House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned some products that are considered medical products, which are GST-exempt. However, there are other zero-rated products that perhaps should not be or for which the reason for the exemption is not clear. For example, fondue chocolate is exempt from federal tax, as are liquid chocolate icing, cake decorations, cocktail cherries and wedding cakes.

I would be very surprised if tampons were less important than wedding cakes. Perhaps I do not have my priorities straight, but I think that in everyday life, if women had to choose between these two things, they would say that tampons are a bigger part of daily life and that it is much more important to have these feminine hygiene products. It just makes sense to remove the tax from these products.

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion moved by my colleague from London—Fanshawe and to ask the Conservatives to eliminate an unfair tax.

It is unfair for women to pay tax on goods as essential as feminine hygiene products. Menstruation products are not a luxury for women and girls. This discrimination costs women more than $36 million per year. It makes no sense to ask women to pay tax on tampons when there are exemptions for non-essential goods, such as wedding cakes and cocktail cherries.

I am proud to be part of a caucus that fights for gender equality and stands up for women by asking the government to eliminate the federal sales tax on feminine hygiene products and make taxes fair for both genders.

Every year, under the Excise Tax Act, the federal government collects millions of dollars in taxes on these products. Products considered essential to daily life are exempt from the tax, but luxury products are not.

According to activists with Canadian Menstruators, an organization that has gathered over 72,000 signatures on an online petition on the matter, Canadians agree that taxing these products places an added burden on Canadian households and discriminates against women who menstruate, a group of people who face a disproportionate financial burden.

In 2011, the member for London—Fanshawe introduced Bill C-282 to remove the excise tax on feminine hygiene products. A similar bill had already been introduced by the NDP in a previous Parliament.

Last fall, when talking about how unfair this tax is, a group of young women learned about the bill's existence. They organized the Canadian Menstruators campaign and started an online petition, which over 72,000 Canadians have signed. Furthermore, the paper version of the petition that we presented in the House has gathered over 10,000 signatures so far.

Managing taxation is one of the most important aspects of governance.

Basic grocery products are exempt from the GST. According to the CRA website:

...the CRA considers a product to be a food or beverage if an average consumer would recognize and purchase the product as such in the ordinary course of buying basic groceries.

We are talking about basic necessities.

As anyone who uses them or buys consumer products for or with someone who uses them will say, the products that menstruators need are basic. Tampons and pads are not luxury items that are taxable through GST. No one comes home after a rough day of work and says, “I'm going to go buy myself a box of tampons and relax”. It is not ice cream. It is not cake. It is not wine or chocolate or perfume or nail polish or Viagra. It is a necessity. Necessities identified by the CRA as zero-exempt are foods, such as fresh, frozen, and canned foods, and products like medical oxygen, dispensing services fees, artificial limbs, eyes, and teeth, catheters, glasses, contacts, hearing aids, canes, crutches, stockings, and apparently, human sperm, which is on my list.

We are talking about reproductive health, right? Reproductive health is part of a menstruator's normal healthy course of life, and this measure should be seen as part of a holistic conversation about our reproductive health and lives. It should be seen as something that is basic in a menstruator's course of life and therefore should be exempt.

Gender inequality is reaching new heights in Canada; it is increasing rather than diminishing. That is unacceptable. We need a government that can combat inequality, not one that perpetuates and increases it. Inequality is growing between Canadian men and women.

Instead of tackling the problem, the government is adopting disgraceful measures that ultimately increase inequality. That is why we need to take fundamental action to address inequality. Gender inequality means that women do not have the economic security they deserve, and that fits right into the current agenda.

Women make up 59% of minimum-wage workers. Even working full time, women in these jobs do not have enough money to meet all their family's needs. Women who work full time earn an average of 23% less than men; 20 years ago they earned 28% less.

At that rate, it will take 95 years before we achieve parity. The government should endeavour to reduce discrimination and inequality. If we eliminated the wage gap, growth in our gross domestic product would increase by up to 10%.

In the meantime, Canada is far from achieving pay equity. The wage gap in Canada is the eighth largest among the OECD countries. More than ever in Canada, women are becoming educated and pursuing careers, but they still are not earning the same as men for the same work. For every dollar earned by a man with a post-secondary education, his female colleague with the same education will receive only 82¢ in the public sector and 77¢ in the private sector. This gap is even wider when it comes to aboriginal women and women from visible minorities.

The progress made over the generations by women who fought for pay equity cannot be attributed to the generosity of employers. In fact, employers often do not know that there is a problem. Even 44 years after the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, which recommended a national child care program that would help women enter the workforce, there is still a shortage of child care spaces in Canada.

That is why we are proposing very broad measures to address this problem, including the one we are debating today. The NDP has proposed a national child care program that would charge a maximum of $15 a day. Experts agree that this type of measure will truly result in pay equity. A discussion of any major issue such as pay equity, the creation of day care spaces or the fight against poverty must include gender-based analysis. We also suggest that the federal tax be removed from very basic products such as feminine hygiene products. We are asking the House to consider anything related to women's reproductive lives as a basic commodity and not a luxury. We must eliminate the federal tax on feminine hygiene products.

I would like to take these last few seconds to congratulate my colleague from London—Fanshawe for all her work on this issue. I congratulate her for introducing this bill and this opposition motion today so that we can talk about women's normal sexual and reproductive life in the House of Commons. I also want to thank all the women who campaigned to put this issue back on the table and who have proven that by mobilizing people we can get results in the House. We are talking about this issue thanks to those women. I congratulate them for all their work.

Petitions May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I join with my colleagues and the women and men from all over the country who have mobilized and are calling on the government to remove the federal sales tax on feminine hygiene products. The status quo is really unfair to women. It is a tax that targets only women, and we want it removed.

National Defence May 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, does the minister understand how urgent this situation really is?

According to the report by Justice Deschamps, harassment and sexual assault are not taken seriously by senior staff and leaders in the Canadian Armed Forces. The report clearly accuses the Canadian Armed Forces of maintaining a culture that is hostile toward women. That is a disgrace to Canada. It is degrading and insulting to all of the women who protect and defend our country.

Does the minister realize how serious this situation is and is he prepared to personally commit to changing it?

Food Safety May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the government's response is too little, too late. After the largest beef recall in Canadian history, an independent review concluded that the CFIA needed to improve its inspection program. The minister failed to do that. Sending in new inspectors now to inspect the old inspectors does not really solve the problem.

Conservatives have systematically undermined the capacity of inspectors to do their jobs. What are the Conservatives going to do to permanently strengthen our food safety system?

Food Safety May 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, three years after the largest meat recall in Canada due to the E. coli contamination at XL Foods, things are not getting any better.

Four cases of tainted meat were discovered by American inspectors last year. We also learned that plant workers are not consistently being given clean clothes and that some of the bathrooms do not have running water. However, if anyone is washing their hands, it is the Conservatives.

Why is the government so flippant about the safety of our food?

Employment April 30th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, more than 1,000 aerospace jobs have been lost in my riding in the past few years, and now, in Mirabel, we have learned that another 300 Bell Helicopter workers are being laid off.

When will the Conservatives realize that there needs to be stable investment in the aerospace sector in order to create well-paying jobs in Mirabel and Montreal?

National Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support my colleague from Churchill's Motion No. 444 to develop a national action plan to address violence against women.

I congratulate the member for Churchill on her work and her dedication to fighting violence against women. She and so many others are doing inspiring work to tackle this problem.

The Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses defines violence against women as follows:

Violence against women is a form of gender-based discrimination, a manifestation of historical and systemic inequality between men and women, and the most widespread human rights violation in the world. It refers to any act, intention or threat of physical, sexual or psychological violence that results in the harm or suffering of women and girls, including restrictions on their freedom, safety and full participation in society. It is inflicted by intimate partners, caregivers, family members, guardians, strangers, co-workers, employers...and service providers. It occurs in the home, at work, in institutions and in our communities. [Violence against women affects all of us.] Women’s experiences of violence are shaped by multiple forms of discrimination and [unfair] disadvantage, which intersect with race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigrant and refugee status, age, and disability.

By refusing to address or even recognize the systemic nature of violence against women, the Conservative government's minister is perpetuating the situation. Women are still being subjected to the most violent manifestations of inequality simply because they are women. The federal government could help them, but it does not.

The Conservatives' record on violence against women is simply atrocious. The Conservatives' failure to act is nothing more than negligence, particularly when it comes to the intolerable rates of violence that aboriginal women experience.

Since they have been in power, the Conservatives have been blatantly attacking the equality of women in Canada. They did away with the court challenges program. They cut the budget of Status of Women Canada by 70% and also took the word “equality” out of its mandate. They banned research and advocacy in the programs funded by that organization. They introduced a number of bills and motions against abortion. They passed regressive legislative measures with regard to income equality, measures that even went against the recommendations of experts. They refuse to allocate sufficient funding to combat violence against aboriginal women and conduct a national public inquiry, when everyone in Canada is calling for them to do so. They are blocking the NDP's bill on transgendered rights. They are refusing to allocate funding to development assistance and to abortion and family planning services, even in cases of forced marriage and rape committed as an act of war. They are constantly reducing funding for social programs, which harms all women. They are attacking the unions that protect good paying jobs for women and proposing programs, such as income splitting, that will reduce the number of working women, at the expense of a national child care program that would ensure the financial security of women.

This erosion of equality makes women more vulnerable to violence. Violence against women is systemic and widespread in Canada. It is a sociological phenomenon. The number of violent crimes is decreasing, but the number of rapes and sexual assaults remains stable. Women are 10 times more likely to be victims of sexual crimes and three times more likely to be victims of criminal harassment.

Whether they are at school, at work or at home, this is a reality that all women live with in one way or another, simply because they are women. It is an oppressive and systemic violence that affects half of our population.

Although violence harms all women, those who are dealing with multiple forms of oppression have more obstacles to overcome, and any solutions must recognize and take into account the thousands of oppressive forms that discrimination and marginalization can take.

We are living in a time when many disciplines are recognizing the effects of the inequality created by various systemic problems. The more oppression there is, the more vulnerabilities we see.

Aboriginal women, women from visible minorities, older women, LGBTTQ women, and women with disabilities are the most affected to the extent that we might call them the most targeted populations. The intersectionality of oppression is very clear when we talk about violence against women.

Fully 67% of all Canadians say they personally know at least one woman who was the victim of sexual or physical assault, and in Canada 50% of all women experience at least one incident of physical or sexual violence by age 16.

Canada has no plan to combat violence against women. It is clear that this is a national problem and it is important to point out that most of these crimes are not reported. A national plan of action would provide a framework for consultation and for strengthening the systems that prevent and respond to violence against women. For this plan to work, there will have to be a consultation process with the people, organizations, communities and researchers who have worked tirelessly to put an end to violence against women. The call for a strategy is coming not just from the NDP, but also from women's organizations across the country and even from the UN.

Without a strategy, services are disjointed and lack coordination and consistency. According to the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses, without a national plan, responses to violence are often fragmented and inaccessible and can even undermine rather than enhance women's safety.

We need to tackle the underlying problem of inequality, which helps perpetuate this violence. That is why we need a national child care plan, because creating accessible and affordable child care spaces, as Quebec did, would help improve gender equality in Canada.

We need a plan for affordable housing and ongoing commitments to invest in a national housing strategy so that women do not have to choose between staying in an abusive relationship and being homeless.

We need to reduce and eliminate the wage gap and take measures such as making EI more accessible, increasing the minimum wage, creating a national strategy to reduce poverty and dropping the age of eligibility for the GIS back down from 67 to 65. All of these things affect women more directly than men.

Budget cuts made by successive Liberal and Conservative governments have only made matters worse for women in Canada. In 1999, Canada ranked first on the UN gender inequality index, but now we are ranked 23rd.

Meanwhile, every night, 4,600 women and their children are forced to sleep in shelters to escape violence. Many are even turned away because the shelters are already at 100% capacity.

Nearly 2,000 aboriginal women, 1,181 to be precise, disappeared or were murdered between 1980 and 2012.

A national strategy to address violence against women in Canada is absolutely crucial. We need to reduce and eventually eliminate it. This has been an urgent matter for some time now, and we need to deal with it immediately.

Navigation Protection Act April 24th, 2015

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-670, An Act to amend the Navigation Protection Act (Viceroy Lake and other lakes and rivers).

Mr. Speaker, in honour of Earth Day earlier this week, I rise today to introduce a bill in response to the changes this government made to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, changes that have left over 1,000 waterways in my riding without protection.

The riding I represent has a wealth of waterways that are truly at the heart of the identity and the economy of my region. Our lakes and rivers are more than just waterways, even though we benefit a great deal from them from a socio-economic standpoint; they are also symbolic of our life, history and culture.

However, the Conservatives removed thousands of waterways from the Navigable Waters Protection Act, limiting the protection to only about 100 lakes and about 60 rivers all across the country. Lakes and rivers are a public resource that must be protected for future generations.

That is why I am proposing that 46 major lakes and rivers in my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel be reintroduced to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. They include Lake Simon, Lac des Plages, Big McDonald Lake, Echo Lake, Barron Lake and Rivière du Nord.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Status of Women April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this budget would take no action on violence against women, pay equity or child care. There would be nothing to empower women to make those choices. Women are more than half of the university graduates, but when they graduate they will earn 10% to 30% less than men.

Women need access to child care, to proactive pay equity, freedom from violence and strong federal leadership on gender equality.

Why did the budget help the wealthiest few while ignoring half of Canada's population?