House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rights.

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The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-50, the Budget Implementation Act, 2008, but specifically on the amendment proposed by my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, which picks in particular our concern in this corner of the House for provisions that are included in the budget implementation act regarding changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Specifically, the motion that we are debating at this point in the debate reads as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-50, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget, since the principles of the Bill relating to immigration fail to recognize that all immigration applicants should be treated fairly and transparently, and also fail to recognize that family reunification builds economically vibrant, inclusive and healthy communities and therefore should be an essential priority in all immigration matters.

I think that spells out very clearly what our concerns are with this provision regarding immigration in the budget implementation act.

We are concerned because a measure that changes our immigration law so significantly, we believe, should not be buried in a large budget implementation bill. We believe that this change to the immigration law is so profound and so important that it should be debated on its own merits in a separate debate.

It should have separate committee consideration as well and that it should be considered by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, not the finance committee which does not have the expertise that the citizenship and immigration committee does in relation to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and immigration concerns from coast to coast to coast in Canada.

We believe that this piece of Bill C-50 is improperly placed and really should be debated on its own with particular reference to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

What does this proposal from the government actually do? We see that it gives major new powers to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to control the types of applications the minister accepts, to impose quotas, to dispose of current immigration applications, and to facilitate queue jumping.

We would say that it puts certain limits on the humanitarian and compassionate category which currently is the only channel for many who encounter challenges in the process of pursuing family reunification.

We believe that it gives the minister new powers to deny visas to those who meet all immigration criteria. We also believe that it further supports the current policy shift whereby immigrants are increasingly being understood and treated as economic units to be brought here through temporary visa arrangements, instead of the permanent residency program.

Those are all very significant concerns with this provision that is buried in the budget implementation act. That is why we believe that it should have a very thorough debate. All of these questions that we raise, we believe, should have a fulsome debate here in the House and in committee. By having it as part of a budget implementation bill and sending it to the finance committee will not allow for that.

It is not only New Democrats who are concerned about these provisions that would change the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that are found in the budget implementation bill. Richard Kurland, who is one of the most prominent immigration experts in Canada and editor-in-chief of Lexbase, which is one of the key sources of information about immigration policy and procedure in Canada, has been very critical of this proposal from the government that is included in this legislation.

He notes that it took a long time and it was a long fight to establish clear criteria for the processing of immigration applications to establish the principle that anyone who applied should have their application considered, that anyone who met the criteria of the immigration program should have a chance at success of their application.

He has some specific criticisms of what this legislation would do. He notes that in the existing IRPA, section 11.(1) states:

A foreign national must, before entering Canada, apply to an officer for a visa or for any other document required by the regulations. The visa or document shall be issued if, following an examination, the officer is satisfied that the foreign national is not inadmissible and meets the requirements of this Act.

The important word there is that the visa “shall” be issued. Mr. Kurland notes that in the proposed legislation this same section 11.(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is amended to say:

A foreign national must, before entering Canada, apply to an officer for a visa or for any other document required by the regulations. The visa or document may be issued if, following an examination, the officer is satisfied that the foreign national is not inadmissible and meets the requirements of this Act.

There is a significant difference between the words “shall” and “may”. It opens up a huge opportunity for discretion and the operation of the minister's own biases. It is a real attack on the kinds of transparency and guarantees that exist in the current legislation, guarantees for the appropriate processing of applications that were fought for long and hard over many years.

Mr. Kurland further points out that the use of the word “shall” in IRPA's section 11.(1) gave all visitors, foreign students, foreign workers and applicants for permanent residence the right to a visa when they met the preconditions for visa issuance.

He notes that the use of the word “may” in the government's proposed change to IRPA's section 11.(1) takes away those rights. All visitors, students and foreign workers and applicants for permanent residence no longer will have the right to a visa, even when they qualify for the visa by meeting the required preconditions for visa issuance or renewal of their status.

Mr. Kurland additionally points out that under this proposal, applications for visas do not have to be accepted, applications for visas that are accepted do not have to be processed, applications for visas that are processed do not have to be given visas even when the person meets all the requisite conditions to the visa issuance, and applications for visas with the supporting materials and documents may be disposed of at any time.

Surely, those are all important compromises to the kinds of transparency and guarantees that have existed recently and that were fought so long and hard for in the current Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and the addition of that kind of discretion to the minister or the department is a huge step backward in ensuring the appropriate processing of immigration applications.

The whole question of what this does to family reunification is a key one in all of this. It is something that we need to highlight when we are looking at the effects of current Conservative government policy when it comes to citizenship and immigration.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to resuming my speech.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas will still have two minutes when we return to the study of Bill C-50 and, of course, five minutes for questions and comments, which I know he is looking forward to.

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

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the spring of 2005 I was reviewing Canada's hate crimes legislation and I noted that there were a number of categories, identifiable groups, which were covered: race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. However, I noticed that there was an omission. Gender was not covered. That spurred me to call the Department of Justice to find out if perhaps there was other legislation that covered off gender.

I received a call back from an official who told me that it seemed to be an oversight. I thought to myself after that conversation, my goodness, what kind of Canada do we live in when this sort of oversight can occur? Is it a reflection of the gender inequality in our House of Commons? Or is it a reflection of society's tacit acceptance of certain hateful types of expression?

That spurred me to draft a piece of legislation, a private member's bill, perhaps unique in the sense that all it entailed was the addition of one single word “sex”, the legal term for gender, in existing legislation.

Since the original introduction of hates crimes legislation, there has been a diminishing number of hate crimes in Canada. We have become more accepting and respectful. In fact, we often now celebrate our differences. Unfortunately, women continue to be the target of hate crimes at increasing rates.

Several months ago, every MP in this House stood for a minute of silence in memory of 14 young women massacred at the École Polytechnique. Yet three times, a number of these same MPs have blocked the passage of Bill C-254 in our House of Commons, allowing the continuation of the spreading of gender-based hatred. It is a hatred with which vulnerable new generations are being infected.

For instance, a musician who has sold thousands of CDs in Canada raps these horrific lyrics:

Then punch a bitch in the nose
Until her whole face explodes
There's three things I hate: Girls, women,--

And he continues.

Minister, why are these lyrics legally protected? Yet, if we were to substitute equally pejorative terms for Jew, Black or gay, charges would be laid. Today, the hands of our police forces are tied when attempting to deal with this type of hatred.

Soon after introducing my bill, I received a letter of support from the office of William Blair, Chief of Police in Toronto. His letter stated:

The Toronto Police Service supports and applauds your efforts to combat the serious issue of promoting hatred and violence against women.

It is not just our police forces which support Bill C-254. The media violence coalition, representing some 160,000 teachers, principals and trustees in Ontario, is actively lobbying on its behalf.

Finally, I hope that the Minister of Justice will concur with the opinion of his colleague, the Minister of Finance, who, as Ontario's attorney general, stated in a letter dated December 20, 2000:

I will continue to ask the federal government to expand the definition of identifiable groups to include gender.

He further stated:

It is time for the federal government to provide such tools to prosecute those promoting hatred against women by amending the Criminal Code.

I hope that all my parliamentary colleagues will put their political differences and ideologies aside for the sake of Canadian women, to protect our mothers, to protect our wives, to protect our sisters, and to protect our daughters.

I call upon the minister to act and to add one word, just one word, “sex”, the legal description for gender, into existing hate crimes legislation.

Tough on crime should also apply--

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order. It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member.

The floor now belongs to the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

6:30 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I do find it a little bit ironic that when we as a government bring forward legislation that would actually, in a substantive and measurable way, protect Canadians, men, women and children alike, we are met with obstruction and criticism by the opposition.

When we have bills for which Canadians have been calling for years that would, in a meaningful way, protect them, we are met with that kind of response, and yet today we have a member raising the issue of protecting women, protecting Canadians. It is a little ironic.

The member also does touch on the issue of deciding which lyrics he likes or does not like or what he finds offensive or inoffensive, and, to be sure, there are lyrics that he cited that I think all of us would find terribly offensive and troubling. I would urge him to talk to some of his colleagues who are raising issues of so-called censorship, saying that the government wants to censor production, when that, in effect, is what he is proposing in his speech.

I want to state from the outset that our government not only recognizes both hate crimes and violence against women as serious issues and issues deserving of serious treatment by the criminal law, but in the last two years our government has acted in tangible, meaningful ways to better protect women, better protect all Canadians from those who would do them harm.

I do want to consider the existing criminal law on this issue. Section 319 of the Criminal Code prohibits publicly inciting hatred against any identifiable group. Identifiable group is defined as any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.

In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Keegstra, considered whether this offence violated the accused's freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court unanimously found that the hate propaganda offence did indeed infringe on freedom of expression. However, by a narrow majority the court upheld the offence under section 1 of the charter on the basis that its infringement constituted a reasonable limit upon freedom of expression that could be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

The judgment underscores the importance, indeed the necessity, of having clear and strong evidence to support any expansion of the hate propaganda offence.

In 2004, statistics from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics study on hate crime in Canada reported that of the 928 hate crimes reported to 12 major police forces in 2001, only 8, or less than 1%, were reported as having been motivated on the basis of sex. Compare these statistics to the fact that 57% were reported to be based on race and ethnicity, 43% based on religion and 10% based on sexual orientation.

Other existing Criminal Code offences can be used to address the type of messages against women that motivate the proposed expansion of the hate propaganda offence. For example, subsection 163.8 of the Criminal Code prohibits making and distributing material, the dominant characteristic of which is “the undue exploitation of sex, or of sex and any one or more of the following subjects, namely, crime, horror, cruelty and violence.

April 7th, 2008 / 6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, initially, as the parliamentary secretary began, I was a little discouraged because he began diverting into various tangential discussions. However, he then came back to our legislation and to the essence of the matter. In fact, he quoted the particular section that lists out the groups that are covered by the legislation, the identifiable groups based upon race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Gender is not covered.

Bill C-254 calls for the addition of one word, “sex”, the legal term for gender, into the existing legislation.

When he said that the government has acted, it has. Three times members of the government blocked the passage of Bill C-254.

Just a couple of hours ago I received an excited phone call from my wife. She had received the results of an ultrasound and we now know that this summer we will have a baby daughter. I know that she will be born--

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

As I interrupt the hon. member, I must congratulate him.

The floor now belongs to the hon. parliamentary secretary.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on the joyous news of his forthcoming child. However, as someone who just had a baby daughter four and a half months ago, I must warn him to be prepared for the late nights and, of course, the concerns that we have because we both want to make our Canada a better and safer Canada for our children and the next generations to come.

That is why our government has been taking very clear and substantive steps. The cornerstone among those steps was the Tackling Violent Crime Act, an act to get tough on those who prey on innocent individuals, on those who would break the law, who would be recidivist, on individuals who have shown a disregard for the law.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in February, I asked a question in this House concerning the impact of the crisis in manufacturing on my constituency of Kitchener Centre and across the Waterloo region.

The Waterloo region is home to over 62,000 workers who make their living in the manufacturing sector. Several companies have had to make deep cuts to their workforce or close their doors entirely. This is a serious crisis and it is having a tremendous impact, not only on the economy of Kitchener Centre, but on the individual lives of those affected.

The manufacturing crisis is having a devastating effect right across Canada. In response to my very serious question on a serious issue, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance chose to speak to the burgeoning job market in the oil and gas industry in Alberta.

The manufacturing industry has been facing significant challenges in recent years as a result of the rapid, unexpected rise of the Canadian dollar, increased competition from emerging economies and higher energy prices.

The manufacturing workers in Waterloo region are worried about the future of their jobs and these workers have good reason to be concerned. Over 130,000 manufacturing jobs were lost last year. These are jobs that Canadians cannot afford to lose.

We are disappointed in the government's dismissal of this very important issue. In February, I asked the government when it would introduce and implement a plan to deal with this crisis in manufacturing. I asked the government to consider the financial and emotional repercussions felt by thousands of Canadians who worry about the future of their jobs.

I asked those questions because the workers of Kitchener Centre, just like the workers right across Canada, deserve better than the government's “laissez-faire, I don't care” approach to our economy.

The answer I received when I asked this question in the House speaks volumes to the Conservatives' fend-for-yourself attitude toward governing. Instead of acknowledging what is a very real crisis facing Canada's manufacturing sector, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance skirted the issue and replied that he would be cautious in his comments about Kitchener-Waterloo because he did not want to comment on the kind of representation it deserved.

Sadly, this kind of partisan jab is typical of the Conservative government's divisive style of governing. Instead of coming up with a plan to help Canadian workers, the Conservatives busy themselves coming up with empty catchphrases and baseless accusations to try to distract Canadians from the real issues at hand.

In fact, the Prime Minister made a similar glib comment when he met with the Canadian Auto Workers on a visit to Kitchener. The Prime Minister suggested to the members of the CAW that those out of work might consider seeking employment in Alberta.

I and my colleagues on this side of the House have no interest in playing games with the livelihood of Canadian families and with our national economy. We simply cannot ignore the devastating impact that the crisis in manufacturing is having on Kitchener Centre. The loss of good, well-paying jobs has a significant impact in even the most diversified local economies such as Waterloo region enjoys.

Waterloo region is home to a heavy concentration of manufacturing businesses representing a diversity of sectors, including food processors, furniture makers, high tech and digital media sectors.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry.

6:45 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the question from the member for Kitchener Centre.

I want to remind her that it was her government that was the laissez-faire government and she continues to promote it. According to the Ottawa Citizen, I think the Liberals only voted 59% of the time in the House.

All members of the House and the government are concerned any time Canadians lose their jobs or factories close their doors. That is why this Conservative government is addressing these issues head-on.

I cannot believe the hypocrisy of the member. What the opposition whip fails to acknowledge is that the challenges facing the sector started under her government. Where was she when the job losses started under her party? She was nowhere to be seen. When a record number of auto factories were closed, where was she? She was nowhere to be seen.

Furthermore, I draw her attention to recent findings by CIBC World Markets. It points out that not only did the Canadian economy generate close to 360,000 new jobs in 2007, but the vast majority of them were in high paying sectors.

Under this Conservative government, Canada's unemployment rate is the lowest in 33 years. The loss of manufacturing jobs is being offset by jobs gains in sectors with the equivalent or higher employment quality, even in the Kitchener region. The number of full paid employees in high paying sectors, such as computer services, construction, research and development and public administration, rose by 3.6% last year. In fact, the bank's employment quality index rose by 2.8% last year, the largest yearly increase since 1999.

This index measures such things as the distribution of part time versus full time jobs, self-employment, paid overtime and compensation. In Canada the employment quality index rose despite continental and international economic uncertainty. However, we know some sectors are facing significant challenges and that is why the government has taken action to help.

On January 10, the Prime Minister announced a $1 billion community development trust designed to help vulnerable communities that depend on a single employer, or a sector under pressure to adjust to challenging circumstances. Communities will use these funds for job training and skills development. Some will use the funding to develop community transition plans or to build infrastructure that will help them diversify their economy.

However, if we remember last year's budget, the budget that the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters said was the best budget for manufacturing, she voted against it. Not only that, but she, as her party's whip, forced every member of her party to vote against the best manufacturing budget ever.

In budget 2008, the party whip forced her colleagues to sit on their hands. She talks about laissez-faire. She and her government sat on their hands for budget 2008, which allocates an additional $90 million to the targeted initiative for older workers, bringing the total funding available to $160 million. This will extend the program intended to help and reduce the number of unemployed people by 2012.

This Conservative government has taken other important steps. We have lowered taxes, bringing over $9 billion in tax relief for manufacturers and processors over the period 2006 to 2013. We have extended the two year accelerated capital cost allowance for an additional three years. This combined with other measures outlined in our recent budget and previous budgets will make our manufacturers more competitive and will help preserve jobs.

This Conservative government is acting for those industries that have been affected by economic change and the current market conditions. The hon. member and her party can ignore the good news, say the sky is falling and can radiate this toxic doubt on Canadian employment numbers if they wish, but they should not equate good news for the economy and Canadian workers as a whole with a lack of action.

We remember that the Liberals did absolutely nothing. Worse than that, they voted against the best manufacturing budget and they sat on their hands for the most recent budget. This is shameful.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend does a better job than I ever could of talking about the government's vitriol and hyperbole.

What I have done in the House for the last 11 years is fight for my community. I supported Technology Partnerships Canada, which helped places like Budd Automotive, as it was called at the time, Teleflex GFI and ATS bring new technology, often green technology, to the marketplace.

His government, in its wisdom, not only cut back these programs, but then decided it would reintroduce them at a much reduced level. It also did away with a lot of the green initiatives that our government had implemented, which would have boded well for the future of Canada and Canadians.

The $1 billion community fund that he talks about is a great start if it happens to be a single manufacturing or resource sector in northern Quebec dealing with forestry or mining. We have a very diverse economy. I challenge the government to come forward with any kind of comprehensive plan that will indeed help Canadians, help the manufacturing sector, which is huge in Ontario, instead of supporting a finance minister who—

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry.