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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was first.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou (Québec)

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

Statements in the House

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.

Indigenous Affairs September 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the problem has already been identified, but without a clear plan from the government, its five-year objective will not be met.

Let us not forget that this same Prime Minister, who delivered a speech this morning, continues to fight against first nations children, even after one ruling and three orders handed down by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

After two years of fine speeches, it is time to act. Can the government confirm that it will support Bill C-262 on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Indigenous Affairs September 21st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Prime Minister's speech to the United Nations this afternoon with great interest. As usual, he spoke on how the nation-to-nation relationship was the most important to him. Yet I said those words, first nations are still under 172 drinking water advisories. This is up from 159 advisories from before he was elected.

How can the Prime Minister keep claiming to the world that this is the most important relationship when in reality, he is letting them down?

Indigenous Affairs June 21st, 2017

[Member spoke in aboriginal language]

Indian Act June 20th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I understand the parliamentary secretary's question and where she is coming from. However, one of the things she fails to mention in her question is that the Quebec Superior Court judge said that we needed to look beyond fixing the issue with respect to the Descheneaux case, so it does not preclude the possibility of fixing other things that are problematic in the Indian Act.

The parliamentary secretary fails to understand that. However, I understand it. I do not think that discrimination should continue in this country. This is a country that recognizes equality for all. That includes indigenous women. If she thinks we should not proceed right away with that, and that we need to consult with respect to the human rights of indigenous women and indigenous women alone, that is problematic for me, and goes against the rule of law in this country.

As members of Parliament, we are called upon to uphold the rule of law. That includes respecting the Constitution, which includes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and section 35 rights as well. Therefore, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. That is where I am coming from. I know she has a limited view of how we should proceed.

Indian Act June 20th, 2017

Madam Speaker, what I understand from what is going on here is that we are heading toward a battle between the Senate and the House as we speak, because this is what the Senate wants, but it is not what the government wants. Second, the government has botched the obligation that we have to correct the Indian Act. The Liberals did not move on this after they were elected. They waited 18 months before doing anything about it, and here we are today hard-pressed to adopt what they think should be adopted.

Finally, I know that hearings were held yesterday and today, and that the Quebec Superior Court dismissed the motion to extend Parliament's deadline for eliminating sex discrimination. However, the judge, Chantal Masse, emphasized that she remains available to hear another motion for an extension before the deadline of July 3. That is important to know, because what we have before us as we speak, which was proposed by the current majority government, is a botched proposal, and we need to start over again.

Indian Act June 20th, 2017


That Bill S-3 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Madam Speaker, [member spoke in aboriginal language]


First, I could not help reiterating my disappointment in the Speaker's ruling on the question of privilege raised by the member for Winnipeg Centre. I am going to accommodate the House and repeat my message in both official languages.

It is all the more disappointing that it has been decided, with unprecedented and delicate irony, on the eve of National Aboriginal Day, that I will no longer have the right to speak my own language here in the House of Commons. This is frustrating, not to say insulting, because my language has been spoken for 7,000 years. It was spoken before a word of French or English was ever spoken in this country that we now call Canada.

I am going to accommodate the House.

This afternoon, the Speaker rendered his ruling on the question of privilege that was raised by the member for Winnipeg Centre, which is extremely disappointing, especially on the eve of National Aboriginal Day.

On the very eve of National Aboriginal Day 2017, in this country that you now call Canada, I am told that there are only two official languages in this place, and that I cannot speak the language that has been spoken in this country, on this territory, for the last 7,000 years, even before a single word in English or French was heard in this place. In this country, that you now call Canada, I am told that I cannot use my language. Allow me to express my disappointment.

Tomorrow is a sacred day for all indigenous peoples in this country. It is so sacred. However, hearing this ruling from the Speaker was the most terrible thing I have heard in this chamber in the six years that I have been sitting in this place. In fact, if members want to know, the words in Cree for the Speaker of the House is [Member spoke in Cree] which means “the boss of those who speak in the House”.

However, I rise again on Bill S-3, which is a bill that should eliminate any gender inequities in the Indian Act.

In doing so, I need to refer to a couple aspects of where we are at this moment as we speak. As we know, there were important amendments that stemmed from the work of the Senate, important amendments that not only attempted to respond to the Quebec Superior Court ruling in the Descheneaux case, but also addressed the other inequities and discriminations that exist under the Indian Act.

That was the purpose of the amendments submitted by the Senate. Unfortunately, the majority Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs decided that those amendments were unacceptable. That is very unfortunate, because discrimination in this country should not even be allowed in 2017. That is so unjust. That is one aspect that I will be talking about in the remaining time I have.

There is also the aspect of the liability of the crown, which needs to be addressed. It is one of the most important calls to action of the TRC. It is number 26 of the TRC which deals with this aspect. Again, it is a provision that is included in the amendments that are before us. I believe it is a proposition to accept human rights violations that were done in the past and accept them in 2017. In all conscience, I as an indigenous person will never accept that proposition. We cannot justify past wrongs, past human rights violations in this place in 2017. Wrongs of the past are wrongs. We cannot say today to forget about them and move on. That is not how it works.

The other aspect I would like to address in the couple of minutes I have left is the fact that the government is telling us to trust it, that there is a second phase coming up, and it will deal with the other concerns that we are talking about six months after this bill is ratified by the Senate. Again, who else is asked that their human rights be delayed once again? Indigenous women in this country have waited for so long. Now we are asking again to do away with their human rights, that we will deal with them later on. That is absolutely unacceptable. On this side of the House, that cannot be accepted.

Let me quote one of our expert witnesses who came before us, Pam Palmater. She had this to say to our committee:

How many more times are you going to require that indigenous women spend their entire lives trying to get equality, in a country where equality is actually the law?

We do not have a choice here. This issue should in fact be moot. There is a very clear message here. The fact the government or any committee would be wondering or considering delaying equality for one more day shows exactly how ingrained sexism and racism is in this country, and especially for indigenous women.

The provisions that were truncated from the proposed Senate amendments were once accepted by both the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Minister of Justice. In fact, this is what the Minister of Justice said to Parliament back in 2010. She insisted that Parliament eradicate discrimination wherever and whenever possible. Now she has changed her mind. The proposition that I have before us is the very minimum that we need this House to adopt.

Indian Act June 20th, 2017


Motion No. 2

That Bill S-3, in Clause 2, be amended

(a) by adding after line 4 on page 2 the following:

“(a.1) that person was born prior to April 17, 1985 and is a direct descendant of the person referred to in paragraph (a) or of a person referred to in paragraph 11(1)(a), (b), (c), (d), (e) or (f), as each provision read immediately prior to April 17, 1985;”;

(b) by adding after line 18 on page 5 the following:

“(4.1) Section 6 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):

(1.1) The purpose of paragraph (1)(a.1) is to entitle to registration under paragraph (1)(a) those persons who were previously not entitled to registration under paragraph (1)(a) as a result of the preferential treatment accorded to Indian men over Indian women born prior to April 17, 1985, and to patrilineal descendants over matrilineal descendants born prior to April 17, 1985.”

Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act June 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it sounded like the entire Yukon was doomed as I listened to the member's speech. I would like an explanation. I know of many regions in the country where there are strict environmental and social assessment rules and the economies in those regions generally go very well. I would like the member to point to examples or experiences where these kinds of rules exist and the economies of those regions have gone bust.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act June 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comment from my colleague on the Standing Committee for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

I listened carefully to his speech. Some parts are good; some parts are troubling. As members know, I come from a region where the rules are pretty tight and pretty severe in terms of environmental assessment and review of projects, whether they be mining projects or forestry projects or hydro development projects.

Where there are rules that are strict, I believe there is certainty, because every player will know by which rules they need to play in any given territory. This is what this bill is all about. This is why indigenous people in particular who hold constitutional rights in the region need this as well. They have agreed to this bill for that.

I want to ask the same question I asked the member's colleague previously. There is talk about imposing a time limit on environment assessments, something which I wholeheartedly disagree with because constitutional rights of indigenous peoples do not have time limits. They exist now; they existed yesterday; they will continue to exist tomorrow.

Time limits cannot be imposed on constitutional rights. Whatever time it will take to consult with indigenous peoples is a constitutional duty that we need to undertake every time.