House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 18% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Cross-Canada Cycling Tour December 6th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, on May 10, four young Algonquins from Kitcisakik in Abitibi got on their bikes and began a journey across Canada. Lena-Jane Gunn, Bradley Brazeau, Frank Pénosway and Évelyne Papatie, the one who came up with the idea, cycled nearly 9,000 km.

They undertook this journey out of a desire to change their lives. They wanted to leave drugs and alcohol behind them. They used the trip as an opportunity to meet other young people and deliver a message of hope and change. Those they met along the way were very impressed by what these young cyclists had accomplished.

The members of this House are aware of the very high rates of alcoholism and drug addiction in aboriginal communities. I think everyone will agree that these four young people are tremendous examples of dedication and courage.

Évelyne, Lena-Jane, Bradley and Frank, meegwetch and bravo!

Aboriginal Affairs November 22nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, by signing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Government of Canada recognizes that housing is a fundamental right. Many social problems result from overcrowded housing conditions. In Nunavik alone, there is a need for 1,000 housing units.

Will the signature of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples result in concrete action, namely, the construction of housing?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act October 26th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague's comments. Obviously, the federal government has its work cut out for it. We have already identified 45,000 people and, as my colleague said earlier, there may be 200,000. It is time for Canada to integrate these first nations and stop treating them like cattle. That is how they are treated. We make decisions for them and do not allow them to participate in the development of this country and enjoy the benefits of that development. We must begin today to make that vision reality.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act October 26th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. He is very knowledgeable about first nations issues because he lives in a region where there are very many first nations people.

Following the McIvor decision, the government realized the scope of the task ahead of it and the first nations' lack of funds to implement this decision. The fewer people the government needs to include, the more likely it will be to succeed. That is not really fair. As my colleague heard in committee, Ms. Palmater said:

One of the main issues here is that prior to 1985, bands did not have control over their membership. That was a determination made by Canada for all bands. So when we're talking about reinstating the descendants of Indian women who married out to status, that should also include band membership, because it was at a time when bands didn't have control over their membership.

...There should be no question whatsoever that the descendants of these Indian women who married out should be added to band membership because that was Canada's responsibility at the time. How can we add them to status only and not membership? And if you're asking for suggestions or if I will submit something further, for sure.

In following through with its commitment, the government needs to consult with the bands and come to an agreement with them. I hope that this will happen.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act October 26th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs).

The Bloc Québécois had indicated its support for studying Bill C-3 in committee. Since the bill would allow people who suffered discrimination because of Bill C-31 passed in 1985 to reconnect with their origins, we felt it deserved further study. As I just mentioned, Bill C-3 would repair the injustices created by Bill C-31 some 25 years ago. In other words, the federal government waited a quarter of a century to repair the injustices it had created itself. Even then, it had to be forced by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia ruling in the McIvor case. Thus we cannot talk about Bill C-3 without recalling how this aboriginal mother had to fight to have her rights and those of her children recognized. Sharon McIvor kept up her fight for many long years. Without her and her struggle, we would not be discussing this bill here today in the House.

To understand the implications of Bill C-3, we need to turn back the clock just a bit. Injustices against aboriginal women are nothing new. In 1876, the Indian Act stipulated that an aboriginal woman lost her rights and stopped being an Indian under the act if she married a non-aboriginal man. Obviously, an aboriginal man who married a non-aboriginal woman did not lose his Indian status. Aboriginal women have experienced a great deal of discrimination with regard to their race, gender and marital status. The Indian Act has contributed to marginalizing women and diminishing their social and political role in the communities. Since this legislation has a direct impact on lineage, the children of these women have also been discriminated against.

In 1951, the Indian Act was amended, but again, a woman who married a non-Indian could not be registered in the new federal register of status Indians and therefore could not enjoy the rights that such status entailed. In 1985, following changes to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Bill C-31 was introduced to close the loophole in the Indian Act, but women's children still did not have the same rights as men's children.

Those who are paying close attention will have noticed that more than 100 years after the Indian Act was created, the rights of aboriginal women's children were still not guaranteed. It would take another 25 years for the federal government to introduce a bill to recognize the Indian status of people who had been discriminated against in the past. Were it not for Ms. McIvor's legal journey, the government might never have introduced Bill C-3, which we are discussing today, as a response to this discrimination. Many will say that this bill does not go far enough.

One such person is Michèle Taina Audette, another mother and a representative of the AMUN March, whose battle continues. I will read an excerpt from her testimony at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development:

In my opinion, Bill C-3...merely complies with the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision in McIvor v. Canada...[and] the department is using this bill to do as little as possible about the problem...there may be serious problems as a result in the short, medium and long terms...Let us put an end, once and for all, to the discrimination that has existed for too long a time already...Aboriginal women continue to be victims of discrimination based on gender....

Bill C-3 would recognize the Indian status of people who have so far not been recognized as Indian and could therefore not benefit from the rights enjoyed by status Indians, such as the right to live on a reserve and to vote in band council elections.

Bill C-3, which was introduced thanks to Sharon McIvor's efforts, corrects these injustices, but it does not go far enough, because it allows certain other injustices to persist. That is why the Bloc Québécois proposed several amendments, all of which were deemed inadmissible.

People will have no trouble understanding that the Bloc Québécois believes strongly in nation-to-nation negotiation. That is why we have always consulted with our aboriginal partners in Quebec when preparing to vote on bills that affect them.

This time is no exception. The Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Quebec Native Women were among those who felt that Bill C-3 failed to correct certain injustices, so that is why we initially decided to vote against the bill.

Sleeping on issues like this helps, and so does thinking about it over the summer. This summer, members of various Quebec aboriginal groups and associations discussed this matter at length. They decided that it would be better to accept the federal government's offer, so they asked us to apply a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” philosophy. The Bloc Québécois will therefore vote in favour of Bill C-3. I think this is a good time to share the words of Ellen Gabriel. Here is what she told the committee:

...for membership, you have to be a status Indian. That doesn't necessarily mean that if you have status, you have membership. That's been the problem for a lot of indigenous women who regained their status in 1985 but who are not allowed to live in their communities, to be buried in their communities, or to own land that their parents give to them... If this bill is going to be passed...then we need some guarantees that band councils will also respect it.

Ellen Gabriel is the president of Quebec Native Women.

I must stress that the federal government promised to establish an exploratory process. It committed to working with aboriginal organizations to establish an “inclusive process for the purpose of information gathering and the identification of the broader issues for discussion surrounding Indian registration, band membership and First Nations citizenship.” The government's intention is not very clear, and neither are the objectives of this exercise. Will it be a proper consultation, for the purpose of amending the Indian Act to bring it into line with the expectations of aboriginals? Will the issue of registration, band membership and citizenship be resolved? This exploratory process will take place before the implementation of Bill C-21, which would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and which would apply to reserves as of June 2011. So it is important to use these consultations to identify the problems with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with respect to the Indian register.

Another problem with the enforcement of Bill C-3 is that the federal government did not do its homework and has not estimated the cost of adding people to the Indian register. The Bloc Québécois does think that we should register new Indians, but not at the expense of those who are already registered. In other words, the federal government will have to increase funding for first nations to ensure that the needs of new registered Indians are met, while still meeting the needs of those who are already registered.

In conclusion, I want to remind all members in this House that they have a duty to ensure justice and fairness for aboriginal women and their children, and I urge members to support Bill C-3. I would also like to remind the federal government that, although it stated its intention in the latest throne speech, it has still not endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That is shameful.

Employment Insurance Act October 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for shepherding a bill I introduced through the House.

It is not just the workers in Lebel-sur-Quévillon who are affected. Many other workers may be as well. Lebel-sur-Quévillon was just the first example of how the modernization of the Employment Insurance Act by former Liberal prime minister and finance minister Paul Martin allowed the government to take money out of the employment insurance fund—which was known as the unemployment insurance fund at the time—to pay down the debt.

But employment insurance is not a tax. The government is using it as a hidden tax, but it is not a tax. It is insurance that workers and employers pay for to keep employees nearby. A strike or lockout is a lawful action by workers or an employer and should be encouraged as a positive measure. It should not be a positive measure for one party and a negative measure for the other, because both pay into the employment insurance fund and have the right to keep workers nearby during a labour dispute.

The parliamentary secretary was present when I testified before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. I explained very clearly that Bill C-395 would exclude the period of the strike or lockout, which is legal, from the qualifying period. This does not take anything away from the government. It does not cost the government or its treasury anything. The employment insurance fund belongs to employers and workers.

Regrettably, I do not have much time, but I am happy to speak today to Bill C-395, which would make the workers in Lebel-sur-Quévillon eligible for EI.

According to statistics from the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, more than half of unemployed workers do not have access to employment insurance, even though they have paid into the plan. If passed, Bill C-395 will not fix every flaw, but it will correct a major shortcoming in the act. I am talking about cases where workers who lose their jobs as a result of a lengthy labour dispute—whether a strike or a lockout—do not qualify for employment insurance.

The Minister of Natural Resources, who is also the minister responsible for the Montreal region, might have to deal with this problem with regard to the Journal de Montréal if Quebecor were to decide tomorrow morning to drop the Journal de Montréal and focus on the Journal de Québec. The journalists and employees of the Journal de Montréal—there are 253 of them and this is in the news today—would not be entitled to employment insurance. In a modern economy, this is unacceptable and unfair. When parliamentarians read about an injustice committed in the past, it is their duty to correct it. They should not try to avoid it for the sake of ideology or party lines.

I believe it is important for all elected members to show empathy when the time comes to discuss measures to help workers and to encourage land occupancy. The Conservatives might be pleased to know that this has been around since Mackenzie King's day. He had a reputation for consulting ghosts. Even if the Liberal leader dabbled in that, the fact remains that EI was set up to maintain land occupancy and, at the time, to move toward a modern economy.

Unfortunately, employment insurance has not kept up with this modern economy.

A number of MPs come from Quebec. I understand that ideologies from the west and the east might be different and that a party line can get in the way. Nonetheless, the MPs from Quebec who are part of this government know the ideology and culture of Quebec. They can explain those things to their party and even have a bit of power within their party—it is about time—in order to raise awareness about the growing need for modern society to occupy the land.

We are dealing with an economic problem. The Minister of Finance acknowledges that the current deficit is close to $170 billion. Nonetheless, it is not up to a specific category of workers and employers to be responsible for paying the deficit themselves.

I would like to point out that as members of Parliament we do not contribute to employment insurance and therefore do not help pay off the deficit. Employment insurance is being used to pay off the deficit.

Contrary to what the parliamentary secretary thinks, I believe that favouring one party over another distorts principles, circumstances and facts, and that is deplorable. The UN's message should make the government realize what the world thinks about Canada in all this. Who represents Canada? The government does.

As I explained earlier, the bill would exclude a certain time period; the period from when the strike or lockout is declared to the time it ends is not part of the calculation. At the end of the lockout, if the result is a closure or a number of workers losing their jobs, the qualifying period would be deemed to begin when the strike or lockout started and would be applied as though it began on that date.

One of the arguments used by opponents to this bill is that the cost to implement this measure would be too high. This is an argument that I have never understood because it is completely unfounded. I have never understood why they are against it. Despite the fact that in its last budget this government recognized its obligation to create an independent employment insurance fund, that fund has never been created and they continue to pillage the EI fund. It is important that today, for the future of our economy, this injustice be fixed and the parties come to a legal agreement.

I urge the government to help the opposition parties, which are all in favour of this bill, and to acknowledge, once and for all, the vision of Parliament. The opposition parties hold the majority. A good deal means that the parties reach an agreement among themselves. They have the power to make recommendations. Parliament has decided to support this bill. I invite the government to follow this lead and correct this injustice.

Employment Insurance October 7th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, during his recent—and first ever—visit to my riding, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada said that Abitibi needed a voice, not a ghost. And he is right. That is why we cannot understand why he and about 20 of his party colleagues dematerialized in Parliament last Wednesday during the vote on Bill C-308.

The goal of that bill was to improve the lives of the unemployed. So what is the Liberal leader's real plan? Does he hope his party returns to power so it can start diverting money from the employment insurance fund, as it did in the past?

Even with Halloween just around the corner, Abitibi does not need any ghosts, just as unemployed workers do not need any vampires draining their EI fund. In Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, as in the rest of Quebec, the Bloc Québécois has always defended the interests of the unemployed, and we will continue to do so.

Sisters in Spirit October 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, very special vigils are being held today throughout Quebec and Canada. Sisters in Spirit are coming together for the fifth consecutive year to honour the lives of hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. No matter where they are from, they all share a similar past marred by violence, both physical and psychological. It is not only the women themselves who suffer, but also their children and those around them.

They are subjected to violence first of all because they are women, and second because they are aboriginal, no matter where they live in Quebec or Canada. For some women and their children, violence is part of their daily lives.

Dozens of vigils are planned today in dozens of cities and towns. Candles will be lit to honour the lives of all our sisters in spirit who have disappeared. On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to say this: enough is enough!

Nutrition North Program September 20th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, on October 3, the first stage of the Nutrition North program will be implemented, replacing the food mail program. The new program will be better and will cost less, according to officials with the Department of Indian Affairs.

However, by abolishing the well-established system of “entry points”, the department is sweeping aside more than 30 years of success. Expertise will not count for much under the new program because the rules of the marketplace will prevail. A retailer as far away as Winnipeg could send foodstuffs to northern Quebec, if it has the quantities needed. The logic of flying in supplies from the nearest location will no longer apply. Not only could the new Nutrition North program have negative economic repercussions on entry points, but no one can demonstrate that the program's objective of making quality products available at a low cost will be met.

It is easy to understand why the people affected are concerned.

Petitions June 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition here today signed by several hundred citizens of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou who are calling on the House of Commons to quickly pass Bill C-429.

The petitioners believe that this bill sends a clear message to the Government of Canada and to the public about the many opportunities afforded by wood technology and the resources we have in Quebec and Canada, in addition to stimulating wood consumption. The petitioners are pointing out that passing such a bill would serve to help thousands of workers, businesses, families and communities affected by the forestry crisis and the forest itself, which needs to be cleaned up as soon as possible because of numerous forest fires.

In closing, I would like to say that I fully support the petitioners' initiative and I hope this government will consider it.