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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was budget.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 52% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Respect for Communities Act June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for giving me opportunity to speak to this bill, which seeks to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Before I begin, I would like to commend my colleague for Vancouver East for her excellent work on this file. She has worked tirelessly, and I believe we should recognize that her efforts have contributed to the progress our country has made in this regard.

This bill is an attempt to close down supervised injection sites. This would go against a Supreme Court ruling that recognized Vancouver's InSite, currently the only site in Canada, as a key player in this field, an indispensable stakeholder when it comes to public health and safety.

Decisions of this kind that have such a direct impact on public health and safety must not be taken lightly. They must be based on fact, not driven by ideological positions that stem solely from the belief that there should not be any drugs in Canada. I understand the principle here and there is something to be said for it, but that is not how things work. There are many things that we would gladly dispense with but that are still around. At some point what we need to do is deal with the situation. We need to set up sites where these individuals will receive support and maybe even find solutions to overcome their addiction and mitigate its harmful effects.

I used to be a social worker. I worked not with addicts but with young people. I can therefore say that the solution does not lie with repressive measures or scare tactics about drug use. I really do not agree with the Conservative government’s ideology.

The benefits of a safe injection site have been borne out by the facts. There are benefits to operating this type of facility. Studies on more than 70 injection sites in Europe and Australia have shown that these sites have a positive impact on people, communities and drug addicts.

I mentioned harm mitigation. It is impossible to eliminate all the harmful effects but, by adopting this type of philosophy, harm can be mitigated. I cannot speak for my colleagues, but I for one believe that this is a sensible approach.

Vancouver’s InSite is currently the only facility of its kind in Canada. However, other cities have plans for sites that they want to set up.

Earlier, in response to certain members opposite who asked whether we wanted to see injection sites in our own ridings, my colleague from Hochelaga stated that she would welcome such a site in her Montreal riding. The need for such sites is overwhelming. The health and safety of Canadians and communities depend on it.

Safe injection sites save lives and it would be highly irresponsible of the government to take steps to prevent such facilities from opening in the future.

Bill C-2 is seriously flawed. It is based on an unrealistic anti-drug ideology and on false concerns over public safety. In my view, it is another attempt to rally the Conservative base, as evidenced by the Conservatives' “Keep heroin out of our backyards” campaign. However, when heroin has already found its way into our community, it is rather difficult to eradicate it unless this type of recourse is available.

The bill will make it almost impossible to open safe injection sites and will have the adverse effect of promoting the return of heroin to our neighbourhoods. Drugs are illegal, and we are well aware of it. I know that I do not have the right to walk around with heroin, but a lot of people will do it, just the same. If we only had to legislate on an issue for it never to happen again, life would be very easy. However, this is not the way things work.

Basically, Bill C-2 goes directly against the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision that called on the minister to consider exemptions for safe injection sites, in an effort to reconcile health and public safety considerations. In its ruling, the court urged the minister to consider all of the evidence in light of the benefits of supervised injection sites, rather than devise a long list of principles on which to base his decisions.

There is no safe injection site in my riding. However, there is one agency, the Centre d'intervention jeunesse des Maskoutains—it does not work just with young people—which does a lot of work on harm reduction, primarily through needle exchanges and awareness programs. It does not take them into care. The workers meet with people who have a drug problem and give them a helping hand. In my view, safe injection sites can also play this role.

As I said earlier, at the moment, no injection sites are open in Canada with the exception of InSite, in Vancouver, which has been running since 2003. Since it opened, there has been a 35% decrease in overdose deaths. That is quite significant. It is also been noted that InSite has led to a decrease in crime, communicable disease infection rates and relapse rates for drug users. It also gives drug users a helping hand toward recovery. It is not a place where people go to inject drugs and to party. It is not anything like that. It is a place where people who want help can go. This also helps make our communities a safer place. I do not think these are elements that can be ignored.

As I said earlier, supervised injection sites reduce the risk of contracting and spreading communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. They also help prevent overdose-related deaths. It has also been shown that they pose no threat to public safety. On the contrary, they promote public safety by reducing the injection of drugs in public, the violence associated with such behaviour and drug-related waste. Personally, I would rather have an injection facility in my neighbourhood than see my child going off to play in the park and getting pricked accidentally by a syringe. Injection sites do not reduce the risk to zero but do reduce it significantly.

I would like to explain what a supervised injection site is all about and provide some information about how InSite operates.

In order to use the services of InSite, users must be at least 16. They must sign a user agreement and comply with a code of conduct. They cannot be accompanied by children. InSite is open seven days a week and has 12 injection bays. Users bring their own drugs and staff provide them with clean injection equipment. Nurses and staff supervise the centre and provide emergency medical assistance if necessary. Users who have completed an injection are assessed by staff and taken to a post-injection lounge or treated by a nurse in the treatment room for injection-related conditions.

As members can see, this type of facility is a serious initiative. In my view, these facilities are essential to the well-being of our communities.

Dairy Producers June 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I may be repeating some of the things that were said when we last examined this motion. If so, I apologize for this in advance.

I want to focus on the excellent motion brought forward by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé which calls on the government to keep the promise it made to dairy and cheese producers.

To set the context, last October 18, Canada and the European Union concluded an agreement in principle on a comprehensive economic and trade accord. Seven months on from this announcement, an agreement has yet to be finalized.

We are talking here about an industry that generates many jobs. It is also important to point out that dairy and cheese producers have publicly expressed their concerns over the possible economic and commercial repercussions of this agreement on Canada’s dairy and cheese industries. Direct and indirect jobs are at stake, in both the production and processing sectors.

This motion aims to mitigate the potential impact of this agreement on the dairy and cheese industries. It also seeks support for Canada’s supply management system, which guarantees stable and fair prices, and in so doing protects our producers. We have consistently supported supply management in the dairy, poultry and egg sectors. This system is extremely important to our agricultural industry.

I am especially mindful of how important this system is, having talked to a great many producers from various sectors in my riding. If the terms of the agreement in principle are formalized in the final agreement, the EU will secure greater access to the Canadian cheese market. This would weaken one of the pillars of our supply management system, namely the regulation of imports. In the process, the system’s effectiveness would be threatened. As everyone knows, supply management is built on three pillars and if even one of those pillars is weakened, the entire system is put at risk. That is where the problem lies. Canada’s producers and dairy industry could incur losses. Canadian dairy farmers and their communities could lose a portion of their revenues to the European industry. That is not something we want to see because the economic development of communities and the jobs directly and indirectly linked to this sector would be affected.

As I said, the federal government has promised to compensate dairy and cheese producers, an offer that both Ontario and Quebec have accepted. This shows that producers are acting in good faith. However the government has yet to release any details of possible compensation options. This is not very reassuring for our producers or for the rest of us. My riding is home to a great many producers and its economy could be threatened.

I would also point out that in Canada, and in Quebec in particular, the dairy and cheese industries are flourishing. We have good reason to be proud of the growing variety of high quality products that have become available in recent years. In my view, it is critically important that we continue to support this industry, which helps sustain farms and farm labour.

Supply management does not involve subsidies. It does not provide handouts. At present, dairy producers are not receiving any government assistance. By comparison, in Europe, some producers are receiving government subsidies of up to 60%. Our dairy producers are not operating on an equal footing with European producers. This constitutes unfair competition. The situation does not work and is untenable.

The government conducted negotiations with Europe in a setting of utmost secrecy. The uncertainty created by this lack of transparency obviously had repercussions for the industry.

Investments in this sector are on hold while people wait to see how the industry will be affected by the agreement.

As I stated earlier, supply management is a system that works very well.

My six minutes have flown by. In the sixty seconds remaining, I will run down the list of organizations that support this motion: the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec, the Quebec Milk Producers Federation, the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec, the Association des artisans fromagers du Québec and the Association des transporteurs de lait du Québec.

All of these wonderful organizations support our motion and want to work constructively with the government to resolve the problems associated with this agreement.

Business of Supply June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is quite simple, and it all adds up: a society where the social fabric is strong, where people have an opportunity to rise out of poverty and do not have to resort to food banks or second-hand clothing stores to buy clothes is a society where people will consume more, drive more and feel better, whether we like it or not. Everybody will do better, even the wealthiest among us.

My question is simple. I would like to know why the government is investing billions of dollars—not millions of dollars, billions of dollars—in initiatives that will benefit just 15% of Canadians, Canadians who do not even need the help? Instead, we should be investing in social programs, for example, in homelessness initiatives or programs to assist seniors living in poverty or single-parent families, who will not benefit from this initiative, either.

I would like to know why the government does not put its money elsewhere.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I totally disagree with my colleague. In fact, I was born in Canada. I am not an immigrant, however I know many immigrants and political refugees. There are a number of communities in my riding, and I do not see why we would deprive those people of some great school or work experiences by forcing them to remain in Canada if they become Canadian citizens. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

I do not see why that is so important. I do not understand that and I find it somewhat stupid.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her excellent question.

As I mentioned in my speech, I find it very problematic that the government is depriving future citizens of experiences abroad that could be extremely interesting. That is something that could be challenged under the charter and that, in the end, could be unconstitutional.

I would like to say to the government that this is not the first time that their bills have ended up before the courts and have failed. That will be the case with the bill before us. The government should do its homework and try to introduce bills that adhere to our constitution and do not violate human rights. That would really be something.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to speak to this bill, which proposes significant amendments to the Citizenship Act and, as a result, to the lives of our immigrants.

I am particularly interested in this issue because there are many immigrants in my riding. There are also a lot of refugees, who also struggle to get citizenship, and I see that this bill will not make their lives earlier, even though they in no way deserve to be treated like this.

To provide some background, on February 6, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration introduced Bill C-24, which significantly amends Canadian immigration legislation.

The minister said that Bill C-24 represented the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act since 1977.

He went on to say:

[The bill] will protect the value of Canadian citizenship for those who have it while creating a faster and more efficient process for those applying to get it.

I doubt it. I have had a chance to carefully study this bill and I do not see a single change that will make the process faster and more efficient. This remains to be seen, but there is nothing concrete there.

Since March 2008, about 25 major changes have been made to immigration procedures, rules, laws and regulations. More and more changes have been made since the Conservatives won a majority, including the moratorium on sponsoring parents and grandparents. There have also been fewer family reunifications, which is very problematic. There is no point in elaborating on this because the expression “family reunification” is self-explanatory. I believe that in life we need to be with our family.

There is also the punishment imposed on vulnerable refugees. Do these people really need to be punished for crimes they did not necessarily commit? I doubt it. Then, there was an increase in the number of temporary foreign workers to meet the needs of large businesses, at the expense of many Canadian workers.

The significant changes made by the Conservatives to the Canadian immigration system did not improve the system's efficiency or fairness. Absolutely not. Some changes to the Citizenship Act proposed in this bill are long overdue. They address some flaws in the existing system and they should be mentioned. When our opponents do good work, we recognize it. We are not stupid.

However, certain clauses are changing the rules. They are totally unacceptable and, in my opinion and in my colleagues' opinion, they must be condemned. Before explaining the provisions that we will support and those that we will not support, I want to describe the changes proposed in the bill.

The bill gives the minister some major new powers, including the power to grant or revoke citizenship. It does not provide any real solutions to reduce the ever-increasing number of delays and the citizenship application processing wait times. It eliminates the use of the length of stay in Canada during a non-permanent residency. It bars individuals who have been convicted of what would constitute an indictable offence in Canada from acquiring citizenship. It includes a clause on the intention to reside in Canada. It increases residency requirements from three years out of four to four years out of six, and it specifies the requirements on physical presence in Canada before obtaining citizenship. It includes tougher sentences for fraud. It extends the granting of citizenship to lost Canadians. It provides an accelerated process to citizenship for Canadian Armed Forces personnel. It applies stricter rules to fraudulent immigration consultants. Also, applicants aged 14 to 64—it used to be 18 to 54—will now have to pass a test assessing their knowledge of French or English.

As I said earlier, we nevertheless support some provisions of this legislation. Other aspects raise a lot of concerns and must be condemned, such as the fact that Bill C-24 concentrates many powers in the hands of the minister, including the power to grant or revoke citizenship in the case of persons with dual citizenship.

I have often told the House that I am always uncomfortable when we give discretionary powers to ministers, because they are human. We all agree that they are not gods. These are very serious issues that should be examined by a committee made up of several individuals. Such issues, including the fate of political refugees, should not be in the hands of a single individual. It is unacceptable. Under the bill, the minister or an authorized official can revoke the citizenship if he is persuaded, on the balance of probabilities, that the person obtained citizenship by fraud.

Until now, these cases were usually referred to the courts. That will no longer be the case. However, these situations lend themselves to interpretation. A person suspected of fraud still has the right to a fair trial, like everyone else. In Canada, we are still innocent until proven guilty. That principle also applies to these individuals.

The minister may also revoke the citizenship of a person convicted under section 47 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason, high treason or espionage; or the citizenship of a person sentenced to at least five years of imprisonment for a terrorism offence under section 2 of the Criminal Code, or an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute a terrorism offence as defined in that section.

This provision does not in any way distinguish between convictions for terrorism in a democratic country such as Canada, with a credible and reliable justice system, and convictions in undemocratic regimes whose justice systems may be corrupted. We should look at this issue. I am going to give the minister the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he did not think about it, but I doubt it. Still, it would be pertinent to review these issues.

Bill C-24 also does not provide any real solutions to reduce the ever-increasing number of delays and the citizenship application processing wait times. I have said it many times, but it is important. Except for eliminating go-betweens and granting the minister a discretionary power, nothing is done to reduce processing times.

In other words, the quality of the processing is reduced. An application can be botched or it can be properly dealt with. A person could end up not being granted citizenship because the minister is not in a good mood. That is a little far-fetched. As I said earlier, I always feel uncomfortable when discretionary powers are given to ministers.

The declaration of intent to reside in the country also poses a slight problem. The bill introduces a requirement whereby a person to whom the minister grants citizenship must intend to reside in Canada after obtaining citizenship. The government maintains that this requirement is designed to send the message that citizenship is reserved for people who want to live in Canada. The law that is currently in effect does not include a provision on the intent to reside in the country.

The president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Lorne Waldman, said that this amendment gives public servants the power to speculate on a citizenship applicant's intentions and then refuse them citizenship based on that speculation.

I would like to briefly quote what he had to say. I find it very interesting. He said:

The provision also holds out the implicit threat that if a naturalized Canadian citizen takes up a job somewhere else (as many Canadians do), or leaves Canada to study abroad (as many Canadians do), the government may move to strip the person of citizenship because they misrepresented their intention to reside in Canada when they were granted citizenship.

That is rather problematic. In the end, people are basically trapped in the country. That is not really fair. People should be given the freedom to choose where they want to live. If they are not happy in Canada but they want to keep their citizenship, they should be able to study or work abroad and have that experience. I do not see what the problem is with that, and I do not understand why the government would prevent people from having that sort of experience.

In closing, I will quote section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

Every individual...has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about this free trade agreement between Canada and Honduras. Obviously, I am opposed to this agreement, and I am proud that my party is opposed to it too.

There are three fundamental criteria that must be considered when evaluating trade agreements. First, does the proposed partner respect democracy, human rights, adequate environmental and labour standards, and Canadian values? If there are challenges in this regard, is the partner on a positive trajectory toward these goals? Second, is the proposed partner's economy of significant or strategic value to Canada? Third, are the terms of the proposed agreement satisfactory?

Unfortunately, the free trade agreement with Honduras does not meet any of these criteria. I therefore do not really see why we would agree to sign such an agreement with that country.

Honduras is known for its undemocratic practices, its corrupt government, its weak institutions and a record of human rights abuses. It has poor standards and is of insignificant strategic value to Canada in the context of a free trade agreement. I therefore do not see the point of such an agreement.

The NDP wants increased trade with certain countries. Contrary to what the government seems to believe, we are not against trade, but we think it is important to do business with countries that uphold Canadian values and to conclude trade agreements that also benefit the Canadian economy.

Let me paint a picture of the country in question. It is a very poor country with repressive and anti-democratic political ideology. Honduras has an appalling human rights record. The democratically elected government of leftist President Manuel Zelaya was overturned by a military coup in 2009. The government's actions and the elections have since been heavily criticized by international observers for not meeting acceptable democratic standards.

The 2009 coup was carried out by the Honduran army under the pretext of a constitutional crisis that had developed between the Supreme Court and the president.The coup was widely condemned—I remember that because it was not so long ago—around the world, especially by all other Latin American countries, the European Union, the United States, and the UN General Assembly. Obviously it is very controversial.

I think it is important to point out that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and it is the most dangerous country for journalists. It also has very significant income disparity.

In taking stock of the situation, I came up with some questions. Is this really what Canada wants? Do we really want to flout human rights, democracy and social justice in the name of free trade and business? Is that really what we want as a country? That is what I am asking my colleagues.

In other words, the government is asking us to support undemocratic practices, corruption, crime and a growing gap between rich and poor.

Of course, the government is going to accuse us of opposing every free trade agreement, of being anti-trade and of being evil communists. Quite the opposite, actually. On this side of the House, we are keenly aware of how important trade is for our economy.

We, too, support Canadian exporters and we do not disagree with everything. However, we do not believe this should happen at any price, especially given that internal analyses done by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade have shown that Canada's economy stands to gain very little from this agreement.

Therefore, I am wondering why the government wants to trample many Canadian values for an agreement that will not even benefit our exporters and will certainly not benefit the Honduran people.

I really do not see the value of this agreement, and we are not the only ones. A number of stakeholders support our position, including Sheila Katz, a representative of the Americas Policy Group of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation. This is what she told the Standing Committee on International Trade on April 22, 2013:

The Americas Policy Group has recommended that Canada refrain from concluding free trade agreements with countries that have poor democratic governance and human rights records.

That says it all. This is what Neil Reeder, director general, Latin America and Caribbean Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said:

Corruption within the Honduran police force is a particular problem, which the Government of Honduras also recognizes. Largely because Central America is situated between the drug-producing countries of South America and the drug-consuming countries to the north, Honduras and its neighbours have been particularly affected by the growth of transnational drug trafficking, human trafficking, and the impact of organized crime. It's estimated that nearly 80% of all cocaine-smuggling flights departing South America touch land in Honduras before continuing northward.

I will end on that eloquent note. I could have quoted several other experts who oppose this agreement too, but I think these two quotes will suffice.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very pertinent question.

As I was saying earlier in response to another colleague, I hear from constituents every day, because they send me emails and letters, or drop by my office to complain about this government's schemes. They think this is particularly appalling.

People do not like this government's current approach to passing its budget and many of its bills, not to mention all the closure motions imposed this year.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this really does not make sense. I find it interesting that my colleague raises the fact that rail safety does not really belong in a budget. I was not concerned about that. However, the government seems to be in the habit of bundling together everything it wants to pass. It puts all kinds of things in the same bill, in this case the budget bill.

This comes back to what I was saying about the undemocratic process related to this bill and the fact that we do not have enough time to properly review each clause or each law that is amended in this bill.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 4th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very good question.

I too get lots and lots of comments from people in my riding who need help. These people are veterans and folks who have worked hard all their lives and do not really want to work two more years before they can retire. That is totally legitimate.

I agree with my colleague. I think that a responsible government should invest in social programs to make sure that people are okay and can live good lives.