Mr. Speaker, on December 5, I put a question to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration about the $975 head tax immigrants must pay when they apply for permanent residence in Canada.
Since it was introduced by the federal government in February 1995, this tax has been vigorously and repeatedly condemned in this House by the Bloc Quebecois. It is a particularly odious, unfair and discriminatory tax, especially when imposed on refugees.
This tax has met with almost unanimous opposition from agencies involved in assisting and defending immigrants and refugees, human rights organizations, labour unions, the Bloc Quebecois and now the Liberal Party of Canada.
At the last convention of the Liberal Party held in Ottawa from October 23 to October 27, a resolution was passed demanding that the tax be either reduced or abolished altogether. The resolution indicated that these expenses were an obstacle to large families intending to immigrate to Canada and a heavy burden on those who were trying to become part of the Canadian economy. This document went on to say that the admission fee should not be payable until after the arrival of the new immigrant. The minister should therefore act on his party's resolution immediately.
On November 3, in Vancouver, I met Maria Barahona and her five children, who had sought refuge in Trinity United-St. Mark's Anglican church to avoid deportation. This family has lived in the basement of this church for a year, since December 6, 1995, exactly.
They are living in difficult conditions, despite generous support from the church ministers, administrators and congregation as well as from labour unions and community organizations, but not, however, from the Liberal member for Vancouver Centre.
Maria Barahona is 34 years old and comes from El Salvador. She applied for refugee status in 1991. Her application was turned down by the IRB. She and one of her children suffer from asthma. Children are unable to attend school.
I was deeply touched by this tragic situation. I ask, in fact I beg the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to stay the enforcement of the deportation order and to grant this family a ministerial permit, followed by permanent residence in Canada.
I hope that the Christmas spirit will prompt the minister to render a favourable decision in this case. I also wish to raise the problem of Zairian nationals in Canada, who are currently being returned to their country of origin.
As everyone knows, the situation in Zaire is very precarious. It is therefore dangerous to deport these people to Kinshasa. Would it not be more appropriate to stay the removal orders against Zairian nationals in Canada, given the involvement of this government in the African Great Lakes region?
Why is it that, while it is considering taking part in an international humanitarian operation in that region, the federal government continues to deport people to Zaire? There is a glaring inconsistency that will have to be corrected to preserve the credibility of this country on the international scene.
Mr. Speaker, allow me to conclude by wishing a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to my family and to my staff, who are sitting in the public gallery.