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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was veterans.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Saint-Jean (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 48% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Veterans December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this warmongering Conservative government has led Canada into some irresponsible military action, and now it refuses to accept the consequences of its decisions with respect to the Canadian soldiers that it sent to war.

It refuses to pay for treatment for the mental health problems that its dangerous ideology created. Whether we are talking about the war in Afghanistan, the air strikes in Iraq or the police officers we are sending to Ukraine, Canada is slowly becoming an aggressive country on the international scene.

The only hope I have is that, in 2015, Canadians will replace this aggressive Conservative government with the first social democratic government in Canada.

Veterans December 11th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, on November 28, 2014, I asked the Minister of Veterans Affairs about an announcement he had made in Halifax regarding a $200 million mental health care program for veterans.

I would like to remind the House that this announcement was made because of pressure from the NDP. The parliamentary secretary, at the time, gave his usual response:

...there were only four operational stress injury clinics when our government took office. We have already put in place 13 operational stress injury clinics across the country.

The government says that it has increased services, but the numbers say the exact opposite. I will share a few examples. Last spring, I asked the minister a question about homelessness and, in particular, the fact that in Montreal there are no fewer than 50 veterans who are homeless.

Why was it difficult to help homeless veterans? It is because the Department of Veterans Affairs does not have the resources to do it. The week of November 20 we learned that the department had failed to spend more than $1 billion since 2006. On December 3, 2014, we learned from the Treasury Board's 2013-14 departmental performance report that the number of full-time equivalent employees had fallen from 4,039 in 2008-09 to 3,050 in 2013-14, which is even lower than the forecast 3,115.

Just this morning, December 12, 2014, we learned that a group of veterans known as The Canadian Veterans Advocacy were condemning the Conservative government for balancing its budget on the backs of veterans by closing at least nine Veterans Affairs Canada offices.

I will not add my voice to the chorus asking for the resignation of the Minister of Veterans Affairs. Although we can criticize him because he is overseeing the cuts to services, the person actually responsible for the current situation is the Prime Minister and the disconnect between his combative ideology and his obligation to deal with the effects of war on the soldiers who return home.

If we want to condemn the government and its inability to address these effects, we must have the courage to explain what causes them. Irresponsible military action is the cause of our veterans' health needs, especially the mental health needs that the government can no longer handle.

In 2006, the Prime Minister said, “You won't recognize Canada when I'm through with it”.

Indeed, sometimes I feel like I hardly recognize the Canada I moved to 13 years ago. It is this Prime Minister who is always trying to lead Canada away from the group of countries that work for international peace and co-operation, and towards the group of countries that are looking for provocation, confrontation and war.

There is another mind-boggling aspect of this debate. Not only are the Conservatives indifferent towards our veterans, but they also have such contempt for the public servants who work on the front lines providing services, who, according to the Prime Minister, are merely bureaucrats and pencil pushers. It is really insulting.

Petitions December 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, today I am presenting a petition from my constituents who are concerned that the agri-food industry is gradually replacing the wide variety of seeds with patented seeds.

As a result, they are calling on the Government of Canada to ensure that there is greater diversity, so that small farmers, and in particular women, can contribute to the fight against hunger, especially in southern countries.

Veterans November 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' attitude towards our veterans is unacceptable.

On Sunday, the minister announced with great fanfare a $200 million mental health program for veterans. Great news.

However, today we learned that this program spans a period of 50 years. Fifty years. Once again, our veterans are being sold a bill of goods by this government.

Why does the minister not understand that our veterans need mental health care now, and not in 50 years?

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

He talked about the fact that the Conservatives have acknowledged in recent years that incarcerating various types of criminals for longer periods does not reduce crime rates. I would like to know how he interprets that.

Does he believe that the Conservatives are simply thinking that if they leave criminals in prison longer, at least they can delay the day when the criminals come back and reoffend in society in the absence of any help or support, or does he think that this is purely about electioneering and they are using children because they know that people are sensitive to that subject? Is this simply a way to win votes, because they know that everyone is incensed at the thought of children being abused?

I wonder whether he could share his opinion and what he thinks of the Conservatives' strategy. Is it a question of delaying criminals' release from prison or is this an electioneering strategy that exploits people's emotions?

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 21st, 2014

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

Yes, time allocation motions are a problem that we have had in connection with many bills. There have been so many that I have lost track.

In the committees that I belong to, the Conservatives have always tended not to give us enough time to study bills. That was especially true in the case of Bill C-377 at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, but it happens in other committees too.

There is another technique the Conservatives use often: meeting in camera. Anytime they want to discuss something and use their majority, but they do not want the conversations to be public and available to Canadian citizens, they go in camera.

My colleague is absolutely right: we have to condemn this situation because we are here to discuss serious bills that will have serious consequences for the lives of people in jail and for the public purse. That is true not only at the federal level, but also at the provincial level.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for her question.

That is something that we have a tendency to neglect because when we talk about safety and protecting children we tend to look only at the punitive side, and that is the trap that the Conservatives are trying to have us step into.

In fact, my colleague is right. There is a financial aspect to this problem. Increasing the number of people who go to jail, as she mentioned, increases incarceration costs, not just for the federal government in the case of sentences of more than two years, but also for the provinces for sentences of less than two years. We have seen that. An MP asked a question today about the 11% increase in prison costs.

It is our duty to speak out against the cuts made by the Conservatives to federal prisons and the fact that not only are these cuts not warranted, but the federal government is also not investing the money it should in prevention and rehabilitation. These are two things that will allow us to have a safer society.

We cannot live in a society where there are more people incarcerated. We want to live in a society where everyone has their place, where those who commit a crime, however horrible, can reintegrate into society and participate in and contribute again to the economy and our society. That is the society we want to live in.

Veterans Affairs November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the public accounts show that the money that was meant for veterans was diverted. Money that should have been spent on programs to help our veterans was returned to the public treasury. That is scandalous. As if that were not bad enough, the Conservatives are cutting services for veterans and reducing the staff responsible for helping them.

When will this government stop trying to save money at our veterans' expense?

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin my speech on Bill C-26, 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.

The Conservative government does not have a very good record to start with. We can look at Bill C-10, a piece of legislation that substantially amended the Criminal Code. When that bill passed, the Barreau du Québec said, “Canadian justice is in mourning [and the passage of Bill C-10] is a setback for Canadian criminal law”. Such is the Conservatives' record on changes to the Criminal Code.

If we look at this from a financial perspective, as I was saying earlier, the Quebec minister of intergovernmental affairs announced two days ago that the cost of incarcerating offenders has increased by 11%. That expense was passed on to Quebec without the federal government assuming any of the additional cost, which ultimately was created by criminalizing certain elements that were not criminal before and likely could have been resolved either through prevention or by providing support to the people concerned, to ensure that they did not reoffend.

Finally, we have a different vision of the fundamentals of society than the Conservatives do. We want to live in a safer society, with less crime, and we want to be able to prevent crime before it happens. That is not the case for the Conservatives, who always adopt repressive policies and think that imposing longer prison sentences will resolve the problems associated with crime in Canada.

That brings to mind something that the member for Gatineau often says. When an offender is about to commit a crime, he does not bring the Criminal Code with him to read up on what the maximum penalty will be, whether there is a mandatory minimum sentence and whether the trial judge will be able to have him serve his sentence in the community or not. That way of thinking is is completely absurd and out of touch with reality.

The crime rate is dropping as a result of a number of factors, including demographics. The population is aging so crime is dropping, which makes sense in any society. If we want to reduce crime, we need to invest in prevention and in rehabilitation when a crime has been committed. However, the ideal would be not to have criminals or crime.

With this bill, the Conservatives are falling into the same repetitive cycle of behaviour that they always fall into, which involves a simplistic and very election-minded approach. This approach consists of convincing Canadians that they are going to do away with crime by imposing longer sentences, criminalizing activities that were not crimes before and imposing minimum sentences, or in other words, by not putting any faith in the justice system.

One of the methods used by the Conservatives involves playing on the public's frustration. It is true that we are all sometimes frustrated when criminal convictions are not in line with what we personally think they should be. We may be angry about verdicts that we think are too soft considering the seriousness of the offence. However, the Conservatives always play on people's emotions and hope that they will not have any faith in the justice system.

Along the same lines as imposing mandatory minimum sentences or increasing existing minimums, the Conservatives also discredit the judiciary and undermine judges' ability to evaluate criminals' personal situation and ability to reintegrate into society. They play on people's sense of fear, as they do with other issues, especially safety-related issues.

We will clearly support this bill at second reading, because it contains a number of worthwhile provisions that should be studied. My colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice will examine the validity of each of these provisions. However, we still need to remember that our objective should be prevention and that the federal government, which is responsible for enforcing and developing the Criminal Code, should also assume the financial costs associated with creating these new crimes.

One recent example was Bill C-36. Unfortunately I did not have an opportunity to speak to that bill because the Conservative government yet again limited the time allocated for members of the House to debate this bill. It was the same thing. Bill C-36 created a criminal offence that had never before existed in Canada's history, in order to give the public the impression that the government was fixing a criminal problem. The problem was one that had never existed before. This bill takes us to the next step in the criminalization of society. The government invented a criminal offence that did not exist before. In a few days, in December, we will see whether police forces enforce this new provision of the Criminal Code that now criminalizes activities that were not crimes previously.

Bill C-36 was one specific example. However, we are seeing the same behavioural pattern here. As was the case with Bill C-36, the government is using children to get the public on board. Of course, the NDP has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to crimes against children. That is a no-brainer, and I think that any Canadian in their right mind would condemn crimes against children. That is a no-brainer. Everyone agrees, and no one opposes virtue. However, the Conservatives always use sensitive issues and bring children into the mix so that their bills will pass. After a more detailed study in committee, the hon. member for Gatineau will tell us whether these provisions are constitutional or not. I leave that to the experts. What I have seen, as someone who is not an expert, is that the Conservative government always wants to criminalize and increase prison sentences instead of focusing on prevention and rehabilitation. Above all, it does not want to assume the related costs.

I will end there and leave it to the experts. It is important that Canadians realize that the government cannot always use children as the justification for getting bills passed. These bills are smoke and mirrors, not a real amendment to the Criminal Code that has been deemed necessary by experts and people who work on these issues.

Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech.

There was one part that she unfortunately did not have time to talk about. By increasing sentences and thus inmates' incarceration, the government will do what the Quebec justice minister deplores: they will incarcerate these individuals in provincial rather than federal prisons. That has been criticized in Quebec and probably also in other provinces. The government is going to offload onto the provinces the additional cost of these prison terms, which are sometimes pointless, as my colleague mentioned, while prevention and rehabilitation are probably the best solutions.

Once again, the federal government is going to wash its hands of the financial implications for the provinces. These federal decisions are going to increase the financial burden on the provinces. What does my colleague think of that?