House of Commons Hansard #242 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was culture.


United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:35 p.m.


Grant McNally Reform Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, on May 3 I asked the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration two questions about Canada's lax immigration policies. At that time congressional meetings were being held in Washington to study the security of the American and Canadian border.

I asked the minister if she was proud of the fact that under her tenure Canada had become known as a launching pad for terrorism and drug trafficking. I also asked her when she was going to wake up, stop talking and implement concrete measures to fix the broken system, which has become known as an easy mark to drug traffickers and terrorists.

Let me expand on these thoughts. The witnesses that appeared before the committee on the judiciary subcommittee on immigration in Washington said many things which this Liberal government and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, as well as the parliamentary secretary, should take note of. Dale Brandland, sheriff for Whatcom County in Bellingham, Washington, stated before the committee:

Our friends to the north, the Canadians, are good neighbours but I must tell you that I am troubled by their liberal immigration policies. Anyone that has a passport can enter Canada and there is very little to stop them from entering the United States once they get there.

He went on further to cite an example:

Mr. Abu Mezer is a prime example. Local Border Control personnel in Whatcom County had apprehended Mr. Abu Mezer on three separate occasions, after attempting to enter the country illegally. He was finally held, pending formal deportation...Approximately 7 months later he was shot by the New York City Police Department just prior to planting a bomb that would have blown up the subway system.

This was an individual who was in Canada three times under this lax immigration policy, rather than being deported under some criminal charges that he was facing in Canada after serving his time.

Eugene Davis, deputy chief of the U.S. border patrol in Blaine, Washington, said:

Over the past several years Canada has adopted a non-visa requirement policy with many countries that the United States continues to require visas from. This has resulted in many smugglers being able to easily bring third country nationals into Canada and then smuggle them across the border into the U.S.

He went on to say:

The Canadian government has stated that virtually every known terrorist group in the world has offices in Canada.

The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice, Michael Bromwich, stated:

The border in western Washington is experiencing a marked increase in the smuggling of BC Bud, an especially potent strain of marijuana.

He also stated:

The INS and other intelligence reports indicate that terrorist groups locate in Canada in part because of Canada's liberal visa and asylum (refugee) laws—

It is quite clear that the immigration system is broken. I hope we get some answers from the parliamentary secretary rather than empty rhetoric talking about what other parties stand for when it is his party that has not taken action to correct these wrongs and to fix the broken system.

We saw an example of that in committee today when members of the Liberal government, rather than taking concrete action to remedy a situation on the head tax for refugees, voted against it and defeated it.

They could have taken action to fix a broken part of the system, to remedy an injustice. They could have taken time to fix the system and deal with these individuals who are abusing it. Their own department officials, and I quote from an access to information document, stated:

The blatant misuse of the refugee process (in same series, a Honduran refugee claimant was openly honest about the fact that he had no understanding of what a “refugee” actually was, that he was just doing what he had been counselled to say upon arrival in Canada, and the reason that he was in Canada was to earn some money for his family back in Honduras). This portrayal was extremely damaging to the integrity of the program and department.

Certainly it was. This is the kind of thing that is happening. This is the immigration CICs own internal documents stating that there are problems with the system. Yet the minister fails to take action to address these serious problems.

I would like some answers from the parliamentary secretary to these questions.

United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:40 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario


Andrew Telegdi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, let me start by telling the member opposite that there is no head tax in the country. For him to stand in his place and try to trivialize a tragic time in the country's history is despicable. I think the member should be ashamed of himself.

I will get back to the other issues he was speaking about. I will enlighten him by pointing out that both governments are working to protect the borders because movement occurs in both directions. This is not a one way street. I will also take this opportunity to mention a handful of collaborative initiatives between Canada and the U.S.

First, both governments have taken concrete steps to systematically and regularly share information on known or suspected terrorists to ensure their early detection. Second, a new information sharing tool to support daily immigration enforcement efforts is near completion. Third, exchanges of information on visa issuance resulting in illegal immigration are now formalized and systematic.

Last but not least, let me remind the member opposite in the Reform Party that it is this government which announced the shared border accord with the United States in 1995. It is this government that took that accord one step further and solidified its commitment on the immigration front by establishing several joint working groups in order to build a comprehensive Canada-U.S. strategy for the future. This initiative is called Border Vision. The concrete examples I described earlier are a direct product of this initiative.

Suffice it to say, we have more vision that my Reform colleague who obviously is not aware of the testimony of all witnesses who appeared before the U.S. judiciary committee's immigration and claims subcommittee. If the member were, he would know that the vast majority of witnesses spoke of the close co-operation between the U.S. and Canada to combat the trafficking of drugs and illegal immigration.

Let me conclude by saying that members of the Reform Party talk about immigration and refugee policies. They cannot get past their noses. They keep talking about criminality, criminality, criminality. The member is wrong, wrong, wrong.

United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:45 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, two years ago the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development recommended the elimination of subsidies to fossil fuel industries.

Two days ago I asked the Minister of Finance if he agreed that these subsidies were counterproductive in light of Canada's international commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and should therefore be eliminated.

Unfortunately we have federal tax incentives which encourage increased production of greenhouse gases and make it much more difficult for us to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are not new. In the 1993 election we committed to cut by 20%. Yet the Department of Finance is blissfully continuing with policies which compound rather than resolve the problem.

In addition, in 1996 the government introduced a special tax concession for the oil sands industry. Oil sands extraction produces several times the amount of greenhouse gas produced from conventional oil extraction. This tax concession makes the task of reducing emissions much more difficult.

In addition, it may cost Canadians up to $600 million in forgone revenue. We found that out in 1997 from estimates provided by the Department of Finance. How then can we achieve the Kyoto goals with these perverse tax incentives in place, approved by the Department of Finance?

In a report commissioned by the highly respected Earth Council entitled “Subsidizing the Unsustainable Development: Undermining the Earth with Public Funds” we find a statement which applies to Canada as well as to other OECD countries:

Judging by their public pronouncements, governments around the world realize they should be following policies that encourage a transition to greater energy efficiency and lower energy use. Yet many official policies instead encourage energy profligacy and waste. Worse still, they usually favour the dirtier energy sources.

The report also includes a table showing subsidies provided by OECD countries. The table shows Canada contributing some $6 billion in budgetary subsidies in the form of tax expenditures. The authors go on to say:

The more environmentally damaging a fuel, the bigger the subsidy. The subsidy ranking is a pollution rogues' gallery—coal far in the forefront, followed by oil, then nuclear power and finally natural gas. Strikingly small is the proportion of total funding devoted to sources of renewable energy, the most environmentally friendly sources.

The Kyoto commitment is urgent and serious. We must remove counterproductive tax concessions and promote the production of a renewable energy and the shift to natural gas, of which we have plenty.

For all these reasons I ask the parliamentary secretary when the government will remove the tax subsidies to oil sands developments.

United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:45 p.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the question put forward by the hon. member for Davenport who is very knowledgeable in this area and has chaired the environment committee for quite some time. He certainly has provided much information that needs to be reviewed and digested.

It is also fair to say that in the past many direct government subsidies have been eliminated. In 1995 the government ended the direct financial support for energy megaprojects. At the same time the Government of Canada increased spending on energy efficiency and alternative energy programs despite the fiscal pressures with which it was faced.

It is also true that spending on R and D and market development programs in renewable energy and energy efficiency at NRCan now exceeds spending on the fossil fuel industry. In addition, the 1998 budget provided $150 million over three years to begin to address the climate change challenge.

The hon. member for Davenport made reference to renewables versus non-renewables. It was the 1998 budget in which the government moved to narrow the gap between renewables and non-renewables by extending the benefits and the $150 million.

We have a process in place today where we need to balance the creation of a strong economy and jobs with protecting the environment. There is certainly a consultative process in place now which ensures that all Canadians, particularly the member for Davenport, will have the opportunity to take part in the development of that strategy. We certainly look forward to the very valuable input that he will provide in that strategy.

United Nations Human Rights CommitteeAdjournment Proceedings

8:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am sure that hon. members remaining in the Chamber would join with me in wishing one of our assistant head pages good luck in her future endeavours. This will be her last day assisting us in the Chamber. She is going on to law school and we wish her well. Isabelle Roy, thank you.

A motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1)

(The House adjourned at 8.51 p.m.)