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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

Michèle Rouleau May 11th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, today I wish to congratulate a great lady from my riding, Ms. Michèle Rouleau, who was just awarded an honorary doctorate by the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT).

Originally from Senneterre in Abitibi, Ms. Rouleau has been an advocate for the rights of native women. She has served as the director of the Senneterre native friendship centre, president of Quebec Native Women and a commissioner on the AFN Renewal Commission. She has always been actively involved in her community and today is a consultant in aboriginal affairs and a facilitator.

Michèle Rouleau was awarded Quebec's Prix de la Justice award and the Droits et libertés award by Quebec’s Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse. She is also a Chevalier de l'Ordre national du Québec.

By awarding this honorary doctorate, UQAT is underscoring the exceptional commitment made by this remarkable humanitarian. We are very proud of this honour, which reflects on the entire community and riding.

Congratulations, Michèle.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act May 7th, 2009

Madam Speaker, we can only rejoice in the situation of the Oujé-Bougoumou council, although we had hoped that the government of which my colleague is a member would have taken the opportunity to also include an agreement with Washaw Sibi. There have been claims on that matter since at least 2004-2005. The Washaw Sibi Eeyou claims are justified. Taking perhaps four or five additional months in the negotiations to include recognition of the two communities in the bill would have helped the bill to go forward more quickly. I find it unfortunate that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development will be obliged to table another bill. Let it be said that I am always glad to see him. I even invite him from time to time. He does not always come, but he is always invited.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act May 7th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I have always asked myself why there was a shortage of work in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and in the riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. If my NDP colleague came to work eagerly as he did in his youth, he performed many duties and that took work away from the people of Abitibi.

A bill has been tabled. Given the mindset of the Bloc and our vision of Québec in the recognition of first nations, the Bloc Québécois can only support this bill.

However, some recommendations should have been taken into consideration, which perhaps might have slightly delayed tabling the bill. On the other hand, that would have shortened the time for obtaining more complete approval. It would not have taken very much more time and it would have been a great deal more profitable.

The bill gives legal rights to the communities. It is all very well to recognize a Cree community and to say that it is the ninth community to become part of the James Bay agreement and the James Bay rights. It provides the power to regulate many things within its territory; but what, in fact, is its territory? We still have not given it a defined territory. I believe it would have been beneficial, in that respect, to define the territory belonging to this community so that it could really govern within that area.

One of the recommendations made by the Cree and Naskapi committee emphasized the urgency of making changes to the law. There are eight recommendations, including the need for revisions related to the Corbière decision, where it has an impact on the Cree and the Naskapi. The chronic need for improved housing is another priority that I have been highlighting for the past four years. In addition, we must act to ensure effective and uniform application of administrative regulations. First, there must be regulations. In that regard, we need to devise and approve an ethical framework and administrative regulations. It probably would have been wise to include a regulation immediately concerning the demands of the Cree of Washaw Sibi Eeyou, which is also a territory where new legislation is required. I have just included one of them. Why were there no negotiations for the other territory?

Canada, Quebec and the Cree Regional Authority must examine the provisions of the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement affecting Cree trappers. The three parties must sit down together. In and of itself, this option would not have justified delaying the bill. However, I believe that it could have been justified if only to provide the flexibility required to establish or provide what is required to exercise the legal authority that we are granting to the first nations. I hope this will not be a dead end. Making regulations is fine but what must the regulations cover? We may come up against a wall, a dead end.

Having said that, the Bloc members unanimously believe that, in the 21st century, all peoples should be autonomous and have the right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions. They have the right to direct the development of their own identity. The Cree and Naskapi nation, of which I am very proud, has proven that it is capable of doing this. Although incomplete and still to be rewritten, this bill deserves to be studied in committee and therefore the Bloc Québécois will support it.

In 2004, even before this government was elected, the leader of the Bloc Québécois said:

The peace of the braves agreement ratified by the Government of Quebec and representatives of the Cree nation has paved the way for this type of negotiation by demonstrating that major development projects must 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 the Cree.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind this House that in 1966-1967, René Lévesque himself conducted negotiations concerning the James Bay and northern Quebec territory, with both the Cree and the Inuit. Before the hydroelectric projects that were part of René Lévesque's vision for the development of Quebec and its hydroelectric power started, time ran out and the negotiations were not completed. The Cree were putting great pressure on Quebec in the United States, and an agreement had to be reached more quickly. Certainly, as a result, there were omissions that Bernard Landry, when he was premier of Quebec, was able to remedy to a large extent by signing the peace of the brave. The agreement was signed in February 2002. The federal government has needed to do something similar for some time.

Today, we have a bill that confirms this settlement. The bill grants the additional power to make regulations. The Cree nation of Oujé-Bougoumou is recognized, and I am very proud of this. As I said, to make regulations somewhere, there has to be a territory. When we do not have our own land, it is difficult to make any regulations at all.

There are three categories of land in James Bay. Category I land is where the Cree live. It is situated in and around the communities. Category IA land is under federal jurisdiction. Category IB is under Quebec’s jurisdiction, and the laws and regulations of the government of Quebec apply there. Category II land consists of about 155,000 square kilometres. Hunting, fishing, trapping and the development of tourism and forestry operations will be managed jointly by the Cree and the regional authorities. Category III land is public land of Quebec where the Cree and Naskapi have the exclusive right to exploit certain aquatic and animal species. This category consists of about 911,000 square kilometres where the communities share in the administration and development of the land.

The bill amends section 9 of the act. It contains new provisions that allow the Cree Regional Authority to make bylaws and adopt resolutions within Category IA and III lands, subject to certain provisos.

The new section 9.1 reads as follows:

A by-law of the Cree Regional Authority made under this Act may have application within the following territorial limits:

a) Category IA land;

(b) Category III land situated within the perimeter of Category IA land and the ownership of which was ceded by letters patent or by any other method before November 11, 1975.

Then the new section 9.2 states:

A by-law of the Cree Regional Authority made under this Act may prohibit an activity.

The new section 9.3 states:

The Statutory Instruments Act does not apply to a by-law or resolution of the Cree Regional Authority made or adopted under this Act.

The bill goes on to describe the objects of the Cree Regional Authority:

(a) to act as a regional government authority on Category IA land;

(b) to regulate essential sanitation services — including water and sewer services, drainage and solid waste management — and housing situated on Category IA land and to regulate buildings used for the purposes of regional governance that are situated on those lands;

(c) to use, manage and administer moneys and other assets;

(d) to promote the general welfare of the members of the Cree bands;

(e) to promote and preserve the culture, values and traditions of the members of the Cree bands.

The Cree of Oujé-Bougoumou are very active and very proud people. They will make it their mission to promote their community and to exert the necessary pressure to get this agreement finalized and agree on the body of powers that will enable them to really achieve total self-government someday—and I wish that for them. Quebec's participation has been extremely constructive.

I would remind the House that in a press release dated June 21, 2004, the leader of the Bloc Québécois called on the federal government to immediately enter into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Cree Nation in order to reach an agreement similar to the peace of the braves. He was joined by Ted Moses, who was the Grand Chief of the Cree at the time. At the time, it was said that the peace of the braves—reached in 2002 between the Government of Quebec and representatives of the Cree Nation—is an excellent example of Quebec's approach and how Quebec has its own way of doing things.

The peace of the 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—

That is what the government is doing today. In that regard, I do not see how we could oppose progress like this, as minimal as it may be. Not having full its full powers prevents and undermines a nation's rapid emancipation.

Ted Moses understands the spirit of this agreement very well. That is why, at this time, the Grand Chief describes his relationship with the Bloc Québécois and Quebec representatives as excellent. He hoped to see the same thing for all of Canada.

This morning, it was just terrible to hear the residents of Manitoba who appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Seeing the point these people are still at, even now in the 21st century, reinforces how proud I am to be a Quebecker and a friend of the first nations peoples of Quebec.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Madam Chair, given the current problem, I think it is very important to immediately set our differences aside and, together, fight for the very survival of our seal hunters, no matter what political party they support and no matter what area of Canada they live in. We must wage this battle, because no one will do it for us.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Madam Chair, I think it is unfortunate we are holding an internal political debate, because this is becoming a political issue at the international level.

I am not surprised to see differing viewpoints within Canada. This can be shocking for Canadians and I think this is comparable to how Quebeckers feel when they see MPs from Quebec formulating opinions that are harmful to Quebec's interests. We feel the same.

Unfortunately, we cannot do anything about it. We fought to live in a free world. It is unfortunate that these things happen, but thankfully, only one politician has chosen to speak out to express that position and that is fortunate for us. It could have been worse. There are always politicians who will take advantage of a given situation and hurt everyone.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Madam Chair, I thank my colleague for the question.

My colleague sits on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and is also a very active member. He was very proud that we visited his province and, while we were there, he even went out of his way to meet us. We were able to give a human face to those we met, whether from Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Gaspé, the Magdalen Islands or even Nunavik.

In Nunavik, people are assigned to watch for seals and they spend nights sitting on a snowbank because hay and straw are scarce in Nunavik. They sit on a snowbank with a rifle and when the seals appear they fire shots into the air. Everyone gets up quickly to capture one or two seals. The village may survive for one or two months on these seals. Nothing is wasted; even the bones are gnawed on. Trophies and works of art are carved from the bone. The pelts are used to make boots, slippers, coats, mittens, toques and small hats to wear under the tuques.

I know that I can be recognized by my hat and not the other way around.

Those people use every part of the animal as much as possible, since quite often, that is all they have to survive. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the seal hunt represents 15% to 35% of revenues, but in Nunavik and Nunavut, 70% to 85% of the population lives off the seal hunt.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Madam Chair, the ban will have the same effect on the Inuit as on aboriginal or non-aboriginal peoples and on any segment of the Canadian population because, as I explained earlier, the Inuit who hunts seals and uses them to make goods will have to rely on a middleman to market and sell his goods.

In general, they do business with large companies that brand the product with their company. If that does not happen, Canada will be accused of conducting a seal hunt and identifying its goods with the Inuit and there will be a ban. That is what will happen. That is the extent of the hypocrisy.

Seal Hunt May 5th, 2009

Madam Chair, I come from a riding where 14 coastal municipalities depend almost entirely on fishing and seal hunting. I was very bitterly disappointed to see the position taken by the European Union, a position as illogical as it is senseless, confused and flatly partisan on the part of these countries.

The European Parliament has demonstrated unbelievable hypocrisy. The seal hunt is a cultural practice both in Quebec and in Canada. Given the advertising by some European extremists, how could we describe the bullfights, for example, in Spain? If we compare the methods used to kill a seal to the way they massacre bulls and horses in their bullfights, would it be any more logical for us to say that any product derived from horses or cattle that comes from Spain should be banned in Canada? That would be unbelievably illogical. It is a culture, in Europe just as much as in Quebec or in Canada. It is also a means of survival.

Take the communities on the Magdalen Islands, for example. A delegation from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans toured the various fishery sectors earlier this spring. People were worried everywhere, be it on the Magdalen Islands, in Nova Scotia, in Newfoundland or on Prince Edward Island. Members of Parliament and members of the official opposition, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP took part in that tour and could see how worried the people who rely on this activity to survive were.

If they banned bullfights in Spain, I wonder what the reaction would be. We have seen the outright lies used to show the horrors of the seal hunt. At one point, the Canadian lobbyists who were vehemently and dishonestly denouncing the hunt even had to be told to stop.

We support the motion presented in this House. Why? First, the seal hunt is a lawful activity. Second, the Canadian government no longer funds commercial activities. Third, the slaughter of an animal, be it wild or domestic, is never a pleasant sight for anyone. There are ways of slaughtering, and the Government of Canada has been involved in finding the right ways to ensure that they do not suffer. Methods have been developed by experts.

There is an exception for the Inuit in Quebec, Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, but these people often market their products through third parties who label them with their corporate name, which means that these people will never be able to sell their products on the European market. It is incredibly hypocritical to claim otherwise.

We were very concerned when we visited the Maritimes this spring because of the huge increase in the seal population due to the controls put in place to eliminate overkill, which the European Union could have described differently. That really hurt the lobster and cod fishers, among others. This is not an excuse to say that we will hunt more seals, but we could have a legitimate hunt, as we have always done in Canada and Quebec. It is not a massacre as such.

For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, at least seven coastal communities derived between 15% and 35% of their income from the seal hunt. I am looking at my colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador, and I believe he agrees with that statement. Between 5,000 and 6,000 people derive income from the seal hunt. In most cases, it is supplementary income that makes up for losses they suffer occasionally. Some hunters say that the money they earn from the seal hunt makes up between 25% and 35% of their annual income. That is quite significant. It is much more significant than a corrida in Spain, for example, where there is a small economic boom during the corrida, but nothing afterward. Many innocent animals are killed during that time, or rather massacred.

On February 24, the Bloc Québécois had a motion adopted in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans calling upon the government to intensify representations to the European Parliament and implement a widespread educational campaign in Europe to counteract the inflammatory campaigns of misinformation against the seal hunt waged by abolitionist groups. and to do everything in its power to ensure that hunters and the seal industry have the best conditions possible for the 2009 hunting season.

We will certainly manage to get through the 2009 season, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the European ban comes into effect in 2010. Before it does, we have an obligation as a government to take steps, immediately, promptly and vigorously. It is urgent.

There are many myths about the seal hunt. The Canadian government subsidy for commercial activities, for instance, does not exist. It has never been used and the potential funding could be applied to using the meat, the oil and the omegas produced by seals. There is a huge number of potential derivative products.

Unfortunately again this spring the myths about white coat hunts were circulating, yet they have been banned since 1987. That was not exactly yesterday. People claim that the seal hunt is not a sustainable activity. Given its ability to reproduce itself, if seal hunting is not a sustainable activity, this means that not one mine, not one single stand of forest, will renew itself. None of them renews itself as much as the seals can.

According to another myth, seal hunting is authorized merely to re-establish the cod stock. It may be of some use for that purpose, but the scientists are not yet sure of that. Anyway, that is not and never was the purpose of the seal hunt. We also know that the Canadian government has ensured that steps were taken to make sure hunters were certain the seals were dead before butchering them. So far those measures have been respected.

April 21st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the floor just underscored a point which absolutely needs to be tackled. He said that the plan must adapt to the emerging needs. Because of the cost of living and the urbanization, the needs of today, in this crisis, are much more pressing than they were in 1920 or 1940. Given that there are enormous amounts of money in the employment insurance coffers, that the government draws from to pay off the debt, that money should instead be used to help the ones who paid it in the first place: businesses, workers and communities. Without employment insurance revenues, these people cannot recover the money owed to them. We are forcing workers to get into debt, and they become helpless.

April 21st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, on January 27, I asked the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development a question about a problem in Lebel-sur-Quévillon concerning the closure of the paper mill and sawmill, which put 425 employees out of work. For that town, it was the equivalent of 550,000 jobs in Montreal. On that day—budget day, as you may recall—the minister replied, “I invite the member to wait for this afternoon's budget and to support us so that we can rebuild the economy together.”

However, further to the request I made to the minister, after reading the budget several times, I have not found anything that would answer the question I asked. I would remind the House of a few facts. The Employment Insurance Act used to be called the Unemployment Insurance Act. Before that, the federal government had gathered together legislation that existed in all the provinces, but did not exist at the federal level. In the provinces, including Quebec, legislation was passed in the 1920s to help those most in need, and in 1939-40 it was temporarily taken up by the federal government, which allocated funds in order provide a decent income for the time.

As soon as the economy recovered and the program was put in place, the government ensured that it would self-sustain itself and stopped funding it, while keeping control of operations and grabbing surpluses to use them towards the federal deficit. It is in that context that, in 1996, the Minister of Finance released the name, the thrust and the goals of that program. Indeed, at the time, the minister changed the title of the Unemployment Insurance Act, which referred to the situation for which this legislation had been passed—that is to protect the workers and local economies affected. Until 1996, the program had always been indexed to the cost of living, or close to it.

So, ironically, the minister renamed it the “employment insurance” program, as if the income provided by our employment was not in itself an insurance provided by our work, and as if we needed other compensation in addition to the income provided by our work.

Worse still, the minister reduced insurable amounts from $47,000 to $39,000, in addition to reducing from 60% down to 55% the percentage used to calculate the amount of the benefits to be paid. That percentage was also reduced each time a claimant would rely on these benefits, down to a threshold of 50%. This means that benefits which, in most cases, amounted to $28,000 in 1994-95, went down to $19,500 in January 1996, and, in many cases, to much less than that. In his desire to grab money as quickly as possible, this minister, who went on to become the Prime Minister, had made his legislation, which was passed on April 30, 1996, retroactive to January 1.

In response to the question that I put to her on March 10, when I came back, the minister said that there were very great challenges in these tough times for a great number of people, and that the government had a framework and intended to stick with it.

We are now going through another crisis, and it is important to give back access to employment insurance to those who need it. People serving two or three years in jail can maintain their right to employment insurance, but that is not the case for workers, and today they need that program.