moved that Bill C-35, an act to establish the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, there is something very strange going on this morning. For those viewers watching on television I was almost getting a standing ovation from my friends on the Reform side. I thank them for their generous and very thoughtful co-operation today. I thank my hon. friend, the Reform Party critic, for moving to second reading and showing some degree of flexibility to move to committee of the whole. I understand the Bloc Quebecois does not want to do so. I hope to find out the reasons why.
The bill before the House of Commons today is relatively short, straightforward and important. It is only six pages long and 22 paragraphs in all.
Its purpose is obvious: the creation of a Department of Citizenship and Immigration.
The House will recall that one of the commitments of our party during the campaign was that the business of immigration had no business being in the department of public security.
That was a move made in the dying moments of a very desperate government that Canadians saw fit to replace. That is not the issue that caused consternation for the Prime Minister, this minister and all caucus members of the Liberal Party of Canada. It was that the move of putting immigration in public security was very directly a slap or a black eye for all those people who came to the country as immigrants and who are now for the most part full members of the Canadian family through their Canadian citizenship. Placing that in public security very much undermined the real story that immigration has played in the country.
Sure there are cases of abuse. Sure there are individuals who claim refugee status, are not refugees and are everything but. Yes, there are those who make multiple claims on our welfare systems. We have tried to address that through memorandums of understanding with municipalities across the country. We have those problems, but show me a department of government that does not have abuse problems. Show me a UI system that is not abused. Show me a CPP disability system that is not abused. Show me a welfare system that is not abused.
We are saying that regrettably there is abuse of various programs in society. Regrettably that is part of human nature not only in our country but the world over. Our system, when stacked up against other systems of the world, certainly speaks to a sense of clarity and a sense of integrity.
We are also dealing with a minority of cases that should not be translated to being the majority story. That is why I was personally offended, as was my party, by immigration being placed in public security. The Prime Minister made a commitment that if he were elected Prime Minister that would cease and desist. True to his word when he appointed his cabinet, lo and behold there was a new department called citizenship and immigration.
We have been carrying out our work notwithstanding the bill that gives legal authority to that department is before the House of Commons today. It enacts changes announced by the Prime Minister on November 4, 1993 and delivers on the principles contained in the red book.
The bill organizes the citizenship and immigration mandate and promotion functions of the government in a coherent and common sense fashion. More important, the legislation before Parliament today modernizes and streamlines government to meet the needs of Canadians and to give us the tools needed to deal effectively with myriad complex citizenship and immigration issues.
The Prime Minister spoke on many occasions. Our party spoke very eloquently and indicated that immigration was a building tool for our country. It is a building tool that through the years has helped to build a modern day Canada. Immigration will also be part of our future. It is up to us how to shape it, how to mould it and how to help it address current day phenomena which are different from yesteryears. Nonetheless immigration is an absolutely vital part of the lifeblood of our country.
There is also citizenship. Sometimes citizenship gets lost because immigration is so overpowering or is such an emotional issue that the media clearly focus on it as opposed to citizenship issues. I might also add that oftentimes the media deal with immigration in a negative way. It is always the negative issue that screams the loudest on page 1 or on the first story on our TV sets or radios. Sometimes that is how news is covered. Negative stuff sells but if members of Parliament are interested, as we all should be, about talking fact and not fiction then there is also the need to distinguish for the public that the culmination of all those negative cases does not define the essence of the issue.
Sometimes immigration gets covered the way media covers aeroplanes. Media covers aeroplanes only when they do not land. They do not talk about the ones that land safely. They ask why they should. We feel bad when aeroplanes do not land. We send our sympathies to the families of the victims of aeroplane crashes. We try to learn from aeroplane mishaps. We try to figure out whether it was pilot error or whether it was a malfunctioning in one of the motors, engines, wings or whatnot. We study and we try to prevent another one from happening.
We in the House of Commons do not go around and across the country as members of Parliament alarming our fellow Canadians because of an unfortunate accident. We know better. Ninety-nine per cent of aeroplanes land at airports seven days a week, 24 hours a day. In fact the statistics show that travelling in aeroplanes is safer than driving cars. Members are responsible to learn from those mistakes, but we have to be responsible about reflecting the total picture, the context of those aeroplane mishaps and landings.
I ask my fellow colleagues: Ought we not do the same when we talk about the emotional issue of immigration? I think we should and it is important that we do so. It is not to say that we forget about the negative cases or that we do not learn from the negative cases.
I will be presenting legislation before we rise for the summer on individual cases that have been in our newspapers which have driven Canadians, the opposition and this minister right up the wall and around the bend. We will learn from them and make amendments so that we make the laws as foolproof as possible from those who want to play with or abuse our laws.
Citizenship is also part of my mandate. I would suggest to hon. members that citizenship can help us with immigration. It is a natural fit when the Prime Minister put citizenship and immigration together. As immigrants come into the country and are facilitated, the processes of citizenship and making them Canadian take over. When a person becomes a Canadian citizen the process of him or her being an immigrant is over.
Immigration is a process that at some point stops and citizenship takes over and we are all Canadian citizens. Our origins may be different. I may have been born in Argentina of Canadian parents. Yet I went through the same school system as the children of hon. members today. We speak English or French; maybe badly but none the less we speak it. We have played hockey on the same streets. We have been in trouble for throwing snowballs at our schoolmates. My cultural origin is different. Am I a better Canadian than anybody else here? Absolutely not. Am I any worse? The same answer.
Citizenship helps us with immigration. It also helps us with immigration because in the offer to the standing committee to help us shape a new Citizenship Act one thing I asked it to do was to look into the responsibilities, obligations and values of Canadian citizenship.
Why is that? There are two reasons. In the debate about immigration we talk often about rights: the rights to make an application, the rights of family class reunification, the right to have rights defended under a refugee application, and the right of an individual to receive humanitarian and compassionate consideration on which I have had requests from members of the Chamber on a daily basis. It is rights dominated and that is legitimate. There is a place for rights to be defended and to be respected.
When we talk about citizenship the debate should shift quite properly and focus on the responsibilities and obligations of new citizens in Canada to defend, promote and stand on guard for Canada. What are the values of Canadianism that we want our new immigrants to embrace, cherish and respect? While we value the cultural identity that formulated my father's first 35 years, we are a mature country when we say: "Mr. Marchi, we are not asking you to leave your cultural vestiges at the door because who you were for 30 years no one can remove". Not even the former Soviet Union with all its armies and tanks was able to suppress that. The moment the Soviet Union came apart we saw a flourishing of culturalism, ethnicity and religion. Where was that during the time of the Soviet empire? It was still alive because that is who people are.
We are a mature country when we have embodied an official policy of multiculturalism which was certainly there before it was crystallized by Mr. Trudeau in 1971.
There is also a complementary feature. When one comes to Canada one also needs to embrace that which is Canadian and which has given essence to our life in Canada.
Why is it that in the oath that we ask our citizens to swear that it speaks to beholding to the duties of citizenship and nowhere in our Citizenship Act or anywhere else do we define duties, nowhere do we define obligations, nowhere do we talk about responsibilities. Some people wonder why certain things are not done.
I would like to be in a position to move a bill in this Chamber in the fall, after the committee has had its study and reported, to talk about those things because those are unifying. It would not only help the newcomer to understand what Canadian society is about but it would also be a reassurance to all other Canadians that people are coming here and becoming Canadians are prepared as immigrants in the past to build, sacrifice, pay taxes, bleed when they get hurt and to rejoice in Canadian victories whatever those victories are.
I would like to be in a position as minister or those who may follow me to be able not only to give out a citizenship certificate or congratulations or for members of Parliament to do that when they go to the citizenship ceremonies, but also to give out a charter of responsibilities and obligations.
Let us strive to talk about that even though it is difficult. How long of a charter are we going to have if we start talking about responsibilities and obligations? We have to obviously capture the essence. What are the values of Canadian citizenship or Canadianism? It is pretty difficult and sometimes it can be a divisive debate. I think on the whole it will be a unifying debate, particularly at a time when our country in the next number of months will be seeing and hearing a lot about the negatives of this country and how federalism does not work and how people are in a funk.
When we eliminate those day to day problems and talk about Canadian citizenship as I have on radio shows, TV shows and in forums with Canadians, it is an absolutely positive and uplifting force. Nobody, despite the problems that we have in all of our backyards, is prepared to give up on Canadian citizenship. Everybody recognizes that it is the best passport in the world. Everybody recognizes that one of the difficulties in immigration is the fact that literally millions of people want to come to this country.
The biggest difficulty I have is dealing with members of Parliament who come to me and say: "Why has your department turned this individual down?", "We have a point system" or "Why was he refused his visitor visa?" The demand to come here is a reflection of how much of a good thing we have got going in this country and that we need to protect and promote it.
We cannot be home to everyone. That is why we need to be selective in our immigration program. Being selective is a natural part of the immigration program. We select to further the interest of our country. We also need to have a sense of compassion so that our immigration policy can be a lifeline to our brothers and sisters who are deserving and in search of simply a life that you and I have either adopted or that has come automatically to us. The responsibilities of this new department include immigration applications, level setting, federal-provincial relations in terms of immigration programs, visas, refugees, enforcement, settlement, citizenship applications and citizenship promotion. We are changing how we do citizenship in this country.
No longer are we going to have citizenship court judges because the system imposed on them was a financial and time burden that simply was not worth it anymore. There were 10,000 people in the backlog every month who wanted to become citizens.
In my area of metropolitan Toronto it took almost two and a half years in some cases from the time they got an application until the time they swore an oath. That simply was not good enough. One court judge had to do a one on one. We were approving 95 per cent of all applicants. I concluded that for saying yes to 95 per cent it was simply taking too much time and costing too much money. Therefore, we have moved to an administrative process, a classroom style, a written test rather than a one on one verbal. We are also adding standards and consistency across the board.
We are not losing sight of the ceremony of citizenship which all of us as members of Parliament have or hopefully will participate in because it is such a moving tribute and it helps us with immigration. Why? Because we are not going to hide citizenship in a court. We are going to move it to a school auditorium.
When I was in the riding of the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester, we did it in a school auditorium in front of the kids, the parents, the rate payer groups, police representatives and RCMP and the local media. Neighbours of these citizens came out to see them.
The bogey persons as we now call them because we have to be politically correct, and bogey persons is a name that people sometimes attach to those who are the newcomers, who are they? Are they like us? Who are these people? There they were on a stage raising their right hand and swearing allegiance to our country. What a beautiful testimony it was. It is our Prime Minister and our government that is pushing those out to the community not as the exception but as the rule.
Citizenship court judges for the most part did a wonderful job. No one is blaming them personally at all. It was the system that needed changing. Instead of citizenship court judges we are now going to ask the Order of Canada recipients on a non-remunerative basis to officiate. That adds greater elegance and profile.
For instance on the opening day of Citizenship Week we held a special court at the University of Toronto. We had three Order of Canada recipients on stage with us: Knowlton Nash, June Callwood and Maureen Forrester. Those three were better known than the minister, never mind the citizenship court judges. Everybody lived with Knowlton Nash for 30 or 40 years in this country. For years the last thing people thought about before they went to sleep was Knowlton Nash. All of a sudden Knowlton Nash is there on the stage celebrating citizenship. Does it not add greater testimony to the importance of citizenship when we include Order of Canada recipients across the country? I think it does.
On July 1 it will be the first such occasion in Halifax in ceremonies on pier 21, our answer to Ellis Island, our Statue of Liberty. Millions of immigrants came through pier 21. Second and third generation sons and daughters go back when they visit Nova Scotia. They go to see pier 21 that their dad or mom talked about. That is our Statue of Liberty. There will be a citizenship ceremony at pier 21. There will also be one in Toronto. For the first time Order of Canada recipients will be officiating to let people know that the changes we made are happening.
Citizenship and immigration go hand in hand. That is why the new department will take a lead role in strengthening those values, obligations and responsibilities that I talked about.
This month marks the 125th anniversary of our immigration programming. Interestingly enough this is not the first time that Parliament has engaged in a debate on the establishment of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Almost 45 years ago today Prime Minister St. Laurent constituted a Department of Citizenship and Immigration. With today's legislation we are in fact learning from our history and from our past where we have to obtain lessons and inspiration from time to time.
I would like to quote briefly what M. J. Coldwell said in the House of Commons 45 years ago. He was not a Liberal, but he was acknowledged as one of the great parliamentarians of his day. On November 26, 1949 Mr. Coldwell said, and I quote: "In my view the placing of matters related to immigration and citizenship under one Department of Citizenship and Immigration is a wise move. It is essential that people who come here as immigrants should be not only welcome, but also taught to value
the citizenship of this country and to have an appreciation of what Canada means to them".
Like Mr. Coldwell, I am a citizen of Canada and an immigrant and I am deeply aware of the value and importance of the words immigrant and citizen.
All members of Parliament recognize the need to overhaul our immigration policies and to consider the long term role of immigration in that nation building exercise. All of us recognize the need to improve the immigration system. No one has the virtue of a monopoly of concern. There are things that work very well. There are other things that clearly need modification.
That is one of the reasons we are doing a 10-year policy framework. I do not believe that immigration is done annually. I do not believe that immigration is done on a short term basis. Immigration to our country of Canada is a long term investment. You do not do settlement in six months. You do not take an individual and pretend that after six or 12 months that person is integrated. We know that it is more generational. We know that at the intake the country to a certain degree pays for the integration of those individuals. As the individual goes on in Canada, he repays that loan to the point that he is repaying more than the initial loan. That is then the net benefit to our country economically, socially and culturally.
That is why we are also doing a broader consultation. We cannot do a 10-year policy without inviting Canadians into the tent. The days when setting levels and not including municipalities are over. Why should we include municipalities in the business of immigration? We see mayors and reeves and councillors complaining that they never knew the levels for the next five years. They did not know the numbers more or less that would be coming to their city or town and, therefore, they could not plan a resource accordingly.
I went last week to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting in Winnipeg. I delivered a strong commitment of this Prime Minister and government that those days are over. No one forced us to do this, but what makes sense is what is worth doing.
Why should boards of education be on the outside looking in when they too complain that they never knew the number of kids born of immigrants or refugees that came into the school system. They could not plan. They could not resource. So we have included boards of education in our consultations.
Unions and labour movements, the same thing, people who have a concern with our unemployed membership. How many people are you bringing in? What skills are you bringing in? Are you looking for scales in construction or high tech or the new economy? What is the mix?
For the first time in many years we are enlarging the tent and giving a place for people to stand. We have opened up the consultations in an unprecedented way since 1976, when another minister of immigration offered the green paper and basically built the amendments, very significant amendments, as a result of consulting Canadians. We hope to do the same. That process is under way.
We are also including the public. We have five town hall meetings planned across the country. My first one tonight is in Montreal. We have eight study circles on specific issues across the country.
We have 10 working groups working with Canadians on 10 specific issues which 50 Canadians from all walks of life identified as key issues.
All the members of Parliament in this Chamber were given from my office a kit that would try to provide information and direction on how members of Parliament could provide leadership in their own ridings, touching base with Canadians, NGO groups, lawyers and advocates. When we opened it up, sure we took risks. Do you not think it is a risk opening anything up? Of course it is because when you open yourself up you open yourself up to a spectrum of issues and this is not a public relations exercise.
If we are looking just for public relations then I am suicidal because the consultations that took place in October are the fullest that can be had, an election.
We have a majority government. We have a red book that we are following so we could have said that we are on course. We are not doing this for public relations gimmickry because no one makes us do this. We want to do this because we believe it is the right thing. If we allow things to fester on the outside and ignore them, my attitude is that those festers grow and become bigger and unmanageable, and we have a problem when things are left unattended.
The objective of government is to provide good government, leadership and inspiration and you do that by tackling problems or concerns or fears that Canadians have and we work them out.
I believe by being open we can work them out. I have people coming to me saying I should close the doors: "Why are the doors being kept open when my Johnny and my Susie cannot find a job? What gives you the right to keep those doors open?".
I do not want to ask Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones to get out of my way-"I have my mind made up. It is a red book. We are a majority government. Who are you?". I am not going to be that kind of a minister because we cannot afford that luxury. Mr. Smith or Mrs. Smith, talking about Johnny or Susie, love Johnny or Susie as much as we love our own kids. If we heard one thing in the campaign it was that parents had it pretty good in Canada but they were really concerned about their kids, their future, their education, their career. If I heard one thing in my riding it was: "Mr. Marchi, we have had a pretty good shake but I am
worried that my kids get the same kind of good shake I have and I fear for them now, given the state of the economy".
Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones has that concern out of love for their kids. I love my Adrianna as much as they love their Johnny and Susie and so I will never say to those parents "get out of my way".
I also will not do something that some people are prepared to do and embrace Mrs. Smith and say "You are absolutely right. If your Johnny or Susie does not have a job obviously I have to close the doors".
I am not going to be that minister either, as much as I care for that Canadian. What I prefer to do as a minister, which speaks to this consultation, is say: "Mrs. Smith, Mr. Jones, it is time that you and I sit down. It is time that you and I looked at the facts. It is time that you and I break some bread, look at the facts, ask ourselves if immigrants will help Johnny and Susie or hurt them, if economics is the discussion of the day".
I can ask a Mrs. Smith and a Mr. Jones in Toronto if they think immigrants cost us jobs or create jobs. Toronto has been in an economic funk for a few years and I believe a lot of people would say they would cost us jobs today because of how that economy has dealt a fatal blow almost to the metropolitan area and that we are now coming out of it.
I am realistic to note that the feeling would be immigrants can cost us jobs. If I were to go to Vancouver, the part of the country the Secretary of State for International Affairs comes from, and ask a Canadian if they think immigrants create or cost us jobs, they would say undoubtedly: "Mr. Marchi, are you kidding me? Look at Vancouver. Look at British Columbia".
One of the reasons we do not know the r word, ``recession'' is because of immigrants, of business investment from the Asia-Pacific, for instance.
One Canadian in Vancouver, one Canadian in Toronto, they cannot both be right. There has to be one general answer and I know it depends on how many in a certain class we have, where they go and what their skills are. That is why it is not only the numbers game. Is it the 250,000 or is it the 150,000 the Reform Party talks about? I would like to see where it is also going to be prepared to cut. It does not tell me that.
However, let us put that argument to the side because the other numbers game is within the categories: what is the number of family versus independent versus refugee versus student visa versus all the other categories?
Both those Canadians cannot be wrong or right generically. I hope to sit down and find that common cause and common ground with Mrs. Smith. I believe that on the whole, immigrants create economic activity, whether it is because they buy a product and lead a recovery through consumership which we have not yet seen in this country-until we do we will not see a full economic recovery-whether it is because of the dollars they bring into this country through their savings, whether it is the entrepreneurs who create a business.
I believe that at the end of the day, and most studies will confirm this-we need to do more work on it-on the big picture immigration creates economic activity. If we can break bread on some common ground, maybe we will put to rest the popular wisdom that every time one gets into an economic downturn one needs to close the doors to immigration.
Maybe we can also do with that popular wisdom what they did with those who suggested that the popular wisdom was that the world was flat. If one thought it was round, they thought of taking that person away somewhere. It was clear that it was flat because one could look way out there and of course earth fell at the end of the last apartment building at the end of the highway. One can not even begin to think that the world is round when we are walking nicely and smoothly on a flat piece of green carpet in the House of Commons.
Popular wisdom was wrong there. We have a lot of popular wisdoms that do not build countries. Popular wisdoms do not build countries. They do not give momentums to countries. They do not create values. We know that and that is the exercise.
I believe that if you sit down with Mrs. Smith and Mr. Jones, they are fair minded. They are tolerant. This country is not less tolerant. Look over the course of 25 years where they measure unemployment and immigration. Sure there are ups and downs. Take the average. Do not point to me the worst case. Do not be the media on the negative cases.
I will admit that tolerance is down during an economic recession but then I will ask members to look where it is when we are having an economic boom. If members want me to look at one, they are going to have to look at the other. Then we will have to take an average and then we will say where the tolerance level is for Canadians.
I strongly believe that Canadians are fair minded and tolerant. They want to be presented with the facts. They do not like abuse nor should they. We should not be tolerant with people who have no business being here but we should not take that out on the entire policy. I believe in that tolerance.
I have speaking notes that my officials put together that I will not read because I tried to cover the essence of this department.
I will end on a very personal note. Maybe I should not do it but I will do it anyway. I fought a nomination battle in 1984 that was the toughest battle that some of us go through. We had it Monday night at seven and we ended up on Tuesday morning at 3.30 a.m. on the third ballot. We then went to our favourite Italian banquet hall, Tony's ballroom, to celebrate until six in the morning. I went home and showered and went looking for a campaign office because Liberals were still fighting Liberals because their Liberal candidate had decided three days into the campaign not to seek office.
We were all in a tiff-the Conservatives that year as we know-and some of us survived, but it was a tough campaign. I felt so pumped up as we all do after a nomination that I went into the toughest part of my riding, the Conservative end of town, in the south end.
I took my wife and we went door knocking right after we found a campaign office. I knocked on my very first door and a 60-year old gentleman came out and said: "Yes, what can I do for you?". I said: "Hi, I am Sergio Marchi and I am your Liberal candidate. I just wanted to say hello and hopefully capture your confidence in this election". He said: "What is your name?". I said: "Sergio Marchi". He said: "What kind of a name is that?". I said: "It is a Canadian name. My parents are Canadian and I am a Canadian so I guess that makes it a Canadian name". He said: "Don't give me that. What is the background of your name?". I said: "I was born in Argentina. My parents are Italian born and we came here in 1959". He said: "Kid, my parents have been dead 25 years and if they thought I would vote for an Italian MP they would turn over in their graves".
I looked at my wife and my wife thought I was nuts, but we both thought without saying it, "this is our first door and this is the response. We have to go through this for a campaign".
Being a stubborn Canadian of Italian background, rather than doing what each of our campaigns tells us to do-when you meet someone like that keep moving, do not waste time-I stayed there.
I stood there and said: "Who are you going to vote for?". He said: "None of your business". I said: "You are absolutely right, but I have lost your vote so what does it matter?". He said: "I am going to vote Conservative". I said: "Do you know who your Conservative candidate is?". He said no. I said: "Do you want me to tell you?". He said sure. I said: "His name is Frank DiGiorgio". He looked at me and said: "You think you're kind of a smart ass, don't you?". I said: "No, sir, I am telling you the truth". He said: "For the first time in my life I am voting Socialist". I said: "Do you know who your Socialist NDP candidate is?". He said no. I said: "I'll tell you". He said "I don't want to know". I said: "I don't care, I am going to tell you anyway. His name is Bruno Pasquantonio. Sir, you cannot get any more Italian than that. So unless you want to vote Communism or unless you don't want to vote give me five minutes".
He invited my wife and me in for tea and I made a second mistake. Any campaign says not to have a tea or coffee or a glass of wine, keep moving. I went inside and we spent 10 minutes at our first door.
The beauty of this story was, and it is a true story, when we moved on to the next door there was a sign on that gentleman's lawn that said "Elect Sergio Marchi, Liberal, York West". It was not that he took a Liberal sign. The essence of that first door for me is the story of our department today, that once he had seen that I did not have thorns or horns in my head, that he felt I went to the local school, that I spoke English, that I was capable of mixing it with the best and not being any worse or any better, that the boogie persons came down, he said: "Put a sign on my lawn".
That is the debate and the discussion I want to have with Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones because if I would have went to the second door I would have spoke ill of that first person who came out and offended me. However, we stayed there and the two of us chatted. He had up my lawn sign. That is the Canadian way. That is tolerance. You would not have thought it initially, but it was.
That is the essence of doing the consultations the way we are going to do them. Citizenship and immigration is a natural and it has worked for the country. None of us believes that nation building will stop at the end of this parliamentary day. Nation building is an ongoing march and an ongoing exercise and immigration is one of those tools to shape and mould a better Canada for all of us. That is why it gives me great privilege and honour this morning to move the acceptance of this bill at second reading.