House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was citizenship.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Citizenship and Immigration
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, when we address the House, we often begin, “I am pleased to rise in this House to speak on X, Y or Z”. Unfortunately, I must say that this is not the case today. Quite frankly, I am not very happy about speaking to this matter in this House. It is a very sad topic. I am very sorry to see that the matter has not yet been resolved.

We support the motion because the government is not doing its part for immigrants. It is sad to see that we are talking about human beings in extremely difficult situations and to note that the government's only excuse for doing nothing is the Liberal's incompetence over the past 13 years. We know that the Liberals did not get the job done. They did not implement the refugee appeal division, as discussed earlier by my colleague for Repentigny. That does not justify the failure to take action.

As an MP, I represent the people in the riding of Jeanne-Le Ber, in the southwestern part of Montreal. In my riding, there are many immigrants, people who are trying to immigrate, refugees or individuals attempting to obtain refugee status and who want to settle and live there.

Many of these people come to my riding office because they are having problems with immigration. I meet with a number of them and I must say that, since I have been elected here, these are the saddest and most difficult moments in my work as a member of Parliament. The stories these people tell me are always sad and heartbreaking.

To see that the government is not able to implement simple mechanisms to help victims of arbitrary or bad decisions, to see people come cry in my office because they have to tell their painful story all over again and go over all their suffering so that I can help them, I always find this difficult.

I am urging the minister to use her power and make some decisions in order to resolve these absurd cases and resolve such situations. In any event, this should not be the normal way of functioning. There should be a refugee appeal division in order to allow these people to appeal a decision. This does not seem so unreasonable to me.

Earlier, my Conservative Party colleague from the Quebec City area asked a question. I am not sure if he was trying to prove that he was not listening to the presentation by the hon. member for Repentigny. I am not sure what he was trying to prove, but he asked a question in which he explained the case of a person who keeps appealing and where the procedures go on for months, even years. In my opinion, this is a good illustration of something that is quite common. The possibility of appealing is not a quirk in our legal system. We acknowledge the possibility for error.

Why, when we talk about the board members' decisions in matters of refugee status, do we not think it is normal, the same way we would for any other court ruling, for there to be an appeal?

Many of the board members are doing good work, but we cannot say the same about all of them. These appointments have often been questioned for their relevance, their partisan nature and the fact that they are not always based on qualification alone. There are cases where the board members reject practically every claim that comes their way. It is not very likely that one board member just happens to receive only unfounded cases.

To me, this is a strong signal that there is something wrong somewhere in the system. Perhaps these board members are not doing their work the way they should.

I may be mistaken, but I would like to suggest that the problem is that we have no way of knowing, because there is no refugee appeals division and no tribunal, administrative or otherwise, that makes it possible to review the board members' decisions. If such bodies were in place, we would be able to find out if there were any problems with certain board members. It seems to me that that would put a little pressure on them and encourage them to do their jobs as meticulously as possible. As I said, I am certain that most commissioners do their jobs well. However, I know that some do not.

Can we accept that the fate of individuals who come here claiming they are being persecuted in their own country is decided by a roll of the dice, that is, depending on which board member is assigned to their case? Do we not value human life enough to say that people who come here from around the world should not have their fate decided by a roll of the dice? We should give them a legitimate opportunity to appeal and to have a just and fair hearing. That is the issue before us today.

I would like to talk about an individual in my riding—Mr. Abdelkader Belaouini, who has been living in sanctuary at Saint-Gabriel church in Pointe-Saint-Charles for over a year. He is living in sanctuary because the government is still threatening to deport him, to send him back to the country he came from, despite the fact that he has successfully integrated into the Quebec community. He has the support of the entire community of Pointe-Saint-Charles. He did volunteer work in our riding for several months. In fact, the only reason he has not worked is that he is prohibited from doing so.

He is a very courageous man. He is diabetic and suffers from blindness. Despite all that, he wants to make a contribution to Quebec society. He has done that as a volunteer. He wants to do more, he wants to work, but he is prevented from doing so. This individual had the misfortune to come before a board member who, to all intents and purposes, denied every request he made.

I am not an expert on immigration, but I am persuaded that if Abdelkader Belaouini had been able to appeal the board member's decision and his case had been truly considered on its merits, including what he offers us and what he wants to do, he would probably not be taking refuge in a sanctuary today. Instead, he would be working, making a contribution to our society and helping our community to progress. He would be doing great things for us.

I am not certain, I am not an expert, but if we had at least had the refugee appeal division, we could have been sure, and we could have taken this farther.

In my opinion, this is a concrete example of what is not being done by the government. It was not done in the past by the Liberals. My colleague from Repentigny has observed how ironic this is. Today, the Liberals, who are in opposition, are saying that the government is doing nothing for refugees when they had 13 years to do something but did nothing. Nevertheless, that irony must not be used by the Conservatives as an excuse for continuing down the same path.

To conclude, I would like to issue an invitation to any of my colleagues here in this House who intends to vote against this motion. I invite them to come to my constituency office and meet someone who is in fear for his or her life, to explain to that person why we do not allow him or her to appeal the decision, and how the die was cast because the person happened to come before the wrong board member. That is my challenge to anyone in this House who intends to vote against this motion.

Opposition Motion--Citizenship and Immigration
Business of Supply
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but we will now proceed to statements by members. When the debate resumes, he will have five minutes left for questions and comments.

Robert Sutherland
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is North Star Legacy/Reconciliation Day, which is part of Black History Month 2007, and the J'Nikira Dinqinesh Education Centre, along with Library and Archives Canada and Queen's University, will present Excellence and Nobility.

Excellence and Nobility honours the excellence and legacy of Jamaica-born Queen's University graduate Robert Sutherland, as well as the nobility and legacy of the 19th century founders, faculty, students and associates of Queen's, who treated Sutherland “like a gentleman”.

In 1849 at age 17, Sutherland, born in Jamaica of African ancestry, during slavery, was the 60th student enrolled at Queen's. He excelled and went on to great things. His fortune, left to Queen's College, and if Queen's should fail, to Reverend George M. Grant, Principal of Queen's, saved his alma mater from bankruptcy.

Let us remember Robert Sutherland and celebrate his place in our history.

Bruce McBlain
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to an outstanding member of my riding of Brant, Mr. Bruce McBlain, who died recently.

Bruce was the owner and founding president of Blaindale Farms, which has been a very successful farming operation. His diligence was recognized in 1995 when he was named Brant County Farmer of the Year.

Bruce's dedication to the environment was recognized in 2003, when he received the Brant Environmental Stewardship Award for his leadership in agricultural land stewardship and conservation within our community.

Bruce was an exceptional business leader and his far-sighted leadership skills were recognized when he was awarded the Caledonia Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bruce and his late wife Bernice raised eight children, all of whom they were very proud, and the farming operation that he founded is being carried on by family members. His legacy will live on.

Scout Week
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, on February 22 each year, scouts in Quebec commemorate the birthday of someone who wanted young people to be everything they could be, the founder of the scouting movement, Lord Robert Baden-Powell.

Through its community involvement and its concern for the environment, the scouting movement is helping to shape leaders in all areas of society, around the world.

Scouts in Quebec are celebrating Scout Week from February 18 to 24, but are also preparing to mark the 100th anniversary of scouting. As part of the anniversary celebrations, scouts will be on the Hill on August 1.

The Bloc Québécois and I congratulate these young people and thank all those who have kept the scouting movement alive for 100 years.

Chinese Canadians
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, after the 1886 great fire razed Vancouver, 60 hectares of land near Main Street north of False Creek was leased to some 100 Chinese immigrants. They were given the land rent free for 10 years provided they worked it. This was the origin of today's Vancouver Chinatown.

However, mounting discrimination against the Chinese led to a riot on February 23, 1887. An angry mob of 300 assembled to run the Chinese out of town. They destroyed the Coal Harbour shantytown and roughed up its residents, some of whom escaped by jumping into the frigid waters.

Two policemen stood their ground between the mob and the Chinese labourers and ordered the mob to disperse. While the riot ended without serious injuries, it did send a clear message to the Chinese that they were not wanted, and they left for New Westminster, Alberta and Ontario.

At the time of the riot, Chinese residents did not have the vote. This was the beginning of the head tax era, when overt discrimination was legitimized by racist legislation, including the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act, which largely prohibited Chinese immigration until 1947.

We must never forget this difficult history and we must ensure it is never repeated.

Lloyd Clemett
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the first world war almost 650,000 Canadians, nearly one-tenth of our population, gave up the safety and comfort of their homes and their loved ones to defend our freedom. Nearly 69,000 of these brave Canadians also gave their lives to protect our way of life and to restore peace and defend democracy.

Today it is my sad duty to confirm the passing of Lloyd Clemett, one of Canada's last known first world war veterans. Mr. Clemett was a remarkable man who remained as proud to be Canadian as when he first wore the uniform.

It is the Lloyd Clemetts of our country who unite members of Parliament as few things can. Our love and respect for our veterans crosses party lines and brings our regions together as one proud and great nation.

As we gather in this House today, together and in our own individual solitude, we are reminded yet again that we serve here only because our veterans have served Canada so bravely and so courageously.

We must never forget that. We must never forget Mr. Clemett and the many brave men and women who contributed so much to making our country what it is. We are forever grateful.

Beijing Concord College
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Albina Guarnieri Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago I had the privilege of participating in the launch of a new connection between Canada and China. In many ways it was a new silk road, a silk road of education.

The Beijing Concord College is a demonstration that Canada and China are ready to build a future of shared experience, merged possibilities and joint ventures. This college was the first of its kind to offer students in Beijing a Canadian education and Canadian credentials through the support and partnership of the government of New Brunswick.

Today more than 400 graduates have degrees from Canadian universities and thousands more will build the kinds of trade and cultural links that no trade mission could ever achieve.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the college, I would like to congratulate its founder, Dr. Francis Pang, for building a truly pan-Pacific, binational school that has put Canada on the minds of thousands and will bring thousands of great minds to Canada.

Anti-terrorism Act
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to urge all members of this House to think carefully regarding the motion to extend two provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act. Their actions on this vote will have serious repercussions.

The family members of victims of the Air-India bombing have been waiting 22 years for closure, and the decision by the Liberal leader to vote against extending the security measures puts this closure in jeopardy.

Despite claims from the opposition that it is open to amending the provisions, this is simply not possible. Calls to have the powers amended before they expire are legally naive. The Criminal Code calls for a resolution indicating yea or nay. It allows nothing more.

We know the Liberal leader has said that it is difficult “to make priorities”, but I would ask him this: will he put the safety and security of Canadians as a number one priority and vote yes?

Montreal High Lights Festival
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, this winter, for the eighth year, Montrealers will be warmed by light, good food and performing arts during the Montreal High Lights Festival, which will take place from February 22 to March 4.

Outdoors, festival goers can enjoy a whole series of events at the old port. The festival also offers a wine and dine experience, the only one of its kind in the world. And with honorary co-presidents Angèle Dubeau and singer Johnny Clegg from South Africa, you will thrill to 30 different performances.

The festival is designed to liven up the downtown area in winter and promote Montreal as a city of celebration, performing arts and fine dining. The previous seven editions have helped achieve that goal, and the festival is warming Montrealers' spirits for 10 days again this year.

This year's festival promises to be just as exciting as all the rest, and you are all invited to come and dance, dine and be dazzled by the winter lights of Montreal for the 10 days of festivities.

Anti-terrorism Act
Statements By Members

February 22nd, 2007 / 2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is in revolt. Its own leader refuses to support the extension of crucial measures in the Anti-terrorism Act. These measures are critical in protecting Canada against terrorists. Even the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld these anti-terrorist laws.

Last June, 18 men were arrested for allegedly planning to attack targets in Ontario, including these very Parliament buildings. Only two weeks ago, al-Qaeda threatened to attack Canada's oil industry.

Victims of the Air-India tragedy are furious that the Air-India inquiry has hit a major roadblock. Why? Because the opposition is soft on terrorism.

B'nai Brith Canada is calling on the Liberals to stand tall against terrorism and so are former Liberal cabinet ministers, yet the Liberal opposition leader will not support legislation that his own former government created.

Canadians deserve better. I say to the Liberals, do the right thing and extend the anti-terrorism provisions.

George Hyde
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, “we all need to meet someone like George”. Those are the words of Alan Dean on the passing of his long-time friend, George Hyde. When George died on January 28, those of us who had the privilege of knowing him realized immediately that our community had lost a true gentleman.

From his humble roots, working as a paper boy and busboy before going into the insurance business, George became a stalwart volunteer in Montreal's West Island community.

A self-educated man, George's knowledge was encyclopedic. Although he suffered from acute myopia, George never let it prevent him from becoming one of the most well-read people I have known.

He joined groups like the Montreal Association for the Blind and the West Island Low Vision Self-Help Association to ensure others with low vision would also overcome perceived limitations in their lives.

Above all, George will be remembered as a considerate, earnest, endearing man, who was always uncompromisingly kind.

Anti-terrorism Act
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada lost hundreds of its citizens in a single terrorist attack in the horrendous Air-India bombing.

With that in mind, Canada's new government has stated its commitment to a full inquiry, promised by the Prime Minister when he met with the families of the Air-India victims.

It is the Conservative government's sincere hope that this inquiry may bring a measure of closure to those who still grieve for their loved ones lost, but the Liberal leader wants to take away the very provisions in the Anti-terrorism Act that would allow authorities to investigate.

By rejecting a bill their own caucus drafted, the Liberals are preventing the families of the Air-India victims from getting the inquiry they deserve.

Canada's new government is serious and unwavering in its commitment to give law enforcement the tools it needs to safeguard our nation against terrorism.

I call on the Liberals to reconsider their partisan stand on our national security.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the government intends to make further concessions to the Bush administration.

The government foolishly sold out our softwood industry and gave away $1 billion, and the Americans now say they are not happy. We warned the government that the Bush administration would take the money and run and that is exactly what has happened.

Tomorrow the Conservatives will show further submission under the so-called security and prosperity partnership. It is not a partnership but a series of concessions started by the Liberals and accelerated by the Conservatives.

It leads to the surrender of Canadian energy, health, food safety, immigration, environmental, military and security policies to American decision and control.

Tomorrow why do the Conservatives not press for joint efforts to fight global warming, poverty and hunger and perhaps stand up for Canada? No, they just do not have a backbone.

The Conservatives and Liberals will pay the price for their sellout of Canada.

Homelessness
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is turning a deaf ear to hundreds of social agencies whose funding for homelessness is running dry.

As Canadians are well aware, the new government has made it a practice to slash social programs initiated by the former Liberal government, relaunching them under the neo-con brand name. This political brinkmanship only ends up hurting hardest those who are most in need.

In Toronto and across the country homelessness funding under the previous SCPI program will leave social agencies with a six month funding gap until the homelessness partnering program comes into effect sometime later this year.

In the meantime, non-profit organizations are preparing to lay off front line staff workers who work with homeless people.

Will the federal government grant at least a six month extension of the current SCPI funding so that agencies can continue to work to end homelessness in Canada?