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

Rail Transportation May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, he can go on and on, but the reality is that rail companies are not being transparent about these accidents. It took almost three days before information was made public about this most recent derailment. What is more, when the emergency crews arrived on the scene, they were turned away, even though one of the cars contained dangerous materials. This is unacceptable. The people of Jeanne-Le Ber deserve answers.

It is obvious that self-regulation does not work. When are the Conservatives going to take some responsibility and put the brakes on these runaway rail companies?

Rail Transportation May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last week, for the third time in three years, a train derailed in my riding, an urban riding.

However, it took three days before the information was made public. It is clear that self-regulation is not working. Will the minister take action and force these companies to be more transparent?

Kidnapping of Girls in Nigeria May 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for the question and also for her participation in Canada-Africa. As she said, we have made a number of trips together as part of a delegation to the continent.

I will answer using the raison d'être of Canada-Africa. It is to begin to develop discussions on the parliamentary level. As our chairperson says very often, we have a connection leader to leader, executive to executive, and we have the connections of NGO to NGO. However, that middle connection, that decision-making connection, parliamentarian to parliamentarian, is missing.

I think the member will agree that one of the things we have found that many countries have in common is best practices we could share on how to set up the education system and protect it, especially in areas where young girls are at risk. How can we set up a system where that money goes not only to educating but to making sure that those who are being educated, those who choose to be educated, are protected?

I think Canada can help by sharing best practices, along with the funding we give.

Kidnapping of Girls in Nigeria May 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, that is a tall order for a young guy like me, but I will start with the last question first.

Over the years, we have developed an expertise in dealing with young children who have gone through abusive situations in our own country. We have developed the expertise to deal with the psychological wounds that this type of experience inflicts. We can lend that expertise.

Yes, we have to tailor it and ensure that it balances with the community and the culture itself, but there is learning that can be done right across the board in how the community welcomes back those young girls and how those young girls can begin to look at themselves again, not feel things like survivor guilt or that they themselves have done something wrong, and get to a point where they are not afraid anymore to go to school.

Kidnapping of Girls in Nigeria May 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I think I speak for everyone in this House tonight who has given of their time and their sleep to speak on this subject. We are all seized with this event and are horrified and concerned.

I woke this morning and turned on the TV, as I am apt to do, to scan the news on CBC and CTV and to catch up on what had happened overnight to prepare myself for the day to some extent. I was shocked and horrified by the images of some of these young girls who reportedly were forced to convert to Islam.

I was struck by a banner I saw on CTV this morning about one of the young girls who managed to escape, which said that she was afraid to go to school. These are the words of one of the handful of young women who managed to escape her captors. This young woman, with the blessing of her parents and her family, chose to learn about herself and the world around her.

These young women chose to take advantage of the opportunities, limited though they may be, to build a better life for themselves. This opportunity was stolen from them. As these young girls sat in their class to learn, they experienced a lesson in brutality. They experienced a lesson in the evil men do.

They were taken from that place where they felt safe. They were taken from their families. The men that stole them call themselves the faithful. They call themselves warriors of Islam. However, I would like to stress that this act of thuggery, this act of cowardice, has nothing to do with Islam, as I have come to learn and as it has been expressed to me by members of the Muslim community in my riding that I have had the pleasure of meeting with.

This, in no uncertain terms, was an act of war. It is an act that brings a heightened reality to the changing face of war, where young girls, women, and communities are targeted with the sole purpose of destroying that which the community holds dear.

We see this type of warfare perpetrated in many parts of the world. We saw it, for example, in the attempted assassination of a young schoolgirl named Malala Yousafzai. Why? It was because she wanted to go to school.

According to UNESCO's website, apparently two-thirds of the out-of-school children in Pakistan are girls, which results in women being two-thirds of the illiterate in their communities.

Women and children are being targeted as strategic targets in conflict areas, in conflicts that hide behind false faith and manipulative ideologies. Neither Nigerians nor the international community are prepared. We are not prepared to deal with the stealing of children from their schools, and we need to be.

We need to be able to act pre-emptively to protect those who would be targeted by men who give themselves names such as Boko Haram, and educating young girls to become leaders in their communities is part of that response.

There has to be a commitment from within Nigeria to protect the schools and the young souls that inhabit them.

We must also be prepared for the aftermath. The international community must develop, in concert with the communities, a support system for these young girls, their families and their communities. It should be a support system that allows for the healthy reintegration of these young girls when they are returned. No matter what faith any of us practice in the House or around the world, we all pray that each and every one of these young girls is returned to her family safely.

By sharing collective expertise, Nigeria and other countries that face similar acts of violence can develop the means to protect those who would be targeted and to respond to these needs. These acts are not new. The international community response, however, needs to change. We need to stop thinking of acts of this nature, of violence against women and the kidnapping of young girls, as offshoots of war. We need to start thinking of them as actual choices and as targeted actions.

The international community must refocus its efforts in capacity building. Canada must re-engage with the African continent, and it must do its part in helping to slow the flow of small arms into the African continent.

Canada and the international community must be vigilant and be seen to be vigilant in order to send a clear message that the kidnapping of young girls is a crime. We will work with Nigeria and the international community in responding to this crime.

Malala, the young Pakistani girl, spoke simply but precisely when she said, “...if we remain silent then this will spread, this will happen more and more and more”.

It is important that Canada does what it must to ensure that no young girl in Nigeria or any other part of the world has to say “I am afraid to go to school”.

Battle of Ypres and Battle of the Atlantic May 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, over the last two weekends, I have had the pleasure of representing my riding at two important events honouring our veterans and their fallen comrades spanning both world wars, the Battle of Ypres during the First World War, the war to end all wars, as it was known then, and the Battle of the Atlantic.

I would like to note that legion 4 in Verdun is the only legion in Canada that still holds ceremonies honouring those who fought and fell in the Battle of Ypres, hosting many Montreal island legions, including legion 127 in Pointe-Saint-Charles, and boasting the proud presence of the piper corps of the Black Watch, the members of the Montreal legions did their comrades proud; so too did the participants of yesterday's ceremonies at the Battle of the Atlantic.

I was proud to represent my riding and the NDP and stand with our veterans. I was proud to let them know that they matter.

Situation in the Republic of South Sudan April 29th, 2014

Mr. Chair, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

This issue of who is behind this conflict and who is financing it is a very complex and thorny one.

Our government has not as yet signed the small arms treaty and that is problematic, because it does create a situation where small arms are being funnelled into South Sudan to both sides of this conflict. It is something we need to take a look at ourselves in terms of this treaty and we need to make sure that we can figure out who is financing the conflict.

Situation in the Republic of South Sudan April 29th, 2014

Mr. Chair, the member asked a significant question. As she stated in the preamble of her speech, the medical facilities are doing what they can to provide for the medical needs of the country's citizens and those activities are being thwarted by rebels.

Would putting more money into the medical needs of the community serve a purpose without being able to ensure that the medical aid will get to the communities that need it? We need to make sure that the support is maintained. We also need to work with our international partners to find a way to make sure that those services can be delivered safely, where individuals under medical care for whatever reason are protected by observer nations, be they of African origin or of western origin, and that the civilians be as protected as possible.

Situation in the Republic of South Sudan April 29th, 2014

Mr. Chair, yes, it is important that as our own nation we respect sovereignty of another nation.

In terms of what we can offer the Sudanese, I think our strength, first and foremost, is governance. It is providing our expertise in a consultative manner with respect to governance and trying to show that there are other for motivations for governments, other than it is now my turn. This is something that, unfortunately, if my colleague remembers, was quite prevalent in the discussions that we had with parliamentarians.

It is by no means our responsibility or our job to go in and tell another country what it should or should not be doing, but I think it behooves us to lend our expertise in areas such as governance and food security, as another colleague brought up. Canada can support everything from maternal health and infant health to governance in terms of consultation, and Canada can provide financial support, if necessary, in certain areas as well.

Situation in the Republic of South Sudan April 29th, 2014

Mr. Chair, I guess it is a bit of double-edged sword to stand in this place today to speak to this situation. My point of discussion would be vigilance, the vigilance of observer countries of the west.

Recent history has given us plenty of reason to be vigilant. We are just now commemorating the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. We have seen what has happened in Sri Lanka. We are seeing what is happening in CAR. We are seeing what is happening with D.R.C. and with Syria. What these things all have in common—and it will be the focus of my words today—is the use of sexual violence as a weapon, and the aftermath of that.

The signs that we missed in Rwanda and missed in Bosnia, the signs that we are seeing and have seen in Sri Lanka, the signs that we have seen and are seeing in Syria, we are beginning to see now in South Sudan.

The importance of vigilance by the west, by Canada and by observer countries, is paramount, because without that vigilance we allow the potential for something horrendous to happen. We contribute, although passively, to something that should not occur.

My concern is for the escalation of hostilities in South Sudan in the last number of week in regard to targeted violence based on ethnicity and based on gender. My concern is that we will not have the wherewithal to address this situation in a preventive manner, and it is over whether we will have the expertise and ability to deal with this situation in the aftermath.

I mentioned when I first stood that I am saddened to be standing in this place today, speaking to this issue, because one of the first trips I took as a member of Parliament was to South Sudan with my colleague from Newmarket. This was in January of 2012, so South Sudan was merely six or seven months old.

One of the things that struck us all on arriving in the capital of Juba was the fact that there was absolutely nothing in terms of infrastructure. There was absolutely no electricity unless one had a generator. Water was scarce in terms of being readily available. The airplane that landed us was a Boeing whatever, and it pretty well rolled right up to the door of the airport. We got off the plane and literally walked into waiting vehicles. The infrastructure was not there.

However, in the subsequent meetings that we had with individual parliamentarians and with representatives of the NGOs and the media, there was a sense of hope, in many cases, because of the desire and determination of the group of individuals that we met to build a Sudan that they could be proud of and that the world could be proud of.

It was a fragile hope, but it was a hope nonetheless, so to see what is happening in South Sudan today, slightly less than three years later, is disheartening. However, within that, I think we need to do the best we can as a friend of Sudan to make sure that we are there to help those individuals succeed in their desire to see Sudan succeed.

One of the ways we can do that is being there and being vigilant, especially in terms of the type of conflict this has the danger of turning into. There are reports that these recent targeted attacks were spurred on by radio announcements urging individuals to attack individuals from another tribe, individuals who did not see eye to eye with the overall communities they were in. I think the first attack claimed the lives of some 200 individuals, while a subsequent attack claimed the lives of another 40 individuals. This struck a chord with me, because that is the exact methodology that was used in the beginning of the Rwandan crisis.

We are now, 20 years later, seeing the aftermath of what happened in Rwanda. There are recent articles about interviews and discussions held some 20 years later with not only the victims of sexual violence but with the children born of these acts, describing how those relationships were affected. Mothers could not look at their daughters; children felt ostracized by their families and their communities. The support for those who suffered during this ethnic cleansing period does not extend to those children. They are left to their own devices in terms of finding help, whether they understand that they need or decide that they want help.

I will be repeating myself if I say that what I am hearing in the media now about the actions in South Sudan causes me great concern in terms of the direction that South Sudan may be going. We cannot look at these types of actions as offshoots of war. We cannot look at the tribal tensions in South Sudan as just things that happen. These tensions are at the core of the actions and the activities of the opposing forces in South Sudan, and they are used as a means of undermining the communities and the very society that these communities live in.

We in Canada must make sure that the past sins of the fathers are not visited on the young people. Youth make up over half of the population of South Sudan. I feel very strongly that we, as Canada and as the west, need to make sure that we send a clear sign that we are there to support those children and that the civilians in South Sudan will have an opportunity to grow in safety and freedom and to find their feet so that they can move forward.