Debates of June 13th, 1994
House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigration.
- Auditor General Act
- Department Of Citizenship And Immigration Act
- The Late Arthur Andrew
- Restricted Weapons
- Comments In Chamber
- Second International Kite Festival
- Food And Agriculture Organization
- High School Graduates
- The Family
- National Transportation Week
- Department Of The Environment
- The Late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
- Official Languages
- The Family
- Atlantic Canada
- The Liberal Party
- Michigan Interns
- Situation In Haiti
- The Family
- Peacekeepers In Former Yugoslavia
- Status Of Women
- The Family
- Mil Davie
- Festival Franco-Ontarien
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Regional Development
- Tobacco Packaging
- Indian Affairs
- Anti-Smoking Advertising
- Social Spending
- Gun Control
- Order In Council Appointments
- Government Response To Petitions
- Criminal Code
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Department Of Citizenship And Immigration Act
- Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
- Canada Wildlife Act
- Excise Act
- Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act
- Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act
Auditor General Act
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
All those opposed will please say nay.
Auditor General Act
Private Members' Business
Some hon. members
Auditor General Act
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
In my opinion the nays have it.
Auditor General Act
Private Members' Business
Some hon. members
Auditor General Act
Private Members' Business
Jean-Robert Gauthier Ottawa—Vanier, ON
moved that the bill be concurred in.
(Motion agreed to.)
Auditor General Act
Private Members' Business
Jean-Robert Gauthier Ottawa—Vanier, ON
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed.)
Auditor General Act
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
As there is no further business before the House we will suspend until 12 o'clock noon.
(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11.37 a.m.)
The House resumed at 12.02 p.m.
Department Of Citizenship And Immigration Act
June 13th, 1994 / 11:30 a.m.
Sergio Marchi Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
moved that Bill C-35, an act to establish the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, there is something very strange going on this morning. For those viewers watching on television I was almost getting a standing ovation from my friends on the Reform side. I thank them for their generous and very thoughtful co-operation today. I thank my hon. friend, the Reform Party critic, for moving to second reading and showing some degree of flexibility to move to committee of the whole. I understand the Bloc Quebecois does not want to do so. I hope to find out the reasons why.
The bill before the House of Commons today is relatively short, straightforward and important. It is only six pages long and 22 paragraphs in all.
Its purpose is obvious: the creation of a Department of Citizenship and Immigration.
The House will recall that one of the commitments of our party during the campaign was that the business of immigration had no business being in the department of public security.
That was a move made in the dying moments of a very desperate government that Canadians saw fit to replace. That is not the issue that caused consternation for the Prime Minister, this minister and all caucus members of the Liberal Party of Canada. It was that the move of putting immigration in public security was very directly a slap or a black eye for all those people who came to the country as immigrants and who are now for the most part full members of the Canadian family through their Canadian citizenship. Placing that in public security very much undermined the real story that immigration has played in the country.
Sure there are cases of abuse. Sure there are individuals who claim refugee status, are not refugees and are everything but. Yes, there are those who make multiple claims on our welfare systems. We have tried to address that through memorandums of understanding with municipalities across the country. We have those problems, but show me a department of government that does not have abuse problems. Show me a UI system that is not abused. Show me a CPP disability system that is not abused. Show me a welfare system that is not abused.
We are saying that regrettably there is abuse of various programs in society. Regrettably that is part of human nature not only in our country but the world over. Our system, when stacked up against other systems of the world, certainly speaks to a sense of clarity and a sense of integrity.
We are also dealing with a minority of cases that should not be translated to being the majority story. That is why I was personally offended, as was my party, by immigration being placed in public security. The Prime Minister made a commitment that if he were elected Prime Minister that would cease and desist. True to his word when he appointed his cabinet, lo and behold there was a new department called citizenship and immigration.
We have been carrying out our work notwithstanding the bill that gives legal authority to that department is before the House of Commons today. It enacts changes announced by the Prime Minister on November 4, 1993 and delivers on the principles contained in the red book.
The bill organizes the citizenship and immigration mandate and promotion functions of the government in a coherent and common sense fashion. More important, the legislation before Parliament today modernizes and streamlines government to meet the needs of Canadians and to give us the tools needed to deal effectively with myriad complex citizenship and immigration issues.
The Prime Minister spoke on many occasions. Our party spoke very eloquently and indicated that immigration was a building tool for our country. It is a building tool that through the years has helped to build a modern day Canada. Immigration will also be part of our future. It is up to us how to shape it, how to mould it and how to help it address current day phenomena which are different from yesteryears. Nonetheless immigration is an absolutely vital part of the lifeblood of our country.
There is also citizenship. Sometimes citizenship gets lost because immigration is so overpowering or is such an emotional issue that the media clearly focus on it as opposed to citizenship issues. I might also add that oftentimes the media deal with immigration in a negative way. It is always the negative issue that screams the loudest on page 1 or on the first story on our TV sets or radios. Sometimes that is how news is covered. Negative stuff sells but if members of Parliament are interested, as we all should be, about talking fact and not fiction then there is also the need to distinguish for the public that the culmination of all those negative cases does not define the essence of the issue.
Sometimes immigration gets covered the way media covers aeroplanes. Media covers aeroplanes only when they do not land. They do not talk about the ones that land safely. They ask why they should. We feel bad when aeroplanes do not land. We send our sympathies to the families of the victims of aeroplane crashes. We try to learn from aeroplane mishaps. We try to figure out whether it was pilot error or whether it was a malfunctioning in one of the motors, engines, wings or whatnot. We study and we try to prevent another one from happening.
We in the House of Commons do not go around and across the country as members of Parliament alarming our fellow Canadians because of an unfortunate accident. We know better. Ninety-nine per cent of aeroplanes land at airports seven days a week, 24 hours a day. In fact the statistics show that travelling in aeroplanes is safer than driving cars. Members are responsible to learn from those mistakes, but we have to be responsible about reflecting the total picture, the context of those aeroplane mishaps and landings.
I ask my fellow colleagues: Ought we not do the same when we talk about the emotional issue of immigration? I think we should and it is important that we do so. It is not to say that we forget about the negative cases or that we do not learn from the negative cases.
I will be presenting legislation before we rise for the summer on individual cases that have been in our newspapers which have driven Canadians, the opposition and this minister right up the wall and around the bend. We will learn from them and make amendments so that we make the laws as foolproof as possible from those who want to play with or abuse our laws.
Citizenship is also part of my mandate. I would suggest to hon. members that citizenship can help us with immigration. It is a natural fit when the Prime Minister put citizenship and immigration together. As immigrants come into the country and are facilitated, the processes of citizenship and making them Canadian take over. When a person becomes a Canadian citizen the process of him or her being an immigrant is over.
Immigration is a process that at some point stops and citizenship takes over and we are all Canadian citizens. Our origins may be different. I may have been born in Argentina of Canadian parents. Yet I went through the same school system as the children of hon. members today. We speak English or French; maybe badly but none the less we speak it. We have played hockey on the same streets. We have been in trouble for throwing snowballs at our schoolmates. My cultural origin is different. Am I a better Canadian than anybody else here? Absolutely not. Am I any worse? The same answer.
Citizenship helps us with immigration. It also helps us with immigration because in the offer to the standing committee to help us shape a new Citizenship Act one thing I asked it to do was to look into the responsibilities, obligations and values of Canadian citizenship.
Why is that? There are two reasons. In the debate about immigration we talk often about rights: the rights to make an application, the rights of family class reunification, the right to have rights defended under a refugee application, and the right of an individual to receive humanitarian and compassionate consideration on which I have had requests from members of the Chamber on a daily basis. It is rights dominated and that is legitimate. There is a place for rights to be defended and to be respected.
When we talk about citizenship the debate should shift quite properly and focus on the responsibilities and obligations of new citizens in Canada to defend, promote and stand on guard for Canada. What are the values of Canadianism that we want our new immigrants to embrace, cherish and respect? While we value the cultural identity that formulated my father's first 35 years, we are a mature country when we say: "Mr. Marchi, we are not asking you to leave your cultural vestiges at the door because who you were for 30 years no one can remove". Not even the former Soviet Union with all its armies and tanks was able to suppress that. The moment the Soviet Union came apart we saw a flourishing of culturalism, ethnicity and religion. Where was that during the time of the Soviet empire? It was still alive because that is who people are.
We are a mature country when we have embodied an official policy of multiculturalism which was certainly there before it was crystallized by Mr. Trudeau in 1971.
There is also a complementary feature. When one comes to Canada one also needs to embrace that which is Canadian and which has given essence to our life in Canada.
Why is it that in the oath that we ask our citizens to swear that it speaks to beholding to the duties of citizenship and nowhere in our Citizenship Act or anywhere else do we define duties, nowhere do we define obligations, nowhere do we talk about responsibilities. Some people wonder why certain things are not done.
I would like to be in a position to move a bill in this Chamber in the fall, after the committee has had its study and reported, to talk about those things because those are unifying. It would not only help the newcomer to understand what Canadian society is about but it would also be a reassurance to all other Canadians that people are coming here and becoming Canadians are prepared as immigrants in the past to build, sacrifice, pay taxes, bleed when they get hurt and to rejoice in Canadian victories whatever those victories are.
I would like to be in a position as minister or those who may follow me to be able not only to give out a citizenship certificate or congratulations or for members of Parliament to do that when they go to the citizenship ceremonies, but also to give out a charter of responsibilities and obligations.
Let us strive to talk about that even though it is difficult. How long of a charter are we going to have if we start talking about responsibilities and obligations? We have to obviously capture the essence. What are the values of Canadian citizenship or Canadianism? It is pretty difficult and sometimes it can be a divisive debate. I think on the whole it will be a unifying debate, particularly at a time when our country in the next number of months will be seeing and hearing a lot about the negatives of this country and how federalism does not work and how people are in a funk.
When we eliminate those day to day problems and talk about Canadian citizenship as I have on radio shows, TV shows and in forums with Canadians, it is an absolutely positive and uplifting force. Nobody, despite the problems that we have in all of our backyards, is prepared to give up on Canadian citizenship. Everybody recognizes that it is the best passport in the world. Everybody recognizes that one of the difficulties in immigration is the fact that literally millions of people want to come to this country.
The biggest difficulty I have is dealing with members of Parliament who come to me and say: "Why has your department turned this individual down?", "We have a point system" or "Why was he refused his visitor visa?" The demand to come here is a reflection of how much of a good thing we have got going in this country and that we need to protect and promote it.
We cannot be home to everyone. That is why we need to be selective in our immigration program. Being selective is a natural part of the immigration program. We select to further the interest of our country. We also need to have a sense of compassion so that our immigration policy can be a lifeline to our brothers and sisters who are deserving and in search of simply a life that you and I have either adopted or that has come automatically to us. The responsibilities of this new department include immigration applications, level setting, federal-provincial relations in terms of immigration programs, visas, refugees, enforcement, settlement, citizenship applications and citizenship promotion. We are changing how we do citizenship in this country.
No longer are we going to have citizenship court judges because the system imposed on them was a financial and time burden that simply was not worth it anymore. There were 10,000 people in the backlog every month who wanted to become citizens.
In my area of metropolitan Toronto it took almost two and a half years in some cases from the time they got an application until the time they swore an oath. That simply was not good enough. One court judge had to do a one on one. We were approving 95 per cent of all applicants. I concluded that for saying yes to 95 per cent it was simply taking too much time and costing too much money. Therefore, we have moved to an administrative process, a classroom style, a written test rather than a one on one verbal. We are also adding standards and consistency across the board.
We are not losing sight of the ceremony of citizenship which all of us as members of Parliament have or hopefully will participate in because it is such a moving tribute and it helps us with immigration. Why? Because we are not going to hide citizenship in a court. We are going to move it to a school auditorium.
When I was in the riding of the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester, we did it in a school auditorium in front of the kids, the parents, the rate payer groups, police representatives and RCMP and the local media. Neighbours of these citizens came out to see them.
The bogey persons as we now call them because we have to be politically correct, and bogey persons is a name that people sometimes attach to those who are the newcomers, who are they? Are they like us? Who are these people? There they were on a stage raising their right hand and swearing allegiance to our country. What a beautiful testimony it was. It is our Prime Minister and our government that is pushing those out to the community not as the exception but as the rule.
Citizenship court judges for the most part did a wonderful job. No one is blaming them personally at all. It was the system that needed changing. Instead of citizenship court judges we are now going to ask the Order of Canada recipients on a non-remunerative basis to officiate. That adds greater elegance and profile.
For instance on the opening day of Citizenship Week we held a special court at the University of Toronto. We had three Order of Canada recipients on stage with us: Knowlton Nash, June Callwood and Maureen Forrester. Those three were better known than the minister, never mind the citizenship court judges. Everybody lived with Knowlton Nash for 30 or 40 years in this country. For years the last thing people thought about before they went to sleep was Knowlton Nash. All of a sudden Knowlton Nash is there on the stage celebrating citizenship. Does it not add greater testimony to the importance of citizenship when we include Order of Canada recipients across the country? I think it does.
On July 1 it will be the first such occasion in Halifax in ceremonies on pier 21, our answer to Ellis Island, our Statue of Liberty. Millions of immigrants came through pier 21. Second and third generation sons and daughters go back when they visit Nova Scotia. They go to see pier 21 that their dad or mom talked about. That is our Statue of Liberty. There will be a citizenship ceremony at pier 21. There will also be one in Toronto. For the first time Order of Canada recipients will be officiating to let people know that the changes we made are happening.
Citizenship and immigration go hand in hand. That is why the new department will take a lead role in strengthening those values, obligations and responsibilities that I talked about.
This month marks the 125th anniversary of our immigration programming. Interestingly enough this is not the first time that Parliament has engaged in a debate on the establishment of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Almost 45 years ago today Prime Minister St. Laurent constituted a Department of Citizenship and Immigration. With today's legislation we are in fact learning from our history and from our past where we have to obtain lessons and inspiration from time to time.
I would like to quote briefly what M. J. Coldwell said in the House of Commons 45 years ago. He was not a Liberal, but he was acknowledged as one of the great parliamentarians of his day. On November 26, 1949 Mr. Coldwell said, and I quote: "In my view the placing of matters related to immigration and citizenship under one Department of Citizenship and Immigration is a wise move. It is essential that people who come here as immigrants should be not only welcome, but also taught to value
the citizenship of this country and to have an appreciation of what Canada means to them".
Like Mr. Coldwell, I am a citizen of Canada and an immigrant and I am deeply aware of the value and importance of the words immigrant and citizen.
All members of Parliament recognize the need to overhaul our immigration policies and to consider the long term role of immigration in that nation building exercise. All of us recognize the need to improve the immigration system. No one has the virtue of a monopoly of concern. There are things that work very well. There are other things that clearly need modification.
That is one of the reasons we are doing a 10-year policy framework. I do not believe that immigration is done annually. I do not believe that immigration is done on a short term basis. Immigration to our country of Canada is a long term investment. You do not do settlement in six months. You do not take an individual and pretend that after six or 12 months that person is integrated. We know that it is more generational. We know that at the intake the country to a certain degree pays for the integration of those individuals. As the individual goes on in Canada, he repays that loan to the point that he is repaying more than the initial loan. That is then the net benefit to our country economically, socially and culturally.
That is why we are also doing a broader consultation. We cannot do a 10-year policy without inviting Canadians into the tent. The days when setting levels and not including municipalities are over. Why should we include municipalities in the business of immigration? We see mayors and reeves and councillors complaining that they never knew the levels for the next five years. They did not know the numbers more or less that would be coming to their city or town and, therefore, they could not plan a resource accordingly.
I went last week to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in Winnipeg. I delivered a strong commitment of this Prime Minister and government that those days are over. No one forced us to do this, but what makes sense is what is worth doing.
Why should boards of education be on the outside looking in when they too complain that they never knew the number of kids born of immigrants or refugees that came into the school system. They could not plan. They could not resource. So we have included boards of education in our consultations.
Unions and labour movements, the same thing, people who have a concern with our unemployed membership. How many people are you bringing in? What skills are you bringing in? Are you looking for scales in construction or high tech or the new economy? What is the mix?
For the first time in many years we are enlarging the tent and giving a place for people to stand. We have opened up the consultations in an unprecedented way since 1976, when another minister of immigration offered the green paper and basically built the amendments, very significant amendments, as a result of consulting Canadians. We hope to do the same. That process is under way.
We are also including the public. We have five town hall meetings planned across the country. My first one tonight is in Montreal. We have eight study circles on specific issues across the country.
We have 10 working groups working with Canadians on 10 specific issues which 50 Canadians from all walks of life identified as key issues.
All the members of Parliament in this Chamber were given from my office a kit that would try to provide information and direction on how members of Parliament could provide leadership in their own ridings, touching base with Canadians, NGO groups, lawyers and advocates. When we opened it up, sure we took risks. Do you not think it is a risk opening anything up? Of course it is because when you open yourself up you open yourself up to a spectrum of issues and this is not a public relations exercise.
If we are looking just for public relations then I am suicidal because the consultations that took place in October are the fullest that can be had, an election.
We have a majority government. We have a red book that we are following so we could have said that we are on course. We are not doing this for public relations gimmickry because no one makes us do this. We want to do this because we believe it is the right thing. If we allow things to fester on the outside and ignore them, my attitude is that those festers grow and become bigger and unmanageable, and we have a problem when things are left unattended.
The objective of government is to provide good government, leadership and inspiration and you do that by tackling problems or concerns or fears that Canadians have and we work them out.
I believe by being open we can work them out. I have people coming to me saying I should close the doors: "Why are the doors being kept open when my Johnny and my Susie cannot find a job? What gives you the right to keep those doors open?".
I do not want to ask Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones to get out of my way-"I have my mind made up. It is a red book. We are a majority government. Who are you?". I am not going to be that kind of a minister because we cannot afford that luxury. Mr. Smith or Mrs. Smith, talking about Johnny or Susie, love Johnny or Susie as much as we love our own kids. If we heard one thing in the campaign it was that parents had it pretty good in Canada but they were really concerned about their kids, their future, their education, their career. If I heard one thing in my riding it was: "Mr. Marchi, we have had a pretty good shake but I am
worried that my kids get the same kind of good shake I have and I fear for them now, given the state of the economy".
Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones has that concern out of love for their kids. I love my Adrianna as much as they love their Johnny and Susie and so I will never say to those parents "get out of my way".
I also will not do something that some people are prepared to do and embrace Mrs. Smith and say "You are absolutely right. If your Johnny or Susie does not have a job obviously I have to close the doors".
I am not going to be that minister either, as much as I care for that Canadian. What I prefer to do as a minister, which speaks to this consultation, is say: "Mrs. Smith, Mr. Jones, it is time that you and I sit down. It is time that you and I looked at the facts. It is time that you and I break some bread, look at the facts, ask ourselves if immigrants will help Johnny and Susie or hurt them, if economics is the discussion of the day".
I can ask a Mrs. Smith and a Mr. Jones in Toronto if they think immigrants cost us jobs or create jobs. Toronto has been in an economic funk for a few years and I believe a lot of people would say they would cost us jobs today because of how that economy has dealt a fatal blow almost to the metropolitan area and that we are now coming out of it.
I am realistic to note that the feeling would be immigrants can cost us jobs. If I were to go to Vancouver, the part of the country the Secretary of State for International Affairs comes from, and ask a Canadian if they think immigrants create or cost us jobs, they would say undoubtedly: "Mr. Marchi, are you kidding me? Look at Vancouver. Look at British Columbia".
One of the reasons we do not know the r word, ``recession'' is because of immigrants, of business investment from the Asia-Pacific, for instance.
One Canadian in Vancouver, one Canadian in Toronto, they cannot both be right. There has to be one general answer and I know it depends on how many in a certain class we have, where they go and what their skills are. That is why it is not only the numbers game. Is it the 250,000 or is it the 150,000 the Reform Party talks about? I would like to see where it is also going to be prepared to cut. It does not tell me that.
However, let us put that argument to the side because the other numbers game is within the categories: what is the number of family versus independent versus refugee versus student visa versus all the other categories?
Both those Canadians cannot be wrong or right generically. I hope to sit down and find that common cause and common ground with Mrs. Smith. I believe that on the whole, immigrants create economic activity, whether it is because they buy a product and lead a recovery through consumership which we have not yet seen in this country-until we do we will not see a full economic recovery-whether it is because of the dollars they bring into this country through their savings, whether it is the entrepreneurs who create a business.
I believe that at the end of the day, and most studies will confirm this-we need to do more work on it-on the big picture immigration creates economic activity. If we can break bread on some common ground, maybe we will put to rest the popular wisdom that every time one gets into an economic downturn one needs to close the doors to immigration.
Maybe we can also do with that popular wisdom what they did with those who suggested that the popular wisdom was that the world was flat. If one thought it was round, they thought of taking that person away somewhere. It was clear that it was flat because one could look way out there and of course earth fell at the end of the last apartment building at the end of the highway. One can not even begin to think that the world is round when we are walking nicely and smoothly on a flat piece of green carpet in the House of Commons.
Popular wisdom was wrong there. We have a lot of popular wisdoms that do not build countries. Popular wisdoms do not build countries. They do not give momentums to countries. They do not create values. We know that and that is the exercise.
I believe that if you sit down with Mrs. Smith and Mr. Jones, they are fair minded. They are tolerant. This country is not less tolerant. Look over the course of 25 years where they measure unemployment and immigration. Sure there are ups and downs. Take the average. Do not point to me the worst case. Do not be the media on the negative cases.
I will admit that tolerance is down during an economic recession but then I will ask members to look where it is when we are having an economic boom. If members want me to look at one, they are going to have to look at the other. Then we will have to take an average and then we will say where the tolerance level is for Canadians.
I strongly believe that Canadians are fair minded and tolerant. They want to be presented with the facts. They do not like abuse nor should they. We should not be tolerant with people who have no business being here but we should not take that out on the entire policy. I believe in that tolerance.
I have speaking notes that my officials put together that I will not read because I tried to cover the essence of this department.
I will end on a very personal note. Maybe I should not do it but I will do it anyway. I fought a nomination battle in 1984 that was the toughest battle that some of us go through. We had it Monday night at seven and we ended up on Tuesday morning at 3.30 a.m. on the third ballot. We then went to our favourite Italian banquet hall, Tony's ballroom, to celebrate until six in the morning. I went home and showered and went looking for a campaign office because Liberals were still fighting Liberals because their Liberal candidate had decided three days into the campaign not to seek office.
We were all in a tiff-the Conservatives that year as we know-and some of us survived, but it was a tough campaign. I felt so pumped up as we all do after a nomination that I went into the toughest part of my riding, the Conservative end of town, in the south end.
I took my wife and we went door knocking right after we found a campaign office. I knocked on my very first door and a 60-year old gentleman came out and said: "Yes, what can I do for you?". I said: "Hi, I am Sergio Marchi and I am your Liberal candidate. I just wanted to say hello and hopefully capture your confidence in this election". He said: "What is your name?". I said: "Sergio Marchi". He said: "What kind of a name is that?". I said: "It is a Canadian name. My parents are Canadian and I am a Canadian so I guess that makes it a Canadian name". He said: "Don't give me that. What is the background of your name?". I said: "I was born in Argentina. My parents are Italian born and we came here in 1959". He said: "Kid, my parents have been dead 25 years and if they thought I would vote for an Italian MP they would turn over in their graves".
I looked at my wife and my wife thought I was nuts, but we both thought without saying it, "this is our first door and this is the response. We have to go through this for a campaign".
Being a stubborn Canadian of Italian background, rather than doing what each of our campaigns tells us to do-when you meet someone like that keep moving, do not waste time-I stayed there.
I stood there and said: "Who are you going to vote for?". He said: "None of your business". I said: "You are absolutely right, but I have lost your vote so what does it matter?". He said: "I am going to vote Conservative". I said: "Do you know who your Conservative candidate is?". He said no. I said: "Do you want me to tell you?". He said sure. I said: "His name is Frank DiGiorgio". He looked at me and said: "You think you're kind of a smart ass, don't you?". I said: "No, sir, I am telling you the truth". He said: "For the first time in my life I am voting Socialist". I said: "Do you know who your Socialist NDP candidate is?". He said no. I said: "I'll tell you". He said "I don't want to know". I said: "I don't care, I am going to tell you anyway. His name is Bruno Pasquantonio. Sir, you cannot get any more Italian than that. So unless you want to vote Communism or unless you don't want to vote give me five minutes".
He invited my wife and me in for tea and I made a second mistake. Any campaign says not to have a tea or coffee or a glass of wine, keep moving. I went inside and we spent 10 minutes at our first door.
The beauty of this story was, and it is a true story, when we moved on to the next door there was a sign on that gentleman's lawn that said "Elect Sergio Marchi, Liberal, York West". It was not that he took a Liberal sign. The essence of that first door for me is the story of our department today, that once he had seen that I did not have thorns or horns in my head, that he felt I went to the local school, that I spoke English, that I was capable of mixing it with the best and not being any worse or any better, that the boogie persons came down, he said: "Put a sign on my lawn".
That is the debate and the discussion I want to have with Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones because if I would have went to the second door I would have spoke ill of that first person who came out and offended me. However, we stayed there and the two of us chatted. He had up my lawn sign. That is the Canadian way. That is tolerance. You would not have thought it initially, but it was.
That is the essence of doing the consultations the way we are going to do them. Citizenship and immigration is a natural and it has worked for the country. None of us believes that nation building will stop at the end of this parliamentary day. Nation building is an ongoing march and an ongoing exercise and immigration is one of those tools to shape and mould a better Canada for all of us. That is why it gives me great privilege and honour this morning to move the acceptance of this bill at second reading.
Department Of Citizenship And Immigration Act
Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC
Madam Speaker, I am rising today to join the debate on Bill C-35, establishing a Department of Citizenship and Immigration.
This bill also amends a number of acts: The Access to Information Act, the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship Act, the Employment and Immigration Commission Act, the Financial Administration Act, the Immigration Act, the Department of National Health and Welfare Act, the Privacy Act, the Public Service Compensation Act and the Salaries Act.
As you can see, Madam Speaker, it is a fairly complex piece of administrative legislation. The minister has just told us that it was his decision to transfer immigration from the former Department of Public Security to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. The original switch was made arbitrarily by the Conservative Party in June 1993. We in the Bloc attacked that original Conservative decision, because it associated immigration and immigrants with criminal acts probably constitut-
ing attacks on the security of the state. We strongly opposed the decision by former Prime Minister Kim Campbell.
In light of the far-reaching re-organization by the new Liberal government, and of the bill's complexity, we would have preferred the government, and in particular the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to provide us with a detailed document explaining the Bill.
We will vote against the bill at second reading, because it contains certain clauses that we cannot accept. For example, clause 4 provides that "the powers, duties and functions of the Minister extend to and include all matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction relating"-and I want to stress that word "relating"-"to citizenship and immigration".
This strikes us as too broad and too vague a provision. We would like the Minister's area of jurisdiction to be defined clearly and precisely. In any event, we want to avoid abuse of these powers by the Minister, and duplication of work done by other departments and government agencies.
Above all we want the minister to respect scrupulously the scope of the provinces' jurisdiction over immigration. We have already criticized the minister's intrusion into an area of Quebec jurisdiction, the orientation and training centres for immigrants. We will never permit the minister to interfere in education, which is exclusively a provincial responsibility.
Another major objection to this bill is found in clause 5, which specifies as follows: "The Minister, with the approval of the Governor in Council, may enter into agreements with any province, group of provinces or any agency thereof"-and I stress the word agency-" or with any foreign government or international organization, for the purpose of facilitating the formulation, coordination and implementation of policies and programs for which the Minister is responsible".
We do not agree that the word "agency" should be included in the Act. It is dangerous. The federal government must negotiate and sign agreements with the provincial governments responsible for these agencies. Using a word like that, the federal government could short-circuit the authority of the provinces, something we find unacceptable.
Another clause we cannot accept in its present form is clause 10, amending section 4 of the Multiculturalism and Citizenship Act; this clause reads as follows:
The powers, duties and functions of the Minister extend to and include all matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction relating to multiculturalism and Canadian identity.
As well, clause 11 adds the function of promoting the understanding of Canadian identity. This provision does not exist in the legislation now in force. Why does the government want to add it now, if not to block the rise of the sovereignist movement in Quebec? Furthermore, the respective responsibilities that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and the Department of Canadian Heritage will have are not clearly delineated.
Madam Speaker, you are not unaware that Canadian unity is a subject that profoundly divides Quebec and English Canada, the government and the opposition. Why does the government want to include this controversial provision in a bill whose sole objective should be to provide a legal structure for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration?
We shall vote against this bill on second reading, and we want it to be referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for consideration.
I take this opportunity to criticize the minister, once again, for launching his show on Canadian identity at a time when the Bloc Quebecois has elected two-thirds of MPs from Quebec, on the eve of a provincial election that the Parti québécois will win, and on the eve of a referendum to be held in 1995.
It is clear that the government organized these hasty and premature consultations on citizenship with the sole objective of blocking the battle by the people of Quebec. The review of the Citizenship Act was not in any sense a priority, either of the government party or of the opposition parties. A resolution to that effect and discussion at a recent convention of the Liberal Party of Canada held in Ottawa in May 1994 raised no interest among the delegates.
The minister should on the other hand concern himself with the solution to concrete, more immediate and pressing problems such as the backlog of more than 220,000 requests made by permanent residents who often have to wait several years before getting their citizenship and Canadian passport.
We also denounce the minister's intention to close the Citizenship Office on Saint-Denis Street, at the corner of Beaubien Street, in Montréal, and his decision to transfer and centralize visa functions in Ontario and Alberta.
In addition to citizenship, the new department is also responsible for immigration, a matter of shared jurisdiction between the federal government and the provinces ever since Confederation, in 1867, pursuant to section 95 of the British North America Act.
Canada, then a country of 3 million inhabitants, adopted its first immigration act in 1869. On June 25, we will be commemorating, as the minister said earlier, the 125th anniversary of this first act and of the first Canadian programs in this area.
I would like to pay tribute, here, to the 12 million newcomers who have since arrived in Canada. Together with the First Nations and the two founding nations, they have build this country. They continue to arrive from all parts of the world to
participate and contribute to Canada's and Québec's economic, political, cultural and social development.
As an immigrant myself for the last 20 years and as critic for the Bloc Quebecois in matters of citizenship and immigration, I want them to know that my party and myself greatly value their precious contribution to the building of this country.
We believe jurisdiction in immigration matters should belong exclusively to Québec. Québec must be able to exercize all powers in this area in order to maintain its demographic weight and its survival as a distinct society and as the only French-speaking state in North America. Québec has always claimed this jurisdiction and you know, Madam Speaker, that today it has its own department, the ministère des Relations internationales, des Communautés culturelles et de l'Immigration.
Québec has made progress, but insufficient progress compared to what is at stake. Since 1971, Canada and Québec have signed several agreements on immigration. In 1971, the Cloutier-Lang agreements were signed; in 1975, the Bienvenue-Andras agreements.
The third and most important is the Couture-Cullen agreement which was signed in 1978 under the Parti québécois government. The agreement signed in February 1991 by ministers McDougall and Gagnon-Tremblay increases and clarifies Québec's powers in the field of immigration. According to that agreement, Québec has the right to select the independent immigrants who wish to settle in the province.
Apart from selecting immigrants, Québec looks after their integration and determines the immigration levels for the province. The francization of immigrants is the responsibility of the COFIs.
According to this agreement, Canada remains responsible for national standards and objectives concerning immigration, the admission of immigrants and the control of visitors related to criminality, health and security as well as the administrative handling of requests and the physical admission at the various entry points.
Québec is therefore exclusively responsible for the selection, reception and integration of immigrants destined for the province. As for the immigration levels, the federal government must, before April 30 of each year, inform Québec of the options under study concerning future levels of immigration by category of immigrants.
For its part, Québec must, before June 30 of each year, that is in a couple of weeks, inform Canada of the number of immigrants, also by category, which it expects to admit in the year or years to come.
I might add that the Immigration Act requires the minister to consult the provinces on demographic needs, labour-market issues and regional distribution.
One very important aspect of this agreement is the formal commitment on the part of the federal government to withdraw from reception services, linguistic and cultural integration, counselling and placement programs for immigrants.
The Government of Canada provides fair compensation to Quebec in respect of such services. The province was awarded financial compensation as follows: $75 million for 1991-92; $82 million for 1992-93; $85 million for 1993-94 and $90 million for 1994-95. Any subsequent compensation levels will correspond to the basic amount of $90 million and will increase to keep pace with overall federal expenditures.
Getting back to my historical narrative, with an eye to industrializing the country and opening up the West, Canada recruited a vast pool of foreign labourers, primarily Chinese peasants. The Rockies were breached and East and West were united by the railway. This migration movement which lasted until World War II involved solely the Northern Hemisphere. Immigrants were British, Americans, Finns, Italians, Russians, Germans, Ukrainians, Jews, French and Polish.
However, following World War II, decolonization and communication advances gave rise to new migratory flows, and these are likely to increase in the coming years.
In 1990, the United Nations Population Fund warned that the global population would increase by one billion during the decade of the nineties.
Most of this increase would occur in developing countries where the birth rates were highest. Many of those seeking to immigrate favour the more prosperous, less populated countries. Canada and Quebec rank high on their list because of their resources and wide open spaces.
Canada and especially Quebec are interested in taking in a considerable number of immigrants because of their low birth rates. Moreover, we also lose a part of our population to emigration. It is estimated that emigration levels represent one quarter of immigration levels. For example, during the 1980s, more people emigrated to Italy from Canada than vice versa.
Under the McDougall and Gagnon-Tremblay agreement, Quebec can receive a number of immigrant proportional to its demographic load, plus 5 per cent. This means that in theory, Quebec could receive 30 per cent of all immigrants admitted to Canada.
In fact, Quebec received 47,532 of the foreign nationals admitted to Canada in 1992, that is to say approximately 19.2 per cent, which is roughly equivalent to the average observed over the past five years, which was 19.1 per cent.
This debate on Bill C-35 leads us to take a brief look at this government service, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, which is seeking to legalize its organization but has in fact already moved beyond the preliminary stage. And what we have before us is not very encouraging.
Because of timid, ambiguous and inconsistent policies, we cannot find out where the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is going. He favours never-ending consultations and takes forever to make decisions. He enjoyed a period of grace, but it is over. He had raised some hope after the questionable, inefficient and at times inhuman management of the Conservatives. Today, his inconsistent policies are widely criticized, in particular by immigration lawyers, refugee advocacy groups, ethnic groups, government officials, and so on. You will probably find that out this evening in Montreal.
He has made public two reports he had commissioned himself, namely the Hathaway report and the Davis-Waldman report. Clear and specific recommendations were made, but the minister does not know what to do with them. He suspends deportations, but does not say what will happen to the 10,000 refugee status claimants whose applications were turned down by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
My office has received numerous inquiries on this subject and officials know as little as we do. Meanwhile, asylum seekers are left in limbo. Which files will re reviewed? By whom? When? Under what circumstances? No one knows.
Another example of inconsistency is this announcement made by the minister to the effect that potential refugees may be submitted to a lie detector test to prevent fraud, which is illegal as far as we are concerned. What a ridiculous idea!
The minister and immigration authorities sometimes show deep ignorance of the extremely dangerous political situation in some countries that refugee claimants come from and occasionally they show a lack of compassion as well. For example, take this case of a pregnant young woman who was deported on February 23, given sedatives without her consent and returned to her country of origin, Zaire, which is devastated by an insidious civil war. I said to the minister and I repeat: "Such a serious case deserves an independent inquiry because such behaviour is unworthy of a civilized society". Why does the minister refuse to order such an inquiry?
There is another area where mistrust is systematic. More and more people who do not have passports are required to go to the consulate or embassy of their country to get one, even though they are already recognized as refugees. You know, if a refugee has to go to the consulate or embassy of his home country, his life could be in danger, and especially the lives and safety of his family still in the home country.
Furthermore, I ask the minister to refer any new appointment of IRB commissioners to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. So far, this committee has reviewed no appointment, despite allegations of patronage in some cases.
Finally, I wish to denounce the minister's decision to hold consultations outside Parliament on immigration levels and policies for the next five years, at a cost of over $1 million.
The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration should be responsible for these consultations, which are a priority for the Official Opposition and for public opinion in Canada and Quebec. All parties are represented on the committee-the government party, the Official Opposition and the Reform Party. This is not the case on the various working groups set up by the minister, from which the Bloc Quebecois is totally absent. It is not democratic to hold these consultations without the opposition being present.
For all these reasons, we will vote against Bill C-35.
Department Of Citizenship And Immigration Act
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
Madam Speaker, let me preface my remarks by saying I support the consolidation of the functions of immigration and citizenship within the new ministry of citizenship and immigration. It is a logical combination and needed to be done. I am glad it has been done with such expediency providing the hon. member from the Bloc here a follow through, at least not with objections but rather support.
I would also like to take this opportunity to wish my hon. colleague, the soon-to-be official Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the very best. This portfolio needs a lot of support and I realize it is a difficult position. It requires extreme wisdom, caution and concern. The department deals with more than just dollars and cents. It deals with people's lives. At the same time we must also realize that this department, along with all other departments in the government, must examine their financial commitment and the way money is spent.
As opposition members we must bring to the attention of the department of immigration the requirement to examine all its expenditures and do its share in reducing the massive debt and deficit that the country faces. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is also required to balance the needs of Canada with our international commitments, that portion of the hundreds of millions or so of migrants in the world that are seeking a place in Canada.
Canada has a long tradition of humanitarianism when it comes to immigration. We have a legacy that is unique to just a few nations on earth of being built almost entirely by succeeding waves of immigrants. That legacy has become etched into Canada's collective conscience. It has become part of our self-image as Canadians.
However, the present day manifestation of a legacy of immigration in Canada is now in a precarious position. The majority of Canadians, while being thankful for our immigrant past and while still treasuring Canada's tolerance toward newcomers, are mystified at the direction the immigration policy has gone in the last 10 years or so.
They see present day immigration patterns no longer as a boon but are concerned about what is happening. That is a problem to which our new immigration and citizenship minister must pay very careful attention. Any government that ignores the wishes of the majority of the population for significant policy change is staring grave political danger in the face.
While I congratulate the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration on his post and on behalf of Canadians wish him the best of luck I am saddened to report that some of the policies of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration have gone awry. Canada had grave problems with immigration policy six months ago and those problems are even greater today.
Six months ago concern was expressed that Canada was accepting too many immigrants. That is a frank statement I know. It is a statement that will send many stakeholders, as they are called in modern bureaucratic parlance, into a tizzy. It is a fact. Today there are but three major immigrant-accepting countries in the world: Canada, Australia, and the United States.
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is fond of talking about immigration targets in percentages, so let us do that. The United States and Australia both take in yearly about .4 per cent of their population as immigrants. This year, as this government frequently points out, Canada will accept 1 per cent of its population as immigrants. That is .25 times the number of immigrants per capita as the next closest immigrant accepting nation on earth, 2.5 times as many immigrants yearly.
The Reform Party on the other hand thinks that Canada should accept about 150,000 immigrants yearly. For this modest proposal my colleague, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, accuses us of being inflammatory and anti-immigrant. Getting back to percentages, 150,000 immigrants per year represents about .55 per cent of the population.
Therefore, if the policies of the Reform Party were enacted Canada would still be accepting by a wide margin more immigrants than any other nation on earth, even with that adjustment. For that we have sometimes been accused of being anti-immigrant and inflammatory. Who is being inflammatory: the Reform Party for suggesting that Canada continue to be the leading immigrant-accepting nation on earth, or the minister for suggesting that we are anti-immigrant or that we have an anti-immigrant bias? The answer is more than clear.
The Canadian people have been told that immigration targets were based on facts, that there was data which suggested the necessity of accepting one-quarter of a million immigrants per year. Well, we are still waiting. Where are those facts? They have not been presented in this House and they have not been presented to the Canadian people.
The closest the minister has come to presenting a factual basis for his government's claim that Canada needs to accept the equivalent of the population of Calgary in the next three years has been to dredge up a 1991 report by the Economic Council of Canada, despite the fact that on page 32 of the report in its conclusion it calls this year for a target of about 175,000 immigrants. It also says that 250,000 immigrants per year or more would not be advisable because Canada would have difficulty integrating that level. Some facts, and that is all this minister has been able to produce.
I am happy to say there are facts out there. If this minister is short on empirical data, I would be more than happy to help him with some of the numbers. Here are some facts: Since 1979 the performance of immigrants in the economy has dropped dramatically. It used to be that immigrants had a higher level of education and higher levels of income than Canadians. Well, no more. The sheer number of immigrants means that immigrants are having more and more difficulty adapting socially and economically than they ever did before.
The minister talks about the need to replenish an aging population. The facts are these: Canada's population is not in decline. In fact it is growing and will continue to grow even without immigration until the year 2026, when our population will top 30 million. That is without immigration. From then it would go into a slow decline before levelling off some 100 years from now at between 18 to 20 million. The fact is that even the demographic review says if Canada really wants to increase its population, the way to go about doing that is to create incentives to fertility, in other words within and not through immigration.
The minister has spoken about an aging population and about a demographic shift that can only be cured through immigration. Again the facts are quite different. All the demographic research to date makes it very clear that immigration will never solve the aging of the population. Why? Because immigrants are getting older too. Research has already clearly proven that the average age of immigrants coming into our country is about four years younger than the average age of the Canadian born or the Canadian population.
Research indicates that trying to make the population younger with immigrants will not solve the impending social security crunch. The only way to do that is to raise the productivity of all Canadians, to raise everyone's standard of living in order to replenish and enrich the tax base. Right now, countries like the United Kingdom and Sweden are where Canada will be in the future in terms of an aging population. They have solved the social security crunch not with immigrants but through sensible economic measures.
Those are just some of the facts. Unfortunately, I do not believe this minister has the facts to support the government's contention that 250,000 immigrants are vital to Canada. Why 250,000? Why are these incredibly high immigration numbers maintained? I do not know and I do not believe the Canadian people know. Does the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration have the answer? If he does, where is the data to support it?
When this year's immigration targets were released in February the question remained about selection and the selection process. The government said that of the 250,000 immigrants to Canada this year 44 per cent would be immigrants from the independent class. Those are immigrants who have been selected according to their skills, their education and their ability to quickly adjust to Canada and to make a positive contribution.
The government's own numbers reveal that there is not 44 per cent from the independent class, not 40 per cent, not 30 per cent. In fact only 15 per cent of a quarter of a million immigrants this year will be from the independent class. The minister arrived at this questionable 40 per cent figure by adding to the number of independent immigrants their spouses, their children and their parents, all brought in under the family reunification program.
That is not what we should expect from this department which indicates the minister and the department wants to make the immigration program more transparent for Canadians. Let us lay it all out on the table the way it really should be.
The Reform Party wants to bring some sense back into the refugee system. Canada should be proud of its record of accepting immigrants. Over the past few years no other nation on earth has accepted as many refugees as Canada on a percentage basis of our population. However, our refugee determination system is out of control. We are now accepting as refugees about 70 per cent of all claimants who make it to our shores. The world-wide average for refugee acceptance is 14 per cent. We will accept about 30,000 refugees this year.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has estimated that there are about 60,000 people in the world who meet the description of a true or genuine refugee. That same agency estimates that last year of those 60,000 refugees fully 35,000 did not find a safe refuge. In other words they had no country that would accept them. How is it possible then that Canada could accept 30,000 refugees while the UN estimates that world-wide between all of the refugee receiving nations on earth less than 30,000 refugees were accepted?
The truth is that only a small percentage of the people Canada accepts as real refugees are real refugees. The hard truth is that the majority of people who are granted refugee status in Canada are not refugees at all but economic migrants. These are people who see how attractive Canada is and want to start a new life here. We certainly cannot fault them for that, but they are not real refugees. They are not genuine refugees.
If they desire to start a new life in Canada then they should have the opportunity to apply through regular channels like all other immigrants. Let us leave the quota spots open for real refugees, people who are languishing in camps and are displaced overseas, people who the United Nations tell us are in the most desperate of straits. Those are the truly needy. Those are the most deserving: Rwandans, Bosnians.
The inland refugee determination process is an unbelievably expensive mire. When the minister says that Canada is living up to its humanitarian commitments, that just will not wash. We are not. We could be doing far more with far less.
On page 337 of this year's estimates under the Department of Citizenship and Immigration we read that the inland refugee claims cost Canadian taxpayers anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 just to process their claims. Those are direct costs. Multiply that out and the bill to Canadian taxpayers is somewhere around $750 million to $1.25 billion, just to settle 16,000 people whose refugee claims are accepted inland. It is easy to misunderstand big numbers like these until they are put into the correct perspective. Allow me to put that billion dollar number into perspective.
The entire budget last year for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was just over $1 billion. With that amount of money the UN resettled or repatriated five million refugees. With that amount of money Canada resettled 16,000. There is something wrong.
The refugee determination system is an injustice of mammoth proportions. Not only is it an injustice to Canadian taxpayers who have to foot the bill, but also to those tens of thousands of desperate genuine refugees overseas who are literally bumped
off the list to make way for economic migrants who arrive, along with some refugees, and claim refugee status in Canada.
The minister is aware of these facts. The minister is more than aware of the outcry which has been issuing forth from Canadians over some of the people the Immigration and Refugee Board is either allowing into the country or allowing to stay when their deportations are appealed.
Several weeks ago in this House the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration promised to get tough with the system. Those are fine words but they do not correlate with his actions. This get tough minister has to answer for the following record which he has created in just six months on the job.
The number of refugees accepted through the inland determination system has skyrocketed even from the non-refugee producing nations.
This minister has appointed several dozen of the most unrepresentative appointees to the IRB that have ever graced the board. The vast majority of them have been immigration lawyers or advocates. It is little wonder that the acceptance rate has gone through the roof.
He has supervised the expanding of the definition of refugee well beyond what it used to mean in Canada. It is well beyond anything the UN which wrote the definition ever intended. He intends to create a whole new layer for refugee determination, making it easier for failed refugee claimants to stay in Canada under humanitarian and compassionate grounds. All this is to happen in six months.
The minister says he wants to do what all Canadians want for the refugee system. They want a fair, sensible system that is humanitarian, which takes care of those who are genuine refugees. We want to do our international share but we are not doing that.
The minister says he wants to get tough. That is what we need to do. We need to get tough with the inland refugee determination system so that we can channel more of our resources into helping people who we know need the most help. That is not happening. Instead, the system is being fed this massive immigration and refugee bureaucracy. It feeds this massive industry of advocates and lawyers who are earning more than a decent living at the expense of the taxpayer and real refugees.
Some years ago Canada began the process of drafting a treaty agreement with the United States relating to asylum. This treaty would mutually recognize Canada and the U.S. as safe third countries for the purpose of asylum. The effect of such a treaty would be to stop people from asylum shopping between Canada and the United States. It would prevent those with the economic wherewithal to travel from passing through the United States before entering Canada and declaring themselves to be refugees.
This is not a hard measure. This is not an inhumane measure. It is common sense. This process should stop. Over 7,000 people last year travelled through the United States before registering a refugee claim in Canada. That caused an enormous drain on our refugee determination system and has the effect, once again, of limiting our ability to divert our resources to those refugees who need our help the most.
There have been calls for the minister to sign the agreement which has been in the drafting stage for some time now but he refuses. The minister says that until the United States adopts a refugee determination system similar to Canada's, he will not enter into the treaty. I can assure the minister that will not happen. The Americans will never adopt our system.
Canada has an international reputation for accepting almost anyone as a refugee who manages to make it here. This year, almost 70 per cent of all claimants have been accepted as refugees. The U.S. would never agree to adopt our system. In fact it is talking otherwise. Neither will Australia and neither will Europe.
I believe the minister, before he left for the western European nations really could not teach those European nations much about immigration that would be acceptable to them. It is time for Canada to sign the treaty with the United States. It should have been signed a long time ago. It is not enough just to talk tough. There has to be some action.
Since this department began its operation, the minister promised he would consult Canadians to determine what the future would hold in terms of immigration policy. The minister is spending $1 million to set up town halls, to distribute questionnaires around the country in order to determine what Canadians think about immigration. At least that is what he says.
In fact the concluding document of the Montebello meeting where this consultation process was devised makes the minister's real intention more than clear. In the document, we read of the need to convince the majority of Canadians who oppose current immigration levels that they are wrong and that the government is right. We read of the need for public education. We read of constructively engaging the press and putting a positive spin on ultra high immigration levels. That is called consulting when in fact it is nothing of the sort.
The Reform Party stands for including the public in national debates on vital issues. It is necessary. The minister knows that Canadians want to be included, so this process was set up. Is it to pacify Canadians? Is it to make them feel included when the real goal is to shut them out by controlling the dialogue? It is a good question to ask.
Needless to say the Reform Party wants all Canadians to have their voices heard in the immigration debate. In fact we want to let Canadians decide the major immigration issues by way of national referenda. Why could there not be a referendum on the levels, the numbers and why should there not be one on the selection process? It is quite easily arranged. However there will be no immigration debate under this government. There will be an immigration mandate. If Canadians do not like it, then they can attend one of the education classes to learn how to properly think about immigration.
The minister said that he wanted an expanded role for the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. What has been done? The committee has derailed the important work and a strawman issue has been developed instead. The minister has decided that the Citizenship Act needs to be rewritten. He has decided that the committee needs to spend its valuable time looking at issues that no one thought needed review at this point in time, certainly not a review that would cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, a review that would take up weeks of the committee's time, a review that will call on Pierre Trudeau and Mr. Dressup to tell us what it means to be a Canadian.
What a waste of time. The committee ought to be spending its time reviewing the very questionable appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board. It ought to be examining the effect that the highest rate of immigration in the world is having on Canada. It ought to be looking at ways to make the refugee determination system more effective, more humanitarian. Instead the minister insists that we redefine Canadian citizenship. Is that reasonable?
It was revealed to the House that immigrants are not tested for HIV before entering Canada. They are tested for TB. They are screened for cancer or kidney disease. They are tested for syphilis. But there is no testing for AIDS.
After this revelation the minister promised to look into the issue and take the necessary steps to bring Canada's medical testing requirement into the 20th century. That was a month ago. What action has been taken? Nothing.
Department Of Citizenship And Immigration Act
An hon. member
Department Of Citizenship And Immigration Act
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
No improvement. At one time immigration was a boon for Canada. It could be again. But in order for immigration to play a positive role, in order to truly balance the needs of Canada against our humanitarian role in the world, we need to bring a little common sense into the debate. We need to make tough decisions. Talking tough is not enough. Talking about lie detector tests and opening the doors even wider to inland refugee claimants and appointing people with vested interests to the Immigration and Refugee Board is the height of hypocrisy. It is pandering to the old style. Talk tough and then take the opposite direction.
Canadians expected more from this government, much more, but they have gotten the same old gang. Nothing has changed. It is just getting worse. With the consolidation of the functions of immigration and citizenship in one department came a mandate to really do some good: to respond to Canadians, to make some changes that would benefit newcomers to Canada and Canadians born here. But we have nothing of the sort. Canadians are demanding change. They want immigration levels to be tied to economic cycles. They want immigration to have a positive net effect on the economy. That is not too much to ask. The world's other immigrant receiving nations tie immigration levels to the state of the economy. Why do we not?
In fact one of the provinces sets immigration levels to the economic priorities of the province, the province of Quebec. I believe that the government has something to learn from what the province of Quebec is doing on immigration levels.
Canadians are telling me that the bulk of immigrants, not just a tiny percentage, should be chosen by Canada as independent immigrants. We need immigrants. We need immigrants with education, high tech skills, an ability to quickly adapt and contribute. Instead 85 per cent of immigrants are not chosen by Canada. They chose us.
It is neither unreasonable nor uncompassionate for Canadians to demand that those immigrants who come to Canada be chosen by Canada. The minister knows that. He has had the time to react or enact reform that would ensure that a higher percentage of immigrants are hand picked but that has not been done. If anything, the number of independent immigrants could actually be falling.
We need this new ministry to fundamentally re-examine the refugee determination system, a review that is more than just window dressing and more than just adding new layers of bureaucracy in an attempt to streamline. It is time to make the refugee system answer to taxpayers and to answer to a world-wide need for Canada to accept a higher percentage of UN recognized overseas refugees.
Canadians want the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to have the sort of review and reporting power the government has promised. The committee should be choosing its agenda rather than having an agenda handed down to them from the minister in order that it be distracted from the real job at hand. Immigration is in trouble in Canada. Never has a higher percentage of Canadians expressed such opposition to the current immigration policy.
The Financial Post over the weekend reported that even the government's backbenchers are expressing outrage and frustration in their communities over an immigration policy which has gone wrong.
Canadians recognize, rightly, that immigration is no longer working for anyone. It is not working for Canada. It is not working for immigrants. Most disappointing of all, the minister in the past six months has not taken any substantial action to solve the immigration problems. In fact he has exacerbated them by increasing the levels, loosening the refugee system, appointing the wrong people to the IRB, and trying to manipulate the opinions of Canadians.
I would caution the minister. The Canadian people are not easily manipulated. It is time to start listening. It is time to take real action, action that is in line with the get tough promises that the minister made in the past.
I wish the minister success for the sake of Canada and for the future of immigration to Canada. I hope he does well but if the past several months of the workings of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration are any indication I am not optimistic.
Department Of Citizenship And Immigration Act
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
I would advise the House that we are now on 20 minutes for debate and 10 minutes for questions and comments.
Department Of Citizenship And Immigration Act
Mary Clancy Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to rise and take part in this debate today. Although this effectively is basically a piece of housekeeping legislation, it nonetheless has quite significant meaning.
The previous government had moved the Department of Immigration into the realm of public security as if perhaps there was some danger to the security of Canada to be feared from those who choose to come here or who come here to find refuge from countries where law and order and justice and those values that we treasure so dearly in Canada are not treasured quite as dearly.
We on this side of the House do not feel we have anything to fear from people who seek to come to this country for a variety of reasons. We on this side of the House are proud that Canada is one of only four countries in the world which receives people.
There is a certain amount of babbling going on across the way, but I shall endeavour to rise above it. The hon. member from Calgary tells me he is returning the favour. He should return it slightly more sharply. I might appreciate it more.
In any case, there are a number of points that were raised by the other hon. member from Calgary who is the third party critic for immigration and citizenship. A couple of those I would like to address because I was offended. I want to say that I was offended.
I am offended that the hon. member does not think that citizenship is important in this country. I am offended that here in this wonderful and historic Chamber, the Chamber of Laurier and Macdonald and Trudeau, that someone who represents the people of Canada could think that citizenship is not important, that someone could suggest that the people who have been requested to give their opinions on the review of the Citizenship Act are somehow not of importance.
I am surprised this would be the response. I am surprised given the very hard work that has been put in over the last number of weeks and the hard work that will be continued into this review on citizenship. I am surprised and a little bit disappointed. To be quite frank, I am a lot disappointed. However, in the words of a former great cabinet minister in this House, the late Angus L. Macdonald, when he was premier of Nova Scotia, perhaps one should just consider the source.
I have a few other things that I would like to say. First of all, I am absolutely astounded at the numbers that the hon. member suggests are legitimate refugees. We know that the displacements in the world, the horrors in the former Yugoslavia, the problems in numerous African countries, and the problems with totalitarian governments in other areas of this world have created an unprecedented number of refugees.
To hear the hon. member speak, you would think this was not even a ripple on the horizon. That is just not so. There are more refugees than that in one refugee camp. The hon. member should retract that statement. However, I leave that to his notable good judgement.
I am also absolutely astounded at his percentages. There are words that can be quoted, for example his very famous quotation that even the devil can quote Scripture. With regard to his statement that the percentages that we are allowing in are somehow at an unprecedented high, if the hon. member would like to look back just to two or three years ago, he would see that the number of refugees accepted in this country was higher by, I believe, 12 per cent than it is today. Where we are is definitely within the normal realm of acceptance of refugees.
He talked about the 14 per cent that is the world average. Of course that would be the world average if we add in all those myriad countries that do not accept any at all. Either the hon. member's logic or his mathematics tends to suffer. Of course it would be unkind of me to say that, so I will not.
I also want to talk about something the hon. member raised with regard to the fact that people coming into Canada are not tested for HIV and that the minister promised to do something about it four weeks ago. The hon. member should know-I thought he knew; maybe he does not know-that the enabling legislation and regulation on medical matters under this department's aegis has remained unchanged for 40 years.
Perhaps the hon. member advocates a screaming leap into the void by the government without a proper review before bringing in legislation and amendments, but I want to make perfectly clear that neither this minister nor the department has any intention of bringing legislation before this House until it is adequately prepared and until the situation is adequately covered. That is the way good government works, to make sure that when we bring in legislation to change things that definitely need to be changed in this country, that we have covered all the bases. In other words, going from A to B to C to D will probably
prevent grief as opposed to jumping from A to D and probably falling in a ditch, if I may mix my metaphors, on the way there.