there were 30,000. Some 80% of these prostitutes are foreign nationals and 70% of them do not even have identification documents.

As far as minors are concerned, in 1996, there were 4,000 prostitutes who were minors in the Netherlands. In 2001, there were 15,000, of whom 5,000 were foreign nationals.

We have to wonder about legalizing prostitution, but we still have to deal with this major issue. In Canada, we need to start following Sweden's lead and think about implementing a system that penalizes the purchase of sexual services, because it is a matter of supply and demand. The greater the supply, the greater the demand, and the greater the demand, the greater the supply. The more women there are on the market, the greater the demand for children.

It is high time that, as a society, as a country, we had a fundamental debate about the purchase of sexual services here in Canada. Do we agree that prostitutes should be penalized? No, we need to help them, provide them with shelters, give them psychological support and health care and so on, but women have been penalized enough.

We need to start looking at the real problem: the purchase of sexual services.