Debates of Sept. 19th, 1994
House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was criminals.
- Full Employment Act
- Immigration Act
- Aids Action Now
- Tainted Blood
- National Defence
- Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
- Television Broadcasting
- Mrs. Lisette Barsallo-Ward
- Unemployment Insurance Reform
- Federal Debt
- Québec Elections
- World Congress Of Acadians
- Quebec Elections
- Reform Party
- Fundy Region
- Provincial Debt
- Rail Transportation
- The Late Bill Bussiere
- Tribute To The Late Gaston Péloquin
- Election Of The Parti Québécois
- Canadian Security Intelligence Service
- The Economy
- Canadian Security Intelligence Service
- The Economy
- Red Cross Blood Centre In Toronto
- Gun Control
- Canada Communication Group
- The Late William Bussiere
- Points Of Order
- Government Response To Petitions
- Canadian Radio-Television And Telecommunications Commission
- Order In Council Appointments
- Inter-Parliamentary Delegations
- Department Of Industry Act
- Department Of External Affairs Act
- Department Of Natural Resources Act
- Department Of Agriculture And Agri-Food Act
- Canadian Wheat Board Act
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Questions Passed As Orders For Returns
- Committees Of The House
- Request For Emergency Debate
- Immigration Act
I wish to inform the House that in accordance with the representation made by the government under the provisions of Standing Order 55(1) I have caused to be published a special order paper giving notice of introduction of government bills. I now lay the relevant document upon the table.
My dear colleagues, I have the honour to lay on the table a copy of the reprint of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, dated September 1994, which includes all amendments to the Standing Orders since the beginning of the session.
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT
moved that Bill C-209, an act to provide for full employment in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, today I rise in this Parliament to speak to what I believe is one of the biggest issues facing each one of us here and one of the greatest responsibilities, jobs and job creation.
We are still in double digit unemployment. There are still far too many people unemployed. It is time this government took direct action and accountability for unemployment levels.
Bill C-209, an act to provide for full employment in Canada, will ensure that the government is as accountable for job creation as it is for deficit reduction.
A full employment strategy means that all of the federal government's activities, managing interest rates and the dollar, dealing with trading partners, investing in new businesses and innovation, helping workers retrain, and every other aspect of federal economic and social policy are guided by the objective of achieving full employment.
Full employment does not mean an unemployment rate of zero per cent. Economists estimate that it is generally considered between 3 and 4 per cent. It does mean that there is no permanent structural unemployment and that it is a set of precepts by which other policies should be guided. Full employment also does not mean that the government guarantees everyone a job. It means that the number of jobs available in public and private sectors is very close to the number of people active in the workforce.
The objectives of a full employment policy have been proven over and over again in other countries to work very well in concert with proper labour market policies.
A full employment economic strategy will build social justice with unemployment and underemployment reduced. The devastation of poverty and a lack of choices and opportunities are tragedies that characterize our present economic system, one that is clearly in failure.
I would like to explain, first of all, that this bill requires the minister to prepare a draft plan for the achievement of full employment in Canada and lay it before Parliament.
The draft plan would then be reviewed by a standing committee of the House of Commons. The minister would consider the report and recommendations of the committee in the preparation of a final plan. The plan would be reviewed annually against the targets for achieving full employment, and the report on any adjustments necessary to meet the targets of the plan would be prepared within six months of the end of the year and laid before Parliament.
I have quite a few recommendations on how this objective should be achieved-in fact, there are 22-but I will just describe a few. For instance, an environmental awareness program that would promote the goal of sustainable development through new environmental technologies, sewage treatment facilities and energy efficiency programs.
It is therefore necessary to have an investment policy that includes the right to review and regulate foreign investment in Canada, a national investment fund that operates at arms-length from the government and an elimination of corporations' rights to deduct interest expenses from taxable income.
A national policy on education that includes a national council on education which would examine all issues relevant to education.
An important ingredient of this plan is strengthened support to existing social programs such as health care and the creation of new social programs such as a national child care program.
It is also necessary to have comprehensive adjustment measures for workers such as the establishment of a mandatory job vacancy registry and job matching system through Canada Employment Centres and the establishment of adjustment committees for employees in positions where significant lay-offs are anticipated, to facilitate counselling, re-training and employment services for workers who are or may be laid off.
It is necessary as well to provide for examination of the impact of all federal fiscal policies on employment, including the mandate of the Bank of Canada.
These examples are all in the bill, and I think it is very important for a committee to consider the ways in which this part of the bill can be implemented.
One of the most important aspects of this bill is it will ensure that the government reports unemployment targets to the House of Commons as it now does with deficit reduction targets. By law the plan would be reviewed annually against targets for achieving full employment with adjustments required to meeting the targets of the plan to be reviewed within six months of the end of the year.
The point of this bill is that the government must be as accountable for the reduction of unemployment as it is for the reduction of the debt and the deficit.
There is a clear linkage between the policies of the government and the ability of our economy not to have a jobless recovery but to have a real recovery with jobs. Canadians who are now underemployed or unemployed would have work.
When I speak of labour market policies there are a number that must be taken into account. For example, in recent statistics we see the largest increase in the number of jobs has been in part time jobs. Many people may wish to work part time but others work part time because they have no option. There must be policies in place to ensure that part time workers receive benefits and that they receive full recognition for part time work. Saskatchewan has brought in benefits for part time workers. The federal government and other provinces should follow that model.
Other adequate labour market policies are absolutely necessary. I would like to mention some of the recommendations which have come out of the labour movement. In particular, the Canadian Labour Congress addressed the issue not only of job creation but of the need to ensure that the existing work is more equitably spread. Many people work many hours of overtime while others rest without employment at all.
I would like to mention some of the recommendations of the Canadian Labour Congress. It specifically addresses the issue of how we attain full employment and the labour market policies which the government can put in place to facilitate that.
For example, there is the reduction of standard weekly hours to less than 40 hours per week. In the past there was a huge battle about limiting work hours. There is a requirement for employers to keep a log of all hours worked and more stringent limits on overtime, both weekly and annually.
We know many employers would rather pay overtime than to create a new job and take on a new employee because there is less book work and less hassle for the employer. We have to facilitate making it possible for the employer to do that. In some recent collective agreements, for example in automative manufacturing, a whole new shift with a number of new employees has been employed and other employees have reduced their overtime.
The government should take the initiative in looking at those kinds of issues. Clearly in doing this we have to look at not simply reducing pay to workers. When looking at the work week and reductions in overtime and the accompanying labour market policies we must also ensure that benefits and other recompense are respected. Many kinds of these ideas are there. They can be acted upon by a government that really wants to deal with the issue and not simply speak about it.
I would like to speak briefly about the Minister of Human Resources Development's ongoing social policy review. It relates very closely to this plan for full employment. The goal of the review should be to make social programs more efficient but also more equitable. Accordingly the Minister of Human Resources Development in the context of his social policy review must consider adopting a comprehensive policy of full employment.
Lower unemployment means a lower deficit. The two are inextricably linked. That is the purpose of this bill: to say that the government of the day must give equal emphasis to reducing unemployment as to reducing the deficit because they are inextricably linked.
We do not need to cripple our social programs and marginalize the unemployed to reduce the deficit. That is like chopping up the furniture to heat the home. Let us start dealing with the fundamental structural problems of the bad economic policies we have seen pursued in this country.
Let us also get rid of the myth that unemployment is free. It is impossible to reduce a budget deficit when there is widespread unemployment. Official direct costs of unemployment to government were $47.5 billion in 1993.
The Canadian Council for Policy Alternatives estimates the direct costs of unemployment at $109 billion for 1993 if we include unemployment insurance costs, lost salaries, additional UI premiums paid by employed workers, lost profits and lost tax revenues. Unemployment is not free: it is not free financially, it is not free in human terms, it is not free to communities and to families.
If every unemployed worker had a job tomorrow, the federal government would collect some $5.5 billion more in taxes. It would spend at least $16 billion less in income support. High unemployment is a human tragedy, the federal government's most wasteful expense and its biggest unnecessary tax loss.
Official unemployment is now at 10.3 per cent. Youth unemployment is at 16.4 per cent. More than one worker in four is now forced to draw unemployment insurance benefits at some time in the year and one in three exhaust these benefits before finding other jobs.
Most recent statistics indicate that 42 per cent of workers are employed part time. Many of those are only employed seasonally. Only 20 per cent of working women hold full time, permanent jobs that pay more than $30,000 per year. Taken as a whole, only 31 per cent of all workers have full time, year round jobs that pay more than $30,000 a year.
The 25-year trend of increased participation of women in the labour force has been reversed, especially for young women. More women have been pushed into part time jobs and outnumber men in these positions by almost three to one.
The current government has continued to pursue the policies of the past, in particular, those introduced by the former Conservative government. These policies do not come to grips with permanent, structural unemployment.
In this bill, I outline a number of ways that might be considered. There are many others: the labour market policies that I spoke to earlier; the kind of recommendations of labour bodies and other groups to working toward this objective.
A clear commitment to full employment and to a strategy of full employment; building partnerships, setting goals and meeting them, putting tools in the hands of working people, protecting our environmental capital and understanding and rising to the challenges posed by the world economy; these should be the cornerstone of an economic policy.
This bill would be one step toward that cornerstone. I urge the support of this House.
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
Maurizio Bevilacqua Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development
Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to take part in the debate on this extremely important issue. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. member for her work over a number of years. I think she has a well earned reputation of striving to better the lives of working Canadians.
I paid attention to her comments. As a government, since the October 25 election, we have worked extremely hard in the past 11 months to bring positive change to the lives of Canadians.
No one in the House has a monopoly on the concerns of the number one priority in this country, which is job creation. That priority of jobs, of achieving employment growth, of ensuring meaningful, well paying jobs for all Canadians, is something that all of us, regardless of which side of the House we sit on, should be concentrating on.
No hon. member, no one party in this House has exclusive interest in improving our economy. The government has truly created an environment where job creation can take place. We are committed to reducing unemployment and opening up the labour force to those individuals who want to participate in it.
The government has taken and is taking steps at this very moment to ensure that Canadian workers from coast to coast to coast have an opportunity to participate in rewarding and lasting employment. From the very beginning of its term in office it has been implementing a well laid out plan to promote economic growth and establish long term, rewarding jobs for Canadians. It has to be done in an orderly step by step fashion.
We started rebuilding at the foundation. We have launched an infrastructure program in co-operation with the provinces that is addressing local needs. This infrastructure program is successful because it focuses on the local needs of the community. It speaks to the issue of effective partnerships, a model for all governments to follow.
The $6 billion national program showed to Canadians that different levels of government, when they are focusing on the big picture which is to provide opportunity, to restore hope and improve the quality of life for Canadians, can work. Government can be a force for positive change and by facilitating the process of change and the process of building communities we can return to Canadians the feeling that something is getting done for their communities and for future generations.
We are, through the infrastructure program, investing in our future. We are building our roads. We are building better communities. We are investing in those things that Canadians have called for and most of all-I underline this point-we are doing it in partnership.
For example, we are working hand in hand with the Government of Saskatchewan to upgrade the province's rural roads over the next two years. This federal-provincial partnership will invest $30 million and will create more than 500 full time jobs. That is not all.
The spinoff from this project will result in hundreds of additional jobs for Saskatchewan. Residents in the construction, technical and professional trades will have opportunities to work instead of sitting in the unemployment lines.
Those of us who represent the province of Ontario will understand the hurt and pain the residents have gone through in the recessionary years when their so-called Canadian dream slipped away. They question the future and what kind of future their children will have. We have established an infrastructure program in co-operation with the province of Ontario known as the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Works. We estimate it will create approximately 37,000 direct and indirect jobs.
These are facts and figures. They speak to the commitment the government has toward bringing back jobs, creating economic growth and, more important, giving back confidence to the people of Canada, confidence that was shaken during our recession.
I can talk about other projects in the regions of York or Waterloo where investments have been made so that we can once again regain the strength required at the local and community levels to drive the economy and give confidence to the people so that we can push forward.
These are fine examples of how partnerships can work, how we can foster a strong and productive partnership together. The government expects to create approximately 90,000 jobs for Canadians both on site in construction and off site in providing supply and services. Beyond that several thousand of more jobs will be created indirectly from the program's impact.
That is not all. One starts by building the foundation. We addressed infrastructure. We then moved forward to strategic initiatives with the provinces. There again the theme is of partnership and regional concerns, bringing about the type of co-operation that is required if we are going to introduce a new way to govern.
We have allocated $800 million strategic initiative funds for the next four years. This investment will enable us to build a Canada that is consciously job oriented and reflects a prosperous, enterprising society.
The minister has already announced a number of projects under the strategic initiative programs. They include job link with the province of Ontario, a $50 million investment to help thousands of welfare recipients get employed. Is this not what governments should be doing, providing opportunities to people that historically have been trapped by the same system that should be helping them?
We will be operating in 10 to 12 communities and job link is transforming existing programs into one co-ordinated system to help people move away from welfare into work. We want to get people off the welfare rolls and on to the payrolls of this nation. This is what people are asking for.
We were all campaigning for the October 25 election. Every door we knocked on people were saying: "Give us hope. Give us a job so that we can look to the future with confidence". This example of job link with the province of Ontario speaks to that. It speaks to the understanding of a fundamental principle that government's role is to provide opportunities for people and the individual's role is to make the most out of those opportunities.
If I may review, the government is moving into a social security review that will once again give to many Canadians the tools required so that they can compete locally, nationally and globally. We are working very hard to make sure that the dream of a job is realized from coast to coast to coast.
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC
Madam Speaker, I would like to mention, although this will be underlined further this afternoon, that we are sitting today for the first time minus one of our colleagues.
I was very pleased to start off the session with a debate on full employment. However, the debate taking place in the context of this particular bill, my pleasure turned to displeasure, to bitter disappointment as regards the nature of the provisions put forward by the New Democratic Party.
A full employment policy, as anyone who has looked into the subject would know and as far as I am concerned, includes basically two main components: so-called macroeconomic policies concerning employment and policies at the regional and local level which, because of the ownership of the local and regional players, allow maximum job-creation benefits to be derived from national policy, whatever the nation, at the regional level as well as from a more local and regional policy.
I would like to mention in passing, as time is short-but I hope we can come back to it later on-that Diane Bellemare and Lise Poulin-Simon, two university professors have looked into these matters extensively since the 80s in Quebec. They have worked so hard in fact that they influenced not only the central labour bodies, which they criticized in a way, but also management, which was also criticized, and governments to such a
point that in Quebec, we now have some essential tools such as the following.
I will not address macro-economic policy, as it is Ottawa's responsibility. And in Ottawa, contrary to the government member's claims, concern for employment is not obvious to say the least. An infrastructure program was introduced. Fine, but we must also consider all that was not, and we will come back to this repeatedly over the course of the session. In spite of all the idle talk and the campaign promises, this government cannot be said to be concerned with employment.
At the other level however-and it may be fitting to mention this here-the second component I referred to earlier is basically an involvement policy. Such a policy can, especially in Quebec but in other provinces also, as we will see, be developed at the local or provincial level.
Let me read you two sentences. On what basis do Mrs. Bellemare and Poulin contend that micro-economic employment policy should come under provincial jurisdiction? First, provincial governments are at a definite advantage for political considerations when it comes to implementing such a policy.
In fact, the constitutional division of powers-and as far as I know the Constitution has not been changed, but, of course, it is convenient to forget this-gives the provinces considerable jurisdiction with respect to work and labour relations, education and training, and development of resources. And I would point out that it is Diane Bellemare and Lise Poulin-Simon who are saying this, not the Bloc.
Secondly, there are cultural, linguistic and ideological considerations-to which, it seems to me, the sponsor of this bill could have been sensitive-which put the provincial governments in a better position than the federal government to implement a micro-economic employment policy effectively.
It seems to me that what we are seeing here is the complete failure of the federal policy to achieve what one would expect of a full employment policy, that is economic, financial and budgetary policies at the macro-economic level from the government of the country. And having failed in that, it now wants to become involved directly and with all the necessary control over what is, in this Constitution-but I will say more-the very nature of a full employment policy, something which should be left to the provinces and to the regional and local levels.
I would add that the current globalization of markets, which has not waited for the FTA or NAFTA, is forcing all countries to give the best of themselves to achieve an employment policy. In fact, it is at the level of the people, businesses, unions, groups in each of the municipalities, in collaboration with the level of government most closely concerned and with the closest access to the constitutional powers that the project and the implementation can be carried out.
That is where it becomes easier when we know that we in Canada have not even been able during all these years to agree on manpower training, which is absolutely essential, and when the NDP bill does not refer in any way to what the provinces do better. That is true in any country. Why do at the federal level what would be done better at the regional and community level? Why? Because of a lack of confidence in the ability of our communities, our regions and, in the case of the Canadian Constitution, our provinces?
There is plenty of goodwill and good intentions that I share. I, however, think that the means used are totally inadequate and cannot work in Canada under the current Constitution. But there is more than that. In Canada-and I think this will last for a long time given Canada's current geography-it is impossible for a full employment policy to be "controlled, implemented and developed from Ottawa". The federal government must have employment-conscious fiscal, budgetary and financial policies, but it must let the provinces, the regions and the municipalities do what they do better, and give them the means to do so. At the present time, the means derive from the spending powers controlled by Ottawa.
I would like us to re-examine this issue, but I am clearly very disappointed.
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
Dennis Mills Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry
Mr. Speaker, before I get into the main body of my remarks I would like to deal specifically with a couple of points that the member for Mercier made in her remarks.
She talked about this motion not dealing enough with the macroeconomic factors in this equation of creating an environment for full employment and focused very much on the fact that all of these jurisdictions such as training and education be the exclusive jurisdiction of the province.
I would like to remind the member for Mercier that trying to get the macroeconomic factors in the equation right is very tough to accomplish when there are members in this House whose constant barrage dealing with the dismantling of this country affects our markets in terms of the way foreigners invest in this country, which ultimately affects the rate of our dollar, which causes great stress on our deficit and debt reduction programs.
If the member for Mercier is truly committed to getting the macroeconomic side of this equation in place, then I would ask the member to review the impact her party and its dialogue are having on that part of the equation.
To the hon. member who raised this motion, I agree that it is the most important issue facing this House of Commons today. I wish we could have this debate going non-stop around the clock until we grind this issue down and get a number of concrete and doable ideas on the table. I, like the hon. member, believe that this is the priority for all of us.
We on this side of the House are trying to work in some concrete ways in addressing this problem. I think it is important for Canadians to understand that, because it is easy to create the perception in the public's eye that not a heck of a lot happens in Ottawa and in this House of Commons.
We stated during the last election that the greatest hope for putting Canadians back to work rests with the small and medium sized business community. Not only on this side but all members have been working very hard in the industry committee on a study called access to capital for small business which essentially will challenge the banks to become more accountable in their actions toward small business.
That report hopefully will be tabled in this House in the not too distant future for all of us to debate. Members from all parties worked on that report, not just for the last six months but during the summer. It is in its final edit stages. Canadians should know that commitment of challenging the banks, that report which we said in the last budget we would undertake, is very close to becoming a public document for all of us to debate. I think that is important.
I would also like to remind Canadians that my colleague from Parry Sound-Muskoka worked all last spring with many other colleagues and they travelled every region of Ontario on an access to capital report. That report is in fact finished. It contains some fabulous recommendations. It is available to all Canadians. They just have to write to the office of the member for Muskoka-Parry Sound who has said repeatedly that he would be more than happy to send it out.
In specific terms, small business needs capital if it is going to put people back to work. That is something concrete that we are working on.
There is something else happening. I do not want for a second to suggest to the member for Yukon that what I am saying is enough. I do not think we are doing enough. I think we should be more accountable. It is important to show that we are doing some specific things.
There is another thing we are working on in a very specific way. There is a joint Industry Canada-Finance Canada study on how to reduce the paper burden for small business. This is another reason why a lot of entrepreneurs have a feeling of frustration and are holding back. That study, which is being worked on, is something we must address in concrete terms.
Another issue that Canadians want us to take on this fall especially as we head toward the next budget is the whole issue of tax reform. We have a system of taxation in this country that is inefficient, complex, and obviously not fair. I support many of the recommendations of the member for Yukon. She has talked about many of these issues over the last number of years. I believe that we have now reached a point in this House and in the country where Canadians are going to be pressing us harder than ever to deal with the whole issue of taxation.
I believe taxation is an integral part of putting Canadians back to work. The harder you work, the more you make and the more you tend to want to invest or spend. The current tax system is a disincentive to investment and a disincentive to spending. In fact many of our best and brightest, our real achievers, are leaving our country. If they are not parking themselves offshore, they are parking their investment dollars offshore. Putting Canadians back to work and dealing with the very concrete and real numbers that the member for Yukon talked about in terms of deficit and debt costs cannot be done without dealing with the entire tax regime that exists in this country. That will be another one of our very important challenges.
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC
Let's get going on it.
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
Dennis Mills Broadview—Greenwood, ON
Members are saying let's get going. It is the first day back from the summer recess and we are going. We have a tremendous turnout of interested members this morning. It is Monday morning and we are going at it. I am not asking you to be patient. In fact, I hope you keep pressing harder than ever. I think members are raising a very important point. This is the sense of urgency.
I was working on a project this summer in the Toronto waterfront corridor. According to provincial studies-
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
Dennis Mills Broadview—Greenwood, ON
Yes, a casino was included as one factor in the equation. It was only 2 per cent of it. Last week some municipal politicians were saying that we are too aggressive in our actions in trying to get this project going. I do not know how you can be too aggressive in trying to put people to work, especially when you come from a city where there are close to 400,000 out of work.
That deals with my final point. We as members of Parliament have to understand the sense of urgency that Canadians feel. It is something that we really must address.
I know that in the private sector when times are tough you work two shifts a day. Sometimes you work six or seven days a week. Not only in this government but at all levels of government we should possibly consider setting up a public service
arrangement where they work two shifts a day, seven days a week, not unlike the way members of Parliament work.
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
Diane Ablonczy Calgary North, AB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on this bill. I join the hon. member for Yukon in her sincere desire that no Canadian ever have to suffer the anxiety and the stress of being unable to find a good job with a good income sufficient to provide for themselves and their family. I commend her for her compassion and for wishing to devise a way to relieve this and other difficulties faced by all too many of our citizens.
Unfortunately the measure she is proposing in the bill before this House today simply cannot achieve this ideal. It would be wonderful if people through their elected representatives could by putting the right words on paper eliminate difficulties and uncertainty in the economic, political and social spheres of our society. In my view it does not work that way. That view is based on observations of government actions both past and present, some in our own country.
Creating a state bureaucracy which will somehow create jobs for everyone is certainly not a new idea. The well known slogan of the old Soviet Union was: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need". What that led to was summarized in the typical black humour of the Polish workers who used to say: "We pretend to work and the government pretends to pay us".
To suggest to Canadians that governments owe them jobs or are even capable of providing them with jobs in every case would be a cruel deception. This is particularly true for this government, already over half a trillion dollars in debt and spending $41 billion and rising every single year just on interest on that debt.
The tax burden on working Canadians simply to sustain the present level of spending is already a crushing load. Where will the money come from to create the ministry of plenty envisioned in this bill? Governments have no money of their own. They must work with money taken from citizens. Even if they recovered some revenue in the form of taxes this proposal would still require an enormous additional expenditure in terms of the bureaucratic handling fee that would be made necessary by this new initiative.
If government programs, spending, borrowing for more programs and increasing tax grabs to fund it all could give people jobs, there would be enough programs and spending in Canada to give every single citizen three jobs. It has not worked out that way.
Since big government, big government programs and interference in the economy are what have brought us to today's fiscal mess I am frankly amazed that anyone would be advocating more of the same today.
Allow me to outline some of the obvious flaws in this bill. Clause 3 of this legislative proposal calls for governments to give priority to the undertaking of sufficient measures to achieve full employment in Canada and establish programs that ensure that employment opportunities are available to all adult Canadians who seek work.
These suggestions are vague and they are optimistic. The shortage of specifics with intent to achieve idealistic goals seems to infer that the government should spend tax dollars to create employment without creating wealth or economic growth to support it.
It seems to me that we have tried these measures before in countless forms throughout our history without creating any possibility for long term employment. The most recent example is this government's initiative to assist unemployed Canadian youth. These programs amount to a redistribution of tax dollars to our young people in exchange for performing routine tasks. It does nothing to give them long term jobs and skills.
The premier of Ontario tried to spend his way out of recessionary times during his first year in office. We know the results there. This type of mentality has already plunged Canada to the brink of fiscal collapse. Investor confidence has weakened and with it has come a loss of jobs and a shaky economy.
High interest rates are another result of this type of government policy. The vicious spiral of government spending leads to a high level of taxation which in turn contributes to inflation which stifles entrepreneurship.
The best way to create employment and thus achieve this bill's objectives is to eliminate government waste, remove barriers and regulations that hinder commerce, cut spending and reduce taxes. In this environment there would be a streamlined bureaucracy serving the real needs of Canadian entrepreneurs. Canadians would have more money left in their pockets to start and build businesses and there would be enough profit left to make their work and risk worthwhile. Only when individuals are prepared to risk their own capital can we expect to have a strong and vibrant economy.
Studies have shown and indeed the hon. member opposite just mentioned that an enormous percentage of real long term jobs are created by a healthy small business sector.
We need to get government off the backs of people and keep governments' demands from obstructing their dreams and work. There is no need to further encumber the people of Canada with yet another government department and still more regulations to stimulate employment.
This bill also calls for a draft plan that will include an estimate of the number of jobs expected to be created in Canada as a result of the plan and a timetable for its implementation and
for the achievement of full employment. This suggestion poses some very serious questions.
First, experience has amply demonstrated that governments by their nature cannot be trusted to forecast the economic capacity of a free market. Their attempts to do so have only led to some type of a planned economy. I am sure we are all aware of the outcome of such strategies as practised in other countries.
The omniscient role for government as advocated by this proposal would be best replaced by enhancing the resources of the private sector which has the most at stake. Other countries have recognized that economic decision making must be centred not on periodic pronouncements and decrees from a distant bureaucracy. This type of top-down policy would only cost Canadians jobs by stifling initiatives and creating obstacles.
There is a need for government policies that promote competition and choice. This would foster a market culture predicated on efficiency and ingenuity. These in turn will generate more activity in the marketplace which will create more jobs. It would be of great benefit if government was more user friendly and more accessible. Canadians want more personal responsibility and less imposed government dependency.
This bill's plan unfortunately seeks the opposite. Every able and willing Canadian should be able to find suitable employment but that can only happen when the nation's wealth is left in the hands of entrepreneurs, investors and business people rather than taken from them to be spent by bureaucrats, politicians and grant recipients.
Clause 6 of this bill itemizes 22 regulatory protectionist or expenditure related measures which the sponsors hope will ensure full employment. Most disturbing of all is the consideration of the establishment of a department of full employment that would include a mandate to achieve full employment. It is almost incredible that as our fiscal crisis looms larger, ideas involving yet another increase in government spending and thus an increased tax burden are still being promoted.
Still others of these measures would close doors to Canadian drugs and restrict our markets to imports. To tie this all together, an intricate web of new agencies would also be created to carry out the policies.
What fascinates me is that there is no mention of where the funds would come from to realize these goals. This is one of the best examples of a recipe for disaster. We must instead strengthen co-operation between business, government and labour to ensure sustainable environmental development, the development of training programs which will meet the real demands of industry and work for tax relief and reform.
The Reform Party supports a general program of expenditure reduction, not increase, leading to a lower level of taxation, a lower cost of doing business and a lower cost of living. We need to get the deficit and debt under firm control while reforming the tax system in order to create a level playing field which would allow private initiatives to stimulate the economy.
To this end we will work toward a simple, visible and flat taxation system. I was glad to hear the member opposite support that in the speech before me. Investment consumer confidence in a market economy are directly related to the cost of participation. Canadians should be allowed to spend their hard earned dollars as they see fit, not in funding endless government programs.
In conclusion, Bill C-209 reads like another attempt at a planned economy which historically has never achieved its objectives. This legislative proposal does not allow society to harness the initiative of individuals. It creates structure and dependency, trade, profit-
Full Employment Act
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96(1) the order is dropped from the Order Paper.
Sergio Marchi Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
moved that Bill C-44, an act to amend the Immigration Act and the Citizenship Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Customs Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, a warm welcome to my colleagues on all sides of the House as we get back to school, as it were, today.
Whether our ancestors landed by boat in Montreal or touched down at Vancouver International Airport, we are for the most part a nation of immigrants. Of course there were people here before the boats and the planes arrived, but since the beginning Canada has been the rainbow for those looking for a new way of life, indeed a new lease on life, and Canada has not let them down for Canada has been a rainbow for those new hopes, of those new aspirations and of those new dreams.
We must admit there is a bit of rust on that rainbow for a criminal element has infiltrated an immigration system that was built on hard work, hope, faith and justice. The actions of a small group of people are causing Canadians to question the very limits and the very merits of a system that has done much to build our nation as we know it. In short, the deeds of a few have cast a shadow over the reputations of many.
Immigration has provided the very lifeblood of our country. It was the immigrants that carved our forests, worked in our factories, raised our skyscrapers in our cities and provided our
jobs. They did it yesterday. They do it today and we are confident they will continue to do it tomorrow.
The amendments to the Immigration Act that we are dealing with today in Bill C-44 are designed to help get the undesirables out of the system and put some of the gleam back in the rainbow. Abuse of the system by a few has been cause for alarm. While the numbers of those causing the problem are small, the damage they have done is large.
We have read the reports, heard the stories, seen the pictures or maybe even attended a funeral. A criminal minority has used the immigration system to its own advantage. There has been slow enforcement and some of us have watched with growing anger while a justice and immigration appeals system was used as a stalling tactic to delay departure orders.
The problem of immigration enforcement is not unique to Canada. It did not start with this government or even the previous one. Instead it is a worldwide problem. To the south our neighbour has ongoing and very well documented enforcement problems. When Cuban jails opened, for instance, Florida was inundated. Barbed wire and armed men guard the Rio Grande. Africa has witnessed war, pestilence and famine resulting in the vast migration of peoples. Only a tiny portion of that tremendous movement of people comes to our shore, but it is significant nonetheless.
Last year almost 110 million people in Canada came through primary inspection points at our points of entry. In 1993-94 immigration officials examined over 3 million in detail, handled more than 100,000 immigration applications, conducted over 30,000 investigations and removed at the end some 9,000 people from Canada. In 1993 at the same time we also admitted some 81,000 skilled and/or business workers, some 24,000 refugees and reunited 134,000 people with their families.
We cannot and should not dismiss what is happening as a global phenomenon or excuse it as inevitable when large numbers of people overwhelm a system. When even a small number slip through with false papers, lies or simple misdirection they can cause tremendous pain and suffering, not to mention a backlash on the entire immigrant and refugee community.
It is a Canadian problem that demands a Canadian answer. Now is the time to face the issue and to provide Canadians with the answers.
We have before us today an accountability session in a legislative form for both the government and members of Parliament on all sides of the House. A number of MPs, as they should, here today pride themselves on listening to their constituents. I hope they have been listening hard because I too have been doing a lot of listening. I know Canadians expect their members of Parliament, all members of Parliament regardless of their political affiliation, to move swiftly with this bill and get it right.
I hear immigrants and refugees telling us and the government to stop that tiny minority of criminals from reflecting badly on everybody else. I hear police chiefs and police officers telling us and the government to change the law to ensure that it is the innocent that are protected, and not the other way around.
I hear, as does my government, people from all across Canada telling us to prevent foreign criminals from infiltrating our country disguised as legitimate immigrants or legitimate refugees.
If we do not deal swiftly and crisply with both the perception and the reality of abuses to our immigration and refugee system, the integrity of the entire process is in jeopardy. When drug dealers or other thugs slip through the cracks of the enforcement or screening net they discredit a program that has made Canada the envy of the world.
So it is up to us to fix it. We do not have to take the system apart. We do not have to stop having one of the most progressive immigration and refugee policies in the world. We simply have to fix the system and make it tougher for criminals to claim they are refugees and to prevent thugs from using red tape or muddled intra-government communications to extend their stay in Canada.
When it comes to enforcement of immigration issues, we have to do a better job. The public expects better, the public deserves better, and the public will get better enforcement of immigration issues.
In a moment we can discuss how better enforcement procedures have already started to take place, but the amendments to the Immigration Act before the House are legal arrows for an enforcement quiver. The amendments help protect the true refugee and the average law-abiding immigrant should has no fear of Bill C-44. However the felon that has mistaken Canadian hospitality for a chance to loot the bill will find the doors to our country swing both ways. By strengthening the integrity of the system we will go a very long way toward restoring public trust and take ourselves further down the road toward building a better and a safer Canada. When the House approves these amendments I believe we will see a significant improvement in our enforcement procedures and the speed in which we can remove foreign criminals from our soil.
The bill before us presents amendments in more than a dozen areas. I would like simply to touch on a number of them that are more significant in terms of their impact on the current system. Among those are amendments that would stop serious criminals from claiming refugee status simply to delay their removal from Canada.
The legislation will put an end to the ridiculous spectacle, for instance, of an immigration and refugee board having to troop off to Kingston penitentiary to listen to a convicted murderer claiming refugee status. Average Canadians, average members of Parliament, know that is an abuse. However under current legislation the IRB is mandated and has no option but to respond to such a claim for refugee status.
I submit, as does my government, our refugee laws were not put in place to promote that kind of a claim. Rather, those laws are there to protect the legitimate fears of persecution for which Canada has won a Nansen medal, the only country and the only people on the globe to receive that distinction.
At the same time Bill C-44 will permit us to remove the most serious and dangerous criminal from a refugee process that may have already been commenced. If the system found either a serious act of criminality abroad or in Canada and the process had started the system was incapable of doing anything about it. Under Bill C-44 the amendments would provide that where warranted the system would be able to remove an individual from the refugee process and place the individual before an immigration inquiry to deal with the act of serious criminality.
I believe this is a common sense change. The system is not designed to protect the serious criminal. Nor should it be built on incapability of reacting to information once it is discovered by our officials. The time and energy spent dealing with serious criminals slows down the response of the IRB to real problems facing real refugees. That is why we have chosen to act.
When approved the bill will take away the power of the immigration appeal division to allow major criminals to remain in Canada on so-called humanitarian or compassionate grounds. I underline this is not a restriction of rights; it is more a matter of accountability. I also underline this is not an overreaction to a few isolated incidents. Instead it is a reality of the world in which we live. We should never forget the goal is to ensure that the interests of Canadians are protected.
The public across the country wants some balance of the scales of justice in a certain sense, in a common sense and in a fair and equitable way.
People want a sense of protection offered to those who seek it. At the same time, when someone contravenes that tolerance and crosses over the letter of the law, then there is a public that expects some kind of balance and some kind of accountability rather than a system that is indifferent to it, rendering a public that is frustrated, cynical and indifferent.
The minister and the government and indeed Parliament must deal with the consequences of any decision to allow a serious criminal to stay in Canada for either humanitarian or compassionate reasons. I believe it is both appropriate and reasonable that the minister and senior officials of the department make that decision.
The immigration appeal division will continue to have jurisdiction for all individuals on questions of law and fact. What we are trying to address is the accountability that the Canadian public demands of us and of its systems. As the law stands now, there is nothing to stop the citizenship process even though a person may be subjected to an immigration enquiry.
If citizenship is obtained the person cannot be deported. Once again we have tried to reflect the feeling of the public that clearly this is not in the best interest of the system. The right hand must know what the left hand is doing in government. Why should a citizenship process continue to move blindly on without due recognition for an immigration enquiry which may or may not be serious?
This bill automatically stops the citizenship process until the immigration inquiry resolves the matter for which that enquiry was caused. The bottom line once again is the protection of our interest and the safety of our country and Canadians.
Other changes mean that two summary convictions-in Canada or elsewhere-will make anyone ineligible to be an immigrant to Canada.
Madam Speaker, let me stress that we are talking about crimes as measured by Canadian legal standards and not political persecution for what some foreign regimes might attempt to disguise as a crime.
Bill C-44 would also give immigration officers the authority to seize documents from international mail such as passports, driver's licences and credit cards which could and are being used to circumvent immigration requirements or forge documents. This amendment does not apply to domestic mail and is limited to packages weighing more than 30 grams.
There is absolutely no question that the mails are being used to forward identity documents. We would expect the volume to
drop as soon as these amendments are passed. Last year in Toronto, for instance, about 70 packages containing status or identity documents were being located every week. In Montreal the volume was approximately 10 packages. In Vancouver officials found roughly 25.
This flows from a common sense application. Some months ago there was a Globe and Mail article that discovered officials from the Department of Justice telling officials from customs and immigration that they were in violation of the law for basically defending our borders through the interdiction of certain mail and fraudulent documentation.
We have moved to bring the law up to speed in order to render the system more accountable to its citizens. The amendments will also allow arrest warrants to be issued for no shows at immigration hearings and will provide an immediate loss of permanent resident status with all removal orders and not some of them.
It will also eliminate the possibility for any one person to have more than one refugee claim processed at the same time.
Why should that be any different? We have a good system and people should have one kick at that good system rather than taxing the system and taking away a place for another legitimate individual.
The legislation will also authorize the minister or his officials to approve or reject requests for rehabilitation rather than having the matters go to a full cabinet. In plain language this cuts down the rubber stamp aspect of rehabilitation and treats each individual on their proper merits. This will be far more cost effective, cut back the time needed to make a decision and prevent the issue and the individual from getting buried in a much larger cabinet agenda.
As I mentioned at the outset, there are other elements of bill C-44 that are very positive, valuable and worth supporting. I hope we will have an opportunity to discuss these issues not only in debate form in the House of Commons but with careful scrutiny in committee following second reading.
There are also other elements to limiting abuse within our immigration and refugee network that do not fall under any act or legislation. In this regard I believe it is important for all of us to remember that C-44 should not be seen in isolation but instead should be seen as a part of a more comprehensive package of initiatives to try to come to grips with the minority of those who wish to abuse the right of the many. Some of the fixes simply mean bolstering internal procedures and changing priorities.
Enforcement of immigration issues have been tightened and toughened in recent months. As always we remain cognizant of the rights of the individuals of due process upon which our society is firmly founded.
Our government has already started to streamline its own administrative system. Immigration has speeded and strengthened its liaison with the correctional services of Canada so that foreign offenders will have fewer opportunities to stay in Canada after they have served their time in jail or prison. Once again common sense dictates. Why was it not in place years before now, that somehow immigration Canada was more in sync with corrections Canada so that when those individuals were released from our provincial or federal facilities they could be deported?
Why is it that those individuals serving time in our penitentiaries who ultimately will be deported or served deportation orders enjoy day parole? That is an issue I have raised with the Solicitor General and with my colleague, the Minister of Justice. Again it flows from common sense. If there are individuals who are deportable upon completion of time in prison, why is day parole instituted for those individuals as well? They are not easing into the community. They are easing out of Canada. Therefore I question why day parole should be applied to those individuals.
My colleague, the Minister of Justice, has also made a commitment that the parliamentary committee when reviewing the Young Offenders Act as part of that mandate will also look at how the Young Offenders Act will apply to those young individuals within our country facing deportation. Again, this not a knee-jerk reaction but a studied reaction in this case together with the other issues that certainly will draw the attention of that committee.
Enforcement is a priority of my department. It is not an obsession of my department, it is a priority; a priority that is roughly 10 per cent of our budget which translates roughly into $56 million for the year 1994-95.
Our system for blocking the entry of criminals has been for the most part been vigilant and effective. Last spring a special operations unit was set up, targeting members of organized crime groups and geared to improving our ability to prevent them from entering Canada.
For this purpose we have focused on Asian gangs, the triads, and the yakuza, as well as gangs from Russia and the Caribbean.
I am sure members are also aware of the special joint task force involving immigration officials, members of local and regional police forces, as well as provincial and RCMP forces. They have operational units in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and their prime directive is to remove foreign criminals from our midst.
I believe that the concept of the joint force is the right approach, not because this minister or this government has deemed it so on July 7, but because in leading up to that decision we discussed the whole concept of the joint force with those who
knew best, the police officers and police chiefs whose mandate it is to serve and protect us and our communities.
I hope we have the patience for this force to be allowed to do its job and as I mentioned in Montreal last month to the police chiefs association there are two things that can endanger this type of joint force. One is jurisdictional squabbling which has not been the case, and I take my hat off to the four different forces that have converged in the joint forces. The second aspect is the whole thirst or appetite for what I would refer to as number crunching or bean counting. At the end of the day the mandate of this force is to get the job done, but also not to ask these professionals things that are also irresponsible of some of those who ask it of them in order to say how many did you get today, how many did you get this week, did you get them all last week.
The mandate is a very difficult one for these individuals but they are professionals and they will get the job done. In the United States the joint force concept has run into problems for those two reasons. It is my hope, not for the short term but for the long term, that we allow this force to work and not only work in terms of removing the individuals that we all believe ought to be removed but also to render us through the experience and the information that they will get in how enforcement is best done and by whom.
If the professionals come back and tell this Parliament that enforcement is more of a policing discipline and not an immigration one, then so be it. Let us answer the riddle once and for all but let us allow those professionals to do the job they are capable of doing.
There may be other improvements that we can usher in to the system and one such recommendation for instance coming from some of the police chiefs is to permit judges to not recommend deportations at the time of giving sentence but to order deportations at the time of sentencing so that the system is leaner, so that the issues of that individual are all dealt with at the right time, and that there is full due process for the individual's counsel and lawyer to react to that judge's ordering of a deportation rather than recommending and then having it go back to immigration and before an immigration appeal division and so on.
That will necessitate not a change in my act but a change in the Criminal Code. As parliamentarians we should be interested in this issue and prepared also to look at making the relevant amendments if we think those amendments will work and if we think those amendments are fair.
There have been difficulties with some removals from Canada to some countries because of problems obtaining foreign travel documentation. Senior officials are dealing with this problem and it will be resolved soon.
The immigration department is continuing to step up its international efforts to prevent undesirables from entering the country and is working closely with the RCMP and a number of foreign control authorities and in partnership with airlines.
Having acknowledged the problem and having attempted to define the scope of the problem, there is certainly something else to be said. If we do not deal with these issues now in the light of day, there are those who would appeal to the darker side of our character and use the excuse of public safety to cloak a negative and hurtful agenda aimed at shutting off all immigration. I say and my government says that we cannot allow this any more than we can allow criminals to wipe their feet on our welcome mat.
It is important that every one of us in this Chamber work toward exploding the myths surrounding our immigration and refugee process.
Yes, there are problems and I have just acknowledged what some of them are. But to those who claim that immigrants are bilking our welfare system, we have to say that this simply is not so.
Statistics show that native-born Canadians are more likely to use the social assistance safety net than are immigrants.
For those who fear we are in the icy grip of an immigration crime wave, we have to tell them and those individuals among us that this too is far from reality.
A recent research paper prepared for a law conference at Carleton University in our capital said bluntly that immigrants were under represented in the criminal population. Researchers found that the so-called immigrant crime appeared primarily to be less serious crime. Social scientists say that a likely explanation for this so-called under representation among the criminal element is due in some part to the screening process that takes place before the immigrant arrives on our shores.
I also know equally that it is difficult and sometimes impossible to compare the dull, dry figures from a research paper with the heartache and anger that comes with the story at the top of our supper time news. As parliamentarians we must stress again and again that there is a lot more to immigration than a news story about a thief in the corner store, as important as that is, to the safety of all our neighbourhoods and communities.
Look over your back fence. What do you see? The chances are you see a neighbour who is an immigrant or is a son or daughter of an immigrant. I see the crime stories in my clipping service every day at 6.30 in the morning but I do not hear quite so often stories about people like Kim Loan Hua. Who is Kim? She is an immigrant. She came here penniless in 1979 as part of the
100,000 Vietnamese boat people Canada received. She was one of those. She has now opened four restaurants in Toronto and employs over 20 people. Kim was a refugee and is now a Canadian entrepreneur.
What about Shan Chandrasekar? He came from India. He overstayed. He obtained permission years ago to be able to stay legally in Canada and in the process founded a television network to serve the Canadian-Asian community.
What does that say? It says that for every criminal named in the press with an immigrant tag we can give 10,000 cases of immigrants and recent Canadians who are anything but a problem for or a drain on the country and who despise the antics of troublemakers and the lawlessness of hooligans as much as anyone in this Chamber.
Are we courageous enough to say so? How about the guy who coaches your kid's little league? Some of our Nobel prize winners have been immigrants. Our novelists, opera stars, painters, politicians, teachers and even some of our best journalists were not born in this country.
When we hear the word immigrant we should not automatically think crime. We also should not automatically think superstar either. Instead we should think of a neighbour, of a colleague, of a husband or a wife.
When I met with the Canadian association of chiefs of police last month, I told them I expected speedy passage of this legislation. I reiterated that this morning because we must act decisively and expeditiously. The law must be changed quickly in light of the public concern for the well-being of our immigration refugee system.
I am convinced that this legislation will go a long way in protecting those so close to us from the stigma of criminality brought on by a tiny minority who have slipped through the cracks. Madam Speaker and colleagues, let us get on with it and seal up those cracks.
Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC
Madam Speaker, this is my first speech in the House today, after the summer recess. Before speaking to Bill C-44, however, I would like to congratulate the Parti Quebecois on its splendid victory on September 12, and also the new Premier of Quebec, Mr. Jacques Parizeau, a man with the stature of a true statesman.
I also want to congratulate the 77 members elected for the Parti québécois, the 47 members of the Quebec Liberal Party and Mr. Mario Dumont, leader of Action Démocratique. Some, like myself, belong to the ethnic community.
I will now speak in this debate on second reading of Bill C-44, which proposes to amend the Immigration Act, the Citizenship Act and the Customs Act. These amendments, according to the authors of the bill, concern 14 specific points. For instance, some changes will have the effect of stopping a person convicted of a major crime-that is, punishable by a maximum prison term of 10 years-in Canada or outside Canada, from claiming refugee status to delay his removal from Canada. Immigration officers will have the power to seize from international mail documents that could be used for fraudulent purposes. In the case of serious criminals, the Immigration Appeal Division will no longer have the power to allow appeals on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Grounds for appeals before the Immigration Appeal Division will from now on be limited to questions of law and fact. A person for whose arrest a warrant has been signed by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the Solicitor General of Canada, because he represents a threat to public safety, will lose the right to appeal.
Processing of an application for citizenship may be suspended, pending the outcome of immigration proceedings. A person convicted of two summary conviction offences-a minor offence punishable by a prison term of not more than six months-whether the offences were committed in Canada or outside Canada, may be prevented from immigrating to Canada. The minister, instead of the Governor in Council, will have the authority to approve requests for admission on the basis of rehabilitation, and the minister may delegate this authority to employees of the department. The obligation to conduct a new inquiry in the case of a person who has been ordered to leave Canada has been removed, so that a person loses permanent resident status as soon as he is ordered deported.
We in the Bloc québécois agree with the general, underlying principles of Bill C-44, that is to say, the government has the right and a duty to protect Canada and all Canadians against criminals. We agree with preventing immigrants and claimants from taking advantage of Canada's reputation as a host country to leave their country of origin where they have committed serious crimes.
We must eliminate or at least reduce the ways in which immigrant refugee claimants who have been convicted of serious crimes can stay in Canada legally.
We agree with restricting the admissibility of convicted criminals. We must ensure that serious criminals who manage to escape removal are deported as soon as possible. In 1993, Immigration Canada deported 1,200 criminals; between January 1 and May 31, 1994, 600 criminals were deported. This effort
must be pursued for the safety of the people of Quebec and Canada.
We have many more questions and concerns regarding Bill C-44. This bill is an excessive response to certain problems and situations that have arisen over the past few months in Canada. It is the Liberal government's response to the strict, right-wing stand the Reform Party has taken concerning immigrants and refugees.
The minister's speech today only confirms this shift to the right the minister and the Liberal Party have made. I have read the speech he had made as the Official Opposition Critic for Immigration. He was much more of a humanist back then. I endorsed his ideas and objectives in those days, but not any more.
The Bloc Quebecois has condemned and still condemns the murder of a young woman in a Toronto restaurant and that of a Toronto police officer. The unfortunate fact about these two murders is that they were committed by immigrants subject to a deportation order. The media gave far too much notoriety to these incidents.
On July 7, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration launched a blitz to deport out of Canada some 600 criminal immigrants. To this effect, he set up a special task force of immigration officers and members of the RCMP and the local police, to identify, trace and hasten the expulsion of foreign criminals from Canada.
Based on information from La Presse , this special task force has found, after going over the various cases, that only 90 of the 600 immigrants with serious criminal records were in Quebec.
It also found that half, or 45, of them were already in jail. Seven of the 45 still at large had left Canada of their own free will. Of the 38 cases remaining, 5 have been resolved; three criminals had been arrested and deported, and the other two had been summoned before an immigration officer. As of July 19, in Quebec, there were only 33 cases pending and as we speak, I trust these too have been settled.
The special task force was manned by 4 RCMP officers in both Montreal and Vancouver and by 12 officers in Toronto. In addition to creating this group, the Standing Committee on Justice is reviewing the question of how young offenders who are not Canadian citizens and who have been convicted of crimes should be treated. Finally, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and Correctional Service Canada for expediting the deportation of foreign criminals.
Again, we urge the government to take the measures required to prevent abuses and protect Canadians and Quebecers against criminals, but we cannot endorse Bill C-44 as it now stands.
In our opinion, some provisions of this bill violate the Geneva Convention on Refugees as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, it restricts without justification the mandate of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Unlike the Geneva convention, this bill does not distinguish between refugee claimants who have committed political crimes in their native countries and those convicted of non-political crimes. In determining refugee status, the first thing to be considered should be the nature and purpose of the offence, in particular whether it was committed for political or other reasons.
On the other hand, there should be a certain balance between the seriousness of the crime and the danger to Canadian society. The Geneva convention, confirmed by Federal Court jurisprudence, states that this element of comparison must be considered.
Professor James Hathaway writes that the seriousness of the crime must also be weighed against the possibility that the life or safety of a person sent back to his or her native country may be at risk. The bill does not address this aspect of the issue.
The purpose of the bill is to prevent people convicted of serious offences for which a term of imprisonment of ten years or more may be imposed from claiming refugee status. This means that the actual seriousness of the offence will not be taken into account, which we think is unfair and arbitrary.
In our opinion, the actual sentence imposed and not the maximum sentence should be considered. Every offence can be committed in a great variety of circumstances, some of which call for the maximum sentence while others only call for the minimum sentence. Our Criminal Code does not specify a minimum sentence for most offences. Therefore, a person could be convicted of a crime for which a term of imprisonment of ten years or more may be imposed without being jailed or fined.
He would only be given a suspended sentence or put on probation. Despite all that, the minister can issue a certificate declaring that person to be a public danger, which I think is unfair and arbitrary.
This situation could violate the Geneva convention. Indeed, the manual of the High Commissioner for Refugees says that in evaluating the nature of the crime allegedly committed, all relevant factors, including extenuating circumstances, must be considered. Do not forget that we are talking about refugees
here, human beings for whom being deported to their country could be very dangerous in some cases and even fatal.
Under the bill, many decisions that were made by the IRB will now be made by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and his officials. Despite all the criticisms we have of the IRB and the mistakes it has made, I prefer that tribunal to be fully in charge of determining refugee status. It is a quasi-judicial specialized tribunal, whose duty it is to hear the parties. The minister's decision is purely administrative and often politically motivated. Thus, many decisions will be based solely on foreign policy considerations and the state of relations between Canada and the refugee claimant's country of origin. We think that Bill C-44 is a government attack on the IRB's independence.
Obviously the minister did not like some of this administrative tribunal's decisions. So what does he do? He removes a large part of its jurisdiction. This is a blatant contradiction of the Davis-Waldman report, which the minister said reduced the need for him to intervene in the refugee determination process. Bill C-44 does the opposite and considerably increases the minister's involvement in this field. It prevents not only refugees but also permanent residents who committed crimes outside Canada from going to the IRB. This bill must be denounced, for it attacks one of the fundamental principles of our legal system, namely the right of appeal. It takes away the right to appeal to the Immigration Appeals Division for humanitarian considerations following a deportation order based on the commission in Canada or abroad of a crime punishable by ten or more years in prison.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to all. Basic rights to a fair and impartial procedure should also apply to foreigners. I agree with the position expressed by the Canadian Council for Refugees that refugees and permanent residents must be able to apply to the appeal division of the IRB.
This bill is also contrary to the right of family reunification. In some cases, a person will be deported even though his whole family stays in Canada. It is really regrettable that this fundamental aspect of Canada's immigration policy, which is part of the program of the Liberal Party of Canada, is being attacked in this International Year of the Family. This might violate conventions signed by Canada, such as the convention against torture, the principles of the United Nations on arbitrary arrest and detention, the Geneva convention on human rights in wartime, the declaration on disappearance and missing persons, etc.
In that context, the bill might also violate sections 7 and 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. I also oppose the provision which provides the right to search international mail and authorizes immigration officers to seize identification papers and other documents sent by international mail or other means, in an attempt to circumvent the Immigration Act. This could lead to abuse. It is to be noted that immigration officers already have the authority to search those seeking to be admitted to Canada, as well as their baggage.
The bill also authorizes immigration officers to request a warrant for the arrest of any person who does not appear at the meeting to which he was summoned. The police will arrest that person and his name will be filed at the Canadian Police Information Centre. Under normal circumstances, police will arrest a person only under the authority of a warrant delivered by a judge. We know that a person will often not show up because he moved and did not get the notification to appear. On September 13, I attended the National Conference on Immigration, in Ottawa. Working group no. 7, which was set up by the minister during the consultation process, looked at control and law enforcement, which are the issues dealt with in Bill C-44. Why did the minister not hold consultations before tabling this legislation?
I am asking that this bill be referred for review by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. Lawyers specializing in immigration law, as well as the organizations working in the field of immigration and with refugees, including the Canadian Council for Refugees, should have the opportunity to be heard by the committee. I am also very interested in hearing from the IRB. For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will oppose this bill at second reading.
I want to take this opportunity to raise other issues related to immigration and refugees. In Quebec, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration closed four regional offices in July to concentrate all its services in a single centre located in Montreal. This decision must be strongly criticized and this is what we are doing today. We must oppose these closures which have resulted in lost jobs, in Quebec as well as in the rest of Canada. There is another problem I would like to mention, namely the new rates recently imposed by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Many people who were granted refugee status by the IRB are unable to pay $500 per adult and $100 per child to secure permanent residence in Canada. I made representations to the minister and his department in the hope of finding a solution to this problem but so far with little success. How can you demand immediate payment in the amount of $1,400 from a newly arrived family in a state of total despair and often without any money whatsoever?
If I may digress for a moment, I would like to salute the employees of Ogilvie Mills Ltd, especially those of ethnic origin, who have been on strike since June 6 last. Located in Montreal, this mill manufactures Five Roses flour.
Today, they are protesting on the Hill and I will meet with them later on. I take this opportunity not only to express my solidarity to them but also to ask the Minister of Human Resources Development to table a bill amending the federal Labour Code by including an anti-scab provision. Such a provision already exists in the Quebec Labour Code and is very successful.
As you well know, Madam Speaker, I came to Quebec in 1974 following a military coup which took place in Chile on September 11, 1973. My wife, my two children, then five and three years old, myself and thousands of other Chileans were very well received by the people of Quebec who were profoundly generous. We worked and continue to work hard to ensure a better life for our children and our grandchildren and to make our contribution to the progress of this society.
However, today I am profoundly sad because of this anti-immigrant sentiment in Canada and because of this anti-refugee sentiment in Canada.
It is appearing in Canada as in rich nations all over the world.
The contribution of immigrants to all sectors of the economic, social, cultural and even political life of this country is immeasurable.
I am proud to have been elected, last October, to the House of Commons by a majority of francophones in Montreal-Nord, with the support of the labour movement and various ethno-cultural communities, twenty years after coming to this country. I am even prouder of the fact that my leader asked me to be our party critic for citizenship and immigration.
I believe that this bill, even though it contains certain positive elements, will be perceived as linking immigration and criminal activities and will therefore exacerbate xenophobia and racism in Canada. Statistics clearly show that new immigrants are more law-abiding and that their crime rate is lower than that of Canadians by birth. This bears repeating.
I ask the minister to immediately launch a comprehensive awareness and information campaign to apprise all Canadians of the facts regarding immigration including the benefits that flow from it, as well as the huge contribution immigrants have always made to this country.
Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin my evaluation of Bill C-44 by saying it is a small step in the right direction.
For several years Canadians have been saying they have a deep concern about Canada's immigration system. These concerns have included the fact that many Canadians consider immigration levels to be too high. Other concerns are the skill and education levels of immigrants entering Canada and the effectiveness of the immigration department in enforcing government policy.
If the Liberal government wants Canadians to place faith in the system and the elected officials who administer it then the government has a moral obligation to look at these concerns and to act in the interests of all Canadians.
One of the chief concerns of Canadians in this area is the relationship between immigration and crime. In the past year there have been several high profile cases in which immigrants to Canada were involved in criminal activity which could have been avoided had proper action been taken. The result was an increased focus on the relationship between immigration and the criminal justice system.
Confidential government documents leaked to the media revealed: "There is a sense that the immigration program is out of control". This is the public perception of Canadians who feel and again I quote: "Immigrants need to be better selected". Very clearly Canadians want to see changes in the way the immigration system in Canada operates.
Perhaps not very surprising, this is the view that has been put forward by my Reform colleagues and I for some time. I believe this is because our party has a policy of first of all understanding the wishes and desires of grassroots Canadians. This means our party pays very close attention to what our constituents are telling us. They have been telling us for a long time now that they are losing faith in the immigration system because they believe it is being poorly administered and poorly enforced.
I am pleased to see that the Liberal government is finally listening to the common sense solutions that the Reform Party has been putting forward on this issue for some time. As I mentioned before, I see the bill as a step in the right direction. But our party has chosen not to lend support to this bill for two main reasons.
The first is that the legislation is not properly structured to keep immigrants with criminal backgrounds from entering into Canada's refugee system. The second is the fear that the Liberal government will use the passage of this legislation as an excuse to take no further action on the concerns the Canadian public has about the immigration process.
This bill does take a step in the right direction. One of the elements of the bill which my party is in support of is that it empowers the senior immigration officers who are the first contact applicants have with the immigration system. The bill would allow these officers upon discovery of a criminal back-
ground to stop the processing of an individual's application to enter into the immigration or refugee process.
This will serve a number of purposes. It will save Canadian taxpayers money because they will not have to pay for the processing of cases which would be appropriately rejected in any case. It will save immigration officials time which can be better spent processing the claims of applicants without a criminal background. More time spent studying these routine applications means fraudulent claims are less likely to be approved, giving the immigration department more credibility in the eyes of Canadians. Finally, the measure makes the common sense move of protecting the Canadian public from foreign born criminals who want to come to our country. All of these are excellent goals.
Unfortunately, this legislation does not go far enough to ensure they are achieved. The problem is that immigration officers are still not being given the tools to do their job. Officers now have the power to refuse to process applications if they discover a criminal background. At the same time, they are not being given the power to do background checks on those applicants. In fact it was recently revealed by a member of the Canada employment and immigration union that refugee claimants are not given security screenings before facing the refugee board. The proposed legislation gives the immigration officers necessary new powers but does not grant them the means to exercise them. An illustration of the problem was a news report by the Canadian Press published September 12. The report stated that there are very severe guidelines which restrict immigration officials as to what they may ask refugee claimants. The report also stated that this could mean people who should not get into Canada may be slipping past the immigration and refugee board.
Here are a few examples of those guidelines. Officials cannot request information from the immigration department about a refugee aside from identity papers and passports. This means officers cannot check statements made at a hearing against the claims made when the refugee first entered Canada. Officers cannot investigate claims through sources such as the police. Only board officials can now use public record sources.
Officers may not press reluctant claimants for answers on particular issues because that could be perceived as being adversarial.
The effect of this bill is to grant powers to officers without giving them means to exercise these powers. It would be like giving a highway patrolman the power to arrest speeders without allowing him to use radar to detect those speeders.
This leads us to the second major reason why the Reform Party is opposing this bill. That reason is enforcement.
One of the intentions of this bill is to detect problems early in a system so that deportation orders can be issued to those who do not qualify. However, as we have seen over the past year, there have been serious problems with those deportation orders.
Several high profile cases have demonstrated that the issuing of deportation orders does not ensure removal. The numbers indicate that of 25,000 deportation orders last year, only 8,200 were verifiably carried out. Despite the fact that 1,200 criminals were deported last year, 3,000 more deportable criminals disappeared and have not been found.
Immigration enforcement officers are so overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of deportables that they are unable to execute a removal order unless the individual voluntarily turns up.
In Toronto there are 30 enforcement officers charged with the execution of deportation orders or investigation of legal residency of 40,000 cases. More deportation orders will likely only increase the backlog rather than actually clear many more people out of the country.
The greatest benefit of this legislation is that it would prevent some criminals from getting into the immigration and refugee system, but should the aim of the government not be a bit higher than this? A few simple changes could put some real teeth in this legislation.
To begin with, how about granting more power to individual immigration officers? This would mean giving them the power to do background checks and giving them greater access to data banks. This could save Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars as well.
If I understand correctly the intentions of the legislation before us today, the government is interested in adding an element of common sense to the process. This legislation is saying Canadians do not want immigrants or refugees with criminal backgrounds to come into this country.
Why do we not give the immigration officers the means to find this out before their cases come before the immigration refugee board? It would save all involved time and prevent costly hearings which would only result in the dismissal of the application in any case.
Another measure which would give this legislation teeth would be the beefing up of the enforcement of deportation orders. I am aware that in response to public pressure the minister did appoint extra staff to deal with this problem. Is this handful of extra officers really having an effect? The government needs to devote even further resources to staff and to the enforcement of deportation orders. Warrants should be issued so that the whole police network can enforce these immigration laws.
When 3,000 deportable criminals disappear into Canadian society in just one year, the potential for harm to the general public is tremendous. Justice cannot be served when the law cannot be enforced. If the deportation orders issued cannot be carried out then the immigration system has very little credibility in the eyes of the Canadian public.
These are the two main reasons other Reform MPs and I cannot bring ourselves to support this bill. But do not get us wrong. We think the intentions of the bill are dead on the mark. We are very pleased the government is listening to Reform Party members and putting some of our ideas into effect. We have been listening to the Canadian people on this issue and we are pleased the government is finally starting to do the same thing.
To be quite frank, my colleagues and I did consider giving qualified support to these measures. Our party believes the parliamentary system does not necessarily require opposition parties to always be adversarial. However, after scrutinizing the legislation we came to the conclusion that we could not in good conscience support the bill. We cannot give our support to legislation without teeth. If we fail to oppose this bill the government could claim to have dealt with the issue and simply moved on to other business. But the truth is that the Liberals have not dealt effectively with this bill. Their failure to do this could have terrible ramifications for the people whose interests we are elected to represent.
This bill is definitely well intentioned but it does not go far enough. The Canadian public expects elected officials to deliver a lot more than good intentions.
I believe I speak for the majority of Canadians when I say there are a number of problems with the current government's approach to immigration. The shortcomings of this particular legislation are just a small part of the larger problem. Quite frankly, public support for immigration policy in this country is at an all time low. Canadians have little faith in the current system and want to see changes made. This means that governments must stop serving special interests and instead make decisions in the interests of the country as a whole.
There are four main areas of immigration policy which the government must reform if it is to win back the trust of the Canadian people. These four areas are: enforcement; the growth of the so-called immigration industry; economic self-interest in selecting applicants; and the unacceptably high immigration levels.
I raised the topic of enforcement earlier in reference to deportation orders, but the issue goes much farther than that. When it comes to immigration there are many areas where the government has a policy to protect the needs and the interests of Canadians but simply does not follow through on enforcing this policy. An example is the breakdown of sponsorships.
Sponsorship is one of the cornerstones of the government's current immigration policy. It consists of an individual in this country supporting an immigrant and vouching that the immigrant will not become a burden on the Canadian social safety net. Sponsorship is an excellent idea. It remains a key component in the success of many newcomers coming to Canada. Unfortunately, sponsorship is just one component of our immigration policy in which an enforcement component is almost entirely lacking.
Mainstream media organizations such as the Toronto Star have been reporting on breakdowns in sponsorships for some time now but nothing has been done. What generally happens is that unable to find work, recent immigrants turn to Canada's social safety net rather than to the person who agreed to sponsor them. What are the ramifications of this? To my knowledge, very little is done to counteract this avoidance of responsibility. The end result is negative for all involved.
For the Canadian taxpayer the promise of a productive contributing citizen is broken. It is replaced with yet another individual who will require the expenditure of already scarce government resources.
For provinces and municipalities, it is yet another form of offloading from the federal government. Provinces and municipalities bear the brunt of providing services such as social assistance. When an immigrant sponsorship breaks down, the responsibility falls to the province. It is forced to take responsibility for a situation it had no hand in creating.
The breakdown in immigrant sponsorship is especially an insult to the majority of immigrants who come to Canada, work hard to contribute to this country and remain true to their promise not to become a burden on Canada's social safety net. As is often the case, wrongdoing on the part of some members of a group results in the perception that the entire group is guilty.
That is why the federal government must make the enforcement of immigrant sponsorships a priority. It would greatly raise the credibility of the immigration system in the eyes of the Canadian public. It would also honour the efforts of those sponsored immigrants who work to maintain their sponsorships and remove an unwelcome burden from all taxpayers, both those who came to Canada and those who were born here.
Another area in which a lack of enforcement calls into question the credibility of the immigration system is business class immigrants. These are immigrants who have lived in this country because they have capital to invest and have promised to create new enterprises. This is another case where the government policy has the correct priority.
This country needs the influx of capital and the enterprising spirit brought by business class immigrants. The problem is there is not a very stringent enforcement of these regulations. Promises of investment and new jobs do Canada very little good
unless they are acted upon. It is once again the case that immigrants are asked to keep a pledge but face very little reprisal if that pledge is not kept. Again the credibility of the system is called into question and the reputation of honest business class immigrants is sullied by those who fail to fulfil their pledges.
It is understandable that immigration bureaucrats would not invest the time to look into these areas of immigration policy. After all, it would simply create more work for the agency's already overburdened enforcement arm.
These are the words of one federal audit: "Poorly run sector of the immigration department is what is ultimately responsible for carrying out government policy". The August 1993 study of the enforcement branch obtained under the Access to Information Act portrayed the branch as racked by inadequate management systems, poor communications and inadequate safety for its officers.
One of the key criticisms in this report was the procedures that stood in the way of officers getting easy access to unemployment insurance, citizenship and social services records. The report said that allowing immigration officers access to this information would facilitate enforcement activities and increase effectiveness. This is exactly what I was speaking about earlier. Immigration officers need to be able to access information on immigrants and potential immigrants and refugees in order to make the system work. This issue is almost entirely overlooked in the legislation we are debating now. It is one of the major reasons we could not bring ourselves to support it.
One of the demands the Canadian public is making of the immigration system is that it be effective. In order to be effective the department must be able to enforce the policies it operates by. Failure to enforce these policies means a loss in credibility which is why so many Canadians are cynical about the immigration process.
If the minister of immigration would like Canadians to once again have faith in this department, he must take steps to strengthen enforcement. This is not being done by the current legislation.
If the government is going to re-establish the faith of Canadians in this country's immigration system, the second area it must make a priority in reforming is ending the support for the burgeoning immigration industry. I am talking about the bureaucrats, the lawyers, the academics and the social engineers who rely on a high immigration rate to either further their own careers or justify their own jobs.
The people I am referring to here are not necessarily bad people. Often times they feel they are doing what is best for all involved. Unfortunately, however, they have ended up creating a system funded by taxpayers in which the primary benefits go to those who collect salaries and not to the immigration needs for the Canadian public as a whole. I am referring for example to immigration lawyers who are paid to try the cases of the huge backlog of refugees.
The amount of money spent on these lawyers and on the commissions they appear before is astronomical. The cost of the Immigration and Refugee Board alone is $250 million a year. Think about that: one-quarter of a billion dollars for a system which deems only 15 per cent of refugees inadmissible to this country. To contrast this the Canadian government gives only $30 million a year to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the organization responsible for caring for many of the 20 million refugees who currently exist on this planet.
I ask members of this House which would be a more utilitarian use of this money: paying lawyers to spend countless hours preparing appeals of board decisions or providing fresh water and medicine to war ravaged refugees in Africa?
I recognize there is a need for due process in the admission of immigrants and refugees to this country but I maintain there has to be a better way. This bill takes an important first step by stripping the appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of its ability to overturn deportation orders on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. I suspect this will have little effect on the $250 million spent every year on hearings and appeals.
I spoke to several constituents this summer who expressed their anger over the amount they correctly assumed this department must cost the Canadian taxpayer. Their common sense solution was to find a way to speed up the process to better serve the interests of genuine refugee claimants and immigrants and the Canadian public as a whole. The people I spoke with are not angry with immigrants. They are angry at the immigration system.
The annual expense of this immigration industry to Canadian taxpayers has never been properly calculated but we can safely assume it is tremendous. It involves a myriad of expenses. What is the cost to the provinces of immigrants who use social housing? What is the cost of English as a second language programs in different school districts? Getting this type of information is difficult because the provincial and federal governments rarely share this data.
What must be understood is that all of these expenses are the result of federal immigration policy. Therefore it is the responsibility of this House to consider these costs when making its decisions.
I must again stress that the increasing anger of Canadians over immigration policy is not with the immigrants themselves. It is anger with the system that administers this policy in a way which is not in the best interests of Canadians as a whole.
A big part of the problem is that Canadians see a large and rapidly increasing sum of money being spent on immigration programs at a time when funds are being cut back for health care and education. They are asking if this money is being spent unnecessarily. They have every right to ask without being called racist or small minded. I say this because proponents of the current approach to government policy often refuse to enter into a debate about these issues, preferring instead to attempt to sully the reputation of those who raise the issues in the first place.
Does Canada really need the immigration industry we have built up over the years? About 15 years ago Canada, along with other countries in the western world, was asked to respond to the plight of Vietnamese boat people. These were genuine refugees who because of their political situation were forced out of their homes.
Canadians opened their doors wide to these people but in a very different way than we do today. Community groups and churches took it upon themselves to sponsor individual refugees and families. They made sure they had a place to stay, taught them English and French, and helped them integrate into the fabric of society. These immigrants in turn laboured to quickly adapt to their new home, learning English and French and furthering themselves through education and hard work.
Today instead of community groups and churches we have subsidized housing and government sponsored language training. Instead of inviting immigrants and refugees into our social circles we stick them in downtown high rises and housing projects and ask why these groups have so much trouble adapting to the Canadian way of life.
The only explanation is the growth of the immigration industry. It is a well intentioned and highly paid group of individuals whose own self-interests are reflected in the decisions they make for everyone. Proper enforcement of immigration policy and curtailing the growing immigration industry could go a long way toward re-establishing the faith of Canadians in our immigration system.
A third and equally important consideration is ensuring the admission of immigrants to Canada is done with the best economic interests of the country in mind. Current statistics vary on how many immigrants come to Canada based on their ability to contribute to the country economically.
In his column in the July 14 Globe and Mail Michael Valpy said: ``Immigration policy used to be selective. Now only 15 per cent of it is selective. The rest is determined by family reunification and a policy of refugee acceptance that is the most liberal in the world''.
The Canada immigration facts and issues publication put out by Citizenship and Immigration Canada noted: "About 15 per cent of immigrants are evaluated for their potential economic benefit to Canada". The same publication noted that over half of all immigrants, 55 per cent, were admitted either as family class immigrants or refugees.
Quite frankly the government is giving too little priority to admitting immigrants to Canada based on their potential economic benefit to our country. This is especially disturbing because, as the government has often pointed out, we are now a part of a global economy and this is changing the nature of our economy at home.
There is currently little demand for an abundant supply of unskilled labour. Education is now the key to the success of individuals. There is little opportunity for employment and advancement for anyone with less than a high school diploma.
A good example of this point can be seen in my riding of Cariboo-Chilcotin, specifically in my hometown of Williams Lake. When I was growing up jobs were relatively abundant in the area as there were many mills, ranches and mines. A capacity for hard physical labour was often just as important as any type of education one might have.
Today the area is much different. Employment is hard to come by if one does not have a proper education. The jobs once performed by a large payroll of semi-skilled labourers have now been replaced with machines and technology. On the positive side this has meant an increase in well paying jobs for highly skilled workers such as engineers, agriculturalists and technicians, and a better quality of life for those employed in these industries.
In the past immigrants were drawn to Williams Lake because of the economic opportunities provided by resource based industries. However over the years less and less of these opportunities have been available.
The lesson to be learned from this experience as a parent and relevant to the debate we are having today on the topic of change to the Immigration Act is that the government must place more of a priority on attracting immigrants to Canada that have the necessary skills and education. I would suggest this be accomplished by reducing the number of individuals admitted to Canada as family class immigrants.
A confidential report prepared for the immigration minister and leaked to the media suggests this very idea. It has recommended family class immigration be redefined to grant automatic acceptance only to spouses and children sponsored by Canadians or landed immigrants. I would suggest the shortfall made by reducing this category be replaced by immigrants that
have the economic skills and education to make a greater contribution to this nation.
We should also remember that family reunification here often means family disunification in the immigrant's native country. I am sure, Madam Speaker, you and other members of the House are familiar with the Statistics Canada report entitled Canada's changing immigrant population. The report noted how immigrants compared in many respects to native born Canadians. It found that a higher percentage of immigrants, 19 per cent, than native born Canadians, 13 per cent, had less than a grade nine education.
With the requirements of the Canadian economy changing to demand a stronger educational background in workers the government must place more of a priority on admitting people to this country that will be employable and competitive in our markets.
Proponents of unbridled immigration would probably argue against this policy. They would suggest tight restrictions on the sponsorship of family class immigrants are unduly cruel and uncaring. I am sure they would also suggest that emphasis on attracting immigrants to this country based on their potential economic contribution would be crassly materialistic and greedy.
I would say to these people that they are out of touch with current economic realities. Canada needs skilled workers if it is to remain competitive. By the same token what it does not need is further pressure placed on the social safety nets which are stretched to the breaking point at this time in any event.
Grassroots Canadians have been telling the Reform Party for a long time that they would like to see more emphasis placed on admitting to the country individuals with job skills and education and less emphasis placed on admitting individuals with little to offer. If the minister hopes to restore the faith of Canadians in the immigration system, responding to these desires would go a long way toward doing this.
Finally, I believe reducing current immigration levels would go a long way toward re-establishing the faith of Canadians in immigration policy and in the immigration system.
Before I begin making my argument for a reduction in immigration levels I must point out that it has been the policy of the Reform Party for some time to pursue lower immigration levels than are the current Canadian norm. Our party policy, which is based on the wishes and desires of our members, states that current immigration levels should be reduced to approximately 150,000 people per year.
Despite our opponents' attempts to label us as anti-immigrant we are in fact pro-immigrant. We simply believe current immigration levels are high and are not based on providing social or economic benefits to this country. It is clearly the desire of a majority of Canadians to see immigration to the country lowered from current levels.
In March a survey commissioned by the federal government found that an unprecedented clear majority of Canadians, in the words of the Globe and Mail columnist, Michael Valpy, thought immigration levels were too high. As the same columnist noted, other research found the decision to set high levels was based on increasingly unrealistic economic expectations of immigrants.
It is very clear the majority of Canadians would like to see lower immigration levels. By refusing to lower the government's current level of 250,000 people per year the federal government and the immigration minister are quite clearly denying the will of the people.
I believe it is because of our emphasis on consulting our constituents that Reform became the first party in the House to pursue a policy of lower immigration levels. The government is beginning to see the wisdom of this approach. It is my sincere wish that the Liberal government and the minister of immigration soon alter their own policy.
Senior advisors working in the immigration department have recently recommended that immigration levels be reduced by 20 per cent to 200,000. This information was contained in an 18-page confidential report prepared for the minister of immigration. It notes that as a result of public consultations there was a sense the immigration program is out of control and urges that immigrants be better selected. Now that the minister has completed his tax funded study of public opinion on the issue of immigration I hope he will act on the knowledge he gained in the process.
The minister and the Liberal Party have a distinct disadvantage in this regard. Unlike Reform they do not believe in voting with or in some cases representing the interests and opinions of their constituents. The Reform Party has a distinct advantage in this area. We truly believe in listening to our members and constituents and voting with their interests despite our personal stance. This means during times the Liberal caucus met to discuss how they felt Canadians should be governed the Reform Party was out asking those same Canadians how they wanted to be governed. This meant very early on the Reform Party knew very clearly what actions Canadian people wanted to be taken.
I do not understand why the immigration minister and the Liberal government remain so irrationally committed to maintaining high levels of immigration. Canada continues to have the highest immigration level in the industrialized world. The result of this is that Canada has the highest growth rate in the west and ex-Soviet block at 1.4 per cent a year. That is a higher growth rate than Argentina, China, Thailand, Korea, Sri Lanka and Uruguay. This growing population requires an increased quantity of government provided services every year at a time when
governments at every level are finding it difficult to raise sufficient revenues.
One of the best ways to judge what should be our current immigration level is to look at the immigration levels in countries similar to our own. A good example would be the United States. Americans have long prided themselves on being a country which welcomes immigrants with open arms by saying: "Give us your poor, your tired, your hungry". Another common phrase used in describing the immigrant experience is the melting pot. This terms implies tremendous ability on the part of Americans to welcome and assimilate newcomers from different countries.
The Canadian public has spoken loudly and clearly in its desire for lower immigration levels. I hope the minister recognizes that Canadians will continue to display a notable lack of faith in the government's immigration policy until those numbers coming into Canada are reduced.
I am going to move a motion at the end of my speech, but I conclude by noting that in all decisions it makes regarding immigration, and indeed in all decisions it makes regarding any government business, the government must take into consideration the economic implications of its actions.
We are a country of immigrants. Canada was founded and was settled for the most part by peoples from every nation on earth. The result has been growth and creation of a very spectacular country with a tremendous amount of history and accomplishment and an even greater potential ahead of it. However, our party would find it necessary to go much further. Consequently we find ourselves unable to lend unqualified support for the bill. Despite a number of appealing features it ultimately lacks the substance necessary to meet the needs and desires of the Canadian public.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
Would you put the motion to the House please?