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House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigrants.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Vancouver Island North should note that there is a minute left for both the question and the answer.

Opposition Motion--Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Very quickly then, Mr. Speaker, other members in the House this morning talked about family reunification. As we know, I have constituents who are married to people from other countries. In one case the husband is in Canada and is supporting the wife in another country, and she is having a hard time coming to this country. She was told on the government website that it would take only five to ten months to come here, but it has been a very lengthy process. It is taking a lot longer than that. It is taking up to three years.

If the government were to commit to putting more money into hiring staff instead of just putting money into the department, does the member think that would that help these situations? Does the member have any other mechanisms that the government might use to speed up the processes?

Opposition Motion--Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Repentigny has 10 seconds to answer the question.

Opposition Motion--Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe that injecting more money would easily solve the problem. The refugee appeal division does not cost a great deal. It would reportedly cost less. With more money, the government could process many more cases.

Opposition Motion--Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber.

Opposition Motion--Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, when we address the House, we often begin, “I am pleased to rise in this House to speak on X, Y or Z”. Unfortunately, I must say that this is not the case today. Quite frankly, I am not very happy about speaking to this matter in this House. It is a very sad topic. I am very sorry to see that the matter has not yet been resolved.

We support the motion because the government is not doing its part for immigrants. It is sad to see that we are talking about human beings in extremely difficult situations and to note that the government's only excuse for doing nothing is the Liberal's incompetence over the past 13 years. We know that the Liberals did not get the job done. They did not implement the refugee appeal division, as discussed earlier by my colleague for Repentigny. That does not justify the failure to take action.

As an MP, I represent the people in the riding of Jeanne-Le Ber, in the southwestern part of Montreal. In my riding, there are many immigrants, people who are trying to immigrate, refugees or individuals attempting to obtain refugee status and who want to settle and live there.

Many of these people come to my riding office because they are having problems with immigration. I meet with a number of them and I must say that, since I have been elected here, these are the saddest and most difficult moments in my work as a member of Parliament. The stories these people tell me are always sad and heartbreaking.

To see that the government is not able to implement simple mechanisms to help victims of arbitrary or bad decisions, to see people come cry in my office because they have to tell their painful story all over again and go over all their suffering so that I can help them, I always find this difficult.

I am urging the minister to use her power and make some decisions in order to resolve these absurd cases and resolve such situations. In any event, this should not be the normal way of functioning. There should be a refugee appeal division in order to allow these people to appeal a decision. This does not seem so unreasonable to me.

Earlier, my Conservative Party colleague from the Quebec City area asked a question. I am not sure if he was trying to prove that he was not listening to the presentation by the hon. member for Repentigny. I am not sure what he was trying to prove, but he asked a question in which he explained the case of a person who keeps appealing and where the procedures go on for months, even years. In my opinion, this is a good illustration of something that is quite common. The possibility of appealing is not a quirk in our legal system. We acknowledge the possibility for error.

Why, when we talk about the board members' decisions in matters of refugee status, do we not think it is normal, the same way we would for any other court ruling, for there to be an appeal?

Many of the board members are doing good work, but we cannot say the same about all of them. These appointments have often been questioned for their relevance, their partisan nature and the fact that they are not always based on qualification alone. There are cases where the board members reject practically every claim that comes their way. It is not very likely that one board member just happens to receive only unfounded cases.

To me, this is a strong signal that there is something wrong somewhere in the system. Perhaps these board members are not doing their work the way they should.

I may be mistaken, but I would like to suggest that the problem is that we have no way of knowing, because there is no refugee appeals division and no tribunal, administrative or otherwise, that makes it possible to review the board members' decisions. If such bodies were in place, we would be able to find out if there were any problems with certain board members. It seems to me that that would put a little pressure on them and encourage them to do their jobs as meticulously as possible. As I said, I am certain that most commissioners do their jobs well. However, I know that some do not.

Can we accept that the fate of individuals who come here claiming they are being persecuted in their own country is decided by a roll of the dice, that is, depending on which board member is assigned to their case? Do we not value human life enough to say that people who come here from around the world should not have their fate decided by a roll of the dice? We should give them a legitimate opportunity to appeal and to have a just and fair hearing. That is the issue before us today.

I would like to talk about an individual in my riding—Mr. Abdelkader Belaouini, who has been living in sanctuary at Saint-Gabriel church in Pointe-Saint-Charles for over a year. He is living in sanctuary because the government is still threatening to deport him, to send him back to the country he came from, despite the fact that he has successfully integrated into the Quebec community. He has the support of the entire community of Pointe-Saint-Charles. He did volunteer work in our riding for several months. In fact, the only reason he has not worked is that he is prohibited from doing so.

He is a very courageous man. He is diabetic and suffers from blindness. Despite all that, he wants to make a contribution to Quebec society. He has done that as a volunteer. He wants to do more, he wants to work, but he is prevented from doing so. This individual had the misfortune to come before a board member who, to all intents and purposes, denied every request he made.

I am not an expert on immigration, but I am persuaded that if Abdelkader Belaouini had been able to appeal the board member's decision and his case had been truly considered on its merits, including what he offers us and what he wants to do, he would probably not be taking refuge in a sanctuary today. Instead, he would be working, making a contribution to our society and helping our community to progress. He would be doing great things for us.

I am not certain, I am not an expert, but if we had at least had the refugee appeal division, we could have been sure, and we could have taken this farther.

In my opinion, this is a concrete example of what is not being done by the government. It was not done in the past by the Liberals. My colleague from Repentigny has observed how ironic this is. Today, the Liberals, who are in opposition, are saying that the government is doing nothing for refugees when they had 13 years to do something but did nothing. Nevertheless, that irony must not be used by the Conservatives as an excuse for continuing down the same path.

To conclude, I would like to issue an invitation to any of my colleagues here in this House who intends to vote against this motion. I invite them to come to my constituency office and meet someone who is in fear for his or her life, to explain to that person why we do not allow him or her to appeal the decision, and how the die was cast because the person happened to come before the wrong board member. That is my challenge to anyone in this House who intends to vote against this motion.

Opposition Motion--Citizenship and ImmigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but we will now proceed to statements by members. When the debate resumes, he will have five minutes left for questions and comments.

Robert SutherlandStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is North Star Legacy/Reconciliation Day, which is part of Black History Month 2007, and the J'Nikira Dinqinesh Education Centre, along with Library and Archives Canada and Queen's University, will present Excellence and Nobility.

Excellence and Nobility honours the excellence and legacy of Jamaica-born Queen's University graduate Robert Sutherland, as well as the nobility and legacy of the 19th century founders, faculty, students and associates of Queen's, who treated Sutherland “like a gentleman”.

In 1849 at age 17, Sutherland, born in Jamaica of African ancestry, during slavery, was the 60th student enrolled at Queen's. He excelled and went on to great things. His fortune, left to Queen's College, and if Queen's should fail, to Reverend George M. Grant, Principal of Queen's, saved his alma mater from bankruptcy.

Let us remember Robert Sutherland and celebrate his place in our history.

Bruce McBlainStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to an outstanding member of my riding of Brant, Mr. Bruce McBlain, who died recently.

Bruce was the owner and founding president of Blaindale Farms, which has been a very successful farming operation. His diligence was recognized in 1995 when he was named Brant County Farmer of the Year.

Bruce's dedication to the environment was recognized in 2003, when he received the Brant Environmental Stewardship Award for his leadership in agricultural land stewardship and conservation within our community.

Bruce was an exceptional business leader and his far-sighted leadership skills were recognized when he was awarded the Caledonia Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bruce and his late wife Bernice raised eight children, all of whom they were very proud, and the farming operation that he founded is being carried on by family members. His legacy will live on.

Scout WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, on February 22 each year, scouts in Quebec commemorate the birthday of someone who wanted young people to be everything they could be, the founder of the scouting movement, Lord Robert Baden-Powell.

Through its community involvement and its concern for the environment, the scouting movement is helping to shape leaders in all areas of society, around the world.

Scouts in Quebec are celebrating Scout Week from February 18 to 24, but are also preparing to mark the 100th anniversary of scouting. As part of the anniversary celebrations, scouts will be on the Hill on August 1.

The Bloc Québécois and I congratulate these young people and thank all those who have kept the scouting movement alive for 100 years.

Chinese CanadiansStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, after the 1886 great fire razed Vancouver, 60 hectares of land near Main Street north of False Creek was leased to some 100 Chinese immigrants. They were given the land rent free for 10 years provided they worked it. This was the origin of today's Vancouver Chinatown.

However, mounting discrimination against the Chinese led to a riot on February 23, 1887. An angry mob of 300 assembled to run the Chinese out of town. They destroyed the Coal Harbour shantytown and roughed up its residents, some of whom escaped by jumping into the frigid waters.

Two policemen stood their ground between the mob and the Chinese labourers and ordered the mob to disperse. While the riot ended without serious injuries, it did send a clear message to the Chinese that they were not wanted, and they left for New Westminster, Alberta and Ontario.

At the time of the riot, Chinese residents did not have the vote. This was the beginning of the head tax era, when overt discrimination was legitimized by racist legislation, including the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act, which largely prohibited Chinese immigration until 1947.

We must never forget this difficult history and we must ensure it is never repeated.

Lloyd ClemettStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the first world war almost 650,000 Canadians, nearly one-tenth of our population, gave up the safety and comfort of their homes and their loved ones to defend our freedom. Nearly 69,000 of these brave Canadians also gave their lives to protect our way of life and to restore peace and defend democracy.

Today it is my sad duty to confirm the passing of Lloyd Clemett, one of Canada's last known first world war veterans. Mr. Clemett was a remarkable man who remained as proud to be Canadian as when he first wore the uniform.

It is the Lloyd Clemetts of our country who unite members of Parliament as few things can. Our love and respect for our veterans crosses party lines and brings our regions together as one proud and great nation.

As we gather in this House today, together and in our own individual solitude, we are reminded yet again that we serve here only because our veterans have served Canada so bravely and so courageously.

We must never forget that. We must never forget Mr. Clemett and the many brave men and women who contributed so much to making our country what it is. We are forever grateful.

Beijing Concord CollegeStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Albina Guarnieri Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago I had the privilege of participating in the launch of a new connection between Canada and China. In many ways it was a new silk road, a silk road of education.

The Beijing Concord College is a demonstration that Canada and China are ready to build a future of shared experience, merged possibilities and joint ventures. This college was the first of its kind to offer students in Beijing a Canadian education and Canadian credentials through the support and partnership of the government of New Brunswick.

Today more than 400 graduates have degrees from Canadian universities and thousands more will build the kinds of trade and cultural links that no trade mission could ever achieve.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the college, I would like to congratulate its founder, Dr. Francis Pang, for building a truly pan-Pacific, binational school that has put Canada on the minds of thousands and will bring thousands of great minds to Canada.

Anti-terrorism ActStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to urge all members of this House to think carefully regarding the motion to extend two provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act. Their actions on this vote will have serious repercussions.

The family members of victims of the Air-India bombing have been waiting 22 years for closure, and the decision by the Liberal leader to vote against extending the security measures puts this closure in jeopardy.

Despite claims from the opposition that it is open to amending the provisions, this is simply not possible. Calls to have the powers amended before they expire are legally naive. The Criminal Code calls for a resolution indicating yea or nay. It allows nothing more.

We know the Liberal leader has said that it is difficult “to make priorities”, but I would ask him this: will he put the safety and security of Canadians as a number one priority and vote yes?

Montreal High Lights FestivalStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, this winter, for the eighth year, Montrealers will be warmed by light, good food and performing arts during the Montreal High Lights Festival, which will take place from February 22 to March 4.

Outdoors, festival goers can enjoy a whole series of events at the old port. The festival also offers a wine and dine experience, the only one of its kind in the world. And with honorary co-presidents Angèle Dubeau and singer Johnny Clegg from South Africa, you will thrill to 30 different performances.

The festival is designed to liven up the downtown area in winter and promote Montreal as a city of celebration, performing arts and fine dining. The previous seven editions have helped achieve that goal, and the festival is warming Montrealers' spirits for 10 days again this year.

This year's festival promises to be just as exciting as all the rest, and you are all invited to come and dance, dine and be dazzled by the winter lights of Montreal for the 10 days of festivities.

Anti-terrorism ActStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is in revolt. Its own leader refuses to support the extension of crucial measures in the Anti-terrorism Act. These measures are critical in protecting Canada against terrorists. Even the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld these anti-terrorist laws.

Last June, 18 men were arrested for allegedly planning to attack targets in Ontario, including these very Parliament buildings. Only two weeks ago, al-Qaeda threatened to attack Canada's oil industry.

Victims of the Air-India tragedy are furious that the Air-India inquiry has hit a major roadblock. Why? Because the opposition is soft on terrorism.

B'nai Brith Canada is calling on the Liberals to stand tall against terrorism and so are former Liberal cabinet ministers, yet the Liberal opposition leader will not support legislation that his own former government created.

Canadians deserve better. I say to the Liberals, do the right thing and extend the anti-terrorism provisions.

George HydeStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, “we all need to meet someone like George”. Those are the words of Alan Dean on the passing of his long-time friend, George Hyde. When George died on January 28, those of us who had the privilege of knowing him realized immediately that our community had lost a true gentleman.

From his humble roots, working as a paper boy and busboy before going into the insurance business, George became a stalwart volunteer in Montreal's West Island community.

A self-educated man, George's knowledge was encyclopedic. Although he suffered from acute myopia, George never let it prevent him from becoming one of the most well-read people I have known.

He joined groups like the Montreal Association for the Blind and the West Island Low Vision Self-Help Association to ensure others with low vision would also overcome perceived limitations in their lives.

Above all, George will be remembered as a considerate, earnest, endearing man, who was always uncompromisingly kind.

Anti-terrorism ActStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada lost hundreds of its citizens in a single terrorist attack in the horrendous Air-India bombing.

With that in mind, Canada's new government has stated its commitment to a full inquiry, promised by the Prime Minister when he met with the families of the Air-India victims.

It is the Conservative government's sincere hope that this inquiry may bring a measure of closure to those who still grieve for their loved ones lost, but the Liberal leader wants to take away the very provisions in the Anti-terrorism Act that would allow authorities to investigate.

By rejecting a bill their own caucus drafted, the Liberals are preventing the families of the Air-India victims from getting the inquiry they deserve.

Canada's new government is serious and unwavering in its commitment to give law enforcement the tools it needs to safeguard our nation against terrorism.

I call on the Liberals to reconsider their partisan stand on our national security.

Canada-U.S. RelationsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the government intends to make further concessions to the Bush administration.

The government foolishly sold out our softwood industry and gave away $1 billion, and the Americans now say they are not happy. We warned the government that the Bush administration would take the money and run and that is exactly what has happened.

Tomorrow the Conservatives will show further submission under the so-called security and prosperity partnership. It is not a partnership but a series of concessions started by the Liberals and accelerated by the Conservatives.

It leads to the surrender of Canadian energy, health, food safety, immigration, environmental, military and security policies to American decision and control.

Tomorrow why do the Conservatives not press for joint efforts to fight global warming, poverty and hunger and perhaps stand up for Canada? No, they just do not have a backbone.

The Conservatives and Liberals will pay the price for their sellout of Canada.

HomelessnessStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is turning a deaf ear to hundreds of social agencies whose funding for homelessness is running dry.

As Canadians are well aware, the new government has made it a practice to slash social programs initiated by the former Liberal government, relaunching them under the neo-con brand name. This political brinkmanship only ends up hurting hardest those who are most in need.

In Toronto and across the country homelessness funding under the previous SCPI program will leave social agencies with a six month funding gap until the homelessness partnering program comes into effect sometime later this year.

In the meantime, non-profit organizations are preparing to lay off front line staff workers who work with homeless people.

Will the federal government grant at least a six month extension of the current SCPI funding so that agencies can continue to work to end homelessness in Canada?

Ingrid BetancourtStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of Ingrid Betancourt's captivity. It has been nearly five years since Ingrid Betancourt was first detained in the Colombian jungle by FARC guerilla forces, along with thousands of other civilians.

Ms. Betancourt is a senator and former candidate in the Colombian presidential election. Sadly, she was not able to achieve what she was fighting for, because she was kidnapped for having the courage of her convictions and denouncing the corruption and violence that plague her country.

For now, the only hope on the horizon is the encouragement from support groups and people around the world who, through their actions and activism, remind us of the fight, led by this extraordinary woman, for a new Colombia.

As I have done in the past, I am calling on the federal government once again to put pressure on Colombian authorities in order to promote a peaceful approach to restoring the peace and social justice sought by the vast majority of Columbians.

We must take action to ensure that this sad anniversary is the last.

Jocelyn CoulonStatements By Members

February 22nd, 2007 / 2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight the recent appointment of Jocelyn Coulon to the Board of Governors of the International Development Research Centre.

Mr. Coulon is a visiting researcher at the Université de Montréal's centre for international research and study and director of the centre’s French-speaking network on peace operations research.

Mr. Coulon was director of the Montreal campus of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre from February 1999 to December 2003 and director of international information at the daily newspaper Le Devoir from 1987 to 1989.

He is also well-known for his weekly columns on international politics in the newspaper La Presse, as well as for his frequent appearances as a commentator on television programs.

With his skills and credibility, Mr. Coulon is ideally suited to help the IDRC redefine its orientations and priorities.

Speaking for myself and as Chair of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, I would like to offer him my hearty congratulations on taking up this new challenge. I have no doubt that he will be highly successful as he continues to serve our country's best interests.

Air-India InquiryStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history remains unsolved and unexplained.

After 22 years, the families of the victims of the Air-India bombing are still waiting for closure and justice, which is why our government called for a public inquiry into this tragedy. However, now the opposition parties are threatening to hinder the investigation.

The RCMP plans to use provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act to compel Air-India suspects to testify before a judge. Prominent Liberals, including two former deputy prime ministers, agree that this is widely important but the leader of the Liberal Party is saying that he will not allow the provisions to stand.

Failing to approve an extension of the Anti-terrorism Act will kill an essential investigative tool in the Air-India inquiry.

Partisan politics should not trump public safety or justice. Let us permit the Air-India inquiry to get on with its job and ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

The Prime MinisterOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister attacked my integrity and the integrity of my family.

Now that he has had some time to think, will the Prime Minister simply retract his remarks?

The Prime MinisterOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I first must say that I met earlier today with representatives of the families of the 300 Canadians who were killed on the Air-India flight. As we all know, this is an important matter.

Although I do not accept the premise of the hon. member's question, I will say that this government will undertake any action necessary to ensure that we put in place the measures to allow the police to do their investigation and to ensure that these things never occur again.