House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-31.


Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should give consideration to exempting up to $30,000 of income from income tax as a gesture of support for those artists, writers and performers who work in Canada's cultural industry.

Madam Speaker, I would seek unanimous consent of the House to share my time with the hon. member for Dartmouth.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Does the hon. member have agreement of the House to share his time?

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Some hon. members


Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to begin debate on Motion No. 259, which speaks to tax fairness for the working creators of our country.

We will all recognize that the Molson's Joe Canadian phenomenon that was introduced a few weeks ago has touched a cultural nerve in the country, that people genuinely feel proud of their country. They feel proud of what we have accomplished. They feel proud about their culture and the fact that it is unique and different from others around the world.

Today we begin a debate to acknowledge those fundamental creators who make this Canadian cultural phenomenon possible. I would like to thank Joe Canadian for helping us out.

Today we recognize those who begin the creative process, those who are the pioneers, those who create something virtually out of nothing, and those who begin the process of our cultural industry, the artists themselves. In other terms we would call them the loggers and the farmers.

I want to begin my presentation today by reading a poem from a professional cowboy poet in my community of Kamloops, British Columbia. His name is Mike Puhallo. His poem is entitled Sage and Pine .

I've traveled to your cities, and for some they might be fine. But I find myself amissin' the smell of sage and pine!

Now I'm just a country poet, Not prone to fancy verse. My grammar is atrocious, My spelling's even worse!!

But my tales are plain an' honest, Like the children of the soil, The cowboys, ranchers and farmers Whose work is honest toil.

The urban crowd don't like my prose they will pick at every line my poems ain't read in fancy theatres, where they sip champagne and wine,

and I sure ain't rich or famous, But that just suits me fine, `Cause you don't need fame or fortune to smell the sage and pine.

That is a piece of work written by one of Canada's professional poets and one of Canada's official creators.

I believe it is the role of the legislator to put issues on the public agenda which will allow a healthy public discourse and hopefully add to the public's understanding of an issue. This is my hope, as we begin a debate on the tax status of Canada's creators in the year 2000, as they continue to seek fairness and consideration in our Income Tax Act.

A 1997 Price Waterhouse report done for the Department of Canadian Heritage found that an unfair level of tax is shouldered by cultural workers who are self-employed and who earn low, fluctuating incomes. According to their analysis, the Canadian who is most vulnerable under the present income tax system is the one who is an artist and self-employed.

It is my belief that culture is the heart of a nation. As a nation, Canada has developed a vibrant cultural sector with numerous cultural institutions: a diverse publishing industry, a talented music industry, a dynamic new media industry, and critically acclaimed film and television industries.

Often we fail to recognize and appreciate that without the individual artists in our country there would be no film industry. There would be no television production. There would be no book publishing or sound recording industry. There would be no theatre productions or galleries and museums. Basically, the cultural industry would collapse.

The important point which this motion attempts to point out is that we must recognize those creators. If it was in a business sense, I would say those innovators and creators who develop the R and D of industry. We cannot have a dynamic industry in our country without the researchers and developers; those people who spend time in laboratories creating that first item.

What we are saying is that we need to apply this logic now to the cultural sector to acknowledge those men and women who are often investing vast amounts of their time and energy into training and education for their professions. They actually create something from which flows the theatre productions, the film industry, the television series and so on; the downstream sector.

I would point out in this very early stage of our debate that this is a growing sector of our community. Those who read David Foot's book Boom, Bust and Echo will remember that he said the cultural sector would be one of the booming industries in our country as a result of the demographic changes occurring.

We have also recognized that our cultural sector accounts for 5 per cent to 8 per cent of the Canadian labour force, larger than agriculture, logging, forestry and mining combined. It is only second to health and social services. This is a huge industry, but this industry and all those who participate in it, either as spectators or participants, depend upon those creators who start the industrial process.

Special treatment for artists exists in other countries, notably Ireland, where income earned by artists, writers, composers and sculptors from the sale of their work is exempt from income tax altogether. There is no cap at all. Of course we all know from our readings that the cultural sector of Ireland is alive, well and dynamic as a result of a number of initiatives, including this one.

Over the years we have spent a great deal of attention giving our efforts over to political sovereignty, the development of territorial sovereignty and our economic sovereignty. Now it is time to devote that same attention, that same consideration, to cultural sovereignty. As one music composer expressed in a fax to my office the other day “Our cultural identity is barely surviving the barrage from the American cultural industries. Anything that will make it easier to be creative in Canada should be done, particularly if it comes at a reasonable cost to government”.

I want to say at the beginning that this would come at a very reasonable cost to government, based on the Irish experience, where there is no cap. If we were to put a $30,000 cap on it, it would therefore be very, very reasonable.

In 1982 Canada commissioned a study of our cultural sector called the Applebaum-Hébert report. One of its overall findings was that the largest subsidy to cultural life in Canada comes not from governments, corporations or other patrons, but from the artists themselves through their unpaid or underpaid labour.

As recently as last month renowned writer Margaret Atwood reinforced this conclusion by saying that the artist, by and large, does subsidize the rest of us. Even when the artist does make some money, others make a good deal more.

I am embarrassed to say that the average income of Canada's creators, the average income of an artist in Canada today, is about $13,000. Hon. members know that no one can make ends meet on $13,000 a year, yet that is a fact.

I have thousands of things to say in this discussion, but I want to share my time with our cultural spokesperson, the hon. member for Dartmouth. I hope that this will put the issue on the public agenda of the country and, perhaps more important from our point of view, on the political agenda of the country to ensure that we do whatever is possible as parliamentarians to ensure that our creators, those who begin the cultural process, are fairly rewarded. One of the things we can do is to consider this motion that looks to the Income Tax Act to enable those artists to exempt the first $30,000 of income from tax.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand this morning and be part of this important debate put forward by my colleague from Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys on the motion that, in the opinion of this House, the government should give consideration to exempting up to $30,000 of income tax as a gesture of support for these artists, writers and performers who work in Canada's cultural industry.

I should start by saying that I have a direct interest in this subject matter. I made my living as a playwright for 15 years before becoming a member of parliament. Many of my friends are artists, actors, playwrights, directors, painters and sculptors. Most of them cobble together a living without one whit of financial security, but also with little real choice in the matter because they are driven to create. They are driven to express themselves. They believe that they have something to say, that they can bring some clarity to murky situations, that they can make people laugh or cry or feel deeply or change their course of action, that they can make people rage at injustice, cry out for more humanity, deepen their spiritual journey and strengthen their ties to kin and community. In a word, they believe, rightly or wrongly, foolishly or not, that through their tiny contributions of creation they can have an impact, hopefully a positive one, on the human condition. For this faint hope they labour mightily in the field of culture, making on average, according to recent testimony from the chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, an income of $13,000 a year. They give up a great deal.

People who have made the choice to be creators often find they have no choice but to live in poverty. To be an artist in this country means to concentrate on creating while worrying about paying the rent. It means struggling to focus on art while dealing with overdue bills and trying to practise a craft when the basic cost of the tools is sometimes too expensive.

It means trying to keep a creative spark alive, a creative work moving ahead over a period of years while working on other jobs to pay the bills. It often means forgoing family and children. It often means disrupting marriages, families and home life since people have to travel great distances to work as artists, directors and actors.

Unlike MPs who get travel points, they cannot go home on weekends. They do all these things year in and year out. We are tremendously richer because of their sacrifices. Our nation would be far worse off without the stout-hearted band of creators who chronicle its course, tell its story, shine light in the dark corners and provide the strength to face the uncertain future.

A couple of months ago I had the great pleasure to hear His Excellency John Ralston Saul speak in Halifax on the subject of culture. Mr. Saul is one of Canada's most respected writers and philosophers. He made the point that culture is one of the three pillars which provide a nation's strength in its relation to the world. Culture, trade and security are each as important as the other.

We are absolutely nothing as a country without our creators and our culture. That is why I take every opportunity to raise issues of culture and creation in the House. I am proud to say that the NDP read poems of Canadian poets from across the country last month in recognition of national poetry month. We speak out loudly on behalf of the CBC, our public broadcaster and our premier public vehicle for giving voice to the unique important ideas from our regions. We speak out about protection for the Canadian magazine and book industry so that the creators of Canadian culture will still be able to find markets and shelf space for their creations and that Canadians will be able to feast on them.

That is why I support media concentration legislation, for the very reason that allowing concentration of the means of expression in a few private corporate hands limits the numbers of voices which can speak out.

We need a noisy, raucous, exuberant, diverse and energetic marketplace of Canadian creations. We need a nightly slot on the national news, maybe right before the NASDAQ and the other stock exchanges, informing Canadians about the number of Canadian books sold, the number of paintings created and the number of Canadians who saw a Canadian film or play that day. We need some kind of measurement that will allow us to know the number of Canadians who invested in Canadian culture that day. Even as I say that, I want it very clear that I do not see culture as a commodity that is being traded on the stock exchange.

As Margaret Atwood eloquently states, and we seem to quote her quite a bit in the New Democratic Party, culture is not a soap pad. Nor can culture be defined by beer ads, nor by press barons who live in foreign lands, nor by national sports or Peter Mansbridge. It is defined by our creators.

If we believe that our creators are important then Motion No. 259, which recognizes the importance of their contribution and gives them a limited income tax exemption, is a simple and eloquent response. It is one way of saying that we value their contributions by giving them special status within one of the most all encompassing laws in Canada, the Income Tax Act.

This is certainly not a new response to recognizing the significance of an important activity in our country. Government often uses tax changes as a means to demonstrate a concrete expression of support for a specific economic sector.

How much will this change in legislation cost Canadian taxpayers? It would be no great loss to the federal treasury since, as I have said, the average income of artists in the country is $13,000 a year. The motion is not primarily about money.

Ireland has an absolute exemption for income tax for creators. The total cost to its treasury is less than 10% of our expenditure on the Canada Council, a total of less than $14 million or less than 50 cents per Canadian. I do not think the question is one of money.

I wish to address some of the strange misconceptions about support to our artists. Not long ago I heard another member of the House, a member of the Reform Party, proclaim that she did not believe we needed any support for cultural workers because Celine Dion and Shania Twain have been so successful. She had the audacity to say that members were being patronizing to our arts community by having public policies in place that offered support. This is clearly illogical. It presumes that all art in Canada can be judged by commercial success in the international market. It suggests that people who create outside the mainstream, which means less commercial success, are somehow less creative. It says that standards for success in art is only as a commodity.

History is full of great artists who died in poverty. If we stuck by the logic of commercial success as the only way to judge art then we would close our galleries, burn down our museums, shut the theatres and concert halls, and let the mighty dollar be our new art form. This mindset dictates that we should only honour and worship that which can be bought and sold, not that which can bring joy and sadness, provoke thought and enrich our soul, not our wallet. This barren view of the world is one which I trust will be held by a small minority in this place.

Instead I hope members of the House will see the motion as an important and constructive step in attacking the obstacles thrown into the way of our creators. I hope they will see it as a small way of relieving the economic grind facing them, perhaps allowing them to work in a more concentrated way on their art, perhaps allowing them to create a book or a play in one year instead of three or four years. It will give them some small financial relief, but it will also give them one big boost symbolically in terms of their importance to the country.

I strongly support the important motion put forward by my colleague. In it we are saying as a parliament and as a nation that what creators do is special to us. They provide the mediums through which the heart and soul of this great nation are expressed. With the motion we are collectively recognizing this contribution. We are saying that we support them and that we thank them.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario


Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, the motion before us today, brought forward by the hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, states that the first $30,000 per year earned by artists, writers and performers be exempt from income tax.

I believe the intent behind the motion is very admirable. Supporting our remarkable and diverse community of artists such as poets, writers and visual performers is crucial to maintaining our identity as a nation. It is absolutely vital that we possess the necessary tools to safeguard our own culture and to tell our own stories.

As members know, the government is already devoting considerable resources to ensuring that our artistic and cultural industries remain prosperous and healthy, particularly as Canada enters a new millennium. These important resources are made available through a number of organizations and institutions and show the government's commitment to maintaining excellence in the arts.

I take this opportunity to highlight some of the main institutions, programs and policies available to help Canadian artists, writers and performers in pursuing their chosen craft.

For example, the government has implemented a considerable increase in the financial support for the Canada Council, adding $25 million to its annual funding starting in 1997-98. A further $10 million were announced in the budget presented to the House on February 28, 2000. In 1998-99 the council awarded nearly 5,700 grants for a total of $112 million in direct support for Canada's artists and artistic organizations.

Our National Film Board is known throughout the world for its quality reputation. The film board is dedicated to producing and distributing films, audio-visual and multi-media works which reflect Canada to Canadians and to the rest of the world. For over 60 years the film board has played a very significant role in Canadian and international filmmaking.

The Department of Canadian Heritage also offers a number of important programs, including the cultural initiatives program which facilitates the involvement of artists from across Canada in over 150 national and international arts festivals and special arts events. Canadian Heritage also operates the national arts training contribution program, supporting national institutions that prepare young Canadians for professional careers in the arts.

Turning our attention to the tax system, I would note that it too already includes a number of favourable provisions targeted to Canada's cultural sector. For example, artists may deduct the cost of creating a work or art in the year in which the costs are incurred, instead of when the work is ultimately sold. Moreover, employed artists and musicians are entitled to deduct certain expenses against their employment income, deductions which are not available to other employees.

Other important tax provisions for Canadian culture include the tax credit for Canadian film and video productions, write-offs for Canadian art purchased by unincorporated businesses, flexibility in evaluation of charitable gifts from an artist's inventory, and the capital gains tax exemption on gifts of cultural property.

Turning to the motion before us today, I once again wish to applaud the member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys for seeking to provide additional support to our cultural community. However, I feel that introducing a tax exemption for income earned by certain individuals such as artists may not be the most effective tool for achieving this result.

As I have already noted, the tax system recognizes the circumstances of artists and musicians in a number of ways. These special provisions ensure that such individuals are not penalized as a result of various circumstances unique to their professions, such as the necessity of maintaining valuable musical instruments or the difficulty in valuing art pieces donated from an artist's inventory.

However, outside these special cases which the income tax system already accommodates, it is not clear that artists, writers or performers have greater needs than other individuals with comparable incomes. The tax system should as much as possible treat individuals in similar circumstances in a similar fashion. Thus, to provide a special tax exemption to an individual simply because he or she engages in artistic activities would be very difficult to defend on equity grounds. It would also lead to requests for similar treatment from other groups that also believe they are deserving of special status.

As to tax relief, I think that the government's approach of sustainable general tax relief is the right one. The five year tax reduction plan adopted by the government ensures real and significant tax relief for all taxpayers regardless of their chosen career.

Naturally, artists and writers will benefit from these historic tax reductions like all other taxpayers.

In conclusion, it is my view that the motion, well intentioned though it is, should not receive the support of the House at this time.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Inky Mark Reform Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I take part in the debate on Motion No. 259. The hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys has his heart in the right place in advocating a tax break for Canada's creators of culture.

As Canadians we are all indebted to our artists. The Canadian Alliance believes that all Canadians need tax relief from the government. We all know that Canadians are still the highest taxed in the G-7. Tax relief should be broad based and not be targeted.

I thank the Writers' Union of Canada for its correspondence regarding the bill. I agree with it that culture is not a partisan issue and that Canadian artists need a tax break. I also agree that professional artists are among the lowest paid workers in Canada.

That same message came out loud and clear during the public hearings conducted by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage during the winter of 1998. The committee travelled from coast to coast conducting meetings. Another recommendation that came out of these meetings was that income averaging be looked at.

Another issue addressed by the writer's union was that income averaging for artists be implemented so as to alleviate the unfair tax burdens. I agree that artists should be able to use income averaging to level the ups and downs from year to year.

It is also interesting that countries like Australia, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Greece, France, the United Kingdom and Luxemburg all have some form of income averaging for artists. All members of this House should lobby the finance minister to implement this worthwhile option for artists. I would challenge all members of the House to do so by writing the Minister of Finance.

The Canadian Alliance has a solution that will not only help our artistic community but all Canadians. It is called solution 17, the single rate tax. All taxpayers will pay less. The single tax rate will have progressive deductions and our top personal rate will be 17%. In fact the total tax savings would amount to about $34 billion over five years, as well as paying down our debt, $10.22 billion over five years.

The advantages of the progressive average tax rate in solution 17 will be that it will first create a single marginal tax rate of 17%, 26% and 19%. Tax savings will total $17.2 billion. It will also increase basic personal and spousal credits to $10,000 from $7,131 and $6,055. Hence, the levels of credit will be protected from inflation once it is phased in. The tax savings would amount to about $8.3 billion. When we increase the basic rate, we know that, because the earnings of artists are low, all artists would be exempt from paying personal income tax until they make over $10,000 per annum.

Solution 17 would also introduce a $3,000 per year per child tax deduction to recognize the costs and the value of child rearing. Tax savings there would amount to about $2.4 billion.

A progressive average tax rate would decrease the EI rates to $2 from $2.40. It would also reduce taxes on employment. Tax savings would be $2.7 billion.

The single rate would eliminate the 5% surtax which would again give a tax savings of $762 million to all Canadians. It would also increase our RRSP and RPP contribution limits to $16,500, which amounts to about 30% of average income from $13,500, 18% of income, and allowable foreign content to 100% from 20% over the five year phase-in. This would improve the ability of middle income earners to maximize their contributions and better plan for their retirement. Tax savings would amount to about $600 billion.

Our single rate would also reduce capital gains tax to about 20% from nearly 40%, encouraging success and risk-taking.

Our single rate reduces the general corporate tax rate to 21% from 28%, equal to that levied on manufacturing and resource firms. This would also eliminate discrimination against a new economy. Tax savings for Canadians would be about $1.89 billion.

There is no doubt that solution 17 would reduce small business corporate tax rates to 10% from 12%, encouraging the start up of new firms. The tax savings would be $340 billion.

In summary, these are the main advantages of the single rate tax plan. Everyone, including artists, would benefit from tax relief. It increases the disposable income for all Canadians, removes discrimination between Canadian families and 1.9 million low income taxpayers would be removed from the tax roll, of which many of them are currently artists. There is no doubt that success and risk-taking would be rewarded.

As I indicated earlier, increasing the base exemption would amount to $10,000. There is no doubt that artists, certainly developing artists who make less than $10,000, would not have to pay taxes on income earned below $10,000. This would remove 1.9 million low income taxpayers from the tax role altogether. This would be a significant tax break for the working poor and would also increase disposable income, increase financial freedom, reduce child poverty and restore dignity by increasing self-sufficiency and lessening the welfare trap that we seem to be in today.

It is commendable that the member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys brought this bill to the House. I am sure his message to all Canadians is that not only artists but all taxpayers need a tax break from the government's tax policies. There is no doubt we are in debt. We know how fortunate we are to live in a country where our artists are very successful not only in Canada but throughout the world.

Even though the bill is commendable, we in the Canadian Alliance Party certainly cannot support a $30,000 exemption for artists. We believe the solution is to give all Canadians broad based tax relief. Canadians certainly deserve it at this time.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Saint-Eustache—Sainte-Thérèse, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to salute the workers of the entire world, and the working men and women of Quebec and of Canada, on this May 1, International Workers Day.

I appreciate the opportunity to be able to debate the motion by my colleague from the New Democratic Party, the hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.

Motion No. 259 reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should give consideration to exempting up to $30,000 of income from income tax as a gesture of support for those artists, writers and performers who work in Canada's cultural industry.

The objective of this motion by the hon. member for Kamploops, Thompson and Highland Valley is certainly most praiseworthy. We in the Bloc Quebecois made the same comment, moreover, in the dissenting Canadian heritage committee report.

It is true that the financial situation of creative people, regardless of their level of education, is precarious, indeed very precarious. We are all aware that, according to Statistics Canada, 58% of our artists need an income supplement in order to survive.

Although Motion No. 259 is most praiseworthy, the Bloc Quebecois will not be able to support it in its present form, for the following reasons.

We are of the opinion that it is inadequate and liable to lead the people and the taxpayers of Quebec and of Canada to believe that there are two classes of people as far as income tax is concerned.

We also feel that the measure proposed is not targeted sufficiently, and will be hard to apply. For example, who will be able to claim the status of artist?

This motion is unfair toward certain other workers who would not have the opportunity to have an automatic exemption on $30,000 of their income.

Moreover, this motion leads us to believe that this measure will also benefit the small proportion of artists whose incomes are very high.

The Bloc Quebecois would be prepared to support this motion if it were amended to include the following, for example: harmonization by the federal government of its tax system with that of the Government of Quebec, which provides that royalty income of less than $15,000 is not taxable; action by the government on the recommendation by the Standing Committee on Finance that income averaging be permitted for cultural workers, a measure that existed in the 1970s and exists today for professional athletes; equity for all taxpayers, with an increase in the level of tax threshold. In Quebec, the tax threshold is a lot higher than at the federal level.

I would like to give you a few examples. In the case of a two income couple with two children, the tax threshold for 2000 at the federal level is $14,392 and in Quebec it is $31,677. In the case of a single parent with one child, the federal tax threshold is $14,124, whereas the Quebec threshold is $21,764. For a senior less than 65 years of age, the federal figure is $7,464 and the Quebec one is $10,884.

By adjusting its tax threshold to that of the Government of Quebec, the federal government would promote a situation that would benefit artists and all of the people of Quebec and Canada.

I invite my colleague from Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys to amend his motion in the way I have set out, and the Bloc Quebecois will be proud to support it.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure today that I rise to speak to Motion No. 259, a votable motion put forward by the hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.

It is very important to recognize, going back to Pericles and ancient Athens, that civilized societies have always supported the arts and culture. It is a tradition that has been valued throughout history. We should seek to maintain and improve this with policies, not specifically tax policies, but policies that support and encourage culture and the development of the arts in Canada, which has had a long and diverse history.

As an Atlantic Canadian from Nova Scotia, one of the most culturally diverse and productive regions of the country, we value a tradition of excellence. In fact there are economic opportunities for all Canadians in recognizing and harnessing the power of the arts and culture community, whether it is the Lion King in Toronto, or musicians like the Rankin Family in Atlantic Canada who started from very humble means and have done extremely well, to artists who have reached international acclaim, like Dr. Alex Colville who is a resident of my riding. These types of success stories are worthy of recognition. However, we have to do more to help artists when they are starting off.

This legislation is very sound from the perspective of the hon. member's desire to help. However there are some difficulties in its implementation and I would like to point out a couple of them.

It is very nebulous in terms of describing who qualifies and how the term “artist” fits a specific individual and whether or not that can be defined and the definition defended effectively.

Also, the hon. member points out the financial roller coaster artists are on. An artist may go for several years without payment and then receive a lump sum payment recognizing contributions made over a period of time. The best way to address that would be through income averaging. This would also address other people who are similarly predisposed through the nature of their business to receive a lump sum payment in recognition of work completed over a period of several years. Income averaging would be the best way to address that.

The average income of an artist in Canada is currently estimated at about $13,000. The issue raised by the hon. member can be addressed in a more broad based way by significantly raising the basic personal exemption for all Canadians. The Progressive Conservative task force which reported in January recommended an increase to $12,000. This would help significantly. That being the case, we should move over a period of time to raise the basic personal exemption higher.

The hon. member also recognizes that tax relief can play a very important role in helping artists pursue their chosen field and that of culture and art and keeping them in Canada. That is important because it indicates that he also recognizes the importance of lowering taxes for all Canadians to ensure that Canadians regardless of their career or life pursuits can choose to stay and prosper here in Canada. Whether it is in dot-com, e-commerce, biotech or traditional industries, Canadians can have a future right here.

The hon. member has demonstrated clearly that he recognizes the important role that tax policy plays in encouraging or discouraging pursuits of particular activities. I think in that vein he would agree with me, that we should continue to be vigilant in ensuring that the tax burdens of Canadians are not excessive when compared to those in other countries.

Clearly whether Canadians wish to pursue careers in the arts, the new economy or the traditional economy, we want them to be free to do so right here in Canada. I am sure he would share with me the need to reduce taxes for all Canadians based on his basic premise that decreasing taxes can help encourage people, this case artists, to pursue and maintain a certain level of activity.

The issue of capital gains taxes needs to be addressed as well. In Canada we currently tax at 50% of the regular inclusion rate for donations of publicly traded or listed securities to charitable foundations or institutions. Whether it is a hospital, a university, an endowment fund or a cultural activity we tax 50% of capital gains. Inclusion rates are taxed in Canada for donations of publicly traded or listed securities. In the U.S. there is absolutely no capital gains taxes on contributions of listed securities.

That has led over the years to a significant disadvantage for Canadian universities, Canadian hospitals and the Canadian arts community. It has created a disincentive for high net worth Canadians to contribute listed shares of publicly traded companies to the cultural and health foundations and universities.

I propose what we proposed at the time of the prebudget report. The Progressive Conservative dissenting report recommended the elimination of capital gains tax on gifts of listed securities. That would go a long way to encourage high net worth individuals in Canada and Canadians of relatively modest means who may have done very well in equity investing in recent years to help foster a greater environment for cultural activities in Canada. That is one way this could be addressed.

I would also be interested in exploring the examples of other countries relative to special tax exemptions for those engaged in the arts. Some special tax treatment is available to those in the arts in Ireland. We heard earlier today of the tax treatment of artists in the province of Quebec. It would be interesting to note the success of that over a period of time.

By and large there is only one party in the House of Commons that consistently opposes any support for the arts in Canada. I expect it would probably kick out a member of its caucus if it were discovered he or she had gone to live theatre. It is important that there be an almost all party commitment to the arts and cultural community in the House of Commons.

While I may disagree with the particular vehicle set forth by the hon. member to help create a better environment for culture and artistic diversity in Canada, I can assure him that the Progressive Conservative Party remains committed to work with altruistically oriented parties in the House. We must seek better ways to support and encourage the arts and all types of creative endeavours for Canadians whether they be involved in graphic arts, the dot-com universe, weaving, painting, dancing or play writing. One of the things that defines us as Canadians is our unique cultural vibrancy from coast to coast to coast and which we shall continue to have with the proper support and encouragement of all Canadians.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise with great pleasure in this valuable debate in Canada's history. I thank my hon. colleague from Kamloops for bringing this debate to the forefront. As he mentioned, this is the third largest industry in Canada and one that defines us as Canadians around the world.

There is a reason Canada is rated the number one country in the world in which to live. When people in other nations around the world have been asked if they had to live somewhere else where it would be, unanimously over the last five years Canada has been the answer.

The member for Dauphin—Swan River said that his party has a 17% solution to all the tax problems in Canada. There is one problem he forgets to tell Canadians which I wish he and his party would start telling Canadians about in more realistic terms. I agree with the member, his party and other parties that we should be looking at tax reform for all sectors of our society.

However, the member forgets to mention the greatest avenue in Canada for many artists from all mediums to bring their issues and ideas to the forefront. It is through what I consider to be one of the greatest things this country has, CBC television and radio. His party proposes to get rid of the CBC. In our debates in 1997 the person who ran against me specifically said that that party's priority would be to privatize and eliminate the CBC. Once that is found out by Canadians, they will look seriously at what the Canadian Alliance really means by its 17% solution.

If the government is looking for any avenues of advice, it can look at what is done in Quebec. In the Quebec version of the copyright income deduction, individuals can deduct the first $20,000 net income earned from material for which they hold the first copyright. The next $10,000 net income is also partly deductible.

The provision applies to all writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, performers and anyone who produces copyrighted material that generates income. Since copyright is clearly defined through the Copyright Act, such a provision is very easy to administer. There can be no argument as to who the first copyright holder is. It is the creator, exactly the person we must encourage throughout our country.

The copyright income deduction requires almost no calculation and fits easily within the existing framework of the income tax form. There are many precedents already on the form, such as the deduction for employment income earned outside Canada or the deduction for employees of certain international organizations, such as the United Nations.

The member for Dauphin—Swan River mentioned that many countries in Europe give generous allowances to their cultural communities. May I add that most of them are social democrat countries. This shows once again that social democrats in the House of Commons and throughout the country take culture very seriously.

A few years ago one of the greatest Canadians in the history of our country, Stompin' Tom Connors from Skinners Pond, P.E.I. said “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, there are a million Canadian stories out there that need to be told”. The question is, does the government have the political will to get those stories out into the forefront? He was a starving artist. He starved literally. He travelled the back roads and brought great songs to Canada, such as “Hockey Night”, who could ever forget that one, and “Sudbury Saturday Night”. I cannot think of one member of parliament who could not name a couple of his songs. Stompin' Tom Connors is what starving artists strive to be, to bring our country together from coast to coast to coast.

One of my favourite artists of all time was the incomparable late Stan Rogers. His stories not only of Nova Scotia but of the entire country were brought to the forefront on stage by his band, his brother Garnet and their guitars. Their music brought out the essence of what it is like to be a fisherman, a farmer, a miner, a woman, a young person, a player in sports. Stan Rogers brought to the forefront what it is to be Canadian in French and English Canada as well as in our aboriginal communities.

I have heard many times in the House of Commons and in other areas that the country is based on two founding cultures: French and English. I remind the House one more time that the country is actually based on three founding cultures: the aboriginal community, our francophone community and our anglophone community. Three cultures define and have founded this great country of ours, not two.

Margaret Atwood was quoted earlier as saying that it is really the artist who subsidizes the nation and many other businesses. How many times have we used aboriginal art and culture for our own means to an end for profit making? It is a disgrace how we treat our aboriginal people when it comes to their arts and culture. I cannot help but notice in the last few years that aboriginal culture throughout the country has started to expand. Many people around the world come to Canada for that very reason.

I cannot help but think that after careful consideration members throughout the House, especially the member for Parkdale who is smiling back there, will say that this is a great initiative. I am sure she will support the party and get the rest of the Liberal Party to understand the importance of this initiative to our artistic community.

The other day I was at the Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital fundraiser at the Petpeswick Yacht Club. This absolutely outstanding event raised a lot of money for the Alzheimer's society. The five best items for sale were original watercolours by local artisans. I want to thank those artisans in Musquodoboit Harbour, West Petpeswick and the entire area of the Eastern Shore and the riding I represent very much for donating their time and genius to this very worthy cause.

If the people of my area understand quality art when they see it in its original form, imagine what the rest of the country must have in areas such as British Columbia, Yukon, Ontario, Quebec, the prairies and Newfoundland, for example, where the culture comes out of everyone's pores. It is absolutely fabulous.

I cannot help but notice that one of the greatest cultural icons in the country, Mr. Greg Malone, has now dedicated his time to run for the New Democratic Party in the riding of St. John's West. He is bringing culture to the forefront and showing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians how proud they can be of their culture. They do not have to move away for a job. They do not have to move away to other parts of the country, which might not be as receptive as their own communities, homes and families.

If we can initiate this kind of action, then we would have more success stories like the Rankins, the Barra MacNeils and all those beautiful musical bands and the Natalie McMasters of the world who do tremendous work bringing forward Celtic music and the Cape Breton tradition, the Nova Scotian tradition and the maritime tradition right across the country. It is absolutely fabulous.

I want to give a final plug for a couple of artisans in my riding. Brenda Huddinott does wonderful prints and pictures. Lily Snow does great work in photography. Brenda Anderson, from Eastern Passage, does absolutely wonderful work in watercolours and acrylics. My wife does wonderful artwork herself, along with our neighbours. They get together once in a while to do wonderful watercolours. They do not do it for profit. They do it because of their love for culture, their environment. This is the type of nurturing that needs to grow.

Is there a kindergarten class that does not experiment with fingerpainting? We would love those five and six year olds right across the country to expand their ideas to enliven all of us. Many times we can learn from children and artisans, regardless of the medium.

After careful deliberation, I know that this hallowed House of Commons and all the provincial houses across the land will carefully consider this very important bill and move it quickly through the House so that we can give our artists from coast to coast to coast the opportunity they need to expand, to reside in their own communities and to nurture them so that we can grow in the 21st century.

Cultural IndustryPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders


Thornhill Ontario


Elinor Caplan LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

moved that Bill C-31, an act respecting immigration to Canada and the granting of refugee protection to persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present Bill C-31, the immigration and refugee protection act, to the House for second reading. This bill is the product of extensive and substantial consultations. It follows on a series of government commitments to modernize Canada's immigration and refugee protection systems to better enable us to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that the new century holds for our country.

Bill C-31 is a tough bill, but here I want to be quite clear. It is tough on criminal abuse of our immigration and refugee protection systems, but not on the great majority, like those immigrants and refugees who built this country and who will continue to do so in the years ahead.

This bill creates severe new penalties for people smuggling and those caught trafficking in humans. Fines of up to $1 million and sentences of up to life imprisonment are included in this bill.

It will also allow our courts to order the forfeiture of money and other property seized by the traffickers. It will clarify our existing grounds for detention to make exclusive provisions for those whom we have reason to believe have arrived in Canada as part of a criminally organized smuggling or trafficking operation.

Bill C-31 also clarifies the criteria for inadmissibility to Canada. It will provide immigration officers with the tools they need to see that serious criminals, terrorists, threats to national security, violators of human rights, participants in organized crime, and members of terrorist organizations are barred entry to Canada.

Criminal abuse of the refugee system will be countered with front-end security screening of all claimants, fewer appeals for serious criminals, and suspension of claims for those charged with crimes until the courts have rendered a decision.

Bill C-31 will also streamline the assessment of claims. Referrals to the Immigration and Refugee Board will proceed within 72 hours of a claim being made, rather than the current timeframe of one to six months.

By consolidating several current steps and protection criteria into a single decision at the Immigration and Refugee Board, and moreover by combining increased use of single member panels at the board with an internal paper appeal on merit, we will see faster but fair decisions on refugee claims.

In consolidating grounds for protection at the IRB, Bill C-31 will maintain due process and fair hearings for all claimants while providing fewer opportunities for protracted judicial reviews.

Contrary to certain uninformed reports, Bill C-31 does not expand the current grounds for protection. It simply consolidates several current protection criteria and corresponding protection decisions into a single step. Grounds for protection will remain the same as is currently the case, in accordance with Canada's international obligations and our humanitarian traditions.

Bill C-31 also strengthens our ability to manage repeat claims by barring access to the IRB to those who return to Canada within a year of their removal after a failed claim. These people will be entitled to seek protection at any of our missions outside Canada. If after one year they return to Canada seeking protection, they will be given a pre-removal risk assessment to determine whether circumstances relevant to their previous claims have changed, but they will not be granted a new claim at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

With these steps, Bill C-31 will prevent the revolving door syndrome which has become associated with repeat claims.

Bill C-31 will also strengthen the integrity of our immigration system. It will tighten up sponsorship provisions to ensure that those who sponsor new immigrants are both able and willing to meet the financial obligations they undertake.

In particular, Bill C-31 will deny sponsorship to those in default on spousal or child support payments and to those on social assistance.

Bill C-31 will also establish a new inadmissibility class for those who commit fraud or misrepresentation on immigration applications, and it will create a new offence for those caught assisting someone to gain status in Canada through fraud or misrepresentation.

To maintain immigration status in Canada, permanent residents will be required to demonstrate a reasonable attachment to our country. Bill C-31 will require physical presence in Canada for at least two of every five years for new immigrants to maintain their permanent resident status.

These changes are important ones for a very simple reason. It is about respect. In all of my many discussions with individuals and organizations across the country, I can assure the House that this is the point which has been made abundantly clear. Canadians want a system based on respect, both for our laws and for our traditional openness to new immigrants, to newcomers. That is why Bill C-31 is also drafted to improve our ability to attract more skilled workers, speed up family reunification and honour Canada's proud humanitarian tradition of offering safe haven to those truly in need of our protection.

Let me take a moment to outline the key provisions that will apply to each of these areas.

Bill C-31 will modernize our selection system for skilled workers in order to see that Canadian employers have easier access to the best and the brightest from around the world. At present, an occupation-based model is used to select skilled immigrants, with points awarded for training and experience tied to a specific occupation. Under the new system immigrants will be selected for their adaptability, their level of education and training, their language skills and their general level of employability.

In today's rapidly evolving labour market we need people who are best able to adapt to the new occupations as the needs of our labour market shift over time. These are people who will thrive, contribute and prosper, and who will contribute to our prosperity in the emerging knowledge based economy.

Bill C-31 will also provide easier access to highly skilled temporary foreign workers so that Canadian businesses can stay competitive and seize every opportunity for expansion. Many skilled workers who come to Canada on a temporary basis are subsequently offered permanent positions. Bill C-31 will allow these workers to apply for landing from within Canada under certain conditions, just as it will allow foreign students who have graduated and worked in Canada and who have an open-ended job offer to apply to stay as well.

Bill C-31 also recognizes that family reunification has always been a cornerstone of Canada's immigration policy. Canadians know that new arrivals establish themselves more quickly in Canada when they have the support of their extended families.

Bill C-31 and its supporting regulations will allow spouses and dependent children to apply for landing from within Canada provided that they are here legally and that they meet appropriate admissibility provisions. The bill will shorten the period during which sponsors and sponsorship provisions apply to spouses from ten years to three. It will eliminate the bar on admission for sponsored spouses and dependent children who may be considered to impose excessive demands on health and social services. The bill will extend the definition of dependent child to include unmarried children under the age of 22. It will also include common law and same sex partners in keeping with the recent legislation passed in the House.

Bill C-31 will also strengthen Canada's selection and resettlement of refugees overseas. Selection will proceed so that protection considerations will take precedence over capacity to settle in Canada. Family units will be kept together wherever possible. Those in urgent need of protection will be attended to and helped as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Our work with refugee settlement groups overseas will be enhanced and expanded and refugees in genuine need of protection will no longer be barred owing to concerns about their potential demand or need for health care.

I have made it clear on many occasions that I want to see Canada's immigration levels increased. With our aging population, our declining birth rates and with skilled shortages in key sectors, we need to step up our efforts to bring the world's best and brightest to Canada and to see that all regions of Canada benefit from the prosperity that immigrants bring. This is precisely the point of Bill C-31.

Closing the back door to those who would abuse our system will allow us to open the front door more widely, both to genuine refugees and to the immigrants Canada will need to grow and prosper in the future. That is the dual mandate of my department and that is the balanced approach to immigration and refugee protection policy that Canadians want and need to guide us well into the new century.

Since the initial passage of the current immigration act in 1976, the world has changed dramatically. More than ever before people are on the move, for trade, tourism, investment and education, to develop their skills, to share their knowledge and to pursue their dreams.

Canada has been an enormous beneficiary of this global movement of people. Immigration is a continuing source of our social, economic and cultural richness. We celebrate diversity.

Administrative changes are under way in my department to provide overdue support to key offices at home and abroad in our efforts to improve client service, reduce backlogs, minimize litigation and confront every and any grievance or allegation of malfeasance quickly and fairly.

New funding for my department announced in the recent federal budget will provide for strengthened overseas interdiction, more immigration officers at our ports of entry, better medical and security screening of applicants, and an improved capacity for the timely removal of inadmissible persons from Canada.

These steps, the new funding, and above all the swift passage of Bill C-31 into law, will allow us to modernize our immigration and refugee protection system and enable Canada to both meet the challenges and take the opportunities that lie ahead. We want to take advantage of those opportunities.

The bill is the result of extensive consultations with Canadians, provincial and territorial ministers and officials, and countless non-governmental organizations. I assure the House that regulations in support of Bill C-31 will be developed in an equally open and consultative manner that will give members of the House, key immigration stakeholders and individual Canadians ample opportunity to express their views.

Issues of immigration and refugee protection are very important to the country. They represent many of the core values that we share. An open and transparent regulatory process will ensure that Canadians support and understand the new rules.

I also assure the House that Bill C-31 recognizes that immigration is an area of jurisdiction which the federal and provincial governments share. The bill commits the government to continue consulting and working with the provinces in these important matters.

The government is committed to the social union framework agreement and recognizes that immigration impacts on areas of provincial jurisdiction such as health care, education and social services. Immigration also brings enormous social, cultural and economic benefits to Canada and to its provinces and territories, benefits that must be weighed against any short term costs. Indeed, this is one of the reasons so many provinces are currently looking to attract more immigrants. I am working very closely with those provinces.

Immigrants and refugees built the country. Under the new provisions of Bill C-31 immigrants and refugees will continue to do so for many years to come. This is an important piece of legislation. I hope it will receive the support of all members of the House, and I am proud to move adoption at second reading of Bill C-31.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-31, the new immigration and refugee protection act.

The minister in her brief comments pointed out some of the things that are in the act. I want to talk a bit about what is in the act. Today is second reading debate. We like to talk about legislation in very general ways at second reading debate. My comments will be general by and large, but I will point to specifics in the act to reinforce some of the things I say.

Today I will talk about what Canada's immigration act should deliver. It is important to think about that as a starting point before we get into discussion on what is and is not in the new immigration act.

Second, I will comment on the minister's talk on the act and how it actually relates to what is in the act. That is important because the minister made some statements that make it sound like she has dealt with the problem of people smuggling and illegal immigration in a tough way, which is what Canadians want to hear. Does the act deliver? That is the question I want to talk a bit about today.

The minister said as well that the act would close the back door to those who are not wanted and who would abuse the system. At the same time it would allow Canada to open the front door, as the minister puts it, to immigrants who will benefit the country. Those are good sentiments which the minister has expressed. I will throughout my presentation today talk about whether or not the legislation delivers that.

As well I want to talk about, again in a general way, what has been improved and what is positive in the bill. I will start by talking about what is positive in terms of the minister's message because a lot of what is out there is the minister's message rather than what is in the bill. I will talk about that because I think it is encouraging that her message has changed. In fact, it sounds a lot like the message that the Canadian Alliance Party has been presenting for some time now. That has to be encouraging, but will the act deliver? That is the question.

I will talk also about some particular sections in the act which are good. Will these changes which are positive really lead to a better immigration policy? That is the bottom line. If the changes will not improve the system they are not of much benefit. Even if they are in the legislation and things do not change to allow their application to improve things, what has been gained? I will talk about that today as well.

I will also talk about some things that are clearly negative in the act and things which I think are so negative in some cases that we cannot expect a lot of improvement in most areas of the act. I will get to that.

I want to talk about what the immigration act should deliver. The immigration act is made up of three separate streams. The first stream is economic immigrants, people who are chosen to come to Canada because they should benefit our economy quite quickly. In the economic stream there are several different categories. For example, there is the investor class, the entrepreneur class, and several other classes in which people are chosen for their special skills and education. That is a very positive part of the immigration act. The focus on that clearly must be the improvement of the immigration system. That is the first stream, the independent stream.

When we look at the number of people who are actually chosen under the independent stream based on their judged ability to positively affect our economy, unfortunately we find that only 15% of all people immigrating to Canada fall into that category. Statistics on the economic immigrant stream are much higher because included in the statistics are dependants and others brought in under the independent stream who are never judged, even though they may qualify, based on the potential to add to the economy very quickly. That is the first stream.

The second stream is the refugee stream. Refugees are to be chosen not based on what they will add to our country or what they will add to the economy but supposedly based on their need for protection. Canadians welcome genuine refugees. From what I have heard across the country over the past year and a half since I have become the immigration critic, Canadians are quite happy and quite proud to be able to accept people in need of protection, genuine refugees.

The concern about the refugee system is that many people who enter the country as refugees are not genuine refugees. The minister talks about that in her presentation, but the question is what has been done about it. I will get into that as I go along.

Canadians are quite happy to accept the current number of approximately 23,000 refugees. I have not heard a great many people express concern about those numbers. I think we should have some discussion across the country about what is an appropriate number of refugees. I think debate on the immigration system is necessary and I hope the legislation will provide that. That is the second stream, the refugee stream.

The third stream in our immigration system is the family reunification stream, the families of people who qualify under the economic category and the families of those who come as refugees under the family reunification stream. Some different rules apply but basically it is the same process.

The idea is to reunite dependants, including dependent children and the spouse of the individual who has been accepted as a refugee or as an independent immigrant, to allow for family reunification of these people. It is certainly clear that our system does not do a good job of that right now.

If we were to ask any member of parliament in the House how well our system is working in that third stream of reuniting families, I think we would find they would say it is not working well at all. Every one of us has in our constituency people who have come to us looking for help in reuniting their families, often families that have been kept apart for three to five years or more in some cases. The system is badly broken and the question as I present my debate today will be whether this new act helps to solve that problem. Those are the three streams.

I will examine the act based on how well the system works to accept independent immigrants, to accept genuine refugees while keeping out people who are not refugees and people who may harm our country, people who are a threat to national security. There has been a lot of talk about that lately. In her presentation the minister talked about from her point of view what she thinks the act has done in that regard. My point of view is slightly different, but I will talk about that.

It has been an interesting process watching the minister and listening to what she said since the new bill was tabled in response to the leaked draft of the act which I received over a month before Bill C-31 was tabled in the House. There was much debate about the act long before the bill was officially tabled.

Many of the minister's statements reflect what Canadians feel and what Canadians want on the issue. If what the minister says the legislation will do and if what the minister says is in the new legislation is accurate, it can be nothing but positive in terms of the particular areas that are reflective of what Canadians want.

As I go through my presentation today I think Canadians will see that what the minister says and what is actually delivered in Bill C-31, the new immigration act, are not the same at all. I will talk about that in a few minutes, but before I get to it I would talk in a general way about what is in the act.

The new immigration act deals with the non-administrative aspects of immigration. I am not talking now about how effectively it deals with that. It provides legislation but it does not talk about the administration of the act. It talks about the selection of immigrants, and I will talk about what it does and does not say in that regard. It talks about who is admissible and who is inadmissible to Canada. It talks about the enforcement of the law to some extent. It talks about detention and release of people who come to Canada claiming refugee status or coming under some other category. It talks about appeals. It talks about refugee protection. It talks about the IRB, the new division and the reworking of the Immigration Refugee Board. It talks about immigration offences, probably in a way that is easier to understand than the current act does. It also talks about other technical matters.

It does encompass many different areas but let us have a look at what is provided in the bill, which is, I think, a key to this whole thing. Let us look at the independent categories. What is an immigration system about? More than anything else, an immigration system should allow Canada to choose people who will benefit our country as much as possible. I have no doubt that immigration has been a very positive influence in this country generally.

I come from east-central Alberta and over the last century it has been immigrants who have developed the area to make it a very prosperous part of Canada. If we looked at any part of the country we would see that it has been immigration which has developed and built the country into one that provides us with a good standard of living. That is important.

What was the purpose of immigration in my area of east-central Alberta? How were immigrants chosen and what process took place? I would suggest that several times in Canada's history our immigration system has been well focused and the people administering the system knew what type of people we needed and wanted in our country. That was one of the times I believe when the immigration department was very effective in attracting people who could develop the agricultural areas of western Canada.

The Lakeland constituency that I represent, which is east of Edmonton over to the Saskatchewan-Alberta border, is an agricultural area, and immigrants in different flushes, we could say, have come and developed the area. The British people were the first immigrants to begin farming in our area. Small groups of Ukrainian and German settlers and small groups from the Scandinavian countries also developed the country. As time went on, throughout the early part of the last century, large numbers of Ukrainians, Germans and others settled down and develop agriculture in that part of the country and made it a very prosperous part of the country generally speaking.

We all know that things are not always good for agriculture. Right now things are not very good in the grain farming sector but if we look at the long run it has been a very prosperous business thanks to immigrants. I know every member of parliament could talk about their constituencies and about immigrants who have come to their part of the country and have built Canada into a country for which we can all be proud. That is what should happen and what has happened in the past. The question is, will this bill allow that to happen again?

Not many would argue, including the minister herself, that the system is not working well in terms of helping and choosing people who will add to our economy very quickly. A large number of people who do come under the independent categories are very successful but it is not because the system is accommodating them. I would suggest that there are large numbers of people who would add to our economy very quickly but they are just not allowed to come to Canada. They usually give up after a couple of years of trying and go to another country. They have choices now. Canada is not the only choice. Our system has failed us in that regard.

I will now talk about some of the positive changes that I see in Bill C-31. Throughout our time in parliament we in the official opposition have been very careful to not only oppose and criticize legislation but to offer what we believe are positive alternatives to what is being proposed. This is important because if we only dwell on the negative I do not think people across the country would see that as what they want. They want the opposition, particularly the official opposition, to talk about what is working as well as what is not working and what is good in the proposed changes as well as what is not.

A positive thing about the new immigration act is that it is written in much simpler language than the current act. It is also much easier to read and thinner than the current act, which is a hodgepodge. The current act was originally designed in 1975. Many changes have been made since 1975, with some very substantive changes in 1989 with the development of the IRB. Some major changes were made in early 1993 to that enacting legislation in 1989. Substantive changes have been made throughout the past 25 years so the current act is not really the 1975 act.

Unfortunately, the changes have not worked very well. I would suggest that our immigration system really does not work as well now as it did back in the 1950s and 1960s. I do not think many people in the House would argue with that, including the minister herself. I am sure that is why she has tabled new legislation.

Unfortunately, there are some negative aspects to the bill being much thinner. One of the key negative aspects is the number of different areas that have been left to regulation.

The legislation is extremely vague on the independent categories, the whole positive side of immigration. I do understand that many refugees add to our economy quickly, but they are not chosen or I think they are not chosen for that reason. Currently, refugees are chosen based on their expected ability to adapt to life in Canada. Generally speaking, the refugee system is meant to provide refuge for people who need it.

Let us look at the whole independent category, which is really the backbone of our immigration system. How much deals with that in Bill C-31? Would it be a third of the act? Would it be half the act because it is an extremely positive side of immigration? No. Two short paragraphs in this entire act deals with the independent categories, or the economic categories which is the term used by the government and the immigration industry. The rest is left to regulation. That is one example of why the act is so thin.

However, looking at the positive side, it is easier to read and has been organized much better but there are a lot of holes in the legislation.

Because of the amount in this new act that has been left to regulation, the government is really asking us to take a blank cheque, sign it, say that we approve of it and allow the department officials and the minister to fill in the blanks later. That is completely unacceptable. On the one hand, the bill is easier to read and it is shorter, but the reasons for it being shorter are not very positive.

We applaud the government for cutting out the right of appeal to the IRB's appeal division for serious criminals. Many people in the country, including many people who work in the immigration system with refugees, have complained that people who are clearly identified as serious criminals are allowed an endless stream of appeals. There is at least one level of appeal in the act that is cut out for serious criminals, although I would suggest that all the levels that are added for most applicants and most refugee claimants will slow the process down.

The next positive thing in the act is that Canada will for the first time have a definition for people trafficking. It has never really been defined in the past. It is good to see that clause 111 actually defines what people trafficking is. We have heard the terms “people smuggling” and “people trafficking”. We often use them interchangeably but there are definitions that are pretty widely accepted by countries around the world. Much of that definition will still be determined by the regulation which will be added later.

When it comes to regulation, it is unacceptable to leave so much to regulation that when we examine a new piece of legislation to determine what it does or does not say we really cannot determine with any kind of certainty what is really in the act because so much is left to regulation. That the definition is there is a positive. However, we will not know how positive it is until we see what exactly the regulation will mean and how helpful it will be in terms of dealing with the system.

Another positive feature is clause 114 which will, we hope, give the courts clear direction in the prosecution of people traffickers by listing aggravating factors. In other words, there is a list of things which, if they apply, will determine how tough the penalty will be, how long the sentence will be, how big the fine will be and those kinds of things. This is important, somewhat helpful and does improve on the current act, but I would suggest there should be much more in the legislation itself than there is. It is a positive move but it unfortunately only goes part way.

We do not always agree with the direction in which the government is going as our philosophies are quite different on most issues. However, for the first time in a long time in the House of Commons, it is good to have clearly different philosophies as to how the country should be run and in what direction it should go.

I believe that for the first time in the next federal election we will see an election that is based on the philosophical differences of two parties. I have no problem with the Liberals. They have a majority government and it is fair that their philosophies show up in legislation. However, the problem is that there is so little actually defined in the legislation. While they go part way, which they often do, they really do not go far enough to clearly define what they want.

It concerns me and the members of the Canadian Alliance when we see the government laying out a little more detail but we still really do not know where it will end up until we see the regulations. That is a problem throughout the bill, as members may have guessed. I will talk about this in a more comprehensive way later because I think it is a key issue.

Another positive I want to mention is that the provision to go to one member panels in the IRB should allow the IRB to handle more cases, at least in the first round of appeals, and that is good. It is fine to have a one member panel as long as there is some reasonable way to appeal if a decision is in question. The appeal does not necessarily have to be an appeal to the courts.

I would argue that what we should have in our system is an initial hearing, an appeal right at the IRB, by a very experienced, well trained individual or panel. In some cases I think we would want a panel of two or three persons to hear an appeal. My concern is that this is already in the system to some extent, but appeals to the federal court and to the judiciary are still allowed. This results in even more appeals than in the past. If the one member panel is put in place, that should speed up the process. Then we would have the second level of appeal to the IRB, which would slow it down quite dramatically, but there would still be the appeals to the courts.

While this is positive when put together with everything else contained in the act, it really will not help very much. Unfortunately, even the positive moves in the bill really will not do a lot to help make things work better. As we see the debate progress throughout the day, I think that some of the reasons for that will become clear.

There are some changes which are clearly negative. I have already talked about the first one, one of the key ones, quite a bit already, but I think it is something that has to be talked about more. I am referring to the fact that there is so much in this legislation that is left to regulation.

I have already used the example of the independent categories. There are only two short paragraphs in the whole bill defining who should be included and how the system will work. That is not enough to bring to the House of Commons, expecting our support for the legislation. I would hope that Liberal members would not support it without more detail and more of the basic principles that are to be applied being included in the legislation. Too much is left to regulation.

Landings have been returned to our system. In other words, people already in Canada could apply from within for landed status. I think in some cases this would be positive and would make sense.

For example, let us look at foreign students who have studied in Canada, who have done very well and who have a degree or degrees in a certain area or some very high level of expertise in a technological area. These students have studied in Canada and have adapted to life in Canada, and maybe, to some extent, the workplace. At the present time they have to leave the country to apply for landing. They may never come back. That is not the intent. The intent of these foreign students is to return to their country of origin, in many cases to help that country move ahead.

Immigration in Canada should benefit Canada. What we want to do is attract the very best of these students and encourage them to stay. By allowing them to apply for landed status from within Canada is positive. This may result in having more of the very best of the foreign students decide to stay because they can apply for landing from within the country. That is to be applauded.

The whole idea of generally accepting far more people within Canada is a real concern. This is something that happened in the past which proved to be disastrous. People who clearly did not qualify applied, resulting in a continually building number of people in the country with no status.

What happened in the past was that we had general amnesty for tens of thousands of people because the system could not handle the growing numbers. What governments have done on at least a couple of occasions in the past 30 years was to provide a general amnesty, whereby anyone who was here under certain circumstances was allowed to stay.

Our system is accepting people who have not been screened. They have not really been chosen based on their ability to add to the country. They are still waiting for that to happen, but the backlog has become so large that we have had these general amnesties. From what I have heard from people who have been in the system, general amnesties have caused a lot of problems.

I believe that is a concern. Clearly in certain areas it is a good thing, but overall it will not work. It has been demonstrated that it will not work. It is important that we do not allow that to find its way into legislation. I hope the government will see that it will not work.

Along the same line is the dual intent clause, which states that a person may be granted a visitor's visa when that person clearly plans to immigrate to Canada, which is not allowed under the current system. It would cause the same kind of problem. We would have people coming as visitors and then saying “We are applying for landed status. We want to immigrate”, and they will stay here throughout the process.

Of course the process already has a terrific backlog. Under the independent categories people can expect an average wait of two years. Many times, if the wait becomes too long, people give up. But in the meantime what we will find are either continual extensions of visitor visas or people with no status in our country. That number will build and build until we will end up with an even longer backlog in the system, leading to a complete state of collapse. I would suggest that we are almost there with the current system and that this new immigration act will not fix the problem in general. Those are some of the negatives.

The regulations are very important. We have to have a lot of what has been left to regulation put in legislation so that all Canadians, when they are giving advice to their members of parliament on what they want in the immigration act, know what is being proposed, because it is in legislation.

Another underlying change has been made which will cause a general breakdown of the immigration system, and that is the implementation of the Singh decision. The Singh decision was a supreme court decision of 1985 which stated, I believe, that people who are in Canada are entitled to a hearing and an appeal before they are deported if they are applying to immigrate.

Governments, the previous Conservative government and now the Liberal government, have taken the interpretation of the Singh decision and broadened it very substantially. They say that the Singh decision means that everyone, even non-citizens who have come to Canada, even if they have come illegally, is entitled to the full protection of the charter of rights and freedoms.

That is the way it has been interpreted. That interpretation found its way into the current legislation, but only in the general information at the beginning. This new legislation has expanded that charter protection for everyone in the application clause.

What does it really mean to have it in the application clause of the bill? It means that there is no doubt that this interpretation will apply to all areas of the legislation. That is a real concern because it clearly expands section 4 of the act to include people who are not citizens of Canada, who have no status in Canada, who are not even physically present in Canada, and it will include people who may have applied to come to Canada from somewhere outside the country.

I do not know if people will believe what I am saying, but it is true. It is in section 4 of the act. It is absurd. No other country in the world would give that kind of protection to people whose only connection with Canada is that they want to come to our country, either as visitors or as immigrants.

The people who are expert in the immigration system, who have given me advice on this legislation, say that it will do exactly that, that it will cause a backlog in the system, and that it really could cause almost a complete breakdown of the system as we get legal challenges and the expensive process of giving people who are not Canadian citizens, who are not present in the country, access to our judicial system.

That underpinning factor which is now in the application clause will cause long term problems. If this legislation goes ahead, no matter what is done with the regulations, we will have an immigration system which will function less well than the current immigration system.

I started my comments by saying that most people in the House would acknowledge that the current system does not work well. People who would benefit our country soon after their arrival, who would help our economy grow and fulfill a need that Canada has, often give up and go to some other country like the United States, Australia or New Zealand, countries very similar to Canada. Many others are left in a state of limbo for years as they try to come into our system. This bill will not help those people.

Will the bill help genuine refugees? No, it will not. There is nothing in this legislation which will cause the government to choose more people from refugee camps overseas.

If Canada wants to help genuine refugees, should we not choose people who have been designated to be refugees from camps overseas? Does that not make sense?

The United Nations has a body that is quite capable. I do not always give a lot of credit to the United Nations. I have concerns in many areas. However, in the area of refugees it has people and a system that is quite capable of choosing who is a refugee, and in particular people who are in refugee camps.

To Canada's shame, of the 23,000 refugees who were chosen last year, probably fewer than 3,000 came from camps overseas. About 7,000 came from overseas, but more than half of them were people who had been rejected by European systems and Canadian officials picked them up and brought them to Canada as refugees. I am not saying that is bad because it makes sense in a lot of cases, but what about the people in the camps, the people like those in camps in Bangladesh who have been there for more than 50 years?

If the government is compassionate, why does the legislation not provide for those people? It does not work for genuine refugees. Does it improve things for people who come illegally and does it improve things in terms of protecting Canada from organized crime, terrorists, serious criminals or from people who come to Canada with the help of people smugglers and traffickers? No. There are some things in the bill which look good, such as tougher penalties, which will help, but when we look at the whole picture the legislation will not protect Canada better than the current act.

Will the bill help to reunite families? It tears my heart out, and I am sure it is the same for every member of parliament, seeing so many situations in our constituencies where families are waiting for years to be reunited. They are waiting two, three, five years and longer because our system is so badly broken. I would suggest there is nothing in the new legislation to deal with that problem.

Overall the bill will not improve the system; it will slow it down. I encourage the government to seriously consider substantial amendments to the bill, and we could provide them.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-31 on immigration and the protection of refugees.

Bill C-31 was introduced on April 6, 2000. It replaces the current act, which dates back to 1976 and which has been amended over 30 times.

When the minister made her announcement on this long awaited bill, she called it a tough piece of legislation. She said that the bill sought to close the door on illegal migrants, in order to fully open it for immigrants. Indeed, a large part of the bill puts the emphasis on closing that door by strengthening the measures designed to fight fraud, false statements and abuse, prohibiting criminals and those who present a security risk from entering Canada, imposing harsher penalties and so on.

When we read the bill, we notice that while it includes several measures to close the door on illegal migrants, as the minister said, most of the measures announced to fully open the door for immigrants are merely proposals to change the regulations. As pointed out by the Canadian Alliance member earlier, many of our questions are left unanswered, because a fair number of measures which we thought would be included in the bill will have to be included in regulations. We do not really know what is really in the bill.

With this bill, the minister is seeking among other things to respond to a strong current of public opinion in the United States which feels that Canada has become a kind of Club Med for terrorists and that the United States should tighten up its border controls, which is liable to be harmful to trade between the two countries.

Among the measures aimed at discouraging illegal border crossings, the bill includes the imposition of heavy penalties, namely fines of up to $1 million and a life sentence for human traffickers and smugglers.

Revision of the act, as well as cracking down on illegals, is also intended to lighten the load on a system that for several years has not allowed Canada to attain its annual objective of 300,000 newcomers. I might point out that, paradoxically, at this time there are more than 400,000 people within Canada and elsewhere who are awaiting word on whether they will be able to settle in Canada.

Clearly, the present system shows that increasing numbers of people wish to enter Canada, but also that the process and procedure in place for examining both applications for refugee status and for permanent residency are flawed and that there is room for improvement in the way these are processed.

The need to speed up the refugee determination process is one of the most positive measures contained in this bill. The minister has, in fact, indicated that in future the time limit will be 72 hours instead of 3 months for a refugee claim to be filed with the Immigration and Refugee Board, and it must bring down its decision within six to nine months.

The minister also pointed out that her bill would significantly simplify refugee claim processing in order to reduce the maximum time frame from five to two years. New measures will be put in place to modernize the procedure for selecting skilled immigrant workers and temporary workers.

These measures, it should be pointed out, would not apply to Quebec, because under the Canada-Quebec agreement of 1991, Quebec chooses its own economic immigrants. Refugee selection and family reunification remain under federal jurisdiction.

In terms of Canada's human rights obligations, as a signatory to international human rights documents, Canada has certain human rights obligations. This new bill must take account of the standards established in these documents. Unfortunately, despite a few references, the bill does not incorporate the relevant texts.

For example, in the case of the 1951 refugee convention, although the mandate of the high commissioner for refugees is to protect refugees, this responsibility also falls to the contracting countries.

The basic instrument, indeed the cornerstone of the international refugee protection system, is respect for the principle of no return recognized by the member states and enshrined in article 33, which provides, and I quote:

No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

At clause 90(2)( a ), the bill refers to the Convention Against Torture and provides for the protection of persons threatened with torture within the meaning of article 1 of the convention.

However, the bill does not fully respect the provisions of article 3 of the convention, which prohibits the return of anyone to face torture. In fact, according to the bill, the prohibition does not apply to people considered inadmissible on grounds of criminality or security, as in clause 108(2).

Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires governments to give the child's best interest primary consideration in all actions that concern him or her. However, the bill proposes only that the best interest of the child be taken into account.

The bill provides for the automatic detention of any person entering Canada as part of an organized operation, but gives no special status to refugee status claimants who are minors. However, article 37(b) of the convention that:

—States Parties shall ensure that:

(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

The convention also provides, in article 22, that:

States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee in accordance with applicable international or domestic law and procedures shall, whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of applicable rights set forth in the present Convention and in other international human rights or humanitarian instruments.

As for the third instrument, which the bill does not address, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a report on the Canadian refugee determination system a few months ago.

Bill C-31 before us today addresses two of the report's recommendations by including an appeal on the merits for refugee status claimants and by making the pre-removal risk assessment part of the decision taken by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

In the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois, however, there are many other recommendations which the bill completely fails to address and which aggravate the existing situation. For instance, the report recommends that the decision as to admissibility should be the responsibility of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

In this regard, the bill, on the contrary, widens the categories of people whose claims will be deemed inadmissible and who will therefore never have an opportunity to be heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The whole issue of detention is another component of the bill. In Canada, we have had an extensive debate on this issue, a debate that began, among other places, at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and which, I am convinced, will continue during the review of Bill C-31. The debate is primarily on clauses 50 to 55.

The Bloc Quebecois is particularly concerned by the fact that the bill provides for the automatic detention of any person who arrives in Canada in the context of an operation organized by traffickers. More specifically, the Bloc Quebecois opposes the fact that the bill does not grant any special status to refugee claimants who are minors, in spite of the fact that the UNHCR recently pointed out to Immigration Canada that it was opposed to the international rules governing the imprisonment of young refugees, except in certain cases and for very short periods of time, as provided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois will continue its fight to ensure that refugee claimants who are minors be exempted from the detention rules. In addition to clandestine immigration, the bill mentions three main reasons for detention, namely the risk that the person will flee the country, the fact that the person may be a danger to public security, or cases where it is not possible to establish the person's identity. These three reasons are already included in the current act. However, in several respects, the bill broadens the scope of the provisions on detention.

In addition, the bill accords new powers to immigration officers to detain individuals at points of entry for purposes of “administrative expediency” in order to complete an examination, for example. The officers may also detain people when they have reasonable grounds to suspect that they are inadmissible on grounds of security or of having violated human rights. In this regard, we wonder whether it was really important to add the new grounds for detention based on expediency and doubt, reasons of danger to the public or the risk of failure to appear covering already all the situations requiring detention.

The bill broadens the measures pertaining to detention without warrant. At the moment, arrest without warrant is permitted only in rather limited circumstances. Under the bill, immigration officers will be able to arrest and detain without warrant an individual they consider inadmissible, even if they are not about to be returned. This gives a lot of power to these officers, who, in many cases according to the report of the standing committee lack the training to make the necessary decisions on, going as far at times as, the merits of the applicant.

We are therefore basically concerned about the increased powers given the immigration officers in decisions on detaining individuals and the assessment of very specific applications.

In addition, the bill expands the measures pertaining to detention for reasons of identity. Any requirement for pieces of identity is a threat to refugees. In fact, these people are often required to flee the country without documentation because their identity is precisely what exposes them to persecution.

At the present time, detentions for lack of identification can only take place at entry points. Under the bill, a person will now be able to be detained within the framework of any procedure covered by the law if he or she does not establish identity. This means that refugee claimants could be detained if they do not establish their identity at the hearing to determine refugee status.

The bill also envisages regulations including special considerations for the detention of minor children. In our opinion—as I have already stated clearly before—the principle is fundamentally sound. What remains to be seen, however, is what these regulations will comprise.

It is no secret that, as far as the detention of refugee claimants is concerned, our preference would have been to have the main principles set out in the legislation rather than in regulations. Clearly, amendments will have to be introduced to clarify this situation, so this clarification will not be through regulations. Instead, it ought to be enshrined in the law.

As for claims for protection, they are primarily governed by clauses 89 and 90.

Under Bill C-31, what are presently two distinct decisions, refugee status determination and review of the risk of removal, will be a single decision made by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

For every claim for refugee protection, and every application for examination of risk of removal, the board will decide whether the claimant is a Convention refugee as defined in 1951, amended in the 1960s. It will also determine whether the claimant is a person in need of protection, that is to say a person who would be subject to a danger of torture within the meaning of the Convention Against Torture to which I referred to a moment ago, listing it among the three major conventions: one against torture, one on the rights of the child, and the UN convention relating to the status of refugees.

It will also be necessary to determine whether the claimant's life would be in danger or whether he could be subjected to cruel or unusual treatment or penalties, but only if the person is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of the state, if there is no possibility of haven in that country, if the risk is not related to legitimate sanctions that meet international standards, and if that risk does not have to do with the unavailability of medical care.

We will also have to establish that the claimant is a member of a category of persons whose need for protection is recognized through regulations.

The important change is that when a claim is reviewed, a single ruling will integrate two decisions, namely the one on the determination of refugee status and the one on the risks involved in sending the claimant back to his or her country of origin.

I believe this will significantly speed up the review of these claims, since both elements will be integrated. That will certainly help us alleviate the human suffering when we review each of these claims.

It is to be noted that the exclusion clauses of the refugee convention, namely sections E and F, apply to refugees as defined in the convention and to persons to be protected. These exclusions include, among others, criminals, those who committed a serious crime outside the country of refuge, and any person found guilty of actions that are contrary to the goals and principles of the United Nations.

I have two comments to make in this regard. Unifying the decision making process at the Immigration and Refugee Board will undoubtedly have the effect of making the process faster and more effective.

As I said earlier, there were often cases involving a refugee claim, where the claim would be reviewed and a ruling made. At times, perhaps often, the ruling was negative. That was followed by a review of the risks involved if the claimant was sent back. The process was considerably longer.

This process created human suffering and certainly did not make it easier to accept or reject the claim. In fact, it slowed down or even blocked the whole process. I believe that grouping these two rulings will speed up the review process.

The reference to the convention against torture is new in the bill, and we are delighted by it. It is new, and I would say it is important. However, the definition of a person in need of protection found in the bill is not entirely consistent with the convention against torture, which, unlike the refugee convention, contains no exemption clause.

Article 3 of the convention against torture prohibits the return of anyone who may face torture, regardless of what the individual may have done in the past or could do in the future. In this regard, what is contained in the bill by no means reflects the provisions and articles of the convention against torture.

When this bill is studied, things will have to be levelled out. If it is really the intention of this government to draw on the convention and reflect the spirit of it in the bill, amendments will certainly be necessary in order to regularize the situation.

Another important aspect is the matter of claims for protection and, more importantly, their determination, as covered in clauses 94 to 96. Under the bill, only refugee claims deemed admissible by Citizenship and Immigration Canada will be heard. This is the present state of affairs under the current legislation. However, the bill provides that an examination of the criminal record of a claimant that might result in an ineligibility ruling will now be conducted as soon as the claimant has entered the county and obtained refugee status and no longer at the end of the process.

The bill also broadens the categories of persons whose claims will be ruled ineligible, which means that they will not be referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board for a hearing. At the present time, claims are ruled ineligible on criminal grounds only if the minister issues a public threat certificate. They will now be ruled ineligible if the claimant: a ) [has been] convicted in Canada of an offence under an Act of Parliament that may be punished by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years and for which a sentence of at least two years was imposed; or b ) [has been] convicted of an offence outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offence under an Act of Parliament that may be punished by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years.

In this regard, I wish to make a comment. Automatically excluding persons convicted of offences outside Canada poses a particular threat to refugees. Too often, the criminal law system is used as a means of persecution. It is not unusual for victims of persecution to be sentenced on the basis of false accusations manufactured in order to convict them of crimes they did not commit.

As for the first paragraph—having been convicted in Canada of an offence that may be punished—we agree that, at that stage, an assessment should take this factor into account. As for the second paragraph, I think some caution is in order. The evidence must be thoroughly verified and the claim assessed more flexibly.

As for an asylum claim, and more specifically the process of claiming asylum, this has been the subject of heated discussion in recent years. There is no denying that the process is slow and difficult to comprehend.

If I take the example of an office covering the territory of my riding in Montreal, there is a wait of over 12 months for a ruling. It cannot be said that this is an adequate refugee determination system and process.

This cannot be described as stringent and making it possible for decisions to be reached within a reasonable length of time, on the contrary. Not only does it have the impact of creating personal dramas, as I have already said, by delaying, deferring a decision made by an Immigration Canada office, but it also does not allow a fair review, within a reasonable length of time, of the cases of those who are awaiting rulings. This therefore creates a dual problem with a dual impact.

When, as I have already said, we know what the objectives of immigration are, and when we can see how long the wait is, there are grounds for concern. It is therefore obvious that we must make a commitment to work toward a renewed refugee determination process because people are having to wait too long and this creates serious personal dramas.

According to the bill, applications for protection will be heard by the Refugee Protection Division. At the present time, this is done by the refugee status section, as we know. This is a change in Immigration and Refugee Board terminology. Applicants will have a hearing before a board member, whereas at present a panel of two hears the case. Appeals against a decision by the Refugee Protection Division may be submitted to the Refugee Appeal Division by the applicant or the minister. This division will not hold a hearing but will base its decision on written submissions.

In that regard, the bill does not include any change to the appointment process of board members. Over the past several years, the Bloc Quebecois has repeatedly criticized the Liberals for constantly making political appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board. We believe it is essential that any change in the asylum claim process should seek to guarantee the integrity of the refugee status determination system.

In order to achieve that, it is critical to put an end to political appointments to the board and to establish a transparent process—and I mean transparent—to appoint and replace IRB members, so as to ensure full impartiality and selection based on the candidates' qualifications and professional experience, and not, as is often the case now, on their political affiliation.

Since the bill provides that the decisions will be made by a single member, it becomes even more important and in fact essential that all the decision makers have the highest qualifications. This goes without saying. I even think that some Liberal members might agree with that statement. Several political appointments were made to the Immigration and Refugee Board.

With this new legislation on immigration and refugee status determination, the Liberal government opposite has a unique opportunity to show transparency and good will and to clearly demonstrate that the government will set up an appointment process that is not based on partisanship or on services rendered to the Liberal Party of Canada, but on people's professional experience and on their ability to make informed decisions.

Unfortunately, when it introduced its bill, the government missed the opportunity—and so did we—to establish a clear process. We will review this issue in committee and I hope the government will look at the auditor general's report and set up a clear process that is not merely based on the experience and expertise of people in certain political parties, but on professional experience.

Another important factor is the introduction of appeals on the merits. Clauses 105 and 106 address one of the fundamental weaknesses of the present refugee determination system. The absence of an appeal mechanism was very recently criticized by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights in its report on the Canadian refugee determination system. It should be noted, however, that the proposed appeal provides only limited protection to refugee claimants because it is based on written submissions only.

A large percentage of claims are ruled ineligible on grounds of credibility. It will therefore be extremely difficult to challenge such rulings of non-credibility in writing. Furthermore, written submissions also raise the problem of claimants without representation, which is often the case because of the inadequacy of legal aid.

Another comment I would have with respect to this paragraph and this part of the clause is that the bill provides no guarantee of the independence of the Refugee Appeal Division or of the greater expertise of its members with respect to refugee determination. If an appeal is to adequately correct the errors of the first level, the appeal division must obviously be a distinct and higher level.

In fact, it seems hard to guarantee the impartiality or appearance of impartiality of the process when the members of the Appeal Division are called upon to judge decisions made by their own colleagues in the section of first instance. Such a structure, in which members of the division are required to review themselves, does not imply a critical eye, and cannot therefore in our opinion present the necessary guarantees of independence.

As for the whole issue of family reunification, I will make a small comment if I may. There is very little in the bill on family reunification, with the exception of certain measures which are to come in the regulations. This is the problem with this bill—the one to which my colleague from the Canadian Alliance referred just now. The bill refers to principles only, and makes several references to the regulations.

I believe it is the fundamental right of parliamentarians to be able to examine a bill that includes a certain number of clauses instead of one that merely refers them, and to a certain extent the general public, to subsequent regulatory amendments.

As far as the entire issue of family reunification is concerned, the bill has very little to say, referring instead to provisions which are to come in the regulations once they are added. The government has, however, announced certain measures relating to family reunification. It would, in our opinion, be advisable for the promised measures to be integrated into the bill, as I have said, rather than just restating some old principles.

As parliamentarians, we would like to study the provisions, debate them and discuss them in committee. The problem is that we do not have the regulations before us. We cannot make a proper decision on this bill, because many of the measures are to come, many will not be incorporated in the bill. In the end, I think that each parliamentarian is entitled to examine the merits of this bill in terms of its provisions and not in terms of future regulatory measures.

The bill proposes to prevent people on welfare from sponsoring members of their family, including spouses and minor children, unless they have special permission from the minister. In our opinion, this is interference in the right to family unity because of economic status. At the moment, spouses and minor children are the only members of a family that may be sponsored by a recipient of welfare. We believe this represents serious interference, and it is clear that we will never agree to two people having different privileges.

There cannot be a double standard based on economic factors, on whether a person is on welfare or is working. I think that the right is fundamental, and in this regard, we will clearly be moving amendments.

As my time is running out, I will conclude by saying that the Bloc Quebecois regrets the harsh tone adopted by the minister in her speech, in her presentation, the hard words chosen by the government to introduce the bill and the accompanying press releases. From the way it addresses the question, we think that the government, which seems to be trying to reassure the Canadian right, is reinforcing prejudice against refugees and immigrants. It is thus encouraging division.

In recent years, the Bloc Quebecois has said on several occasions that Canada's refugee determination system should have two essential features: it must be quick and fair to a person who is legitimately seeking asylum and it must deter those who overburden the system with unjustified claims. This slowness in processing claims results in unacceptable human dramas and puts people and families in extremely difficult situations.

For example, the average time to process a claim at the IRB's Montreal office is ten months. Moreover, at the end of December 1999, there were over 7,000 asylum seekers in Montreal who were waiting for a hearing. That is one third of all cases in Canada. Indeed, one third of all such cases in Canada are handled by the IRB's Montreal office. Is this not evidence of the laxness of the refugee determination system?

We also believe that the new bill on immigration does not reflect explicitly enough the actual scope of all the powers gained by Quebec in this area. According to the Quebec Minister of Relations with the Citizens and Immigration, Robert Perreault:

The act will have to include firm commitments in that respect ...Provisions will have to be added to the current bill to ensure, among other things, the respect of Quebec's powers regarding the selection of temporary workers or the maintaining of a distinct program for investor immigrants.

That statement was made by the Quebec minister of citizenship and immigration. Clearly we will have amendments to clarify these two aspects, which are not included in the bill.

The bill—I have mentioned this many times since it was introduced—does not clarify Quebec's jurisdiction in this regard. As we know, Quebec is responsible for independent immigration. We would therefore have liked to see this mentioned in the bill. But the bill does not make this clear. There must be clauses spelling out Quebec's jurisdiction in this area.

In addition to the issue of Quebec's jurisdiction, it is important to mention that, although the bill proposes amendments with respect to refugee claims, nowhere does Ottawa undertake to assume the costs resulting from its handling of those claims. In fact, if the federal government believes in the effectiveness of the measures proposed in its bill, it should be able to undertake to assume these costs, and to do so until those affected have been granted refugee status, have been granted permanent residence, or have left the country.

Last February, it will be recalled, Quebec joined with Ontario and British Columbia in criticizing the federal government's handing of the movement of asylum seekers, calling for major changes, and demanding that the federal government, which is responsible for the entire refugee determination process, assume all the costs of providing services to these individuals, including social assistance, legal aid and education.

I would remind members that, right now, it is costing Quebec over $80 million annually to look after people waiting for a ruling from the federal government's Immigration and Refugee Board.

Clearly, the Bloc Quebecois is greatly concerned by the fact that many crucial points are relegated to the regulations—and I do not believe I am the only one to have said so today—rather than being part of the bill itself.

At the present time we cannot be totally in favour of the bill, obviously. Too many measures, too many provisions, are part of the regulations, preventing us from giving our support at second reading.

What we can do is to state that, at most, we are in favour of the principle behind the bill, but we cannot come out in favour of the bill at this point with our eyes closed. We are going to look at it in committee, propose and debate amendments, and then bring it back to the House for third reading. That is when our decision will be made. I must say, however, that it is disappointing that some of the measures are contained, not in the bill, but in the regulations.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre. Both he and I will be speaking to the bill. We want the House to know that at the next opportunity the NDP critic, the member for Winnipeg Centre, will be speaking in greater detail about some of our concerns about the bill and our general attitude toward it. Unfortunately he was unable to be here today.

There probably is not a more appropriate time for members of parliament to be debating amendments to Canada's immigration legislation than after a two week parliamentary recess. If other members' recesses have been anything like mine, I spent a fair amount of time meeting with people who have problems of one sort or another with immigration.

Over the course of the two weeks I met with a woman who fled Liberia on a moment's notice in the middle of conflict and in the middle of great confusion. She left behind some teenage children and is now trying to get them into the country but is having a very difficult time doing that.

I met with a young man who wants to get his pregnant wife in Romania to Canada before the baby is born in September. I met with people who applied for refugee status from Bangladesh and are scheduled to leave the country in spite of the fact that there appears to be documentation that was unavailable to the refugee board when it made its decision.

I met with a family from India who would like relatives to be able to come to Canada to attend a wedding. I met with another family who wanted relatives to come from Chile in order to attend a graduation. In both these cases the problem was visitors' visas and sometimes the very difficult process that attends people being able to get these visas. In these cases I know both families. They are long established members of their respective Sikh and Chilean communities. Yet they are having a difficult time getting someone to Canada to be present at these important family events.

These are just samples of the kinds of things MPs have to deal with all the time. It is very frustrating for us not to be able to immediately solve the problems people bring to our attention. Not all problems are solvable but some of them could be solvable if there were more resources dedicated to resolving them.

One of the messages I would like to leave with the minister and the government at this time is that the process for these things needs to be speeded up. It should not be speeded up in a way that makes it sloppy or unfair but it should be speeded up. It is a form of cruel and unusual punishment for a lot of people that they cannot get the kind of resolution to their problems as quickly as I think fairness would dictate.

I think of the many times I have met with people in my office for whom the refugee process has been very long and prolonged. People have been here for many years in some cases. What has happened often is that children have been born and the children are actually Canadians. The only country they know is Canada yet if the refugee process takes so long and in the end they fail, the children can actually be sent away from their country which is Canada. It is very important to deal with these matters expeditiously so that children particularly are not put in that position.

Those are some of the things I found particularly trying over the years as an MP. People find themselves in a lot of very difficult situations. I say it is trying for me, but of course it is much more trying for them. What is trying for me is that I cannot always do for them what I would like to do in the time they would like me to do it.

All this relates to the bill in the sense that as MPs we are dealing with people who are not in the country who are trying to get into the country by way of the rules. Nothing makes that interview more difficult in the constituency office than when people point to the fact that other people get into the country by breaking the rules. They say “We are trying to observe the rules and we are doing everything that is required of us but it takes forever”. Yet there are examples of illegal immigration which for obvious reasons people find quite frustrating.

The minister has said that the purpose of the bill is to close the back door to Canada while opening the front door wider. This is certainly a principle and an intention of the bill that we support. It is why we would like to see the bill go to committee and be examined more thoroughly.

The point had been made earlier about the fact that so much is left up to regulation. We do not know what those regulations will be. We do not know whether those regulations will in fact be consistent with the spirit of the bill. One of the things that might be looked at in committee is how much more can be specified in the bill so that less is left up to regulation.

We are concerned about the penalties with regard to people making refugee claims who have been convicted of an offence punishable by 10 years or more and have received a sentence of two or more years, something which I believe all Canadians support. We do not want an immigration system which allows criminals into the country. However, we must also take into account the fact that not all offences which are defined as criminal activity in all the countries from which people seek refugee status is in fact criminal activity. Sometimes the very thing that has made them a refugee is political activity.

In my opinion, one of the things to be worked on in committee is the need to be more articulate about what is a criminal offence in the strictest sense and what it means to be a criminal. What can sometimes be defined as criminal by a country that uses the criminal code of the country to inhibit, punish or intimidate political activity thereby creates the very refugees who are coming to Canada with this alleged criminal record. That is a concern we have about the bill and something which the committee could very well look at.

With respect to family reunification, I understand one of the other intentions of the bill is to broaden the notion of family reunification. That is certainly something I think all Canadians would support.

Again, referring to my own experience as an MP and I am sure that of many other members, many times we have had people in our offices who have one child remaining in a country but because the child is now 19 or because of making the mistake of getting married, the child no longer qualifies and cannot be reunited with the family. There are many ways in which the current family reunification rules need to be improved in order to address some of the anomalies that exist. I would certainly urge that.

I would also urge a more open and trusting attitude on the part of Immigration Canada toward people who are seeking visitors visas for relatives who are coming to attend special events, in particular when these applications are being made on behalf of families who have been in the country for a long time. I do not think that how long they have been here has all that much to do with it, but certainly it is a fact that many people who have been Canadian citizens for a long time and want people from their country of origin to attend special events are now finding that very difficult to do.

I would urge the minister to see what she could do about that. If that is not within the purview of the bill then perhaps she could find another way.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to join with my colleague the member for Winnipeg—Transcona, and our immigration critic, the member for Winnipeg Centre, in saying a few words on Bill C-31, the immigration and refugee protection act.

In general this bill toughens the law with respect to illegal immigrants. It streamlines the laws and regulations which would facilitate easier access to our country by immigrants who wish to come to our country through the front door or through the regulatory process.

Immigration is very important. Practically all of our grandparents, parents or members themselves immigrated to this country from other countries in a process set out in previous legislation in the House of Commons. All of Canada is much stronger and is viewed as the best country in the world because we have been very supportive and embrace new Canadians coming to Canada to help build this great country.

My paternal grandfather came to this country in 1897 from Ukraine. He was recruited by Mr. Sifton of the CPR to go to a place called Fork River, Manitoba. He and many other Ukrainian settlers were given a quarter section of forest in which they were to carve out a living for their families, which he did.

My grandfather, Panko Solomon, went to the Fork River district. Over a period of years he cleared a quarter section, or about 160 acres of land, out of the forest. He cleared about 10 acres of trees with an axe, a saw, chains and a horse. To this day the farm exists as a tribute not only to him and other Ukrainians and settlers who built our country, but to all of our forefathers and foremothers who came here to make a better life for us all.

As an aside, my uncle still owns the property. He has a larger property but he has planted around the home quarter over 100,000 trees. My grandfather would probably turn in his grave if he knew this to be the case, but it is a very nice shelter built around the home quarter.

Bill C-31 tightens laws as they apply to the abuse of immigration. It creates severe penalties for those who smuggle people into Canada with fines up to $1 million and life imprisonment for those who illegally bring in immigrants to the country.

In essence, I think the tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime as it applies to immigration is a very good approach. It is one I personally support and I think most Canadians would support. Public reaction to illegal aliens has been largely negative. Some people have indicated they would halt virtually all immigration. Some people feel deeply for refugees who are following the rules. Those consigned to wait for years in camps until Canadian law affords them the chance to come legally to this country are looking to this bill with some interest.

The bill also increases the number of immigration control officers abroad. I guess what has always been a problem with Liberal legislation is that Liberals always introduce legislation which makes people feel good, but they never back it up with resources to actually implement the laws.

We have seen this for example in the smuggling of cigarettes. Rather than toughen up the laws and introduce resources to hire more customs officers to nail the smugglers, the Liberals passed feel good legislation saying they are going to reduce taxes on tobacco which will take the product off the smugglers' priority list.

Of course smugglers will move from smuggling cigarettes to smuggling guns. Rather than commit resources of our country to stop the smugglers of guns, the government passed the gun registration law which does nothing to affect it. It makes people feel good because the Liberals are doing something about the problem, but nothing ever happens because there are not the resources to back it up.

I am worried that there will not be resources. I would like to see the minister's projections with respect to the number of dollars and immigration officers the government is going to commit in our consulates and embassies around the world to actually undertake to enforce Bill C-31. I would like to see it not only abroad but in Canada as well.

We have had some experiences in Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre with respect to immigration which are worrisome. Saskatchewan is a landlocked province in the centre of our country. People who come to our country wishing to immigrate or to bring in family members always have to go back to the country of origin or go to Seattle or Buffalo to the nearest Canadian consulates in the U.S. to apply for immigration. That has been a travel hardship for many people. I hope that the new rules will allow students easier access to our country, those who have proven to be good citizens while they were here.

The family reunification challenge has always been complex. In Saskatchewan we have been very troubled with the lack of speed to reunify families. As the minister has indicated, family reunification is very beneficial. When their families are here immigrants tend to work harder to make sure that their families have a solid economic base. I am very concerned that this sort of streamlining occurs in particular for the family reunification process.

The bill has many parts. It provides things such as security checks for persons making refugee claims. It bars access to the refugee determination system and eliminates appeals for serious criminals, security risks, organizers of criminal operations or violators of human rights.

I wonder if the minister could tell us if this bill will address the issue that appeared on the front page of the Globe and Mail on Saturday dealing with Chinese triads.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I see that my colleague is getting into a new thought with regard to his speech and I thought this might be a good time to interrupt. He has over three and a half minutes remaining and then questions and comments after that.

Réfap Gala ExcellenceStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 15, the Réseau des femmes d'affaires et professionnelles de l'Outaouais celebrated the vitality of its members at its Gala Excellence 2000.

This first major celebration of the millennium for the RÉFAP provided an opportunity to honour the efforts and determination of two important women in the Outaouais, Ginette Chassé-Séguin, who was recognized as businesswoman of the year, and France Gagnon, recognized as professional woman of the year.

More than ever, their success in undeniable proof of the place and growing vitality of Outaouais women. Such examples of success can only encourage more women to take an active part in our community.

I take this opportunity to congratulate once again Ms. Chassé-Séguin and Ms. Gagnon and to wish them good luck in their future endeavours.

Grain TransportationStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, this year Canadian farmers will have to pay $44 million more to haul their grain because the Liberal government refuses to reform the grain transportation system.

Last week the CTA announced that regulated freight rates will be going up 4.5%. This is the latest graphic demonstration of the failure of the status quo.

A reformed system could save farmers $300 million each year in lower freight rates. Yet instead of going down, freight rates will be going up.

The government's own experts have recommended a clear path to reform. Give farmers a contractual driven system and remove the Canadian Wheat Board's total control over grain transportation. However, defending pet Liberal causes like monopoly control by the Canadian Wheat Board is more important to the government than improving the farmers' bottom line.

If the Liberals really cared about the plight of farm families, they would stop defending the current broken system and immediately give farmers the reforms they so desperately need. Where is the transportation minister on this issue?

VietnamStatements By Members

2 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, Vietnam has been in the news lately: 25 years since the end of the Vietnam war, the execution apparently of an innocent Canadian, and the recall of ambassador.

What has not been in the news is the routine way in which Vietnam abuses religious rights. Religious rights do not get much play in the news here, in part because we take them for granted and in part because of journalistic apathy toward people of faith.

It does not much matter whether they are Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim or Evangelical. If they do not worship at a state sanctioned patriot facility, they are abused, arrested or imprisoned. Religious rights are like the proverbial canary in the mine shaft. If they have no religious rights, they probably have no right to a fair trial, no right to freedom of assembly, and certainly no contractual rights.

Two years ago I met with the minister of justice for Vietnam. The bottom line was that he did not believe in the rule of law. If one does not believe in the rule of law, certainly religious rights are an easy abuse, as are other civil rights and contractual rights. As long as Vietnam is stuck in a time warp, it will not enjoy these kinds of rights.

Mental Health WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to tell the House and the people of Canada that the week of May 1 to 7 is mental health week. This year's theme is “Workplace stress can throw you off balance.”

Given that 43% of Canadian adults aged 30 or over feel overwhelmed by their work, their family responsibilities or their financial obligations, it is clear that reducing work related stress will have a positive impact on thousands of people.

Statistics Canada estimates that $12 billion is the cost of work time lost annually due to stress.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has created activities across the country to promote wellness in the workplace. I ask the House to join me in wishing the Canadian Mental Health Association a very successful Mental Health Week.

ArmeniaStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to commemorate the memory of victims of the Armenian genocide of April 24, 1915.

The Canadian government has yet to recognize in an official way the reality of the genocide committed against Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. However, in answer to my question in the House of Commons on June 10, 1999, the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs said:

On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs I wish to inform the House that together with all Canadians we remember the calamity afflicted on the Armenian people in 1915. This tragedy was committed with the intent to destroy a national group in which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were subjected to atrocities, which included mass deportations and massacres.

May the memory of this period contribute to healing wounds as well as to the reconciliation of present day nations and communities and remind us all of our collective duty to work together toward world peace.

The recognition of Armenian genocide is not complete yet.

Hepatitis CStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hepatitis C victims of tainted blood are still waiting, waiting for promised compensation if they were infected between 1986 and 1990; waiting in fact over two years while their lawyers have already been well paid; waiting for help with 40 page forms that are complex beyond belief; waiting for an explanation about why U.S. prison blood came undetected into Canada; waiting for a clear explanation from the ethics counsellor for a report that supposedly cleared the finance minister of conflict of interest but quietly admitted that the appropriate CDC minutes had mysteriously vanished; waiting without hope if they were infected prior to 1986, except that Ontario and Quebec provincial governments have given them some compensation; waiting, except for those who are no longer with us.

BiotechnologyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the past several months members of the House have raised questions and concerns over food safety as they relate to foods derived from biotechnology. Some have even suggested that the foods we eat are untested. This is simply untrue.

Foods derived from biotechnology must go through a very stringent regulatory process to ensure that they are safe for humans, for animals and for the environment before they are approved.

Canada has the best food safety regulations in the world. Our regulatory and approval processes are based on the best science available. Canadian regulations are in sync with standards set by the World Health Organization, food and agricultural organizations, and other international bodies.

Opposition members are simply trying to scare the Canadian public into thinking that the food they eat is not safe. Quite frankly Canadians deserve better than this. They deserve the facts. Canadians should be proud of our regulatory system and our world class food supply.

Jean-Claude MarcusStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, after 20 years at the National Arts Centre, Jean-Claude Marcus will be leaving his position as artistic director of the NAC's French theatre.

During his stint at the NAC, Mr. Marcus has been both an innovator and a pioneer. Among other initiatives, he created the NAC's youth theatre program, Grands-Galop et Petits-Trot, the program to promote theatre in the regions, including La Quinzaine, which we are all familiar with, and the specialized B.A. in theatre at the University of Moncton's department of performing arts.

Jean-Claude Marcus was very involved at the international level and his efforts to promote arts and literature in France and throughout the world were recognized when he was bestowed the insignia of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres.

All of us who have been moved, touched and even shaken by the various NAC productions during the Marcus years—the last of these productions is to be announced this week—say thank you to Mr. Marcus and wish him and his wife a most pleasant time in France.