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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 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, there are women and men in Quebec and Canada who for decades have been receiving less pay than other people for work of equal value. Why? Simply because they have jobs traditionally filled by women.

Having a traditionally female job means that the pay will be less, both in this country and in many others around the world. Unless there is some coercion, unfortunately, man loves to exploit man, especially when the latter is a woman.

In view of this injustice, what has been done in Quebec and Canada? I want to take advantage of the 20 minutes I have to quickly trace a little of the history.

After Manitoba and Ontario, Quebec passed pay equity legislation. As a result, there has been concrete change in Quebec, and therefore more equality, in the public and private sectors. More and more people in traditionally female jobs have received salary adjustments. There is more justice in Quebec, but that does not seem to be the case in Canada for people who still have the misfortune of working for companies, I hasten to add, under federal jurisdiction.

I remind the House that Canada has been making national and international commitments to pay equity for more than 50 years. This did not happen yesterday. It is quite amazing that Canada could have made so many undertakings while at the same time people working under federal jurisdiction have not seen any concrete improvements in their lives.

In 1970, Canada ratified the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, which guarantees the right of everyone without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, including the right to equal pay for equal work and to just and favourable remuneration.

In 1972, Canada ratified the International Labour Organization’s equal remuneration convention, 1951, which requires governments to “ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value”.

In 1976, Canada ratified the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, which recognizes the right to equal pay for work of equal value.

In 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Act came into effect. Section 11 prohibits wage discrimination between male and female employees performing work of equal value.

In 1979, the United Nations adopted the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, which states that women have a right to equal remuneration for work of equal value. Canada ratified that convention in 1981.

In 1985, Canada joined with other UN member countries in signing the Beijing platform for action, which states that governments must take action to apply the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.

Canada joined with other UN countries in signing the Copenhagen declaration on social development and programme of action of the world summit for social development.

That document indicates that signatory governments should safeguard and promote respect for basic workers’ rights, including equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value. In 2000, the Canadian government reiterated its commitment towards those two documents.

In 2001, the Canadian government established the pay equity task force, which was tasked with reporting on the pay equity situation in Canada.

In 2004, the pay equity task force submitted its report—which was enormous, quite a tome—and it concluded that federal pay equity legislation was ineffective. The report recommended the adoption of proactive pay equity legislation. It recommended an act. It is quite simple. The report recommended an act. It seems to be more difficult to understand this on the other side of the House.

In 2006, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women called upon the government to introduce a bill on pay equity. What did this government do? Through a letter from the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Labour, this government is creating confusion by claiming that pay equity legislation already exists. I do not know where to find this legislation. The government will have to tell me and tell all the women of Quebec and Canada. Only section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act addresses this issue, yet this has proven extremely ineffective to date.

Furthermore, the government is proposing measures that have proven ineffective for the past 20 years, but it is proposing them anyway.

Women who have full-time jobs earn only 71¢ for every $1 earned by their male co-workers. This results in a higher poverty rate for women and a significantly higher poverty rate for immigrant women. The government must take action to live up to its international obligations on pay equity and human rights and also to fulfill its legal obligations. All members in this House, upon acceptance of their duties, made those commitments. Justice, equality and equity are part of our values and are part of Quebec and Canadian values. It is vital that they find expression in our laws.

We are here to make laws. We spend innumerable hours, five days a week, creating laws. The laws must be just and equitable for the entire population of Quebec and Canada. The government must take steps to recognize and value the contribution of working women to the Canadian and Quebec economy. It is one way of showing that we respect the work they do.

Unfortunately, as we just heard from my Liberal colleague, for years the successive Liberal governments produced nothing tangible. What I find interesting in what my colleague just said is that with the passing of years the Liberals recognized that it was not working and that a law was needed.

In life, better late than never. I wholeheartedly hope that this government will also take the advice of my Liberal colleague who stated, “We recognize that it took some time. It takes time and we recognize that it is not working. And now, we urge you to do everything possible to put into practice what we thought should be done”.

In my opinion, when I survey what has been done since we came here—not just in this session, but also in the previous one—I realize that this Conservative government puts up roadblocks, on the grounds of ideology, for the future of women. It has cut grants to Status of Women Canada and abolished the court challenges program.

It is eliminating literacy programs and this has major repercussions. In a society, everything is connected: literacy is connected with getting a job and a decent wage.

Everything is connected, whether it be literacy or fighting for rights. How can women fight for their rights if they do not have the money to do it? Money is essential. Unfortunately, we live in a society where everything we do is based on the financial resources we have.

Some women are volunteers and others work themselves to death defending the rights of all other women and all children. Children live in extreme poverty in Canada, and Canada is not a developing country. It is unacceptable that in Canada—I cannot say my country, because Quebec is my country—there are still a million poor children. That is not right. In fact, there will be a demonstration in Montreal in the near future, this Thursday I believe, to fight child poverty. Some of my colleagues will be going to put in an appearance at the Palais des Congrès. Making an appearance is a fine thing, but there are people living on the street and children who do not even have food. I will get back to my subject.

I am sorry to have gone off on a tangent, but it is unacceptable to me for policy to be made on the backs of children. That is my Achilles heel.

I believe that we must do everything possible to put policies in place that are fair, because when a woman is poor it means there is a child who is poor. When a woman is poor, it may mean there is a husband who is not working and who is poor. When a woman is poor, it means there is a family that is poor. We can say the same thing about men who are poor as well, because a man who is working in what is traditionally a woman’s job is also affected by this inequity. When there are poor men or poor women, there are poor families, and poor children. Poverty, delinquency, malnutrition and illiteracy; it is all connected. Everything is connected.

When will we stop compartmentalizing politics and the policies we make? When we have a labour policy, it has an effect on family policy. When we take action based on a criminal policy, or a justice or public safety policy, it has a direct effect on people’s families. Everything is connected.

Deciding to enact pay equity legislation means doing something fundamental to combat delinquency and to combat poverty.

How much time do I have left, Mr. Speaker?

Résovi International Conference on Violence against Women October 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, today I salute the organizers of the Résovi international conference on violence against women held in Montreal, which came to a close on Wednesday. At this important event, the various forms of violence against women were discussed, namely spousal violence and sexual violence in various contexts, including trafficking of women. Various means of helping the victims of this violence were examined and courses of action against this scourge were established.

While in Quebec and throughout the world people are mobilizing to fight violence against women, the Prime Minister of this Conservative government is not even keeping the promises he made to women on January 18, 2006. He has cut funding to women's groups for their legal defence activities, he has refused to enact proactive legislation for pay equity at the federal level, and he announced a cut of more than 40% to the budget of Status of Women Canada. The Bloc Québécois will continue to denounce this situation.

October 26th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, as they say, if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck—

I agree with my colleague: the government did not touch the Women's Program. However, it is clear that the $5 million is no longer there. It was cut from Status of Women Canada's budget. We are told it was transferred to an administrative area.

What I see happening, what a lot of women see happening, and what many women's groups see happening is that losing that $5 million will undermine Status of Women Canada's ability to do research, analysis and policy development, to consult with women and to ensure that policies, laws and programs promote equality between men and women. Unfortunately, that is the reality of this situation.

The government can tell the people that the Women's Program is still in place and will be around for another five years all it wants, which is true, but women will not be fooled. Status of Women Canada's budget was cut by $5 million. That will have a direct impact on women everywhere.

October 26th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, on January 18, 2006, just a few months ago, the Prime Minister signed a letter in which he promised to support the human rights of women and agreed that Canada had more to do to respect its international obligations to women's equality.

What is this government's record so far? I have noted a number of points. The first point has to do with the delay in awarding grants. Many women complained all summer about not getting a response from the minister. Furthermore, there is still no pay equity legislation. The court challenges program has been abolished and changes have been made to the criteria for the women's program. We no longer find concepts such as equality, social justice, and advocacy, among other things. There is no child care service for Canada and no transfer to Quebec for the service it already provides. Finally, Status of Women Canada will get $5 million less annually, which is 40% of its budget.

I initially thought that the $5 million in cuts would be made over two years. Finally, at a meeting with Status of Women Canada officials at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women on October 5, 2006, we learned that $5 million is being cut annually, effective April 1, 2007 for 2007-08.

It was also disturbing to learn at that committee meeting that Status of Women Canada could not tell us where they would be making cuts. I found that interesting. I asked one official this: “The government is announcing $5 million in cuts, but as of today, October 5, you cannot say yet where you will be making cuts?” It is a bit strange.

The implication is that the government decided to make $5 million in cuts without consulting officials. That is what we understood. I could also interpret that as meaning that the Minister of Finance got up one morning and decided to cut $5 million from the Status of Women Canada budget, without consulting officials, even though he was declaring a $13 billion surplus and paying down the debt. The officials can talk to the Minister of the Status of Women later. I find that a bit odd.

Nevertheless, I asked the officials to explain where the money could be cut. They mentioned research. We can therefore expect that these cuts will include so-called “administrative” cuts. They could ultimately affect the organization's research capacity, policy analysis and development projects, consultations with women's groups and, of course, the ability of Status of Women Canada to conduct gender analysis in order to ensure that Canadian policies, laws and programs treat men and women equally.

After declaring such a large surplus, why then decide to cut funding for an organization as important as Status of Women Canada, when the standing committee has consistently called for more money for the women's program or for managing Status of Women Canada? The only explanation I can come up with—and I may be mistaken, but I do not think so—is that these are ideological cuts.

With all my heart, I would like someone to tell me how the government could cut $5 million from an organization that plays such a vital role in defending women's rights and has brought about changes in our society in terms of both social justice and equality.

Witness Protection Program Act October 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-286 amends the Witness Protection Program Act to extend the scope of the program to include persons whose life is in danger because of acts committed by their spouse.

I think we can agree that my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse is, in a way, aiming to protect women who could suffer spousal abuse. I think that we all support that aim and can only commend this initiative and commend the member for his concern about violence against women.

As the status of women critic, I can assure hon. members of one thing: it will be a long time before we live in a world and a society where women and children are not victims of violence. However, as a criminologist, I can only question the means used to protect these people, in this case the famous witness protection program.

This program is designed to protect informants, which does not send a very good message. An attempt is being made to use a program designed for informants to protect people, especially women threatened by their spouse. The indirect message this sends is that a woman who complains of abuse is an informant. And the method being used to protect such people is unfortunately not the best.

I would like this government to think about the methods it is using to fight crime and especially to protect victims. I think that the intent of the bill is good and honourable.

There is another disturbing point in this bill. The first clause mentions that protection will apply only to certain persons. I think that any person who needs protection against violence must be protected. Besides, who will decide that a person has, and I quote, “reasonable grounds [to believe] that their life is in danger by reason of acts committed against them by their spouse”?

My question is the following: Who will make this evaluation? Is it the RCMP, as is the case in the current program? If so, what will be done for Quebec? In Quebec, front line workers are, to name just a few, the municipal police, the Sûreté du Québec in some regions where there is no municipal police force and, of course, women's shelters.

What will be done? Will there be a situation where people who are already the victims of violence will have to deal with administrative red tape, that is the famous reverse pyramid? Indeed, although it may take months before women are protected, it takes only a few seconds to get a bullet in the head.

Also, there is absolutely nothing in this bill that deals with child protection. Generally, when it comes to women, sometimes they have children with them, sometimes not. I greatly appreciate my Conservative Party colleague's generosity and desire to protect women. However, I will give him a few little ideas that are concrete and that would help protect women.

First, why does he not ask the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women to give back the famous $5 million a year that she wants to cut from Status of Women Canada? We know that, in 2007, this $5 million a year will be taken from the funds of Status of Women Canada.

Why does he not ask his minister to take appropriate action? A $5 million a year cut to Status of Women Canada's budget means $5 million less to fight violence against women and children. Those are concrete measures.

If the member is so passionate about the issue of violence against women, I am willing to meet the Prime Minister with him, if he so wishes. I am even willing to meet his whole caucus to make his colleagues understand the importance of the gun registry. The importance of this registry is obvious. Any woman, any man, anyone in Quebec will tell you that it is very important. Indeed, the registry has led to a reduction in the number of homicides against women and children. In the case of women, the reduction was 31%.

I do not think that we want to resemble the United States. We do not want the right to bear arms to be a constitutional right. People in Quebec and in Canada want the right to life to be a constitutional right. That is the right they want, not the right to bear arms and to line the pockets of the gun lobby.

I urge the hon. member to review, along with his government, not only their perception of crime, but also the means used to fight it. We all want to eliminate this plague. Unfortunately, the means currently used by this government will not achieve that goal.

I wish to make another point. Prevention is critical in the fight against any form of crime, whether we are dealing with violence against women, youth, street gangs, organized crime or terrorism. Prevention, measures to fight exclusion and poverty, and efforts to reconcile work and family are all effective ways to fight crime. Building jails and imposing stiffer penalties will not do the job. In fact, the longer people are behind bars, the more criminalized they become. Any criminologist can confirm that. Any self-respecting criminologist knows that penitentiaries are, quite simply, universities for criminals.

I will conclude by saying that it is not going to be easy for the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse to convince his government that it should view crime from a new perspective. In any case, he should never forget that we were sent here, in this House, by the public, and that we should only be accountable to that public.

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act October 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, if the objective of this measure is, among other things, to fight money laundering, the government will have to close all the restaurants and bars in Canada, and also a number of other businesses.

I now come to my question. In my riding, I met a person who told me about a Lebanese bank called Byblos. That bank has branches all over the world, except in Canada. Why? Simply because that bank is based in Lebanon. That is as simple as that. Why? Because, in Lebanon, there is a group called Hezbollah, and in Canada that group is deemed to be a terrorist group.

So, that bank, which is not run by Hezbollah, cannot open branches here because it could potentially have Hezbollah members among its clients.

So, we are preventing a perfectly legitimate institution, which has branches all over the world, from doing business here in Canada simply because it is based in Lebanon, where there is a group called Hezbollah that is considered to be a terrorist group by Canada.

What does the hon. member think of this whole situation? Is it not rather strange?

Status of Women October 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, on September 18, 2006, the labour and justice ministers informed the Standing Committee on the Status of Women that the government was refusing to legislate on pay equity. On September 25, 2006, the Conservative government announced that it not only was cutting more than 30% from the budget of Status of Women Canada, but also eliminating the court challenges program, which is the only means women have to assert their constitutional rights to equality.

Yesterday, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women confirmed that she was cutting funding for advocacy by women's groups. Yet on January 18, 2006, the Prime Minister promised in writing to “support women's human rights and...take concrete and immediate measures, as recommended by the United Nations”.

Today, we know that the Prime Minister deceived the women of Canada and Quebec on January 18, 2006.

Government Programs October 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, yesterday morning we were faced with another one of this government's ideological decisions.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage informed the representatives of women's groups that her department will no longer finance advocacy activities. But advocacy is something tangible.

How can the minister justify such a decision? It may be that she approves of her government's ideological approach aimed at slowing down progress toward equality for women by cutting their funding off.

Business of Supply September 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that having no avenue for asserting one's rights complicates things. Some women may not have enough money to hire a lawyer and pay astronomical sums to defend their rights.

It is an even greater paradox to say that we do not need pay equity legislation, then turn around and cut this program. It makes no sense not to have a law. People who are victims of inequity must prove it. If there is no way to prove it, how can they do so?

I would just like to tell my Liberal colleague that, unfortunately, the Liberal party has no reason to pat itself on the back. When it was in power, what was it waiting for to put more money into the women's program? Let us not forget: that government also had budget surpluses in the billions of dollars. That said, I share my colleague's opinion. She has good reason to feel indignant about what is happening. I would like the government to think twice about what it is doing and reconsider its position, because it cannot be that dogmatic.

Business of Supply September 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, clearly this is a slap in the face. Since June or July, I have received an enormous number of email messages and calls from women’s groups all across Canada. Those women told me about rumours that Status of Women Canada and the women’s program would be abolished. There was a great deal of fear.

I asked for a meeting with the Minister responsible for Status of Women Canada so that I could eliminate those concerns, reassure those people and give them the correct story. When I spoke with the minister, I understood that everything was going well; that these were no more than rumours, and that the women need not worry. Status of Women Canada would continue as before—although there had been cuts—and that the only change would be new regulations for the women’s program We have seen that was not the case. There have even been budget cuts of $5 million.

It is time now to wonder about those famous regulations that will be introduced for the women’s program. Personally, that worries me. What kind of regulations will they be? I would like the minister to say more about them. I will be calling her office to get an answer to this question.

Indeed, as my colleague stated, I can only observe that women have been given a slap in the face. It is not a nice expression but I agree with his comment.