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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Vaudreuil—Soulanges (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 26% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act May 7th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the members' speeches. There seems to be unanimous consent for the bill to be sent to the Senate. I would like to thank the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for having introduced such a bill. I would like to direct the members' attention to the purpose of the bill, the creation of a new offence: the prohibition of the possession, production, sale or importing of anything knowing it will be used to produce or traffic in methamphetamine or ecstasy, a crime more serious than simple possession. This bill provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years less a day. The fundamental purpose of this bill is to create an offence for possession of substances found in these chemical drugs with intent to manufacture methamphetamine or ecstasy.

I would like to point out, on behalf of the people in my riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges and many other places in Quebec, that the ease with which young people can obtain methamphetamine or ecstasy has raised a lot of concerns in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges RCM.

The average age in my riding is very low compared to the average age in Quebec. Consequently, youth -related issues have been raised from various perspectives. In my remarks, I will address certain issues and describe as best I can my constituents' comments about the challenges that young people must overcome.

I am convinced that the consumption of methamphetamine and ecstasy is a serious issue. Given the detrimental effect of taking these drugs on the health of the population, particularly young people, I empathize with the families living with a victim, a person who has become addicted to these drugs.

In terms of legal amendments and law enforcement, the production of all illicit drugs is already on the books. The Bloc Québécois agrees with the principle of the bill. I hope that it will quickly pass in the Senate and that it will reduce the use of these stimulants by young people.

Last week, the Canadian Police Association made us aware of the difficulties currently experienced by police forces in gathering evidence to bring serious charges. Not only must they find these substances at someone's home, but there must also be circumstances to establish that these substances were collected with the intention of manufacturing drugs, and the intent must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

I might bring a different point of view to this bill, because of the volunteer work I have done with young people and the special ties I have to community organizations in my riding. I do not believe that the provisions of the bill alone are sufficient. We also need to work on awareness and prevention. We need to encourage comprehensive initiatives.

I am convinced we can do much better. I am particularly proud of two organizations in my riding and I hope they will pursue the important work they are doing. For instance, one organization in my riding, Comité Jeunesse La Presqu'île, founded 10 years ago, has introduced a number of projects for the well being of youth aged 11 to 17. These projects are carried out in partnership with youth centres, the school board, street outreach workers, the municipalities and the Sûreté du Québec. They are achieving real results in terms of youth crime rates.

Here is another example of co-operation. Any child who attended an elementary or secondary school in Beauharnois-Salaberry, Jardins-de-Napierville, Roussillon, Haut-Saint-Laurent or Vaudreuil-Soulanges in the last 20 years has likely had the opportunity to meet the people involved in the “Liberté de choisir” organization during one of their visits to the schools. The organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and has successfully adapted to the changing times. Today that organization offers young people various workshops on adopting healthy lifestyle choices and the development of social and personal skills to learn how to deal with the problem of drug use. It meets with young people who want to take part in social and professional integration programs in youth centres. A program for parents called “Roller Coasters” has been developed to help them better understand and deal with drug use among young people.

Once again, any effective strategy to combat the scourge of drug use must include awareness and prevention.

These drugs, which are stimulants, are becoming more popular in all milieus in Quebec and young people can access them very easily in schools, sometimes even in elementary schools, much like cigarettes. According to the stakeholders in those two organizations, the sharp increase in the consumption of energy drinks and the appearance of stimulating drugs like speed and ecstasy are enough to justify increased efforts. The content of these drugs is often unknown and studies show that the tablets are often altered.

Young people do not know the risks they are taking or the long-term effects on their health. I found something that perfectly sums up the danger to our young people. An article in the July 6, 2009 edition of the Journal de Québec said:

—you want to try it again? You are playing with fire...What appeared to be the gateway to heaven could in fact be the gateway to hell.

Ecstasy and methamphetamine are harmful to health and highly addictive. Methamphetamine or MA is also known as chalk, crank, crystal, fire, ice, jib, meth, speed, gak, glass, tina, yaba and crystal meth.

These drugs are made in secret labs from ingredients that are easy to get in pharmacies, hardware stores and other retail outlets. My colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin gave a list of products used to make these drugs.

Like all the other Canadian provinces, Quebec is active in prevention and intervention, which come under its jurisdiction.

Specifically, Quebec's actions are guided by five principles: adapting the intervention to the individual's situation; determining the individual's ability to take charge of his or her health; sharing collective responsibility; taking actions based on knowledge and experience; and working with the community.

What is disturbing about drugs like methamphetamine and ecstasy is that what goes into them can be found in every household in Quebec and Canada. The ingredients needed to produce these drugs are available in stores: rubbing alcohol, iodine, lithium batteries, matchbooks, paint thinner, aluminum foil, glassware, coffee filters, propane tanks and so on.

Most households in Canada and Quebec already have some of the ingredients needed to make methamphetamine.

I still believe that proper, adequate support for an integrated, youth-focused intervention plan can not only reduce addiction problems, but produce much better outcomes in terms of young people's health, how they function in society and the criminal justice system.

We have to do everything we can to prevent people, especially young people, from obtaining these harmful drugs.

The money for the drug strategy must not be put toward law enforcement initiatives alone. Prevention and awareness activities must be eligible for funding as well.

Firearms Registry May 7th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, in 2006, someone said that the gun registry should continue. Who said that? None other than Senator Boisvenu. That statement is in sharp contrast with his most recent one, to the effect that the register only has symbolic value.

However, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Association of Police Boards as well as the survivors of École Polytechnique, to name just a few groups, are quite definite on that point. Far from being symbolic, the registry is an efficient and practical tool that helps save lives. It is consulted more than 13,000 times per day.

Twenty years later, with the future of the registry at stake, time has come to stand up for the rights of women and children and help fight violence against them. Well beyond a white ribbon campaign, if the NDP leader wants to do something, he should get his entire caucus to vote in favour of maintaining the firearms registry in its entirety.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act May 6th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. A group of military personnel is currently excluded from this bill because it is not retroactive.

Does my colleague support this measure? Will he ask the committee to have a closer look at these measures and amend the bill?

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act May 6th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote the veterans ombudsman:

Military personnel should not have to worry about their living standards. They should know that, no matter what their injuries, they will be able to meet the needs of their families and themselves. They should not have to worry about the rest of their lives while they are trying to heal physical and psychological wounds.

That says it all and summarizes the importance of the situation of soldiers returning home. The families of military personnel are important and we need to look at all of the measures that should be implemented.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act May 6th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her question. The mission in Afghanistan has changed and has become much more perilous for our soldiers. They are currently being exposed to great risk and great danger, not to mention the catastrophes in the theatres of operation. They are continually in danger. Red tape is the least of their concerns. If the bill eliminates problems with red tape for military families then that is commendable.

Furthermore, when soldiers return to society, life goes on for them. We owe them good services because of their sacrifices and hard work and because of their problems. The statistics are alarming as the ombudsmen has pointed out. Soldiers deserve our utmost respect and also deserve our attention to their true needs.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act May 6th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP member for his question, because anything that has to do with poverty among seniors is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that today, given the income levels of seniors, they are not able to index their guaranteed income supplement benefits, which would bring their income up to an acceptable level. Indexing the benefits and making the guaranteed income supplement retroactive could help them.

The member also spoke about the cost of such a measure. Although the measure is not very expensive, in examining this bill, we discovered that it would not be retroactive, and that some soldiers would be excluded. We would like soldiers to be included in this bill. We cannot put a price on soldiers.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act May 6th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to a bill about employment insurance benefits. Of course, I would have liked us to be focusing on a comprehensive reform of the Employment Insurance Act instead of piecemeal measures.

This enactment amends the Employment Insurance Act to extend the benefit period and the period during which parental benefits may be paid for Canadian Forces members whose period of parental leave is deferred or who are directed to return to duty from parental leave.

I know that the minister intends to correct an injustice that Canadian Forces members suffer, and I thank him for that. But choices like this one inevitably make other people feel as though they are being ignored again.

The government must be aware of the real needs of thousands of workers in Quebec and Canada. I would like to remind the members that there are other injustices, and the people suffering those injustices are still waiting.

For example, I would like to mention Marie-Hélène Dubé, a determined woman who to date has managed to rally more than 60,000 Quebeckers to her cause, which is individuals with a serious illness who receive only 15 weeks of benefits. I want to thank the Canadian Cancer Society, which is calling on everyone to help Ms. Dubé in her quest to have people with a serious illness treated more equitably with regard to employment insurance.

When will EI be made more flexible for people with a serious illness?

What about the other measures the Bloc Québécois has proposed to make EI more flexible? I will come back to them later if I have time to talk about them all.

What I want to illustrate here is that we cannot wait indefinitely. There has to be a clear commitment by the government to reviewing the Employment Insurance Act. The flaws in that act are ruining lives, destroying families and hurting communities. No one should have to wait. The fact is that five years ago, in 2005, a consensus was achieved in the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. The Conservative government has the key points on which greater flexibility is expected and has been proposed in its hands. This is the list:

Introduce an eligibility threshold of 360 hours for all regions and all insured persons. This eligibility threshold would entitle claimants to a varying number of weeks of benefits, based on the unemployment rate in their region.

Permanently increase the benefit rate from 55% to 60%.

Amend the Employment Insurance Act so that employment of a related person is not deemed to be uninsurable.

Eliminate the two-week waiting period during which claimants have no income.

Increase the present $2,000 income cut-off for entitlement to a refund of employment insurance premiums to $3,000.

Make self-employed workers eligible for the scheme on a voluntary basis.

The Bloc Québécois has introduced several bills to improve the employment insurance scheme and expand access to it. Like my colleagues from Saint-Lambert and Chambly—Borduas, I stress that the other segments of the population are entitled to expect that the Minister will come back to us with concrete measures as soon as possible. It is high time.

Before continuing, I wanted to express the enormous indignation I felt when I learned of the number of veterans and former soldiers who are eating at community kitchens and food banks. It is surprising that this government, which boasts of how it listens to its troops, is abandoning those who have given loyal service so that we can enjoy some peace and quiet.

I will take this opportunity to urge the government to proceed with the same speed on issues affecting seniors, like the guaranteed income supplement, and to take its cue from the Bloc Québécois bill that will be debated shortly. I urge it to consider the good it could do for these old soldiers if it also made the benefits they are entitled to fully retroactive. It is inconceivable to see seniors living in poverty. It is unacceptable to see veterans lining up at food banks.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-13, to extend the benefit period and the period during which parental benefits may be paid for Canadian Forces members whose period of parental leave is deferred or who are directed to return to duty from parental leave, in principle. The Bloc Québécois has the greatest respect for the troops who perform extremely dangerous missions where they risk their lives.

It is precisely that great respect that means that because their lives are in danger, we have a responsibility not to expose them to more risks, to provide for the best possible accommodation between their career and their family life, and to make sure that their return to the country is facilitated by measures that help with their integration into civil society.

Bill C-13 allows members of the Canadian Forces to take parental leave they would have been unable to take because they were out of the country. Although this measure is necessary, the Conservatives are still continuing their bad habit of making piecemeal changes rather than undertaking genuine reform. First, there has to be social and psychological assistance for members of the military when they experience traumatic events or when they come home and have to deal with tough challenges. There are also challenges in dealing with the employment insurance scheme that make a thorough overhaul necessary.

The Conservative government is pursuing its short-term vision of sprinkling programs here and there for reasons of visibility rather than effectiveness. In so doing, it keeps its ideological blinkers firmly in place so it can avoid seeing the other aspects of employment insurance and assistance to members of the military that are in obvious need of improvement.

Bill C-13 includes a number of clauses that will provide better coverage under the Employment Insurance Act to a new segment of the population: soldiers. If passed, the government's bill will allow military personnel to defer and collect parental benefits if they are directed to return to duty from parental leave. We know that soldiers contribute to employment insurance just like other workers. Section 5(1)(c) clearly states that service in the Canadian Forces is insurable employment.

The department's press release says that “This new measure would extend the EI parental benefit window for Canadian Forces members who are ordered to return to duty while on parental leave or whose parental leave is deferred as a result of a military requirement. The measure would extend the period in which they are eligible by another 52 weeks”.

Clauses in Bill C-13 allow military personnel to defer and benefit from parental leave.

I would like to take this opportunity to focus on certain elements of the bill.

Clause 2 stipulates that section 10 of the Employment Insurance Act will be amended by adding the following after subsection (12):

(12.1) If, during the period referred to in subsection 23(2), the start date of a claimant’s period of parental leave is deferred or a claimant is directed to return to duty from parental leave, in accordance with regulations made under the National Defence Act, the benefit period is extended by the number of weeks during which the claimant’s parental leave is deferred or the claimant is directed to return to duty, as the case may be.

Clause 3 deals with subsection 23(3.1) of the same Act, the Employment Insurance Act, which will be replaced by the following:

(3.01) If, during the period referred to in subsection (2), the start date of a claimant’s period of parental leave is deferred or a claimant is directed to return to duty from parental leave, in accordance with regulations made under the National Defence Act, the period is extended by the number of weeks during which the claimant’s parental leave is deferred or the claimant is directed to return to duty, as the case may be.

I would like to draw your attention to clause 4, which stipulates that:

Sections 2 and 3 do not apply to a claimant for a benefit period that began before the day on which this Act comes into force.

Clause 4 of the bill would not allow soldiers whose benefit period began before the day on which the act comes into force to benefit from this measure.

I have a question for the government. Would soldiers currently on parental leave, who are ordered to return to duty after implementation of this bill, be entitled to defer their leave considering that they had already started receiving benefits?

I am asking the government this question and I hope that we will not pass a law without providing for transitional measures for people in this situation. Retroactivity is important and military personnel should be included.

According to the government's backgrounder:

Parental benefits provide income replacement for up to 35 weeks to biological or adoptive parents while they are caring for a newborn or newly adopted child. Benefits may be taken by either parent or shared between them. If parents opt to share these benefits, only one two-week waiting period must be served.

We can see that, even with this bill, the government must make clarifications. I believe they should be addressed by the committee which, I am certain, will study this matter very carefully.

Because the bill deals with fair treatment for military families, I would like to share with members measures that could help our armed forces members.

The Bloc Québécois has the utmost respect for our troops, as I mentioned at the very beginning of my speech.

This deep respect goes hand in hand with the responsibility to not increase their risks and to help them when they return from theatres of operations.

The Conservative government, rather than giving priority to and protecting members of the military, is currently making ad hoc decisions without an in-depth analysis of the consequences.

In terms of the members' physical and psychological needs, the Conservative government makes much of the contribution of Canadian armed forces to various military interventions. But what about its responsibilities when some members return damaged by their experiences, suffering from physical injuries and trauma?

They are less prompt to talk about the increased suicide rate among armed forces members who return to civilian life and the incredible lack of the psychological and financial support they need.

The armed forces should provide adequate follow-up of its members who return from a mission such as that in Afghanistan, especially since we know that 4% of soldiers returning from Kandahar develop suicidal tendencies, 4.6% have symptoms of major depression, and more than 15% experience mental health problems. I have taken these statistics from an article published in Le Devoir.

In the course of its parliamentary work, the Bloc Québécois has always been concerned with support for veterans—all those who proudly donned the uniform.

For example, we have always insisted that the government should allocate all possible resources to help our armed forces members and veterans meet their health needs, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the Standing Committee on National Defence, the Bloc Québécois supported most of the 34 recommendations in a report asking the government to provide more resources to military personnel to meet their health needs. This report was adopted on June 8, 2009, and tabled in the House on June 17 of that year.

In the Standing Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the Bloc Québécois also backed recommendations from a report asking for more support for the services provided to veterans. This report was adopted and tabled in the House on June 17, 2009.

We fought for the creation of a position of veterans ombudsman and it was established in April 2007.

I would also like to draw a parallel with another issue, the transfer of Ste. Anne's Hospital. The future of Ste. Anne's raises questions that make us wonder about the quality of the necessary services and the amount of assistance that our veterans need. In the course of the negotiations, we need to take into account the specific nature of the care that veterans require.

I hope the government will listen to the voice of the veterans who have been returning from various theatres of operations over the years and who want the government to focus on their real needs and provide them with the services they really require.

I hope the government will face the facts and focus as well on establishing a separate entity. The government should change the negotiator’s mandate for the transfer to include specific provisions responding to the requests of the people involved. I am talking about the veterans themselves, the people who treat veterans, and the military personnel who return from various theatres to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

I would also like to draw the attention of the House to a petition signed by thousands of Quebeckers who want to change the compensation system for wounded soldiers in the Canada's Veterans' Charter.

In 2005, the House of Commons passed a Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, commonly called the Veterans' Charter, which took force on April 6, 2006.

Since then, National Defence no longer provides lifetime monthly pensions for its damaged soldiers. Instead, it introduced a lump sum payment in 2006. For every injury, there is a corresponding indemnity, up to a maximum of $276,000 in the worst of cases. The amount is paid once, and the armed forces member is left to figure out on his own how to handle the money.

In January 2010, the veterans ombudsman was very critical of this new system for compensating armed forces personnel for the injuries they suffered. Since stopping lifetime annuities, the forces have been providing veterans with a lot less money and failing to meet their needs.

He said that he was not a proponent of the lump sum payment because someone with psychological issues could spend it unwisely, waste money and not have a single cent to put towards their financial security.

The ombudsman, a veteran of Bosnia and Afghanistan himself, added that

—veterans can quite easily become homeless. Many of them lose their way because of mental health problems. The only way to “force” them to maintain a residence would often be to send their compensation in monthly installments by mail, as used to be the case.

He also said that this issue is important and that he is very worried about the fact that veterans can become homeless and end up waiting in line at food banks.

According to some veterans, the compensation being offered is not the only flaw in the federal department. They say that the whole claim process is burdensome, complex and ill-suited and the burden of proof rests on the injured soldier, who has a hard time understanding the procedure.

We know that there is much to be done for military personnel who are coming back and their families. Expectations are high.

Thousand of people have signed a petition demanding changes to the Veterans Charter.

The Bloc Québécois member for Québec stated:

We cannot remain indifferent to the injustices that our injured veterans are facing. The people of the greater Quebec City area, the rest of Quebec and in fact all of Canada must rally behind this cause. Together we must make the federal government understand that the current situation is completely unacceptable and that corrective measures are needed immediately.

The Vaudreuil-Soulanges region is sensitive to this issue and is entirely supportive. The petition is currently circulating in my riding.

As for employment insurance, the Bloc Québécois has been relentless in its efforts to bring attention to the need to get the EI system working again for our workers.

The Bloc Québécois has introduced several bills aimed at improving the employment insurance system and access to it. It is very unfortunate that the Conservative government will not take any concrete action to help workers who lose their jobs and who cannot access EI. So many workers pay into the EI system, but only 40% of them have access to it.

The government's actions clearly show its complete indifference towards workers. The measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois have two objectives: to reassure workers who lose their jobs by providing them with a more accessible and generous employment insurance program, and to stimulate household spending by enabling workers who have lost their jobs to get the benefits they need to keep the economy going.

In that sense, the proposed EI changes are important. The Bloc Québécois has proposed a new approach that assumes claimants are acting in good faith, which will speed up delivery of the first cheque.

It is inconceivable that at this time, when claimants win their employment insurance appeal, they receive a letter 30 days later telling them that the government is appealing the appeal, and they have to continue fighting for as long as 90 days. And that is what happens when the ruling is in the worker's favour.

In addition to the initiatives I just mentioned, there is the assumption that claimants are acting in good faith, which the government could easily amend. There is also the expansion and adaptation of the work sharing program and the extension of a claimant's right to receive benefits while pursuing training.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act May 6th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the government has introduced a bill for military families. Does my colleague think the government is doing enough for soldiers and veterans?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits) April 30th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Bill C-10, which was introduced by the Conservative government. This bill would amend the Constitution Act, 1867 by limiting Senate terms.

Earlier, I spoke about Bill C-12, which would reduce Quebec's political weight. The Bloc Québécois is in Ottawa to defend Quebec's interests, and issues related to its political weight here in Ottawa are important. We are fighting for the rights of francophones. As we will see, the people of Quebec and the National Assembly believe that Quebec should be consulted before any constitutional changes take place, especially because Bill C-10 would change the structure of the Senate and shift the political weight for strictly ideological purposes.

The minister's comments about Bloc Québécois members is another example of the Conservatives' preconceived notions. The consultations were sloppy and the introduction of this rushed legislation is not justified. Throughout history, many governments and legislatures have tried to change the Senate.

The public is beginning to seriously question the legitimacy of senators. Newspaper headlines demonstrate this every time there is a new appointment to the Senate. Senators are chosen by the Prime Minister. These are partisan appointments. Each province has a certain number of seats and many people have criticized how they are distributed. Could that chamber be much more effective? Could the measures proposed by the government improve how the Senate operates? I doubt it.

The Bloc Québécois opposes Bill C-10. We wonder about the real intentions of the Conservative government, which for the past few weeks has been introducing one bill after another that aim to change fundamental aspects of our democracy, without the provinces' consent and under false pretexts.

We believe that the Conservatives want to reform the Constitution on the sly by going over the heads of the provinces and Quebec. We have become accustomed to these ploys. Considering the number of times they have hidden obscure and discriminatory provisions in bills, no one can blame us for asking for clarification about their real objectives. Furthermore, why do they bother creating laws and regulations when they are the first to disobey laws and regulations in order to satisfy their partisan appetite?

Limiting Senate tenure is merely the beginning. In order to make any changes regarding the Senate, the Conservative government must consult Quebec and the other provinces.

The changes proposed by the Conservatives serve only to undermine Quebec and the Quebec nation. Our analysis of the concept of open federalism has been extremely disappointing for Quebeckers. There has been no concrete recognition of the Quebec nation and its attributes, and the Conservatives have missed a number of opportunities to restore the balance between the two nations, which only increases the level of scepticism among the people of Quebec.

The open federalism vaunted by the federal government has instead been restrictive for Quebec.

We simply have to look at the bills recently introduced by this government, such as Bill C-12, which reduces Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons, the various proposals for Senate reform or the fact that they have called political party financing into question.

Who is this government really targeting? In order to better understand the Bloc Québécois' position, one must analyze what the Conservative government is proposing, while keeping mind that this government is always trying to diminish Quebec's influence.

I must mention that any reform affecting the powers of the Senate, the method of selecting senators, the number of senators to which a province is entitled or the residency requirement of senators can only be made in consultation with Quebec, the provinces and the territories. Why did the government not think it necessary to seek consent from the key players on an issue that affects the Constitution Act, 1867?

Let us look at this together. What is the impetus to the bill and what does it offer to Quebec? Currently, a senator is appointed by the government, by the Prime Minister, and that appointment is effective until the maximum age of 75, at which point the senator must retire. A person appointed at age 30 would receive a term of over 45 years. The Conservative government is proposing to uphold the retirement age of 75 and, in addition, would impose an eight year term on senators. Despite being appointed for an eight year term, if the senator reaches age 75 during that term, he or she must retire from the Senate. There is another provision whereby no senator can request that their eight year term be renewed.

Although this seems like a good idea, what impact could an eight year term have on democratic life?

If this bill is passed in its current form, it would mean greater turnover of senators. And since senators would still be unelected, there would be an increase in partisan appointments.

It is not a stretch to think that a government could change the composition of the Senate by making partisan appointments, thereby taking control of the Senate and having every government bill passed or defeated according to the whim of that very same government.

It could change the parliamentary agenda of the House of Commons by systematically obstructing bills it did not like or that came from opposition party members.

When they are elected to power, Canada's old parties try to make changes that favour their base. They even contradict what they may have said when they were in opposition. I have an example. The Prime Minister, who questioned the Senate's partiality when he was first elected, is now introducing a bill that will boost partisan appointments. Obviously he has changed his tune, but why? In order to impose a regressive Conservative program and satisfy the Reform Party members of the Conservative Party.

When I read the wording of Bill C-10, I get a better grasp of the government's intentions and, more importantly, a better idea of how it wants to get its legislation passed.

The first paragraph in Bill C-10 provides that the Senate must evolve in accordance with the principles of democracy. That paragraph includes examples of institutions which, over time, have had their structure amended. The second paragraph seeks to explain how the Senate can better reflect the democratic values of Canadians. Finally, it is in the third paragraph that mention is made of the change to Senate terms.

What I find disturbing is that the government mentions too often that Parliament can amend the Constitution. It uses as an example what the government did in 1965, when it set the retirement age for senators.

It is in the fifth paragraph that the Conservative government confirms its intention to ignore Quebec and the other provinces to make changes to the Senate. The fifth paragraph of Bill C-10 reads, “Whereas Parliament, by virtue of section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982, may make laws to amend the Constitution of Canada in relation to the Senate;”.

May I remind hon. members that Quebec did not sign the 1982 Constitution? I also remind them that the patriation of the Constitution was done unilaterally, without Quebec's agreement. Lastly, let us not forget that the minimum condition set by successive governments in Quebec on Senate reform has always been clear: there will be no Senate reform without first settling the issue of Quebec's status.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is opposed to Bill C-10. It is very clear that the Conservative government wants to ignore Quebec and the other provinces. Need I remind the House of the reasons why the Bloc Québécois was founded?

It was because of the record of failure in constitutional negotiations that the Bloc Québécois was established. In order to avoid discussing the Constitution with Quebec, the Conservative government claims to have the power, under section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982, to unilaterally change the provisions dealing with the Senate.

This is yet another attempt by Ottawa to work against the interests of Quebec, and even those of the other Canadian provinces and territories.

In November 2006, the Conservative government tabled a motion recognizing the Quebec nation. Since then, no action has been taken by the government to follow up on that recognition. It looks as though the Conservative government does not want to accept that Quebec is a society that developed by itself and that applies its laws based on its specificity and its own attributes.

I invite parliamentarians to read certain documents to better understand Quebec's claims. I also invite my colleagues to be prudent and vigilant, because by changing the length of senators' terms of office through this bill, the Conservative government is opening the door to various changes to the Senate without obtaining the consent of Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

In the brief submitted by the Government of Quebec in 2007 on federal Senate bills, the Government of Quebec stated that:

...the Senate is an institution whose basic composition forms the very basis of the compromise that created the federation. The Senate is not simply a federal institution in the strictest sense. It is an integral part of the Canadian federal system. The Senate is an institution whose future is of interest to all constitutional players within the federation.

In a press release dated November 7, 2007, the former Quebec minister of Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs, Mr. Benoît Pelletier, a Liberal Quebec minister, reiterated the position of the Quebec government:

The Government of Quebec does not believe that this falls exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Given that the Senate is a crucial part of the Canadian federal compromise, it is clear to us that under the Constitution Act, 1982, ... the Senate can be neither reformed nor abolished without Quebec's consent.

The Government of Quebec is not opposed to modernizing the Senate. However, if an attempt is made to alter the basic characteristics of this institution, the only avenue is engaging in a coordinated federal-provincial constitutional process that will fully engage all constitutional players, including Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

Senate Bill S-8 proposes the appointment of senators by the Prime Minister after elections held by the provinces. This bill is called An Act respecting the selection of senators.

The government claims that it could fundamentally alter the process for appointing senators without necessarily requiring a round of constitutional negotiations.

Although this type of appointment was carried out once in 1990 and there was no challenge, does it justify not consulting Quebec and the provinces?

As I mentioned earlier, the people of Quebec are questioning the usefulness and effectiveness of the Senate in particular. There are certainly many ways to reform the Senate. In March 2010, Quebeckers were polled about the Senate. The results are very interesting and indicative of how they feel about the Senate in its current form.

In looking at the data, we can see that the majority of Quebeckers do not see a value in the Senate as it is currently configured, and 43% of Quebeckers agree with abolishing it. I should point out that only 8% of respondents believe that the Senate plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators works. Only 8%.

Let us talk about the place of francophones in the Senate. Considering the number of francophone senators, the government could consider making changes that would ensure francophones are fairly represented in the Senate. Elections could end up decreasing their representation in the Senate and could create an imbalance for francophone rights in the Senate. This is something that concerns us as well, which is why it is important not to ignore Quebec and the provinces. The bill before us does not take that into account.

If we are going to change the fundamental role of the Senate, why not abolish it altogether? The Bloc Québécois believes that any Senate reforms must be the result of constitutional negotiations.

I have many reasons for believing that the Senate should be abolished. Historically, many upper chambers have been abolished and the operations of these institutions were not affected. The main motivation for provinces to abolish their upper chamber was financial. Second chambers were extremely expensive for the provinces.

That logic should lead us to consider studying this aspect of the Senate. Is the $50 million we spend on Senate operations essential and justified? As with any major reform, abolishing the Senate also requires amendments to the Constitution.

To have a constitutional change approved, the government needs to obtain consent from seven provinces representing at least 50% of Canada's population or the unanimous consent of all the provinces.

Until proven otherwise, Canada is a confederation. Provinces have to be consulted before any amendment to the Constitution, which means that in order to pass Bill C-10, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 by limiting Senate terms, the federal government would have to enter into constitutional negotiations. It is obvious from reading the bill that the Conservative government wants to ignore Quebec. It ignores francophones.

The sixth paragraph in the bill tries to legitimize the Conservative government's position that senators' terms can be amended by regulation.

In the late 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada examined parliament's ability to unilaterally amend constitutional provisions relating to the Senate.

According to its ruling, decisions pertaining to major changes to the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made unilaterally. In view of the fact that senators would not be able to renew their terms, we assume that there would be even more partisan appointments and, more importantly, that this change would alter an essential characteristic of the Senate. For that reason, the Bloc Québécois is not in favour of Bill C-10.

It is sad to see that this government is governing according to a Conservative ideology that does not correspond to the values of Quebeckers. I have now been sitting in this House for six years and have seen that the Conservative government is using every means to diminish the influence of Quebec. We need not look too far to find examples. Bill C-12 will reduce Quebec's political weight.

Seniors April 30th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois has always recognized the contributions made by community organizations. National Volunteer Week, which was held from April 18 to 24 this year, gave us a chance to hear about the work and the achievements of these groups.

I would like to congratulate the Grand Rassemblement des Aînés de Vaudreuil et Soulanges, better known as G.R.A.V.E.S., on its publication of the anthology, Raconte-moi-ton histoire. This project enabled G.R.A.V.E.S., its volunteers, artists from Traitdartiste, from the Centre d'histoire La Presqu'île, from Les Hebdos du Suroît and from the Saint-Lazare library to pool their knowledge and expertise.

The participants had nothing but admiration for G.R.A.V.E.S. and its associates. Seniors deserve our full respect, and that is why the work of organizations like G.R.A.V.E.S. must be supported.

In honour of National Volunteer Week, my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I congratulate G.R.A.V.E.S. and acknowledge the contribution it has made.