House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.


Auditor General's Report

10 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to lay upon the table the supplementary report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons entitled “Reflections on a Decade of Serving Parliament”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(e), this report is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting estimates for the financial year ending March 31, 2002 was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the associate membership of some standing committees.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the fourth report later this day.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-285, an act to amend the Criminal Code (no parole when imprisoned for life).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to reintroduce this private member's bill. It amends certain provisions of the criminal code relating to life imprisonment. It will eliminate any provision for early parole, early release or parole eligibility for a criminal who is sentenced to life.

The bill is about justice for the families of victims, for those who have suffered an irreplaceable loss at the hands of killers. For them, knowing that the offender will never walk the streets again as a free person will bring a sense of relief and an element of closure to a sad chapter in their lives.

My bill sends a clear message to murderers that if they take the life of another, they will be locked away for the remainder of their natural lives. Life will mean just that, life.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Main Estimates, 2001-02Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec


Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 81(4) and 81(6), I wish to introduce a motion concerning referral of the Main Estimates, 2001-02, to the standing committees of the House.

Since the list is rather lengthy, I would ask that it be printed in Hansard at this point without being read.

Main Estimates, 2001-02Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there consent?

Main Estimates, 2001-02Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Main Estimates, 2001-02Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec


Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002, laid upon the table on February 27, 2001, be referred to the several standing committees of the House in accordance with the detailed allocation as follows.

To the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources

Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, L20, L25, L30, 35, 40, 45 and 50

Natural Resources, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30

To the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food

Agriculture and Agri-Food, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35

To the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

Canadian Heritage, Votes 1, 5, L10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115, 125 and 130

Privy Council, Votes 30 and 35

To the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

Citizenship and Immigration, Votes 1, 5, 10 and 15

To the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development

Environment, Votes 1, 5, 10 and 15

Privy Council, Vote 40

To the Standing Committee on Finance

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Votes 1, 5 and 10

Finance, Votes 1, 5, L10, 15, 25, 30 and 35

To the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans

Fisheries and Oceans, Votes 1, 5 and 10

To the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Foreign Affairs, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, L30, L35, 40, 45, 50 and 55

To the Standing Committee on Health

Health, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25

To the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

Human Resources Development, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20

To the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology

Industry, Votes 1, 5, L10, L15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115, 120 and 125

To the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

Justice, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55

Privy Council, Vote 50

Solicitor General, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50

To the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs

National Defence, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20

Veterans Affairs, Votes 1, 5 and 10

To the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

Parliament, Vote 5

Privy Council, Vote 20

To the Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Finance, Vote 20

To the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations

Canadian Heritage, Vote 120

Governor General, Vote 1

Parliament, Vote 1

Privy Council, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 45 and 55

Public Works and Government Services, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25

Transport, Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35

Treasury Board, Votes 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20

To the Standing Joint Committee on Library of Parliament

Parliament, Vote 10

To the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages

Privy Council, Vote 25

(Motion agreed to)

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of the citizens of Peterborough area who are concerned about conditions in Iraq.

The petitioners point out that Canadian churches have been asking for the cessation of the sanctions. They call upon parliament to accept the recommendations of the standing committee for the lifting of sanctions and the establishment of a diplomatic presence in Baghdad and the immediate cessation of bombing.

In particular, the petitioners ask that Canada urge the UN committee to quickly approve funds for the rebuilding of water, electric power and oil production, and ask that the compensation fund taken from the so-called oil for food program be suspended.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a second petition from citizens who are concerned about kidney disease, a growing problem in Canada, and the various ways of preventing it.

The petitioners call upon parliament to encourage the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to explicitly include kidney research as one of the institutes in its system to be named the institute of kidney and urinary tract diseases.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am today tabling a petition from some one thousand of my fellow citizens of Saint-Jean, who object to exorbitant fuel prices.

The petitioners are of the opinion that consumers are being impoverished by this and companies may be forced to slow down activities, thus creating a danger of recession. They are calling upon the government to take all possible steps to control these exorbitant fuel prices.

As I said, they feel there is a danger of economic slowdown. They are also fed up with seeing so much money go out of their pockets every week. They clearly have the impression that the House of Commons is doing nothing to control these prices.

I am pleased to table this petition on their behalf.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents who express their continued concern over the great number of nuclear weapons on our planet.

Having acknowledged that Canada and other states have signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty about five years ago, they ask that we reaffirm our commitment and ask that parliament support a binding timetable for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from February 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-11, 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.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand before you in the first sitting of the 37th parliament. I take this opportunity to congratulate you on the esteemed position to which you have been elected by your peers and colleagues here in the House of Commons.

At this time I respectfully acknowledge my late parents, John and Olga Zdunich, and my husband's parents, George and Katherine Yelich. I also acknowledge my husband Matt and our daughters Elaina and Ivana.

I thank all whose support and encouragement has brought me here today: my campaign team, the hardworking volunteers, my friends and family members, and especially the people of Blackstrap for the vote of confidence that they have given me. It is an honour and a privilege to represent them in the House of Commons.

The riding I represent is called Blackstrap. The name itself has been a constant conversation piece and a point of interest. People continually ask me where the name Blackstrap came from. Local legend is that during the years of prohibition a rum runner was not aware that one of his kegs had sprung a leak and he travelled the valley leaving a trail of blackstrap molasses behind him. The legend is so popular that some people actually believe it. The real story behind the name is not quite so colourful.

Until filled with Diefenbaker lake water in 1967, making it into a reservoir, Blackstrap Lake was a long, narrow slough filled with black reeds. From atop its steep banks it resembled nothing so much as a long black strap.

Today the area of Blackstrap is a 540 hectare provincial park with a manmade lake at the centre. The provincial park is a resort area that provides year round activities. In the winter the manmade mountain is the centre of a winter activity sports park. In the summer it provides a place for swimming, camping and fishing.

Geographically situated near the centre of the province of Saskatchewan, the riding of Blackstrap is bordered on the west by the South Saskatchewan River and on the north by the Yellowhead highway. It encompasses over 11,000 square miles, is home to approximately 72,000 people and is a riding unique in its broad diversity. This is the riding I call home.

My roots in this riding are almost as old as the province of Saskatchewan. My grandparents immigrated to Canada from the tiny village of Lovinac in Croatia as part of the massive land settlement program of the early 1900s when Sir Clifford Sifton, then minister of the interior, offered land to new immigrants for settling the prairies.

Their move to Canada took a huge leap of faith. They left all that was familiar because they believed a better life could be found in Canada for themselves and the generations to come. I will always be grateful for the courage they showed and what it has meant to me to be raised a Canadian. Living and working in this riding, which was developed almost solely on immigration, I know how important it is that we aim to improve our system, which I will speak to.

Much has changed since the turn of the century when a bright new future could be found with the turning of soil on 160 acres of raw prairie land. At one time the riding of Blackstrap was almost totally dependent upon agriculture. However, as we embark on a new century, the face of the prairie economy has changed drastically, perhaps no more so than in the area I call home.

Throughout the riding are examples of how the people of Blackstrap have shown their resourcefulness in the face of crisis. There is no other word to describe what has happened to the agricultural industry in the past two decades. One such example is the Pound-Maker feedlot in Lanigan, where it decided to integrate its existing feedlot into an ethanol plant.

In Canada as a whole, approximately 55 million litres of ethanol are produced each year; 17 million are used in fuel and the rest go to industrial uses such as toiletries, cosmetics and medications for external use. The Pound-Maker facility has the capacity to produce 13 million litres each year, or one-quarter of Canada's total, in addition to being a 28,500 head cattle feedlot.

Only a few miles away, Drake Meat Processors is a huge successful meat processing plant where over 50 people are employed in what was at one time a co-operative locker plant. They have now developed product lines sold exclusively in Saskatchewan.

Across the riding the pork industry is aggressively expanding with the continual construction of new facilities producing thousands of pork each year for the Canadian marketplace. Much of this started with innovations by three individual pork producers who decided to combine their energies and embark on a new direction. Their start-up barn in Outlook has grown to include 17 community based pork operations with a current capacity of 500,000 pigs a year.

Farmers surrounding Lake Diefenbaker have dedicated thousands of acres to irrigated potato production. In Outlook a mint-herb processing plant is currently under construction. The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in Watrous has initiated a crop development farm where new breeds of canola are bred and tested.

In almost every community, market gardens have become commonplace as the people fight to keep their rural communities alive in spite of negative farm incomes. To their credit, hundreds of people in this riding have risen above the challenge of the agricultural crisis and successfully built a diverse economic base. I applaud them.

Obviously the agricultural industry is an important part of what makes up Blackstrap, historically and in today's economy, but it is not the only industry.

The magnitude of the different industries that survive and thrive are what make this area an anomaly in the prairie economy. We are home to five potash mines, the IMC Kalium Mine and the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Mines, PCS.

PCS in itself is an interesting study in the opportunities that arise through diversification. At one time, PCS was a money losing crown corporation that cost the taxpayers of the province hundreds of millions of dollars. It was privatized in the late 1980s and sold to employees and other investors. Today, PCS is the world's leading producer of potash and has 20 plants in North America, Chile, Trinidad and another underway in Brazil.

We have six automotive retail businesses in the riding. When the auto mall currently being constructed on the south side of Saskatoon is completed, our riding will be home to the largest automobile sales group in Saskatchewan.

Through the use of community development bonds, the people of Manitou Beach and area invested in their own community. The area brought the Manitou mineral spa back to its glory days, not seen since the early twenties and thirties.

Building on its natural therapeutic qualities unique to North America and found only in two other places in the world, Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic and the Dead Sea of Israel, the committee initiated what has grown into a multimillion dollar facility. Today at Manitou Beach there is a convention centre, mineral spa and entire resort village that is a tourist destination for visitors from around the world.

Blackstrap is home to a national defence base in Dundurn which has the largest ammunition depot in the country. The Whitecap Dakota/Sioux First Nation dates back to the eighteenth century and inhabits the northwest corner of the riding. I should mention that it was the Dakota/Sioux Indians who immigrated to Blackstrap from the United States.

In Canada as a whole, we are all too aware of the problems our aboriginal communities are dealing with, yet this particular reserve is a powerful example of innovation, prosperity and economic stability.

We are forward thinking, inventive, innovative and courageous Canadians. I believe these qualities came with the early settlers to this part of the country and live on in our generation. These are the people of Blackstrap. The people gave me a mandate to come to Ottawa and represent their interests. They have a message that I brought here with me today. I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to articulate to all my colleagues in the House of Commons, in all the political parties, what the people of Blackstrap riding have to say.

There has been a lot of attention recently focused on what has been coined western alienation and talk of separation by the west. It would be easy to get sidetracked. However, I know how important Confederation is to the people of my riding. I know how passionately they love the country. In fact, my esteemed colleagues, I believe the focus on separation is backward. What I hear in my riding is not so much that people want out, they want in.

The people I represent want the message brought here to Ottawa that their voices are a part of Canada. When there is talk about equality, there is an intrinsic emphasis put on rights, which is not necessarily the message that needs to be heard. As westerners, we believe in balance and the responsibilities that come with being a balanced partner in Confederation.

The people of Blackstrap want it known that while they willingly and lawfully hand over their hard earned tax dollars, they are frustrated by continual reminders that the federal government does not manage the country's economic situation with the same diligence it manages its personal finances. They want balance brought back to the taxation system.

The people of Blackstrap are frustrated by a legal system that has taken the place of what should be a justice system. They want balance in the laws that govern us as citizens.

The people of Blackstrap are frustrated by regional differences that are treated as divisions by the federal government instead of opportunities for co-operation. They want to see a balance in the regional interests within a federal system that provides the opportunity to work together to overcome those challenges.

When my grandparents immigrated to Canada, they knew nothing of eastern, or western or central Canada. French speaking and English speaking Canada was not an issue.

They came to Canada because they believed in Canada and what it represented, hope for a new future, opportunity, room to grow and contribute. Thousands of people just like them took what Canada had to offer and built a country that has a distinctive label of being the greatest country on this planet.

I have personally sponsored refugees and worked with many immigrant families. The Canada they see is the same Canada that beckoned my ancestors.

I hope and pray that those of us in the House will never lose sight of that vision of the gift it is to be a Canadian and that they will work co-operatively to build on the initial framework that our country's forefathers put together.

As we speak to Bill C-11, the citizenship and immigration bill, we will address how to improve our existing system. We will work on answers to my constituents' questions, such as why does it take so long for people with skills to immigrate to Canada? How can we clear these backlogs? I have spoken to dozens of people with stories of how long it took to get their spouses to Canada. Why is the department cutting staff? How can we stop illegal human smuggling?

My constituents in Blackstrap certainly appreciate the value of immigration, as does my party, as a positive and dynamic force, one that is vital to the economic and cultural growth and diversity of our country. We must continue Canada's longstanding humanitarian tradition of resettling genuine refugees. Canadians have concerns about our present immigration system. We need to restore public confidence.

There is a saying that holds particular significance for me and my family. It sums up what I feel is the essence of what immigration should and can be. The saying is coined as follows: “Croatia gave the strength, Canada the opportunity“. That statement reflects the importance immigration has had for my constituents. I will endeavour to work very hard on their behalf.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the privilege of addressing the House today. I look forward to the years ahead as we work together for the people who have put their trust and faith in us.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Blackstrap on her maiden speech. There is no doubt that she brought a very clear and concise message from her constituents in Blackstrap. We now know in the House and across the country how Blackstrap received its name.

I was moved to hear that her roots originated in Croatia. There is no doubt that Croatians, like other immigrants who came to this country, believed in it. They came here at the turn of the century and have made a valuable contribution.

The member for Blackstrap comes from Saskatchewan and I am from Manitoba. These two provinces have tended to lose their population base. This fact is common knowledge.

The question I have for the member for Blackstrap is, how can increasing immigration to Saskatchewan help the province in its future?

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, it would help a great deal. Immigrants who have come in have been a valuable asset. We have well educated people coming in as refugees. They are genuine refugees who were in Croatia during the war in Bosnia. They have contributed so much. We need to increase the number of immigrants because they come with such strong values and principles and are a real asset to our province.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Edmonton Southeast Alberta


David Kilgour LiberalSecretary of State (Latin America and Africa)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Blackstrap on her excellent speech. The House expects many more such excellent speeches from her in the years ahead.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too want to congratulate my colleague for Blackstrap. We had a representative from Blackstrap in years gone by and I never found out just exactly how Blackstrap got its name. I thank her for the illumination on exactly what Blackstrap is all about and how it got its name.

It is very interesting that the constituents of Blackstrap chose the hon. member to represent them. Not only does she look good in this place but she actually has a very strong voice. I was particularly taken by the comparison she made between Croatia, her ancestral home from way back, and Canada.

I think she said something to the effect that Croatia gave them the strength and Canada gave them the opportunity. That is an absolutely fantastic statement. I wish she could explore it a little further.

Canada is a multicultural nation made up of people from all kinds of countries of the world. Could it really be that Canada has become as strong as it is and has become the peacemaker it is because of these various nations? The nations gave the individual strength and Canada gave them the opportunity to demonstrate to the world what multiculturalism can mean to Canada and the rest of the world. Would the hon. member like to comment on that?

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say where that originated from. Some people immigrated here from Croatia with my in-laws at the turn of the century. They worked very hard. Living in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century was pretty tough. It was very lonely and very cold. However they endured. They had a very large family. They had 12 kids. They will be very proud that I have mentioned this in the House. All those children have become very successful and many live abroad.

When their parents passed away that was their tribute to them. Their parents never really had a lot of material things but they appreciated Canada, how good Canada was to them, and the opportunity Canada gave to them because they had nothing in the old country but rock. They came here for opportunity and Canada gave it to them. As I mentioned in my speech, there were no special interests, not because of their colour, race or background. They were given an opportunity because they had the will and a good work ethic.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-11 for the NDP. First, I thank my colleagues who spoke earlier, our current critic of immigration and refugee policies, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, and the member for Winnipeg Centre. Both members did an outstanding job in presenting the concerns and position in the NDP about not only the former Bill C-31 but the current piece of legislation before the House. They have done a very good job in working with local and national organizations to understand what some of the fundamental concerns about the proposed legislation.

Coming from Vancouver East I have to begin by saying that I represent a riding, like other members of the House, which is symbolic and reflective of the cultural and ethnic diversity of Canada. Vancouver East is a community that has been built on immigration, something of which we are very proud. It has been a community that has welcomed working people from around the globe, people who have sought to come to Canada to provide a better opportunity, to look for a better quality of life and to provide a good future for their kids.

Every day in my riding of Vancouver East, whether it is in Strathcona, Mount Pleasant, the downtown east side, Grandview-Woodlands or Hastings-Sunrise, I meet families who are first generation, sometimes second or third generation, who have established their new roots and homes in this community. I am very proud to represent a riding where that kind of diversity is actually valued. It is an enrichment of our community that people of many different backgrounds, languages and classes have come to Vancouver East to make it their home.

There are probably few countries in the world where immigration and refugee policy is as significant and as fundamental as it is in Canada.

I am an immigrant myself. Like other members of the House, we came to Canada because we knew it was a very great land. We came because our parents brought us as children and we established ourselves here.

The policies and legislation enacted by the government and debated in the House go to the core of what we believe as Canadians. One of the concerns that we have expressed in the NDP is that the legislation the minister has now reintroduced is a reflection of the public mood that has become more negative about immigration and refugee policies.

I want to highlight one issue in particular because it is something that is very pertinent to Vancouver and to East Vancouver. More than a year and a half ago we saw the arrival of what has been commonly referred to as the boat people, economic migrants who are becoming involved in human smuggling out of desperation. They put themselves at grave risk and danger. They travel huge distances in very dangerous conditions, seeking a way to escape the environment they are in.

The experience we had on Canada's west coast has been reported widely in the media: the arrival of about 600 so-called boat people from the Fujian province of the People's Republic of China. It was very interesting to see the reaction in the media and the general public mood around the issue.

There are concerns about human smuggling. We have to prevent these kinds of situations from taking place. In working with local organizations I visited some women who were detained in the Burnaby women's correctional facility. At that time about 33 women were detained in jail. They had not committed a crime. They had not been charged with anything. They were incarcerated because they were considered to be at risk for flight if they were released.

In visiting those women in jail I was very taken by the situation they were in. They had inadequate access to legal representation, to appropriate cultural language interpretation, to phone calls and to any connection or visits with their children who had been taken away and placed in care. It may surprise some people to know that more than 18 months later there are still about 25 individuals incarcerated in British Columbia as a result of arriving on Canada's shores.

It is easy for us to look back historically at events that happened 40 or 50 years ago when people arrived and were not allowed entry. We can look back and say it was racist or xenophobic, that we had a fear of others arriving, but when it happens in contemporary society today it is something that is very worth debating in terms of how we react to it.

One of the concerns of my colleagues in the NDP and I is that we feel much of the response from the government is based on a very strong reaction to the arrival of the boat people. I find it unacceptable that 18 months after they arrived individuals are still incarcerated and trying legitimately and legally to file their applications for refugee status. We have a concern that this is an underlying pinning of the bill. It is a bill that seems to be based more on keeping people out rather than acknowledging the incredible role immigration has played in the country.

I have been very concerned over the last few years that the government's own targets for levels of immigration are not being met. It is very easy to play to fears in the community. It is easy to dramatize and highlight individual cases of refugees where there have been illegalities and where people needed to be deported rather than focus on the incredible positive contribution of not just new immigrants but of refugees to the country.

Although the bill does have some measures that provide for family reunification, the NDP believes there should be a much greater emphasis on family reunification and expanding the family class. We should be saying that Canada welcomes people from around the world, and that we should not be so suspicious.

I deal with hundreds of cases in my riding every year of families who are desperately seeking assistance in order to get through the system as it exists today. I am sure we have all had cases where we really feel the frustration and the anxiety that people have gone through in trying to deal with the system. Officials have incredible discretion in denying people and in deciding whether a family member can come to Canada.

I had a campaign in my riding called once in a lifetime. It was actually an idea that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration floated around about a year or so ago. She suggested that there might be a special provision, a once in a lifetime provision, whereby any Canadian would be able to sponsor someone who would not normally qualify in a family class. Unfortunately the idea was just dropped.

Local organizations in my riding, such as Success, collected more than 15,000 signatures in support of the idea of once in a lifetime. Then it was dropped like a hot potato by the minister. However, I decided to keep the idea going. We actually had a petition and a campaign on once in a lifetime, which received tremendous support. The reason we received support is that the current definitions are so narrow and restrictive that it becomes very difficult to undertake family reunification under the present policies.

Some of the other concerns we have, which have not been addressed in the bill and which we will be following up on when it reaches committee stage, are the problems around the live in caregiver program. I have had cases in my own community where women who have come into Canada through the live in caregiver program have basically been exploited. They have had their rights violated and have been placed in very vulnerable and precarious positions because of this special provision by which they gained entry to Canada.

We believe that the current legislation fails to address the gender issues that are involved in the live in care program. It bears a thorough examination to ensure that women who are coming here under the live in caregiver program are not being exploited by the system or by the situations in which they find themselves.

We have also expressed concerns about some of the provisions in the bill that, albeit an improvement over the status quo, need to go much further. I have met with organizations in my riding that have done a lot of work and analysis on the provisions for same sex relationships.

Although the minister and the government are finally recognizing, along with other changes in legislation that have come before the House, that we need to treat same sex relationships with the same kind of legal provision and equality that we treat any other conjugal relationship, unfortunately in the current bill these provisions are contained in the regulations and not the bill itself. I have had this expressed to me as a concern in terms of it leaving the community still vulnerable to any future changes in regulations.

The other matter I want to speak to involves refugees. It was very timely that yesterday the Caledon Institute and the Maytree Foundation, under the sponsorship of a human rights committee of the Senate, brought a very notable and prestigious speaker, Professor Goodwin-Gill from Oxford University, to Parliament Hill. He came to speak to a number of people who were assembled yesterday about Canada's practice of violating a UN convention as it relates to the status of refugees in this country.

Professor Goodwin-Gill, an internationally renowned expert on refugee law, has taught at Carleton University, so he is very familiar with Canada's legislation and how we process and treat convention refugees.

He expressed grave concern about the practices that have taken place in Canada which deny people access to travel or deny them other resources and programs within Canadian society based on their refugee status. He zeroed in on the fact that Canada does not meet its international obligations under the UN convention, in particular articles 25, 27 and 28 having to do with refugee ID documentation.

I feel this is a very serious situation. For those members of the House and of the Senate who were present yesterday at the speech by Professor Goodwin-Gill, I hope very much that what he said to us will be reflected in our debate and will be reflected in the amendments once the bill reaches committee and there is an opportunity to receive amendments.

To dramatize the real experience of convention refugees in Canada, present at the meeting yesterday was a young woman who is a convention refugee. I believe she was originally from northern Somalia. She is the mother of four children. She described to us with a great deal of candour and honesty the feeling that she had of being in prison because she could not access the things she needed to provide for her family.

She cannot put her teenage children through post-secondary education because she cannot afford to pay for it. She works but earns a low income, so neither she nor her children are able to access the Canada student loans program. She is established as a convention refugee, but because of the way we treat convention refugees she and her kids cannot access post-secondary education.

Those are illustrations and examples of what it means to live with the kinds of policies and procedures we have had in place. Having the bill before the House is an opportunity to redress some of those situations and to look at the real experience of what happens to refugees in the country and to say that we will not put up more barriers.

I think the real tragedy of the situation is that there is abuse in the system, as we heard yesterday. There is abuse in every system in the country, but in this area the abuse becomes the reason for setting up very punitive barriers and rules that then deny the vast majority of convention refugees full status in Canada.

That is the wrong way to do business and to approach the issue. We should recognize that the vast majority of convention refugees are here as positive contributors to the local communities in terms of work, in terms of enrichment, in terms of volunteerism, and in terms of all the things we would characterize as being a part of society. To place barriers before people and make it more difficult for them to become fully participating members of the community seems a very negative attitude and something that definitely should be changed.

We in the NDP have very strong concerns about the bill. We want to be constructive in the way we approach the bill. It is a very significant piece of legislation. It was long overdue for changes, but those changes and how they impact on Canadian residents who are here now in terms of bringing over family members from another country, or on people who wish to immigrate to Canada, are obviously of great significance.

We should take the time to be thoughtful about the bill. We should make sure it is not just a response to what is being fuelled in the media in a very negative way in terms of characterizing refugee claimants and to some extent immigration generally.

As members of the House we should have the courage to stand and say that we want Canada to be a place that welcomes people. We want the system to work fairly. We want to be able to find ways to provide family reunification. More than that, we want to look at some of the historical wrongs that have been done.

One of the flashpoints of our history in immigration has been the head tax. There has been an ongoing campaign. People in my riding of Vancouver East have been very involved in trying to eliminate the head tax. They also want recognition of the historical wrong that was done and to seek redress for it in terms of community contribution and compensation.

Unless we can do that I have grave concerns about what the new bill will be and whether we will be repeating the kinds of policies we have had in the past. Our history is based on racism and fear of others. Somehow we must change that.

The bill is very important. We have very serious concerns about it. We want the bill to be a positive instrument that will support and strengthen Canada's immigration policies in a way that is fair and equitable and does not further stigmatize or set up barriers against refugee claimants. We want it to send a message that Canada is a welcoming place that truly works for diversity and cross cultural understanding.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Laval West Québec


Raymonde Folco LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, if you will permit, I would like to make a few remarks in order to correct the comments my NDP colleague has just made on the immigration and refugee status bill.

Canada, it is true, has a long tradition of immigration, which built our country, which also built the riding I represent in the House, Laval West, where a large proportion of the people came to Canada as immigrants and then brought their families here.

The Government of Canada has for generations recognized the importance of family reunification here in Canada. This bill the government has introduced in the House continues this tradition. We have inherited a responsibility toward those who have come here to help them to reunite their family, to build a family unit here in Canada.

The bill provides that children 22 years of age will now be permitted to be included in the family and therefore to be reunited with their parents here in Canada. It also provides that persons who are the last members of this family and remain in their country of origin may come to Canada as well. This often means that an older mother or father living elsewhere, alone in an apartment, in a house or in a village, may now join the family.

I wanted to make this correction, because we are maintaining a very strong Canadian tradition, which is to continue, in a humanitarian and family spirit, to rebuild families here.

I would also like to make another correction about the hon. member's comment to the effect that Canada has not been meeting its own immigration levels.

This was indeed the case for several years. However, this year, much to the satisfaction of everyone, the government has met its immigration levels.

Under our new approach to immigration, which includes the new bill before the House and the regulations that will follow, we are now opening the door wider, so that an increasing number of immigrants can come to Canada and settle here.

Finally, I want to point out that this bill perpetuates a great Canadian tradition, which is to maintain a society governed by the rule of law. For this reason, those who want to come here as either refugees or immigrants must meet certain criteria.

As a government, our role is to open the door to those who want to settle here, but also to protect Canadian citizens, including against certain immigrants who break the law.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome the comments of the hon. member across the way.

I acknowledge that some provisions of the legislation before us, Bill C-11, are an improvement over the existing legislation. The provision that allows for family reunification for children based on a wider age limit is certainly an improvement.

The point I was making and the concern we have in the NDP is one that has been expressed to me by many organizations that deal with immigration rules and policies on a day to day basis. People in such organizations really see the system as it is. They are concerned that the overall definition of family class is still very restrictive in terms of the kinds of family members who can be sponsored.

The whole idea of once in a lifetime was generated because we had restrictions on how we define family class. There was and still is a great momentum within the community to see a broader definition that would allow for family reunification.

Some say that we must have some definition, that we must be able to define the family in some way. That is very true. However, in western society we tend to make such definitions very narrow and very linear, whereas in many cultures where immigrants come from the definition of family is much broader. We really need to look at that.

I will respond to the other point very briefly in terms of the quotas. It is true, because I saw the announcement and the press release and so on, that this year, for the first time in many years, Canada met its target in terms of applications that came to Canada. If one looks at it in a longer term, overall we have done a very poor job.

I hope there is a real commitment from the government to not only meet the targets but to look at the targets. If we read any study about immigration we will see that it contributes to our economic activity, to our economic strength and to the strength of the community. When we say that we should open the doors wider, I hope the member would agree that we should look at the target and say that it should be increased. However, if we look at it over a number of years we have not been meeting the target, even though we might have last year.