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House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

May 18th, 2005 / 7:30 p.m.

The Chair

I would like to open this session of the committee of the whole by making a short statement.

Tonight's debate is being held under Standing Order 81(4)(a), which provides for each of two sets of estimates selected by the Leader of the Opposition to be considered in committee of the whole for up to four hours and also under the terms of the motions adopted by unanimous consent earlier today.

Tonight's debate is a general one of all the votes under citizenship and immigration. The speaking rotation will be based on 15 minute slots. The first round will begin with the official opposition, followed by the government, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party. After that we will follow the usual proportional rotation.

As provided in the motion adopted earlier today, parties may use each 15 minute slot for speeches or for questions and answers by one or more of their members. In the case of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allotted may speak one after the other.

When the time is to be used for questions and answers, the Chair will expect the minister's response will reflect approximately the time taken by the question since this time will be counted in the time originally allocated to the party. Though members may speak more than once, the Chair will generally try to ensure that all members wishing to speak are heard before inviting members to speak again while respecting the proportional party rotations for speakers.

Members need not be in their own seats to be recognized.

I would like to remind members that, pursuant to the motion adopted earlier today, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained during tonight's proceedings.

As your Chair, I will be guided by the rules of the committee of the whole and by motions adopted earlier today. However, in the interest of a full exchange, I am prepared to exercise discretion and flexibility in the application of these rules. In turn, I would call on all hon. members to also exercise discretion during this evening's debate. As I said a moment ago, this is a relatively new procedure that provides the House with an opportunity to focus on the estimates from one department and to engage in a prolonged exchange with the minister responsible.

It is important that the traditions of the House in relation to decorum be respected and that members make their remarks and pose their questions and that order is maintained throughout the evening. The Chair will expect all hon. members to focus on the subject matter of the debate, refrain from personal remarks and deal with the main estimates of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

I also wish to indicate that even in committee of the whole ministers and members should be referred to by their title or riding name and of course all remarks should be addressed through the Chair. I ask for everyone's cooperation in upholding all established standards of decorum, parliamentary language and behaviour.

At the conclusion of tonight's debate, the committee will rise, the estimates under Citizenship and Immigration will be deemed reported to the House and the House will adjourn until tomorrow.

House in committee of the whole pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), the first appointed day, consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under citizenship and immigration in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006.

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7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Chair, it will be very interesting to participate in this new procedure in the House of having an exchange about the estimates of the immigration department.

As you know, Mr. Chair, this exchange takes place in an atmosphere where we have a number of distractions. Therefore, perhaps it is a bit of an unusual situation, but I think it will be helpful to talk about the immigration department and about its estimates, spending and priorities. I look forward to the exchange this evening.

I feel a little hard done by because all the experts are on the other side of the House, but I know they are here to help all of us. We appreciate the officials being here and being ready to provide us with information as required.

We have a situation in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and I do not know if it is unique in any other department. There have been documents which have come to light which essentially show that the department has doubled its revenue over the last number of years, but there has been no corresponding increase in the budget of the department.

In fact, the documents we have say the following. I am quoting from a document dated February 5, 2001, where an official advises, including the deputy minister at the time. It states the department:

Doubled revenue generation & commitment to fiscal framework:…Exceeded revenue commitment to CRF [Consolidated Revenue Fund] of $1.5B by $195M since 1994, but no increase to Operating Budget …Decreased Operating Budget by $54M.

Since no programs were eliminated under the purview of the department and there were no cuts to the grants and contribution transfer portion of the department's operations, the document says that the only option was to cut the total personnel by 20% by eliminating face to face processing of applications, moving the call centres to a central location, closing offices abroad and cutting our CIC officers abroad by 35%. The risk management because of these cutbacks increased because of the number of interviews that were waved. This document goes on and I will not read the whole thing.

The point is that under the government's watch the department doubled its revenue from the fees taken from immigrant applications and at the same time did not receive enough budget to even keep the operation on a stable basis. The department was bringing in money but the resources were being cut back.

What has been the result of this? It has been rather sad actually. I quote from an interview given by a Liberal member from Bramalea—Gore—Malton who said December 14, 2004, “The immigration system is in the worse situation now than it has ever been”. Most members of Parliament would agree with that.

We have so many concerns and complaints from members of Parliament about a system that is not working. Why? Because the Liberal government has not put the resources that are needed to make the system work. In fact, the minister himself in answer to a question before committee said that this Parliament had not put one penny into the immigration department.

Who was controlling the purse during these last years, in fact for more than a decade? It was the Liberal government. Yet the minister admitted that money had not been put back into the department. Therefore, we have a number of real hardships to the clients of the department: immigrants and applicants under the immigration department.

In response to some of this, we also found out something rather shocking. Some of my colleagues who are in the House now will recall that the immigration committee met in Vancouver. We had as a witness an immigration lawyer named Mr. Richard Kurland. He brought before the committee documents which showed that the Liberal government had secretly closed down the parents and grandparents program.

Therefore, we had immigrants, newcomers to Canada and many of them Canadian citizens now, in good faith making applications to bring their parents and their grandparents to Canada. The CIC took in those applications, the application fee, the medical certificates and security checks, but the program had been shut down. The applications for parents and grandparents were not being processed.

After awhile, people who were applying to sponsor their parents and grandparents started asking what was happening. They had been waiting and waiting and it was only supposed to take a year. This was something else the department did. Instead of letting people know what had happened, it pretended that this process was going ahead the way it always had, and in fact, was publishing historic processing times on the CIC website. So people thought because the website said these would be processed within a year or 18 months, that this was happening.

Of course, as the months slipped by and 18 months became two years or more, they started to ask what was going on. When they phoned the department, they could not get an answer or any information about the files. They then started coming to members of Parliament. Members of Parliament could not get information. Then we heard that this program had in fact been shut down and that these files were not being processed. I heard it myself from three separate sources.

I put this to the minister in committee. I asked about these parents and grandparents and why they were not being processed. The minister denied that there was any slowdown or stoppage of processing these files. Then we came out with the documents from Mr. Richard Kurland to the CIC all party committee of this House demonstrating that it had been shut down and that officers in the field were aghast at this. They did not know what to tell people. The processing was half done. They did not know what they were going to say when it had shut down in the middle of the exercise, so to speak. Until it came out through the immigration lawyer, there was no admission to people who were accessing the process in good faith that this had happened. So there are a number of issues with this department that cry out to be explained.

There is the whole issue of international credentials and the recognition of those, so that people who are brought to Canada, because they have the skills and training we say that we need, can actually use those skills and training.

The Liberal government has been promising since its throne speech in 1994 that this was going to be addressed and yet there has been no progress. Again, the all party committee has just finished travelling across Canada. We heard from witnesses over and over crying their hearts out because they came to Canada to use their skills and abilities, but just could not find the way to get their credentials recognized here or a process whereby they could obtain Canadian equivalency.

This is a tremendous hardship. There are backlogs with people waiting to get applications processed in a whole number of areas. People wait two years or more just to get citizenship after they have already qualified. Sometimes, because the date is put off, these people have to get new medical records and new security checks which cost them money. This is no way to run a department.

The department admits it has doubled its revenue and yet the service has been cut back to an alarming degree and caused tremendous hardship and difficulty for honest, hardworking people who in good faith put their applications before the system.

The promises of the minister and of the department are not being kept. A few months ago we had a promise that tsunami victims would be fast-tracked into Canada. We know that there were over 1,000 applications from people in tsunami stricken areas. They were supposed to be fast-tracked and everyone was happy thinking their relatives and friends who had applications in the system would be coming to Canada in a few weeks time.

Here we are over six months later and I think that only 200 actually came to Canada. Yet, in the supplementary estimates the government asked for over $4 million more to process these applications and the operations of the department. The promise of bringing these individuals to Canada on an expedited basis, where they could be safe and have shelter from the disaster and loss that they experienced, has not come to fruition. Broken promises are unacceptable to vulnerable people who are counting on the government to keep its promises.

I know members of Parliament from all parties are going to be mentioning a number of areas in this department, a nation building department, that brings newcomers to Canada and works with us to build a great nation. However, people are treated in a very shabby fashion, are not given proper information, and made promises that are not kept in a timely manner.

I want to make it very clear that there is no blame to be attached to the civil servants who work in this department. They are committed and able. I have been a member of Parliament for over 11 years and have always found them extremely good to work with, but the policy-makers on the government side make it almost impossible for them to do their job in a way that would be a credit to Canada and would give us a reputation of respect and pride in the international community. This must be addressed.

It is sad that a government that has been in office for over a decade now and has this litany of failures, mismanagement and leaving people in the lurch is not going to have any answers. If the Liberal government were to have answers and the skill to manage an important department like this, we would not be where we are today. However, we are here today and I would like to ask the minister specifically about this secret shutdown of the parents and grandparents program.

Many newcomers to Canada promise their parents and grandparents that they will bring them here and care for them in their old age. Caring for elders is something that many cultures respect and expect of each other. A promise was made and people in good faith accessed the system and yet secretly behind the scenes the processing of these applications to sponsor the most vulnerable family members was shut down.

I would like the minister to explain that to these Canadians and newcomers who put their applications forward for their parents and grandparents. I think they are owed an explanation by the minister as to why in secret, without telling them and still taking their money, this program was shut down.

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7:45 p.m.

The Chair

Before we go to the minister, I would ask members that when they start their presentations to indicate whether they intend to make a speech or ask questions. That way I can divvy the time up more appropriately. Obviously, we cannot have a 13 minute or 14 minute answer from the minister. The minister will have a couple of minutes to respond and then we will hear his remarks following that.

The hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has the floor.

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7:45 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Chair, I am delighted to address some of the misperceptions that have been put on the record, and they are misperceptions. One needs to understand that the department, as the member said, is a nation building department. It provides a service that, as she advises, is absolutely crucial for maintaining relationships with the citizens of today and the citizens of tomorrow.

It would be instructive to understand that there has been a spike over the course of the last five years in applications to enter this country. That is a positive statement. It means that more people want to come here.

It is equally important to understand that in each of the last five years we have met the targets that Parliament indicated for this department. We have been well within the range of 220,000 to 240,000 over the course of the last five years each and every year.

As a result of that success, we have actually encouraged more applications to come forward. Hence the spike in the revenues that have come as a result of the application fees collected. Parliament has not indicated that it wanted to expand that range. I indicated, when I became minister four months ago, that we would look at that and we would present a new plan to Parliament. I need time to do that.

It is important to understand that we must deal with the accuracies inherent in the service that is provided by the department as reflected by the applications that accrue to come to our country, and not by idle misperceptions that are then not only exaggerated but repeated. Those misperceptions do great damage not only to the reputation of our country but, since the member brought them up, to the officials who manage this department.

While I am prepared to address the political issues that can be raised, it is important to begin to define what it is that we want to talk about. Does the member want me to continue to answer those questions, or is she prepared to actually hear what happens in the immigration department?

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7:50 p.m.

The Chair

We will resume debate with the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who will have 15 minutes to say what he will about his department.

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7:50 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Chair, I am delighted to be here tonight to talk about what we do with immigration in this country.

Four months ago I gave the House an indication of a six point priority plan that I personally had for this department. I was building on the experience of my predecessors and the experience of my good colleagues who had worked diligently in committee to draw out those issues that are definable politically, desirable socially and absolutely necessary from an administrative point of view. I was drawing as well on the expertise of men and women who dedicate themselves to the public service and especially in this sector of the public service where we are determined to fashion the country that people will call their own tomorrow.

The members opposite probably will not like to hear these facts, but approximately 40% of our population comes from elsewhere. Those men, women and their children are the biggest economic driver of the country. They are those who fashion the next generation. We are in fact those who are going to hand off the legacy of today to those who would improve on it tomorrow, and our department is key to that.

Let me tell members something about the department before I go to the six point plan. Those who would malign what we do should pay attention. Every single year the department makes over 1,100,000 positive decisions. That means that we collectively make a positive decision to welcome into this country 1.1 million people, and 235,736 received permanent residency. They were landed and became part of us. About 170,000 of those every year will also apply for citizenship. In fact, 18% of all citizens were born abroad.

One only has to look at this House. Fifty-six members were born elsewhere. We are beginning to shape the country of tomorrow by very positive decisions that this department puts into effect every year, not just because of good policy but also because we take great pains to ensure that those people will find a welcoming environment here. Roughly 236,000 people landed. We include about 105,000 students on visas to study and about 66,000 of them are at the post-secondary level. That is a fabulous number.

We include as well about another 100,000 temporary workers, people who come here for a specific period of time to fill the vacuum created, for one reason or another, in our economy. We then deal with a whole host of others who come here to visit this great country and who make a decision, unhappily in my view, to go back from whence they came.

All of that is to say that the department is engaged in a series of decisions, all of them positive, 1.1 million per year in addition to the 177-some-odd thousand every year who apply for citizenship. They become shareholders in this country.

We have said that this is all good but we still have some difficulties. Some of those difficulties are associated with the fact that we have so many who ask us to embrace them and we have not had in the past the capacity to deal with that entire demand.

The member opposite will probably say that the processing times are much too slow and that people are not being given what they need, but I beg to differ.

In the last budget, for example, we put in $298 million for processing and integration and an additional $100 million for addressing the processing abroad. We have started to put money into the system so we can increase that capacity, become much more efficient and address the needs of everyone who comes into the country. We began almost immediately by addressing one of the inequities that all members, at least on this side of the House, recognize, and that is that we had a series of out of status spouses who had entered into the humanitarian and compassionate stream in order to stay here in their own loving and productive relationships.

That stream takes enormous energy, emotional and financial. It is costly on both counts but it is also time-consuming. In the end, what would happen? We would, of course, have had these people together to begin the nurturing and building of society. What did we do? Collectively we wanted to what was appropriate, which seems easy today, and ensure their applications could be processed here inland.

We will not remove those who are in a bona fide relationship, nor will we remove those who are not a security risk. However, for the protection of all Canadians, and I know this is especially significant to some members, we will not tolerate those who cannot pass a criminality or security check. However, with that put over to one side, we will bring families together and we will begin with the spouses who are in a bona fide relationship.

We did that and immediately 3,000 such applications were addressed here inland. We put in the resources to ensure that happened. Overseas we immediately gave those applicants similar priority to ensure that those spouses who had made the application abroad did not languish as a result of long inventories.

I point this out because I need to illustrate that in addition to being forward looking, we are also in the business of ensuring that the relationships that we so desire in the country are nurtured and dealt with.

We moved in very short order on another issue that related to inventories. We took a look at the 110,000 parents and grandparents who are in what we call the inventory, in the backlog. We said that these were sponsored applicants who would eventually come to this country and that we needed to give them an opportunity to join their families here in Canada today so they have the opportunity to build a society that shows there is intergenerational communication and intergenerational support and where we would be able to sustain the kinds of loving support environments that are required by people who transplant themselves to this places far away from this place, which is familiar to us but in many respects unfamiliar to others.

There were 110,000 to be handled in two ways. I want to give the House an indication of the flexibility and the desire of the department, and dare I say the government and members of the Liberal caucus, to move. First, it was by increasing the number of parents and grandparents who we would land. Over the course of the next two years that number would go from 12,000 to 36,000.

Second, we said that we would give those parents and grandparents multiple entry visas provided, of course, they came with the appropriate health insurance, as befits anyone who comes here as a tourist.

That gives people an opportunity to move back and forth. We hope they would want to stay here but maybe they would not. We do not encourage that decision but we would give them an opportunity to have continuity in the family.

Just by those two measures the House would acknowledge that not only would we be forward looking, we would actually do what we had already committed to do. Is that just idle language? No, because the people opposite immediately started a telephone campaign saying that these are unproductive people. That is not so.

What we did is we put money, resources to ensure that it took place, $70 million in additional resources to process those new applicants and to put in place the personnel required to ensure those multiple entry visas would come forward.

These are all budgetary items. These are issues that we said we needed to fund so that our language, our policy, our ideas and our philosophy would be supported by the Parliament of Canada, the House of Commons, which would say that we should take money out of our pocket and put our money where our mouth is.

I know members do not like me doing that but that is essentially what the House of Commons does. It raises moneys in order to accomplish a particular objective. Is there a more noble objective than one which says that we reunite legitimate spouses and that we reunite families, that we bring parents and grandparents together with their children and grandchildren so that we have that continuity, that stability that is engaged in what we call society building and cultural stimulus?

Those are examples of some of the things that we already do and yet they would say that we are not doing those things.

I indicated a moment ago that the other thing we do is address the issue of citizenship and we did: $68 million to accelerate the process of application and processing by bringing in the appropriate equipment, machinery and personnel required to ensure that the appropriate testing, preparation and delivery of a most valuable document, citizenship, would come to all of those who apply.

The hear member opposite saying, “Promises, promises”. No. Here is the money. It is right here now.

Canadians everywhere are asking if is it just an idea and if the money is there. The money is there, $68 million, $70 million. The decision is made. We put it in the budget. That means the minister and his deputies have to go into the bureaucracy, into cabinet and they have to ensure the arguments carry the day and they achieve the resources necessary to implement the policy that these men and women get elected to put into place.

Those are not promises. That is action. Those are not idle examples of rhetoric. They are material examples of a government that works, a department that implements sound policy and it is an indication that some of that idle discussion, almost allegation and accusation, that says that the department has not been working is in fact a misrepresentation. There are 1.1 million positive decisions every single year; 236,000 landed last year; 110,000 parents and grandparents removed from the inventory via increased opportunity to land and by multiple entry visas to give them an opportunity to have a flavour and a taste of this country, the one that we take for granted because we live it every day, but it is really a dream and an ambition for every man and woman around the world.

I have said that I have a six point plan that members wanted so much to hear about. I have only touched on those two points. I am sure that all of those people who have taken time out of their evening to see how the House of Commons works want to know what the other four are and how they are implemented.

I am sure, Mr. Chair, that you will accord them and all of these colleagues an opportunity to hear them.

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8:05 p.m.

The Chair

I thank the minister. I am sure those other points will come out during the evening.

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8:05 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure for me to speak, this evening, on the main estimates of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Obviously, I will limit my remarks to the federal government's responsibilities, since Quebec is responsible for the integration of immigrants in Quebec. So, I will talk about the process for newcomers to this country.

I am pleased that the minister has made it a priority to see that his department corrects its numerous past mistakes. I hope that he will recognize the difficulties in addressing Quebec's priorities.

He has issued a great many announcements on nearly every aspect of immigration. We expect that citizenship will be next.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has been promised a new bill on numerous occasions. We are still waiting impatiently.

We object to the fact that, in the past few months, this has seemed like a series of election announcements, just before a potential election, and we are asking the minister to promise one thing in particular. Instead of stubbornly insisting on interfering in Quebec's jurisdiction, will the minister make the commitment that the money for the integration of new immigrants, funds set out in the Canada-Quebec accord, will be provided directly to the Quebec government, in accordance with budgets appropriated and the number of immigrants selected by Quebec?

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8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, the federal government always cooperates with the provinces with the aim of creating new citizens who want to settle here, to be productive, and to help this country grow and thrive. We continue to work in this collaborative manner.

The hon. member across the way is well aware of our agreement with Quebec. All funds allocated to Quebec will therefore be spent in Quebec. As a result, these new citizens, as Canadians, will also have the opportunity to experience life in the province of Quebec, its culture and its customs.

We have no intention whatsoever of breaking that agreement, or deviating from it. If this department has made some announcements recently, it is because they were required by the situation at the time. There is always a right time for making positive announcements.

Reference has been made to the fact that we are leading up to an election, but I think that colleagues on both sides of this House have no idea when the next election will be. We are doing everything necessary to achieve the desired results as far as the services I have referred to are concerned. It is a matter of always making immigration and citizenship possible for those who come under the department's jurisdiction, and who aspire to become part of this country, Canada.

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8:05 p.m.

The Chair

I will remind everyone that we will use approximately the same amount of time for the answer as was used for the question. I would urge the minister to have perhaps a quicker response next time or a response using the same amount of time that the question did.

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8:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to hear the minister say that Quebec will receive its fair share.

Does the minister intend transferring sums to the Government of Quebec to allow it to transfer and allocate funds to agencies responsible for Quebec's development?

I also have a question to help speed things up. I have a few suggestions, in fact.

Is it the minister's intention to settle the matter of live-in caregivers, severely criticized by the department of his colleague responsible for the status of women?

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8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, it is the same question. The funds already announced for Quebec will help the Government of Quebec achieve all of the objectives set by our agreement. It indicates that a system of integration is required for those arriving in Canada, arriving first in Quebec, to ensure they remain in Quebec and become Canadians residing in Quebec.

For next year, we have already announced $181.6 million. This is a good amount, which testifies to our seriousness with respect to integrating those who wish to live in Quebec.

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8:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Chair, I will put the question again. Is it the minister's intention to settle the matter of live-in caregivers, severely criticized by the department of his colleague responsible for the status of women?

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8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, in five seconds, I will say that we are doing everything we can to carry out government programs.

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8:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Chair, will the minister support immigrants where they are and provide access to officials nearby, providing them with administrative services even in the regions?

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8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, I have already said that the Government of Canada in cooperation with the provinces—in this case, the Government of Quebec—is trying to create these programs. Why say no?

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8:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Chair, I will help the minister. I will ask him the same question, but limit it to the province of Quebec and its regions.

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8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, we are in the process of implementing a new program that could be called services Canada. This program will help provide Canadians all the services they want and need from their government. That is precisely what we are doing in some provinces, in cooperation with the provincial government. In other provinces, we still work in cooperation with the provincial government, but the cost is absorbed by the federal government. Why? As the hon. member opposite knows, the Canadian government wants to provide services that satisfy the ambitions of Canadians throughout this beautiful country of ours.

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8:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Chair, a number of people have no legal status, as they come from countries under a moratorium. Under international conventions that Canada signed, these people cannot return to their home countries because of the terrible situations there.

However, Canada turns a deaf ear to those situations. It tolerates having these people here, but does not resolve their situation. Some have been here for over 10 years. Does the minister intend to resolve their situation, do more than make vague promises, and find a lasting solution for these humanitarian cases?

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8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, you have to allow me to speak much longer because this is one of my favourite themes. It is one of the six I listed a few months ago. We have already announced two. The third concerns undocumented workers, those whose status has not yet been regularized.

I indicated my intention to regularize these workers who are here and who are working hard for this country and for themselves, to create a society that is more open than the ones they left.

The necessary cooperative effort involving government departments, the provinces, unions, employers and non-governmental organizations has been undertaken to develop a program to address these requirements. The hon. member is starting to recognize the need for it. Fair measures have to be taken within the government. We are in the process of doing all that.

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8:15 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like the minister to clarify one small thing. Does the program he is announcing cover all categories, that is, workers without status because of the system, circumstances or treaties, essentially those under a moratorium, or does it cover more generally any worker without status, including those who are here illegally?

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8:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Chair, I have not announced anything yet. I am only talking about a debate, discussions to put a program in place, so that the government and my hon. colleagues here, who have worked very hard, can consider implementing such a program.

It is a program that we have begun to put in place with the cooperation and collaboration of departments, governments, unions and--

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8:15 p.m.

An hon. member

NGOs.

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8:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Yes, NGOs and businesses themselves. We have put all of those things together to arrive at something that includes something identifiable, definable and easily manageable, something that we could follow up on and evaluate. Once I have all those factors together and we get the resources in place in order to address them, then I would be prepared to make an announcement.

If the member is asking for a short answer, then we would say that we would start with a global address to the problem, try to identify that which is realizable and solvable immediately, and build from there.

We have to take the measures necessary to do everything that is realizable for now. For the short, medium and long term, we have other plans. But there is a framework within which we are starting to work, together with all those who will be directly or indirectly affected.

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8:15 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Chair, I would now like to address the IRB, the Immigration and Refugee Board. We can see that the budget for the coming year is approximately $10 million lower. I would like the minister to explain where such a reduction in need comes from?