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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is colleague.

NDP MP for Beloeil—Chambly (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Preclearance Act, 2016 June 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his kind words. He is praising me while the government is criticizing me.

This is very important. As I said, it is not as though we were debating a bill on a free trade agreement. This bill is on an agreement that was negotiated by the previous government. The Liberals tried to get out of it by saying that it was not their fault and that they had to make do. As I said in my speech, they could have simply renegotiated the agreement. There is no hope of renegotiating it with the current president because we know how that will go. Nonetheless, they had a year to work with another president with whom they had a positive relationship. They could have considered this possibility at the time.

That being said, it is also important to remember that, in March 2016, when the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was in Washington with the Prime Minister, they reiterated their support for this agreement. Let us stop blaming the previous government. The Liberals have to take responsibility for the fact that they are party to a bad agreement that violates Canadians' rights and freedoms, particularly with regard to American officers on Canadian soil. They need to take responsibility for that.

They support the bill. If they were not so lazy, as my colleague said, and if they really wanted to protect Canadians' right and freedoms, they would go back to the Americans and tell them that they will not go along with this measure. That is certainly what we would have done.

Preclearance Act, 2016 June 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, given that my colleague is also a lawyer, I will take her word for it as well, with pleasure. I was pleased to support many of her amendments. Many NDP amendments, if not quite identical, sought to accomplish the same goals. I want to thank her, in particular, for some of the amendments she proposed to change the language to protect permanent residents from some of these egregious powers. They could be particularly victimized in the event that they chose to withdraw from the preclearance zone. As MPs working with many permanent residents on the path to citizenship, we would not want these overarching powers for Americans to threaten their ability to get citizenship.

More specifically, to the notion of how things are perceived by an American officer versus a Canadian one, an issue with this bill is what would be considered reasonable suspicion. With some of the horror stories we have heard in the news lately, when even groups like the Girl Guides of Canada do not want to travel to the U.S. anymore because of how they might be treated at the border, we know that the threshold for reasonable suspicion is very different for an American officer than for a Canadian one. That is the problem when it comes to these kinds of situations. That is why my colleague and I proposed the amendments we did.

People may choose to withdraw from the preclearance zone because, for example, they refuse to answer a question like, “Why do you go to that mosque?” That is obviously a question that is purely racist in intent. When a question like that is posed, and a person says he or she will go home and not be treated that way, as the bill stands right now, that could be considered reasonable suspicion, which would lead to the detention measures, and so forth, in the bill. That is not something New Democrats are going to accept.

Preclearance Act, 2016 June 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the issue of cellphones. I had the opportunity to sit in on the ethics committee just last week when it was doing a study of privacy at the border. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and even their American counterpart, the ACLU, were talking about how critical this issue is. The two Canadian associations represented on that panel both raised the issue of the language in Bill C-23 with regard to pre-clearance and the consequences that can have, given a future presidential executive order that might come down relating to the search of cellphones.

The fact is, the parliamentary secretary, on a media panel we did when the bill was first debated in the House, said that we need not worry because there is an internal departmental directive. I am sorry, but I am not going to protect Canadians' rights with an internal departmental directive. I want it to happen in the legislation that is tabled in the House of Commons. This leads us to another debate, which is the fact that we need to update our laws based on how we treat cellphones at the border, but that is a whole other discussion in and of itself.

Regarding the specific question as to the actual remedies that exist, charter rights and Canadian law are mentioned in the bill as applying, but if we cannot take the person committing the offence to court because of other parts of the bill, then we have no legal remedy. What good are those protections if we cannot actually have them upheld in court and have any sort of consequence on the American officer, in this case, committing the offence? It is not just me who is saying that, but it is what, among others, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, told us in committee with regard to how the State Immunity Act plays out in this legislation.

Members do not have look to New Democrats, but they need to look to committee testimony from the independent witnesses and experts who specifically told us that this would be an issue. As I said, even my Conservative counterpart agreed with me. The Conservative public safety critic said that there would be no remedy, and he is a lawyer, so we can take his word for it, too.

Preclearance Act, 2016 June 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, if I were a member of the government, and saw how things were going in the Senate and the position the Liberals have put themselves in, I suppose I would be stirring around in the House in the same way.

We realize that the Liberals have said they are disappointed in withdrawing from Paris, and they remain completely silent on the matter of Trump's travel ban, which was outright discrimination, and flew in the face of everything we should stand for as Canadians. This is exactly what we have here with this agreement.

Once again, we see Liberal MPs in committee saying, “It is too bad. That is what the agreement is, and we have to live with it.” No, we as New Democrats refuse to just live with it. We will not accept creating loopholes in legislation just for economic gain, which we acknowledge pre-clearance can bring, just to give all these extra powers that just simply are not necessary.

If pre-clearance, as it happens today, right now, before the adoption of this legislation, is so great, as the government tells us, I keep asking the same question that I asked at the outset of my speech. Why do the Americans need all these new powers? I guess the answer would be simply because they asked for them. That is not justification enough for creating a situation where American officers can limit Canadians' rights on Canadian soil. We will not accept that.

I want to wrap up by saying that we proposed a number of amendments in committee that would have added the necessary legal protection. We even wanted to change the word “sex” to “gender” to protect transgender people.

I remember that, on the day of the photo with the pride flag and the Prime Minister in front of Parliament, everyone was running up for a picture, as usual. The government was too chicken to agree to that change so the language of the bill would be in sync with the times, open, and inclusive. They are happy to do photo ops, but they refuse to protect transgender Canadians in the legislation, and yet they go on about walking the talk.

We proposed amendments that would have guaranteed protections for Canadians. A strip search would be conducted only by a Canadian agent on Canadian soil. The government rejected that. We also proposed amendments to ensure clearer language, for instance regarding something the bill calls “lawful authority”. This is important considering how the bill is currently drafted. In fact, “lawful authority” could be an executive order. It could be the kind of executive order that states that all travellers, whether they are Canadian from Canada or from anywhere else in the world, who enter the United States must unlock their cellphone and social networks. This could be unconstitutional and yet this bill leaves the door wide open to that.

Once again, that is completely unacceptable.

We see the uncertainly with regard to the cavalier way in which the current U.S. administration treats cellphones at the border, for example. A Canadian from Vancouver was turned away at the Washington state border because American agents went through his cellphone. When they realized his sexual orientation, they were afraid he was going to the U.S. to be a sex worker.

Who is to say we will not see that kind of thing happen on Canadian soil? It is very possible with the way the bill is drafted.

In closing, I want to reiterate that when it comes to free trade agreements or any other agreement to be negotiated with the United States, Europe, or any other country we might deal with, we in the NDP will never agree to sacrificing the rights and freedoms of Canadians, especially on Canadian soil, let alone for an administration like the current American administration. That is non-negotiable.

We recognize the economic benefits of preclearance and the convenience of it under the current regime. However, there is nothing to justify negotiating an agreement that gives the big end of the stick, in fact the only stick, to American agents, on Canadian soil, to breach the rights of Canadians. We will never will stand for that.

Preclearance Act, 2016 June 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-23 today. Since the last time this came up in the House, we have gone through the committee review process, and I would now like to share some of my thoughts.

I would like to begin, though, by reiterating why we, New Democrats, are opposed to Bill C-23. First, it grants egregious powers to American officers on Canadian soil. I want to make it clear that we recognize the benefits of preclearance, which is already happening. That is why we have to wonder why expanding a system that is already working very well means giving American officers all of these additional powers. We never did get an answer to that question from the minister or other experts who testified in favour of the bill.

The government's main argument, which we heard earlier in the parliamentary secretary's speech, is about the economic benefit of expanding the preclearance process, which would happen in more airports, train stations, and eventually, border crossings.

If that is the only argument in favour of doing this, we need to ask ourselves what justifies these additional powers.

Let us go through some of the powers to be given to American agents, on Canadian soil, through the bill and through the deal that was been signed by the Government of Canada and the U.S. administration.

First, there is the excessive powers of American agents in a situation where a traveller chooses to leave a preclearance zone. The minister assures us this is okay, that it simply has to do with the safety and integrity of these preclearance zones. We have police, CBSA officers, and other forms of security in airports already. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why an American agent would be given the power, on Canadian soil, to question a Canadian who chooses to leave the preclearance zone and, even in some cases, detain that individual under the vague language in the bill.

A Canadian would rightfully say that this seems reasonable, that if someone leaves the preclearance zone, it must be suspicious. That is not the case. We have seen some of the treatment Canadian citizens receive at the border. They are victims of American agents based on their religious beliefs, or the colour of their skin or their country of origin. This was testimony at committee. Who is to say that Canadians of certain origins might decide that an abusive line of questioning is not something they are willing to accept, so they decide to take their bags and go home. That would be sufficient reason to leave the preclearance zone. Unfortunately, under the bill, and under the agreement, that would allow the American officer, on Canadian soil, to potentially go all the way to detain them and interrogate them. We find that unacceptable.

The other very important matter has to do with strip searches, another issue raised by the parliamentary secretary. We can all agree that we give up some of our rights when we go through customs. For instance, we allow our luggage to be searched. Still, I have difficulty understanding why we should allow American agents to search Canadian citizens on Canadian soil.

The bill states that if no Canadian agents are available or willing to do the search, perhaps because they do not consider it necessary, an American agent may do it. The minister justified this by saying that it is nothing to worry about because in the 60 years that preclearance has existed, no Canadian agent has ever been unavailable or unwilling to do a search.

Just because the exception happens to prove the rule in this case does not mean that this legislation safeguards the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

Legislation cannot be drafted on the premise that the exceptions prove the rule. Our legislation must be robust and comprehensive in order to ensure that there are no potential loopholes that would allow the rights of Canadians to be violated on Canadian soil.

The other issue is with regard to the carrying of firearms. The bill, based on reciprocity found in the agreement, would exempt American agents from elements of the Criminal Code that would normally prevent an American agent officer from carrying firearms on Canadian soil.

The minister has assured us that there are memoranda of understanding that it is reciprocity, and that this would only happen in places where Canadian border officers are already carrying firearms. The example the minister gave was at Pearson airport where the Peel Regional Police ensures security. The American agents would not be carrying firearms because Canadian agents do not. It is the local police that ensure the security of the airport.

I asked the minister in committee if he could tell me, given the fact that the bill would specifically create these Criminal Code exemptions, if there was any other legal provision or protection beyond memoranda of understanding, which have no legal authority, and the agreement, that would prevent an American border officer from carrying a firearm. The response received was no response at all. There are no guarantees to say there is any legal remedy for an American officer that might be in said airport, for example, at Pearson, on Canadian soil carrying a firearm. That is not acceptable.

In committee, we identified a number of problems with the process. I asked officials from the Department of Public Safety a question in order to find out what regulatory changes would be made. The government is making regulatory changes to address the cases of people who are exempt from certain procedures. Take, for example, employees who work in a port and who would need access to a preclearance area to do their job every day. They would not be subject to American authority while at work, which is the least we could expect. These are the kinds of exemptions that the regulations would change.

In committee, we debated a bill that makes fundamental changes, yet no one was able to tell us what regulations would be changed. Everyone knows that regulations are not subject to debate in the House because parliamentarians do not vote on them. One fundamental problem with the changes made by the agreement and by Bill C-23 has to do with the minister's discretionary power.

I will give the department credit because it did provide a written answer to my questions. However, in the written answer, the department indicated that it was uncertain which regulations would be affected. We think it is unacceptable that we are not being given a definitive answer on this.

The government's main argument around all these issues around Canadians' rights potentially being violated by American border officers on Canadian soil is not to worry because Canadian law and charter rights apply. That is what the bill says, but what would the bill actually do?

In committee, witness after witness reminded us that, because of the State Immunity Act and how the bill is drafted, there really is no legal remedy. Even the Conservative public safety critic sitting on the committee, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, agreed that there is no legal recourse.

Why is that important? The protections accorded to us as Canadians by law and charter, if those rights are violated, what do we need to do? We need to go to court to uphold those rights. If we cannot bring the American officer to court, based on how this bill is drafted, then there is no remedy. Those charter protections are just words on paper and not given force of law and force of our constitutional rights. That is totally unacceptable to us.

A specific argument was raised both in committee and here in the House. The Liberals claimed they were bound by the agreement to enact certain provisions, and that they were sorry if some members did not like it. They added that the agreement was negotiated and signed under the previous Conservative government and under the Obama administration, and not under the current president, and we have to live with it.

It takes courage to say that this is a bad agreement. After the study in committee, where we heard from groups like the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, various associations representing Canadians from countries targeted by President Trump's executive orders, and the Canadian Bar Association, we concluded that it was a bad agreement. It takes courage to tell the Americans that we will not allow the rights of Canadians to be jeopardized because of the presence of American agents on Canadian soil. I think that is the minimum we can do.

The Prime Minister himself actually said that if Canadians are subject to racial profiling or their rights are violated at customs, at least it will happen in Canada where they are protected by Canadian laws and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What this really tells me is that we currently have a serious problem regarding how American agents are treating Canadian citizens at the border. The situation is completely unacceptable.

The previous government signed the agreement. The former public safety minister, now the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, signed the agreement with his American counterpart, but the Conservatives did not get the bill through the House to set up the legislative measures needed to implement the agreement. I gather from what they said in committee that the Conservatives felt there were problems with the agreement. They may not be as disappointed as us about the loopholes this will create, but even the Conservatives on the committee recognized that it would not be appropriate for an American officer to strip search someone on Canadian soil.

It is about time, when it comes to dealing with the Americans, that we have a government that understands that when we negotiate, we do not just give. We have to get something in return, and in this agreement, beyond the expansion of where pre-clearance takes place, all we have seen here is the government being really willing to roll over, and give all these new powers to American agents on Canadian soil.

House of Commons June 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, without wanting to take up too much time, I would like to add my voice to those of the two leaders who just spoke.

First, I would like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for overseeing the proceedings in this place that can sometimes be quite noisy. Similarly, I thank the table officers who, as well, must work and concentrate in a sometimes chaotic work environment. I would also like to add my voice to those of my colleagues in thanking Mr. Bosc, who will be leaving us, for all the work that he has done.

I want to thank the government House leader. We certainly do not always agree on everything, but the important thing is that we have managed to come together at the end, and at least as we go off into the sunset in the summer, we are perhaps a bit more serene than we were at the beginning of the sitting.

I echo the same sentiment to the opposition House leader. I know that my colleague from Victoria certainly wanted to pass along his thanks as well for the discussions that, while not always easy, at least have ended on a positive note as we move back to our constituencies for the coming summer months.

I would also like to thank the security officers, hoping that over the next few months, the much-awaited respect that has been requested can be restored. As my colleagues have done, I would also like to thank the support staff who ensure that the House of Commons runs smoothly. While they may not appear on television, the staff make it possible for us to be here, day after day, in a healthy work environment. This of course includes the bus drivers, among others.

We certainly thank the cafeteria staff and those who take care of maintenance all around these beautiful buildings in the precinct, those who provide the mail services, and those involved in all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure that this place is always running on time, as well as the people who make us look good.

Lastly, like my colleagues, I wish to thank the pages, who will be enjoying the summer and moving on to new adventures. As our collective experience has shown, some of them will return to the House of Commons, perhaps as MPs, or in other capacities, working for members or for the House of Commons. In any case, we would like to give them a huge thanks as they embark on their new adventures. On behalf of New Democrats, I wish them all, as well as all of our House of Commons colleagues, a wonderful summer.

I hope they will take that time, as the opposition House leader said, to be with their families. That time is precious. The things in here do not matter in comparison to health, family, and all of those things that we cannot take for granted. I hope they will enjoy that time. Most importantly, I hope they will work hard in their constituency, which is of course why Canadians elected us.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I wish everyone a happy summer.

Public Safety June 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the committee of parliamentarians does not have full access; the consultation took nearly two years, while CSIS continued to use these new abusive powers that it has. The promise was to fix a bill as a way to hide from the fact that they endorsed the Conservatives' draconian agenda. The Federal Court ruled a few months ago that it was illegal for CSIS to retain bulk metadata. What we see in Bill C-59 is simply formalizing and legalizing what the court deemed illegal.

Could the minister explain where in the consultations he was told by experts and Canadians that it was the right thing to do?

Public Safety June 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, having voted in favour of the Harper government's Bill C-51, the minister is finally presenting the promised reforms, but they are unfortunately incomplete.

The security of Canada information sharing act can have its name changed, but that is only a cosmetic change that does not protect the information shared by national security agencies.

Why has the minister not addressed one of the most controversial aspects of the former Bill C-51?

Infrastructure June 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the issue here is about respect for Parliament and passing a fundamental change to how we fund infrastructure projects. Without proper study is not the way to do it.

Clearly, there were not enough consultations, and the most blatant example relates to Quebec, since the infrastructure bank is going to ignore Quebec laws. A more thorough study of the bill would have allowed us to examine these kinds of issues related to the infrastructure bank. There is no time for that under the leadership of this Prime Minister.

Why is the government so determined to move ahead with this plan for the infrastructure bank? Why is it so determined to keep us from giving it the consideration it deserves?

Infrastructure June 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is fighting with his new independent Senate over splitting the infrastructure bank from the omnibus budget bill, but if the Liberals had kept their promises and worked with parliamentarians and not used budget omnibus bills, they would not be in this awkward, difficult situation.

The finance minister revealed his hand last week at committee, when he said it would be “absurd” to tell a private company to move a project from Montreal to Winnipeg. Why are the Liberals putting corporate profit ahead of the interests of Canadians, and why will they not allow us to properly study this bill?