House of Commons Hansard #153 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was measures.

Topics

Passport Canada
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite and his colleague from Vancouver may like to grandstand in front of the media and spread misinformation about the facts but the reality is that Passport Canada has hired 500 more employees to deal with the issue of backlog. In fact, we have increased capacity and output by over 40%.

Faced with an avalanche of passport applications of over 20,000 a day for a period of time, we are now dealing with that backlog, eating into the capacity by the professionalism, hard work and overtime hours of officials at Passport Canada. This issue is coming in hand.

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, today an MP in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia represents, on average, approximately 21,000 more people than MPs in other provinces. Under the current formula that allocates seats in the House of Commons, this imbalance is projected to rise to nearly 30,000 people after the 2011 census.

Would the Minister for Democratic Reform please inform the House of what action he has taken to correct this imbalance?

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, a cornerstone principle of democracy is that each vote should carry equal weight to the extent possible. With that in mind, in the last election we committed to restoring the principle of representation by population, which had fallen behind for the faster growing provinces of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. At the same, we committed to the provinces with slower growing populations that their seat counts would be protected.

As part of our agenda to strengthen accountability in democracy, I introduced new legislation on Friday entitled the democratic representation act, which keeps our commitment. This legislation provides a modern, balanced and practical approach to ensuring fairness in representation for all provinces in Canada.

Human Rights
Oral Questions

May 14th, 2007 / 3 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, one year ago, the UN was informed that Baha'is in Iran were being secretly monitored. Since then, Iran's Bahai's have been further persecuted, their rights have been violated and their lives have been in danger.

The Government of Canada has been in place long enough to have an official position on this situation.

What is the Minister of Foreign Affairs waiting for to clearly state that Canada is concerned about this situation and to demand that Iran honour international human rights commitments?

Human Rights
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

Clearly, Canada will continue to work in many forums, especially the United Nations, to address this deplorable situation in Iran. The Iranian government is continuing to oppress many groups and many people of this religious belief. We need to work with all the members of this House.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Clyde Jackson, Minister of the Environment for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Chinese Exclusion Act
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate an important anniversary in the history of this Parliament and a central moment in the history of Canada's Chinese community.

Sixty years ago today, this Parliament repealed the Chinese Immigration Act, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, and, in doing so, brought to an end generations of legislated racism directed at people of Chinese origin.

The government of William Lyon Mackenzie King introduced the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1923, this after Ottawa had collected $23 million in head tax revenues from Chinese immigrants to Canada in the preceding 50 years.

This unjust law prevented anyone from China from immigrating to Canada. As a result, Chinese men already here endured two decades of stigma, solitude and discrimination, separated from their families and barred from the rights of subjects of the Crown here in Canada. Let us not forget that many of those bachelors helped to unite this country by their work on the railroad.

During the second world war, a brave generation of Chinese Canadians volunteered for the Canadian Forces in order to serve their country but, again because of discrimination, they were not put into action until, toward the end of the war, the British recruited them into Sir Winston Churchill's Special Operations Executive. They served with honour overseas in the defence of freedom and the defeat of fascism.

Douglas Jung stands out as one of those who volunteered to defend Canada overseas, training for service behind enemy lines. Thanks in part to the brave service of men like Douglas Jung, on May 14, 1947, the Dominion government could no longer maintain its unjust policies so the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed as part of the new Citizenship Act.

Today marks the 60th anniversary of that historic achievement. On June 22, 2006, in this place our government helped to bring a final end to that sad period in our history with the Prime Minister's formal apology for the injustice of the head tax and his expression of deep regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act.

As the Prime Minister said at the time:

It was an unconscionable act.

An act for which Canadians are deeply sorry.

Canada is infinitely richer because of the contributions Chinese-Canadians have made and continue to make.

Today we salute the brave Chinese Canadians whose military service led to the repeal of that act and which paved the way for the elimination of unjust laws at the provincial and municipal levels.

Since the Prime Minister made his apology, the government has issued ex gratia symbolic payments to 42 living head taxpayers. We are making ex gratia payments to the spouses of deceased head taxpayers. We will soon be announcing the details of the national historic recognition program and the community historic recognition program, which will fund projects commemorating this sad period in our history.

Fifty years ago next month, in 1957, Douglas Jung became the first Canadian member of Parliament of Asian and Chinese origin. He subsequently represented Canada at the United Nations. We pay tribute to his spirit and to the spirits of all those who rose up with dignity and overcame decades of discrimination against people of Chinese and Asian origin.

In his maiden speech in the House of Commons, Douglas Jong said:

While those of us in the Conservative party will take particular pleasure in my election, which election will refute any argument that this party has been discriminatory to certain groups in the past, I am sure that hon. members on both sides will rejoice that we in this country have a system of government that does not extol its virtues by fanfare, but by expressing our belief in our principles by deeds and not words.

On this important anniversary, let us all call to mind those who overcame adversity and injustice to help build a Canada that is a nation of freedom, democracy and equality of opportunity for all.

Chinese Exclusion Act
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House to recognize and to commemorate May 14, 2007, a day which marks the 60th anniversary of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act by Mackenzie King's Liberal government.

The Chinese Exclusion Act, and the head tax it followed, is a blight on Canada's history of tolerance and diversity, and an affront to the values all of us hold dear today.

Liberals understand that an apology is an essential part of the healing process for a community that was once the victim of past injustices. For this reason, in 2005, the member for LaSalle—Émard, as the Prime Minister of our country, apologized to the Chinese community for the head tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act. That apology expressed on behalf of all Canadians our regret for the hardship and difficulties inflicted on those victims and their families directly affected by the Chinese head tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Liberals also believe it is critical that there is an appropriate plan to educate Canadians on this chapter of our history. That is why we signed an agreement in principle with several communities to provide funding for education and commemoration initiatives.

We hope that the government will honour these agreements and deliver in full the funds that were committed by us. This would allow those communities to shed a new perspective on their past, share their histories, educate us all, and help ensure that these kinds of injustices are not repeated in the future.

Canadians should also reflect today on what is required of our government to ensure these kinds of grave injustices are not repeated in the future. That is why the Liberal opposition has voiced its disapproval of the Conservative government's decision to cancel the court challenges program, which provided an important tool for Canadians to exercise and defend their charter of rights.

As the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville said recently in a speech commemorating the anniversary of the charter, the legacy of the charter is too precious for us to remain indifferent to those who, through antagonism or neglect, would seek to undermine it. There are still battles to be fought. There are still rights to be won.

Finally, and most important, let us also celebrate today the extraordinary success that Canadians of Chinese origin have achieved. The talent and energy that they have brought to Canada has contributed to our success as a country, whether in business, the professions or in politics. Today Chinese Canadians are truly the face of Canada, as demonstrated by our former Governor General who, as a woman and Canadian of Chinese origin, has raised the profile of Chinese Canadians here at home and around the world.

Today's anniversary presents us with an opportunity not only to remember those who overcame adversity and injustice but to cherish and protect the foundations of tolerance and diversity on which Canada is built. Only by defending the values of equality and respect on which our society depends can we ensure that injustice is avoided.

Today, let us remember and learn from the grave injustices of the past and let us work together to create a future where these injustices are all but impossible.

Chinese Exclusion Act
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating an important anniversary in the history of the Chinese community.

I join with the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie and leader of the Bloc Québécois and with the other members of the House of Commons to commemorate this day, which marks the abolition of the Chinese Immigration Act, which required a security deposit from people wanting to come to Canada. Sixty years ago, the government made history by abolishing discriminatory measures based on race.

Today, we remember that between 1923 and 1947, people of Chinese origin were treated a lot more harshly than others. The government intentionally stopped Chinese immigration after having taken $23 million from the Chinese people. At that time, people of Chinese origin had to endure being separated from their families and could not become Canadian citizens. It goes without saying that forcing those people to live far from their wives and children was a totally exaggerated and inhumane measure.

When we read the papers from that time, including those from Quebec, we can see that the difficulties of the Chinese community were already recognized. The problem was much worse in British Columbia, where the great majority of people of Chinese origin had settled.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois and myself, I would like to recognize the hard work of the people who pleaded for history to finally be corrected here, in this House, on behalf of the victims. Without them, without their exemplary dedication to this cause for many years, nothing would have been possible.

Several of them are here today and I salute them. They were relentless in the pursuit of justice. We should pay tribute, once again, to the memory of all those who could never be reunited.

Since the apologies that were made last June, the community has started to turn the page on this sad chapter in the history of Canada. It has celebrated this announcement as a great victory for the future of the community. However, we deplore the fact that the government has not provided a symbolic compensation to direct descendants. Yet, last June, the parliamentary secretary had not closed the doors to such a possibility.

Has everything been settled? It goes without saying that we have to learn from these events to ensure that history does not repeat itself. The memory of the victims and the great injustices that were committed must inspire our daily thoughts as parliamentarians and leaders in our communities and help us to make better, fairer and more humane decisions.

Several members of the Chinese community are still having difficulty talking to their children about this. This action from another era was extreme and had severe consequences.

Such discriminatory acts should never happen again. We carry this great responsibility. It is a matter of justice.

Chinese Exclusion Act
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on behalf of the New Democratic Party to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the repeal of the 1923 Chinese immigration act, the Chinese Exclusion Act.

On Saturday night, the member for Vancouver East and I were guests at a very important banquet in Richmond, British Columbia. Sponsored by the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society and SUCCESS, this event celebrated 60 years of citizenship for Chinese Canadians. Special guests at the dinner were the members of Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada Association, Pacific Unit 280, the only Chinese Canadian veterans organization, who are also celebrating their 60th anniversary.

Part of the evening was a reaffirmation of Canadian citizenship, which was particularly meaningful given that we did it standing with men and women who served Canada in our armed forces, despite the fact that they were not allowed to be citizens of this country.

They knew the racism of the day. They and their families were making significant contributions to our economy and our communities, but at the time they enlisted they could not become citizens because of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

It was not lost on anyone present that despite the situation they faced as young people in Canada, despite the discrimination they knew, these men and women had made a hopeful choice to defend Canada, and even today they chose to celebrate 60 years of full citizenship rather than draw attention to a dark time in Canadian history.

There is good reason to celebrate. Chinese immigrants to Canada have made huge contributions and continue to do so. Canada has changed because of their contributions, changed for the better, and they too have become different people, but we must not forget the experience of the Chinese immigration act and of the head tax. Racism must have no place in the official policies or legislation of Canada. We must be vigilant, remember and learn from our history.

We know that Chinese labourers were exploited in order to build the national railway. We must never allow foreign workers to be exploited and must ensure safe workplaces, Canadian wage rates and full rights. We must not establish false barriers to immigration and citizenship, fee structures that have other motives or other outcomes.

Canada still needs immigrants for nation building, for the needs of our families, and for the strength of our economy. Lessons learned from the Chinese immigration act and the head tax must guide us still.

We have made progress and an official apology has been made. Head tax payers have received symbolic payments. Other commemorations are planned, but we must also recognize that the work of recognizing this injustice and the hurt this legislation caused to families over many decades is not done. We must make the settlement inclusive of their suffering.

The success of Chinese Canadians, of these Canadian citizens in the last 60 years, has demonstrated conclusively how wrong the Chinese Exclusion Act was. The veterans of Army, Navy and Air Force Pacific Unit 280 were right. We do have reason to celebrate.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development entitled “Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999”.

In accordance with its order of reference of Tuesday, October 31, 2006, your committee has considered and held hearings on the subject matter of Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, and agreed on Thursday, May 10, 2007, to report it with amendments.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, discussions have been held with all parties and I think if you were to seek it, you would find there is unanimous consent that during the debates of May 16 and 17, 2007, on the business of supply, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair and within each 15 minute period, each party may allocate time to one or more of its members for speeches or for questions and answers, provided that in the case of questions and answers, the minister's answer approximately reflect the time taken by the question and provided that, in the case of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allocated may speak one after the other.

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Environment and Sustainable Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.