House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was democracy.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Honoré-Mercier (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2021, with 7% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supporting Non-Partisan Agents of Parliament Act November 20th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the bill appears to be designed to avoid conflicts of interest. The government claims that it wants to protect democracy, but senators are not even elected. They are not accountable to the public.

These same people will have the right to look into someone's party affiliation. If someone is chosen to work on a file because he is an objective professional, why is who he votes for in an election a problem? Every citizen is afforded that freedom. This is a democracy, and making political choices is part of our lives.

Last year, the Auditor General did an excellent job and had some criticism for the current government, which was not acting appropriately. This public official wanted to shed some light on the situation, which enabled the official opposition to inform the public that things were not working as they were supposed to.

Now senators can scrutinize those officials if they do not like or are bothered by their work. Those officials were selected to fill their position based on their ability to achieve certain objectives. However, since they are inconveniencing the senators, the latter can decide to harm them, scare them and silence them. That is not good for democracy.

I support any bill that requires us to be more transparent. What I want is a bill that requires the government to tell the truth to the opposition and to Canadians. That is what democracy is about and that is what I stand for.

When we allow a body like the Senate to investigate public officials, that is troubling. Senators are not even elected and are not accountable.

In our system, we already have laws governing these professionals. What, then, is the real purpose of this bill? Let us look at that for a moment. What is the government really trying to do? I think they want to appear to be transparent by demonstrating that they are capable of controlling their officials. Instead they should demonstrate greater transparency by telling the truth and admitting when they make mistakes. That would be better for democracy, instead of coming up with excuses to justify using taxpayers' money. I am referring to one senator in particular who I will not name because everyone knows who I am talking about.

That is what we have to focus on. As elected representatives, we are all accountable and we must respect our commitment to the public. If these officials are doing good work, then why interfere? They can choose to vote for the NDP, the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party. What does it matter if the person has a political past? They are citizens like the rest of us. This is very touchy. These people help us to be more transparent. It is up to each and every one of us to be accountable.

Appointed senators are not accountable to anyone and that poses a threat to democracy. Using taxpayers' money inappropriately is another threat. Transparency must come from each one of us regardless of whether we are part of the opposition or the government.

I do not like the fact that workers are being frightened and told that if they do not do what the government wants, they will be questioned. That brings back bad memories. I come from Chile, a country that was not at all democratic when I was young. In a truly democratic country, people have freedom of expression and we can verify what they say.

We must not undermine democracy. We must not attack public servants who are doing a good job. We must instead go after those who are not doing a good job. We must go after senators who are not doing a good job and who were not even elected. We should investigate those who are in the wrong.

I am truly worried. If the Conservative government really wanted to shed light on its current problems, it would talk openly about them. That would help all of us get through these difficult times.

Bills like this one force us to talk about things that are not even necessary. That is why we are saying that this is a cynical attempt by the government to undermine the credibility of this office couched in the language of transparency. First of all, all of us in this place should be transparent.

I believe that instead of attacking these officials, we should take a look at ourselves, be honest and speak out. If we have made mistakes, we need to acknowledge them. It will be good for democracy. Those who have done wrong will not be elected the next time.

Unfortunately, that does not apply to senators because they are appointed. That is why we want to abolish the Senate. It does not meet the needs of a democratic country. I believe that we should focus on being transparent in our day-to-day work.

Housing November 20th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, that does not seem to be sufficient.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Food Banks Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities all agree that the federal government needs to address the housing crisis.

In Montreal, the cost of housing has increased by 40% in 10 years. This is unsustainable for Canadian families.

Will the minister commit to provide long-term funding to solve the housing crisis?

Yolette Café October 21st, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I would like to use my time here today to pay tribute to all the volunteers who dedicate themselves to the well-being of their fellow citizens.

In my riding of Honoré-Mercier, one such person is Yolette Café, a single mother of five who, despite her precarious situation, has been volunteering for 27 years. One example of her vision and dedication is the Centre d'entraide aux familles de Rivière-des-Prairies, which she founded.

The Corporation de développement communautaire de Rivière-des-Prairies recently honoured Ms. Café with an award, demonstrating her community's gratitude for her work.

Today I wish to extend my sincere thanks to Ms. Café and to all those like her who make our community a more caring, supportive place. I hope Ms. Café will inspire others to do the same.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 11th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke about our soldiers who go to war-torn countries to assist and protect these nations. He referred to certain articles and clauses.

I am particularly concerned about the children who die in these countries. Soldiers are adults who settle in a war-torn country. I am worried about the child who starts playing with what he thinks is a tennis ball, for example, only to have it blow up in his face. I would not want my children, here in Canada, to stumble upon a bomb like that.

Imagine that happening. Imagine if we found a bomb in our local park. We would cry from the rooftops and declare hell on earth. We would say that it was impossible, unacceptable.

Is that humanitarian aid? Is that the kind of assistance Canada wants to give? That really shocks and concerns me.

International humanitarian law prohibits parties in a conflict from inflicting needless wounds and suffering. It is important to distinguish between military objectives, civilian property and people's lives.

Using weapons that strike indiscriminately is a violation of international law. Cluster munitions impact hugely on civilian populations even post-conflict. Over half the victims of cluster munitions are children who stumble on unexploded sub-munitions.

Does my colleague agree that this weapon should be totally banned, and does he think that actions speak louder than words. You cannot look after other people if you do not know how.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, we, the members on this side of the House, are against the fact that there is no debate and democracy is being weakened. We are against the fact that we are not given the opportunity to analyze things. That is why we are against this. We are against the fact that democracy is suffering, to the point where members on the other side of the House are getting fed up.

Does the minister think that we need to work together and restore a true, healthy democracy before criticizing everyone?

Petitions June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting a petition asking that the Financial Administration Act be amended to encourage balanced representation. Canadian women are currently under-represented on boards of directors of crown corporations, where they hold 27% of upper management positions. Diversity—which includes the male-to-female ratio, geographic representation, ethnicity and even the age of directors—is an essential part of good organizational governance.

Fighting Foreign Corruption Act June 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, this is just a first step. I know that full well.

I see the work being done with ParlAmericas and with friendship groups in other countries. However, even the members who are part of other associations feel we could be going further. It is a first step, but it is not enough.

This bill lacks ambition. They need to be more ambitious, and they need to listen to members on the other side of the House. They need to listen to the opposition. We have plenty of good proposals. They need to listen to us. That is what democracy looks like: working together and not simply saying that because they have a majority, they can do whatever they want. We have very good ideas and we will share them for everyone's benefit.

Fighting Foreign Corruption Act June 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the member did not ask a question, he made a comment.

We fully agree that this is indeed a first step. I think the people on the other side of the House agree as well. The fact still remains that we can improve the bill and go further. I want to emphasize that we need some ambition.

I think Canada will lead by example. If it can sit at the table and talk to people from other countries as equals, a bright prosperous future will open before all of us. We must continue in this direction. This is a first step.

Fighting Foreign Corruption Act June 4th, 2013

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

In the past, some members of my party introduced bills on this subject, but they were not approved, which is a shame.

Canada does indeed have high standards, but these apply only when companies are based in Canada and not when they are based abroad, unfortunately.

I provided examples and mentioned that people had been killed, in addition to talking about conflicts. These examples have even been reported in the newspapers. In Chile, for example, the company acknowledged having lost the case, but indicated it would renew negotiations with the locals. Operations will therefore resume, but with some basic standards.

I therefore propose adding to the bill the fact of having a social agreement, consent among the locals at the site where the Canadian company will be operating. If there is consent, there is no problem. Alternatively, if there is no consent, violence will occur, and this is what should be avoided.

Fighting Foreign Corruption Act June 4th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, we are very pleased that this bill was introduced, but it is disappointing that it came from the Senate.

Last year, other bills on the same topic were rejected. Now, a door has opened. This bill addresses corruption of foreign public officials. The NDP is in favour of clear rules requiring that Canadians and Canadian businesses abroad be accountable and responsible.

We will support this bill so that it can be sent to committee. However, there needs to be some ambition here. This bill is lacking many components that would implement basic standards to ensure that companies doing business overseas respect human rights and are congenial. Those standards would allow Canada to become a model country in doing business overseas.

During a Senate committee meeting on February 28, 2013, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said the following:

...our government's priority is encouraging jobs, growth and long-term prosperity...It is reflected in the need to position Canada as a reliable supplier of resources which emerging markets need to grow...

We need to position our country as a reliable resource. We need to be a model country, but there is still work to be done in that regard. I would like to talk about what is happening with certain Canadian countries abroad. I will just give a few examples.

We sometimes think that things are wonderful everywhere. We talk about corruption elsewhere without looking in our own back yard. For example, there are Canadian public servants who receive bribes. Turn on the television and you might be shocked to see what is happening here in Canada.

There have been some examples on television, on the CBC. For example, the RCMP investigated a Canadian mining company's activities in Mexico. The story did not end well. The people in the concerned area in Mexico did not want the Canadian mining company, Blackfire, to set up shop in Chiapas, and that resulted in criminal activity.

In March 2010, the coalition MiningWatch Canada informed the RCMP and provided proof that money had been paid to the mayor of Chicomuselo. However, nothing really came of it because the RCMP also needs the means to investigate. Bills are great, but it is hard if there is no money to implement them.

Finally, the Mexican spokesperson in this story was killed. No one knows who killed him, but he was a harsh critic of a Canadian company. The company was accused of killing him, but no one could prove it. It is odd that this man, who fought to defend his land and ensure that the mining company conducted its business properly, got himself killed. That gives us food for thought. Just go to Radio-Canada for the source.

As far as Guatemala is concerned, last year we welcomed a group of people who came to talk to us about the way Canadian companies operate in these countries. They were talking about the involvement of security staff from Canadian companies in recent acts of violence that could result in civil suits.

I am talking about Tahoe Resources, a Vancouver-based company. This company sets up in a region without consulting the people who live there, those who will have to live with the impact of its activities on the environment and the water they consume.

These Canadian companies are giving us a bad name because the people are not going to say it was the Canadian company's fault; they are going to blame Canadians. We have to be careful. Yes, it is a matter of corruption, but the problem is even broader than that. We have to be more ambitious and draft a bill to crack down on offending companies.

Tahoe Resources' project heightened the conflicts in the region. Civilian security officers came down on the community and hurt people, some seriously. We do not want that. We want good relations.

As members said earlier, our government's priority is to promote jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, but not by destroying our neighbouring countries. I have another example: the police search of SNC-Lavalin.

Nonetheless, I will close on a note of hope. Earlier, one of my colleagues was talking about Pascua-Lama in Chile. This is another Canadian company. The local people demonstrated for months, but the company kept operating. The same people went to court and won. The government had no choice. It had to put an end to the activities of the Canadian company. The company was unable to set up there because it had no consideration for the local people.

This brings me to another point. In Spanish we say that we must have un acuerdo social, une licencia sociale. We must get along socially. It is similar to a driver's licence, but it is social license. It means that these companies, except for the corruption issue, are very honest. That is what we hear. They must consult people and explain to them how their mining activities may affect their lives. Before doing anything, they must secure social license. Otherwise, this leads to conflicts in the country, and they do not want that.

We signed free trade agreements with these countries and we do not want to create problems there. We want wealth for both sides.

In Chile, a court ruling forced one of the largest gold companies in Latin America, the Pascua-Lama mine, to stop all its activities. The Chilean justice felt that the project did not meet environmental standards. It is a good thing the country had some environmental standards. In the end, the company will not leave. It is now negotiating to resume its activities next year. That is great. We should not expect this to happen overnight.

This is a good bill and the NDP will support it, but we must go further. We must be more ambitious. Canada has an opportunity to be a role model. For a long time, the United States was always mentioned as a role model. If Canada creates jobs, if it establishes mines elsewhere, if it develops a policy with a minimum of social agreements that respect people's way of life—and not just the environment—it may become a role model, and other countries will open their doors to us. We will be proud of what we will be doing abroad.

The bill is particularly important for the mining industry, of which the NDP is a strong supporter. In the past, Bills C-323 and C-486 were not passed. The time has come to retrieve them and to read them. Then, perhaps members opposite will realize that we were not so wrong and that the NDP was right on target, because it was able to look a little further, instead of thinking only about the money going into the companies' pockets. Moreover, these companies often do not even pay taxes in the countries where they settle.

I invite all hon. members to be more ambitious and to dream of a country that can behave like a good big brother and be a role model. This is a start, but it is not the end. We must go further.