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Last in Parliament May 2004, as Bloc MP for Laval Centre (Québec)
Won her last election, in 2000, with 43.35% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Member for Laval Centre May 13th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, as there are only a few hours left before I leave this place, where I have had the privilege to make a modest contribution to parliamentary democracy for the past ten years, I would like to pay tribute to the people of Laval Centre. The trust they have placed in me has allowed me to serve them to the best of my abilities and to see just how many generous, courageous and determined people there are in our society.
Thanks to them, I have learned that the quality of the work of an elected representative goes hand in hand with an active presence within the community, support of the various socio-cultural organizations and excellent service to one's constituents.
I must thank the House staff for their professionalism and readiness to help, which have made my life a lot easier, in this world where the great and the small rub shoulders for better or for worse. To colleagues who are moving on, I wish the excitement of new challenges; to those who soldier on here, I wish the success they deserve.
In looking back on these ten years in the other capital, I will have fond memories of respect, friendship, and why not, complicity.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act April 27th, 2004
Madam Speaker, I am pleased once again to have the privilege to speak to an issue that appeals to our judgment and requires careful reflection.
The purpose of Bill C-436, tabled by the member for Vancouver East, is to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The proposed amendment states, and I quote:
(1.1) Subject to the regulations, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident may, once in their lifetime, sponsor one foreign national who is a relative but is not a member of the family class.
This proposal reflects the humanitarianism of the member for Vancouver East and her great generosity. Although we agree with the principle of her bill, the current wording leaves us rather perplexed for the following reasons: the lack of clarity of the proposed amendments; the consequences of Bill C-436 on immigration priorities, namely with respect to Canada's role in protecting refugees; and finally the budgetary constraints and the resulting choices for the allocation of resources.
However, we are open to discussing this well-intentioned bill at greater length in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
When we say that the proposal by the hon. member of the New Democratic Party lacks clarity, we are referring to a certain vagueness. For example, what does our colleague mean by “a foreign national who is a relative but is not a member of the family class”? What are the acceptable limits for the definition of a relative? Is she targeting a specific category of people who would currently be excluded from the family class? Does the notion of relative refer essentially to a genetic relative?
We easily see that there is a great deal of room for arbitrary decisions. If the hon. member wishes to broaden the family class to include other specific family members, she should state that in her bill, because without that, it is too vague and does not make it possible to determine which cases are admissible and which are not.
Not to mention the impact this could have on the time it takes to process claims since it is the officers who will have to determine which cases are admissible and which are not. The arbitrary nature of such decisions could provoke strong reactions from asylum seekers who are turned down.
The current list of persons admissible in the family class is already well defined. How could we justify an amendment this far-reaching without including some limits?
Another question arises. How many people would be affected by this new measure? For now, we can only presume that this kind of proposal would have allowed 229,091 additional sponsorship applications in 2002. The next question is obvious. Would this measure be accessible to all immigrants currently in Canada, no matter when they arrived?
In order to assess this plan and its possible repercussions, we must consider the current use of resources. So, 60% of immigrants selected are economic immigrants, meaning business people, and self-employed and skilled workers. The remaining 40% are family class immigrants, asylum seekers and so forth.
Of this group, 75% are family class immigrants, 25% are refugees, and a small percentage are other. If the number of individuals who qualify for family class is significantly increased, without an increase in the available resources, which has been the case for several years now, who will pay? Someone will have to pay the price of these new measures.
Since the total is split 60-40, there is a good chance that asylum seekers will pay the price of these new measures. Those who think the government might reducing the 60% should remember that, before family members of a permanent resident or Canadian citizen can be brought over, the primary applicant must qualify to enter Canada as part of the 60% in the economic class. So, this proposal, which would reduce that percentage, does little to improve the situation.
With respect to the 40%, the headlines show deportation cases for asylum seekers being dismissed almost every week. We need only think of the highly publicized cases of Mohamed Sherfi and the three Palestinians who have taken refuge in a Montreal church. There are numerous conflict situations and civil wars in the world, and the number of countries involved is on the rise: Columbia, Algeria, the Palestine-Israel conflict, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan. All these realities oblige democratic countries to be more humane and more attentive to refugee claimants.
Every year, Canada turns away thousands of refugee claimants whose lives are in danger in their country of origin because of inadequate budgets. By refusing to increase budgets, Canada is deliberately choosing to decrease its obligations as a signatory of the Geneva convention on the protection of refugees.
Allowing more immigrants to sponsor distant relatives means making use of resources that could instead be saving lives by accepting more asylum seekers. Public policy must follow the same rules as everyday life, not be an exception to the rule; responsible choices must be made after examination of the various constraints. Which is wiser: allowing a distant relative to be brought to Canada, or offering asylum to Palestinians who are going to be deported to refugee camps in Lebanon? Unlike the present government, we must show some administrative rigour, some intelligent management.
The hon. NDP member's humanitarian objective is praiseworthy, particularly since her bill makes us re-examine the budgetary choices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Canada's ultimate objective as far as immigration is concerned is to attain a level equivalent to 1% of the Canadian population. That is 310,000 immigrants annually. There are two main goals here: to compensate for the demographic decrease and to fill skilled worker positions, particularly with economic class immigrants
In 2002, Canada admitted 229,091 immigrants, compared to the 2001 figure of 250,484. The drop was in part a result of the department's inability to process any more because of budget restraints and the costs related to settlement and integration. It is not enough just to admit people into the country; it is also important to ensure that they receive proper services for a smooth integration into the host society.
The quality of services to newcomers is as important as, if not more important than the number of newcomers. Currently, the small budgets given to Citizenship and Immigration Canada do not allow us to meet the numerous challenges related to the integration of newcomers. Why promote family reunification if we cannot provide adequate services to ensure the integration and settlement of these people?
This lack of resources is the major problem affecting immigration. This inadequacy in the immigration program and the humanitarian spirit reflected by Bill C-436 are the reasons why we support this legislation. Indeed, if the bill passes second reading, it will force a debate in committee and we will be able to show that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is unable to fulfill its responsibilities because of insufficient financial resources. Moreover, the review in committee will allow us to identify some essential points to be incorporated into the bill proposed by the hon. member for Vancouver East.
I will conclude by expressing to this House my profound disappointment in the current government. In its last budget, the word “immigration” was not even mentioned once. Despite persistent problems in the processing of immigration and refugee claims, despite the numerous months and even years of waiting for a simple sponsorship application—we are now talking about some 35 months—the government does not even deign to allocate a few dollars to correct this unacceptable situation. And Canada claims to be a land that welcomes immigrants. Imagine if this were not the case.
The Armenian People April 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, how can the Prime Minister, who claims he wants to end the democratic deficit, say such a thing when he feels he is not obliged to respect a vote by the majority of members in this House?
In other words, through his minister, is the Prime Minister saying to the House, “Talk all you want; we will do what we please”?
The Armenian People April 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the House of Commons passed Motion M-380 recognizing the Armenian genocide of 1915 as a crime against humanity. But, despite that clear vote, the Minister of Foreign Affairs lost no time in declaring that the government's position would remain unchanged.
Will the Prime Minister tell us whether or not he agrees with the minister?
The Armenian People April 20th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, it is with considerable emotion that I rise to close this second hour of debate on recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915.
Part of the reason for that emotion is this opportunity to be able to share with you the respect I feel for the Armenian people and their remarkable tenacity in demanding recognition of this genocide, despite the pressure of often dubious socio-political imperatives. Their attachment to their identity and history is an example to us all.
On several occasions since 1993, the debate on the genocide of 1915 has been brought to the attention of the members of the House of Commons, yet only one debate has ever been sanctioned by a vote. It was on a motion by a Bloc Quebecois member, Michel Daviault, on April 23, 1996, during an opposition day when the Bloc was the official opposition. The text of his motion was as follows:
That this House recognize, on the occasion of the 81st anniversary of the Armenian genocide that took place on April 24, 1915, the week of April 20 to 27 of each year as the week to commemorate man's inhumanity to man.
After much debate, the motion on which the House finally voted referred not to recognition of the Armenian genocide, but merely the Armenian tragedy. The support was unanimous . Some saw this as a step in the right direction, but others just saw it as better than nothing.
SInce the beginning of the 37th Parliament, this is the fourth time we have had an opportunity to debate this important matter, and I am delighted that the vote on this motion takes place precisely during what is called, and I repeat the wording of the motion of April 23, 2996, “the week of man's inhumanity to man”. This is, in fact, the first time we will have the opportunity to take a clear stand by voting in favour of this recognition of history. By supporting Motion M-380, we will be adopting as our own this thought of Étienne Gilson on the meaning of history:
We do not study history to get rid of it but to save from nothingness all the past which, without history, would vanish into the void. We study history so that what, without it, would not even be the past any more, may be reborn to life in this unique present outside which nothing exists.
It is high time that this Parliament joined the many parliaments—and not minor ones—that have recognized the Armenian genocide, as has the Senate of Canada, which, on June 13, 2002, passed a motion by Senator Shirley Maheu recognizing the Armenian genocide. I am pleased to point out as well that in December 2003, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously passed a bill proclaiming April 24 as Armenian Genocide Memorial Day.
How can we explain that a country like Canada, so proud of its values of compassion and justice, prefers to use a euphemism instead of having the courage to call a spade a spade?
The Armenian genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century, but unfortunately it was not the only one. A number of historians describe the 20th century as the century of genocide. If we consider the situation in Sudan at this moment, it appears that we have not finished learning from the past.
Now that the world has become a global village, it is important to recognize that we all share in the responsibilities. As Mr. Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia put it so well, on March 24, 1998:
The genocide was not the tragedy of the Armenian people alone, but a tragedy for all of humanity.
As I finish this brief speech, I would like to say how much I want to see this House show the courage of its convictions. On April 24 this year, the Armenian genocide will mark its 89th anniversary. As for myself, I will be leaving politics soon. Nothing could make me happier than if, before I finish my mandate, I could have contributed in my own way to presenting the Armenian people with the best gift of all: recognition of its history.
Émile Henriot wrote:
The dead live on in the memories of those they leave behind.
Each and every one of us has the duty to remember. Thank you for your support and for the solidarity you will show to the Armenian people in the vote on Motion M-380.
The Armenian People April 20th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I guess it is up to me to accept or refuse. I would like say that there are two official languages in this Parliament. I would also like to say that I find it unacceptable that this amendment was not prepared in French and English given the absolutely extraordinary translation resources available to the government and the hon. members.
Nonetheless, I understood it very well. I am sorry, but, with or without a translation, I cannot include this amendment in my motion.
Nicole Demers March 24th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, on February 26, 2004, in front of more than 600 people attending the annual merit awards gala of the Quebec cooperative movement, Nicole Demers—a woman of caring and action—was honoured with the “cooperator of the year” award, volunteer category.
A recipient of the Persons Award in 2003, and praised at that time by my hon. colleague for Laval East, she has now been recognized by her peers for her commitment.
Deeply involved in the Laval community and active in many of its social sectors, she is especially devoted to the “Vivre chez soi” foundation that she recently established.
I am honoured to pay tribute to this great Quebecker, and of course agree wholeheartedly with the Quebec minister of citizen relations and immigration and the minister responsible for Laval, who said just a few weeks ago, “In Laval, Nicole Demers takes the prize for generosity”.
To the future Bloc Quebecois member for Laval, I say, bravo, Nicole and good luck.
Immigration March 10th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, clearly the government is giving the bureaucratic approach precedence over any of its international commitments as far as human rights are concerned.
How can the government deport refugees to Algeria when it is advising its own citizens against going there, and how can it justify its refusal to find a humanitarian solution to Mohamed Cherfi's situation?
Immigration March 9th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, on March 5, and this is unprecedented, the Quebec City police force arrested Mohamed Cherfi in a church, thus violating a place of worship and refuge, to help deport him quickly to the United States, where he could be deported to Algeria, a measure that would pose serious risks to his safety, considering the situation that prevails in that country.
How can the Minister of Public Safety justify the eagerness of Immigration Canada services to deport Mohamed Cherfi to the United States, when it is obvious that only a humanitarian solution is in order, namely to bring Mohamed Cherfi back to Canada at the earliest opportunity?
Armenian People February 25th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, in this whole issue, reparations are not what really matters. What really matters is that the Armenian people know that their historic reality and the wounds that were inflicted on them be recognized by the international community. As far as I am concerned, this is about much more than a reparatoins. It is very easy to give money or a little something but, in fact, not to acknowledge anything.