Evidence of meeting #200 for Finance in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was madagascar.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Trevor McGowan  Director General, Tax Legislation Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Stephanie Smith  Senior Director, Tax Treaties, Tax Legislation Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Clémence Thabet  As an Individual
Annie Hsu  As an Individual
Tasnim Hasan  As an Individual
Cyara Bird  As an Individual
Annie Yeo  As an Individual
Andréa Szafran  As an Individual
Yasmin Dini  As an Individual
Rabiah Dhaliwal  As an Individual

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Dusseault.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

You once said during a meeting that you want to have a debate at some point about SNC and DPAs and all of that. If you look at the minutes and record of meetings, you'll find that you said that. Maybe Thursday would be a good time to have this debate among ourselves. That's what you proposed at some point—I think last week or the week before.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Where did I propose that?

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

During a debate. You said, Mr. Chair, “Well, we should have that debate at another time, because now is not a good time to have it.”

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay. I don't have anything on the agenda for Thursday at the moment, but things could change.

All right. The meeting is suspended; we'll reconvene at 1.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll reconvene.

The meeting is in public and is being televised. This gives us, as the finance committee, a chance to meet with Daughters of the Vote. We have two sessions, as I indicated earlier, of half an hour, with four witnesses at each session.

I believe that each of the witnesses has a two- or three-minute statement or whatever. We have to go to another panel at 1:30, so we'll go to the opening statements and then go to questions by members in the regular order.

Ms. Thabet, we'll start with you.

1 p.m.

Clémence Thabet As an Individual

Hello, everyone.

Thank you for having me here today.

My name is Clémence Thabet, and I'm the delegate representing Orleans.

I want to start by asking you all a question. If in the next decade we as a society do everything in our power to battle climate change, we do everything right, can you imagine what that future might look like? Can you envision it? I can't; in fact, most people can't.

Yet we have no trouble imagining the worst-case scenario. Our pop culture is flooded with apocalyptic movies and dystopian books about what the future may look like if we don't act. This is because the discourse surrounding climate change is mostly one of fear rather than hope.

When it comes to climate change, people have lost hope in their institutions and have started to take things into their own hands. The truth is that individuals can accomplish only a fraction of what could be accomplished if our democratic institutions were to support us.

I'll now define environmental racism. It's the phenomenon whereby climate change disproportionately affects the communities at the intersections of racial and social and economic marginalization. This phenomenon is readily apparent around the world. The so-called developed countries produce the most pollution, consume the most energy, plastic and oil, and accelerate climate change at an appalling rate. However, the third countries must bear the burden of hurricanes, droughts, famines and floods. Third countries produce our clothes, goods and telephones, and we bury our garbage in these countries.

Environmental racism can also be found close to home here in Canada and in Ontario. For example, in Ontario, over 50 indigenous communities are currently under boil water advisories. In addition, the Sarnia's Chemical Valley is home to 40% of Canada's petrochemical industry. In the midst of 60 chemical plants and oil refineries lies an indigenous community that breathes the most polluted air in Canada. This is no coincidence.

As a result, any funding provided to fight climate change must also be used to address both the social and environmental aspects of the issue.

The notion that simultaneously addressing climate change and addressing economic and socio-economic inequalities can go hand in hand isn't a new or foreign notion at all. In fact, that's the entire founding principle of the idea of a green new deal. This sort of initiative refers to a massive program of investments in clean energy jobs and infrastructure. Climate change isn't only about the environment; it's about human rights.

Thank you.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much.

I neglected to say in the beginning, for those who don't know, the representatives are here with Daughters of the Vote.

Ms. Hsu, go ahead.

1:05 p.m.

Annie Hsu As an Individual

Thank you.

I would like to first begin by thanking the committee for having us here.

My name is Annie Hsu. I am a Daughter of the Vote representing Don Valley North today, a riding with one of the highest percentages of ethnic Chinese in Canada, as well as a riding where half our residents speak a language other than English at home. I am proud to be a Chinese Canadian woman speaking to you about my experiences.

When I came to Canada in 2011, my language and cultural barriers just seemed unsurmountable. In school I became the target for harassment and bullying. I remember one day a classmate grabbed and quickly covered my entire forearm using black Sharpie before I could even form a response. Not long after that incident, a group of boys would always throw my backpack around while mocking my request for them to stop until my backpack would end up in the garbage can.

Although I loved the performing arts since childhood, drama classes became unbearable after a male classmate verbally assaulted me with derogatory comments on my culture and my sex. In fact, I dreaded going to any classes and began to skip recess or lunch to avoid people.

Social isolation ultimately triggered a lot of anxiety on my mental health, and at the age of 12 I had depression. This is not just my story. This is one variation of the gloomy reality for many adolescent and youth newcomers to Canada.

In the 2015 study that surveyed Asian youth in the GTA, 12% of the youth participants—the majority of them being first-generation immigrants—said they had seriously considered suicide. A 2018 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that immigrant and refugee youth in Canada are more likely to visit the emergency room for mental health reasons than those born within the country.

Amidst debates on immigration policy around the world, the critical issue of the integration of newcomer youth and refugees has not attracted much-needed attention. Suddenly integrating into a new community is a particularly challenging process for all of us with language and cultural barriers. Compounding these challenges, newcomer youth are commonly exposed to discrimination and oppression. Social exclusion significantly impacts our mental health, academic performance and ultimate access to quality education.

In 2017, I established Bridge the Heart, a youth-led, non-profit organization that provides peer-to-peer support for newcomer youth through mentorship, civic engagement programs and skills training in Toronto. We work to ensure that newcomer youth have the knowledge, skills and experiences they need to succeed in school, to effectively engage in our communities and the political process, and to achieve our full potential.

Every day I work with young people who share similar experiences with these issues that are rarely openly discussed or addressed by the government. I understand that the Government of Canada settlement program, recent proposals for a new settlement and resettlement assistance program and a recent new allocation of funds for pre-arrival services continue to improve the support for immigrants and refugees. However, I see the urgent need for the provision of support designed specifically for youth newcomers who are not only entering a new community, but also a critical stage in their lives in discovering their identity.

I urge this committee and the House to consider a youth-focused policy approach, and to invest in local programs that foster connections between youth and their new communities, and help them gain the language and cultural knowledge they need to succeed academically and in employment while keeping in mind the important different experiences and needs for youth from different places of origin, immigration classes, socio-economic backgrounds and many more.

I think it is so imperative that we proactively invest in newcomer youth now and into the future rather than passively implementing reactive measures, before it is too late to ensure their ongoing engagement with the community.

As a Chinese Canadian woman, I am grateful for a country that values our people's diversity as our strength, but we have a lot more to do.

Thank you.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Ms. Hsu.

Ms. Hansan, from Calgary Centre. The floor is yours.

1:10 p.m.

Tasnim Hasan As an Individual

Hi. My name is Tasnim Hasan. I just wanted to correct you there.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay. You wouldn't be the first to correct me.

1:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Tasnim Hasan

No worries.

Peace be upon you. My name is Tasnim Hasan, and it's my pleasure to join you today on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory.

Today I want to talk about investment, and what it means to invest in humanity. I want to talk about the dollars and numbers, but I want to talk more about what those dollars and numbers mean when they are being invested in shaping the stories and changing the life paths and rewriting the future.

I am a social worker working in various community social services. This topic is broader, more complex and intertwined with every investment decision made here by the committee. Please allow me to broaden this conversation.

Canada prides itself on investing in the Muslim community, and particularly in the refugee community. Understand that Canada is very deeply invested in simultaneously creating these refugees, their continued dehumanization globally and their oppression at the hands of our so-called political allies. Canada is invested in nearly every major contemporary mass violence against Muslims globally right now. The Government of Canada allocates millions of dollars in aid to places suffering under completely preventable conflicts. In Yemen, home now to the world's largest man-made famine, Canada remains active in an armoured vehicle agreement, which directly supports their oppressor and one of the major causes of this famine, Saudi Arabia.

How can Canada account for vehicles built in Winnipeg and fashioned with American machine guns being used against a starved population? Similarly the Government of Canada prioritizes Israeli trade relations despite global condemnation, including from the United Nations, of human rights violations and war crimes committed against Palestine, the people of Gaza, the world's largest outdoor prison? Not even to mention watching while Israel decimates international law to bulldoze Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, out of their homes in illegal settlements.

To justify this ongoing human rights crisis, Israel funds millions each year in anti-Muslim propaganda in countries such as the U.S.A. and here in Canada. Canada may be admitting refugees but we're also supporting a regime that continues to create these refugees and pays millions annually in dehumanizing Muslims. The Government of Canada is willing to put forth trade agreements with ASEAN that include countries like Myanmar, a government actively committing genocide against their Muslim Rohingya population. The Government of Canada instead sends aid to assist with managing the world's largest refugee camp there.

In China, the Government of Canada has a trade relationship based on mutual investment and yet we fall short in human investment for the millions of Uighur Muslims currently imprisoned in the world's largest concentration camp with a Muslim population of at least 1.5 million.

Canada can no longer afford to pay three times—the first time through trade agreements and silence on the oppressions by supporting illegal global regimes committing acts of genocide against Muslims; the second time when we have to then expend enormous resources taking in the refugees we are complicit in creating—they will always be welcome here, but let's go to the source. Lastly Canada can no longer afford to lose the investment in our collective humanity. We need to put words into action and hold our own on the world stage. Every dollar we invest in these violent relationships and justifications of human rights violations we are taking away from children's education, settlement services, health care, all the services to Canadians right here at home.

What you choose rewrites the story for millions of people. I trust that it will no longer be taken lightly

Thank you very much.

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Ms. Hasan.

Next we have Ms. Bird from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa.

1:15 p.m.

Cyara Bird As an Individual

Good afternoon. My name is Cyara Bird, and I am the Daughters of the Vote delegate representing Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa.

It is important to address the mental health crisis in our rural areas and its link to our correctional systems. As the wife and daughter of two very incredible correctional officers, I understand the dire need to fix our mental health system.

Mental health illnesses can begin in many different ways. I developed depression and anxiety at a very young age in my life due to bullying, and then later on in my life I developed severe and debilitating postpartum depression. For others, mental health illnesses can begin from childhood trauma, substance abuse, they can be born with it, or sometimes it just develops on its own later on in life.

Mental health resources are few and far between in our rural areas. In many rural areas they are insufficient, and in a lot of reserves they are non-existent.

When I needed to utilize these resources because I was being consumed by my postpartum depression, I couldn't. I tried, and nothing was available. I lost out on the first six months of my first-born daughter's life because of it. It also strained my marriage, because I couldn't physically get out of bed to take care of my household responsibilities, and I left everything on my husband's shoulders. That is time that I can never get back, and I resent the way that the mental health system is set up because of it.

Luckily, I have not yet developed postpartum depression since having my second child, and I pray every day that I do not develop it again.

I'm going to go off my script here to describe to the men in the room what having postpartum depression is like, because I found it very different from just having regular depression. It was like this dark cloud surrounding you, hugging you every day, and it was impossible to get out of. When I finally got out of it and started seeing the sun again, it was like being in heaven. It was really hard, and it was even hard to describe to my husband, because he didn't quite understand, he just knew that I wasn't well.

I'm going to go back to my script here now.

In 2018, the Washington Post published an article with very shocking statistics. The article states that indigenous people make up 5% of the Canadian population, but 27% of the population in Canadian correctional facilities. Of all federally sentenced women, 43% are indigenous. The jaw-dropping statistic here is that indigenous youth only make up 8% of the Canadian youth population, but 46% of incarcerated youth.

The lack of mental health resources in our rural communities and our reserves directly contributes to these statistics significantly. We need to focus on implementing programs in these communities that would prevent people from coming into conflict with the law prior to incarceration. We also need to set up facilities where people with mental health illnesses can go instead of a correctional centre when their needs are beyond correction officers' capabilities. Incarceration does nothing to help a lot of these individuals, because they are not getting the help that they need.

Investing in proper mental health resources for these communities would bring down crime rates undoubtedly. If we can reduce the numbers from the source, we will lighten the load on our correctional system.

Thank you.

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you very much, Ms. Bird.

Thank you to you all for your directness and stating it as it is, if I could put it that way.

We'll have time for probably only one question from each party, but we'll see.

Who wants to go over here on the government side?

We'll go to very short questions, but you never know, the answers might be long.

Who's first?

Mr. Fergus.

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

My name is Greg Fergus, and I'm the member for the electoral district of Hull—Aylmer, in Quebec.

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Greg, just to interrupt you for a second, for those who need translation, you can put on your device on your unit in front of you and it will go to the language you want.

April 2nd, 2019 / 1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

My name is Greg Fergus. I'm the member for the electoral district of Hull—Aylmer, which is on the other side of the river, in Quebec.

I want to thank you for participating in the daughters of the vote. It's very important that you take your place in the House of Commons. Welcome to your House.

Ms. Thabet, I'll start with you. You raised the issue of what is commonly referred to as the green new deal.

I think that you're absolutely right. The environment, the fight against climate change and social development must be connected in some way. Otherwise, we won't be able to take into account the disproportionate impact on the less fortunate or racialized groups of our population.

This ties in to Ms. Bird's comment regarding the incarceration rates of racialized groups in Canada. These rates are devastating among indigenous people.

I'm the chair of the Canadian Caucus of Black Parliamentarians. We know that indigenous people rank first and that black Canadians rank second when it comes to over-representation in prisons and mental health issues.

I hope that you'll all agree that this shows the importance of carrying out social research in areas such as investment and incarceration.

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Greg, we need short questions. Do you have a question?

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Do you agree that we should always look at the results of the different programs?

1:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Clémence Thabet

Thank you for the question.

Absolutely. These are systemic issues. We can't take things out of their context, especially with our justice system. Whether the issue concerns the environment or other matters, there are always social implications. The issues that we ignore are often the most urgent issues. I completely agree with you.

I don't know whether anyone else wants to comment.

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Does anybody else want to come in?

Ms. Bird.

1:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Cyara Bird

In the facility my husband works in, he is one of very few, if not the only, indigenous correctional officer. He's able to help these individuals back onto the right path because we're very spiritual people. We follow our culture and our traditions very closely. His grandfather is a ceremony maker in our community, so we participate in that a lot. I feel like maybe bringing more of those resources in will be beneficial.

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Kmiec.