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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Brome—Missisquoi (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 43% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

In 2013, when I sat on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, we studied the case of Honduras at length. Therefore, I believe I have enough facts to oppose this bill, which is unacceptable.

The despotic regime that reigns in Honduras is characterized by its anti-democratic practices, its corruption, its failed institutions and its history of human rights violations. Canada should not be signing a free trade agreement with that country.

The NDP believes there are three fundamental criteria when considering a trade agreement. First, does the proposed partner respect democracy and human rights, acceptable environmental and labour standards, and Canadian values? Second, does the proposed partner's economy have significant or strategic value to Canada? Third, are the terms of the proposed agreement satisfactory?

The proposed agreement with Honduras does not meet any of these criteria, as we clearly showed in the previous debates, despite the fact that the Conservatives have used their majority to limit the time to review this bill. Only five hours of debate on a treaty that was negotiated over three years. This is ridiculous. I also find it difficult to understand why Liberal members would agree to signing an agreement with Honduras.

We are promoting an agreement with a brutal dictatorship, and I am choosing my words carefully. By signing this agreement, we are giving legitimacy to a regime put in place following a coup. The Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard several witnesses from Honduras and experts on this issue. I heard horror stories. Since the coup in Honduras, journalists, union representatives and people who are asking for greater democracy are being killed. In fact, they will kill anything they do not like in that country. Honduras is the murder capital of the world, and most of the murders are not even properly investigated by the police.

Professor Gordon of Wilfrid Laurier University, who testified before the committee, said that the possibility of a free election needs to be called into question. Some members of the opposition parties have been assassinated. In 2013, there was an average of 10 killings a month. According to Professor Dana Frank from the University of California, 80% of crimes in Honduras go unpunished. There are many documented cases of police corruption. Between January 2011 and November 2012 alone, the police carried out 149 summary executions of civilians. In January 2013, the United Nations asked for the removal of four judges of the Supreme Court of Honduras for violations of international standards and because there was a serious threat to democracy. In February 2013, the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries indicated that the Government of Honduras had failed to properly regulate private security companies. These companies are involved in numerous cases of human rights violations, including murders, disappearances, forced expulsions and rapes.

Moreover, censorship is common in Honduras. It is alleged that journalists are corrupted and advertisements are manipulated to ensure that coverage is positive and to silence opponents.

According to the national human rights commission of Honduras, 29 journalists have been murdered since the coup.

This is the question I would ask: if Canadian mining engineers were murdered, what recourse would Canada have? It would have none. There is no justice and therefore murderers are not even prosecuted. It is in the interest of Canadian mining companies to have a certain legal framework in Honduras. I would ask them the following question: what good is a legal framework when there is no rule of law in the country?

Should Canada support, by means of a trade agreement, a government of thugs? The Honduran regime is corrupt. All the stakeholders have said the same thing and even the U.S. Senate acknowledged that this is unacceptable.

Will this agreement benefit Honduras? I seriously doubt it. Two years after the coup, 100% of the increase in income went to only 10% of the population, while poverty increased by 26%. This agreement will only benefit a corrupt elite.

Canada used to be a world leader in foreign affairs, renowned for its ability to help other organizations and other countries become more democratic, freer, fairer to its citizens and more respectful of human rights. However, agreements such as this one, supported by the Conservatives and the Liberals, will make us take a step backwards.

Entering into such an agreement with a corrupt government shows little concern for human rights and sends the message to similar countries that this is acceptable to Canada. The Conservative government and its partners, the Liberals, find that acceptable. We are debating an agreement with a brutal regime, and closure has been invoked.

We are trampling democracy, here and elsewhere, and I am sad to see the Liberal members supporting this process. The Conservative government imposed closure 68 times to end debate. Is that a sign that the government is turning away from democracy?

The agreement with Honduras was negotiated without any transparency and despite repeated requests from stakeholders in various sectors of Canada's economy. The Government of Canada was never willing to make the text of the agreement public during the negotiation process. Given these concerns, I am disappointed that my colleagues from the other parties want to support this treaty. This agreement is stained with the blood of Hondurans.

We risk damaging Canada's international reputation if we enter into a partnership with such a regime. My constituents of Brome—Missisquoi sent me here in the hope of building a different Canada.

In light of the facts that we have been able to show despite the time allocation brought in by the Conservatives, I will not support Bill C-20. I hope that Canadians will remember that the Liberals and Conservatives voted in favour of a tree trade agreement with a brutal dictatorship.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very well-researched speech. I wonder if he could comment on the following sentence:

...an FTA would provide international legitimacy to a political regime and economic model that is oligarchic, oppressive and unjust.

Those are not my words. They are from Ricardo Grinspun, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at York University, who appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade on May 1, 2014.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague on his speech and the hard work he does for veterans and in his riding.

I would like to remind him that 71 veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome have committed suicide since 2008.

Last week, the Minister of Veterans Affairs showed no interest in listening to Ms. Migneault, who lives in my riding, Brome—Missisquoi. In fact, he ran away from her.

I would like to ask him why Bill C-31 does not include measures to help the men and women who have to live with the after-effects of being in combat.

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for his speech.

Will the Conservative government go beyond words and rhetoric and finally recognize its sacred duty to our injured veterans?

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

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

I would like to ask him why the Conservative government is allergic, as he put it, to the recommendations of the ombudsman and the Auditor General.

Petitions June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on May 10, I knocked on doors throughout the city of Farnham in Brome—Missisquoi.

The majority of people told me that they are not happy with the cuts to Canada Post's services. The 140 people who signed this petition are calling on the government to reject the plan to reduce services at Canada Post and to explore new options for modernizing the crown corporation.

Veterans June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last week, Jenifer Migneault, from Brome—Missisquoi, tried to meet with the Minister of Veterans Affairs to talk to him about the loved ones who support soldiers dealing with PTSD.

Instead of facing up to his responsibilities, the minister ran away. He clearly has no class or empathy.

Will the minister finally agree to listen to Ms. Migneault?

Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act May 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in the House today to speak to Bill C-587, which was introduced by a Conservative member.

The bill would amend the Criminal Code to provide that a person convicted of the abduction, sexual assault and murder of the same victim is to be sentenced to imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole until the person has served a sentence of between 25 and 40 years, as determined by the judge.

This bill is basically a reincarnation of Bill C-478, which was introduced last year and then struck from the order paper when the member sponsoring it became a parliamentary secretary. Bill C-587 is designed to extend the parole ineligibility period depending on the severity of the crime, not the number of crimes committed or the number of victims.

I am opposed to this bill. While it seems well-intentioned, it is unnecessary, ineffective and open to attack in court. That is what I will be demonstrating.

As I already mentioned, Bill C-587 is basically the same as Bill C-478, which was not passed by Parliament.

The first federal ombudsman for victims of crime, Steve Sullivan, did not have a very high opinion of the bill. He felt it was nothing but smoke and mirrors. If someone is accused of first-degree murder, the Crown does not generally concern itself with lesser offences. If someone is sentenced to life in prison with a chance of parole after 25 years, this already takes into account that if the person represents a danger or a risk, they will not be granted parole.

I would also like to point out that criminals targeted in this bill, people like Clifford Olson, Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams, are rare cases. They have already been sentenced to life in prison without Bill C-587.

Take Clifford Olson, for example. He murdered 11 people. After serving 25 years in prison, he applied for parole for the first time in 2006. His application was denied, as was his second in 2008. In 2010, his third application was also denied because the court found that he still represented a danger to society. He ended up spending 30 years of his life behind bars, where he died in 2011.

The bill before us will have no real impact on the legal reality in this country. Offenders convicted of abduction, sexual assault and murder are very rare. They are well known because their stories get so much media attention. Bill C-587 will not change anything. These offenders will still stay behind bars.

The legality of the bill is the other point I want to address. First, I would like to point out that the 25-year period was not determined arbitrarily. Paragraph 110 of the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court states that life in prison is the maximum sentence, but that it must be reviewed after 25 years.

Therefore, international law does not allow for life sentences without eligibility for parole, even for the most serious crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. This is probably why Canada set the maximum parole ineligibility period at 25 years, even for the worst cases of first degree murder.

Other states often look to Canada to learn from its principles of justice et its criminal justice. We are off to a bad start if we begin to renege on our international treaties to pass cosmetic bills.

What international law imposes, and what Canada decided to apply, is a maximum prison term of 25 years, which applies to all crimes. Our role is not really to say which crimes are most serious. Rather, it is to define the rule of law. Moreover, this bill undermines the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court has yet to render a decision on the constitutionality of extending this maximum period in the case of consecutive parole ineligibility periods for multiple murders.

Extending the ineligibility period from 25 to 40 years for murders involving abductions and sexual assault would probably be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

In the case of Bill C-478, the carbon copy of Bill C-587, we asked the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to check compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Conservatives voted against that and we were not able to do that study.

If Bill C-587 is challenged in court, taxpayers will again have to pay for even higher legal costs. The whole issue will end up before the Supreme Court, as it often happens already.

Since the Conservatives came to power, we have seen an increase in court action. There are challenges not only by the provinces, but also from the Supreme Court with respect to the compatibility and constitutionality of certain Conservative bills.

It should be noted that Bill C-587 continues the Conservative government's tradition of presenting measures to amend the Criminal Code through private members' bills introduced by backbench MPs.

We remain concerned about the provisions in Bill C-587 and their compatibility with the charter. Private members' bills are not submitted to the Department of Justice for review as to their compatibility with the charter and the Constitution.

We are opposed to this bill. All though it seems well-meaning, it is unnecessary, ineffective and easy to attack in court. Once again, the Conservatives are just using smoke and mirrors and this could cause more challenges with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I invite all my colleagues to vote against this bill.

Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act May 30th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, who works very hard for her constituents. From what she said, I can see that the NDP takes Canada's contraband tobacco problem very seriously.

Contraband tobacco is a very complex issue. It is wrapped up in problems with health, public safety, loss of tax revenue and loss of profitability for small businesses. My riding, Brome—Missisquoi, shares a border several kilometres long with the United States. Are the Conservatives going to solve these problems by cutting funding for police forces and the Canada Border Services Agency left and right? I do not understand. They should be doing the opposite because this is not really an expense. The government should invest in police officers and agents to fight contraband tobacco. I will turn things back over to my colleague.

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act May 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that Bill C-24 is not on solid constitutional footing. It could run into challenges regarding section 15, in particular, and section 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Does he realize that?