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House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. Unfortunately, the time has expired. Members never have enough time for questions.

Resuming debate. The member for Shefford has the floor, but I will have to interrupt him at 6:30.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Réjean Genest NDP Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am a Canadian living in the 21st century, and I am proud to be recognized as a citizen of a host country. Yes, Canada is a host country. I have had the opportunity to travel in my lifetime and this has allowed me to discover three things, among others.

First, my Canadian identity is highly regarded, which is not a surprise. A number of young people came to my riding office this summer to pick up some Canadian flag stickers to put on their backpacks to ensure that they would treated well wherever they went and as a symbol of pride. Second, in other places I have been able to visit, such as Colombia, people do not have the same opportunities. Families are evicted from their land and violence is ever-present.

The third is existential in nature. While I am addressing you in this chamber, there are mothers and fathers who are hoping to give peace and joy to their families and to be able to feed them. They are hoping to come to Canada and build a better world with us. They are hoping to go to sleep at night knowing that all their children are asleep in their beds and that none of them have stepped on a mine. How many parents here are thinking of that?

Yes, there are other peace-loving people like you and me, Mr. Speaker, who want a good life. That is the hope of every human being. What is our duty? Is it to shut the door, to tell them that it is not our problem? In my riding of Shefford I have the opportunity to represent immigrants from 104 countries. That is right, 104 countries. You have no idea how pleased I am, as an MP, to be able to help them. I did not start this wonderful resettlement work. We have an organization known as SERY, or Solidarité ethnique régionale de la Yamaska. SERY does great work. It helps all manner of immigrants who have been in Canada for less than five years: refugees, independents, asylum seekers, caregivers, work permit holders—

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh,oh!

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. There is a lot of noise in the House. Hon. members are arriving for the upcoming vote. I ask them to take their seats.

The hon. member for Shefford.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Réjean Genest NDP Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, these newcomers make an important contribution in my community. There are professionals, agricultural workers and students. They have high hopes for their future, and that future is bright.

Why is this government trying so hard to change our Canadian identity? Our identity has been established. We are happy to live together and we want to continue building together. Why is this government trying so hard to have us believe that immigration is a threat? Why does this government not know how to appreciate this human wealth?

I am lucky to have an excellent doctor who immigrated to Canada. His expertise has been extraordinarily beneficial to me in these past few weeks.

I invite my colleagues to think back to January 2010, when Haiti was struck by an earthquake. The government had announced that it would facilitate the arrival of Haitians in Canada, including through the family reunification program. While family reunification claims can take up to three years to be processed under normal circumstances, the fast-tracked files could be settled within weeks, or in two or three months at most.

Remember that the Immigration Canada offices in Haiti were inaccessible; the Canadian Embassy building in Port-au-Prince had been evacuated for safety reasons.

“Accepting of any kind of additional applications or actual coordination on the ground in Haiti at the moment is extremely difficult,” said the Prime Minister during a press conference.

“It is impossible to recover the files that are in Port-au-Prince,” added the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

“We think it will take a couple weeks before we can start processing immigration applications from Haiti again,” explained the minister. “Some of the paperwork can be filled out and processed here in Canada,” he added.

Two facts should have been taken into account at the time: the entire world was tuned into this sad event and the government was in a minority position. Is this government acting out of partisanship or for the sake of democracy?

In closing, how do university professors define Canadian identity? In two words: multiculturalism and bilingualism. This is our identity and we want to preserve it.

I am asking this government to stop insisting on changing our perception of ourselves. We live and want to continue living in trust, not in mistrust.

The House resumed from September 29 consideration of the motion.

Opposition motion—Canadian EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. It being 6:30 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, September 29, 2011, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #35

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

Motion No. 5Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2011 / 6:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved that a ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures be concurred in.

Motion No. 5Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to order made Wednesday, September 28, 2011, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 5 under ways and means.

Motion No. 5Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you would find agreement to apply the vote from the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes.

Motion No. 5Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Motion No. 5Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motion No. 5Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP members will be voting no.

Motion No. 5Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals will be voting no.

Motion No. 5Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois members will be voting in favour of this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #36

Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to continue on with the question regarding the flooding that affected my region so much back in May and June.

The question being asked at the time was whether our soldiers would help us with the cleanup. I would like to point out that the people of Chambly—Borduas, including myself, owe a debt of gratitude to the soldiers who helped us. The soldiers helped the flood victims a great deal during the crisis. The problem has nothing to do with their work or their dedication, but rather with the mandate this government refused to give them.

When we were talking about the cleanup required after the flooding, one of the greatest unanswered questions was whether the soldiers would be allowed to stay to help flood victims with the cleanup. Many people in my riding told me that the biggest problem was not the crisis itself, but rather what was going to happen when the crisis was over. The government members told us that once the water level dropped, the crisis would be over. But that was far from true.

I will give examples of the psychological effects that can persist and of the help that our citizens needed. Gontran Courtois, from Saint-Mathias-sur-Richelieu, had to evacuate from his house because his basement was flooded with 38 inches of water. He said it was clear that they had to leave their home and that if they could have fought, they would have. People were prepared to fight for their homes and to stay there to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, they were not able to do so. They did not have the equipment or the manpower needed. The army could have provided that manpower if the government had given it the mandate. Once again, I am not criticizing the work of our soldiers, but the mandate that the government should have given them.

The Minister of Public Safety said that the army did not assist the flood victims to avoid competing with the private sector. I think that is unacceptable. In reality, the private sector did not come to assist the flood victims and help with the cleanup. It was the public sector. In articles about the big cleanup, which I participated in myself, it is clear that our fire departments and our blue-collar municipal workers are the ones who came to help. There is no reason that the municipalities should have to foot the bill. For example, in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, the cleanup cost reached a total of $150,000, and municipal employees were loaned to help with the cleanup. Meanwhile, the government had resources that could have helped these people, people who stood together and were prepared to help each other out, as we saw during the big cleanups.

I repeat: some soldiers came to help and we are very appreciative of that, but unfortunately, the government did not help.

7:05 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas for this important question that gives us an opportunity to set the record straight on this issue.

To begin, I must say that I heard him offer some criticism of our soldiers. I would like to assure him that the mandate given to the members of the Canadian Forces serving in Montérégie this spring was identical to the mandate given to those serving in other places dealing with flooding. Our soldiers took on the challenge in Montérégie with the same degree of professionalism and the same level of commitment as they do elsewhere and they put a lot of heart into their service. Our soldiers are not indifferent. They are never indifferent to the plight of their fellow Canadians, particularly in times of emergency or natural disaster when the homes and property of families, vulnerable individuals and seniors are in jeopardy.

Over the course of my speech, I would like to remind the hon. member just how hard the Canadian Forces worked to take on the challenge of the flooding in Montérégie. They were extremely flexible and demonstrated an unmatched level of professionalism for which they are very well known both in Quebec and in the other provinces of Canada.

The request was made by the Province of Quebec on May 4. The Canadian Forces began arriving in Montérégie within 8 hours. The advance guard of the contingent that was mobilized to deal with this situation arrived very quickly. The next day, May 5, there were 500 members of the Canadian Forces on site. These individuals were mobilized by the operations group for eastern Canada, which the hon. member knows is based in Montreal.

As the hon. member is surely aware, the water reached peak levels on May 6, 7 and 8 when the Canadian Forces also reached the height of their mobilization at 844 members on site in Montérégie to deal with the devastating flooding.

We are very sympathetic with the plight of those affected by floods in Quebec, but let us also keep in mind that this was an exceptional year with two rounds of flooding in Manitoba and forest fires in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Every response by Canada's armed forces needs to be seen in the context of the national obligations that they have, and this year they were really unprecedented, for reasons that we all know.

In the past year, the Canadian forces supported the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in the aftermath of hurricane Igor, rescued stranded motorists after a violent snowstorm in Ontario, provided security at the Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the G8 and G20 summits.

In replying to the member a second time, I would be very happy just to go over some of the details of the intervention that our forces undertook in Montérégie which saved hundreds of homes from further damage and which really prevented a difficult situation, a situation of exceptionally historical high floods from being much worse.

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would quickly like to remind my colleague that we did not intend to criticize the Canadian armed forces. The first mayor I spoke with after the election was the mayor of Saint-Basile-le-Grand, Mr. Bernard Gagnon. He reiterated some points, with which I was very much in agreement, such as the fact that members of the Canadian armed forces did an exceptional job helping the victims.

I would remind my hon. colleague that the question was whether the government would send the Canadian Forces to help with the cleanup, and that was not done. I will again repeat the comments of the Minister of Public Safety, who said that the Canadian armed forces would not help the victims clean up because he did not want the Canadian Forces to compete with the private sector. The people who came were not from the private sector. Our own people mobilized. They were from the public sector, the firefighters and blue-collar workers. It was our municipalities that rallied around us. Unfortunately, the government was unable to provide the assistance required.

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, our hon. colleague should know that the Canadian Forces—our army, navy and air force—are there to respond to emergency situations. They evacuated residents from the disaster areas; they protected infrastructure and hundreds of homes; they kept major roads passable; they filled and distributed thousands of sand bags—as many as 224,000 sand bags were distributed; and they spent 1,100 hours helping the community and doing check visits.

The contribution of the Canadian armed forces was very tangible. They were called out to an emergency. The waters returned and reached new heights, which resulted in the redeployment of the Canadian armed forces toward the end of May. That is the usual response to an emergency situation and we are very proud of their efforts.

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am once again raising in the House the question of where the plan is to make child care affordable for all Canadians. I raise it in the context that it is not only about social policy but is also good economic sense.

The group of organizations called A Living Wage for Families put out a public policy document that talks about how much good economic sense this is. It indicated that:

In 2007, over 75% of Canadian mothers participated in the labour force, yet, there were only child care spaces for 20.3% of children under age six in Canada. Moreover child care costs are on average 22% of the net family income for Canadians, well above other developed countries which average at 13%. Parents cannot work or take training without affordable, high quality, secure child care.

The article gives an example:

A publicly funded child care system in BC, similar to the one in Quebec, would reduce monthly child care costs to $280.00, or from 19.9% to 6.3% of the overall budget. This results in the hourly living rate decreasing to $14.72 an hour, a reduction of $4.09.

Of course, there are two things about this.

One is that quality, licensed, regulated, publicly funded child care actually contributes to the economic bottom line because it allows mothers and fathers to go to work and be assured that their children are well looked after.

Second, the submission to the finance committee 2012 pre-budget consultation by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition makes a recommendation that Canada place a high priority on increasing Canada's annual investment in early childhood care and early learning from our current 0.25% of GDP to the recommended UNICEF benchmark of 1% of GDP. We can see that we have a long way to go on that.

In addition, although this is provincial, here is the impact of what is happening in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan. The Kaatza child care in Lake Cowichan is closing its doors as a result of a provincial government announcement around subsidized funding, and in the last six months, the following child care programs in my region have closed: Footsteps Preschool, Serenity Cove Children's Centre, Jitterbugs Childcare, Majestic Cedars Child Care, Just Like Home Family Child Care, and Tree Tops Daycare.

An article today in one of the Nanaimo papers said that adjustments to child care subsidies worry parents. It talked about the fact that Nanaimo's poorest families are pulling their children out of after-school care because they can no longer afford the fees.

The bottom line result is that children under the age of six, five-year-old children in kindergarten, are sometimes being given a key and sent home to look after themselves because their parents simply cannot afford the after-school child care for their kids and they cannot afford to quite their jobs. Surely in this day and age we should be looking at the consequences that will have for children and their families.

In the same article, the owner of an after-school care facility says, “Parents have been put between a rock and a hard place. I'm seeing them choose between paying for daycare or putting food on the table...and if they choose food on the table, what happens to their children while they're at work?”

It goes on to say that parents have said they are working fewer hours to be home with their children after school, or they're sending their five-year-old home for a few hours with a house key, as I mentioned.

The NDP MLA, Leonard Krog, said that the new policy rules are forcing families to make poor choices that could potentially put children at risk.

My question to the parliamentary secretary is this: where is the plan for a national child care strategy?