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  • 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

Public Safety September 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, on a day when we are talking about the Prime Minister's youth council, maybe we should start thinking about what kind of planet we are leaving for those young people.

Torture is immoral. It is ineffective and goes against every one of our international commitments to human rights. The ministerial directive allowing the use of information obtained through torture is still in place under the Liberals. This practice tarnishes Canada's reputation and certainly goes against our values.

Will the government repeal that directive or not?

Business of Supply September 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I do not think my colleague actually read the motion, because that is not the position that is in question. What is actually in front of us is a motion to create a committee to study the export of arms. In fact, I think that is something he could appreciate, because I am looking over the comments he made in the last election. Even before that, in 2011, he actually called Saudi Arabia's princes “tyrants”, comparing them to such colourful characters as Colonel Gadhafi, the shah of Iran, and Saddam Hussein. When he was asked how he reconciled that with the position he now has, he said, “I was elected on October 19th. I can't say I've had as much time as others have, in the previous government, for example, to look at this and analyze it.”

That is great to hear because we want to give him that opportunity with the creation of this committee. We are not flip-flopping here. We just want members like him to be able to sit down with experts and witnesses, and analyze this so we can better understand the role Canada is playing with the export of arms. What does he think of that?

Business of Supply September 29th, 2016

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

Yes, as he said, it is time that we honour our international commitments. That said, we need to get the ball rolling here, at home. If Canada intends to step onto the world stage as an instrument for peace, an advocate for human rights, and a constructive voice in what are sometimes very difficult debates and discussions, it must start here.

We need a government that is willing to delve deep into these issues. Before it can lecture others, the government must ensure that all the right things are being done at home and that we are honouring the same principles that we expect others to follow.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we are not hiding behind any rules, on the contrary. It is thanks to the NDP that the Bloc Québécois was able to participate in the special committee on electoral reform and I am very proud of that.

The matter before us right now concerns the creation of a standing committee. I am not at all hiding behind the rules, which are open and transparent to everyone. That is the reality before us.

At the end of the day, the ball is in the government's court, and it is important that it support the proposal in order to ensure real transparency when it comes to arms exports.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, first, Canada should have acceded to the Arms Trade Treaty a long time ago. We are pleased to see that today. However, it is just one piece of the puzzle. The government is focusing on that aspect of the issue, but we want to examine a broader issue.

As I pointed out in my speech, the government believes that the existing regulations are adequate, but there is no follow-up. The situation is changing rapidly and such a committee would allow us to monitor it.

Take for example Saudi Arabia and the information that was made public, including the videos that were posted following the election.

My colleague mentioned that there are other committees, but the issue before us extends well beyond the mandate of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

The United Kingdom set up a similar committee and it is working well. Why not do the same thing here in Canada?

Business of Supply September 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Burnaby South.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favour of the motion moved today by my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie. Obviously, it is a very important issue.

I would like to begin by expressing how disappointed I was to learn from this morning's debate that the Liberal government plans to vote against this motion to create an arms export review committee, despite its rhetoric about openness and transparency.

While recognizing the discourse on human rights, which we appreciated for the most part, and the support the Conservative Party offered to my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie regarding its proposal at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to create a subcommittee on the issue, I am still disappointed that the Conservatives will not be supporting the motion.

When I heard the parliamentary secretary's speech, I felt a bit of déjà vu. That was exactly the kind of speech I used to hear in the previous Parliament. We were told that no such committee was necessary, because we already had the tools required, we needed to put the economy first, and so on. I am extremely disappointed.

With regard to economic issues, I have to say that the beauty of creating this committee is that it will allow us to study all aspects of the issue. At present, the mandate of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is too narrow. Furthermore, the great thing about creating this committee is that it provides an opportunity to study international trade, Canadian defence and industry policies, as well as to examine issues related to foreign affairs and the protection of human rights. All these issues deserve serious consideration.

The government argues that this committee is not needed because the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is currently conducting a study. The House and Canadians are being misled. Why? First, the Arms Trade Treaty requires that we study its implementation and any legislative amendments. That is only one specific aspect.

Furthermore, members know that a committee conducts studies and hears from witnesses. However, to be honest, the time available is very limited. We sometimes would like to study the subject in more depth. However, a bill may require a change to the timetable, which can affect the committee's work.

Given all these limitations, the human rights abuses in various countries to which Canada exports weapons, and Canadians' legitimate concerns, we firmly believe that this issue deserves further study on an ongoing basis.

There is a precedent for this. In 1999, the United Kingdom created a similar committee responsible for conducting the same type of examinations, for example, a review of the government's annual report. In addition to conducting an in-depth study of these issues, the United Kingdom's committee also submits an annual report on arms exports and hears from many witnesses.

I heard some Conservative members asking if there will ever be an end to the creation of standing committees. They were wondering whether we are going to create a committee for every issue. In my opinion, the issue before us warrants the creation of a standing committee. Why? Because Canada's arms exports have increased. In fact, Canada has become the second largest exporter of arms to the Middle East after the United States, and that raises many concerns. Of course, we also think a committee should be created for the same reasons that the parliamentary secretary talked about in her speech. She mentioned this industry's importance to Canada several times.

In my opinion, that is just one more reason why we should create such a committee. It would allow us to conduct a parliamentary review and monitor this important industry on an ongoing basis.

The NDP and I believe that the most important thing is human rights. The interesting thing is that I know that members are going to quote things that were said during the election campaign. There is no contradiction there. What we are asking the government to do is to keep its promise to be open and transparent and to give more power to parliamentarians who are not in cabinet. A committee like this one would allow us to meet those objectives. It is disappointing to see the government rejecting this solution, particularly after all its talk about openness and transparency.

Nonetheless, let us come back to the potential criticisms. Look at all the information that has come to light since the election campaign. We even saw videos posted by the Globe and Mail showing how Saudi Arabia uses these arms or these jeeps, as the Prime Minister likes to call them. Let us be honest, these are very serious problems and this new information gives us pause for thought. This is not a matter of having a contract, but a matter of issuing export permits. That is a very important nuance that the government and the minister do not seem to grasp.

The minister told the House that he would be prepared to reconsider if he were given new information, but he is not keeping his word. That is one more reason to create a committee to address this issue, so that parliamentarians are not hampered by the minister's discretionary power. We have to be able to conduct this study ourselves without being hindered by the existing committee. In light of the Liberals' refusal to create a subcommittee on arms exports, we find that we cannot rely on the good faith of the existing committee. We have to form a specific committee to study this matter thoroughly.

I wonder why the Liberals are afraid to create this committee. I have yet to hear a strong or convincing argument from a Liberal member to justify their refusal to create this committee. All the parties are saying the right thing about respecting human rights abroad. So why not allow parliamentarians to monitor the situation and report to the House to help us keep our international commitments and uphold our values of protecting human rights?

I am very concerned because we are being told in no uncertain terms that we do not need this committee and that there are not enough resources. They are also quoting irrelevant snippets from the campaign. We want to hear a real argument against the creation of a committee.

After all, the Liberals would have a majority on the committee. They need not fear being backed into a corner, being made to feel ill at ease, or pushed into doing something the government does not want to do. We just want to ensure that the process is transparent so that Canadians can once again have confidence in the system.

These are the same arguments that we raised yesterday when debating the creation of an oversight committee for national security agencies. This is not just about reviewing facts and involving parliamentarians; it is about our relationship with Canadians. Opinion polls and our conversations with Canadians indicate that they have lost confidence in this process, especially since Canada does not monitor its arms exports.

Despite the parliamentary secretary's comments about the excellent regulations we have and the assessments carried out by Canada before exporting arms, it is also important to follow up because the world is quickly changing. As was said several times this morning, there are very complex diplomatic situations around the world. I would hope that the government recognizes the importance of monitoring these situations.

In closing, Canadians are increasingly becoming citizens of the world. We know that people care about protecting human rights. Canada has values and international commitments.

Government members keep repeating their famous empty phrase, “Canada is back”. However, those are just words. We do not just want to hear them say it. We want them to make it a reality. We want real transparency and we want them to create a committee that will examine this issue and give power back to parliamentarians and, by extension, to Canadians, so that they can again have confidence in their institutions and the work we are doing.

This increasingly worrisome situation must be monitored in order to protect human rights. That is why I am pleased to support the motion of my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie. I hope that the Liberals will see things the same way, regardless of the government's position.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I appreciate the support the Conservatives are giving my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie for her efforts to create a subcommittee to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

My colleague did a fine job illustrating the fact that some very complex situations, including in the Middle East, sometimes require a contradictory policy. Sometimes diplomats are called to do very complicated work and Canada has to make tough choices.

This further motivates me to support the creation of a committee that will specifically address arms exports. This committee could keep working indefinitely on examining these evolving situations. In 1999, the United Kingdom created a similar committee.

Does the hon. member not agree that despite the limited resources of the House, this requires a thorough and ongoing study?

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I certainly hope that my colleague will speak to his constituents, because I have no doubt that folks in Toronto want to see Bill C-51 repealed as soon as possible.

However, I will address his questions about the consultation that is happening now by quoting the Privacy Commissioner in the press release that accompanied his report yesterday. Commissioner Therrien said:

The scope of these consultations is too narrow. They don’t appear to be looking at key privacy concerns related to Bill C-51, such as the inadequate legal standards which allow for excessive information-sharing.

That quote speaks for itself. We welcome consultation, but what was promised in the last election campaign was consultation on a concrete proposal. There are no concrete proposals before the House except the one from the NDP asking for the repeal of Bill C-51.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, this is hardly my first speech in the House, but it is my first as public safety critic, and it is my pleasure to speak to such a crucial bill.

This is one of the many elements we debated during the previous Parliament in the context of Bill C-51 and the parties' election promises. I want to make it clear that we have a lot of criticisms, which I will cover in my speech.

We are willing to support the bill at second reading simply because it is a good first step. The NDP has long believed that we need to create this committee. However, there are some serious problems with the government's approach.

Before we get into the composition of the committee, I think it is important to point out many of the inconsistencies in the government's approach to this particular file, whenever it comes to proposing anything. We still have not heard, despite the minister's great grocery list in question period yesterday, what the actual plan is. There is no bill before the House, despite a lot of talk, as is becoming far too typical on the part of the government.

Well, there is one bill, the bill from my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, which seeks to repeal Bill C-51.

That said, we are hearing about all these grand plans from the government to bring specific changes, with no actual legislative plan in place.

The other problem is that we can form committees, create all sorts of mechanisms, but the fact is some already exist. One that springs to mind is the Security Intelligence Review Committee. That committee, which currently exists, reviews the activities of CSIS. The way things stand right now, in light of the budget the government brought down in March 2016 and according to the employees of that very committee, funding is expected to drop by $2.5 million annually. Over the next few years, this will lead to the loss of 11 employees assigned to overseeing CSIS. We can certainly form a committee, but we are definitely starting off on the wrong foot if resources are lacking due to budget cuts.

The other big issue is one that has come up a few times. With all kidding aside, we have been parsing the words. The Minister of Foreign Affairs seems to want us to distinguish between “discussions” and “negotiations”. In this regard, I would like the government to understand the difference between “review” and “oversight”. These are not the same thing, despite some of the speeches we are hearing from our colleagues on the other side of the House.

The key to protecting Canadians' rights and freedoms is to have proper oversight, not after-the-fact “review” done at the behest of the minister and the Prime Minister. This word “review” is the other one we seem to be having to parse, in response to the answer given by my colleague in the previous speech.

I will concede that the reports might not be edited, but it will be hard to figure them out under all the black Sharpie that will be left by the Prime Minister on the grounds of national security. That is cause for concern.

After all, the MPs on this committee will swear an oath and be trustworthy. The bill gives the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Prime Minister a lot of discretion and that makes me think of the Conservatives' argument when we were debating Bill C-51 during the last Parliament.

The Conservatives argued, or at least strongly implied, that we needed to trust the authorities, that we could not trust parliamentarians to do this type of review, and that independent committees already existed.

I find it downright disturbing because giving cabinet that much power reminds me of the Conservatives' argument. Again, though the government may have changed colours, its approach remains the same.

As I said, we support the bill at second reading so that we can try to make some important changes. At the end of the day, we cannot say no to forming this committee because, after all, it is what we wanted. Nonetheless, there are some serious flaws that need to corrected, as I said from the outset.

Clearly, the first flaw is the election of the chair. Ultimately, the chair will ensure that the committee will be independent, which will be difficult if the chair is chosen by the Prime Minister.

As I mentioned in my earlier question, we heard from our cousins from the U.K., when they came here at the invitation of the minister himself last week. They shared with us how important it was in the debate they had when creating a similar committee that the chair be elected. I heard the argument from my Liberal colleague before that this does not matter, because the opposition members will be in the majority on the committee anyway. That is not the issue here. The issue is not about which party is the majority. The issue is not leaving it up to cabinet who is carrying the committee. Parliamentarians from all parties need to have a say. I have no doubt that the Liberal members of the committee will make a wise choice to ensure the independence of the committee, much more independence that when it is coming down from the PMO.

We will have to make another important change. Once again, I am going back to the points I raised earlier. I am referring to the discretionary authority granted the minister and the Prime Minister. We have serious concerns about this and we want to debate it.

I am taking the opportunity to return to yesterday's news and the Privacy Commissioner's report.

I will read one excerpt from the chapter on Bill C-51 in the Privacy Commissioner's report. He said:

While our Office welcomed legislation to create a Parliamentary committee to oversee matters related to national security as a positive first step, we have also recommended expert or administrative independent review or oversight of institutions permitted to receive information for national security purposes.

What that says, and I certainly hope it will not be the case, is that the government cannot sit on its laurels now that it has tabled this bill. This is only one piece of a far larger, more complicated puzzle.

Nonetheless, the position of inspector general of CSIS was eliminated by the Conservative government. The NDP has been asking for a long time that this position be re-established to allow greater independent oversight by people who, unlike us parliamentarians, have some expertise in the matter. Those two items are closely related and that is the important thing.

To bolster this argument, I will mention the minister's response concerning the government's approach when we asked him about the ministerial directives concerning torture. I am taking this opportunity to officially state in the house that the NDP is calling for the repeal of these directives, because it is completely unacceptable that a country like Canada allows the use of information acquired through torture. The practice does not benefit public safety in the least, and quite frankly, it is immoral and goes against our international commitments.

When we asked the minister the question, he told us not to worry and that the government would establish a committee to deal with such questions and provide oversight. Come on. It is ludicrous to claim that striking a committee makes it okay to keep such a directive in place.

I will say this with all due respect, because it is worth repeating in both official languages that we in the New Democratic Party absolutely want to see this ministerial directive that allows for the use of information on torture taken off the books and gone. It is completely unacceptable that in a country like Canada, we would even ponder using that kind of information. This is not information that will ensure the safety of Canadians and it goes against our values and our international commitments. I will say once again, when the minister stands in the House and says that it is okay, because they have Bill C-22 and we should not worry because all of these things will be supervised, that is absurd. The Liberals are using the bill as an escape hatch, and we do not want to see that.

It is important to understand that this is a first step in the right direction. Although the bill before us may be vague and flawed, it is in keeping with the concept that was also proposed by the NDP. This is one of many issues that were raised in the debate on Bill C-51. I hope that the members opposite will listen to what we have to say.

I repeat that we are trusting the Liberal members who sit on this committee to elect a chair and access the information without the Prime Minister exercising his veto power and covering that information up with a big black marker.

After all, we certainly do not want Bill C-22 to become an excuse for not repealing or making major changes to Bill C-51, which violates the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I heard my colleague allude to the fact that it was okay to give the Prime Minister this discretionary power over redacting reports, because it could be done in consultation with the chair, so I ask my colleague this. Does that not, then, raise the concern about the chair being hand-picked by the Prime Minister and not being elected by the members of the committee?

Our cousins from the U.K. visited us last week and the Conservative MP who chairs that committee talked about the successful model they have and the fight they had to elect the chair. Is that not something the member would be willing to consider?