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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament February 2017, as Liberal MP for Saint-Laurent (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 62% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Foreign Affairs December 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, what is a fact is that Canadians want Canada to be a determined peacekeeper in the world. We need to do our share for peace in the world, so we are considering, with our allies, which deployment will make more sense and will provide Canada with the ability to achieve peace around the world. I am sure all of my colleagues will support this goal.

Questions on the Order Paper December 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), through Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, hereinafter “Crimea”, Russia violated the Charter of the United Nations, in particular article 2(4), which states the following:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine have violated and continue to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. This obligation was reached by the UN General Assembly, UNGA, in Resolution 68/262 of March 27, 2014, passed by a majority of members, including Canada. Canada does not and will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea, which it considers an integral part of Ukraine. Canada continues to deplore the violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia and its destabilizing activities in eastern Ukraine, in breach of security assurances provided in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and not respecting the rights of the people of occupied Crimea by imposing Russian laws, and that Russia has violated the rights of minorities, particularly the Crimean Tatars.

With regard to (b), Russia is not a state party to the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, and neither is Ukraine. The court has launched a preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine, including in Crimea and Donbas, with a view to determining whether the opening of a formal investigation is warranted. There is no other international criminal court that has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for crimes committed in Ukraine.

In order to maintain pressure on Russia until it fully complies with its international obligations with respect to Ukraine, on November 28, 2016, the special economic measures regulations in regard to Ukraine have been amended to list 15 additional individuals, including six members of Russia’s State Duma from Crimea, who are subject to an asset freeze and dealings prohibition. These sanctions are in response to the September 18 election of officials residing in Crimea to Russia’s State Duma. Canada does not support the legitimacy or the outcome of these elections held in the occupied Crimean peninsula, as it has never recognized Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

The Government of Canada also announced on July 8, 2016, that it will deploy Canadian troops in Latvia, supporting security and stability efforts for Ukraine. This is Canada`s most significant contribution to NATO in decades, and will help deter Russian aggression.

With regard to (c), please refer to answer (b).

With regard to (d), the ICC may impose penalties on a person convicted of a crime under its jurisdiction per article 77 of the Rome Statute:

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, you can see why Canadians want to have a diplomacy that makes sense and that helps the world to progress instead of antagonizing, instead of belligerence, it is completely sterile for what we intend to do. Of course, there are huge problems in Cuba regarding human rights. Of course it was a dictatorship with Fidel Castro, we do not dispute that. Now the goal is to see how the reforms may lead Cuba toward democracy and where universal human rights will be respected. The fact that Canada engaged Cuba despite disagreement with the regime is the key way by which our Prime Minister, our government, and the whole of Canada will be able to be an asset for this endeavour in this journey toward freedom and democracy.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister went to Cuba to speak about rights, the necessity to move to moderate reforms and to give the support of Canada for these reforms to be sure that universal human rights would be respected in Cuba. It is what he did and it is what we will do. It is the approach we take.

However, I understand what my colleague said at the beginning of his statement and the words he used may be a way for him to express his feelings, but it is not the way to help the people of Cuba to go ahead, to reconcile themselves, not to forget about the past, but to move toward the future instead of antagonizing them about the past. It is what we need to do now all together in choosing the best approach, which is sound diplomacy as is described in my speech.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to be able to predict what will happen, but all of us have hope. It is more than hope. The motion speaks only about hope. We have a duty to act because it is in our interest to see the Caribbean stabilized and to be democratic, but it is also a tribute about what we owe to our own Cuban community in Canada, which is so vibrant and helping Canada. We need to be there in Cuba. We have a strong capacity to help the country precisely because over decades we have had an approach of engagement and some diplomacy, not the megaphone diplomacy it would seem that some of us in the House would like to adopt that would do no good. We will see how step by step and as speedily as possible, Cuba will become a respectful democracy like Chile and Spain, and so many other countries that have been successful in reconciling themselves and focusing on the future, whatever the disagreements about the past.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I share my colleague’s view that today the official opposition wants to carry on a debate that is not warranted. We should all strive to help the Cuban people achieve reconciliation and work together to provide a better future for their children, rather than stir up old conflicts surrounding Fidel Castro. I completely agree with that.

As for the problem she just raised, I am well aware of it, Canada contributes 10% of the budget. There was a rather serious financial crisis a few months ago. It appears to have subsided, and Canada will be there to make sure that things go smoothly.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I will agree with my colleague that the policy of engagement with Cuba had been done under Conservative and Liberal governments, and it was the right thing to do. It is much better than an embargo.

Isolation is rarely a solution to improve the situation of people in a country. Engagement and frank dialogue is the policy we must follow. I thank God that we have not used the tone that many of my Conservative colleagues have used in the House to describe the situation with Cuba, because that would endanger our ability to have a positive result in Cuba.

I would mention to my colleague that almost all world leaders have been very careful to insist on the positive aspects when Fidel Castro passed away. None of them, as far as I know, has taken this opportunity to mention the fact that he was a dictator. However, that being the case, we need to improve the human rights situation in Cuba. The only way to do so is to have diplomacy, the wise and firm diplomacy I just described, and not to shoot from the sidelines, like my Conservative colleagues would like us to do.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I was saying that during his recent visit, our Prime Minister took the opportunity to strengthen our co-operation with Cuba to address illicit trafficking of drugs in the region.

We cannot take our historical friendship with Cuba for granted. In the past year, countless leaders have been arriving in Havana, eager to court the Cuban government and to take advantage of trade and investment opportunities that may arise as Cuba moves its economy toward reform and toward greater private sector involvement.

Ongoing positive engagement by Canada not only protects our existing investments in Cuba, but also ensures that Canadian businesses and investors will be significant players in the emerging Cuban economy. It also provides a positive model for Cuba from a long-standing and trusted partner.

Canada's governance model, including elements of transparency and accountability, are admired and respected by many Cubans as good practices and experiences. Indeed, Cuba has actively asked Canada to share our expertise and experience in this regard. It is important to note that Canada has supported these efforts, not in spite of the Government of Cuba but in open and transparent co-operation with its leader; not because we agree with them, but because that is the way to be there for the Cuban people.

Over the coming years, we must continue working to support Cuba in achieving the necessary reforms, which, hopefully, will make Cuba a prosperous democracy and a great partner for Canada. We must do it because, once again, through a policy of engagement and co-operation and frank dialogue, we became an influential and trusted voice that can push to move Cuba further in the direction of reform, both economic and political.

There is another crucial task that we almost fulfilled alone over the last decades, and that we will need to continue with more determination than ever during the coming years: to be a bridge between Cuba and the United States. The truth is that both the Cuban and American governments appreciated this role. At a time when the president-elect of the United States has indicated that his administration may shift away from the current policy of rapprochement with Cuba, the role of Canada as a respectful and dependable partner takes on even greater importance.

Our government will continue our policy of constructive and respectful engagement. When we disagree with Cuba's approach to domestic or international issues, we will advocate our position through frank and open discussion; when Cuba seeks to share its perspectives with us, we will listen with open minds; and when one of its leaders passes, we will send our condolences in a respectful way without seeking to cause affront to those who mourn his passing.

To conclude, our government has made human rights a priority and will champion respect for them, including in Cuba, where we will continue to press for democratic reform. It is because of this strong relationship with the Cuban people that our Prime Minister is in a good position to support democratic advancement going forward. We are committed to working with the Cuban people, as we have always done, and to support them as they build a more hopeful and democratic future in which every Cuban is free and the Cuban government recognizes the universality of all human rights.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, let us imagine for a moment that we are November 16, 2016, at the university of Havana.

The room is full of students and professors, president Raúl Castro is in attendance, and the scene is broadcast on radio and television, reaching Cubans and other Latin Americans beyond. All are hanging on the words of our prime minister. What is he talking about? He is talking to them about universal rights, diversity as a source of enrichment, the emancipation of youth, and good governance.

I would like to give the reaction of a Cuban human rights activist, as quoted by the CBC. Her name is Miriam Leiva Viamonte, and her husband was imprisoned by Fidel Castro. I will cite her words, not in Spanish, but in English:

I think the young people who go to these events will always listen to what the guest has to say, and even if the government doesn't want them to be influenced by it, some of them will be, and when they leave there, they'll talk about it.

Then she added, “Canada has had an attitude that's been discreet, but not absent. I think it's important that they maintain this connection with the Cuban government”.

I think that says it all, not just on our prime minister’s leadership, but also on our policy of engagement with Cuba and other countries and on the reasons why we will vote against this motion. The Prime Minister has criticized the Cuban regime, but he carefully chose his words in doing so, to keep the lines of communication open and to open Cuban minds to the idea of change.

If he had launched a personal attack on Raúl Castro right there at the university of Havana, some of us may have been happy for it, but it would not have been in the interests of the Cuban people and would have considerably undermined Canada’s capacity to accompany Cuba down the road to reform. That is what diplomacy is. It is not about letting off steam for one's own selfish pleasure, no matter the consequences to others. I am talking about responsible diplomacy, not megaphone diplomacy, which was too common in Canada under the previous government and which the official opposition seems to miss so much.

We should not resign ourselves to simply shooting from the sidelines—the sterile diplomacy of bellicose belligerents.

Let us turn to the day that Fidel Castro died.

It is both respectful and appropriate to make positive remarks about someone's passing, regardless of whether that person is a family member, a friend, a foe, an acquaintance, or a public personality. Numerous other official statements from world leaders on the passing of former Cuban president Fidel Castro reflected this approach.

Of course, Fidel Castro was a dictator, but hardly anyone felt the need to say so on the day of his passing. Instead, our Prime Minister and others focused on the positive, such as the significant progress Cuba has made in the areas of education and healthcare.

As for the Cuban people’s transition to freedom, democracy and the rule of law, I am sure that this is supported by all of us in the House, but I would argue that the best way to help this happen is to engage in the responsible diplomacy that I just described, not megaphone diplomacy.

The best way to help the Cuban people is not to encourage them to stir up old conflicts, but instead to encourage them to work together for a better future. After all, this is how other countries successfully transitioned to democracy. Look at countries from the same cultural era, such as Spain and Chile. They turned to the future and built their democracies. We must wish the Cuban people the same good fortune. Despite the very different opinions they may have of Fidel Castro, they must work together to provide a better society for their children.

As Canadians we must help them. We are in a position to do so, precisely because we never turned our back on Cuba.

Canada, along with Mexico, was one of the only two western hemispheric countries that did not sever its relations with Cuba following the revolution of 1959, a revolution that was both preceded and followed by significant human rights abuses.

In fact, the relationship between Canada and Cuba dates back to the 18th century, when Atlantic Canada began trading codfish and beer for Cuban rum and sugar. Canada has managed to build a strong relationship with Cuba because our approach over the past half-century has been based on a policy of constructive engagement. Engagement is not agreement. If I say it twice maybe the opposition will understand. Indeed, engagement is not agreement. In fact, we needed to engage precisely because we profoundly disagreed with the kind of regime that ruled Cuba. For the sake of the Cuban people, Canada was there and must stay there with the right approach. We have consistently advocated against the U.S. economic embargo and policies that lead to the isolation and impoverishment of the people of Cuba.

Thanks to this consistent policy of engagement, Cuba trusts Canada. Cuba trusts our Prime Minister. This principled and pragmatic policy has delivered strong results for Canadians. It has allowed us to engage proactively with Cuba in all domains, including human rights issues. During all these years, we have encouraged Cuba to take measures to improve freedom of expression and of the press, to improve transparency and due process in its judicial system, and to implement international agreements on civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.

Our policy of constructive engagement has allowed Canada to work with a wide range of Cuban partners and to support a number of local initiatives within Cuba that promote dialogue and diverse opinions.

Over the last few years, while Cuba has slowly and rather timidly, it is true, started down the path to reforms, Canadians have been there to assist them in all areas—and I do mean all. For example, it was Canada that provided the first optical fibre to the University of Havana for its internet connections. The Internet develops pockets of freedom.

Canada is there to promote independent cultural spaces, human rights publications, university conferences by Internet, and diversity. As Cuba is entering a historic time of transition wherein it is revisiting and updating its economic and governance systems, it needs and sees Canada as a trusted partner and possible model in some areas of governance. For example, Cuba has a great interest in the cooperative models of banking and agrifood business in Quebec.

Canada has built a strong development cooperation program in Cuba, through which we support, among other things, sustainable economic development, greater food security, and women's rights.

Now, let us look at the economic ties. Through our policy of engagement, Cuba has become Canada's largest export market in Central America and in the Caribbean, worth an estimated $495 million per year. Canada is the second-largest foreign investor in Cuba.

As Cuba looks to grow its trade and investment with the world, Canada is working with it to identify opportunities to promote mutual prosperity. Canada has the knowledge and technology needed to meet the needs of Cubans in a wide of range of sectors, particularly agrifood products; infrastructure; and sustainable technology, including renewable energy, and life sciences.

As Cuba continues to promote reform of its economy, and the Cuban middle-class expands, there is significant potential for growth in trade and investment.

Beyond trade, we have also built strong people-to-people ties. Just as Cuban Canadians have made an immeasurable economic and cultural contribution to Canada, Canadians make up more than 40% of foreign tourists to Cuba, who represent an important source of income and employment for the Cuban people.

One of the aspects of Cuba that Canadians admire is how passionately Cubans celebrate life and culture. The many Canadians who visit Cuba every year can attest to the spirit of the Cuban people and their love of music in particular.

Next year, during the 150th anniversary of Confederation, Canada will share our own culture with Cuba, as we are featured as the country of honour at the Havana Book Fair.

Our engagement has also positioned us to co-operate with Cuba on common challenges to safety and security. The Caribbean is a region where millions of Canadians travel every year, which has impacts on their safety and security, in the form of transnational organized crime and narcotics trafficking. It happens that Cuba has the lowest level of crime and violence in the Caribbean. During his recent visit, our Prime Minister took the opportunity to strengthen our co-operation with Cuba to address illicit trafficking of drugs—

Questions on the Order Paper December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, in processing parliamentary returns, the government applies the Privacy Act and the principles set out in the Access to Information Act. As such, the requested information has been withheld on the grounds that its release could be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs; threatening the safety of Canadians, employees, or property of the Government of Canada.