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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

Business of Supply September 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am always honoured to rise in the House to discuss things that are important to my riding. It is also always nice to hear the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, who is an excellent speaker.

I have been representing the people of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for more than seven and a half years now. I have toured the riding, which is one of the largest in Canada. It covers more than half of Quebec. When I met with leaders in the Far North, indigenous or not, the first item on the agenda was always housing, without exception. I therefore find the motion moved by my colleague from Saskatoon West to be absolutely relevant because this is an urgent matter. I thank her.

I want to tell my colleagues first about a student in my riding. His name is Ken Cameron. His Inuktitut name is Papikatuk. Ken comes from the community of Salluit, about as far north as a person can travel in my riding. A couple of years ago, Ken was in secondary 4 when I spoke at his school. Yesterday, he reached out to me, asking why the government does not care about natives at all. Those are his words. Ken wants to know why the government is using the natural resources in his home while treating natives like “dirt”. He wrote:

You tried everything to become a politician in Quebec. When you talk about Quebec in general, do you think about the people in northern Quebec?

The population in the north continues to rise while northern communities have no additional housing. Established northern communities simply cannot accommodate this number of people, which is creating a dangerously high level of overcrowding in our communities. Many housing units have problems with mould, need major repairs or are simply too small for families.

The lack of housing in Inuit communities is at a crisis level. Just over 100 houses are built each year, but never enough to meet the housing needs of the region. Nunavik needs 800 units today to eliminate the housing shortage, and that number is not being addressed. A housing construction program needs to be established to eliminate the overcrowding in Inuit communities.

The Director of Public Health for the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services concluded in his report that “the problems of housing and overcrowding in Nunavik constitute a major risk factor for the population's physical and psychosocial health.” His prediction came to pass in 2012, when there was an outbreak of active tuberculosis in Nunavik, with over 90 cases of the disease reported.

One year ago, the Prime Minister said that, "Housing rights are human rights and everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home”. Those were his words. However, the government has not proven that statement to the members of my riding.

The NDP has long advocated for housing as a human right, in keeping with Canada's obligations as a signatory to the international treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Speaking of human rights, article 21 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the following:

Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.

Article 23 of the UN declaration states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.

The poor condition of the housing, overcrowding, major renovation needs and lack of suitability for traditional lifestyles in Quebec's far north have a devastating effect on Cree and Inuit communities. The inadequacies are changing the way of life. Overcrowding is associated with the spread of disease, higher rates of suicide and gender-based and family violence in those communities.

Many local leaders have already suggested solutions and innovative initiatives developed right in their communities. They only want to be consulted and given the support to implement them. We must apply a policy of free, prior, and informed consent to housing. Conditions cannot be improved in the north without having meaningful consultation.

Once people have appropriate housing, attendance at schools goes up and gender-based violence and suicide rates go down. A variety of social issues are addressed when people have secure housing.

The NDP is asking the federal government to forge a partnership with the first nations, Inuit and Métis to assess housing needs and design durable housing suited to traditional indigenous lifestyles and climate conditions. Culturally appropriate, on-site construction trades training would not only achieve these objectives but also help create jobs within the communities.

The remote nature of northern communities is not just their defining feature, it is often their most complicated problem. The north has an infrastructure deficit that many southerners do not consider. The vast majority of northern communities are inaccessible by road year-round.

Communities know what needs to be done, and we need to work with them. For example, Grand Chief Harvey Yesno, of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, said, “The ultimate goal is all-weather roads.... to network the communities.... a regional infrastructure strategy by both levels of government.”

Ice roads can cost 60% to 70% more than all-weather roads and are substantially more dangerous to traverse.

Patterns of land use in northern communities have gone through extensive changes. This is intensified by southerners imposing ideas, imposing legislation and imposing regulations on territories and communities that face a very different reality than the south. Relocation, settlement and the introduction of a wage-based economy have permanently altered existing indigenous land use and cultural practices.

In Val-d'Or, we see a large shortage of affordable housing, making the cost of providing for one's family more and more difficult. Throughout northern Quebec, we hear the same stories. In Eeyou Istchee, there is a shortage of approximately 2,560 units. Members heard me right. That is 2,560 units to support northern Quebec James Bay Cree. Over the next 10 years, an investment of $1 billion is required for infrastructure to address the housing backlog and projected needs.

I am on a waiting list in my community of Waswanipi, and according to the rhythm of construction of houses in my community, I probably will not get my house before I am 82. That is a long time from now.

Let me conclude by saying that this situation has created many social problems in indigenous and northern communities. I wish to finish today by quoting my dear friend Cindy Blackstock.

“Children only get one childhood. They can't wait for studies.... The government knows what to do for this generation of children, they just have to get down and do it”.

Indigenous Affairs September 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I want everyone here to understand that I do not appreciate having my rights explained to me in this place by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and the government have made it every clear to me that they do not understand our rights.

Let me ask again. Will the Prime Minister commit today to having his full cabinet sit with indigenous knowledge keepers and learn what free, prior and informed consent really means?

Indigenous Affairs September 27th, 2018

Wow, Mr. Speaker, it is becoming a file-to-file relationship.

The Prime Minister committed to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of first nations. However, he is determined to move forward with this pipeline that the first nations reject. Reconciliation is not just an empty word. It requires true understanding.

Will the Prime Minister commit today to have his full cabinet sit with indigenous knowledge keepers to learn what free and informed consent really means?

Indigenous Affairs September 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister committed to free, prior and informed consent on projects affecting indigenous peoples' rights, but he is determined to push ahead with the pipeline opposed by first nations.

Reconciliation is not a talking point. It requires true understanding. Will the Prime Minister commit today to have his full cabinet sit with indigenous knowledge keepers to learn what free, prior and informed consent really means?

Natural Resources September 25th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, what is going on right now is so insulting that it is making my blood boil. I am sorry. I withdraw that word. I am truly sorry.

Natural Resources September 25th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister insists that this pipeline expansion will be done no matter what and his minister adds that Canada will not be able to accommodate all indigenous concerns, it means they have decided to willfully violate their constitutional duties and obligations. It sounds like a most important relationship, does it not?

Why does the Prime Minister not just say the truth and tell indigenous peoples that he does not give a fuck about their rights?

Indigenous Affairs September 20th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in response to a question about Kinder Morgan and the duty to consult indigenous peoples, the Prime Minister said that the process was adequate, but that they had to do a little bit more. The Federal Court of Appeal said that “Canada fell well short of the minimum requirements imposed by...the Supreme Court of Canada.” I have news for him. His little bit more will not be enough.

Does he realize that imposing a pipeline on first nations is not an act of reconciliation?

Business of Supply June 4th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I have a question that is important in the context of this discussion.

It is about the rule of law. As parliamentarians, we have to uphold the rule of law everyday as we pass laws and legislation, etc. As a parliamentarian, what does the rule of law mean to my hon. colleague? Does it mean sending in the army or upholding the Constitution and the rights under the Constitution?

Business of Supply June 4th, 2018

Madam Speaker, that is a good question. I think the most direct answer would be that it is a matter of self-determination.

It is about the right to self-determination. People have a right to determine the issues that confront them, and that is what happened in this case. Quite simply, it is about the right to self-determination.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for that important question. I worked on this bill for over two years. When this new government promised to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a promise it made both during and after the election campaign, I hoped it would be easy to come to an agreement on the declaration and on my bill. After all, Bill C-262 simply implements that promise and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action 43 and 44. I thought it was a no-brainer, but I was wrong. I think it is deplorable that we have had to work so hard to get to this point. Now that—