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

Veterans June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister would have Canadians believe that our veterans are rolling in money when he says that some veterans can receive as much as $10,000 a month.

The fact is that only four seriously wounded veterans are getting those types of benefits. The minister's half-truths are outrageous. Many of our veterans are living in poverty. Most of them are constantly fighting with Veterans Affairs, and most of the time they have to wait.

Will the minister have the decency to apologize?

Instruction to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question and for the work that she does for veterans and the employees of Ste. Anne's Hospital, who are indeed very concerned about the situation.

Three years ago, the government announced that the hospital would be transferred to the province, under the pretext that there are fewer and fewer veterans who have access to the hospital, given that it is reserved for World War II and Korean War veterans. Instead, the criteria should be changed to open this hospital to all veterans who might need hospital services.

In fact, this is an excellent hospital, and I have had the pleasure of visiting it. Veterans receive wonderful, outstanding services there. However, since it is half-empty, the criteria could be changed so that those spots would be available to any groups of veterans who need long-term care. This would be a good alternative to transferring the hospital to the province.

Instruction to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his intelligent question and comments.

I have the pleasure of being a member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, with the member for Charlottetown. He is very knowledgeable about veterans issues, and he made intelligent comments about the cuts to Veterans Affairs Canada. The number of case managers is being cut, and the people who are left in those positions are being given more files. If memory serves, in the recent past, case managers used to handle 35 cases and now they handle about 40. They are responsible for more files and they have less time for veterans. They also have less time to figure out which services veterans are entitled to. In my opinion, veterans have not been receiving very good service in recent years.

I will now respond to the question about the RCMP. RCMP veterans are treated differently than other classes of veterans. The veterans in the class action law suit initiated by Dennis Manuge won their case, and the government agreed to reduce the disability benefits of those who are receiving retirement pensions. RCMP officers are in the same class. They have also launched a class action suit. However, the government does not want to apply the same rule. RCMP officers continue to be the victims of discrimination, when a settlement was reached in the Dennis Manuge case. This is further proof that the government is treating veterans who were members of the RCMP differently than veterans in other classes. The government is not treating all of our veterans in the same way, and that is completely disgraceful.

Instruction to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would really like to thank my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster for moving this motion in the House.

Not that long ago, we voted on a bill that completely overlooked RCMP veterans, who should be included and treated as such. Unfortunately, they are too often forgotten. They were once again completely overlooked in Bill C-27. That was one of our misgivings about that bill. I would like to thank the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster for moving this motion that we had been discussing for a few days.

Eric Rebiere, an RCMP veteran with 26 years of service, spoke out during an interview with Elliot Ferguson from QMI Agency. He said he was outraged at how services were provided to him and that the government was not treating retired RCMP officers as full-fledged veterans.

I would like to read my colleague's motion in order to explain it to those watching at home:

That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs that, during its consideration of Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Public Service Employment Act (enhancing hiring opportunities for certain serving and former members of the Canadian Forces), the Committee be granted the power to expand the scope of the Bill in order to allow members of the RCMP to qualify for the priority hiring program.

RCMP veterans have been completely left out of this bill. This huge gap shows that this bill is incomplete. I am unhappy with another aspect of this bill, which is that it has created even more classes of veterans. There are World War II and Korean War veterans who have access to health care still for some time.

Ste. Anne's Hospital, near my riding, is destined to be transferred to the province, when it provided very good services to World War II and Korean War veterans. They are obviously aging, and there are fewer and fewer of them. Why not change the eligibility criteria and open this hospital to all veterans? That is what veterans groups are requesting. They say they are all veterans who served under the same flag.

Why always make classes of veterans who do not have access to the same services and the same health care? It is completely unacceptable that RCMP veterans have been completely left out of Bill C-27. The government should have considered them and stopped this tendency to create classes of veterans. We support the veterans ombudsman, who has been asking for years that the government stop creating classes of veterans and instead place them in a single veterans group. That is the approach we want to take in the House. The official opposition is asking the government to move in that direction, as all veterans and the ombudsman are requesting.

Mr. Rebiere says that he is absolutely outraged at the way services are provided to RCMP veterans, because they are full-fledged veterans. We are asking that they not be left out, which is what this bill does. They have been completely forgotten, which is why the motion by my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster asks that they be included.

The motion asks to find a way to include RCMP veterans and allow them to qualify for the public service priority hiring program, just as other veterans groups have been included. Mr. Rebiere is left with the impression that the government does not consider retired RCMP officers as veterans. He says he is completely outraged, and rightly so, at being treated like this and never getting the same services as other veterans groups.

I will read an excerpt from the article. I think it is very important.

A retired Kingston-area RCMP officer is calling for the federal government to stop what he calls "discrimination" between different groups of veterans.

Eric Rebiere, whose 24-year career in the federal police force ended in 2006, two years after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after taking part in NATO policing missions in Croatia and Kosovo, said the government should have one standard for all people who served in military operations, including RCMP officers who volunteered for policing missions.

The ombudsman said, and Mr. Rebiere echoed this as well, that RCMP veterans do not get the same services and that is absolutely disgraceful.

To come back to the subject, Bill C-27 was already incomplete since it followed Bill C-11, for which we had only one or two hours of debate. That bill was incomplete and dropped and then was replaced with this one. We think that Bill C-27 is also incomplete since it completely excludes RCMP officers.

For an officer like Mr. Rebiere, having access to public service jobs could be very beneficial, which is understandable. He could continue to serve his country in the public service. This would be especially beneficial to those with post-traumatic stress disorder. These are people who are no longer able to work in the military or the federal police service. If they could bring their expertise and skills to the public service, that would be very beneficial. If they also had access to the public service priority hiring program, they could pursue their career.

That perhaps could have been the case for Mr. Rebiere. The public service actually has a number of jobs for our soldiers and also for RCMP officers, who have been left out of this bill. We are asking the government to agree to our request and find a way to put RCMP officers on the priority list, which, for the time being, is for veterans only. We are hopeful that this bill will pass and come into force very soon. It would be completely unacceptable to exclude RCMP officers. They must also be included so that they can continue their careers. Many are forced to continue serving in the RCMP, without being totally employable and able to effectively serve the public as RCMP officers. They could continue to do so in the public service.

This is an entirely reasonable request. We are asking the government to vote in favour of this important motion and find a way to also include RCMP officers. In future bills, we will also ask the government to try to limit the number of groups of veterans to only one. We really believe in having only one group of veterans instead of creating divisions and more classes of veterans, as Bill C-27 does. Let us have only one group of veterans. They all served their country in the same way, so why give certain benefits to one group of veterans and forget about the others? That is completely unacceptable. It is fair to treat all groups of veterans equitably and in the same way.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

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

She just quoted Mr. Hannon, the executive director of Mines Action Canada, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development when it was studying this bill.

I cannot agree more with that statement since article 21 will allow our soldiers to use cluster munitions while participating in missions with allied countries that have not ratified the convention. I believe the government lacks leadership. Mr. Hannon was absolutely right.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will only be making comments since I heard no questions in what my colleague said. He is putting words in my mouth. He wants to identify our country as an aggressive nation, whereas that is not the case. I think that is what my colleagues who spoke previously wanted to say. Our country has come to the defence of allied countries. We fight for freedom and for the Canadian values that we want to uphold, regardless of what my colleague thinks.

In future, I would invite my colleagues to ask questions on what I myself said, not on what others said an hour ago. I think we have to move away from that kind of discussion.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, tonight we are debating Bill C-6, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Cluster munitions can release hundreds of explosives over a large area—one approximately the size of a football field, or 100 square metres—in a very short period of time. They have a devastating impact on civilians, and that impact can last many years after a conflict has ended.

How many countries have had to have cleanup operations after a conflict? Unfortunately, not everything can be removed. Some cluster munitions remain, and it is usually civilians who pay the price. Children are often drawn to the submunitions, which are about the size of a golf ball, cylindrical and eye-catching. Many children pay the price, often with their life.

We know how devastating and inconspicuous these landmines can be for the civilian population. Unfortunately, they are extremely difficult to detect. They can be as small as a golf ball, and they are often very difficult to defuse. Thirty per cent of these unexploded submunitions become the equivalent of landmines.

They have inflicted terrible damage during conflicts around the world. They have mutilated and killed children and adults. Fully 98% of all cluster bomb casualties have been civilians.

Is this the kind of international leadership that Canada should take with respect to landmines and cluster bombs? Not at all. Canadians took a stand on this issue long ago, but in this case, the Conservatives are going against what Canadians want.

Canada participated actively in the Oslo process that led to the creation of a convention to ban cluster bombs. People have been wanting to get rid of these weapons for a very long time. Unfortunately, the Conservatives' bill to implement the convention on cluster munitions is widely known as the weakest position of all of the countries that ratified the convention and passed legislation on the issue. It goes against the spirit of the convention.

As written, this bill is less binding than any other law passed by the countries that ratified the convention. One hundred and thirteen countries signed the convention and 84 have ratified it to date. Once again, instead of showing leadership, the Conservative government is bringing up the rear and seems bent on undermining the impact of the convention.

Earl Turcotte, former senior program coordinater for mine action at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, led the Canadian delegation that negotiated this convention. Here is what Mr. Turcotte said about the government's bill:

The proposed legislation is the worst of any country that has ratified or acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to date.

It fails to fulfill Canada's obligations under international humanitarian law; it fails to protect vulnerable civilians in war-ravaged countries around the world; it betrays the trust of sister states who negotiated this treaty in good faith, and it fails Canadians who expect far better from our nation.

There are several loopholes in this bill, and if they are not closed, Canada's commitment to ending the use of cluster munitions will be superficial at best. Indeed, if Bill C-6 is not amended, it may even work against the convention on an international level, as Earl Turcotte warned.

However, we should not be surprised by the direction that the Conservatives are taking in terms of arms control when we consider their general reluctance to take action on this file. In fact, they refused to sign the UN arms trade treaty, which was signed by all our NATO allies, and it relaxed restrictions on arms exports. This attitude is contrary to the will and values of Canadians.

The bill was criticized by many experts and by those who firmly believe that we must rid the world of cluster munitions. Criticism was mainly levelled at clause 11. This clause authorizes the Canadian Forces to be present in a theatre of operations where cluster munitions are used.

This flies in the face of what we did in the case of the Ottawa treaty, which bans anti-personnel mines. It stipulated that if we were to find ourselves in a theatre of operations alongside any other country that had not signed the Ottawa treaty, we could not participate in combined operations with the troops of that country if they were using such weapons.

This bill has a flaw, a loophole, that basically says that we can be in a theatre of operations when one of our allies is using these munitions. That is completely unacceptable, and it goes against the spirit of the convention.

The government's objective is not to ratify or implement this convention. With the results we see, its objective is to undermine or weaken the convention. It also undermines Canada' role as a world leader and our commitment to ban this terrible weapon.

In the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, the NDP offered its support to Canadian and foreign civilian organizations that were calling for this bill to be amended. We worked closely, publicly and directly with the government, and we managed to persuade it to expressly prohibit the use of cluster munitions by Canadian soldiers. In concrete terms, that means that Canadian soldiers may not directly use this type of weapon but that they may take part in operations and be on the ground where those weapons have been used.

How can the government prohibit their direct use by the Canadian Forces, on the one hand, and let our forces take part in joint operations with partners who use this kind of weapon, on the other? Canada expressly prohibited the involvement of its armed forces in the case of anti-personnel mines. We could therefore implement the same kind of prohibition for this type of weapon. This is a 180-degree change from the position we held on anti-personnel mines.

If the government does not decide to withdraw clause 11 with the amendment at report stage, we will unfortunately be forced to vote against the bill. That would be unfortunate, but we would have no choice.

Veterans June 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have come back from the mission in Afghanistan, and many of them are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Again this morning, Jenifer Migneault and Marie-Andrée Mallette, two spouses of soldiers who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, are criticizing the lack of support available for caregivers.

Will the Conservatives finally recognize the essential work these spouses do and give them all the support they are calling for and deserve?

Normandy Landing June 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, 70 years ago today, more than 14,000 Canadian soldiers were getting ready for the largest allied offensive in Normandy.

The Royal Canadian Navy would send 109 ships and 10,000 sailors to join the massive armada of 7,000 allied ships that took to the sea on D-Day. Those soldiers came from across Canada. Most of them were young and had never taken part in a combat mission before. Thanks to their courage and tenacity, they were able to push back the German troops and pave the way for the liberation of Europe.

More than 5,000 of our soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice and are buried far from their loved ones and their homeland. Those who returned home suffered physical and psychological injuries, which they are still dealing with today.

The cost of freedom and democracy can be a steep price to pay. Let us remember those who sacrificed their lives for the protection of these ideals. Let us remember those who sacrificed their present for the sake of our future.

We will remember them. Lest we forget.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014

Madam Speaker, I have a quick answer for my colleague.

Since 2006, the government has been balancing the budget at veterans' expense.