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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

Veterans Affairs May 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, while the Conservatives are slashing services to veterans, the chair of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board is dipping into veterans' coffers to pay for trips to London to see his wife give speeches. He has wasted over $7,000 on his transatlantic trips. It is not surprising to see, when the example comes from the top.

Why are the Conservatives cutting services to veterans and yet allowing the chair to lavishly spend money that should be used to help those who served our country?

Veterans Affairs May 9th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, just as the NDP predicted, the Conservatives' cuts to Veterans Affairs Canada are going to significantly reduce the services provided to the men and women who have bravely served this country. We are talking about the most significant change to that department in Canadian history, with over 800 full-time jobs being eliminated.

At a time when 35,000 soldiers who served in Afghanistan will be eligible for these services, why are the Conservatives so determined to take these resources away from our courageous soldiers?

Criminal Code May 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise today on Bill C-394, introduced by the member for Brampton—Springdale. To begin with, I would like to congratulate the member on his initiative and for recognizing the fact that the gang problem in Canada is on the rise, which is a major problem that needs addressing. I would like to thank the member for giving us the opportunity to consider solutions to this problem.

To begin with, I want to make it clear that further legislation dealing with the problem of street gangs will not be a cure-all. We need to consider other solutions rather than simply throwing more legislation at the problem.

The NDP considers it important to protect our youth from gangs and organized crime. We believe that this bill is an important and positive tool in order to stem the tide of the street gang phenomenon. That is why we included this important issue in our 2011 election platform. We are in favour of a balanced approach to public safety that relies on both prevention and punishment.

The NDP's priority is to combat gangs by adopting a balanced approach. This approach, which focuses on prevention, will help meet the expectations of Canadians, who obviously want to live and thrive in communities free of violence. We want to see as many effective prevention programs as possible because they help to prevent young people from being recruited into street gangs.

Currently, there are three offences dealing with organized crime. These offences are defined in section 467.11 of the Criminal Code: participation in the activities of a criminal organization; the commission of an offence for a criminal organization; and instructing a person to commit an offence for a criminal organization.

The bill adds a fourth offence: recruiting a person to join a criminal organization for the purpose of enhancing the ability of the organization to facilitate or commit an indictable offence. It constitutes an additional legislative tool, which is at the heart of the bill.

Although there are no major problems that prevent us from supporting this bill, I do have some reservations about imposing mandatory minimums. I must remind government members that every time Parliament has attempted to include mandatory minimums in the Criminal Code, the Supreme Court has overturned these mandatory minimums because they do not allow judges to take into consideration mitigating factors that may have come into play in the commission of the crime. I remind members that this may be a major problem. It is my hope that the government will stop imposing mandatory minimums because they are not appropriate.

We must remember that young people have a fundamental need to identify with a group and to belong. If young people do not have this feeling of belonging to their family or school, for example, sometimes they unfortunately turn to gangs in order to find a sense of belonging. Peer pressure, the desire to be protected and the need to identify can therefore influence a young person's decision to join a criminal organization.

Families and children living in poverty and unemployment, or experiencing family problems, are often more vulnerable to recruitment by street gangs. In some urban neighbourhoods, where poverty and violence are everyday facts of life, young people may feel so vulnerable that they decide to join a gang because they believe it is the only way to survive. They may see it as the only available option. Joining a gang may also look to them like an alternative to their current living situation, particularly if they are from an extremely poor environment or if they have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. Stopping gang recruitment is a way of striking at the very foundation of these gangs, which is the recruitment that enables them to continue their unlawful activities.

There are data indicating that almost half the street gang members in Canada are under the age of 18, and 39% of gang members are in the 16 to 18 year age group. Almost half of all street gang members are under 18 years old.

They are also often highly ethnically diverse. Although youth gangs are primarily made up of young men, in some parts of the country, more young women are becoming gang members. As the gangs are a cross-section of many ethnic, geographical, demographic and socio-economic groups, many adolescents are at risk of becoming involved in such gangs or of being influenced by them in future.

In 2008, the statistics showed over 900 gangs totalling more than 7,000 members. Gangs made up of young Canadians are involved in many disturbing criminal activities including assault, drug trafficking, burglary, break and enter, vandalism and, increasingly, violent crimes against individuals.

There is also a disquieting relationship between many youth gangs and organized crime groups, and this increases the inherent dangers of the gang phenomenon in Canada.

Most gangs subject new members to some kind of initiation. This may consist of being beaten for a certain time by the other gang members, or it may be that most new members are required to commit crimes in order to become members of such a criminal gang. The same applies to some female members.

As is the case with most organized groups, female gang members are not really considered equal to male members. Women are more often invisible or less important, until the male members need them to commit a certain crime.

Female gang members usually participate in the same activities as male gang members. However, even though they take many of the same risks, they do not have the same status as their male counterparts. Furthermore, female gang members are often the victims of abuse such as rape and assault committed by male members of the gang. Unfortunately, male gang members can also sexually exploit them.

Gangs and criminal organizations are recruiting more and more young people, and at even younger ages. That is why we need to ferociously attack this phenomenon, in order to protect our youth.

Not only do we need to make it illegal to recruit people into gangs and criminal organizations, but we also need to strengthen and focus our efforts on youth crime prevention. Through such programs, we would be able to identify young people who might be susceptible to recruitment. It is therefore important to break down the radicalization process, so that our young people can thrive without the negative influence of these gangs.

Beyond criminalizing recruitment, we want more resources to be allocated to crime prevention programs, especially those designed for young people. We also want police forces to have enough resources to protect our communities across the country. To do so, we must certainly work together with the provinces, the territories and communities such as the first nations.

Fighting crime has to be done in partnership with all the players in the legal sector and the social sector.

We have constantly asked for an increased investment in front-line police officers. We have also asked for more money for youth crime prevention programs. Thanks to pressure from the NDP, the government has provided funding to these programs. Nonetheless, it has refused to provide funding for front-line municipal police officers. The Conservatives have thereby let down the provinces when it comes to the police officers recruitment fund that is allocated to the provinces to recruit front-line police officers. This is a very useful program that unfortunately will end in 2013.

The Conservatives are trying to show that they are willing to fight organized crime through this bill. However, they are not fully meeting the needs and expectations of Canadians.

In conclusion, I would just like to reiterate the importance of preventive programs. The punitive approach unfortunately has its limitations, and the best way to prevent recruitment into criminal organizations is to combat poverty and all the variables that result in individuals becoming involved in organized crime.

Criminal behaviour is caused by multiple social variables. Those are what we must work to eliminate. That is how we will have the greatest effect in the battle against crime and the recruitment of young people into criminal gangs.

Veterans May 1st, 2012

Mr. Speaker, Canadian veterans have fought courageously for their country, yet this government keeps telling them that they have to take care of themselves. The decision to close nine Veterans Affairs offices will make things even more difficult for a huge number of veterans and their families who need help.

We recently learned that the number of suicides by military personnel rose in 2011. How can the government tell veterans to seek help online instead of talking to a real, live human being?

Business of Supply April 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent speech, which I listened to carefully. She talked about something important: the manner in which this government should have presented the changes regarding the environment and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in particular.

I would like my colleague to speak more about the difference it would have made to introduce a completely separate bill instead of bundling everything into the budget, as the government decided to do. Could we have better evaluated the changes made to environmental impact assessments and how?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act March 16th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

If we give the minister this discretionary power without establishing objective criteria and relying on a committee, people who have a criminal record because they took part in protests or were identified as political criminals could be denied refugee status. In my colleague's example, the claim by a person who flees persecution and imprisonment in their country would be denied even if, after checking, his or her criminal record proves to be bogus.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act March 16th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the minister's claims, this bill does give the minister too much discretion to designate certain countries as safe countries, without really being absolutely certain that they are. In that case, he should at least rely on the advice of experts who may perhaps be somewhat more knowledgeable about what is happening in these countries, in order to be sure that these countries are safe before rejecting claims and withdrawing these people's refugee status.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act March 16th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I will get right to the point. Bill C-31 is a blot on Canada's reputation. This bill will tarnish our international image as a host country. It will be a major step backward with respect to protecting refugees in Canada. It puts tremendous power in the hands of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and fails to revamp Canada's refugee determination system. The purpose of this bill is not, as stated, to fight human smuggling or to help asylum seekers by expediting the process. Its true purpose is something else entirely. All it will do is punish refugees.

Bill C-31 is a patchwork of bits and pieces of old bills, including Bill C-4 on human trafficking, Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, and biometrics.

One of the bills introduced during this Parliament was Bill C-4. That bill received such strong opposition from lawyers and refugee rights organizations that the government dropped it. This bill would allow the minister to designate the arrival of refugees as an irregular arrival. The bill uses the phrase “a group of persons” without really specifying how many persons constitute a group. We presume that two people could indeed constitute a group. These designation criteria are far too vague and disproportionate and leave too much room for legal interpretation. A family fleeing a war-torn country would be a group of persons.

The most despicable proposal in this bill is the one whereby any person designated a “foreign national” will be detained for a maximum period of one year, without review and without any chance of appeal.

Immigration detention centres are already overcrowded. Accordingly, these designated persons will likely be transferred to provincial prisons to live with criminals. Under this bill, a person could be detained for 12 months without review.

According to the bill, a person in detention who receives permanent resident status will not be released since they are not entitled to a review of their case for a period of one year.

The government is not giving any thought to the distress felt by these people who have fled a country in the hope of having a better life. This government is not considering the desolation of these people who are fleeing persecution in their country and who now are being mixed in with the criminal population for a year without review of their case, as I was saying.

These measures go completely against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international law. The Supreme Court ruled in the Charkaoui case that detention under a security certificate is unconstitutional. That means that every person in Canada has the right to appear before a judge within 48 business hours. The Conservative government has no qualms about introducing a bill that is likely unconstitutional.

Under the Supreme Court ruling, detention has to be subject to a timely and regular review to ensure that it continues to be legal. All asylum seekers not arriving in groups, therefore arriving alone, are entitled to this review. Families would be exempt from this review because they constitute a group of two or more people.

Not only can a group be detained for a year, in addition, no exception is made for the individuals in the group, regardless of gender, age or health status. These inhumane provisions are a direct violation of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Indeed, this United Nations convention clearly indicates that no host country shall impose sanctions against refugees by reason of their illegal entry if they present themselves without delay to the authorities and give good reason for their illegal entry.

Canada is, in fact, a signatory to this convention.

The measures proposed in the bill are an attempt to discourage refugees from seeking protection in Canada. Not only are these people being detained without the right to appeal their case, but the implacable attitude of this government will end up increasing the number of removals. That goes entirely against the humanitarian values Canada espouses and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Moreover, this bill stipulates that refugees shall be banned from making an application for permanent residence for a five-year period after obtaining refugee status.

Once again, this bill violates the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees by prohibiting any person who has obtained refugee status from traveling outside Canada. The refugee will, therefore, have no travel document. That also violates the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Furthermore, refugee claimants will not be able to sponsor their families for a period of five years. That means, for example, that a 15-year-old teenager who enters the country illegally will not be able to sponsor his parents for five years. Bearing in mind these constraints alone and the average time it takes to process claims for refugee protection and applications for permanent residence, refugees will be separated from their families for seven years. These measures are discouraging for all refugee claimants.

The minister also reserves the right to designate a country as safe for foreign nationals without even benefiting from the expertise of a committee on human rights. This measure will result in the implementation of stricter deadlines to submit a claim for refugee protection. This will make it difficult to properly prepare an application, which may lead to a refusal.

Moreover, the refugee claimants from the list of countries deemed safe by the minister who have been forced to leave the country will no longer be entitled to file an appeal before the Immigration and Refugee Board. If they are determined to appeal, their only recourse is to seek a judicial review before the Federal Court. Despite this provision, there is a strong likelihood that the claimant will be deported to his country of origin before the court has had time to make a decision. Furthermore, this bill prevents the Refugee Protection Division from reopening files. This clause goes against the principles of natural justice. This bill needlessly takes away a jurisdiction that has always existed.

Another clause is being added to the long list of barriers to claims for asylum. Once again, this clause gives another discretionary power to the minister that allows him to detain any individual who is suspected of a crime. There is no guideline for the principle of suspicion. However, it does not stop there, because the bill specifies that it is possible to turn down any claim if a person has committed an offence, even if it is a trivial offence. Let us take the example of a person who, in his own country, refused to obey an order from the dictatorial government and dared to express his opinion publicly, and finds himself with a criminal record because of it. Canada would refuse his claim because of this offence, without even considering the cases of persecution for which that government is responsible.

This Conservative government is going even further in its indifference to the suffering of thousands of people who are fleeing persecution. In granting permanent resident status to refugees, Canada is offering them safety to settle in our country and quietly begin their lives over again. However, the Conservatives, with their misguided thinking, want to grant permanent resident status on a conditional basis. This bill would allow an application for permanent resident status to be suspended when the country of origin is on the list of countries considered safe and stable, countries that are put on the list by virtue of the minister's discretionary power.

That is not all. This clause is retroactive, which means that thousands of permanent residents will have to leave their new country and new life in Canada. Take the example of someone who left his country because of political persecution 30 years ago. When he arrived in Canada, he asked for asylum and we granted him permanent resident status. He began a family here, but 30 years later the government tells him that his country is safe and he can go back.

Bill C-31 is underhanded; it goes even further. The Conservatives also want to demand biometric data from applicants for a visitor visa, a student visa or a working visa. Biometrics has a reputation as a technology that gives considerable power to states for keeping an eye on people. Bill C-31 put forward by the Conservatives is a huge reversal in immigration policy and is aimed solely at refugees and asylum seekers, to their detriment. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is giving himself the right to make criminals of certain refugees and throw them in jail, without review of their files, for a period of one year.

The Conservative government is now interfering with the right of every person to defend himself. I believe that this bill is discriminatory and that it sets up a two-tier system for refugee protection.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police March 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is troubling that the Conservatives are cutting a key program during its trial period.

Last year alone, over 1,900 RCMP officers received a pension for post-traumatic stress disorder. That is not normal. If nothing is done, members of the RCMP and their families are going to continue to suffer.

RCMP officers deserve our respect, and it is high time that the Conservatives realized this.

Why do the Conservatives fund bad priorities and refuse to support RCMP officers who need assistance?

Telecommunications March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the telecommunications industry is one of our economy's most dynamic industries. However, the effects of this industry are not all positive. Recently, in my riding, a cellphone company put up four cellphone towers less than 15 metres high without consulting anyone.

The current legislation does not require these companies to consult municipalities, city planners or residents prior to construction. Given the increasing number of companies that offer wireless services, the government needs to adjust its policies so that towers are not just being built haphazardly.

To the extent possible, we must ensure that Canadians are not seeing towers erected right next door to their homes. This is what happened to a resident of Mercier, who says that she cannot sell her home because the tower that was erected several metres from her backyard is scaring off potential buyers.

I am calling for changes to Industry Canada's policy by joining my voice to that of this resident and the mayor of Châteauguay who has said that the current approach is outdated and that the precautionary principle should be applied given the harmful effects that microwaves may have on health.