House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Jeanne-Le Ber (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House March 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I did not have the opportunity to thoroughly review the estimates to which the hon. member is referring. However, unless I am mistaken, I believe that the interim federal health program has more to do with medicine for refugees. This is a subject that we discussed today in committee. We are concerned about the fact that the federal government is still refusing to sign a formal agreement with the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires to ensure that services are provided to refugees in Quebec, no matter which pharmacy they go to.

The government's refusal to sign such an agreement is even harder to understand since it has signed similar agreements respecting four of its other jurisdictions: National Defence, the RCMP, Veterans Affairs and Indian Affairs. It is much simpler to sign one agreement with the AQPP because the 1,800 members would be required to comply with the agreement and provide services to refugees, whether in Montreal, Dolbeau or the Gaspé. Unfortunately, the government seems to oppose this pharmacists' association and the idea of a special measure for Quebec.

Committees of the House March 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is true that, at the very beginning of my speech, I spoke about the fact that the government was unable to satisfactorily answer my question about the effects of these cuts and the abrupt transfer of reduced funds from Toronto to other parts of Ontario or Canada. It seems to me that there has been no consideration or concern for the human resources, for the people and individuals who work in these organizations and who provide services to the public. This issue has not been adequately addressed.

During their presentations, senior departmental officials told us that they wanted to ensure that the transition went smoothly. Unfortunately, when I asked for specific examples, they were unable to provide me with any. For example, none of the organizations will be given any money to help them to continue to operate during the transition period.

Committees of the House March 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, there is certainly a debate to be had on this subject in Quebec and criticism to be made of Quebec's Liberal government about the way it spends the funding for immigrant integration services.

I am glad that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism mentioned this concern, which was raised by Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois when the Liberal Party of Quebec came to power.

The first thing the Liberal government did with regard to immigration was to cut the budgets for the francization of immigrants. Like the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the Bloc Québécois and the Parti Québécois are extremely concerned about these decisions.

These decisions were made by the Government of Quebec. We have to respect the fact that once an agreement has been reached, it is that government that makes the decisions. These agencies have to take up their fight with the Government of Quebec. I get the feeling that as soon as that government's current term ends, or perhaps even sooner, we hope, there will be an election in Quebec, and we will have a government that truly has a proactive vision for integrating immigrants into Quebec society. That being said, it is not up to Ottawa to patronizingly tell Quebec how to spend money on immigration matters.

I indicated at the beginning of my speech that this is a Toronto-centric issue and that I would have a hard time talking about it for 20 minutes. What I wanted to illustrate is the importance, whether in Ontario or Quebec, of investing in integration services for immigrants because integration can produce major results with regard to the acceptance of immigration. I have illustrated how Quebec's policies make us more open to immigration than the rest of Canada.

Committees of the House March 1st, 2011

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion moved by the member for Trinity—Spadina. The debate shows that this is primarily an Ontario issue. With the Canada-Quebec accord, the Government of Quebec already has an agreement that allows for the transfer of funds for integrating immigrants, and this money goes straight into its coffers. It makes sense for this to happen because the government is best able to help integrate immigrants. Why? Because the main drivers available to governments to help integrate immigrants fall under provincial and Quebec jurisdiction. Take, for example, education, which is no doubt a fundamental tool. The Government of Quebec is in charge of that. It is also in charge of workforce training and social services. It is natural, effective and smart for an immigrant integration policy to be implemented by the government that is best able to carry out that integration.

Since immigration is very important to Quebec's future, which hinges in part on whether the majority of these immigrants choose to live in French, we obviously want to remain in charge of immigration. Members will understand that Quebec wants to offer French courses to immigrants, to help them integrate into the Quebec community.

And so, even though this issue is primarily about Ontario, I would like to take a few minutes to share our opinion on the topic. And I would also like to speak about the issue of integration and about the negative effects that Canada's multiculturalism, among other things, has on the integration of immigrants.

Today's proposal is asking the government to reverse the cuts to integration services. And this is causing a lot of waves in Toronto because two simultaneous movements are causing a significant funding loss for organizations in Toronto.

First, the overall envelope is being cut compared to last year. I believe that this cut is unacceptable, inappropriate and ill-advised. Given the costs of not integrating immigrants, it is better to invest an extra few million dollars up front to facilitate their integration and save later on the cost of not having integrated them. The nature of federalism being what it is, the federal government gets the savings, but the extra costs—for social assistance or social services, for example—are borne by the provinces. The federal government seems to be washing its hands of this, as is often the case.

Cuts are being made. But if we look at the program in its entirety, it is clear that the cuts are not all that major, proportionately speaking. So why is this having such a dramatic impact? It is because the envelope will now be distributed in a completely different manner than it used to be. Now resources used to follow up with immigrants will be relocated.

We are told that more and more immigrants are settling on the outskirts of Toronto, in Saskatchewan, in Alberta and other places. Accordingly, funding must follow. I pretty much agree with the principle: resources must be allocated based on needs. I do have two major reservations, however. I am not certain that “major reservation” is the right expression, but while I reflect on that, I would like to continue. I have two hesitations, two major concerns.

The first has to do with the fact that, in committee, no one could clearly and adequately explain to me how the needs would be identified, how they would be quantified. We heard about “landed immigrants”. Do immigrants always live where they first land in Canada? It is not clear. Can immigrants arrive in one place and then move to another? Do we track them? Do we take into account their movements, which can be very sporadic and inconsistent?

I could not get a satisfactory explanation in that regard.

My second concern has to do with the fact that no one could quantify the need for resources. Is it strictly proportional to the number of immigrants? If a given city or town has twice as many immigrants, does it automatically need twice as many resources? I do not think that is the case, since not all immigrants will ask for the same amount of help with integration, depending on their country of origin and their cultural and professional background.

Officials from the department did, however, make a distinction between refugees, who come here to escape persecution, and immigrants who are selected to come to Canada. According to the officials, when it comes to support services needed in the integration process, basically, the needs of one refugee are about the same as the needs of two immigrants.

That is somewhat better than nothing, but it seems to be a rather unrefined measure of needs. It seems to me that it would have been better to stick to the reality in a given community. If there are a large number of organizations in a region, even if there are fewer immigrants, it may be because the immigrants experiencing greater difficulties are concentrated in this region. In my opinion, and I will talk more about this later, it is quite likely that where there is a concentration of immigrants, the phenomenon of ghettoization makes integration even more difficult. These are the deleterious effects of Canadian multiculturalism.

The second difficulty with transferring resources in light of needs or the number of immigrants who move from Toronto to York or a neighbouring city, for example, is the abruptness of this transition.

I asked departmental representatives if the same thing could be done with officials. If, tomorrow morning, we realized that immigration services were no longer needed in Montreal, but rather in Brossard or Sherbrooke, could we suddenly move 70 officials from one place to the other? Would it just be too bad for those who could not move; would new officials be hired and others fired in the other place? That is clearly not the case.

I believe that the government has a bad attitude towards community groups and organizations that support immigrants. Most of the time, they are non-profit organizations and, unfortunately, they are used as cheap labour even though they do a fantastic job. They are given no consideration, and changes are made that would never be implemented if the services were provided by the public sector.

It would have been more respectful and wiser for the government to say that since the needs had shifted to such and such a place, it would establish a plan to transfer resources over three, four or five years. The government is saying that it has to be done immediately, abruptly, and right away, and there are two problems with that.

First of all, there is no indication that the resources are in place or that there are qualified workers and the necessary structures to provide these services where the government wants to move them. If this is done abruptly and quickly, it is likely that there will be difficulties or additional costs. That is often the case when things are done a little too quickly.

The other problem is that people who have devoted their lives and energy to setting up agencies suddenly end up out of work. We lose those resources. It is a general problem that happens over and over again when it comes to relations between government and community agencies and groups.

This goes well beyond what we do here in the House of Commons, and it is not exclusive to immigration. It is a constant issue for the agencies in my riding. It used to be possible to get funding for two or three years, but now funding is granted for one year and sometimes even for six months. Some agencies devote up to one-third of their resources to seeking funding. They always end up with short-term programs that they constantly have to adapt to the government's political will of the day. It is very exhausting for our agencies and very ineffective for society.

I want to take this opportunity to encourage governments to adopt a longer-term, more stable, better thought-out and better planned vision of the way these agencies that provide a service to the community interface with each other. The government's policy objective should be to give money to these agencies in exchange for a service that it considers useful and necessary.

This is a brutal cut at a time when integration problems persist around the world. This is not specific to Canada or Quebec. It is always a difficult challenge to leave one's country to settle in another. Unfortunately, there is increasing tension between immigrants and local populations. Sometimes immigrants who had status at home because they were engineers, lawyers, doctors or notaries have difficulties integrating when they arrive here and end up being taxi drivers. There is nothing wrong with being a taxi driver, but that job is not what they trained for or what they want to do when they come to Quebec or Canada.

These people can become bitter and disappointed. In local populations, there are signs of rejection, intolerance and exasperation. Locals are under the impression that immigrants who do not integrate cost society dearly in social services and so on. This type of comment keeps coming up on the Internet and in conversations in coffee shops and restaurants.

It is therefore of the utmost importance for society to put significant effort into integration. Societies have many integration models. For a long time now, Quebec has been choosing to use the interculturalism model, a proactive view of integration in which immigrants are asked to fully participate in and contribute to the development of their host society, but also adhere to a common culture. Unfortunately, elsewhere in Canada, another model was chosen: multiculturalism. Multiculturalism divides society into a multitude of solitudes that share the same territory but have nothing in common but the law. The only thing immigrants are asked to do in the documents prepared by Citizenship and Immigration Canada is to respect our laws. They can otherwise continue to practice their customs and traditions. This is not just accepted; it is encouraged and differences are celebrated. The Canadian model of multiculturalism is similar to the one in England and has the same failings with respect to integration.

When this model was established by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the government was seeking to marginalize the Quebec nation by saying that it was simply one of many cultural groups. Thus, French Canadians, Quebeckers, Ukrainian Canadians and Italian Canadians are all cultural groups. Quebec has always rejected this model.

This is not just some crazy sovereignist idea. When this all began, Robert Bourassa wrote to Pierre Elliott Trudeau to explain the way multiculturalism could be applied in Quebec. All governments of Quebec, sovereignist as well as federalist, have rejected the multicultural approach.

More recently, the Bouchard-Taylor commission, which cannot be accused of being anti-immigration—it is actually a model of moderation—also recognized that multiculturalism is not the way forward for Quebec's integration model. There are some voices on the far left, like that of Julius Grey, who is associated with the NDP; he has also recognized that multiculturalism is not a solution.

In fact, even though Quebec is not able to fully promote its integration model, the results are different and are beneficial to Quebec in terms of non-ghettoization. In fact, the immigrants who arrive here are given contradictory messages. They arrive in Quebec and are invited to become part of the shared culture of the Quebec nation. But when they arrive in Ottawa, they are told that multiculturalism prevails and that differences are celebrated. There also are differences in the acceptance of immigration.

For example, in a Gallup poll not very long ago, people were asked if they had a positive perception of immigration, if it is a good thing for society. Along with British Columbia, Quebec had the best perception of immigration. Elsewhere in Canada, the perception of immigration was not as positive. I think that people in the rest of Canada are more closed to the idea of immigration and have more concerns than their Quebec counterparts because Canada's multicultural model—segregating individuals and promoting their differences as opposed to emphasizing their inclusion in a shared culture—produces more tension and friction.

In an area like Toronto, where there is a great deal of immigration, there is less social acceptance than in Montreal, where, even though there are lots of immigrants, the numbers are still much lower than Toronto. I know the minister will agree with me on that, because he is very concerned about anti-Semitic acts around the country and violence against Jews. According to statistics, fewer anti-Semitic acts are committed in Montreal than in Toronto, even taking into account the fact that Toronto is larger than Montreal. So, fewer anti-Semitic acts are committed in Quebec and people say they are more open to immigration than in the rest of Canada. I think that says something.

Although Canada does not want to abandon its multiculturalism model, it should at least allow Quebec to continue promoting and developing its own model without getting in the way. Furthermore, the Bloc Québécois has already proposed a bill in the House to amend the Canadian act. Canada can choose multiculturalism if it wants, but Quebec has made a different, unanimous choice that transcends political lines. We want Quebec to be allowed to opt out of Canadian multiculturalism. Unfortunately, the three federalist parties in the House have rejected that, which is too bad. This penalizes Quebec and, even more so, immigrants. A model like Quebec's illustrates that there is a better way to live together, thanks to an active integration policy whereby people integrate into the common culture and enrich it, without giving up who they are.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act February 14th, 2011

That is why they did it in a press release. Otherwise, they would have been rolling on the floor.

Disposition of Abolition of Early Parole Act February 14th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I heard the presentation given by my colleague who, once again, levelled the most outrageous accusation we have heard recently in the House regarding the forming of coalitions. He mentioned that the Bloc voted with the Conservatives. Are we to assume that there is a coalition between the Liberals and the NDP because they voted the same way? Come on. Let us be serious.

I wonder if my colleague is aware that there are four parties in the House and that we can only vote for or against something. So mathematically, it would be impossible for there not to be two parties voting for the same thing in the House every time.

The purpose of this debate is to determine whether we are ready to vote or not. For four years now the Bloc Québécois has been talking about abolishing parole after one-sixth of a sentence is served. We are ready to vote. In his speech, the member—

Business of Supply February 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I truly enjoyed my colleague's speech, in which he mentioned many tangible Bloc Québécois proposals for the budget. I know that he has worked very hard to present the Bloc Québécois budget proposal. We are the only opposition party to do so, to make a commitment, to say that we are serious and rigorous and have proposals, and to present what we want to see in the budget. That is what we would do if we were a sovereign country, for example, and if we had the means, as Quebeckers, to truly set the course for our future.

I am truly proud to work with him and to be a member of the Bloc Québécois team. I believe that the work we have done is the least the opposition can do.

Does the member share my view that, although the Liberal Party says that it cannot take any more of this government and wants to get rid of it, the Liberals are not even capable of putting a cost to their commitments and presenting a concrete plan of what they want to do and what they want to see in the budget, and can only criticize, but cannot come up with any solutions to our problems?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, this clearly shows what happens when parliamentarians or parties adopt an ideological approach, as we have seen on both sides of the House. There are those who always support free trade and are willing to sign anything, and there are those who basically are always opposed.

With free trade or any other issue, the Bloc Québécois does not take this ideological approach. We are rigorous. We look at what is before us. Clearly, this agreement is not in Quebec's interests. I doubt that it is even in the interests of the workers in Panama. Therefore, we will not be supporting it.

I believe this is the right approach. The people watching at home today elected us to make these decisions and to take the time to study the issues. If we do not, we are not doing our job and carrying out the mandate entrusted to us by the people. The Bloc Québécois intends to continue carrying out a thorough study of every bill brought forward and will not just blindly follow and trust ideology.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the Canadian government's attitude is especially appalling considering that many other countries are concerned and are trying to take action to put some pressure on Panama. Yet this government not only still wants to sign the agreement, but wants to move even faster. It appears to be proud of the fact that it is moving faster than the Americans and other countries, saying that we are going to sign and ratify this deal with Panama before anyone else. However, all of the signs and signals from other countries should instead be emphasizing the need for caution. The government should instead be thinking that, if all the other countries that are negotiating with Panama are concerned about the human rights situation, and more importantly, about tax havens, perhaps we should also join in and demand greater transparency from a tax haven like Panama.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

I thank the member for Hochelaga for that very important clarification.

This agreement allowed access to the markets and resources of various countries, which constituted a major step in terms of both human and economic progress.

In the past, many countries waged wars because they wanted to access a resource found in a neighbouring country or because one country was looking for new markets to sell goods. Every empire was built on this desire to have as many places as possible to sell their goods and to accumulate wealth. By opening up trade and accessing our neighbours' resources, without having to invade them or declare war, we probably avoided wars and improved international relations. Over time, these agreements became increasingly important economically.

For an exporting country like Quebec, which essentially produces manufactured goods for export, free trade is attractive because it facilitates access to markets and helps make us more competitive. These agreements enable us to sell our companies' goods, our own creations, to foreign countries, to create jobs in Quebec and to bring in good revenue.

What is more, consumers gain access to these products. In the case of Quebec, imported products often, but not always, have less value added and cost less than usual.

Every country has its strengths and weaknesses. In theory, the underlying principle of free trade is to draw on the strengths of each country to benefit all the partners.

If everything is done properly and Quebec definitely benefits, then the Bloc Québécois will support an agreement. However, let us not get carried away by ideology and say we are for or against free trade no matter what they are trying to sell us. The situation needs to be analyzed and assessed. Obviously, that did not happen in the case of the Panama agreement. In fact, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and from the Department of Industry admitted when they appeared before committee that they did not conduct any studies to determine whether these agreements would be beneficial to our economy. The government is blindly entering this agreement with the attitude that, because we are all in favour of free trade, we will always support agreements of this kind. The Bloc is not prepared to go down that road.

They want so badly to sign a host of bilateral free trade agreements at any cost that they are prepared to consider any and all markets. The government is considering concluding an agreement with China, when we have a $26 billion trade deficit with that country. The Chinese sell us goods worth $26 billion more than what we sell to them. Before considering freer trade with countries like China, we should start by looking at how we could restore trade balance with them.

The Bloc Québécois proposes taking a multilateral approach, in other words, negotiating trade agreements at the international level, or at least with larger blocks of countries. That would help establish a better balance between the economic advantages that each country hopes to draw from the agreement and all the social, human and environmental considerations, which often are not included in these very specific bilateral agreements.

With regard to Panama in particular, we are concerned about the issue of workers' rights. The government of Panama has moved even farther to the right and has passed legislation that many consider to be extremely anti-union, since it will make it illegal for workers to demonstrate, protest or lobby to improve their salary conditions.

Another concern we have about this free trade agreement is the issue of tax havens. Panama is on France's blacklist and the OECD's grey list of tax havens. At least in theory, we do not want companies to be able to do business in Panama, not because of economic opportunities but because of laughably low taxes and the banking system's lack of transparency. We are worried that companies will take advantage of this to avoid paying taxes that they should legitimately be paying to Canada. In addition, if we sign a free trade agreement, we will make it even easier for people who want to use these tax havens. That is a big concern for us.

The Bloc Québécois has long been fighting to put an end to tax havens like Bermuda, Barbados, Panama and many others.

I kept a close eye on the whole saga of Barbados and the shipping company former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin operated there. He even voted for retroactive legislation that allowed him to repatriate profits to Canada tax-free. This was money he had laundered through Barbados. We criticized it then and we have ever since. And apparently it still does not bother the Liberal Party very much to sign a free trade agreement with a tax haven.

There is another reason to fight against tax havens. Yes, we need to recover the billions of dollars theoretically owed to our governments, but we also need to keep criminals from hiding their money in these tax havens. Even if they are caught, once they get out of prison, they can recover the money because we have no way of intervening and checking what money is flowing in and out of these countries.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois cannot support the bill that is before us today. We invite the Liberals, in particular, to rethink the advisability of supporting the government and instead vote against this bill in order to send the government back to the drawing board and have it negotiate multilateral agreements that are good for Quebec, Canada and all working people.