House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was agreement.

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

Young Visitors from Ivujivik June 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my greetings today to some young people from Nuvviti school in Ivujivik, who are visiting the Hill today.

The reason they were chosen to be here is that they have not only stood out from their fellow students by their perfect attendance, but they have also, thanks to the unflagging support of their teachers, successfully completed their year.

To give some idea of their reality, Ivujivik is the northernmost village in Quebec, and one quarter of the population is under the age of 18. This year they have experienced the suicide of three of their friends.

These are outstanding young people, courageous and hard working. They set an example of perseverance for all students, not only in their community, but also throughout the rest of Quebec. My colleagues of the Bloc Québécois join with me in expressing our respect, encouragement and congratulations to all of these students.

Francis Murphy June 4th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, at the closing ceremony of the 88th annual conference of the Quebec union of municipalities held in Gatineau from May 12 to 16, the title of rising star of the year among the new crop of municipal councillors went to Francis Murphy, a young municipal councillor from Val-d'Or and a resident of my riding.

Only 24 years of age, Mr. Murphy has already served four years as a very active councillor. He is also a member of the young people and municipal democracy committee of the Quebec union of municipalities. In this capacity, he recently took part in a tour of young municipal representatives aimed at encouraging young people from all over Quebec to become involved in municipal politics.

We do not yet know whether he will run again in the next elections. I encourage him, however, to do so. Politics at all levels needs dynamic, motivated young people who in turn can motivate others. Congratulations, Mr. Murphy.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act May 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from the NDP, who is also my neighbour on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I want to congratulate her too on her French. I used to be able to say anything at all about her so long as it was in French, but I cannot do that any more. She has learned a lot from the James Bay Cree. If we look at what has been happening in Vancouver since she found out about the Cree, first nations issues have been settled much more easily. She can use Quebec’s experience with the first nations and apply it to British Columbia. The parliamentary secretary realized this and was actually quite happy about it, given the way he reacts when our colleague stands and speaks in the House.

I am very proud of the determination and pride of the Quebec Cree. I cannot speak for the Cree of Ontario or other provinces because, apart from the witnesses who appear before us in committee, I have not had much opportunity to talk to them. Generally speaking, though, the Cree rely a lot on the comprehension and understanding shown by the members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development when they come to see us and try to make us grasp their problems and view of things, which is not necessarily our own.

For example, in regard to Bill C-28 before us today, we should not forget that the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement has been in negotiation since 1973. Negotiations started as far back as 1973, under René Lévesque, in connection with the James Bay power project. After the project was developed on their lands, the Cree decided to claim some of the benefits. We well remember how hard they had to fight, even going to New York, if I remember correctly, to assert their rights.

Bill C-28 arose pursuant to the promises Canada made in the subsequent agreements. Its purpose is to implement these promises: the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, signed in 1975; the 1992 Oujé-Bougoumou/Canada Agreement, in which Canada promised to remedy the failure to include the Cree of Oujé-Bougoumou in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement; the Cree and Naskapi legislation; and the 2008 Agreement concerning a New Relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, which reaffirmed the promise to give the Cree Regional Authority greater governance powers over the development of the James Bay Cree. I am very happy for the chief of Oujé-Bougoumou, whom I hold in high esteem. She is a very nice lady who has now become a very great lady.

As I just said, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement has been in negotiation since 1973. It comes from the Eeyou Istchee Cree, which translates as the land of the Cree of James Bay, Quebec. The association of Inuit of New Quebec entered into negotiations with the Government of Quebec, the federal government, Hydro-Québec and the James Bay energy corporation. At that point, they focused on the regions and the people in them, recognizing and protecting certain rights and benefits. The negotiations concluded with the signing in 1975 of the James Bay agreement, the first comprehensive land claim agreement in Canada, which today is protected under the Constitution as a modern treaty, pursuant to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. In this agreement, the Cree gave up, transferred and dropped all claims, rights, titles and native interests to and in the lands in the area and in Quebec in exchange for clearly defined rights and benefits.

The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement recognized eight bands. This land regime defined three categories of land. I will not enumerate them. In the 1975 agreement, with Oujé-Bougoumou not yet a reserve or even a recognized band, it had to fight until 1992 for recognition and to obtain its own village.

The current agreement comes under the heading of local administration. The Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act establishes the eight bands as corporations recognized by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and establishes their powers in the following areas—making bylaws with respect to category IA lands under section 45; regulation of buildings for the protection of public safety; health and hygiene; public order and safety; the protection of the environment; the prevention of pollution; the taxation for local purposes of a broad range of local services; roads, traffic and transportation; the operation of businesses and the carrying on of trades; and parks and recreation.

Other sections concern band financial administration, residence, access and other rights on category IA lands, the disposition of interests in these lands, and policing.

Bill C-28 provides amendments for each of these parties, thus giving considerable autonomy. Unfortunately, it is not yet complete, but it is the most progressive in Canada at the moment. I offer the example of an agreement signed not so long ago with a first nations band from my colleague's area, which was also granted autonomy. It was obtained through negotiation, consultation and agreements.

I was listening to the parliamentary secretary reminding us of Bill C-8. The government consulted some people, including women and the Assembly of First Nations. When this bill was introduced, we understood that the Assembly of First Nations acknowledged being consulted. The Native Women's Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Quebec Native Women also acknowledged being consulted. However, that is where the existing agreement between the department and these associations representing first nations stops. Consulting and taking nothing from the consultation contributes nothing.

This is why the first nations of Canada and of Quebec have spoken out against Bill C-8, as they did against C-44 and C-21, and as they will continue to do just as long as we do not recognize the philosophy and way of life, the culture and the needs of all first nations. When they ask for something in consultations, it is not enough just to listen but do nothing. Their needs must be taken into consideration. They are persons just as we are persons. Many more agreements can be reached, and I am proud of this for the James Bay Cree.

In committee, after our discussions, unanimity was reached on this bill with the exception of one minor change proposed by the government, which was to adapt the English version to the French in a certain clause, because the French definition was more accurate than the English.

The bill received unanimous support and I sincerely hope that the House will also support it when it comes time to vote. For its part, the Bloc Québécois supports the first nations, as it always has, for that matter.

The Bloc Québécois has made it our duty to support the first nations across Canada, not just in Quebec. We know that the first nations of Canada in general have experienced more or less the same difficulties, and the Bloc Québécois recognizes the aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples with the right to their culture, their language, their customs and traditions, as well as the right to direct the development of that unique identity themselves.

In so doing, it is respecting the direction taken by René Lévesque, a staunch defender of aboriginal peoples, who made Quebec the first government in America to recognize the aboriginal nations in its midst.

Bill C-28 is in fact the extension of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and of the Paix des Braves, which was signed under Bernard Landry and the Parti Québécois. Bill C-28 enables the federal government to fulfill its obligations to the Cree-Naskapi.

In 2004, the leader of the Bloc Québécois said the following:

The Paix des Braves ratified by the Government of Quebec and representatives of the Cree Nation has paved the way for these kinds of negotiations and demonstrated that major development projects have to be negotiated with mutual interests in mind. The Bloc Québécois supports the first nations in their fight for emancipation. That is why we are asking Ottawa to follow this example to negotiate a similar agreement with Cree Nation representatives.

In its 2008 report, the Cree-Naskapi Commission identified the negative outcome of the federal government's failure to respect the James Bay and Northern Quebec agreement:

Consequently, the full potential of local self-government, with its dynamic and evolving nature, has not yet been realized nor achieved by the Cree and Naskapi First Nations because, as one principal constraint, the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, after twenty-four (24) years, remains an inflexible, rigid instrument which has not yet been reviewed by Canada, the Cree and Naskapi for the purposes of determining appropriate amendments to enhance and improve Cree and Naskapi local government.

The commission issued a series of recommendations that I will not get into now because most of their demands have been acknowledged in this bill. That is the big difference between this bill and Bill C-8, which we will soon be debating.

I was listening to the member for Saint Boniface earlier, and she was saying that the government had held extensive consultations. That is true, but the extent of the negotiations has little to do with whether the government understood the demands put forward during the consultations. I would like the government to understand that. We could avoid all kinds of futile, useless discussions and debates if only we really listened to the people we were talking to.

I will end on that note. I really hope that all parties in the House will support this bill so that it can make its way to the Senate quickly.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act May 14th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.

There would be a big problem with any bill that pushed the vision and culture of white people on the first nations. We must talk with them and work together.

I maintain that we must do so as quickly as possible.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act May 14th, 2009

Madam Speaker, we were also contacted by representatives from the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada.

As I said at the beginning, defeating this bill immediately would prevent these people from voicing their opinions and trying to change the current position set out in the bill.

Unfortunately, as I pointed out at the beginning, consultations were held, but the recommendations were not taken into account. The government did not work with the first nations. So long as that is the case, there will never be a viable agreement.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act May 14th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I get the sense that the hon. member's opinion reaffirms our position. True, Canada has a major challenge because of its size. That is practically restating the obvious. Canada is so large and so diverse that it is ungovernable.

Canada and the provinces are going to have to admit that Quebec has learned to recognize the first nations and their distinctive character, and to act accordingly. Just look at the Cree and Naskapi. They almost have self-government now and are very happy, as a result.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act May 14th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am from Quebec. Quebeckers and aboriginals share very similar situations because they are both distinct nations. We believe that nothing is beyond repair as long as there is life.

We will discuss this bill very seriously in committee to try to find ways of fixing it. If we cannot fix it, at least we will have tried. These people have been deprived of autonomy and rights for decades. They are bound by the Indian Act, which is outdated. If we can succeed in helping them enjoy a more decent qualify of life as quickly as possible, all the better.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act May 14th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. government member for asking that question. I also want to thank him for admitting that, if the government had gone to the trouble of conducting proper consultations and involving the first nations in the process of developing the bill at the community level, we might have had the same outcome as we did in committee this morning with the Cree and Naskapi. They were very happy to have been able to negotiate without debating the issue before committees or Parliament in order to be successful.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act May 14th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, on December 13, 2006, Commissioner David Langtry stated, even before Bill C-11 was adopted, that full human rights protection was now being extended to all first nations people and that the commission would act quickly to open discussions with those communities on how best to implement this much-needed change.

To my knowledge, “discussions“ are not “consultations“. The government does not seem to have grasped the intent of this bill. I would like to quote a passage from a report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women:

The committee heard and acknowledged that “the lack of a legal regime to govern the disposition of matrimonial real property on reserves is… the tip of a much greater iceberg“ and that “the legislative gap in respect of the matrimonial real property rights on reserve lands is exacerbated by chronic housing shortages that exist on most reserves and difficulties in securing financing to purchase or construct alternative housing on reserve…“

Because of this, women will continue to be forced to leave their communities while waiting for an effective solution to the housing shortage and the full implementation of the right to self-determination. The government fails to recognize this and remains apart from other countries by refusing to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This situation has existed for two decades and has never been corrected.

In June 2005, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development tabled a report in the House. Its first finding recognized the importance of the matter of matrimonial real property to the residents of reserves, and, specifically, first nations women and children.

The committee recognized the great complexity of the issues. It also realized that, while immediate action was required, it was imperative that all recommendations be consistent with the government’s recognition of the inherent right of self-government by recognizing first nations’ authority over on-reserve matrimonial real property. The committee felt that any action needed to be taken in consultation and collaboration with first nations.

That was in 2005. Today, because the bill was neither developed in consultation with first nations as they wished, nor referred to the committee before second reading, the Assembly of First Nations considers that it has been so botched that it is practically impossible to put it right after this second reading. In addition, the impact studies conducted on the communities affected by BillC-8and the measures they contain to encourage the development of the communities' own laws on matrimonial homes have not been submitted to either the Assembly of First Nations or the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada want the bill to be defeated.

Like the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, the Bloc Québécois agrees with the idea of this bill, but not with its content or the way in which it has been put together. We feel that it is critically important for the communities and, for that reason, it should have been studied.

What difference is there between Bill C-44, which became Bill C-21, and Bill C-289, which is now Bill C-8? For me, there is no difference except that Bills C-44 and C-289 died on the order paper, and in all cases there were no prior consultations. They also have in common the almost unanimous protest against the method in which they were drawn up and the non-aboriginal view of aboriginal real property. I say “almost unanimous“ because the only person not in agreement at the time is now a senator.

This bill, like the ones that went before and the ones that will come after, should have been the result of consultations with first nations, as agreed by the Martin government and the first nations in May 2005. For this bill in particular, the provinces, the territories, the committees of Parliament and the report of Wendy Grant-John, the ministerial representative for matrimonial real property issues on reserve, all should have been consulted.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. The few consultations that were held left participants bitter. They saw them as charades at which they wasted their time. None of their recommendations were accepted, yet the implementation has to be done within their culture and under their administration.

This government should perhaps mention that this bill resulted from discussions with some first nations organizations, the ministerial representative, the provinces and the territories in the summer and fall of 2007. The government should not use the term “consultation“ at all.

Once more, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations and the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador oppose this bill because it is fundamentally flawed and practically impossible to correct after second reading. In June 2006, in its report to the House, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women wished to see concrete progress on the issues relating to matrimonial real property rights of first nations women, issues linked to violence against women. It quoted Beverly Jacobs from the Native Women's Association of Canada:

It's not just in first nations communities. We know it's happening all across the country. It's in Canadian homes where women are being abused. We are taking the brunt of it, and I'm tired of it. As a first nations woman, as a Mohawk woman, I'm tired of hearing this. I feel it's my responsibility to make sure it doesn't occur any more. My daughter is 23, and she also had to live through that. I have grandchildren, and I don't want them to live through it. I don't want them to see violence.

The housing problem is still not solved today. In 2001, the government introduced Bill C-289 despite recommendations to the contrary. Here we are again today with Bill C-8, once more with no consultation or collaboration with aboriginal groups.

Aboriginal peoples, particularly women, would be in favour of this legislation which will put an end to centuries of discrimination and inequities enshrined in the Indian Act and visited upon aboriginal women. They do not want to see these errors corrected by another that would be just as serious, if not more so, than the existing one. This error must be corrected on their terms and in a way that is consistent with their lifestyle and their culture. Above all this legislation must not be the outcome of a unilateral decision by the federal government, which has increasingly demonstrated its ignorance of aboriginal values and of the non-legislative measures inherent in the enforcement of any act or regulation.

There are many irritants. I will mention some of them. First, no non-legislative measure is mentioned. Second, there is a lack of information with regard to the implementation of an action plan. Third, there is also information missing as to resources available to the first nations to develop their laws or the regulations of Bill C-8. Fourth, as mentioned previously, there is a crying need for housing. This situation is in itself sufficient to make this bill's provisions unworkable. Indeed, how, in the case of marital breakdown, can one guarantee decent housing to each of the parties in question? Fifth, this legislation refers to legal proceedings that will lead to trials to clarify the bill's ambiguities. Most of the members of these communities cannot undertake such legal proceedings, because they cannot afford them.

Deputy Grand Chief RoseAnne Archibald, Ontario representative to the Assembly of First Nations Women's Council, stated in June 2006:

We are not convinced that the bill as it stands is going to help First Nations women access justice. Let’s be clear, First Nations women and families have waited too long already for equitable and workable solutions and this bill is at best a half-way measure.

After all the consultations, and presentations and drafting of reports: the government didn’t listen to our women. In fact, I was one of those women they consulted. Yes they asked for our opinion, but the bill does not reflect what we told them. What they’ve drafted is very much a made-in-Ottawa Bill.” .

The Assembly of First Nations Women's Council sees four problems in the bill as it is drafted. It will in the final analysis force first nations women to seek recourse before provincial courts. For many women who live in remote communities, this solution will not be financially viable, among other things because of the time that this would take.

During the consultations, the first nations women asked that matrimonial real property rights be framed from the perspective of their own cultural values and traditions, and not from within the framework of federal or provincial regulations which they did not have a hand in preparing.

Rather than recognizing the authority of first nations, the bill sets out how first nations regulations should be developed, according to a complicated process that makes no provision for supporting first nations participation. In the final analysis, the bill will impose a complex bureaucratic system which will offer no support whatsoever for its implementation.

For matrimonial real property rights to be meaningful, the women told us that the government should see to it that accessible and safe housing be made available.

With regard to the situation in Quebec and Canada, Ms. Wendy Cornet, Special Advisor to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, stated, when she appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on March 24, 2005, that:

The common functions of provincial and territorial matrimonial property law are, firstly, defining what personal and real property of spouses is considered matrimonial property within a given jurisdiction; providing a system of rights and protections in relation to matrimonial property on a mandatory basis to married couples; and thirdly, establishing—as all jurisdictions do—a legal presumption of equal division of matrimonial property on marriage breakdown, regardless of which spouse owns the matrimonial property. This last function usually means that a compensation order can be issued by the court, requiring one spouse to pay the other an amount of money to achieve an equal division of matrimonial property—and the couple's assets and liabilities that constitute matrimonial property are taken into account in determining this.

However, in some important policy areas, provincial and territorial laws vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, in particular regarding the treatment of the following subjects: common-law relationships; same-sex relationships; matters relating to rights upon death of a spouse; and family violence. Some jurisdictions have passed family violence legislation that provides a package of remedies, including interim orders respecting matrimonial real property. Other jurisdictions do not have specific legislation addressing family violence. And finally, another matter in which you find some variance is the treatment of matters relating to support and the matrimonial home.

The Indian act provides for a land management regime that includes a system for making individual allotments of reserve lands to members of the band for whom the reserve has been set aside. However, the Indian Act is silent on the question of matrimonial property interests during marriage and on marriage breakdown. The Indian Act does not provide for, or recognize, a law-making power on the part of first nations in regard to matrimonial property, real or personal.

There are other issues that must be taken into account on reserves. For instance, many first nations do not use the Indian Act system of individual allotments of reserve lands, for example, by issuing certificates of possession, and instead use systems of custom allotment. An individual's status as an Indian as defined under the Indian Act makes them a band member and can affect property interest in and on reserve lands. For example, individuals who are not band members cannot hold certificates of possession.

It is clearly inconsistent on the part of the Canadian government to go forward with this bill, since it committed itself on May 31, 2005 to strengthening cooperation on policy development between the Assembly of First Nations and the federal government. Here is an excerpt from that agreement:

Whereas the Prime Minister, at the April 19, 2004 Canada - Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable, stated, “It is now time for us to renew and strengthen the covenant between us”, and committed that “No longer will we in Ottawa develop policies first and discuss them with you later. The principle of collaboration will be the cornerstone of our new partnership.”

Clearly the government is not keeping its promise.

It is not rocket science: there must first of all be discussions on the process whereby participation of the Assembly of First Nations in the development of federal policies that have specific repercussions on AFN members can be increased, in particular in the areas of health, skills development, housing, political or economic negotiations and results-based accountability.

Second, they have to address the human and financial resources, as well as the accountability mechanisms needed to encourage the Assembly of First Nations to become more involved in policy making.

That is pretty clear, and I encourage the members to read the remarks I have made in this House since 2006. It should be noted that I have to remind the government of that every time we discuss relations with the first nations. That is not normal.

To conclude, I will give the opinion of the Bloc Québécois, which is sensitive to what is happening in aboriginal communities. The Bloc, like aboriginals, believes that the government should take action. We also take into account the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

The Bloc Québécois expects the government to respect the political agreement. It wants to remind the government of its obligation to consult. The Bloc will ensure that implementation of this new bill does not undermine the recognition of the first nations' inherent right to self-government.

The Bloc Québécois is aware that the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations have not fully completed their own analysis of the impact of this bill on their communities. The Bloc also knows that the government has apparently not completed a new study.

We will support this bill at second reading for the sole purpose of trying to make the government understand that it has to undertake consultations and fix the bill so that it reflects the vision and culture of the first nations.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act May 14th, 2009

Madam Speaker, allow me to point out that this morning we had the opportunity to meet with a first nations community which, for the first time since I was elected, underscored the fact that the negotiations between the government and their nation are being conducted in good faith. You had to see the satisfaction of these people and how pleased they were to accept this agreement. They do not think it is perfect; however, they were consulted and they contributed to the agreement. With this agreement, good faith and collaboration with the government they will achieve autonomy.

I am certain that we are seeing this approach for the first time. Unfortunately, it has already fallen by the wayside. We see this from studying the bill before us this morning. In this bill, the government has gone back to its old habits. It is developing something for the first nations that they do not want. They want to collaborate, to be consulted and to contribute to this agreement.

With Bill C-8, the government is making the same mistakes it made in the past. In January 2004, we debated Bill C-44, the forerunner to Bill C-21. Although it wanted section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act to be repealed, the Bloc Québécois declared that it felt that the government had not sufficiently consulted the first nations about the impact of the repeal on the communities.

The Bloc was supported by the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada.