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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

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, once again I cannot believe what I am hearing. That has been their mantra for months. It is not true. We are in favour of free trade, but it has to be free and fair trade. We are in favour of free trade that respects the environment. We are in favour of free trade that respects social justice all around the world. That is what we want.

We are not against this bill in principle. We are opposing it because we want to improve it. That is what we want to do. Earlier the minister said that there are no human rights problems in Panama, but the Human Rights Council confirms its concern over human rights in its recent report on Panama. That is what we want to bring to this debate in order to improve the content of this free trade agreement and this legislation.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, once again, the government wants to shut down debate on an important bill. This is the same story all over again. Last time it was a free trade agreement with another country in the same region, Colombia.

What lessons have been learned? We had concerns about that agreement, and yet the Conservatives and Liberals supported it. We had serious misgivings regarding the rights and freedoms of Colombians. We have the same concerns about this agreement and would like to debate it.

Why are we not being allowed to do so? The lessons learned from the agreement with Colombia should be helpful this time around in this august House. That is why we believe that it is important to continue the debate on this agreement.

Situation in Syria June 5th, 2012

Mr. Chair, I warmly congratulate my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent on his speech.

In conflicts like the one in Syria, international law requires ongoing and constant protection for non-combatants. Turkey's role in this conflict has been mentioned this evening on several occasions. Turkey is currently taking in a lot of refugees. To date, Turkey has spent over $150 million on refugee camps.

Will my colleague elaborate on her ideas on this issue? Should Canada play a more important role in this specific situation? What role are the neighbouring countries playing in this conflict?

Situation in Syria June 5th, 2012

Madam Chair, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question.

She raises an important question in the context of this conflict. One of the measures we must insist on in this conflict is that the regime in place must be replaced by a better regime, a more democratic regime, we hope.

The way things currently are in the world, we need to analyze our relationships with the autocratic regimes that exist. We have had relationships with certain autocratic regimes in the past, we continue to and, perhaps, we will have relationships with them in the future, as well. We need to review and analyze our behaviour internationally in that regard.

The hon. member mentioned the cuts to Rights & Democracy. This institution did extraordinary work and was respected throughout the world. I know something about it because I worked with them in Africa, South America, Latin America and in other places around the world. It is one of our Canadian institutions that was respected and that had a very good reputation throughout the world.

What did the Conservatives do? They eliminated the funding for this institution. That is unfortunate because it was one of the ways we had to try to help countries with questionable regimes. However, the Conservatives are eliminating every institution that goes against their decisions, philosophy and ideology. We see it everywhere, in all the programs that were important both in Canada and internationally.

Situation in Syria June 5th, 2012

Madam Chair, that is an important question for people who have worked in the international fora for many years, as many of us have done, including myself and I say that very humbly.

There are a lot of issues that need to be considered here. One of the things that is very unfortunate in this debate, and members on the other side may say what they want and think what they think with respect to the international influence today, but the present government has no influence anymore and no credibility, whether it is on the environment, climate change or the leadership role that we used to have and that Canadians were so proud of in this country.

We do not have that influence anymore. That is what is unfortunate in all of this. As my colleague from Ottawa Centre said earlier, we have an opportunity to pressure Russia. We have an opportunity to pressure Syria in the present context of negotiations for a free trade agreement.

However, what is going to be the result of the lack of influence, that influence we no longer have on the international stage? It is too bad.

We need to continue to uphold our international obligations under international law. We need to uphold those human rights that we pledge to promote and protect under our obligations as a member state of the United Nations under the UN charter. That is the only means we have presently.

What is the government doing to continue the pressure it should apply in this present situation?

Situation in Syria June 5th, 2012

Madam Chair, in every given conflict and in every given situation, Canada has an obligation as a United Nations member state.

Canada has many obligations under international law, under the UN charter and so on and so forth. We have to assess every situation.

One of the things I would like to bring up and ask about is in the March 12 press release by the Minister of International Cooperation. I would like to read this into the record. She had this to say:

Humanitarian agencies in the area are working in a very insecure and highly dangerous environment. We continue to call for an end to the violence and for the immediate full, safe, and unhindered access for humanitarian agencies to those suffering as a result of this conflict.

I would like to know what the government has done so far, in terms of implementing measures or pressing for measures to be implemented, in order for aid to arrive at those in need in this crisis.

Situation in Syria June 5th, 2012

Madam Chair, tonight we are discussing the quite pressing situation in Syria, which seems to be getting worse by the day.

I would like to talk about the humanitarian situation in this country and in neighbouring countries, because this type of conflict always has repercussions on such countries. With the surge in violence in Syria, it appears that the humanitarian situation is on the same path as the civilians who are fighting for their survival.

According to a report issued on March 29 by the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, at least one million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid. Given the events that have taken place in Syria over the past 14 months, one may suppose, without great fear of being mistaken, that the number of Syrians who are in need of humanitarian aid has increased. The report also indicates that protection, food, medical assistance, non-food items—such as bedding and essential items—and education are among the top priorities.

The Annan peace plan, which was agreed to by both sides in this conflict in March, included a point that specifically spoke to the humanitarian situation on the ground. It stated that all parties were to “ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and to this end, as immediate steps, to accept and implement a daily two hour humanitarian pause and to coordinate exact time and modalities of the daily pause through an efficient mechanism, including at local level...”.

If the estimate I just mentioned is correct, we can still easily see the extreme importance of delivering that assistance as quickly and effectively as possible. Under the peace plan, there was only that two hour daily period to work with, which is obviously not ideal, but, if implemented properly, it would have allowed for the much needed supplies to get to those civilians in need. We cannot reasonably expect humanitarian aid to be delivered to those who need it if we do not ensure that the humanitarian corridors exist.

This is a point that our government must insist on at the United Nations. Our government also needs to push nations, like Russia and China that have been supportive of the Assad regime in the past, to pressure the regime to ensure that these humanitarian corridors are in place and safe. Without these corridors, it is very difficult to help those civilians in need in this crisis.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Annan plan is slowly falling apart at the seams. Based on what we have learned from a number of reports, Syria has been delaying the humanitarian assistance so desperately needed by the population. According to these reports, the Assad regime interrupted discussions on humanitarian aid because it demanded that an official Syrian organization be in charge of the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It is my understanding that the United Nations also asked to be in charge and wanted to be kept abreast of who was receiving humanitarian aid.

The United Nations' request was very reasonable and was consistent with what normally occurs in this kind of desperate situation. It is not reasonable to force civilians to seek basic humanitarian aid from the people who are shooting at them.

Many governments have offered assistance to people in need in this crisis. Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Iraq—neighbouring countries—have taken in Syrian refugees. The United Nations estimates that there are over 56,000 Syrian refugees registered in these countries, but the exact figure is probably even higher, because tens of thousands of people are not registered. It is estimated that, to date, Turkey alone has invested over $150 million in refugee camps. A number of nations have rallied and are bearing this heavy burden. They must be thanked for the work that they have done to date and the work that they will undoubtedly do over the upcoming weeks.

Other major countries have also contributed assistance. For example, the United States recently provided Syria with additional humanitarian assistance to the tune of $6.5 million, bringing the total amount of its emergency assistance to about $40 million. Through CIDA, Canada is providing assistance in the amount of $7.5 million, which includes the funds already announced by the government. Many other countries have also taken steps to come to the assistance of those in need.

Despite everything that has been done to date, the need in Syria remains great and the conflict still rages on. The question is this: what more can the international community in general, and Canada in particular, do about the humanitarian crisis in Syria? The answer to that question is complicated and there is no simple solution, we agree. Sending assistance to the communities most devastated by the conflict has been difficult and hazardous. In March, the Red Cross and Red Crescent finally managed to reach some of the most severely affected areas, such as Homs, Aleppo and Idilb. They provided emergency medical help and distributed thousands of food parcels, blankets and other items. However, although they succeeded in reaching those communities, others remain inaccessible and are still in need of assistance. It is largely for that reason that access to humanitarian assistance at all times is so critical; it is also for that reason that Canada should demand that such access be granted.

As I have already mentioned, Canada is delivering $7.5 million in humanitarian aid to Syria. This is happening despite the fact that CIDA does not maintain a bilateral aid program in Syria. Most Canadian assistance to Syria is provided through CIDA's annual contributions to multilateral partners, such as the World Food Programme and UNESCO. With this being the case, Canada can help the humanitarian cause in Syria by providing additional funding to these partners and other trusted NGOs. Canada could step forward by offering new funds for this humanitarian crisis, just as many other nations have.

Canada could also take innovative steps to increase its aid to the region, or consider measures taken previously under different circumstances, such as natural disasters. The government could match funds invested by reputable Canadian charities that are doing humanitarian work to help Syrians. That is what the government did when the tsunami devastated South-East Asia in 2004, and Canadians across the country donated $132 million more as a result. Similarly, after the earthquake in Haiti, Canadians donated nearly $129 million, which the government matched.

Those two examples illustrate how great things can be achieved when Canadians join forces to help others. Canada has never adopted such an approach in a case of armed conflict, but this could be a novel idea that would really help people in need. Reputable organizations like Red Cross and Red Crescent are already on the ground in Syria distributing aid. Canadians know and trust these organizations.

As mentioned, the government matched donations to Red Cross and Red Crescent following the tsunami in South-East Asia and the earthquake in Haiti to help those organizations carry out badly needed humanitarian work. I think it makes sense for us to ask ourselves whether we can do the same thing now for Syria.

In closing, I realize that this idea could raise issues and concerns that might prevent its execution. This may not be the best solution, but this example could point us to another solution. If this idea is feasible, it would be another way for us to provide international aid in situations like this one.

Tonight we all have had a great deal to say about this humanitarian crisis that is unfolding before our very eyes in Syria. Members of all parties in this House have brought forward their ideas, views and suggestions of how we can help. I have appreciated hearing what my colleagues have offered to this debate. I believe that we have a lot of good ideas in this place tonight to help us move forward.

Situation in Syria June 5th, 2012

Madam Chair, I withdraw those comments.

When one is a member state of the United Nations, there are certain obligations under the UN Charter. One of the obligations is the promotion and protection of human rights of all, in any given situation.

We know that Russia is perhaps the only international player that has a certain influence in Syria. What is the government's plan right now to influence Russia with respect to what is going on in Syria? All parties in any given conflict must be held to the same standards in international law and with respect to human rights. What is the plan of the government in that regard?

Situation in Syria June 5th, 2012

Madam Chair, we state the facts on this side of the room. We were surprised, for instance when Canada lost its seat on the Security Council and did not even bother the second time around to be a candidate for a seat on the Security Council, because of the reputation we lost.

These are facts. We cannot deny them. I would like to ask a question with respect to international law. It is unfortunate that our colleague from Mount Royal is already gone because I wanted to ask a similar question.

When one is a member state of the UN—

BUSINESS OF SUPPLY June 5th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher for his excellent presentation and his contribution to this House. I will have the honour of running a relay race with him on June 24.

Knowing the importance of information and statistics to governance issues in any society—there is a saying that "knowledge is power"—I would like him to comment more on this shift that seems to be taking place on the other side of the House, judging by all the measures being proposed here.