House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

I do not think that is very flattering. It is unparliamentary at the very least. I will continue anyway. I have fairly thick skin.

The member for Winnipeg North Centre has done an admiral job at the committee to try to move amendments and improve some of the shortcomings in the bill. One of the significant changes that she put forward, which was in fact passed, was having a gender analysis done of the bill.

This is something that should happen automatically. It is in keeping with federal government policy since 1995 that for new legislation an adequate gender analysis should be conducted to review whether there is a disproportionate impact of any piece of legislation we might undertake, to review whether it affects women differently.

We succeeded in that. We had that amendment passed and I think it will improve the bill, because there are issues. When we talk about family reunification and about income requirements to sponsor family members, there is a gender factor. As we know, women make 66% of what men make. If a person's ability to sponsor a family member is to be tied to their income, then certainly we must have some sensitivity in that regard.

The one thing not addressed in the amendments at the committee stage is a shortcoming we have pointed out many times, that is, there was no mention of eliminating the right of landing fee, which we believe is one of the biggest barriers to attracting new Canadians to our shores. We have been calling for its eradication ever since it was introduced by the Liberal government, to tell the truth. We finally convinced the government to eliminate the right of landing fee for refugees, but it still stands to this day for other classes of new Canadians. In fact, we are also calling for the elimination of the administration fees that are still being charged to refugees. We were not successful in that, but we will continue in our campaign to have those charges and fees eradicated.

We also pointed out a number of shortcomings in the bill. One of the flaws we pointed out and wanted to change is that too much in this bill is left to the regulations. We were very concerned that members of the House and members of the committee would have very little input into the drafting of the regulations. It was the member for Winnipeg North Centre who moved agreement at the committee stage that the regulations would in fact be put before parliament for approval. This is huge. This is a really innovative change.

Again, I compliment the member for Winnipeg North Centre for having the foresight to bring that forward, because it was glaringly obvious to all of us who read the bill that a lot of the details that will affect the day to day operation of the immigration department will be found in the regulations and not in the act. As members of parliament we want some ability to have some say in how those regulations are crafted. With the bill, they would come before the House of Commons.

There is another thing that should have been cleared up. I appeal to the minister and the department to address it, even after Bill C-11 passes. There is very little in the former act or in Bill C-31 or Bill C-11 that helps to clear up the definitions of terrorists, criminal activity, what level of criminal we are trying to bar from entry to the country and what sort of membership and what kind of terrorist organization one must have taken part in to be barred on those grounds. The bill is very vague. It leaves far too much to the discretion of officers who may have varying ideas of how this is to be implemented.

We pointed out that if we are too absolute in barring people who may have taken part in or may have been members of terrorist agencies, if we are too strict in our enforcement of this, we could be barring people like Nelson Mandela, who was a member of the ANC, which was called a terrorist organization. Now it is called the government of the day, but at the time it was a terrorist organization that took up arms to fight for freedom.

Surely this is not the intention that the architects who drafted the bill had in mind, but it is one of the byproducts of being negligent by not being very clear about what we are seeking to achieve when we try to bar people who may have been involved in some kind of terrorist activity at some point in their lives.

Also, the smuggling of people is a very top of mind issue. I have pointed out a number of times that sometimes smuggling of people is done for humanitarian reasons, in order to get people out of harm's way, to save their lives in many senses.

The underground railway through which American slaves were smuggled was a trafficking in human beings. When we talk about cracking down on smugglers, yes, we want to stop people from exploiting people and trading in human cargo but let us keep in mind that sometimes these actions take place for humanitarian reasons. Smuggling of people can be done with the best intentions of keeping people from harm.

I appreciate being able to add my remarks on Bill C-11. We will be voting against the motion as it stands.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about two sets of objectives. One set of objectives relates to immigration and the other relates to refugees. Some clauses in the bill in relation to the objectives are laudable, but when we go beyond the statement of objectives and get into the meat of the bill, we, like our friends who just spoke, have concerns.

Some of the objectives would permit Canada to pursue the maximum social, cultural and economic benefits of immigration. Who can argue with that? All of us in the House could be considered immigrants to Canada at one time or another. In my case, my ancestors on both sides came from another island called Ireland. They settled in Newfoundland about 150 to 200 years ago. Many of the people who lived in the area in which I live came from the same place.

Those people came to Canada when Newfoundland was not a part of the country. Canada joined us in 1949. They came here to settle in different communities and fish, because at that time they could make a living. Today we would not refer to it as a living. I guess we would refer to it as an existence, but sometimes we do not know the difference. As somebody once told me, we did not know we were poor until somebody told us. I guess that is it when we start comparing standards. It depends on how much we have and how well we deal with it. In those days people dealt with their lot very well.

However, today it is entirely different when people come to our country. We have an immense country. We just have to fly over it and look out the airplane window at the open spaces. I quite often think about that, having flown over places such as India where the population is so dense that there are very few open spaces any more. Even when we fly into mainstream Europe or over England, we can see that almost every inch of the land is cultured and cultivated. Then we fly over Canada and see what a difference there is and how people who live elsewhere in the world in crowded conditions could appreciate our openness, our fresh air and what we have to offer.

We do have a tremendous amount to offer, particularly in the development of the great resources in our country, if only government regulations would let us develop these resources for the benefit of the people without throwing in a lot of red tape and political jargon.

One of the concerns I have heard raised just recently by people who have immigrated to our country was that as new groups come in, new people who are perhaps not familiar with our customs and language, they are having a problem finding suitable employment. In a lot of cases they are not aware of the customs and do not speak the language very well. They find it very hard to get by the different industrial concerns, particularly in our large cities.

That raises a major concern. First, I suppose it is idealistic to say there should be a crash preparatory course, something like a premarital course, for people coming to our country. Quite often people come not because they want to but because they need to depending on the conditions they leave behind.

When people come to Canada I do not know how well we are prepared to make sure that they fit into our society, that they are accepted and that they are nursed along so they can establish themselves without basically being rejected because they do not fit into the mainstream.

In our larger centres we have groups who are not brought into the mainstream and cannot find employment because of where they came from, the language they speak or whatever reason. There is a tendency for younger people in such groups to do what our own young people do when they are kept not active: get into trouble.

Some of the concerns raised in larger cities about such groups are not raised simply because there is an innate, built-in reason for them to rebel against society. It is because they do not fit into the new society in which they find themselves. The onus is on us not only to welcome people into the country but to make sure we have provisions in place to deal with them when they come here.

We talk about enriching and strengthening the social and cultural fabric of Canadian society while respecting the federal and bilingual character of Canada. It is an extremely important objective. The people who come here from all over the world add to the culture of our country. They add to the strength of our country. They all bring much with them and make a contribution.

We can look around the House on an ordinary day and see members who represent different districts in the country. Looking at the backgrounds of members we realize that they come from all over this great world. We are now living in Canada and are all Canadians. It does not matter what our backgrounds are. All of us in our own way have contributed to the growth of this great country.

One of the concerns is in relation to the second part, respecting the federal and bilingual characters of the country. One of the things we must realize is that when people come to Canada they ask to be Canadians. If people have problems where they come from, if they leave countries because of oppression, persecution, social conditions or whatever reason and choose Canada, as so many do, they must be encouraged as immigrants to make sure they are now part of this great country we call Canada. Quite often it means having to leave behind habits, customs and so on, but that is the choice people make when they come here.

Canada is a bilingual country whether or not we all accept it. A lot of people may say that is insignificant. However those of us who move throughout the country realize that the two founding nations are still extremely strong. The two languages are extremely strong and are the accepted languages of the country. We should make sure we know them and can communicate quite well in them.

We also must keep in mind that people who come to our country might find it hard to adapt. That again is where it is great to have objectives, but if we do not provide for the implementation of the objectives then people who come here will have no way of coping with what we require.

Again in relation to refugees, many people come here because they are forced to. Again, these are things we must deal with. The objectives are tremendous. The implementations in many cases are weak and that is what we must work on collectively.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-11 today. There is no question that it has been a long time in coming and contains comprehensive changes. However, as my colleague from the NDP indicated, the bill does not contain enough changes for us to support it. We still have great concerns about many areas in the legislation and I will reflect on a few of those.

The people who work in Citizenship and Immigration Canada have been absolutely excellent for the most part when my staff and I have dealt with them. They are extremely helpful and go out of their way to try to resolve issues. Problems tend to arise not because they do not want to help or do their best but because of the policies and processes that have been put in place. As a result, some people have come into the country who should not be here. There have been instances where people have not acted their best while in Canada. As the saying goes, one bad apple spoils the whole bunch.

Those cases have not been blown out of proportion, but a number of them seem to have been. As a result, people immigrating to Canada, especially in the last few years, have been attacked by people with certain agendas. As a Canadian, I am disappointed to see that because I expect more.

I grew up in a Canada that was quite different. In rural Saskatchewan where I grew up there were often only one or two obvious minorities or other nationalities. Other than first nations people and the usual European mix of people and French speaking people whose parents or grandparents had come over, there was only the odd obvious minority.

However I grew up with a very great respect for multiculturalism in Canada. It was taught in our school system. I grew up respecting the diversity of cultures and not expecting everybody to be the same. I grew up respecting people's differences and understanding that we were all here to enjoy Canada and be active participants in the country.

As I said, my experience with departmental officials has been for the most part very good. However there are extreme failures in the system. One of those failures, which has not been touched on in this or previous debates, is the fact that changes within the department have led to case files of people who enter the country being dealt with by people who are not always the most qualified or experienced. As a result, we do not necessarily have the best outcomes.

I am not blaming the individuals. However the experienced people are not dealing with the files or not enough people are dealing with the files and as a result things do not flow as smoothly as they should.

I will comment on some cases I have personally dealt with within my office. I apologize to the minister because I have never discussed the cases with her. I often intend to because I have certain views of how things happen but I have not had the opportunity. These cases are not ones on which the minister has been made aware but it is obvious that there are other such cases or we would not have these clauses in the bill.

One of the major issues is in relation to gender and race. I was quite surprised to get the impression, from a number of cases I have dealt with through my office, that women from certain countries do not get treated the same.

That has been hard for me to handle. The first situation was regarding women in Russia who want to come to Canada. In one case there were teachers in Canada who were willing to sponsor a young woman. The woman worked in Russia as a teacher. She was single and probably in her late thirties. The teachers had known her for some five years. They went over and visited regularly as part of an educational program in Russia. I had the opportunity to see how that program worked when I was in Russia so it was a great experience for me.

I think the young woman paid the equivalent of $50 Canadian to apply to come and visit the teachers in Canada. She was denied outright. The Canadian teachers told me this was an ongoing problem whenever they wanted to bring someone over for a visit, even when they signed on the person's behalf. There seems to be an impression that a Russian woman coming to Canada does so for only one reason: to somehow try to stick around, stay in Canada and not adhere to the rules.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations with the other parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the House to concur in the 24th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Elk Island have unanimous consent of the House?

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, because there is an impression out there that a lot of single Russian women only want to come to Canada for one reason, they all get painted with the same brush. I found that rather disheartening because I firmly believe someone is innocent until proven guilty. If someone has not committed a crime they should not be denied access to our country because they might commit a crime. To me there must be a justifiable reason. That was disappointing for me.

In Russia $50 Canadian is a whole lot of money. It might not seem like much to us but in Russia it is a whole lot of money. It was about three months' salary for that person. She applied and was denied and did not get her money back. Any time there is a new application the money is gone.

Another situation involved a woman from India who had to travel some 200 kilometres to apply to come to Canada to visit her first born grandchild. Her son had been adopted out to another family but had kept in contact with his biological mother. He had his first child and the biological mother—

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations with the other parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the House to concur in the 24th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent of the House?

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I will let the member for Churchill conclude her remarks and hopefully the negotiations will be brought to a conclusion the next time the matter is raised.

Immigration And Refugee Protection Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, there was a situation where a woman in India wanted to come to Canada to see her first grandchild. She travelled close to 200 kilometres to make her application only to then have it denied. She did not have a record so there was no reason for the denial. It was suggested that she would not return to India even though she had a husband there and they had a business. Once again it was presumed that the person would commit a crime before it was committed. I find that disheartening.

I will take this opportunity to admit to those who are not aware that I am a grandmother. For that reason it was especially upsetting for me to hear that this woman, who wanted to come and see her first born grandchild, was not allowed to. Again, there was no reason for it.

I know of another situation involving a young woman from China who wanted to visit her sister who is married to a Canadian. I am not sure if the woman's sister is working but the husband works in Canada.

This young woman lives on a very low income in China and I understand her family helped out by making sure she had enough money to visit Canada. Once again, she was denied the opportunity to visit Canada just because she might not go back.

In every case that I have seen like this it has always involved women. I have seen issues relating to men wishing to come over but there had always been some reason why they could not come. In most of the cases that I have dealt with dealing with men there was no problem. However, in each of the cases involving women there were no crimes committed but they were not allowed to come to Canada just in case.

The gender issue has to be recognized as a problem. I acknowledge that an amendment was passed that dealt with that issue. I hope when I do have the chance to speak to the minister in more depth about these cases that we are able to sort out some of those issues.

I also want to comment on an amendment that did not pass, which I was quite upset about.

I will talk about another situation involving an older woman from India. However at the age I am at now she is probably not all that much older than I am. The woman had some problems with her knees. We are all getting on and we might have a little bit of arthritis or something like that. She was denied access because of her health problem. As it was not a severe health problem, there was no justification for not letting her in. This was a minor health problem and she was denied entry. The family was willing to sign a form saying that they would look after any medical costs but she was still not allowed in. On those issues alone I have been extremely disappointed with the system.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

June 1st, 2001 / 1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Churchill for being so gracious. There have been consultations with the other parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move that the 24th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier this day, be concurred in.