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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Alfred-Pellan (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

May 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, on February 8, 2012, I rose in the House to ask the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism about the very worrisome situation at the Laval immigration holding centre, which is in my riding of Alfred-Pellan.

I was not satisfied with the answer and therefore I thank you for giving me the opportunity to again speak about this matter in the House today.

Things have happened since the last time we discussed this matter. In fact, Bill C-4, the subject of my question, has now been replaced by Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act.

There are three immigration holding centres in Canada: one in Toronto, one in Vancouver and one in Laval, in my riding. Refugees who cannot prove their identity are incarcerated in this facility, which looks like a prison. In fact, in Laval, the centre is located in a former penitentiary. Detainees are put in chains when they are moved and they are separated from their families.

The centre tells the refugees that the process for verifying their identity will take just a few days, but some will spend weeks, even months, at a place that operates as a medium security prison. It is terrible because, contrary to what the government believes, newcomers and refugees are not criminals and should not be treated as such.

Studies show that such prison stays will have adverse psychological effects on these individuals. Newcomers in these refugee centres are not entitled to access to psychotherapists or consultations with social workers. In fact, individuals with behavioural problems or suicidal individuals are transferred to a maximum security prison or are simply separated from the others.

This brings me to a number of questions. Is this the federal government's roundabout way of limiting immigration and the number of refugees in Canada?

We are talking about individuals who have left everything behind in their country of origin, in order to find refuge and to emigrate to Canada, a welcoming and developed country. I would like the government to put itself in their shoes for a minute. It must be awful to leave one's country for safety reasons and arrive at a place thinking it will be a welcoming land, only to quickly realize that you are given the same status as a criminal.

Some people prefer to suffer and put up with the pain rather than go to a hospital in chains.

Allow me to ask you a question: is there an emotion that hurts more than physical pain? The answer, Mr. Speaker, is humiliation. No one should be humiliated. However, that is what happens to new immigrants in these immigration detention centres. That is simply unacceptable.

We have learned that the government plans to make cuts of $84.3 million, or 5.3%, by 2015, and that includes a 13.1% cut to the Immigration and Refugee Board. We wonder how the government plans to remedy this situation. Passing bills such as Bill C-31 and making these types of cuts will stretch immigration processing from a few months to several years.

Why is the government doing nothing to remedy this situation, which is unbearable for newcomers? When will the government get down to work and suggest some real solutions?

Citizenship and Immigration May 7th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the Conservatives, the British criminal Conrad Black is lounging around his Toronto home. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism wants us to believe that routine procedure was followed and that he was not at all involved, when in fact he has previously been involved in many other similar matters.

Does the minister really think that we are gullible enough to believe that he had absolutely nothing to do with this matter?

Housing May 4th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today in the House to speak on Motion M-331 moved by my colleague from Shefford. I would like to thank him sincerely for his work on this issue. I would also like to thank all my colleagues who support my colleague from Shefford.

The New Democrats have a clear position on affordable housing: it is absolutely essential to make affordable housing accessible for Canadian families. We are committed to implementing legislation to ensure that housing is adequate and accessible. This is what we are proposing today.

In Canada, the shortage of affordable housing is flagrant. In Quebec, for example, it is estimated that about 325,000 households have core housing needs. It is appalling that, at the present time, only 10% of all housing starts will provide rental housing. Given that housing is being lost at a greater rate than new housing is being built, the number of rental units offered by the private sector is shrinking every day.

Moreover, according to estimates by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, there will be an additional 50,000 rental households every year over the next decade. The low supply of suitable accommodation is increasing pressure on rents and making it more difficult to find affordable housing.

Some of my colleagues will of course prefer statistics and figures. So here are some that clearly show that the shortage of housing in Canada is critical. Of the households that cannot afford housing, 750,000 have children under the age of 15, 26% are single-parent families, 15% are immigrant families and 20% are aboriginal households.

In addition, nearly 1.5 million households in Canada cannot afford decent housing, which is totally unacceptable. Of this 1.5 million, 25.7% are single-parent families, 18.2% are immigrant families and 20.4% are aboriginal households. The situation is disturbing and now is the time to act.

The shortage of affordable rental housing forces renters into deplorable situations. In the vast majority of cases, if housing is affordable, it is in poor condition. It is also sometimes the case that, given the lack of options available to renters, they are faced with owners who take advantage of their circumstances. This is the situation we are currently seeing in the Montreal area.

Some owners neglect to maintain their units. For example, damage goes unrepaired, pest infestations go unresolved, and problems with mould are left untreated. Residents have their backs against the wall and have no option but to live in these conditions.

Canadian families should not have to live like this. Families in Quebec and in Canada deserve much better.

In the past, the federal government played a major role in the construction of social housing, particularly between 1967 and 1993. Thanks to the funding that was available during that period, many co-operatives and all the low-income housing units were built. It was the Mulroney government that made devastating cuts to that funding.

FRAPRU estimates that, if that funding had continued after 1993, there would be an additional 60,000 social housing units in Quebec alone. There are currently 1,120 low-cost housing units in Laval, 93 of which are located in my riding of Alfred-Pellan. Only 12 of those 93 units are set aside for families and the rest are reserved for seniors.

There are clearly not enough units, and it has come to the point where every week my riding office receives requests from my constituents for help in finding social housing. People are desperate. Some, like Ms. Galipeau, have been waiting for a place in social housing for nine years. Nine years.

The lack of social housing was underlined by my predecessor, who tabled many petitions, including one signed by 135 tenants of social housing asking for funding merely to renovate the low-income units and another one signed by 2,813 residents in Laval asking that the old Saint-Vincent-de-Paul prison be converted into social housing.

There is an urgent need for the government to deal with the social housing it has built. Many low-income housing properties are coming to the end of their agreement with the federal government. Low-income housing was built in partnership with the municipalities and the federal government. Tenants spend 25% of their income on rent, and the federal subsidy pays the remaining operating costs only until the mortgages are repaid. As a result of the expiring agreements, 85% of the social housing stock is facing radical rent increases. In addition, as we all know, once the first mortgage is repaid, major work on the buildings is often necessary. However, the federal government does not appear to be interested.

What is even more alarming is that some families are being forced into homelessness as a result of the housing shortage. In recent years, homelessness has persisted and increased in Canada, and an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 Canadians are currently homeless.

Contrary to what some would think, homelessness is also a problem in the Laval region, as the program Les Francs-Tireurs showed last March. I suggest that anyone who did not see it go to the Les Francs-Tireurs website and watch the episode on the homelessness problem in Laval. It is extremely relevant to this issue.

However, there is very little in the way of resources to assist homeless Canadians, and funding still appears unstable. Needs are growing, whether it be in Montreal, Laval, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax or any other city in the country, but funding under the homelessness partnering strategy, the HPS, has not been indexed since 1999. In fact, the program will be expiring in 2014, and this government, the one opposite, is refusing to be clear and specific about its plans after 2014. Will this government abandon Canadians? I wonder.

The last budget, which the government brought down in March, does not offer even a glimmer of hope to families looking for housing. In fact, it announces a $10.2 million cut to CMHC's budget by 2014-15. There is also no provision for affordable housing and absolutely nothing about renewing social housing operating agreements.

In reaction to that budget, the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association indicated that a commitment to at least extend existing programs, such as the homelessness partnering strategy, would have been appropriate.

The right to housing is part of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for good reason, as a number of my colleagues have already said.

This is also an issue that overly affects people who are already marginalized such as women, aboriginal populations, newcomers, people with disabilities, seniors, and many others.

Access to decent, affordable housing is a health and safety issue in Canada. The report entitled “Housing and Population Health”, by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, indicates clearly that the type of housing affects health. Renters have average health or, at least, their health is not as good as that of homeowners. The poor conditions that exist in some housing are one reason for this disparity, but the percentage of income spent on housing also has an impact, since it influences the ability to spend on other needs such as food, suitable clothing, health services and so forth.

I want to reiterate that I subscribe to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that access to suitable housing is a fundamental right, not a privilege. I urge the government to take this declaration seriously. Canadian families have the right to have a roof over their heads for their safety, health and survival.

I want to thank my colleague who took the initiative to move this motion and my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who introduced Bill C-400 to ensure that Canadians have secure, adequate, accessible housing.

I invite the government to support this motion and our affordable housing initiatives because housing is a necessity, not a luxury. It is time to open a dialogue on this.

Citizenship and Immigration May 4th, 2012

Madam Speaker, this government likes to strut about claiming to be tough on crime, but in reality, it is all just a sham. The Conservatives have been found guilty of an in and out scandal, and when we talk to them about the biggest electoral fraud in the history of the country, they shrug their shoulders as if to say, “Why worry about it when we are the ones benefiting?”

Now, a British offender who has just been released from an American prison is being allowed entry into Canada as though nothing ever happened. And the government is washing its hands of the situation. Clearly, it is much easier to keep peaceful protestors, separated families and real refugees out of the country than a lord who spent years using his newspapers to help the Conservative cause.

This government can claim to be tough on crime all it likes, but the fact is that criminals have a pretty nice life if they are Conservatives.

Office of the Inspector General April 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have been unable to find a chair for the Security Intelligence Review Committee. The fact is that the inspector general did his job, and it is a known fact that with this government, those who discover the truth are at risk.

The inspector general uncovered major mistakes at CSIS, and that is the type of information that Canadians will no longer get in future if this government goes ahead with its irresponsible decision.

Why is the minister so afraid of accountability?

Office of the Inspector General April 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, yesterday's budget bill shows yet another Conservative attack on independent oversight. This time on the Conservative chopping block is the CSIS inspector general. Scrapping the watchdog who keeps tabs on CSIS will not make the problems go away. Experts are concerned about this surprise move. Why are Conservatives so scared of independent oversight?

Public Safety April 23rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are adding 2,700 new cells to existing prisons. So much for saving money.

Leclerc prison just underwent a costly renovation project over the past three years. Since December 2011, over 60 new correctional officers have been hired. This closure smacks of improvisation. It is as though this decision has been made on the back of a napkin, completely in haste, in order to distract from the Conservative scandals.

So, why are the Conservatives going ahead with this closure, after having renovated the facility and hired new staff?

Invisible Work Day April 3rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to recognize Invisible Work Day. This morning I had the privilege of acting as honorary chair at an event in Laval organized by the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale de Laval.

Invisible work is unpaid work. It includes all work done within families and all volunteer work done in communities.

In 2010, Canada became the first and only country to declare a national day to recognize invisible work.

During the most recent census, it was estimated that this work was worth about $26 billion a year. However, the federal government did away with the only tool that allowed us to quantify and assess invisible work when it abolished the long form census.

I would like to thank the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale de Laval for inviting me to today's activities and for its initiatives to mark this Invisible Work Day.

The Environment March 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is unacceptable to force seniors to choose between paying for their medication and paying for their groceries.

The government is going to cut back on environmental protection legislation in order to be able to more quickly implement megaprojects such as the Enbridge pipeline.

Without this protection, who is going to protect us from harm? If there is an oil spill, it will have a negative effect on all Canadians.

Why are the profits of big polluters being put ahead of the interests of all Canadians?

Fisheries and Oceans March 29th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, these vague promises will not make fish appear in the boats of east coast families.

Fleet separation is crucial for small-scale fishers. We are talking about over 10,000 independent fishers, over 20,000 crew members and thousands of other indirect jobs in our coastal communities. Putting an end to fleet separation will kill tens of thousands of jobs.

Will the minister protect east coast jobs or is he going to sacrifice the fishery to benefit large corporations?