House of Commons photo


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

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act March 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his excellent question.

As I just mentioned, there is a demagogic problem here with the words being used in this debate right now, with the terms “illegal immigrants”, “real immigrants”, “criminals”, “refugees”. We are talking about protecting refugees. We were talking about dealing with human smugglers, but that is not at all what is happening. In fact, refugees are being attacked. This is real Conservative demagoguery.

I would invite the minister across the way to come visit the immigration detention centre in Laval and come see the people who are being detained there. What is he going to do for those people? Where is he going to place the young people who are already there? Is he going to separate them from their families? Will he send them elsewhere?

These centres are quite far from the hubs where the young people would be placed. What is the government going to do with the families? Will the families continue to be separated in this way? Will the detention centres be expanded? What is going to happen with this bill?

Unfortunately, many questions remain unanswered.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act March 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his excellent question.

I believe he is confusing immigrants and refugees. When people arrive here illegally because they are being persecuted in their country of origin, they are protected under international law. Such people are considered refugees and we are supposed to welcome them under the international treaties to which Canada is a signatory.

Honestly, I would like to know what the hon. member opposite who just asked the question would have done with the boat people from Vietnam when they arrived. Should they have been considered illegal immigrants or refugees? Those people were welcomed here. Why would we not continue to do the same thing?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act March 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to voice my opposition to a draconian bill that would change the way in which refugees and asylum seekers are treated. I am deeply disappointed in this bill, which revokes most of the compromises that were reached in connection with the former Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, in addition to reintroducing Bill C-4, which targets refugees instead of human smugglers.

Bill C-11, which was passed by a minority government during the previous Parliament, gave rise to what could be considered historic compromises with a view to making truly balanced refugee reforms. But now, at a time when that bill has not yet even come into effect, the government is doing away with everything the members of this House accomplished together and is instead imposing an ideological approach without giving any thought to the lives of the people who will be affected by this change.

By acting in this way, the Conservative government is going back on what it agreed to and demonstrating once again that it does not believe in co-operation and that what it wants more than anything is to put its own ideology ahead of the well-being of the people affected by its decisions. Bill C-31 transforms a balanced measure into a radical, partisan, ideological measure.

I want to remind the House that the Laval immigration detention centre is in my riding, Alfred-Pellan. There are three such centres in Canada: one in Laval, one in Toronto and one in Vancouver. Refugees who cannot prove their identity are incarcerated in this facility, which looks like a prison and is on federal prison property. There, people are handcuffed to be moved and families are kept apart. The centre tells refugees that it will take only a few days to check their identity, but in reality some of them will spend weeks or even months in a place that is run like a medium-security prison.

The average stay at this centre is currently 28 days, according to the Canada Border Services Agency. Detention leaves its mark on asylum seekers' mental health. After being handcuffed when they are moved, having their personal effects confiscated and being separated from their families, detainees leave the centre with serious health problems and depression.

Research proves this. Janet Cleveland, a researcher and psychologist at the CSSS de la Montagne at McGill University, met with nearly 200 asylum seekers during a study on the impact of detention on the mental health of people seeking asylum in Canada. The study was conducted with four other researchers. Over 120 of the asylum seekers had been in detention for three weeks in either Montreal or Toronto when she met them. The others were not being detained.

All the asylum seekers taking part in the study had already endured traumatic experiences when they arrived in Canada, but those who were placed in detention were more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or post-traumatic shock. When I asked the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism in February why this government was not doing anything to correct this situation, which is intolerable for the officials and the newcomers, he replied that it is true that there is a waiting list for refugee claimants, and that a new system will ensure a processing period of a few weeks. He said new claims would be heard by the IRB within two to three months. Here is what Janet Cleveland said:

As far as the government is concerned, three weeks in a centre is not very long. Yet when we compare these individuals to others who are not being detained, the detained refugees were twice as likely to show serious post-traumatic stress symptoms. We did not expect this result after “only” three weeks of detention.

I would point out that 40% of the immigrants being detained in Laval are there simply while their criminal record are being checked. So, I would ask the minister once again: why are these newcomers being treated like criminals? I am also very worried about the rights of refugees, and of the people who work in these centres, and the way this will be implemented. What worries me even more is the fate of child refugees who are separated from their families and loved ones when they arrive here, and therefore lose their sense of security.

Unlike Bill C-4, Bill C-31 includes an exemption from detention for anyone under the age of 16. That is very good, but when I asked the Minister of Public Safety whether those children would be separated from their families and what would happen to the families, he did not even answer my question. That leads me to believe that, as a result of this bill, children will be separated from their families, which can cause serious psychological problems and trauma for children who are only 16 or younger.

It also makes me think about the measures the minister intends to implement to guarantee that minors will not be detained based on their age when their own identity and age are in the process of being verified. If they do not have documents to prove that they are under the age of 16, what assurance do we have that they will not be detained? For example, will a 14 or 15 year old who looks 16 or older be treated fairly? It is truly quite disturbing.

Since men are detained separately from women and children, what will happen when a single father arrives with his children? Will they be separated immediately upon their arrival?

We must rethink how we treat our brothers and sisters who are seeking asylum. To do so, we must first acknowledge the human nature of their journey, which is fraught with injustice, tragedy and trauma. In my opinion, the amendments proposed by Bill C-31 will result in the criminalization of people who are often victims and have reached the end of their rope.

Is it right to treat them like criminals when they arrive? Is it one of our values to separate and break up families, when their family ties are all they have left?

I recognize the importance of properly identifying refugee claimants. However, I am convinced that it can be done in a more humane way, without compromising the psychological and social well-being of asylum seekers, without breaking up families, without passing this bill which would welcome refugees with detention when they arrive.

I would like to quote a letter from Human Rights Watch dated March 16, 2012, addressed to the members of this House.

HRW believes that the detention provisions of Bill C-31 unduly and inappropriately impose penalties on vulnerable migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Instead of identifying and punishing human smugglers, these provisions of the bill would punish irregular migrants, including refugee men, women and children fleeing indiscriminate violence and/or persecution. These people should not be punished on the sole basis of their “irregular” entry.

This letter is signed by Bill Frelick, refugee program director, and Jasmine Herlt, director, Human Rights Watch Canada.

Bill C-31 is bad for refugees and does absolutely nothing to target smugglers. In my opinion, the previous Bill C-11, as amended in the last legislature, takes a more balanced approach, and deserves to be implemented and fairly evaluated. The government constantly talks about the importance of taking action. Here we have a bill, Bill C-11, which is ready to go and I invite the government to move on it.

Canadians and the international community are speaking out against Bill C-31. I am asking the government to reconsider its approach. We have to think of the families that have already lived through so much trauma and are just looking for a place where they can be protected. This bill does not target the right people at all. We absolutely have to rethink this approach. Canada has always welcomed refugees and must continue to do so.

I would also like my colleagues to consider the amendment proposed by the member for Vancouver Kingsway, and I would ask all members of the House to support it.

Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act March 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech and opinion, which, sadly, I do not fully share. I will explain why a little later.

Many things in this bill should be revisited. Many of the act's provisions will be amended, which will directly affect refugees. In exchange, the minister will have the discretionary power to decide, case by case, whether or not these people fall into the right categories. It is as though he were deciding who is naughty and who is nice. That should not be the case, especially not in our current democracy, unfortunately one that is losing its lustre these days.

Does my colleague not feel that it is a little unfair that the minister is being given so much power? Is it not up to the people on the ground who deal with refugees to determine whether or not the refugees need help? What does she think about the fact that human rights and refugee conventions are currently being violated?

Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act March 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech, which was all in French. I would like to commend him on it. It was enjoyable to listen to. He speaks French very well.

This bill is extremely important. I understand that it is important to crack down on human smuggling, which is a serious problem. However, the bill does not necessarily attack smugglers but mostly attacks refugees. In my riding, we have an immigration holding centre, where people who cannot prove their identity are held. It operates exactly the same way as a prison. It is located on federal property just next door to the penitentiaries in my riding.

Approximately 2,000 people pass through there each year. The average detention time is 28 days, the time it takes them to prove their identity. However, this bill proposes a mandatory maximum detention of one year. I am concerned about the rights of refugees and of the people who work in these detention centres, and I am concerned about how this is going to be implemented.

Will these individuals really be detained for a maximum of one year or could it be for longer? Some deadlines are already not being met. These people are experiencing severe mental anguish. Will the maximum detention period really be one year?

Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act March 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I would like to come back to what my colleague was just saying about detention of adults. They would be sent to prison for a minimum of one year, but children 16 or under would not. This is a very important point. It would be nice to know what is going to happen to the children 16 or under. Will they be separated from their family or detained without really being detained?

In my riding, there is an immigration detention centre where refugees who cannot prove their identity are incarcerated. They are incarcerated in prisons on federal prison property. They are handcuffed. Women are separated from men. They stay there for 28 days on average, but some are there for months.

Not only does the minister have discretionary power, but these people will be incarcerated for at least a year and might be released after that. What will happen to the families? Will they be separated or not?

Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act March 15th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from LaSalle—Émard for her wonderful speech on Bill C-31. This is a huge bill that would reform our country's refugee process. Canada is a country that welcomes immigrants. She had much to say about human rights, which are very important to her.

This bill gives a great deal of power to the minister, who would be able to decide the fate of refugees on a case-by-case basis. Would it not be better to rewrite the entire bill to make the process fairer for refugees coming to Canada? I would like my colleague to comment on that.

Breast Density Awareness Act March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to debate Bill C-314, An Act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue. As a young woman, I am aware that I am at risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, we all are, because breast cancer can affect anyone, both men and women, young and old.

According to the statistics, 23,400 Canadian women and 190 Canadian men were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. Age is an important factor. It is a fact that older women are at greater risk. In 2011, an estimated 80% of cases were diagnosed in women over the age of 50. Young women are also at risk. It is estimated that 3,500 new cases, or 14%, were reported in women between the ages of 30 and 49 years, and 965 cases, or 4% of cases diagnosed, were women 40 and under.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, breast cancer starts in the cells of the breast. The breast tissue covers an area larger than just the breast. It extends up to the collarbone and from the armpit across to the breastbone in the centre of the chest. Each breast is made of mammary glands, milk ducts and fatty tissue. The breasts also contain lymph vessels and lymph nodes, which are part of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps fight infections. Lymph vessels move lymph fluid to the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes trap bacteria, cancer cells and other harmful substances. There are groups of lymph nodes near the breast under the arm, near the collarbone and in the chest behind the breastbone. Cancer cells may start within the ducts or in the lobules. Ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer.

As a woman, I know the importance of mammography, which is a low-dose x-ray of the breast. Mammography pictures, or mammograms, show detailed images and views of the breast from different angles. The breast is placed between two plastic plates. The plates are then pressed together to flatten the breast. Compressing the breast tissue helps make the images clearer. Better quality mammography and increased participation in organized breast screening programs have led to more breast cancers being detected earlier, which means successful treatment is more likely. Unfortunately, this test does not always detect cancer, especially among women with dense breast tissue. In such cases, doctors may opt for scintimammography or an MRI. A biopsy is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis of cancer.

Breast density is a radiological concept, but it has a major impact on the accuracy of mammogram interpretation. Dense breast tissue is a concern for all radiologists, as well as epidemiologists and gynecologists. A dense breast appears white on a mammogram because it contains little fat.

Breast tissue is quite variable. Changes in breast tissue are hormone driven and occur throughout an individual's lifetime. For example, young women typically have denser breasts than older women because breast tissue becomes less dense as women age. However, even though older women's breasts tend to contain more fat, women of any age can have dense breast tissue.

Bill C-314 requires the Government of Canada to encourage the use of existing initiatives to increase awareness among women about the implications of heterogeneous or dense breast tissue for breast cancer screening, and to assist women and health care providers in making well-informed decisions regarding screening.

Although the purpose of this bill is to improve breast cancer screening for women with dense breast tissue, we believe that it should go further still. Why not institute accountability measures to shorten waiting lists and ensure that women have access to timely screening?

Any bill designed to improve breast cancer screening should include federal funding for national breast cancer screening programs for all women, which should be systematic, free and available without a doctor's referral, beginning at age 40.

Health care workers and women who are concerned about breast cancer need more than just encouragement in order to raise awareness and promote best practices.

The government should put in place standards. Under these standards, all provincial programs would start screening women for breast cancer from age 40. The standards should include the regular and optimal use of digital mammography machines such as MRIs and ultrasounds for screening purposes. Lastly, screening standards should focus on the particular challenges of screening for breast cancer among women with dense or heterogeneous breast tissue.

The Quebec breast cancer screening program is a good example of a screening program with very good results. Screening using a mammogram targets women aged 50 to 69 and is carried out, systematically, every two years. According to data from Quebec's health and social services department, the breast cancer mortality rate for women who are systematically screened dropped by at least 25% between 1996 and 2006.

It is high time that the federal government showed leadership by adopting a funding plan and implementing a real national strategy to improve breast cancer screening in Canada. That also means honouring the commitments made as part of the 2003 and 2004 health accords, including the commitment to reduce waiting times and increase the number of doctors and nurses to ensure that women at risk have access to primary care or specialists as quickly as possible.

Experts and organizations fighting breast cancer are asking for more and agree that this project does not go far enough.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Network does not believe that this bill will improve screening procedures for those women most at risk of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors direct the network. It is a national link between all the groups and individuals concerned about breast cancer, and its members, partners and founders include the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Society of Canada.

The Canadian Cancer Society supports a bill that would improve cancer screening measures, particularly for patients with dense breast tissue. However, the society believes that this bill will not produce concrete results for patients living with breast cancer and their families.

Lastly, Quebec's association of hematologists and oncologists says that while it is important to increase breast cancer screening, we cannot forget about other kinds of cancers. Improvements need to be made in the prevention of and screening for all cancers. We must not concentrate all our efforts on one single category of women or type of cancer.

I wonder when this government will start to take this issue really seriously? The Conservative government introduced a bill that will in no way improve the lives of Canadian women. The government must start thinking more seriously about this issue in order to prevent even more women from developing this destructive disease.

Safe Streets and Communities Act March 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues know, I represent a riding where there are three federal correctional institutions—a medium-security facility and two minimum-security facilities. One of the minimum-security facilities will be turned into a medium-security institution in the very near future. In these prisons, staff work hard to rehabilitate inmates to ease their re-entry into the community.

I will convey what the head of the federal training centre told me two weeks ago. Given that these people will get out of prison, he said that what is important to him is safety. He was thinking about the fact that the inmate could move in next to me and be my neighbour. Therefore, he tries to ensure that an approach that is more community-based and centred on social rehabilitation is used.

The question that I would like to ask my colleague is very simple. In 2010, the crime severity index, which measures the severity of crimes committed in Canada, reached its lowest point since its inception in the 1980s. I would therefore like to know why the government claims that its bill is needed now more than ever, when we would like to emphasize prevention rather than this type of bill?

Youth Involvement March 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of young people from my riding. As a young politician, I am very happy to see that so many girls and boys are interested in political issues.

We often hear that young people do not really care about politics. My experience strongly suggests otherwise. I was delighted to meet students from my own high school, Horizon Jeunesse, in Laval. They were bright and motivated. They talked about their disappointment in the government's decision to abolish the gun registry and withdraw from Kyoto. They also told me how glad they were to see so many young people elected to the House of Commons.

To think that just a few years ago, I was where they are now. I am living proof that where there is a will, there is a way. I would like to thank the teachers, the administration and the students for welcoming me so warmly to their school. I urge my colleagues to visit schools in their ridings to raise awareness among young people about what we do as parliamentarians, because when we include them, they bring new ideas to the table to help create a better future.