House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was reform.

Topics

Bell Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is the House ready for the question?

Bell Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Bell Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt this motion?

Bell Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bell Canada Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Therefore, this bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Industry.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

The House resumed from October 22, consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, an act to authorize remedial and disciplinary measures in relation to members of certain administrative tribunals, to reorganize and dissolve certain federal agencies and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak on Bill C-49 which came out originally as a housekeeping bill.

The bill deals with the administrative changes to boards, agencies and tribunals. For the most part it makes fairly minor changes, or what would appear to be minor changes. What it does not do in all of these boards is improve the accountability. It does not improve the competence of the people who are appointed or the quality of the appointees.

It was the hope of the Reform Party that the government would follow through with some of its promises in the red book to bring greater accountability to these politically appointed boards and commissions. The red book promised:

A Liberal government will take a series of initiatives to restore confidence in the institutions of government-and make competence and diversity the criteria for federal appointments. Open government will be the watchword of the Liberal program.

A Liberal government will examine the size and relevance of existing boards and commissions to achieve cost savings by shrinking some boards and commissions and eliminating those that no longer play a useful role. To fill the vacancies that remain, a

Liberal government will review the appointment process to ensure that necessary appointments are made on the basis of competence.

I would like to focus on a specific area of Bill C-49 that relates to the Immigration and Refugee Board. First of all, Bill C-49 has not been passed by Parliament and already the Immigration and Refugee Board has implemented the changes. It would appear that the IRB has little respect for the parliamentary process as it has not waited for legislative debate and passage before implementing this new process. This just reinforces the Liberals' arrogance and total disregard for the parliamentary process.

Prior to this amendment the refugee division was required to have a minimum of two members to hear every refugee claim. If both members hearing a claim differed on the final determination, the negative decision was always overruled. This bill now changes the minimum requirement to one member so that if the member rules that the claim is not valid, their decision will now stand.

At first glance I could favour this amendment. It would appear that it would be quickly processing or allowing double the work to be done in half the time. However since this change is already in effect at the IRB, I have learned that the majority of cases are still being heard by panels of two members due to pressure and interference by refugee lawyers.

These lawyers can choose whether they want one member or two members to hear their case, depending on who the member is. If the lawyer does not like the single member, then they request a panel of two members to increase their chances that their client's claim will be accepted. This certainly puts into question the arm's length approach that is intended.

I have also learned that members are being pressured into increasing the number of positive decisions, something the IRB has assured me time and time again does not happen but I keep hearing about it from people within the system. How can someone make an unbiased and objective decision with pressure from the board like that placed on them?

I ask: Where has this process become more efficient and cost effective? The IRB is costing taxpayers about $77 million a year. Members of the board have been and continue to be patronage appointments comprised of former refugee lawyers and advocates that depend on refugee claims for their livelihood. How objective would you be if your bread was buttered by the very people that are now appearing before you?

The entire purpose of the IRB has to be questioned. Guidelines are issued to IRB members that really put the entire process into question. For example, a woman arrives, claims to be single with children, claims to have been abandoned by her husband and now fears persecution in her country. The guidelines pertaining to gender related claims indicate that a member is in great difficulty to deny this woman refugee status even if her claim is questionable because the IRB is non-adversarial. The IRB member cannot investigate the woman's allegation because it may put the woman at risk. The woman is then given the benefit of the doubt.

This guideline is very well known to immigration lawyers and is often used as a tactic to ensure that their client remains in Canada. After the woman is allowed to stay in Canada, she sponsors her husband who she originally claimed abandoned her. This is a case of blatant abuse of the refugee determination process. What is the purpose of hearing cases like this one when we know full well that the outcome is predetermined by the IRB guidelines?

One of the purposes of the Immigration Act is to provide protection to genuine refugees fearing persecution. I fail to see where this is addressed in a guideline such as the one I just mentioned.

What have the Liberals done to deter this type of abuse? Nothing. Something has to be done to ensure that genuine refugees are granted the protection they need and that bogus refugees do not use this avenue as a means of curtailing the normal immigration process.

The abusers of the system are causing genuine refugees to be left fearing for their lives while these abusers jump the immigration queue and benefit from Canada's social and health programs. This is unfair to those who rely on this system as a genuine and legitimate way of finding protection and safety.

The IRB thinks it is doing its job by providing statistics to the minister every year showing how many cases have been processed and how many refugees are now in Canada. However, what it fails to mention is the large volume of backlog cases that leave genuine refugees in limbo for an unacceptable length of time. This cannot continue. The IRB must now face the fact that it has failed the immigration system by allowing the backlog of refugee claims and by way of this bill it has made it worse.

There are qualified public servants within the Department of Citizenship and Immigration who could assume the responsibilities of the Immigration and Refugee Board and would process the refugee claims in a more objective and cost effective manner. I see no purpose in giving political appointees a place to sit for $86,000 a year when there are qualified people already in place to do the job.

Another improvement in the immigration system would be for officials at the ports of entry to be granted more responsibility in the initial determination of refugee claims made upon arrival. They are the ones on the front line who see firsthand what documents are not present. They are in a position to ask questions before the applicant can be coached by lawyers on what to say. Right now all a person has to do upon arrival in Canada is claim to be a refugee and they are allowed to stay and have their claim heard, even if the

immigration official knows that they used fraudulent means to get here and are not genuine refugees.

There are few if any options open to the immigration officers at the ports of entry. Therefore, what is the purpose of having immigration officers at the ports of entry if we are not going to allow them to do their job and make decisions? What have the Liberals done to improve this? Nothing.

The Reform Party is committed to and relies on a grassroots approach to its policies. This government needs to take lessons from the Reform Party. Rely on the front line people. They are the people who can make a difference and can provide real insight into what needs to be done to improve our immigration system.

This government is not meeting Canada's humanitarian obligations by allowing illegal refugee claimants to stay in Canada.

What have the Liberals done so far? Nothing. A positive move on the part of Liberals would be to amend the Immigration Act by eliminating the IRB altogether and returning this responsibility to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Then again that would save Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars a year-

Administrative Tribunals (Remedial And Disciplinary Measures) Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleague, I am going to give you the floor again right after question period. It being 2 p.m., we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Hillowe'En Iii
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the attention of the House is riveted today on a momentous event, a history making occasion and an occurrence that will affect every member. I am referring of course to the third annual confectionery caucus Hillowe'en party.

One hundred and forty members participated in Hillowe'en II last year. Hillowe'en III will be even bigger.

Canada's value added confectionery manufacturers will display their products and will help raise awareness about this century old Canadian industry's contribution to our economy. Members, their staff and their children can come together in this non-partisan gathering in the best tradition of the Hill.

As a member of the confectionery caucus, I am proud to be associated with an industry that supports the employment of over 7,000 Canadians and generates over $1.6 billion in factory sales.

I invite all members, their staff and children to join the confectionery caucus and the CMAC tonight in Room 200, West Block from 5.30 to 7.30 for great glorious gobs of goodies.

Hillowe'En Iii
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

That sounds like a sweet message.

Poverty
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I recently participated in the fast organized in my riding of Quebec by a coalition of organizations to express their rejection of poverty.

This 13-day relay fast allowed hundreds of men and women to express their basic demands aimed at reducing poverty among women, children and the most disadvantaged in Canadian society.

I therefore urge this government to stop reducing the deficit on the backs of the poor and give the UI money back to the people.

In 1993, the Liberals condemned the fact that there were 4.2 million poor people in Canada. There are now 4.9 million poor Canadians, an increase of 700,000, and yet no one on the other side of the House is raising the alarm. This silence is disturbing. If I were cynical, I would say to the government that the time has come for them to take concrete actions so they will look good to the voters.

Top Gun Fighter Competition
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all members of the House and all Canadians, I congratulate the outstanding performance of Canada's air force team who last week defeated six U.S. competitors and won the world renowned top gun fighter competition in Florida.

This was a real team effort by pilots, maintenance and other ground support personnel from Canadian forces bases right across Canada. The fighter pilots are based at 4 Wing Cold Lake in the riding of Beaver River.

I congratulate Captain Ross Granley of Red Deer, Captain Brian Murray of Markham, Captain Dave Mercer of Montreal and Captain Steve Nierlich of Toronto who won the best individual score in aerial combat competition.

Nothing else inspires wide eyed, heart thumping excitement quite like the flash and thunder of fighter jets streaking across our skies. I experience this thrill often when I am home in Beaver River as they race overhead.

The Canadian men and women who equip, fly and maintain these marvellous machines for training, active duty or international skill competitions have our deepest admiration and appreciation. Way to go, top guns.

Beauce
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Independent

Gilles Bernier Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Beauce region is leading the way. Three levels of education-high school, college and university-and the private sector worked together on a joint project: the business innovation and technological transfer service or SITTE in French, which is supported by the federal government and whose mission is to help businesses design or modify equipment or prototypes and analyze manufacturing processes.

I want to stress the significance of this co-operation among the private, education and parapublic sectors in our region. Achievements like this can make the difference between regional development and the international competitiveness of local businesses.

I salute the initiative of the Beauce community. This is a first in Quebec.

To supplement government funds, $263,000 was raised in a drive among businesses in the Beauce region. The committee was chaired by Marcel Dutil of the Canam-Manac group. The SITTE is a great project that looks to the future of the Beauce region.

Women's History Month
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Dianne Brushett Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to recognize October as Women's History Month. It is imperative that all Canadians recognize the historical contributions made and the diverse roles that women play in today's society.

The theme for this year's celebration is women and the arts. Women in Canada have left a cultural legacy in the arts and their achievements are an integral part of our national history and identity. Women have been active and successful in every arena of the arts, writing, sculpture, carving, painting, pottery, photography, theatre, television and film, to name a few.

This month we also have the honour to commemorate Persons Day, the day that Canadian women were first recognized as persons before the law. We have a lot to celebrate and I am certain that all members join with me in congratulating women from coast to coast to coast on their past, their present and their future achievements.

Elvira Saadi
Statements By Members

October 29th, 1996 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has designated the month of October Women's History Month. There is no better way to celebrate women in our communities than to highlight their contributions and achievements.

I wish to congratulate Elvira Saadi, a two time Olympian and head coach of Canada's gymnastic team at the Atlanta Summer Olympics, for her work as a coach and teacher. A member of the Cambridge Kips Gymnastic Club, Elvira Saadi was named the 1995 Coach of the Year by the Canadian Gymnastic Federation.

On behalf of the people of Cambridge, I congratulate Elvira for the care and effort she has put into the training of young Canadian gymnastic athletes.