House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was community.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Jeanne-Le Ber (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act April 23rd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague to comment on the Bill C-4 section in particular. The government has taken great pains and made great noise about how the long gun registry turned innocent long gun owners into criminals even though they had not done anything.

I would like my hon. colleague to comment on the likeness that this bill brings forward in treating people who are trying to either remove themselves from dangerous situations or economically strenuous situations by coming to Canada, which we proclaim to be a free and open country, and being treated like criminals before something happens.

Petitions April 4th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting, on behalf of Canadians, another petition about the well-deserved fears that they have about cuts to the CBC. They want to be able to keep the CBC intact and are putting their pens to paper to support such action.

Juno Awards April 2nd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, excellence in Canadian musical expression was on display this past weekend in the capital region as it played host to the 2012 Juno Awards. I am certain I speak for my colleagues in recognizing the nominees and congratulating the winners, including veterans Feist and Terri Clark, as well as new-found favourites Dan Mangan and Lindi Ortega to name a few.

Through their creative passions, Canadians come to know themselves and make who we are open to the world. Whether singing in French, English or Urdu, these Canadian ambassadors have shown us why it is important that we support and stabilize Canadian arts and culture in the cultural community.

The legacy left by Pierre Juneau, the award's namesake and a native son of Verdun in my riding, is a forward-thinking cultural vision that saw culture as a pillar of our society. His vision of Canada with its own distinctive voice lives on in those who practise at art everyday. Judging by the crowds, I would say that Canadians have added their voices to our celebrated storytellers.

Let us, as members of this House and of government, commit to investing in our artists and allow them to continue the vision that Pierre Juneau believed in. Why? Because it is good to be Canadian.

National Philanthropy Day Act March 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to add my voice to the unanimous support for Bill S-201, including the support of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and my colleagues from Sudbury and Halifax West.

Today we are exploring an idea that should meet with unanimous agreement across this House. It is an idea that seeks to properly recognize, honour and further encourage the important work of Canada's philanthropic sector and the millions of citizens who daily donate their time, energy and money, even now in times when all these precious resources are challenged.

In legislative terms, this bill is relatively simple. However, the core message it sends to volunteers and the organizations they support is long overdue. It is a message that simply says “Thank you, we hear you, we see you and appreciate your efforts”. Although it seems that we live in an age of cynicism, this is a message and an idea that can and must resonate far beyond the walls of this House. The impact that charitable work and philanthropy have had on our history, the crucial role they play in sustaining communities from coast to coast to coast, as well as the potential contribution they will make to our common future is an idea that is well worth recognizing.

A responsible government has an absolutely essential role in supporting the most vulnerable members of our society and it can do so in a number of critical ways: by providing social, economic and personal security, and a viable infrastructure and a sustainable environment. However, government cannot do it all. This is where the compassion and the passion of individuals to do for themselves and for others comes into play. Throughout our history, conscientious citizens have acted autonomously to address the imbalances and imperfections of their generation. It is those individuals who contributed to the building of our society, who contributed to the building of our social safety net, and who enfranchised women and those who were kept apart from the dominant mainstream culture. It is those who fought for civil rights for all. It is those who encouraged the most desperate to get back on their feet, and it is a legacy that lives on today. It lives on in the work of countless community groups, advocacy organizations and faith-based and cultural groups who enrich our communities daily. It lives on through the volunteer firefighters who risk everything simply because it is the right thing to do. It lives on when a church, a synagogue or mosque rallies to provide for its followers, and when a coach forfeit his or her weekend for the chill of a rink. It lives on when Canadians lead the world in per capita donations to earthquake-ravaged Haiti or tsunami-ravaged Japan.

The premise or idea of this bill brings to mind words from one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said that philanthropy was commendable but must never give even the most generous philanthropist an excuse to overlook the circumstances of injustice that make philanthropy necessary. In these times, the circumstances that make philanthropy necessary are more evident. The gifts of time and financial support are getting harder to find, not because of cynicism but because those who would give have less to give.

With a budget looming on the horizon that potentially threatens the foundations of the social programs upon which so many people count for assistance, and similar austerity measures anticipated at the provincial and municipal levels, there is a real likelihood that an even more crushing weight will be assumed by volunteer organizations. Already we hear disturbing accounts of long lines at food banks or of over-strained shelters and declining access to social services for those fortunate enough to be employed.

As parliamentarians, we are by definition representatives of communities. Whatever small part of this nation we represent, each of us has surely come to know the everyday Canadian heroes and heroines this bill seeks to honour.

In my riding, Jeanne-Le Ber, I see the enormous contribution that volunteers involved in social causes that affect their communities make to our society every day.

There are hundreds of outstanding examples of social commitment among volunteers and the organizations they represent: the Regroupement Information Logement de Pointe Saint-Charles seeks to improve conditions in social housing and empower people to improve their living conditions; the Table de concertation Action-Gardien encourages groups and individuals to mobilize around social, political, economic and urban issues; the organization called J'apprends avec mon enfant works with young people to prevent them from dropping out of school and promote the joy of reading; the Réseau d'entraide de Verdun does food security work with disadvantaged people in the community; DESTA Black Youth Network offers mentoring for marginalized young adults in the areas of education, employment and personal growth; the Centre communautaire des femmes actives offers a full range of activities to break down isolation and develop greater autonomy among women in Saint-Henri and the surrounding neighbourhoods.

All these examples illustrate the tremendous work done every day by the organizations and activists in my community to combat poverty and promote a fairer and more just society.

They are the conscientious, compassionate and engaged citizens who when seeing someone in need are compelled to come to their aid. They make the fight their own. Seeing persistent injustice, they choose not to sit on their hands. They, acting as individuals, personify this nation's fundamental decency, and by extension they become ambassadors of the Canadian spirit. It is only right that we honour them, but we must go further. It is my hope that we do more to support and encourage those who give so much to their communities.

My friend from Halifax West deserves immense credit for his efforts. As such, I close by expressing my support for the bill on behalf of the many people and organizations in my riding and invite all of my hon. colleagues to do the same.

Financial System Review Act March 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to be able to see the information, and I appreciate that aspect. It is one thing as consumers to know how much we are getting dinged. I wonder if there are any aspects of the bill that look to curtailing some of the seemingly gouging practices of banks, as concerns fees and interest rates?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 27th, 2012

With regard to social and cooperative housing facilities: (a) what steps is the government presently taking, or does it anticipate taking in the next 12 months, to renew or extend the long-term operating agreements upon which social and cooperative housing organizations across Canada depend, given the impending expiry of funding arrangements established under Section 56.1 of the former National Housing Act, Section 95.1 of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Act, and agreements entered into by the federal government and Quebec government pertaining to Article 61 of Quebec’s National Housing Law; (b) will the government immediately commit to the renewal of the Renovation and Retrofit of Social Housing component of Canada’s Economic Action Plan; (c) what is the government’s long-term strategy to ensure the immediate health and survival of social and cooperative housing organizations subject to long-term operating partnerships with the federal government in the event these agreements expire; (d) what impact assessment has the government undertaken to verify the broader impact of expiring long-term operating agreements on the economy, job creation, and the affordability of residential housing for low income Canadians; (e) what steps has the government taken, or will take in the next 12 months, to develop and implement a coordinated strategy with provincial and municipal authorities for the funding of social and cooperative housing; and (f) what is the government’s plan to ensure the future construction and maintenance of social and cooperative housing across Canada?

National Flag of Canada Act March 14th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague across the way. I respect his very eloquent and descriptive presentation. There is very little I could disagree with in terms of the images he conjured up. That said, I will go back to what I said in the last debate about this flag. Patriotism cannot be legislated. Countries that legislate patriotism are the type of countries where we are in process of ousting their leaders.

I appreciate the fact that our amendment to get rid of the most onerous aspect of this bill in its original form was accepted by the other side. However the bill, as presented, is an aspirational bill. I wonder why it is a bill and not a motion.

The stories that my hon. colleague from Don Valley West shared with us are the types of things more Canadians need to hear in order to encourage them to fly the flag. This should be a motion, an activity that is brought about by a desire to share, a desire to express as opposed to a fear of being put in jail. Now that those elements have been taken out, one has to wonder what the purpose of the bill is.

The bill has its heart in the right place. However, one has to wonder why we need a bill to tell people to fly the flag as opposed to creating an awareness program or a sense, as the hon. member's speech did, of pride in the flag.

We have a situation in our committee very often about the fact that little is taught in our schools about our own Canadian history. Programs should be developed that help young people in particular, and even us older folks who may have become disconnected with our heritage and our connection this country.

I am an immigrant, born in England. I have great pride in what this country has helped me to accomplish and what I have been able to contribute. When I look at the flag, I feel that pride. I celebrate Canada Day. It is something which is encouraged. It is something that is done out of joy, connection to the people and the country that we live in, not because of a mandated law or the threat of incarceration or other punitive elements.

I share the member's joy for what the flag represents. It is one of the symbols of this very great nation. I do not share the need to tell people that they have to raise the flag as opposed to encouraging them to.

My hon. colleague said that he feels that individual Canadians do not have the right to fly the flag. They do, and they can exercise that right through the Canadian Charter of Rights. People may come and say “Take that flag down.” However, people can say “I am sorry. Under the Charter of Rights, I can fly this flag as much as I want and where I want.”

There needs to be an education process for condo associations and other organizations that have a tendency to go overboard with esthetics. I understand that dynamic very well. I live in a condo in Montreal where some of the rules are a bit annoying.

An awareness program could be developed that would allow Canadians to reconnect with the flag, that would encourage condo associations to think twice especially around Canada Day, Remembrance Day and other celebrations where the flag is flown.

Remembrance Day is one of those days when we remember the men and women who fought, who died for the freedoms that we enjoy today. One of those freedoms is to either fly the flag or not fly the flag. That is a fundamental freedom that the flag ironically represents. It is counterproductive and goes against the sacrifices of these brave men and women to try to legislate patriotism. For those who legislate patriotism, it is the beginning of a dictatorship. If a government feels it can dictate how to celebrate, how to express connection, then that is a problem.

I feel that encouragement, stories that help us connect and an environment of inclusion and support would encourage people to fly the flag as opposed to bills that would mandate it. In its current form without punitive measures, what is the point of the bill because it has no teeth, thus, what can it do?

I would ask my hon. colleague to possibly look at turning the bill into a motion which I think everyone in the House would support, that says Canadians should exercise the right that they already have to fly the flag and create scenarios like the stories he shared that help us feel pride. These stories help us reconnect to those moments as children and our first encounter with the flag. My first encounter with the Canadian flag was as a young Sea Scout in Montreal.

Like the stories the member shared with us, we can help Canadians connect with the flag, this country, what this country means to them and the symbol in front of them. I encourage and applaud the efforts of my hon. colleague. I hope we can find a way to take the positive message that he is putting forward and turn it into something that encourages as opposed to penalizes.

Petitions March 14th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise as official opposition heritage critic to add another petition from people who want to protect the CBC.

The petitioners wish to bring to the attention of the Canadian government that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, be it radio, television or Internet, is part of our lives. We only have to think of Mr. Dress-Up, Anne of Green Gables, Friendly Giant, Hockey Night in Canada, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Marketplace, Da Vinci's Inquest, The Nature of Things, The National, Little Mosque on the Prairie, George Stroumboulopoulos, Tonight, Bye Bye at the end of the year and many others to realize that the CBC/Radio-Canada is practically a member of this family.

Oscar Awards February 27th, 2012

Madam Speaker, Canada shines brightly this morning as the 84th Oscar awards saw a number of Canadians take home gold for technical and artistic merit.

However, a special and heartfelt congratulation goes out to Montreal's native son and colleague, Mr. Christopher Plummer, recognized as the 2012 best supporting actor.

From stage to big screen and flat screen, Mr. Plummer has demonstrated the depth of talent Canada has always had to offer. Having worked with him more than once, I can attest to the gift that he truly is to his fellow performers.

Alongside this much honoured Canadian are others who continue to showcase the wide-ranging talents of Canadian creators: Andrew Clinton, Mark Elendt, Ian Cavén, Raigo Alas, Greg Marsden, Michael Lewis and Michael Vellekoop, winners in the science and technology categories.

And let us not forget the creative team behind Monsieur Lazhar, which represented Canada and Quebec with great distinction. These are Quebeckers.

These are Canadians, ambassadors of the creative, technical and scientific art of storytelling. I congratulate--

Business of Supply February 16th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech was very well thought out and clear. I would like to touch on the word “holistic” which the member used at one point.

In coming from a community that is still battling many of the same issues which the first nations people do, I wonder if the member could talk about the personal struggle. We hear constantly about young people who are doing self-destructive things such as sniffing bags filled with paint or glue. From my experience working with youth, it comes from disillusionment, from a sense of lack of relevance.

In the very pragmatic plan which the member laid out, I am wondering if there is anything that touches on helping young people find a sense of relevance. The member talked about retention in schools. I found that relevance is one of the key things that makes kids stay in school, what it means to them.

What kind of programs are in place to help young people get over their sense of lack of relevance so that going to school becomes relevant?