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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

Committees of the House February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Toronto—Danforth is absolutely right. The focus tends to be on male-versus-female violence. It is not that there is a rise in non-gender-specific sexual violence, but we are hearing more about it now because of technology and the way information gets out. I do not think the report intends to say it is only a men-versus-women situation, but, yes, this is hugely problematic right across the board. I would like to think that we could approach it from a vulnerability viewpoint, so that vulnerable people, be they from the LGBT community or young boys, girls, women, and men who are threatened, can find refuge in times of conflict.

Committees of the House February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I wholeheartedly agree that education is paramount in situations like this, as it is in all situations. The only problem I see is that in countries where these acts happen, they happen because there is a sense of impunity because the judicial system does not support victims and the military and police do not support victims.

In terms of getting that education to the people who need it, the wall of impunity that has to be broken down is problematic. As my colleague said, it is a multi-pronged issue. Yes, education is important and needs to get there, but the problem is getting through the wall of impunity and the wall of resistance that allows these acts to happen. Canada can be a strong and very potent leader in moving this issue forward.

Committees of the House February 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House to speak to this matter.

As my colleague said at the beginning of his speech, we have been colleagues on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. I am very proud to be there with him.

This report is the beginning of a very important discussion, the report called “A Weapon of War: Rape and Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.

Rape is a very hard word. The word “rape”, even as I stand here, is very hard to say. One is inclined to find euphemisms and so forth or try to talk around it, but it is very important that we understand it. It is very important that we understand these actions, not in a western concept, not in a concept of a criminal act that is perpetrated against a woman, and when this act happens, we hope that the victims can find support through their families and find support through various organization that we have here. It is a different thing altogether.

The purpose of these acts of rape, as it is used in a situation like this, as it is used in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as it was used in the Rwandan genocide—and I am proud to have brought forward a motion to study that, and we have just completed a study on the aftermath of the effect of rape during the Rwandan genocide—is to not simply humiliate, but to destroy communities, to destroy families, to create a situation where those communities cannot rebuild, to create a situation where women cannot look at their children. There is no parental bond between mother and child; and it is mother and child, because the father is not in the picture, because the father is the rapist.

In many cases, from the testimony we heard in this study as well as the study of the aftermath of the Rwandan crisis, children grew up not knowing who their father was, because the women were too ashamed to tell them that they were half of the opposing tribe—for lack of a better way of putting it—that their blood was mixed with the enemy's blood, with the violeur's blood, with that of the organization or the group that committed these atrocities. The relationship between the mother and child is non-existent. The relationship between that child and the community is non-existent. This type of action, this type of weapon that is used against women and against communities in these types of conflict has far-reaching effects.

We have talked about what role Canada can play in situations of this nature, and there are a number of recommendations that are laid out in this report; but in the sister studies that we are doing where this has happened in other nations, things like education come up, as the member for Winnipeg North brought up.

The issue is that although education is extremely important—for example, in the Rwandan situation—these children, these young adults, who have had no service because they are not considered victims of the Rwandan genocide, have no access to education to start to turn their lives around.

We have a situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have a situation in Syria, as we speak, where these types of acts are going on.

I hope every member takes the time to read this report. One of the things we need to start asking about, with regard to how Canada can help, is resources. I am not simply talking about monetary resources, but skill sets and lending the abilities that we have in psychological healing and adapting those practices to the cultural communities that are affected. We can begin to help heal and create the bonds between the mother and the offspring of this violent act. We can help create the bonds between the victims and their communities.

One of the things I hope we can gather from this report is that it takes a little more than condemnation, expressing outrage, and saying that this is a bad thing. It takes stepping in and asking what we can do to help and how we can better prepare ourselves for what is coming in the future.

This is still going on. It is still going on in the DRC. It is going on in Syria and Iraq, over and above the other atrocities we hear about in the House on a daily basis. This has a long, far-reaching effect on both the community as a whole and, as a result, the world as a whole.

In the report, we talk about the need to create equality within the communities and have women brought into decision-making positions. This is a very important aspect of what can be done to strengthen communities. Unfortunately, the role and the aim of rape used as an act of violence in war is to destroy these communities, no matter what position women hold.

In the west, we still have a tendency to look at acts like this as the spoils of war. We need to change how we see these types of act and see them for what they are. They are as dangerous and as deadly as cluster bombs. They are as dangerous and as deadly as machine gun fire. They are as dangerous and as deadly as an atomic bomb in a community. Picking up the pieces after something that drastic is not an easy task.

We, in government and in Canada, have to look at how we can use the expertise that we have, learn from other nations as well, and collaborate and coordinate that expertise so that when this happens again—and mark my words, this will happen again—we as a nation can go and offer our services, our help, and our companionship to these nations, to help heal them.

In terms of what can be done, because prevention is always something that is paramount, how do we get to a point where we can stop this from happening? I really do not know. However, one of the things we can do in situations where this could possibly happen is make sure we create safe havens for women, girls, and boys, where they are thoroughly protected by United Nations troops or whoever is deemed capable of protecting these camps, where women can go and be protected.

I encourage every member in the House to read this report, consider its recommendations, and consider the ramifications of the testimony that is found within it.

Rouge National Urban Park Act December 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member's perspective. As I have said before, it behooves this place to ensure that all parties involved are heard and can participate. In essence, that is the problem. There is not only one party, the Government of Canada, there is a multi-party system, as well as the Canadians who the House serves. It is their voices that we all represent and their voices we need to ensure are heard in this place.

Rouge National Urban Park Act December 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I guess “double standard” is the catchphrase. I am giving the hon. members a gift, a gift of knowledge and wisdom: double standards are the force of the current government.

It is about doing it right. It is not about winning or losing. It is about doing what is best for everyone involved, for all the parties involved. As I said to my colleague across the way, it is about ensuring that all parties with a vested interest in the area that the bill touches on walk away with a sense that they have accomplished what they needed to accomplish.

Rouge National Urban Park Act December 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the question is, but I touched on that aspect in my statement. The issue is with the way many of these bills are put forward, and this bill in particular. Bringing forward the idea of returning the farmland is an interesting concept and seems like a positive concept; however, if we are doing that at the cost of the environmental protection of the area for future generations, if we are doing that at the expense of protective laws that already exist, and if the province itself is not willing to participate under those conditions, then I think more discussion needs to be had. I think the bill needs to be created in such a way that all parties can walk away saying that this legislation serves everyone: the farmers, the conservationists, and the people in the Rouge River area.

Rouge National Urban Park Act December 12th, 2014

It's right here. It's right here.

There is one particular part of this bill that I want to point out. This bill, as it stands, says that the ecological or conservational aspects of any decision made under this bill only need to be considered, as opposed to what exists now, which says that the conservational relationship or impact of any decision that is made must be the priority. This is truly important.

Many times the broad-stroke approach of the government relies on the idea that Canadians are not interested in the details, but that is a detail that is extremely important. With this bill, no longer is conservation of paramount importance in making decisions; it needs only to be considered. This bill would weaken the existing environmental protection and would set a dangerous precedent for the development of future parks. The government consistently wants broad-stroke ideas, but Canadians are interested in the actual substance of the bill. When a bill proposes to change existing laws so that conservation would only have to be considered, as opposed to being a mandatory priority, then there is a problem.

With that, I will end my comments.

Rouge National Urban Park Act December 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-40. I was not expecting to speak to it because it concerns the urban area in Toronto. However, as my colleague mentioned, we do have some urban parks, although not as connected as what is intended for this park, and we see the importance of having an urban green space available to citizens.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. For example, the Conservatives now want us to think that they have all of a sudden become environmentally conscientious and conservationists overnight. They introduced Bill C-40, which is ironically called “an act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park”, and I will touch on the irony of that a little later. However, the Conservative government continuously wants us to accept these sort of broad-stroke grand ideas and overlook the poison pill aspect of them.

Before I continue, I would like to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with my dear colleague, the member for Newton—North Delta.

The Conservatives consistently want to say in so many cases, like in this case, that NDP members do not support the building of a park. They say that we do not support many things, and that we did not vote for this or that. However, they leave out the very important fact that all of these sometimes reasonable and even good things that the government may propose are wrapped up in blankets of harmful and sometimes mean-spirited bills. They are tied up in 500-page documents, and we have to vote once to change over 200 environmental protection laws.

Quite honestly, the Conservative government cannot be trusted with our parks. It is clear that the Conservatives do not believe in conservation or scientific monitoring, which jeopardizes the ecological integrity of our national parks.

As some of my colleagues alluded to earlier, in 2012, the Conservatives cut $29 million to Parks Canada, which meant a reduction of over 600 positions. Parks Canada was decreased by one-third of its capacity in scientific research.

I heard my hon. colleague across the way say that $120 some-odd million was not a drop in the bucket. Yes, it is a lot of money, but is it enough? There was a $29 million cut that meant the loss of 600 positions and one-third of Parks Canada's capacity for scientific and ecological exploration, which is harmful. There are 600 less people to help and guide Canadians through our parks. The parks are opening later and closing earlier as a result, which limits access for Canadians to these parks. The lessened ability for scientific research means that we are put in a position where we are reacting to ecological threats and potential diseases in our parks as opposed to being proactive with these issues. This is concerning to us.

Bill C-40, an act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park, is not even accepted by the Ontario government. The Ontario government is refusing to release the lands to the federal government to create this park because the bill would diminish some 11 existing laws that currently protect this territory, namely the Ontario Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act.

This act is to:

...permanently protect a system of provincial parks and conservation reserves that includes ecosystems that are representative of all of Ontario’s natural regions, protects provincially significant elements of Ontario’s natural and cultural heritage, maintains biodiversity and provides opportunities for compatible, ecologically sustainable recreation.

Bill C-40 would not do this. It does not embrace the strong foundation of conservation policy provided under the existing legislation. In fact, as written, Bill C-40 threatens the ecological integrity and health of the Rouge River.

It seems that our job here is to do things right, and that does not seem to be happening with the current government. There seems to be a consistent desire to rush headlong into creating bills with catchy titles and catchy sound bites rather than bills of substance. When the Ontario government, which the federal government is supposed to be collaborating with, says this bill does not work, the Conservative government needs to listen.

There has been a lack of listening by the government on many other issues, including in the courts, where attempts to establish minimum mandatory sentences have repeatedly been overturned. In this case, the government has created a bill that is supposed to protect a park, but in fact the bill threatens the very area that it claims to want to protect.

If the government wants to create a space for Canadians to enjoy and for future generations to visit and if it wants to protect the thousands of species of wildlife and fauna that currently call Rouge River home, then why not abandon this window-dressing bill and support the ideas and thoughts of the New Democrats and the bill that we will be presenting shortly to the House, which would work with the province in order to create an environment that Canadians and the community are looking for? As I said, New Democrats will be introducing a bill that would answer that question. The bill before us does not go far enough and, as I have said before, would actually diminish what already exists.

The role that we take on as legislators is to draft laws that are meaningful and move our society forward. It is a shame that the government constantly squanders its opportunities to create bills of substance, instead creating bills that pander and have little substance other than catchy sound bites.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, to add to my colleague's response to the parliamentary secretary's question, the NDP appeals to the innate human nature and humankind of Canadians. That is the base we appeal to.

I was trying to find some independent statistics on the number of individuals who are lifers in prison. The numbers I have found range from 15% to one-third, which means that two-thirds or more of these individuals will be leaving prison at some point. It seems to me that the money would be better spent on making sure that once these individuals leave prison they have the support they need to ensure that they do not reoffend, that they do not end up back in the system, and that they do not create new victims. In my view, this is a way that we can protect our society and make sure that Canadians are safe.

I wonder if my colleague would care to comment on that thought.

Drug-Free Prisons Act December 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my hon. colleague can give his opinion on the link between acts like solitary confinement and the use of drugs in terms of our better understanding as we move along. Drugs are not always a choice but rather a way in which people hide from whatever pain they are suffering. In the case of people who are going through solitary confinement, how does this help them find a way off of drugs?