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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

December 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the cultural capitals program, which is administered by Canadian Heritage and was announced in 2002, annually designates three communities of distinction in three various levels, the first level being a population of 125,000 and over, the middle being a population of between 50,000 and 125,000, and the third level being 50,000 people. This has been done since its inception and each of these levels come with funding. The first level comes with up to $2 million, the second with $750,000 and the third with $500,000.

I rise to speak to a situation that has arisen this year where a number of smaller towns, those designated under 50,000 citizens, and those between 50,000 and 125,000 citizens, have made applications, through great expense of their own, to have themselves designated as cultural capitals for the year.

This year it seems that the government has chosen to cancel or eliminate two levels and has seen fit to award only to cultural capitals in the category of 125,000 and over, those being Calgary and the Niagara region.

I have heard from two towns, Rouyn-Noranda and Saint-Eustache, asking why they were not informed or why there was no recognition of the fact that there are potential cultural capitals in this country, and I am focusing on Quebec specifically and these two capitals, that may merit the title of cultural capital for a population of 50,000 and under. However, none was designated this year and they are coming to me and asking why that is.

There seems to be a lack of clarity as to the process of the cultural capitals program. If there are three levels that are available and open for competition, why are these three levels not acknowledged? In particular, Rouyn-Noranda, which put together a very strong package, was left having spent over $20,000 to create this package and was told that the category did not exist or was led to believe that the category does not exist.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act December 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I will bring this back into the urban setting. In many municipalities we have security personnel who are charged with writing tickets municipally. They are not police officers or law enforcement officers in any way. Just in the interest of playing devil's advocate or allowing us to think beyond the absolutes that this bill represents, what does my colleague feel the pitfalls of this bill would be in regard to these individuals as citizens, as well as city employees, getting involved in law enforcement in this way under this bill?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act December 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, for me, this is a troubling bill. We saw situations in Toronto and in Montreal where good Samaritans stepped in to help out in a situation and were shot and/or stabbed for their trouble. I think in both cases they were domestic disputes.

Police officers are trained to intercede and to think a certain way. In many instances, in many municipalities, police officers have actually been told after a certain point to break off car chases because of safety issues, and these are trained individuals.

My concern, and it kind of mirrors what was said before, is that we are opening a Pandora's box here, where people can take the law into their own hands, not fearing retribution by the law.

Could my hon. colleague comment on that?

Safe Streets and Communities Act November 29th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, some of the community workers in my riding consistently gave me really interesting figures. For example, for every $5 invested in prevention, there is $95 spent incarcerating an individual.

There is nobody in this House who does not agree with stiff sentences for people who harm children. There is nobody who does not agree with stiff sentences for people who take people's lives. In my riding, a mother lost her son to three young individuals who beat him to death. My heart goes out to her. For her, justice needs to be served.

However, we are talking about people who grow a little pot and are thrown in prison for a year and a half. Prison can be a very scary place, but it can be a very educational place. After that year and a half when those young people get out, they are hurt, they are bitter, they are messed up and they will take that out on society.

I would like my hon. colleague to comment on how this helps keep crime off the streets by creating better criminals.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act November 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, we hear from the other side that it is about jobs, like it is a magic bullet. Yes, jobs are important, but I think we need to look at the situation in a three dimensional way. Jobs are part of the issue but if those jobs that are being put forward damage the environment, then what is left for our children after that?

I wonder if my hon. colleague could comment on that.

Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act November 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague spoke about the children's arts tax credit. Yes, it is an interesting prospect for those who can afford it.

I have worked in the arts for over 30 years. I worked a lot with young people, using arts as a means of helping them connect with themselves and find ways through some of their issues.

A lot of the people I worked with cannot afford the kind of programs that this tax credit targets. I developed two programs for people who cannot afford the arts but should have access to them.

Could the hon. member speak to how this tax credit in particular helps those people?

Justice November 21st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' irrational approach to crime is jeopardizing the good work done by community organizations throughout Quebec, and particularly in my riding of Jeanne-Le Ber. Quebec would rather focus on crime prevention than impose mandatory minimum sentences, especially for young people.

I would like to recognize the time-intensive work carried out by the many community groups in my riding. They are there for our youth to encourage and guide them toward better choices and away from organized crime and crime in general. The prevention approach is proven to have far better results than the blind punishment approach of the government.

Canadians want a system that prevents crimes before they happen by targeting the causes of these crimes instead of young people. We have a responsibility to ensure that our young people make the right choices.

We also have a responsibility to help them when they fall. This is what our community groups do 365 days a year, and for this they deserve not only our support, but our thanks.

National Flag of Canada Act November 18th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, one of my staffers became a citizen of the country Wednesday. I wanted to join her in Montreal when this happened, but was unable to. She shared her pride with me on becoming a citizen. Some 400 individuals became new Canadian citizens at her ceremony, representing some 64 different nationalities, I believe.

I, like so many of us, am an immigrant. I moved here from England when I was child. My parents moved here from Barbados via England. We all hold an immense pride in our country and the flag that represents it.

For clarity's sake, our flag is an enduring symbol of unity, freedom and national purpose, which is rightly celebrated by all Canadians, regardless of their origin or political affiliation. It stands as a powerful testament to the sacrifices of generations who gave their all to ensure our future and to build and preserve our democracy.

Recent events around the world, such as in Libya and Syria, the Sudan, remind us how precious freedom is and the profound sacrifice that is required to assure its survival. That profound sacrifice, however, does not preclude the freedom that the bill represents, which includes the right to speak out and the right to not have the flag raised. I would hope, and I think we all hope, that common sense prevails in situations like this.

Canada's official opposition enthusiastically supports the right of every citizen to display our national flag with pride, as it represents the freedom of expression this bill seems to want to curtail.

We commend the member for wanting to ensure that Canadians who wished to show their connection to Canada would not be unduly hindered in their expression.

Jail time, fines, this is the type of heavy-handed punitive vision that clouds the obviously honourable intent of the member for Don Valley West. However, I must confess that in my daily interaction with my constituents and citizens from across the country, the pressing issues I hear from them are on the economic, social and environmental fronts, to name a few. I am not hearing anything about issues regarding their right to display our flag.

The member for Don Valley West has shared some of the stories that he has heard from his constituents, and I thank him for that. However, that in itself shows the isolated nature of this issue, an issue that should be dealt with at a municipal and/or provincial level, where it belongs.

Canadians who wish to express their support for their country are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights under the freedom of expression. If through some municipal bylaw, or provincial legislation or even condo bylaw an individual's freedom of expression is being challenged, then there is recourse through municipal means, through the Charter of Rights, through provincial means. Is it really necessary to turn a hapless caretaker, following through on a condo bylaw on behalf of a condo board, into a criminal with threatened jail time?

I cannot help but be reminded that the bill is eerily similar in substance and spirt to a much maligned American law, the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, which was introduced in 2005 by Roscoe Bartlett, who incidentally was a founding member of the Republican tea party caucus. Though bustled through Congress on the strength of a Conservative majority, the law pilloried as an opportunistic political grandstand, thus the sentiment that may have fostered the bill was lost.

Canadians are smart people. They are perfectly capable of finding their way through issues such as their desire to fly their flag. Does the government's hubris stretch so far as to make municipalities, fire departments and condo associations criminals when enacting their bylaws within their jurisdiction?

Respect for jurisdiction is a convenient evasion for the government when being asked uncomfortable questions on transportation or health care, but it seems that for their pet projects, jurisdiction does not matter.

Let us get to the heart of the matter. Patriotism cannot be legislated. Attempts to do so have always led to discontent. Patriotism is and always should be something that individuals arrive at when shown the honour and the heart of their nation.

The honour and heart of this nation is not simply based on military history but on the social responsibilities it has adopted over its 144 year history. A country built on the promise of democracy, inclusion and a shared goal in its building. These are a few of the elements that make us proud to be Canadians and proud to wear our flag.

The bill puts at risk that freedom, the freedom that the flag represents. Let us get back to the business of creating real middle-class jobs that are eagerly awaited, pension security and EI reform.

Canadians are crying out for real environmental agenda changes and restraints on mounting ethical abuses by the government. The government has continuously used closure and time allocation to stifle the very democracy this flag represents.

The government does not have a monopoly on patriotism and honouring men and women who fight for this country. Those valiant men and women offered up their lives and safety, so that we could live and uphold the fine democracy and traditions which have always been a source of strength to this nation.

How does the bill do that? It does not. What it does is find more reasons to throw Canadians in jail.

I hope that the words shared by the member for Don Valley West that it is not his intent are true. I hope that when the bill gets to committee, we will be in a position to sit down, and truly discuss what the bill means and what the bill can do.

However, to make a federal case, pun slighty intended, out of an issue which should be left to municipalities, we should show municipalities and condo associations that there are other ways to deal with matters when it comes to the Canadian flag. Making these individuals criminals, forcing them to pay fines, and throwing them in jail is not the answer.

National Flag of Canada Act November 18th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, my question for the hon. member for Don Valley West is this. How would making people criminals forward the democracy that the flag represents? How would it help the individuals, who the member has mentioned, fly their flag by making other individuals criminals?

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation November 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, while the budget for the Prime Minister's Office is skyrocketing under the Conservatives, our public broadcaster has shown remarkable fiscal discipline. Yet the Conservatives continue to attack the CBC. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages appeared on television boasting about the draconian cuts and issuing thinly-veiled threats about further cuts.

Will the minister protect the legacy of our public broadcaster and invest in its future?