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Evidence of meeting #39 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was children.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sharalyn Jordan  Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee
Christine Morrissey  Founder and Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee
Michael Deakin-Macey  Past President, Board of Directors, Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, As an Individual
John Amble  As an Individual
Richard Stanwick  President Elect, Canadian Paediatric Society
Glynis Williams  Executive Director, Action Réfugiés Montréal
Jenny Jeanes  Program Coordinator, Action Réfugiés Montréal
Marie Adèle Davis  Executive Director, Canadian Paediatric Society
Gina Csanyi-Robah  Executive Director, Roma Community Centre
Maureen Silcoff  Representative, Roma Community Centre

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

No. Thank you very much.

Point of order, Mr. Valeriote.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

I just want to alert you that I have to leave at six o'clock. So if I absent myself, I mean no disrespect.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Okay.

That's a problem. We'll try to oblige you as much as we can. I'd like these people to make a presentation.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Yes, absolutely.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We need some order here, members. I'm talking.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Could I get some clarification as to why we didn't allow the documents? I'm just asking one question, that's all.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We didn't have unanimous consent, Mr. Dykstra.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Is it because the documents were only in one language?

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Yes.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Okay. Thank you.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

If I can oblige you, I will, sir. If not, we'll have to move on. I'm sorry.

Ms. Csanyi-Robah, you have the floor. How about if I just call you Gina?

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Roma Community Centre

Gina Csanyi-Robah

That's perfect. My students call me “Miss G”.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Miss G, you have up to 10 minutes.

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Roma Community Centre

Gina Csanyi-Robah

Do I? I'm sharing—

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Yes, you can. Absolutely.

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Roma Community Centre

Gina Csanyi-Robah

Thank you very much.

May 3rd, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.

Maureen Silcoff Representative, Roma Community Centre

We're sharing our time, so it's a total of 10 minutes.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Yes. You get a total of 10 minutes for the two of you.

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Roma Community Centre

Gina Csanyi-Robah

Did we decide that we're sharing the files or not?

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

No. The files are not being distributed so you'll have to do your best without them. I'm sorry.

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Roma Community Centre

Gina Csanyi-Robah

Okay. But there are translated documents, French and English documents from—

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We have your brief and we have your press release. That's all we have before us.

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Roma Community Centre

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

I'm sorry, but the rules require that documents be in both languages, and they weren't. I'm sorry about that.

The two of you may speak for up to 10 minutes.

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Roma Community Centre

Gina Csanyi-Robah

Thank you.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished committee on the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration. My name is Gina Csanyi-Robah. I'm the current executive director at the Toronto Roma Community Centre, the only organization existing in Canada representing the needs of and helping the Roma community specifically. The Roma Community Centre is a 100% volunteer-based organization, which opened in 1997, and became a non-profit in 1998. It was housed inside a very large immigration settlement organization called CultureLink up until October 2011. This past October 2011, we were finally able to build enough capacity to open our own independent office. At our office we now help with daily settlement service needs, with education, and also with building pride in Roma culture.

I come to you today, and I'm immensely appreciative of this important opportunity. As far as I know, I'm the first Roma person in Canada to have this privilege of coming and presenting in front of our Canadian government. I was born in Canada. My family came here in 1956 as Roma refugees from Hungary during that revolution. I've been in Canada ever since. I'm a teacher by profession for the Toronto District School Board, and I use my other time to be the executive director of this organization, so I'm currently working 80 to 90 hours a week to be able to help this community.

I come to you today with my testimony, and to do my best to encourage this committee to not create a designated safe country list, whereby citizens that are Roma from EU countries will not be given fair opportunities to seek safety in Canada, while inadvertently condoning the lack of implementation of human rights legislation for Roma minorities in many central and eastern European countries.

I want to open with a small passage from a February 2012 publication from the Council of Europe. This is the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg. He says to be able to understand the Roma people, you must have some understanding of their history.

The history of European repression against the Roma precedes the Nazi and fascist era—

—where Roma lost two million of their own during the Holocaust.

In fact, it goes back several hundred years – following the Roma migration from the Indian subcontinent—

—from the Rajasthan area in the 10th century.

The Roma were the outsiders used as scapegoats when things went wrong and the locals did not want to take responsibility. The methods of repression have varied over time and have included enslavement, enforced assimilation, expulsion, internment and mass killings.

This is the history of the Roma people in Europe. Nothing has changed since the 13th century when we arrived on the European continent. It's not a pretty history.

Roma are coming, leaving apartheid-like conditions in education, housing, health care, and every segment and sector of society you can imagine. Hate is organized, it's endemic, and it's been ongoing for a long time. It's nothing new. When I meet with members of the Hungarian government who have come to the Roma Community Centre, they sit there and think I'm speaking some alien language when I tell them about the hate that is crippling our community. The only answer I've ever been given by Zoltan Balog, the Minister of Social Inclusion, Zsuzsanna Repas, Attila Kocsis, and the Hungarian Ambassador to Canada is that there's an economic problem taking place. This is a lie.

What's also a lie is that Roma are bogus refugees. In 2011, there were 167 accepted applications at the Immigration and Refugee Board. That means that, if Roma are bogus, those Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicators are liars, and I don't think that they are. I don't think they should be fired. It makes absolutely no sense to call Roma refugee claimants “bogus” if even one refugee claim is accepted.

Roma are not living off the welfare system. They're coming to the Roma Community Centre every single day begging us to help them find jobs. We've created a Friday resumé-writing clinic. We have Roma who have come here who are now in school, they're going to college, they're working, and they're trying their best to be as empowered and have as much a voice as possible. They have a large number of withdrawn refugee claims because it's been an incredibly unwelcoming climate for Roma people in Canada.

In 2009 there was an 85% acceptance rate for Czech-Roma refugees before the visa was reimposed and public discourse started talking about bogus refugee claims.

Am I at my five minutes?