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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

International Cooperation September 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of International Cooperation said that there had been no cuts in his department. However, CIDA's 2012 budget was cut by $320 million, and the percentage of GDP allocated to international aid is in free fall.

I know that this is a new portfolio for the minister, but did he take the time to get the right information? Will he continue the Conservative tradition of cutting aid to the poorest countries?

Increasing Offenders' Accountability for Victims Act September 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt congratulations to you on your appointment. We are all thrilled to have you in the Chair.

I would first like to congratulate the hon. member for his excellent presentation. I know that he briefly touched on the matter of eliminating judicial discretion.

I would like him to elaborate a little further on this issue, because this feature is at the very foundation of our current justice system, meaning a fair and equitable system. Could he expand on this?

Aboriginal Affairs June 21st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that education and housing problems have escalated since this minister came to office.

This winter we saw in Attawapiskat a symptom of a much larger crisis that is happening everywhere in this country. We also saw a minister completely lost, unable to do the right thing to improve the lives of people living in some of the worst conditions in this country.

Seeing that incompetence, why should aboriginal peoples trust the minister to resolve the national crisis that is striking them?


Madam Speaker, I appreciate the presentation made by my friend, who also chairs the foreign affairs committee. I always appreciate his interventions.

Over and above the concerns that we have on this side regarding labour rights, environmental issues and indigenous issues and rights in Panama, Panama has refused to sign the tax information exchange agreement. This is always very troubling for us because of the money laundering that happens in Panama. That has been confirmed by the U.S. justice department and others.

What does my hon. friend have to say about that?


Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague. I am pleased that he raised the issue of indigenous rights in Panama.

We know that Panama has signed more than 27 international human rights documents, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Recently, the UN Human Rights Committee underscored the absence of a process for consulting with indigenous people in Panama.

I wonder whether the hon. member has anything to add to that. Indeed, it is a matter of concern now that the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples has come into force internationally.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 19th, 2012

Madam Speaker, our credibility is at stake when we negotiate free trade agreements with countries like Panama.

The Department of Justice expressed extreme concern with regard to the money laundering situation, which is very well known in that country. Why are we going ahead with this type of free trade agreement without taking care to determine whether what is going on is really going on? What measures are being proposed in our agreements to remedy these situations?

That applies to the issues raised by my NDP colleague, but also to the environmental issues, human rights issues and right of association issues in that country, which is a matter of constant concern. We need to be able to act rigorously each time we negotiate a free trade agreement.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 19th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for his excellent question. We also ask excellent questions on this side of the House.

It is such an important question. In all the agreements that we will have to negotiate in the future, the measures in place in these agreements must be comparable to what we have in Canada, whether in terms of the environment, human rights or labour standards. This is important, and we insist on that.

Only yesterday, I read the United Nations Human Rights Committee report. On the other side of the House, they seem to be saying that there is no problem with human rights in Panama and that there are therefore no concerns to voice in this regard. Yet, in its latest report on Panama, in paragraph 20, the Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, had the following to say about child labour:

The committee notes with concern that, despite the fact that the Constitution prohibits persons under the age of 14 years from working, including as domestic workers, and despite legislative measures to prohibit the worst forms of child labour, the rate of child labour in the country continues to be high.

That is why we are concerned about this type of free trade agreement.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 19th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues from all parties who have already spoken in the course of this debate for letting us know their views.

We are debating another free trade agreement signed by this government in Central America, this time with Panama. So Panama is joining Colombia, Peru and Honduras, which have all negotiated or signed agreements with this Conservative government.

This agreement is just one more step in the Canada-United States strategy of prioritizing sequential bilateralism in the form of a NAFTA-style trade agreement. In my opinion, bilateralism is a very bad strategy. As was the case for the other agreements I have mentioned, this agreement presents problems, and that means we have a number of reasons for opposing the bill that has been introduced in this House.

This agreement presents a significant problem in terms of workers’ rights in Panama, and in fact there are no provisions in this trade agreement to ensure that Panamanian workers will not be denied their rights as they have been in the past. Two of the amendments proposed in committee by my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster would have protected unionized workers in Panama by guaranteeing them the right to bargain collectively and by forcing the Minister of International Trade, the principal representative of Canada on the joint Canada-Panama commission, to consult regularly with representatives of Canadian workers and Canadian unions.

Those amendments, like all the others, were rejected by the Conservatives and the Liberals. Unfortunately, the result is a free trade zone where workers’ rights are cheapened, something that is already a serious problem in Panama.

The fact that these reasonable amendments were rejected by both the Conservatives and the Liberals reminded me of one of the last times we saw the two parties come together on an FTA in this region. I am referring to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. It was during the last Parliament that many of my colleagues discussed and debated that agreement, eventually seeing its passage as the Liberals supported the Conservatives. However, that support came with a condition at the suggestion of the hon. member for Kings—Hants. Under that condition, each country would have to provide annual reports to their parliaments assessing the impact of the free trade agreement on human rights.

To the Liberals, this was the answer to the grievous human rights concerns that exist in Colombia. To the Liberals, this was the silver bullet, or as put another way by the member for Kings—Hants in a press release dated March 25, 2010, was the “new gold standard” for human rights reporting in free trade agreements.

With that deal in place, the Liberals signed onto the FTA and it went into force. Therefore, maybe it is appropriate timing that just last month the very first report under that agreement was published. Given what the Liberals had agreed to, we should have expected to receive a fulsome report on the human rights situation on the ground in Colombia, but what did we get instead? We got nothing, zero, nada on human rights in Colombia.

What was the excuse for this failure to report? The international trade minister told us, “the government did not have enough information to conduct a full assessment by the time it was required to submit the report to Parliament”. Seriously, that was the answer. He may as well have said that his dog ate his homework. If this is what the new gold standard is supposed to look like, then so far it looks like the Liberals were sold a big piece of fool's gold.

Under this FTA, the government is supposed to produce these reports every 12 months. How is it that it could not produce at least a preliminary report after nine months? Maybe it did not because it knew it would not be the most flattering and would create some political problems for it.

Regardless of the excuses for not reporting, the entire reporting process that was agreed to has major flaws.

First, these reports do not meet the United Nations' standard, which states that nations should complete human rights assessments before signing an FTA rather than after.

Also, this report is coming directly from the government itself, not an independent third party. We are counting on the Government of Colombia to tell us if it is violating the human rights of its own citizens. Throughout history that kind of self-reporting arrangement has never been viewed as the most credible approach, yet we are depending on it here.

But the coup de grâce really comes from the final problem with this approach, which is that under this FTA there are no negative consequences for any negative results that come from that report. So regardless of how bad the reports may be, there is not a single consequence for the Government of Colombia. How does the Conservative government expect the Government of Colombia to be motivated to improve the human rights situation in its country if it faces no consequences for not doing so?

After the Colombia FTA came into force, we saw the violence and the repression of human rights continue. Groups like MiningWatch Canada have brought forward reports from Colombia of incidents involving Canadian mining companies in Colombia, particularly regarding indigenous rights violations.

On September 2 Father José Reinel Restrepo was murdered in Marmato, Colombia. Father Restrepo just happened to be a very vocal opponent of a mining project proposed by a company based in Canada called Gran Colombia Gold Corp. Under this project his home community of Marmato would be obliterated in order to make way for an open pit mine.

There are other NGOs that have also brought forward stories and reports of human rights violations. Despite all these reports brought forward by reputable NGOs, I remind the House that the Conservative government said it “did not have enough information to conduct a full assessment by the time it was required...”. These reports seem to state otherwise.

I represent a riding where many of these same mining firms work and work well. They work with local communities and aboriginal nations to provide opportunities for the people who call our region home. I have personally negotiated many agreements with many of these companies on behalf of the Grand Council of the Cree in the past 20 years.

I have to ask myself why it is that some of these companies seem to not take this same approach when working in other countries. Maybe it is because under this FTA these companies simply do not have the obligation to do so. The Conservative government, by signing FTAs that do not truly protect human rights in these partner countries, is sending the signal that as long as they act like good corporate citizens at home, we will forget about what they do abroad. This “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” approach to corporate social responsibility is not only doing harm to communities in these other countries; it is putting a stain on the reputation of our country and the reputations of those Canadian companies that take their corporate social responsibility seriously.

The NDP believes that the federal government should stop following the NAFTA model exclusively, at the expense of other approaches. It should explore different ways of promoting trade. Our trade policy, here in Canada, should be based on the principles of fair, sustainable and equitable trade, trade that builds partnerships with other countries that support the principles of social justice and human rights, while not ignoring the need to expand our trade objectives. It is possible to have a better model, but the political will has to be there, and that is what is sorely lacking on the part of this Conservative government.

The NDP firmly believes that there is another model for trade relations, a better model, one that can be applied to Panama and any other country. That model includes the fundamental principle that all trade agreements must protect and promote human rights. There is a lot of work to be done to improve this free trade agreement with Panama. I hope the government is going to take our suggestions to heart and exchange its free trade model for our fair trade model, which is viable and realistic.

International Trade June 19th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, clearly, fair international trade is important for our country's prosperity. The NDP has always recognized this fact.

However, we need agreements that will benefit Canadians, not agreements that will compromise their rights and interests. We cannot trust the Conservatives on this. From the buy American act to the softwood lumber agreement, the Conservatives have failed miserably every time they have had the opportunity to stand up for Canadians' rights and interests.

Will the Conservatives commit to bringing this new agreement before Parliament?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act June 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech, which was instructive as always.

Last week, the President of the Treasury Board was in Thunder Bay trying to sell the bill we are debating. This is what he said about the environmental assessment process:

“Current joint-panel review environmental assessments are duplicating the process and allowing individuals to use the assessment to discuss irrelevant issues that delay projects from mining to oil and gas that create jobs.”

I would like her comments on that.