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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is peoples.

NDP MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Indigenous Affairs October 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, speaking on this topic earlier today, the minister said, and I quote, “I don't know what people were thinking”.

That is precisely what I want to ask her. Unfortunately, discrimination against indigenous children is still happening as we speak. The Liberals are not complying with the three orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Will the government learn from this legal battle against survivors of the sixties scoop, end the systemic discrimination against indigenous children, and stop fighting children in court?

Indigenous Affairs October 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, eight months after Canada was found liable for failing to protect survivors of the sixties scoop from losing their cultural identity, the Liberals are finally settling with survivors. Unfortunately, a lot of work is still needed. Survivors have said that money alone cannot compensate for what they lost.

Will the government learn from this lesson and stop fighting first nations children, for instance, or settle other outstanding claims, like with the Experimental Eskimos?

Indigenous Affairs October 3rd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals can hardly speak about reconciliation when they decide to exclude the indigenous women from our national conversation.

Yesterday, the minister could not explain why government lawyers asked the court to award the compensation that residential school survivors were unjustly denied. I have a simple question for the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

Now that she has all of the information, will she ask her Justice colleague to stop challenging survivors in court?

Who told this government to withhold information about a child predator?

Department of Health Act September 22nd, 2017

[Member spoke in aboriginal language]


Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak about an issue that is very important to me, and that is water. Bill C-326 seeks to amend the Department of Health Act so that we may set out guidelines respecting drinking water.

This bill seeks to require the department to ensure that existing drinking water standards in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are upheld and to make any necessary recommendations for Canada in that regard. I wonder why only OECD countries are mentioned. I think that there is also reason to consider including members of the intergovernmental economic organization, namely the World Health Organization. I think we might be able to add them in the future.

When we talk about the major challenges of our time on this planet, when it comes to climate change, protecting the environment, or developing our natural resources around the world, we often forget one aspect that is essential to human survival on earth: water.

I do not know if my colleagues have had the chance to fly over the northern regions of our country. I do almost every week since I have the privilege of representing one of the largest ridings in the country, which covers 54% of Quebec. I like saying that half of Quebec listens to me when I speak. This resource we call water, I see it every time I fly over my riding.

It is important to remember every day that access to drinking water for humans, for Canadians, is a fundamental right. In fact, enforcing this right is part of the mandate of the institution we are all a part of because, which is a public policy mandate. It is important to remember that. We have such an abundance of fresh water in Canada that we must find ways to protect this resource.

During the last election, the Prime Minister of Canada promised to end drinking water advisories in indigenous communities within five years. However, anyone who has ever been in an indigenous community knows that water treatment facilities there are in terrible condition. The promise to fix everything within five years did not take into account the complexity of such an endeavour. There is no easy solution to this problem, a stark reality faced by indigenous communities in a country like Canada. Canada is one of the richest countries on the planet, but its first peoples' living conditions, in many cases, are akin to fourth world conditions.

Members do not need to take my word for it; the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis quoted a report from the David Suzuki Foundation that confirms exactly what I am saying, which is that the government is not on track to keep its promise to solve this issue within five years.

That is why I said that that was not a reasonable timeframe. As someone across the way pointed out, the promised investments need to be paid out. After the 2015 election, there were 159 boil water advisories and today there are 172. Despite investments, why is the situation worse now than in 2015, when this government first came to power? I have an answer to that, which I will come back to later.

One thing that people need to understand about indigenous communities is that there is no legislative or regulatory framework that guarantees access to clean drinking water in those communities. As strange as that sounds, it is true. Of course, the previous government passed the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, but there is no obligation to implement the provisions of that act, given the complexity of the situation, including training people to maintain the facilities that exist in those communities. These things are so complicated that it would have been a long shot to think that the Liberals could keep their election promise from 2015 within the timeframe they had set, unfortunately.

We need to set a number of long-term objectives. We need to have standards similar to those that exist in other countries, for example, standards governing the maximum allowed concentration of microbiological, physical, chemical, and radiological contaminants. Canadians have a right to that as a country. We need to take urgent action to put an end to the boil water advisories in first nations communities. That must be done in co-operation and partnership with indigenous people, not imposed on them as the previous law sought to do. As I have been saying all along, access to clean drinking water is a fundamental right. We could draw from the standards that exist elsewhere, for example, in the European Union, the United States, and Australia.

Earlier, it was said that budget 2016 allocated $1.8 billion for infrastructure. As the member for Lac-Saint-Louis said, money has been allocated. I will admit that that is true.

However, the fact that this is still a problem should indicate that those investments were not enough. There is not enough money. In fact, that additional funding represents less than half of what Neegan Burnside estimates is necessary to put an end to the boil water advisories.

I think I can quote Clayton Leonard here, the lawyer that represented Alberta first nations in this matter:

How many times do you get to reannounce the same amount of money? If you spent $2 billion, and then you find that 73% of first nations still face serious drinking water issues, it's a pretty clear indication it's not enough.

This is not only about boil water advisories, although that is what we hear about most often. A number of communities are under do not consume orders, including Potlotek, Kitigan Zibi in Quebec, Bearskin in Ontario, and Wahta and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

We need to address this problem for all Canadians, but we must never forget this country's first nations.

Department of Health Act September 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his speech on an issue that I believe is one of the most important issues facing every country on this planet, including Canada. Drinking water is a basic right, which is why all countries, including ours, must have strict standards.

Canada is one of the world's richest countries, yet here it is 2017, and there are still indigenous communities that do not have access to safe drinking water or that have problems with their water supply systems and are regularly under boil water advisories, as I mentioned yesterday in question period. There are currently 172 communities under such advisories.

At the time the government began issuing advisories, there were 159 communities with drinking water problems.

One of the key promises the Liberal Party made during the 2015 campaign was to eliminate those advisories within five years, but according to the David Suzuki Foundation study mentioned by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, the government is nowhere near resolving these issues in indigenous communities as promised.

Indigenous Affairs September 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, there is a serious problem here.

Commissioner Buller said, “I'm happy to share those [ideas about eliminating obstacles to the process] with the government if and when they ever ask.”

How can it be that the government has never asked how it might help eliminate obstacles to the success of the inquiry? That is what we all want.

When will the government stop paying lip service and actually do something to remove those obstacles in order to ensure the inquiry's success?

Export and Import Permits Act September 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am part of the last generation of Crees born on the land. I spent the first seven years of my life hunting, fishing, and trapping out on the land before being sent to a residential school for 10 years. I can tell the member that I have several guns in my home, and there is absolutely no provision in this legislation that threatens my right to have those guns. I have not found any. If he has a provision, I would like to read it.

There are many more important issues. My main preoccupation is human rights in this particular case. I have been fighting for human rights all my life. As a member of Parliament, who has a duty to uphold the rule of law, I want to make sure human rights are always protected in whatever we do legislatively in this place.

Export and Import Permits Act September 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate this question, because one of the problems with this bill is the fact that it is not clear on this point. We need to make sure the rules we adopt in this type of situation are very clear and are enshrined in the act, not in the regulations. That is the main point that needs to be made, because that is not the case right now.

Polls show that the majority of Canadians are against signing arms deals with countries that are human rights abusers. When it comes to dealing arms to countries with a poor or questionable human rights record, being very clear on this point should be our number one priority.

Export and Import Permits Act September 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I will try to wrap things up. My point is that our role on the world stage is an important one. I wanted to share an example about how we all know that, in conflict zones, the most vulnerable people are women, girls, and children. That is why we have to make sure the bill contains measures to protect the basic rights of those children, those girls, those women. The international framework is already in place. All we have to do is meet our obligations under international law. I think that is one of the major omissions in this bill.

Export and Import Permits Act September 21st, 2017

[Member spoke in aboriginal language]


Mr. Speaker, first, I wish to inform you that I will be splitting my time, but I have not yet been told with whom.

I would like to start by saying that we will be supporting this bill at second reading, even though we are not completely satisfied with its contents. There are gaps. In fact, as my colleagues mentioned, there are gaps and serious concerns that we want to raise during this debate and also in committee.

Furthermore, the concerns that this bill raises, at least for our party, are rather important. In fact, it is impossible to determine whether the countries we sell arms to violate the most basic rights, that is, human rights. This is a fundamental concern because respecting these rights is one of our obligations as a country.

Under paragraph 3 of article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations, we have responsibilities and obligations to respect and promote human rights, fundamental rights, and rights and freedoms.

I also invite my colleagues to read articles 55 and 56 of the UN charter to which Canada is bound as a country. It is absolutely essential that we understand this responsibility that we have as a country when we discuss, negotiate, and sign international agreements.

To me, this is the legislative framework in international law that must guide us in this type of discussion, both internationally and domestically. We must always keep these responsibilities in mind.

We have an opportunity to improve the text before us in light of the first two points I mentioned. It is part of our responsibility as elected members. We need to be transparent every time we introduce a bill, including every time we introduce one that will have an impact on human rights. That is the practice in international law. In fact, when we sign international treaties, especially free trade agreements, international law practice is to verify the repercussions of those treaties on human rights. Similarly, some countries verify for the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. That is a good example that I will come back to. Some countries that sign free trade agreements make sure to consider the consequences of those agreements to the rights of indigenous peoples. It is easy to imagine the same scenario in this discussion on renewing the North American Free Trade Agreement. Let us not forget that every time we sign agreements, there are repercussions on the country's natural resources, for instance.

Even though under our Constitution natural resources fall within provincial jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has already indicated and reaffirmed several times that these jurisdictions are not absolute, particularly when they affect other aspects, such as the constitutional rights of indigenous people, as is the case here. It is important that we keep these things in mind in this discussion.

As I was also saying, one of the major concerns we have on this side of the House with regard to this bill is that it does not include an assessment process prior to authorization of export permits. I find that completely unacceptable. I spent over 20 years on the international stage negotiating one of the most important UN human rights declarations, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Those negotiations, which could not have been more multilateral, took 23 years. Sometimes there were over 1,000 people in the room, all talking, deliberating, and drafting this all-important document, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Prime Minister even mentioned that document before the UN today, as did the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs last year.

It is important to understand that this prior assessment is crucial if we want to play a leadership role on the world stage. I know that, for almost 10 years before this government came to power, that aspect of our responsibility as a state and our role on the world stage were somewhat neglected. I worked with the United Nations for 23 years before the Conservatives came to power in 2006, and during that time, whenever Canada took the floor at an international forum, the world listened.

When we talk about international and foreign affairs here, we must ensure that our decision-making is principled, particularly when it comes to human rights. We must make sure of that if we want to reclaim the status we once enjoyed.

I see that I have just one minute left.