House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was foundation.

Topics

Education
Private Members' Business

March 28th, 2001 / 6:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should ask the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada to perform a feasibility study on the negotiation of a national standardization of education in Canada that may also be applied to recognize foreign academic credentials, degrees, diplomas and professional standing of new immigrants and Canadians in order to enhance the mobility of individuals between provinces and territories and contribute to economic, social and professional progress in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity for the House to debate my private member's Motion No. 232. My motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should ask the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada to perform a feasibility study on the negotiation of a national standardization of education in Canada that may also be applied to recognize foreign academic credentials, degrees, diplomas and professional standing of new immigrants and Canadians in order to enhance the mobility of individuals between provinces and territories and contribute to economic, social and professional progress in Canada.

Education is one of the most important issues on the minds of Canadians, yet is it not covered under the federal jurisdiction in Canada. Due to $22.5 million cuts in social transfer payments to the provinces by the Liberal government since 1993, health and education have been most critically hurt. The effect in quality of health care services is quite evident, but the effect in education services is serious yet latent.

While we suffer from the effect of brain drain, it is essential that we make the best use of brain gain. Enhancing the mobility of people by eliminating educational barriers and recognizing credentials of foreign expatriates could do it.

The motion would not lower Canadian standards in assessing foreign credentials, nor does it challenge provincial licensing bodies. Rather it would provide fair and transparent access to the professional job market and assessment process.

Imagine difficulties faced by new immigrants in settling. They have to deal with new housing, family care, schooling, the household, employment, and they have to adjust to a new environment. The problems are further complicated with inaccurate expectations by new immigrants, illegal work or practices in unregulated professions that cause risks to Canadians. It is also complicated by increased pressure to licence or certify people in human resource shortages.

I have been talking about this since I came to Canada and, like everyone else, experienced firsthand the red tape and bureaucratic nonsense in having my MBA recognized. There was no reason for that hassle.

I have talked the ears off of every possible person, including the cabinet ministers. Finally I saw the single sentence in the throne speech which addressed only part of the concern. I have raised this issue time and again at public gatherings.

I tabled a similar private member's motion, Motion No. 618 in the 36th parliament.

There is a need to make the system accessible and streamlined. There is a need for co-ordination of different levels of government, regulatory bodies, employers and community organizations. There is a need to reduce or eliminate those barriers.

If the House passes this motion, it would help in many ways. Canada would realize the best use of its labour force, professional skills, knowledge and ability to support its growing economy. Canadians would be treated more equally and some disparities between new and old Canadians would be bridged. The country's shortage of doctors, nurses and software engineers, for example, could be alleviated with increased global competition.

It would provide fair and transparent access to the professional job market and assessment process. Rather than allowing new immigrants and those migrating from province to province to be underemployed for too much of their lives, these people would be able to make immediate contributions to the community. This would give Canada a competitive advantage in the global market for meeting manpower needs and enhance the quality of human resources. It would help in the settlement and integration of new immigrants in our society. It would help to remove a burden from our social services.

I had six people in my constituency office who had Ph.D.s. They were underemployed and doing menial jobs. I remember one person in particular who had two doctorate degrees in environmental sciences, one from Germany and the other from India. He had over 20 years experience as a professor and a scientist. He had written 43 research papers in reputable international journals.

He attended promotional seminars by CIC/HRDC in India to lure professionals would like to come to Canada. He applied under the independent category. His degrees fetched him the required points and he was granted immigration very quickly. He resigned from his prestigious job as a professor and scientist. However, once he arrived in Canada he felt like he had been duped of his degrees which had been recognized by Immigration Canada but were not recognized by Canadian departments like HRDC, Agriculture Canada, Health Canada or Environment Canada.

He was almost going crazy while he pumped gas at a gas station to support his family. Imagine a person with double Ph.D.s working in a gas station.

Other frustrated professionals have also told me similar stories. Some were driving cabs, others were working clerical jobs or even janitorial jobs.

I am not talking about lowering standards. I am talking about common sense. Why would a degree in science not be recognized all over the world, for example an M.Sc. in computer science or math? Two plus two always remains four.

Wherever possible, arrangements should be made for upgrading degrees or letting the prospective immigrants know in advance of immigration to Canada of deficiencies in their degrees or courses required before their credentials would be accepted. My motion is aimed at pursuing the government on this matter.

Co-ordination with the provinces and territories and interprovincial co-ordination and standardization of education is also very important. The development of national standards in education is desperately needed, not only to allow easy mobility of people but also to co-op up with globalization and competitive international job market needs.

The chief commissioner of the B.C. human rights commission in a letter written to me said:

I agree that the whole process of recognizing the skills and qualifications of new immigrants needs to be reviewed from a nation-wide rather than piece-meal perspective and the resultant standards have to be consistently applied for the result to make a sensible difference.

The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, CCPE, recommended that the selection criteria for immigration of skilled workers be linked to an assessment of the Canadian equivalency of the applicant's education and a requirement to seek an assessment from an appropriate Canadian regulatory body rather than from one of the network of provincial credential agencies.

The provincial multicultural immigration minister cited the Association of Professional Engineers and Geo Scientists of B.C. for progressiveness and innovation and said its recognition of foreign credentials was another key reason for the profession's involvement in a pilot project to help foreign trained engineers.

At the same time the minister knows the pilot project does not lower Canada's standards in assessing foreign credentials to challenge provincial licensing bodies.

The membership of the Coalition of Regulatory-Related Agencies, CORRA, has said it has no role in managing Canada's supply of professionals. Indeed, CORRA is unanimous in its condemnation of measures that exclude individuals on the basis of measures other than qualification and ability. It says ignoring occupation as a factor in selecting immigrants may unintentionally shut off the flow of information to prospective immigrants regarding Canada's standards for professional certification, licensing and practice.

CORRA recommends that the government recognize the established expertise, experience and statutory authority of existing regulatory and licensing bodies to evaluate the professional qualifications and credentials of all who seek to be admitted into Canada's professions.

CORRA maintains that it wants immigrants with professional qualifications to settle successfully in Canada. As Canada's regulatory body, it looks forward to playing an important role.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada maintains that Canada has not yet developed a government-wide approach to international education. It says no clear government champion has yet emerged to move the issue forward. That is a very important point.

In the United States the Clinton administration issued a memorandum in support of an international educational strategy to attract more international students by addressing barriers to entry such as visa policies, procedures and regulations. Clearly our government should ensure that Canada is not left behind and does not suffer from advances made by the U.S. in this regard.

The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, commonly called CCPE, is looking for ways to streamline existing provincial and national credential assessment processes for foreign applicants.

In conclusion, the increasing mobility of the labour force and the need to make educational qualifications portable across provincial and international borders are factors contributing to a widespread concern about the procedures for assessing educational and occupational credentials.

We agree that provincial governments have jurisdiction over education. Post-secondary institutions are autonomous with respect to admissions criteria. Provinces also establish the regulations of some professional trades. Provincial institutions have the power to determine licensing and certification requirements, grant recognition of credentials, and set standards and qualifications.

Certain national associations have certification requirements as well. However the point is that these bodies follow separate procedures for assessing credentials in separate provinces. In Canada there is no central or national agency responsible for credential assessment. The portability and recognition of skills and credentials are issues being addressed on a global basis. The governments of European states are already introducing mechanisms to make it easier for professionals to move from one country to another.

The Canadian government should take this work seriously and assume leadership in this important area. It should keep up with the rest of the world so that we are not left behind.

This starting point includes the input of all concerned. It asks the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada, as my motion states, to perform a feasibility study on the negotiation of a national standardization of education in Canada that may also be applied to foreign academic credentials.

I urge all hon. members of the House to kindly look at the importance of the issue and to support the motion for the sake of this great country and its people. This is not a partisan issue.

Education
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Laval West
Québec

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate.

The hon. member across the way is raising real concerns relating to the recognition of new immigrants credentials and feels their mobility within the Canadian labour market needs to be enhanced.

Our government shares those concerns and I must assure the hon. member that we are taking the matter very seriously. I am pleased, therefore, to have this opportunity to bring the hon. member up to speed on what we have done so far to remedy this sort of problem.

Let me begin by saying that the government clearly accepts the importance of facilitating the labour mobility of all Canadians in general and of easing the integration of new immigrants into Canada's labour market in particular. I remind the House of the words of the throne speech:

The government—will work in co-operation with the provinces and territories to secure better recognition of the foreign credentials of new Canadians and their more rapid integration into society.

I also note the words of the Prime Minister in his response to the Speech from the Throne. He urged provincial governments to work on their policies with respect to the recognition of foreign credentials of new Canadians.

I would like to add that in my home province of Quebec there is a component of the immigration department with the sole responsibility of assessing the credentials of new immigrants to Quebec and to Canada in order to determine Canadian equivalencies. This service is well known and sets an example for other similar departments across Canada.

Our government has been involved for some time in improving labour mobility in Canada. The goal of these efforts has been to ensure that any professional qualifications accepted in one province or territory will be accepted everywhere else. We want a labour market in which all Canadians, including new Canadians, can work and contribute to the development of Canadian society in the province or territory where they have chosen to live and work.

I assure the hon. member opposite that the government fully agrees that we must create new opportunities and increase the mobility of Canadians who have professional qualifications and diplomas, including credentials, so that they can travel and work freely anywhere in Canada. The fact is that we are already working hard to achieve these important objectives.

The Minister of Human Resources Development and her officials, as well as those of other relevant federal ministries, have been working for some time with their provincial and territorial counterparts and with professional regulatory bodies. Their goal is to ensure that any Canadian qualified to work in an occupation in one province or territory will have access to employment opportunities in any other Canadian province or territory.

Our goal is to allow any Canadian, including new Canadians who have skills and certification, to move and have their qualifications accepted throughout the country. I say to the House that the government has already gone beyond studying the matter as the motion proposes. We are already hard at work on moving ahead.

A major part of that work is done under the internal trade agreement among federal, provincial and territorial governments to remove barriers to interprovincial trade and ensure the free movement of goods, services, manpower and capital in Canada.

Chapter 7 of that agreement concerns manpower mobility. It deals with the fact that the professional credentials of many Canadians, particularly those whose profession or trade is regulated, are not recognized in the other provinces or territories because professional regulations vary from one province or territory to the next, and because it is sometimes difficult for an individual to have his or her qualifications recognized and to move from one province to another.

Under chapter 7 all parties to the agreement on internal trade, that is all provincial and territorial governments along with the federal government, are committed to working with regulatory bodies to eliminate these kinds of barriers to interprovincial mobility.

Now that we have the agreement in place we are making progress in using it to eliminate jurisdictional barriers to labour mobility within Canada. In fact, Canada's social union framework agreement set a deadline of July 1, 2001, for parties to be in compliance with the labour provisions of the agreement on internal trade.

We are co-operating with the provinces and territories through the forum of labour market ministers to ensure that the provisions included in Chapter 7 are implemented quickly.

I can assure the hon. member opposite that the government understands the legitimate concerns that he has raised. In fact the government is already working hard to appease these concerns.

The motion also provides that the government should ask the Council of Ministers of Education to perform a feasibility study on the negotiation of a national standardization of education in Canada.

On this part of the motion I simply remind the House that under our constitution education is a provincial responsibility. In my opinion it is unlikely that a federally initiated study on national standards of education, as the motion proposes, would be welcomed by the provinces or territories.

Moreover, while it is true that the Council of Ministers of Education has been formed to bring a co-ordinated national perspective to educational issues, it is equally true that the federal government holds no sway over that body. The council is made up of provincial and territorial representatives and has a secretariat in Toronto.

The Government of Canada is not officially part of that organization and cannot run its activities.

In summary, the government is already doing everything it can to deal with the concerns raised by the hon. member, and since I do not see the need for such a motion I cannot support it.

Education
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is often said that what is clearly thought out is clearly expressed. I will say clearly that the Bloc Quebecois opposes the motion by the member for Surrey—Centre.

The motion concerns jurisdiction that, as the member for Laval West mentioned, is strictly provincial. It is of no concern to the federal government.

The simple fact of discussing in this House an area that is not a matter of federal jurisdiction would usually lead to the dismissal of this motion.

It is rather odd to see a party such as the Canadian Alliance, which claims to advocate decentralization, especially when it is in Quebec and is campaigning there or presenting its politics, come here and present such a motion before the House. This goes to show that unfortunately what is said is not always honoured.

I understand very well that the motion is not intended to give power as such to the government, but at the same time the wording of it implies an intent to give the federal government a role in an area that is absolutely not in its jurisdiction, which all governments of Quebec, regardless of their colour, political opinion or tendency, sovereignist or federalist, have defended tooth and nail.

It is important to note that the government of Quebec has always objected to the Council of Ministers of Education contributing in any way at all to unifying or standardizing education in Canada. This has been a constant for years, indeed decades.

This position is part of the Quebec government's perception of the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada, as simply a consultative body and nothing more.

By way of example, the government of Quebec did not take part in the consortium project of the Council of Ministers of Education intended to establish a common framework for the development of school curriculum in science. Likewise, it does not take part in the council's consortium on expectations of post-secondary education.

The motion of the member for Surrey—Centre has a number of aspects to it. It deals with the mobility of students linked to recognition of professional titles, the qualifications of new immigrants and Canadian citizens and of the worth of diplomas, if we can put it that way.

First, it is necessary to point out that the recognition of academic credentials and of the requirements for obtaining them comes under the authority not of Quebec's department of education but of the Office des professions et des ordres professionnels. Members will therefore agree that this makes the issue rather difficult to examine.

As for student mobility, the government of Quebec is more than favourable to this principle. Indeed it has made a substantial effort to improve it.

Furthermore, in 1995 Quebec's department of education reached an agreement with its Canadian colleagues with respect to a pan-Canadian protocol on the transferability of university credits. As members know, the purpose of this initiative was to encourage the recognition by post-secondary educational institutions of first and second year university courses taken in other institutions in Canada. This also includes the second year of pre-university college studies in Quebec, also known as CEGEP.

The Bloc Quebecois therefore finds it impossible to support the motion moved by the member for Surrey Central, essentially for the reasons having to do with federal interference in one of the key areas of provincial jurisdiction.

Similarly, in my view and that of the Bloc Quebecois, it is exceedingly regrettable that the member for Surrey Central is giving such strong thought to introducing pan-Canadian standards in this area of jurisdiction which in our opinion should reflect the reality of the various provinces, including the distinctive nature of the Quebec people.

Education
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on such a very important subject. I commend the member for Surrey Central for bringing the matter to the attention of parliament and for proposing a constructive solution to a longstanding problem that has been festering in communities right across the country for many years.

This is an issue about fundamental rights and liberties and about how we view our immigration and refugee policies. I think the motion has been put forward in that context. It is not about jurisdiction or accumulating more power in terms of the federal government. It is a positive solution for co-ordinating efforts around this matter and ensuring a measure of co-operation.

We have a problem that all of us have had to deal with time and again in our respective constituencies.

Who among us has not experienced having to come face to face with an individual who is trained in a particular profession such as the medical profession, has a commitment to serve people in a particular area and has been denied totally the opportunity to practise, to give of one's talents in that area?

The member for Surrey Central is not exaggerating when he talks about individuals who are trained as doctors, nurses or engineers ending up having to eke out a living by driving a taxi or delivering pizza. That problem has been identified by all of us through our personal experiences. It is a problem that has been identified by reputable organizations that work in the field of immigration and refugee policy.

I would like to quote from the Caledon Institute May 2000 newsletter entitled “The new immigration act: more questions than answers”. The institute makes some very important observations. The first one states:

There are many examples of problems arising from short-sighted immigration policies. One of the most frustrating for many skilled immigrants now living in this country is the disconnect between the Canada presented to them while still overseas and the reality they face upon arrival. In trying to attract immigrants, Canada actively seeks people with higher education and who are qualified to practise particular trades and professions. Once these immigrants arrive, however, many discover that the very degrees and training that helped them qualify for immigration to Canada are nearly worthless in the labour market here. Doctors end up driving taxis, engineers delivering pizzas.

That is a very real problem that we deal with on a regular basis, and it is at the heart of the motion. It is about how we, as a country that has a tradition of welcoming people from around the world and encouraging people to settle here justify policies and practices that exclude people from practising their chosen career and engaging in a profession for which they have deep commitment and actual training and education.

The motion before us offers a way to co-ordinate efforts nationally to ensure that we address that problem. It is not about denying or not recognizing the fact that provinces have jurisdiction in terms of setting credentials and governing professions. It is about trying to pool our resources, our knowledge and expertise, and coming to grips with a very significant problem.

The federal government has time and time again said it has done all it can do. It has said it is primarily a provincial responsibility. It is not that simple.

The call today is for the federal government to take up the challenge and to offer some leadership on this front. A crying need has been identified by provincial governments to participate in such a process. Coming from the province of Manitoba where the problem is very much recognized, attempts have been made to review the whole system of recognition of foreign credentials. We would very much appreciate participating on a more collaborative basis with other provincial governments.

If we leave it as the government would have it with the provincial governments and offering very little federal leadership, we would not only do a great disservice to our proud tradition in terms of immigration and refugee policies, but we as a country would fail to address some critical shortages in many professions.

One cannot leave the debate without referencing the very significant shortages that exist now and are being projected for the future in terms of doctors and nurses. It would be remiss of us if we did not recognize the need to pool together our resources and our efforts to deal with that shortage.

It does not make any sense for us to operate as 13 separate entities raiding one another to acquire the necessary professions. It does not do anyone a service. It would make more sense if we collaborated and found one way to deal with the shortage that would include recognition of credentials acquired in other countries around which there seem to be many barriers.

If we do not do that we will not only continue a shortage in the health care field, which will have dire consequences for Canadians, but we will also fail to be competitive internationally in terms of immigration. As it is, we are already losing out in terms of a very competitive situation around the world for immigrants. We are not able to compete because we have policies like the one we are dealing with today which sends a signal to some countries that their citizens are not welcome and that their dreams and aspirations will not be attainable in Canada.

If we want to be competitive in terms of seeking and encouraging immigrants and refugees to come to the country, we have to do our part. One of the ways we can do that is by reviewing how we handle recognition of foreign credentials. Is there a bias in our system? Do we apply a double standard? Is there a failure to recognize that sometimes through additional training and education we can actually find a way for people to practise in their chosen profession?

We have not done a complete job. The suggestion today is a good one. Other countries have taken action and the member for Surrey Central has referenced activities in Europe. For the record, we met recently with a delegation from Denmark. That country has put in place a new institution for evaluation of foreign educational qualifications. That is a positive step because it recognized a problem and did something about it.

We have to do the same in our country. It is not good enough to say that we cannot because it is provincial jurisdiction. We have to avoid getting into the sort of jurisdictional dispute over something as fundamental as ensuring that the country continues to be a welcoming place for people from all over the world. That means we have to work very hard at improving recognition of foreign credentials. There is no other alternative.

However we also have to do other things. We are addressing some of these issues in the debate on Bill C-11 pertaining to immigration and refugee policies. We have to look at the whole issue of family reunification because we can be sure that if individuals come to our country and cannot work in their chosen profession immediately, it does not help the matter if they cannot even have family around them or participate fully in our society.

There are many other solutions to the problem. The contribution today is an important one and we should take it seriously. I offer my support in that regard.

Education
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, we too support the motion put forth by the member for Surrey Central. The Bloc spokesperson expressed the concern that we were intruding into provincial jurisdiction. We all know that education is a provincial responsibility. That does not mean the federal government should not have a major concern about what is happening in the country. The provinces know that very well because, after all, the federal government funds a tremendous amount of educational costs.

That is not to say we should intrude and interfere. The resolution is not saying that we should intrude and interfere. The resolution is asking the House to suggest to the Council of Canadian Ministers of Education that it initiate the feasibility study into standardization.

I stress standardization for the right reasons, so that within the country we have free movement and recognition of the certificates or degrees individuals hold. Years ago when we graduated from university we could pick any job at all within our own province. Then it got to the point where we moved to a neighbouring province. Now not only are we moving throughout the country, we are moving around the world.

What really inhibits this movement of educated people is the fact that many of these certificates or degrees we hold are questioned as we move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It is bad enough when we move to another continent or another country, but when we move to a neighbouring province and our credentials are questioned, then there are some real concerns.

Canada's Council of Ministers of Education would be an excellent agency to have studying the feasibility of standardization, not only within the country but also as it relates to the standards of other educational institutions, universities, et cetera, around the world.

I was a member of that association for a four year period when I was Minister of Education in Newfoundland. I had the opportunity not only to attend all their meetings but to represent the association and the country at two world conferences, one in Geneva, the UNESCO conference, where we discussed Canada's educational programs in front of nations from all over the world.

I also represented the agency and the country at the meeting of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization, of which Canada is an honorary member. This association has tentacles all over the world. The secretariat of that association is top-notch. The association is well aware of the standards of universities throughout the world. If, and I said if, there are universities turning out people who are not up to acceptable Canadian standards it is known beforehand. We should not have to wait months, or years in some cases, for clarification as to whether an MBA or Ph.D. or BA is acceptable and equivalent to what we would get in any of our Canadian universities.

The association has the power and the professionalism to be able to recommend a general standardization policy, which would certainly expedite, if not solve, some of the problems we face right now.

There is absolutely no need for a student coming out of Memorial University in Newfoundland to be questioned in British Columbia or vice versa. There is absolutely no need for a student coming out of McGill to be questioned by some other university. We should be well aware of the standards. In most cases that is not a problem. There is a fair amount of recognition of credits. However, we still have problems within the country. Some years ago it was a major problem. In my own case, I attended a couple of universities and had some trouble getting credits recognized from one to the other. It takes some time.

People who come into the country are facing a severe disadvantage. Professional people come to Canada, many of whom we seek out, many of whom we beg to come in, especially when we have shortages. I am thinking in particular of the medical field, of doctors, nurses and other professional people, where there is a major shortage. We beg them to come here and when they do we complicate their lives by saying we first have to check their credentials. It takes weeks and months and sometimes even longer to get clarification and acceptance.

I have been personally involved in a few cases where the professionals involved were completely and utterly frustrated. These people come to this new country which is supposed to be one that opens its arms and welcomes people from all over the world and treats them royally. In most cases we do and we are proud of that, but we also have a habit of over-complicating things, and this is certainly one area where we do that. Doctors have come to Canada, and to our province in particular, and have waited for months to get acceptance of their credentials.

Education
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Sometimes years.

Education
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

The hon. member across the way says sometimes years and maybe he is correct. However, this is very unfortunate, in two ways. It is unfortunate for the professionals coming here and unfortunate for the people in the areas who are waiting for these professionals, especially medical professionals.

It is also unfortunate because, as I think the member from the NDP said, it gives the country a bad name in the sense of not being accommodating to professionals coming here.

I have absolutely no problem in supporting the suggestion, which is all it is, that the House ask the Council of Ministers of Education to look at doing a feasibility study into the standardization of education, not only as it applies to the movement from province to province but as it applies to professional people who come into the country. That is all the motion does. It is an extremely good motion. It is a timely motion. Our party certainly supports it.

Education
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will leave some time for my colleague from Surrey Central.

I will start by commending my colleague because, as other members have mentioned, this is a very important issue. Those who come to this country, whether they have been here for some time or are new to this country, are burdened with pressures in regard to what they thought they could do here and the reality of what they are faced with when it comes to dealing with this issue of credentials.

Unfortunately there are real consequences for people's lives. They have hopes and dreams that are dashed because of the result of false promises in regard to facing the immigration system prior to making plans to come here.

I want to touch on the issue very quickly. Like the Bloc mentioned earlier, I too am very committed to the issue of respecting provincial jurisdiction. I have been speaking about it in the House since I came here, but I also believe there are times when we have to bind together to some extent to deal with very real problems that the provinces in their jurisdictional roles cannot deal with on a larger scale. This is definitely one of them.

That is why I think it is so important to do what the member for Surrey Central has suggested, to go ahead with a feasibility study. It does not necessarily encroach on any provincial jurisdiction. It puts all the facts on the table about how we could solve the problems and give people the credentials they deserve when they come to the country so they could become productive in society, which I think is in the best interests of all Canadians.

I want to share with members just a couple of key examples of people in my riding who we dealt with over the course of the last number of years. One example in particular that comes to mind is the Aziz couple from Egypt. He is a civil engineer and she is a medical doctor. They had no problem obtaining the right to immigrate to Canada but when they arrived they found out the hard way that they could not get jobs. He was working as a security guard and she was working in a day care. They were very discouraged. They had been informed before they received their permanent visas that they would be able to find work here in Canada. It was such a waste of talent. These were two people who could have lived up to their potential in what they were trained to do but unfortunately had to take substandard jobs. Some of my colleagues have identified similar situations. We need to do something about it.

There are a few key things we need to focus on in engaging in this debate: improved response times for licence or certification applications from individuals educated abroad; better pre-immigration information systems; more transparent and accessible admissions information and processes; and methods of evaluation for individuals educated abroad that are fair, appropriate and equivalent to those required of applicants educated in Canada.

There is another case we need to talk about with respect to the issue of credentials. It is simply the way we can streamline the immigration system. This is definitely something that we can raise in this debate

There is no doubt that it gives us a chance not only to talk about standardizing the education and credential system in a way that is positive for all Canadians, but also how we can streamline the immigration process so that people coming to the country can get the visas they are hoping to get in a shorter period of time, that they can be processed in a way that is efficient, and that they are not left waiting for years upon years with nothing to do because they are not getting the proper documentation.

I was helping two other people in my riding, a couple from South Africa. Their names were Charl and Johanna du Toit. Charl was a computer expert who got a work permit to work for Saddle Systems, a computer company in my riding. They applied for landed status through the Canadian visa station in Buffalo.

They initiated the application in the spring of 1997. By April 1998 they still did not have their papers. The big problem was that Johanna was not allowed to work. It was driving her spouse crazy and they almost feared that she would have to go back to South Africa.

The problem of evaluating the credentials of foreign people coming to Canada with whatever degrees they may have not only causes stress when they have to deal with the waiting process, but in my experience I have seen that at times it also causes disunity in families.

There have also been cases of brothers, sisters and other family members waiting for their relatives who have already been accredited and come here to find meaningful work. Because of the problems they have once they come here, their family members are left lingering in their own countries wondering when they will get permission. They are left on waiting lists here for long periods before they can become meaningful parts of society.

I will leave one key point in the minds of all my colleagues. I know members from other parties have commended the member for Surrey Central on his initiative. It is important that we do something in this place to initiate a process so we can evaluate the credentials, foreign degrees, or whatever they might be, so that people can become productive parts of society.

If we do a study to enhance that idea and push it forward, I think all Canadians would be better for it. New Canadians coming to the country would feel especially welcome. This is something that all members of the House would like to see happen.

Education
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank all the members who participated in the debate, particularly the hon. member for Laval East; the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, my friend; the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre; the hon. member for St. John's West, the former education minister of Newfoundland; and my hon. colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona.

I also thank all other members who gave me moral support on the issue. I thank those numerous organizations and individuals that have contacted my office, written letters and extended their support for this motion.

Education is an important issue. It has been one of the top issues in national polls for quite some time. It is a non-partisan issue.

Unfortunately in Canada we allow brain drain, but when it comes to brain gain we are weak. We do not take advantage of talent and human resources. We do not let our human resources be productive the way they can be.

In fact I will go a step further. When new immigrants arrive here, their education and credentials are not recognized. It becomes torture for most immigrants to be underproductive or underemployed in their lives. It is a punishment for them to come to this country and remain underemployed.

When we look at the whole situation, it is a 911 call to address the issue. The House has the responsibility to address this issue even though some members mentioned that it is a provincial issue. We are not stepping on any provincial toes on the issue. I would not mind if, in due course, we made some constitutional changes to address this serious issue so that we could make better use of our human resources and develop our human capital. We may have to make some constitutional changes because of a changing world, changes in globalization and in the international development of standards, particularly in education.

We may have to do that one day, but today I am not stepping on any toes. I am simply asking the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada to conduct a feasibility study for negotiating a national standardization of education and to recognize foreign degrees. We are not talking about lowering standards or about giving up anything. We are talking raising the standards.

The developed countries of the world are talking about international standards, whereas we do not even have national standards in education. The government has a confrontational strategy with the provinces, which is why we have the interprovincial trade barriers. This is the time to move forward. It is the time to have national standards. It is the time to eliminate those barriers which restrict our progress.

I have talked to many people on this issue. The intelligentsia, the think tanks, the regulatory bodies, the professional non-government organizations and academia all support the motion. The human rights commissioners even say that we should have national standards.

I will quote one of my friends who said “I am a proud Canadian, but it hurts me the most when my qualifications have different values or recognition in different provinces or different parts of the country.”

In sharing the responsibility dispute, we are losing the opportunity to make the best use of our human resources. I would urge all members of the House to help streamline and co-ordinate education and recognize degrees and credentials. In that spirit, I will ask the hon. members to give unanimous consent to make this motion votable.

Education
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to make the motion votable?

Education
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

Education
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Education
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. Since the motion has not been made a votable item, it is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Education
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have to say how much I appreciate being allowed to speak in the House today, because the problem of social housing is especially important to me.

As we know, in the red book written for last November's election campaign the Liberal Party promised Canadian taxpayers the following:

A new Liberal government will work with our provincial partners to create the Affordable Rental Program (ARP), a cost-shared capital grants program to help stimulate the creation of more affordable rental housing, both private and non-profit. Under this initiative, we expect to see the construction of 60,000 to 120,000 new rental units over four years.

The government provided for an investment of $680 million in this program.

By including the notion of affordable housing rather than social housing the government is hinting at the worst case scenarios. We suspect the government of wanting primarily to finance private companies so they would build new housing not reserved for people in need.

We believe that the government's intentions are laudable, but its actions dubious. Social housing has been completely ignored since 1994. This is one of the main reasons for the disastrous state of social housing right now. Because it is not interested in the representations made by citizens, organizations and associations helping those who need adequate housing, the Liberal government is contributing to the rising poverty rate and to the helplessness of couples and single people for whom adequate housing is a real financial burden.

I wonder if the minister realizes that the proportion of tenant households that spend at least half their income on rent has increased by 43% in Canada. There are currently 833,000 people in that group. In Quebec the number has increased by 41% to reach 274,000.

A study was done by FRAPRU in preparation for the World March of Women. That study showed that poverty is a tragic social problem that is increasingly affecting women. In Quebec over one-quarter of tenant households in which a woman is the main wage earner spend more than half of their income on rent. It is extremely difficult for them to balance their budget, particularly if these women have young children.

On February 27, I asked the minister if he was going to change the commitments made during the election campaign to ensure that the federal government really does its share in the area of social housing, as it is being asked by women's groups.

First, the minister did not answer my question. Second, his reply was ambiguous. The minister talks about affordable housing, rental housing and housing for the needy, but I wonder if he knows what social housing is all about. I would appreciate an answer.

Education
Adjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Mississauga South
Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada, through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, helps address the housing needs of all Canadians, including women. Let me highlight some of those initiatives.

In total, the Government of Canada currently spends approximately $1.9 billion annually to address the housing needs of low income Canadians. This includes ongoing support for some 640,000 lower income households that receive assistance to reduce their housing costs or improve their housing conditions. Many of the residents of this housing are women led in lone parent families and older women. As well, this funding is used to provide housing on reserves.

In December 1999, the Government of Canada announced $753 million for its strategy to address homelessness. As part of the strategy, CMHC will spend an additional $268 million on programs designed to repair, improve and expand the supply of housing for low income people, including those at risk of homelessness.

As well, an additional $43 million was allocated to the shelter enhancement program which provides emergency shelter for women and children and youth who are victims of violence.

In the last federal budget, a number of new housing measures were announced by the government. Affordable housing is an eligible investment under the $2.05 billion municipal infrastructure program, and the GST rebate was introduced for newly constructed programs.

There are a number of issues. I thank the member for her question and would like to reaffirm to her that the Government of Canada continues to work in the best interests of all Canadians to ensure affordable housing.