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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

Ebola Outbreak September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague's question would be best asked to the government as it would have the answers as opposed to myself. It stands to reason or logic that if the plea is going out for more bodies, more people, and more experts to deal with this situation, whether all those experts come from Canada or whether Canada has a share of those experts, I hope and trust that everything is being done to make sure that the resources Canada has to offer in terms of expertise and specialists in this area are being put forward and are being put forward swiftly.

Ebola Outbreak September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I do indeed congratulate the Canadian scientists for the work that has been done in the development of vaccines as well as all the other individuals across the world who continuously work on these types of vaccines.

As the world gets smaller through the Internet and through travel, what are we doing to create a more coordinated effort so the vaccines that are being developed can be tested and ready to use in a larger scale when crises like these happen?

Ebola Outbreak September 15th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with interest to a number of interventions this evening on this very scary and dangerous event that is happening in the world today.

I remember a number of years back reading a novel called The Hot Zone. It was a terrifying true story written by Richard Preston. It is a non-fiction novel recounting the fear that came about when the Ebola virus was found in monkeys in Reston, Virginia and the warning signs that this sent off. I remember the fear I felt when reading the book of Ebola skipping borders and come into the world that I knew. I started looking into it back then. The book was written in 1995 and I read it when it came out. Even back then, Ebola had already done a lot of damage.

The first time that Ebola came into western consciousness, as we know it, was in 1976 with an outbreak in DRC. At that time, it was the Zaire strain. It had an 88% mortality rate. Since then, four other strains have joined the Ebola virus arsenal. The Zaire strain still stands as being the deadliest, ranging from the mid-50% up into the high 90% as far as mortality rates are concerned.

There have been some 24 outbreaks of Ebola on the African continent since 1976 with various strains. There are Sudan, Zaire, Thai and Bundibugyo strains, with the Zaire and Sudan strains being the most prolific.

I have heard much of what we are doing in the here and now. We have talked about what Canada and the World Health Organization are doing. We have touched on what other nations around the world are doing. However, my intervention will be based on a question.

Since 1976, there seems to have been very little research or work done in terms of preparation for the eventuality of an outbreak that we now face. It is an outbreak that has crossed borders. As I understand it, this is one of the first times that we have had a multi-border crossing of this disease. The question I would put out there to ruminate on is why we in the west have not progressed further in terms of our understanding and preparedness for not the possibility but the eventuality of one of these diseases, be it the hantavirus, Ebola or Reston disease, crossing borders and entering into other countries that up until this point had not seen this disease.

I would like to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to let you know that I will be splitting my time with the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

In the days of the black plague, this disease ravaged Europe to the tune of two-thirds of its citizens. There was no understanding at the time of how this disease was jumping borders until it was understood that it was being transported by rats that stowed away on the ships doing commerce between the affected countries. This understanding helped curtail the spread of the black death to the point where it only destroyed two-thirds of the population of Europe.

In the days since then the airplane has been developed, even ocean liners, which traverse the world a lot faster. They travel to so-called Third World countries, undeveloped countries, crossing into developed nations from the continents of Africa, Europe and North America.

It seems to me that at least since 1976 there may have been an opportunity to think of what would happen when diseases like this eventually did cross borders. This is the situation we are facing today. We have transcontinental transportation. Individuals who may be infected with the disease in the morning could be on a plane in the afternoon and on a completely different continent. We are not prepared for this. We are finally realizing that there needs to be an ongoing holistic approach to controlling outbreaks of diseases of this sort.

I would venture to guess that many other types of diseases are living in animal populations all around the world and they will eventually be transmitted to humans in one way or another. How prepared are we?

We are now in a situation where the UN Security Council is going to be debating actions on this crisis this Thursday, which I believe is the first time the council has been involved in a health related crisis. We are in a situation where countries where Ebola has happened before are now unprepared to deal with both the containment and treatment of this disease. I applaud the fact that Canada is stepping forward and doing its share and I applaud the fact that other developed countries are doing the same.

I would like to think that this is a warning for the future in terms of small outbreaks. When we see small outbreaks of diseases like this, we should take the opportunity to invest and learn about them so we can prepare for these diseases eventually crossing borders and possibly oceans.

Committees of the House June 19th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague for Halifax, in her very eloquent speech on the environment, touched on a link between the existence of species and our existence, such as the fact that certain fish are not listed as protected but they are the food source for other fish. She also mentioned the fact that caribou lands are being threatened, which threatens the existence of caribou, which threatens the existence and livelihood of our first nations brothers and sisters. I would love it if the member could take a moment to expand on that theory.

Our colleagues from across the way seem to feel that it is okay not to think about the big picture, to just kind of pull a few things that make money out of the works of nature and everything else can go to blazes, as my grandmother would say. I hope that is not unparliamentary language.

Agricultural Growth Act June 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

I represent an urban riding that has a farmer's market, the Atwater Market. I also shop at the Jean-Talon Market, in Montreal. A number of farmers produce very special products. There are blueberries from the Lac Saint-Jean area and strawberries from Quebec. One of my favourites is an heirloom tomato farmer.

The changes to the wording of the act make it sound as though it is a privilege for farmers to be able to keep their own seeds and use them every year.

Does my colleague think that the change in terminology is worrisome for local farmers?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 June 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I apologize because I am going to have to go to the dark side again.

I appreciate the speech from my hon. colleague and although there may be some good things in the bill, I have to ask him a question.

The member mentioned the work being done for veterans. This afternoon, and yesterday, a number of veterans, some very senior individuals, were here to protest the treatment of veterans by the government because of cuts and other losses of services to these individuals who, quite frankly, made it possible for all of us to be here.

Would the hon. member say that it is right to be balancing the books on the backs of our veterans?

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act June 3rd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I ask that my colleague just elaborate a bit more on the connection between trade and human rights.

The government wants to tell the public that the NDP is against trade, but what is more accurate is that we are pro-people and pro-workers.

The issues in Honduras and the human rights record in Honduras are problematic. Is there a concern that a free trade agreement such as this, without human rights elements, could be feeding the human rights issues in Honduras?

Veterans Hiring Act June 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague across the way for his words, particularly that he was open to hearing amendments. My colleagues will absorb that with great hope and great faith, because we have heard the government say many times that it is open to amendments and then those amendments are never accepted or adopted.

As I only have a short time, I am going to jump into the middle of what my remarks were going to be and focus on some of the recommendations from the Veterans Ombudsman, who spoke of the need for dialogue between the Department of Veterans Affairs and National Defence Canada along with organizations such as the Retail Council of Canada to cultivate relationships and develop a better understanding of their needs and the needs of our veterans.

One of the biggest issues that veterans face when transitioning into the workforce is a two-sided issue. On the one hand it is an issue where veterans have a hard time translating their military skill sets, their military abilities, their military CV if I may, into a marketable state that HR departments would understand, and on the other hand, HR departments have a hard time finding a way to translate those skills into a marketable place.

If we are considering amendments, this is one of the areas we could take a look at. We could do two things.

We could open up the accessibility of what the bill wants to cover, because right now it is limited to just the public service and that would shut a lot of doors for many veterans who may have skills that may not fit the purview of the public service but would benefit other private sector places.

We need to look at how we can help our veterans who are so deserving of our thanks and so deserving of a place in their communities, so deserving of a place in our society because they went overseas and put themselves in harm's way to protect. We need to help them adjust back into the workday world and translate their skills into a marketable fashion. On the other hand, we need to look at helping the private sector understand what their skill sets are. This is just one aspect of what the ombudsman suggested in terms of making this legislation stronger.

We need to have something that separates what we call our modern vets from the veterans who are covered by the original agreement, the gentleman's agreement, if I may.

Our sacred obligation to our veterans is an issue in and of itself.

We need to do what we can to make sure that these individuals have maximum opportunity to reinsert themselves back into the workforce, back into their communities, back into Canadian society.

One of the things that makes those who stood and served their country proud is the fact that they contributed something to their communities, either by standing as a soldier representing this country, representing our ideals, or when they come home being able to do what we take for granted, which is taking care of their families, which ensures that they are building a place for themselves in our communities.

This bill is an opportunity for the government, as well as the House, to help those individuals do that. I would like to see this bill opened up in such a way that it can include more veterans. We hear on a daily basis the listing of numbers, how much the government has spent and what it has done, and yet veterans still come to the Hill in what seems to be unprecedented numbers saying that access to the services they require does not exist. Family members looking to help their loved ones are not able to find the help in various ways, to the point of coming to see the ministers and their MPs. This bill is an opportunity to help open up that dialogue, to help begin that conversation.

I was glad to hear a number of colleagues across the way say that this is part of a larger picture, that this is a first step. Often we hear that a bill is the way it should be and it does not need any amendments. One thing we need to consider, and I hope will be considered at committee, is continuing to have dialogue with the private sector, National Defence, and Veterans Affairs to find out how we can help veterans transition more smoothly into the private sector, becoming full and complete contributors to their communities.

Arts and Culture May 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this month, Montreal and the borough of Little Burgundy celebrated 75 years of the gift of music, a gift from their native son Oliver Jones.

On May 11, I had the pleasure of presiding as master of ceremonies over a tribute to Dr. Jones given by the historic Union United Church for his years of devotion to the community of Little Burgundy. On May 20, Dr. Jones was named an honorary citizen of Montreal.

He holds four honorary doctorates, multiple Juno wins, named a Chevalier du Québec and to the Order of Canada. He is an inspiration of musicians of all genres. He is a gifted man, a humble man and a man who demonstrates the power of music to bring people together. He is respected and adored throughout Quebec, Canada and, indeed, the world.

On behalf of the House, I congratulate Oliver Jones on 75 years of bringing pride to the people of Little Burgundy and to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Former Canadian Forces Members Act May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House to support Bill C-568, introduced by my colleague from Saint-Jean. It is a simple bill, but an important one.

With power comes responsibility. Canada is fortunate to have a military force whose personnel make us proud. Their work within our borders and abroad is one of constant dedication and a continuous source of pride. Canada is recognized as a meaningful contributor to numerous missions abroad, both in peacetime and in times of conflict.

In my riding, I am proud to have a number of Legions whose members remain vigilant in helping our community to commemorate our history. Our history forms a significant part of our collective memory and serves to inform those who have made Canada their home.

Serving as military personnel is a task fraught with many on-the-job risks. Post-traumatic stress disorder is increasingly being recognized as a widespread effect of protracted combat operations. The long-term mental health of Canadian troops is coming to bear as an issue requiring a more in-depth response from the government in much the same way as a loss of a limb or an injury of the flesh.

We here in the House—the government and all members of the House—must take up our responsibilities. When Canadian men and women choose to serve in our Canadian Armed Forces, they do so at the risk of paying the ultimate price. For that reason, they need to know that we are behind them. They need to know that if they are wounded in our service, we are behind them. They need to know that we will provide the care that is needed when it is needed and that we will make sure their particular needs are addressed. It is a part of the social contract, a moral obligation that the state has toward its men and women in military service.

Since the Great War and the Second World War, Canadians have remained active in deployments abroad, most recently in Afghanistan, but surely we remember our contributions to Bosnia, Cyprus, and other missions around the world. Our soldiers go where our leadership tells them, and they bear the scars to prove it—and there are scars. There has been loss of life and limb. There has been injury to body and mind. Their particular roles in these missions are reflected in their particular needs in the health care system when their work is done and they return to Canada, their home. These are Canadian veterans, and we should be treating them as such.

Canada's recent veterans' needs are great. They need a greater priority. They need greater priority access to long-term health care funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The government needs to acknowledge its responsibility.

Those eligible Canadians who served before 1953 have earned their access to long-term medical supervision, contract beds in hospitals for acute care, and nursing services. It is written in the veterans' health care regulations, and so it should be. However, to be a Canadian veteran does not stop as of 1953, so what of those men and women post-1953?

For those Canadians who served after 1953, the health care picture is not so rosy. They can access community beds, but these are part of the general pool of beds available to all Canadians in need of a particular type of medical care, so there are no priorities made. To be fair, in Quebec we do have a federal long-term care institution, but shortly Veterans Affairs will be transferring it to the province, which means those beds will not be available for modern-day veterans.

Our veterans deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of when they served our country.

The government must support long-term health care for modern-day veterans, as it has for those who served before 1953. This should be an inherent understanding and obligation on the part of any democratic government that sends young men and women into harm's way for the country's ideals.

The Veterans Ombudsman agrees, so much so that he released a report on the matter. It is called “Veterans' Long-Term Care Needs: a Review of the Support Provided by Veterans Affairs Canada through its Long-Term Care Program”. It is pretty clear, as far as titles go. I hope the government has read it, because it sure has not followed it.

The government should improve support of veterans suffering from PTSD. The government should reverse its decision on the closure of eight Veterans Affairs offices, and the government should extend the veterans independence program to all veterans, to their spouses, and to the members of the RCMP.

Veterans and their families should be cared for so that they have one less thing to think about while they are running their missions. They are Canadian citizens, first and foremost. It is not an issue that they should be moved to the head of the line, but rather should be afforded the care and respect they are due.

They are our veterans. Our veterans deserve more than service reductions. They deserve more than budget cuts. They put their lives on the line for Canadians. The least that Canada's government can do is ensure they did it for a reason.