Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party has very serious concerns about Bill C-50 and in the way it is being brought through the House.
The issue of an immigration policy and how we will move forward as a country is a crucial debate and discussion that needs to happen with all parties working together. It is not the kind of issue that can be slipped in through a confidence bill, in a budget bill, to basically stare down other members of Parliament, to try to sneak through, without proper scrutiny, and then to use the issue of the budget as a way to attack parties like the New Democratic Party, which is saying that this is an issue that needs clear and informed debate.
My family comes from the mining regions of northern Ontario and we were the multicultural society long before the urban centres were called multicultural. In those days, if a person was an immigrant, the person was brought over to Canada on short term work contracts to work the mines and to work the lumber camps.
It was well-known in the early days when my grandparents came from Scotland that they did not want to hire Canadian workers to work in the mines because of the accident rates and the pressures. They were having a 75% turnover at any given time in any of the hard rock mining communities, whether it was Kirkland Lake, Rouyn Noranda or Timmins.
During those times, short term work contracts were given to the Ukrainians, the Bulgarians, the Italians and the Croatians. These men were brought over separate from their wives. If they complained about conditions, they were deported. If they were sick because of their work in the mine, they were sent back to their countries to possibly die there.
The historic records in the north are heartbreaking stories of families, of men. The average life expectancy for a Ukrainian or Croatian man working in Timmins, Ontario up to the 1950s was 41 years of age. These men worked hard and they died.
At certain points in the history of the north, the immigration policies allowed some of the families to come over. We all understand that the immigrants who built this country played an important role, but it was their families who made Canada. It was the women coming over who actually built communities.
We have so many great people in our region. The immigrant women who came over could not speak English. Their kids went to school not speaking English or French, if they were in the Rouyn Noranda mining camp. However, they came here and learned the language. They became part of the community and they built the identity, the wonderful identity that we have in northern Ontario.
We have a long memory in northern Ontario of the exploitation that these families suffered. Anybody in Timmins will tell us about the mining widows, the women who were left basically destitute on the streets when their young husbands died in accidents. They were immigrants and could not speak the language. My grandmother, who was a mining widow, raised me and told me the stories of what they went through.
We are very concerned when we see a dramatic change to immigration policy in Canada that says we need to fast-track these temporary workers into Canada and get them into lower paid jobs so we can basically hyper-fuel an economy without a long term plan.
We all know that the government is here for one reason and one reason only. It is here to ensure that the Athabasca tar sands expands as fast as possible, as destructively as possible and with as much profit for the Texas oil companies as possible.
We are looking now at a shift where we are not talking about bringing in families and building immigrant communities that will actually develop the Canada of the 21st century. We are talking about the short term gain for the long term pain that our country will suffer and these immigrant families will also suffer.
We have a backlog of some 900,000 people who have followed the rules and who have gone through the process to prove they can be proud citizens like anyone else. These people will all be shunted to the side so that we can start to fast-track the workers coming into this country.
As an example, in my region, we are still very dependent on mining, forestry and long haul trucking. A trucker called me and told me that the federal government was bringing in foreign truckers, because with the rates they were being paid nobody could feed their family. Therefore, the government decides to create a special program and starts bringing in immigrant workers to undermine the long haul truckers in our country.
This is not the way we build an economy. It is certainly not the way we build community. That is how we undermine community.
We have seen the government use the threat of non-confidence again and again to bully its friends in the Liberal Party into submission, although I do not think it had to bully too hard. However, we will not bend on the issue of immigration. We will not simply roll over and play dead because the government huffs and puffs and tells us to.
There are so many fundamentally wrong things in the budget beyond this attempt to sneak the immigration bill through. For example, in my region I have two communities where there are no schools. We have a government that says “too bad”, that it does not have money to build first nations schools. This is a government that can buy helicopters to ship to Afghanistan. This is a government that can send money all over the world any time it wants. This is a government that when any of its friends ask for help, the help is there. Yet children of so many communities, whether it is Kashechewan, or Fort Severn, or Attawapiskat, or North Spirit Lake or Cat Lake, are going to schools that are held in former maintenance sheds.
Whenever I raise in the House, I always hear the chuckle of smug satisfaction from the Conservative members. They think it is absolutely absurd that this issue is raised, as though how dare we raise the issue of children in our country who are denied the most basic education rights.
Education is a fundamental human right. When I say it is a fundamental human right, it is not an airy-fairy concept. As defined by the United Nations, a country has to have a plan for education. Even third world countries have plans for education. Yet we see the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's absolute disinterest in the issue of building schools. He cannot point to a school he has built. He has taken the money from the budget, a very underfunded budget for Indian Affairs, and spent it elsewhere. He tells 13 year old children that some communities are worse off than them, and that is supposed to be some kind of response.
That is not a response. A response is to say that there are 20, to 30, to 40 communities without schools and that we need a plan. That is what a leader does. A leader says how do we address this and a plan will be set up to do so, but not the government.