House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 23% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply May 11th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for moving this motion in the House and giving us an opportunity to talk about veterans and the fate the government has in store for them.

That fate is not always an enviable one . As several reports over a period of more than a decade have consistently shown, the new veterans charter contains elements that are unjust. The House adopted the new charter in 2006, but it is very flawed.

Even at that time in the House, we were talking about how the charter had to be adopted so that the government could look after modern veterans properly. The pension system was designed mainly to help veterans of long-ago wars. When the House adopted the new charter, we said that it had to be a living document that would evolve. At the time, we already knew it had some problems and would have to be improved as problems arose.

Unfortunately, the government did not do a very good job because only one measure has been adopted in the House since. The new Minister of Veterans Affairs announced a few measures recently, but they are essentially half measures that were introduced in Bill C-58. I will come back to that a little later.

Two or three years ago, when the House was doing nothing to improve this new charter, veterans in British Columbia had to go to court in order to defend their rights, as other groups have had to do as well. They had to turn to the courts to show Canadians that when soldiers are injured while serving Canada, Canada does not do enough to take care of them. It is scandalous.

In a case backed by Equitas Society, they went to court because the veterans said that the pension system used to be more generous and took better care of injured veterans. They used reports to clearly illustrate that when veterans are injured, they get lump sums and pensions that are not big enough. What is more, if a soldier is injured in combat and does not have a pension, at age 65 he or she ends up with nothing. A number of troubling things like that have come up over the years. Equitas Society ended up going to court to call on the government to take better care of veterans and give them better compensation.

To block this class action suit, the government's lawyers had the audacity to tell the court that the government had no moral, sacred, fiduciary or legal obligation to take care of veterans. That was nonsense. This is the fist time since World War I and the days of Sir Robert Borden that anyone has dared to say that the government has no obligation to take care of our injured veterans. Obviously our veterans were outraged.

Two years ago, when the minister and the government were asked repeatedly to refute the arguments of the lawyers in charge of this case, there was radio silence. The minister let the case move forward with that argument, which raised the ire of a number of opposition members and, obviously, of the veterans themselves, because it makes no sense. No government is so indecent that it would deny its sacred obligation to look after veterans.

When soldiers undertake to serve Canada, they also agree to put the nation's interests before their own. They agree to risk their lives. They agree to go into battle without the certainty that the country and Canadians will look after them and their families. That is completely absurd. We strongly condemn this situation, and that is why my colleague moved this motion.

Instead of fighting it out in the courts and opposing this class action suit, the government should have made appropriate improvements to the new veterans charter and at least responded to all the recommendations made by the committee nearly one year ago. These recommendations are not new as they have been raised many times before.

The new minister is only announcing half measures. One of the committee's recommendations was to include the sacred, moral, fiduciary and legal obligation to properly care for veterans. This was ignored by the government, which did not agree to this recommendation even though it said it would accept it.

Recently, my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore asked the minister several times whether the government recognized this obligation. Once again, there was nothing but radio silence. The government refuses to recognize the sacred obligation to properly care for veterans. It is mind-boggling that the government continues to behave this way. We had to move this motion today to force the government to commit to fulfilling this moral obligation. I would like to once again thank my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for moving this important motion because it will allow us to see where the government stands on this issue. Will it once again simply pay lip service to this issue and attack the opposition?

Because of the many questions we have asked in the House, the government accused us of voting against the $5 billion it claimed to have invested since taking office. The Conservatives said it again not so long ago before they were caught red-handed. They did not invest $5 billion, since over $1 billion was returned to the public treasury. What is more, they are firing nearly one-quarter of the front-line staff who take care of our veterans, they are closing regional offices, and they are not consistently using the whole budget even though, as I mentioned, our veterans are not receiving sufficient compensation for injuries. Veterans receive less compensation than other people working in the public and private sectors. It is an ongoing battle for many of them to have their rights recognized, and now they have to deal with a shortage of staff.

The minister acknowledges that the budgets were cut too much in recent years, since the case managers were overburdened and the government is now having to backtrack and hire 100 new people to process veterans' files. There was a ratio of 40 veterans to one case manager, which was far too high. These case managers were not able to provide proper assistance to the veterans, follow up and fill out paperwork. There is often a large number of forms to fill out. The paperwork is never-ending, even if the veteran is an amputee, as we recently saw. An amputee was asked the following year to confirm that he was still an amputee. Veterans are swamped with forms to fill out, and the unspoken objective is to discourage veterans so they will stop filling them out. That makes no sense, when there are not enough case managers to pick up the slack.

The government needs to stop playing politics and stop accusing the opposition of playing politics when the government is the one doing it. The government must support this motion to improve the new veterans charter. We can put an end to the Equitas case by supporting our veterans and giving them appropriate compensation. That is what the government needs to do in this case.

Petitions May 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents in Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, I want to present a petition signed by about 200 people from the Châteauguay region. They are clearly indicating that they are opposed to the cuts to Canada Post's services. With this petition, they are saying that they very much want to continue receiving home mail delivery.

Veterans May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the government is pleased to contribute millions of dollars to commemorate wars. However, when it comes time to take care of veterans, there is no end to the cuts.

Under the Conservatives' watch, services for veterans have been cut, regional service offices have been closed, and support staff has been laid off. It is not surprising that one-third of veterans are dissatisfied with the services offered by the department.

Why is the government not treating our veterans with the respect they deserve?

Veterans April 22nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in true Conservative style, this budget goes nowhere and does not offer any solutions to veterans' demands.

The budget simply contains old announcements that were already in their previous budget. It was not even worth wasting ink and paper on that. Veterans deserve better.

Why does the minister refuse to reopen the regional service offices and to give veterans the services that they are demanding and that they deserve?

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act March 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for that clarification and the information provided.

As I mentioned, there is a problem with the administration of justice. There is a dire shortage of judges and Crown prosecutors, which means things are not going anywhere. We are not headed in the right direction. Criminals are put in jail for longer periods and the budgets for all these people are being cut. That makes no sense. We are not going in the right direction in many areas. Furthermore, the provinces are not consulted. With Bill C-10, prisons are overflowing. The prison population has increased by 10%, but not the budget to deal with it. The government is sticking the provinces with the bill.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act March 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for raising these important points.

Indeed, I was talking about this at the end of my speech, when I ran out of time, so I will come back to that now. Very few resources are being given to police officers. Minimum sentences are being increased, which means the prison population is increasing, but the budgets keep shrinking. Criminals are being sent to prison for longer periods. Services are being cut, including rehabilitation services that are necessary for ensuring that individuals do not reoffend when they are released.

These people are being sent into prisons that do not really have the resources to handle them. The RCMP is being given more responsibilities just as their budget is being cut. This makes no sense at all and it is not the first time this is happening. There have been a number of bills whereby the RCMP gets more responsibility and less money, or at least is not given the necessary budget to do its work.

In this case we are talking about creating a sex offender registry without giving more money to the RCMP. This government is not going in the right direction. It is also making cuts to rehabilitation services and to funding for the community resources that provide prevention services.

Having a balanced approach would be much more effective than relying on mandatory minimum sentences or stricter rules—in some cases, this is good—without giving correctional services or the RCMP the money they need. We are going nowhere with this.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act March 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-26.

Like most members on this side of the House, I am a bit concerned. We will support this bill at second reading, but I would like my colleagues across the way to keep an open mind so that we can study the bill calmly and ensure that it does what it claims to do.

This bill is entitled An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Sex Offender Information Registration Act, to enact the High Risk Child Sex Offender Database Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. It is commonly referred to by the Conservatives as the tougher penalties for child predators act.

The Conservatives always try to make themselves look good by saying that they are against child sex offenders and depicting the members from the other parties as defending the offenders. I would say that everyone in the House is against child predators. It is often the government's approach to things that we disagree on.

This bill was introduced over a year ago with much fanfare. We soon realized that the cases mentioned in the many press conferences held by the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister were more than 10 years old. The government is using certain cases that are already quite old. This is yet another bill that will essentially increase the existing mandatory minimum penalties. In recent years, this government has amended a lot of laws by adding mandatory minimums.

Furthermore, Bill C-26 increases the maximum penalties for violations of prohibition orders, probation orders and peace bonds. It clarifies and codifies the rules regarding the imposition of consecutive and concurrent sentences. I should point out that there is currently a case before the Supreme Court regarding the lawfulness of consecutive sentences. In the short or medium term, a lot of the decisions made here could be looked at from a whole other perspective. That is why we need to examine this bill calmly in order to eventually achieve what the government claims to want to do, which is to reduce the number of crimes committed against children.

The bill will require courts to impose, in certain cases, consecutive sentences on offenders who commit sexual offences against children. It will ensure that a court that imposes a sentence must take into consideration evidence that the offence in question was committed while the offender was subject to a conditional sentence order or released on parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence.

What is more, the bill will amend the Canada Evidence Act to ensure that spouses of the accused are competent and compellable witnesses for the prosecution in child pornography cases. It also amends the Sex Offender Information Registration Act to increase the reporting obligations of sex offenders who travel outside Canada.

What is new about this bill is that it enacts the high risk child sex offender database act to establish a publicly accessible database that contains information—that a police service or other public authority has previously made accessible to the public—with respect to persons who are found guilty of sexual offences against children and who pose a high risk of committing crimes of a sexual nature. It also makes consequential amendments to other acts.

The NDP has always had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual offences against children, despite what the Conservatives would have people believe. One of the tactics they used to colour people's opinions with omnibus Bill C-10 was to refuse to split the bill since we disagreed with some of its provisions. Because we planned to vote against that bill, the Conservatives said that we were voting against a bill that goes after sexual predators. They wanted to make it look like we were defending these individuals, which is completely ridiculous.

It seems that it did not work because the provisions of Bill C-10 to implement several mandatory minimum sentences do not seem to have had the desired effect. I would like to hear the minister tell us, in committee, how these new mandatory minimum sentences will succeed this time when they failed in the past.

That is one of the serious concerns that I have about this file. Many Conservative bills do nothing but increase mandatory minimum sentences while claiming to solve the problem of a particular type of crime, and this does not have the desired effect.

Every time we debate this we ask the Conservatives to back up their statements. Is it because the sentences are not tough enough? If there is an increase in crime, is it because of the sentence or because of anything related to the services? We are given very few clear answers to these questions.

Canada now has 34 million inhabitants. Let us take a look at some sexual crime statistics. In 2008, 241 people were accused of sexual interference; in 2009, there were 574; in 2010, there were 818; in 2011, there were 918; and in 2012, there were 916. The number keeps going up. Still, this is probably the least serious sexual crime in the Criminal Code compared to sexual assault on a child, for example.

For invitation to sexual touching, there were 56 cases in 2008, and that number rose to 206 in 2012. For sexual exploitation, there were 17 cases in 2008, and that went up to 49. It was fairly stable from 2010 to 2012. Of course, we do not yet have any statistics about making sexually explicit material available to a child because that new offence was created in 2012. Luring a child using a computer rose from 54 cases in 2008 to 127 in 2012.

We must not lose sight of the fact that all of these statistics are from years under the Conservative reign. During that time, we have, on many occasions, instituted or increased mandatory minimum sentences. According to these statistics, that approach has not deterred criminals.

Scientists have shown that mandatory minimum sentences do not deter criminals from committing crimes. I agree with criminologists that the likelihood of getting caught is what deters people from committing crimes, not the remote possibility of being sentenced to 10, 15 or 20 years. That does not deter criminals. It is clear that mandatory minimum sentences have had no effect in this area either.

Moreover, RCMP personnel strength keeps dropping. Commissioner Paulson mentioned recently in committee that he has had to shut down large squads that fight organized crime and assign the staff to other positions. That is completely ridiculous. The government is also not giving the RCMP any additional resources to establish this new data bank that it wants to create. It makes no sense. The RCMP will once again be forced to make cuts to other squads in order to get it done.

We have been raising the problem of updating criminal records for years now. We are not moving in the right direction. Let us give the RCMP the power to carry out its mission and stop moving in a direction that is doing nothing to deter criminals.

Châteauguay—Saint-Constant March 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend a wonderful display of solidarity by one of my constituents, who took on an ambitious project to give the Corbeil-Clément family a new home after they tragically lost theirs in a fire on December 15, 2014. With a huge mortgage and no insurance, the family might have had the worst Christmas anyone could imagine.

Moved by this terrible tragedy, Michel Énault, an electrical contractor, made it his mission to rebuild their destroyed house. With the help of volunteers, he managed to raise over $170,000 in cash donations, labour and building materials.

A week after the tragedy, Mr. Énault announced the amount that had been raised to rebuild the house at a fundraising event. By asking for help from basically all the business owners and merchants in the Châteauguay area, Mr. Énault's team was also able to give the family and the children a number of Christmas presents, a trip and enough furniture to fill the new house, which should be completed by mid-April.

Many thanks to Mr. Énault and his entire team for moving heaven and earth to transform what could have been a nightmare into a real-life fairy tale.

Petitions March 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present a petition signed by hundreds of people in and around my riding. They are concerned about the rights of small family farmers to preserve, exchange and use seeds. The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to adopt international aid policies that support small farmers, and especially women, and recognize their vital role in the struggle against hunger and poverty. They also want assurances that Canada's policies and programs will be developed in consultation with small farmers and that those policies protect the rights of small farmers in the global south to preserve, use and freely exchange seeds.

Veterans Affairs March 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, obviously, the Conservatives are heartless and have no respect whatsoever for veterans.

For example, they are asking veterans with amputations to confirm that they still have limbs missing. These veterans are required to fill out hurtful questionnaires in order to continue receiving their benefits. No one in the government seems to understand what it means to have a disability.

Will the minister immediately put an end to this completely ridiculous practice and stop humiliating our veterans?