House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pfos.


6:55 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan


Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I join the debate on this topic. In particular, I acknowledge and thank the hon. member for Ahuntsic for her ongoing interest in immigration matters. I have listened with great interest to her views and concerns. Though we might differ on a number of issues, I know we share a common belief in the vital role that immigration has played and continues to play in the social fabric of our wonderful country, Canada.

At the outset, I would like to once again reiterate the fundamental and unwavering commitment that the Prime Minister and the government have made toward better supporting outcomes for newcomers to Canada to ensure they can fully integrate and contribute to our communities and economy.

The hon. member has raised a specific question and concern over people living in Lebanon who are applying for permanent residence in Canada and who must do so through the Canadian Embassy in Damascus, Syria.

I would like to take this opportunity to outline the extensive presence of Canada's offices in support of the commitment we have made to the Middle Eastern region regarding immigration to Canada.

Canada has an extensive presence in the world and in the Middle East and it tries to ensure as much reasonable access as possible.

The minister, in his last appearance before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, left the committee with the message that there was a greater need for a focus on improving outcomes for clients of the department.

The regional processing centre in Damascus, Syria, is Canada's largest in the Middle East. It currently is supported by 11 Canada-based officers, one migration integrity officer and 36 locally engaged staff. The decision to locate the processing centre in Damascus was based on its relative stability and infrastructure.

The majority of the centre's clientele are either Iranian or Lebanese. In the two years, 2003 to 2005, 41% of the permanent resident applications received at this centre were from Iranian citizens, 23% from Lebanese residents and 15% of the applicants were made by Iraqi citizens.

However, I would also like to point out that our Damascus processing centre is directly supported by satellite missions in Beirut, Lebanon, Tehran, Iran, and Amman, Jordan. These vital satellite missions process applications for study and work permits and documents relating to permanent resident travel.

Our office in Amman, Jordan, performs immigrant interviews on behalf of the Damascus processing centre for sponsored spouses and children from Iraq and Jordan.

The satellite office in Beirut, Lebanon, processes all types of temporary resident applications, as well as those for permanent resident travel documents. It also performs immigrant interviews on behalf of the regional processing centre in Damascus for sponsored spouses and children from Lebanon. In most cases, there is no need for an interviewee to travel outside of Lebanon.

Recent world events, such as has been mentioned by the hon. member, have led many representatives and family members of Lebanese applicants to express concerns about the need to travel to Damascus for interviews.

Our officials in Damascus have verified with clients that there have been no difficulties crossing the border between Lebanon and Syria. We have been monitoring the situation very closely for some time, and will continue to do so. This approach is consistent with and reflects our policies and actions in regard to supporting those wishing to immigrate to Canada from the Middle East.

I hope I provided some beneficial contribution to the proceedings tonight.

7 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.

It seems to me that we are being ridiculed. In fact, the parliamentary secretary has just repeated the exact text written on the sheet I received from CIC, namely, the answer to the committee. I am not here to have something read to me.

Here is what I would like to know about these people, Lebanese people who are applying to move here. Can they have their applications for permanent residence fully processed at the Canadian Embassy in Beirut? When these people cross borders, they are humiliated, they are afraid and very stressed. Borders are sometimes closed and they cannot cross. Their appointments are cancelled and postponed for up to nine months. This is unacceptable.

The infrastructure exists in Syria. It must be fully exploited. The sovereignty of that country must be respected. That country, which is full of tension, must be respected. It is as if we here in Canada were told we had to go to the United States to apply to go to Cuba.

7 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

7 p.m.


Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I can certainly understand and appreciate the frustration expressed by my hon. colleague. The department will do whatever it can to ensure the infrastructure and facilities it has will be used to the maximum effect to ensure the best result possible can be achieved.

Since forming government we have put an extraordinary effort into immigration and immigration policy to ensure the outcomes are there. It has been a priority of this department to monitor very closely the access and process provided to those aspiring to become citizens of Canada.

Whether it be from here or from abroad, we are interested in improving outcomes wherever possible. Our embassies abroad and their officials who support them are doing their utmost to see that all the information and avenues are made known and available to those considering Canada as their new home and, most important, that they are respected and protected under international law and are able to proceed through the process to become Canadian citizens.

7:05 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, on June 7, I asked the Minister of Agriculture two questions. The first concerned the government's position on supply management and its defence of this Canadian success story at the WTO. The second question concerned whether the government would allow western Canadian grain farmers the right to decide in a plebiscite based on a clear and direct question whether they support the single desk selling function of the board, yea or nay.

On June 7 the government failed to answer either question and its actions since that date have demonstrated that it has no intention of really defending strenuously our supply management producers, nor does the Harper government have anything but contempt for the--

7:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member is an experienced member of the House. He knows that we do not name other members of the House, not directly and not indirectly.

7:05 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, nor does the government have anything but contempt for the democratic process when it comes to allowing western grain producers the right to decide the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

With respect to supply management, the government demonstrated what can only be contempt for, one, its campaign promise and, two, contempt for those primary producers involved in the dairy industry saying that it supports the industry but is not really supporting the report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food that was tabled in the House which was support for the industry.

Worse yet, the government came in talking about free votes and, by the look of the pinched faces on the members opposite, they were basically whipped into the position of supporting the government in terms of opposing the resolution of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Three, I think we will eventually see that there will be contempt from the majority of the members of the House if the government fails to act on the vote taken in the House on June 13.

As I said a moment ago, the Prime Minister promised free votes during the election campaign and on Tuesday we saw anything but that from the Conservative Party of Canada.

On point two, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said that he and the government strongly supported supply management and yet when it came to voting the Conservatives turned against farmers and voted in the opposite direction.

On point three, the vote against defending our dairy producers was bad enough but, to compound that contempt for our producers, the minister attempted to belittle the report and recommendations in a motion supported by the majority of members of the House and flatly refused to do what the House had in fact ordered.

On the issue of the Canadian Wheat Board, the government has given every indication, through testimony at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, that it does not intend to hold a plebiscite on a direct question as to whether western grain farmers support the single desk selling feature of the board or not.

At committee the parliamentary secretary to the minister, in a similar fashion to the minister, refused to state that the government would allow for such a vote, a vote that is prescribed under the Canadian Wheat Board Act and a vote that would allow all producers holding a permit book to express their support or opposition to the single desk selling role of the board.

7:05 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan


David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary (for the Canadian Wheat Board) to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I am here tonight in response to a question that was asked by the member on the subject of support of supply management. He did not indicate that he wanted to deal with the issue of the Canadian Wheat Board at this point. It is more likely that we will be dealing with it next week and we look for his support, particularly on the private member's bill, Bill C-300, that is coming in from my colleague from Battlefords--Lloydminster.

I want to address the issue that he asked us to talk about. That is the subject of support for supply management and the WTO negotiations.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to reaffirm this government's commitment to pursuing a positive outcome for all of the Canadian agricultural sectors in the current World Trade Organization agriculture negotiations.

Canada is working hard at the WTO to achieve a more level international playing field through the elimination of export subsidies, a substantial reduction of trade-distorting domestic support, and real and significant market access improvements.

Achievement of these objectives would provide significant benefit to Canada by helping all of our producers and processors to compete more effectively in a fairer international marketplace.

For example, this government recognizes the importance of these negotiations for our exporters. Canada is the world's fourth largest agrifood exporter, with exports of $26.2 billion in 2005, and we want to build on this success.

That is why we are seeking an ambitious outcome at the WTO. We are continuing to push hard for a tariff reduction formula that would offer our exporters the prospect of substantially improved access into key developed and developing countries.

We are also pressing for very significant cuts to the trade-distorting domestic subsidies that countries like the United States and the European Union currently offer their producers. For this reason, we are pleased that the negotiations are structured around the concept of having the biggest subsidizers make the largest reductions.

These achievements, and also the agreement reached by WTO members to eliminate export subsidies by 2013, will go a very long way to helping our exporters compete successfully at the global level.

At the same time, this government recognizes that Canada has both offensive and defensive interests in these negotiations. Our negotiating position reflects the diversity and strength of our sector and that sector includes both export oriented and supply managed industries.

I have outlined already how we are working hard for our exporters. I want to emphasize that this government strongly supports Canada's supply management system. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has made this commitment very clear. The government believes that Canada's supply management system is a successful choice for our dairy, egg and poultry producers.

This commitment to supply management is evident in how hard we are working in Geneva on behalf of this sector. It is a fact that we are facing significant pressure at the WTO on key issues of importance to our supply management system. Nevertheless, this government remains committed to aggressively defending all of our agricultural interests.

7:10 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will give the parliamentary secretary the benefit of the doubt on the question. Really, on June 7, my question covered both supply management and, in the supplementary, the Canadian Wheat Board. As I said, we got answers on neither that day.

The parliamentary secretary's remarks really relate to the negotiations done by the previous minister in the previous government in terms of getting the bans and the higher reduction for the EU, Japan and the United States.

The parliamentary secretary failed to address the key point of my question. How strong is the government's support for supply management?

We on this side agree with a balanced position. In fact, the industry wanted a balanced position in terms of our export oriented commodities and our supply managed and orderly market commodities.

He failed to mention in his response what the government's position is on the sensitive products category. We have gained substantial ground in terms of sensitive products with other international partners. What is the government's position on that category, which will allow supply management to function?

7:10 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has emphasized many times, the success of the Doha round is important for all of Canadian agriculture. We are going to continue to work closely with other WTO members, with the provinces and with Canada's industry stakeholders, including both the exporters and the supply managed industries, toward completing the WTO negotiations by the end of this year.

The WTO agriculture negotiations are in an intensive phase. Canada is actively engaged in playing an important part in advancing those negotiations. The minister is planning to be in Geneva at the end of the month to continue to work hard for an outcome that protects and advances the interests of all of Canadian agriculture.

As the negotiations progress, we will continue to seek the best possible outcome for Canada at the WTO. As the minister has made very clear, even as Canada faces real pressure on some issues in these negotiations, we cannot and will not walk away. We will stay at the table. We will continue to listen closely to our industry on how to advance Canada's interests. We will continue to seek the best possible outcome for all of Canadian agriculture.

7:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:15 p.m.)