House of Commons Hansard #16 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was smugglers.


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

6:05 p.m.


Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Madam Speaker, like many of my colleagues I spent the summer in my riding, Pierrefonds—Dollard, a riding in which more than 30% of the people are immigrants who have come to Canada from all over the world to search for a better way of life for themselves and for their children. I therefore often had the opportunity to take up discussions about issues relating to immigration. I heard a lot of frustrations and concerns about the management of immigration in Canada.

My introductory remarks may appear unrelated to the bill being discussed today, and I understand that the connection may seem tenuous, however I ask for your indulgence. I cannot open my remarks today without relaying the disappointment felt by my fellow citizens at our failure today to discuss their true concerns, such as immigration application processing times, the non-recognition of foreign credentials, and the dearth of funding for immigrant settlement and adaptation assistance.

Now that I have conveyed this displeasure, and since the discussion today concerns not this issue but rather coercive action against refugees, I shall now address Bill C-4.

I would like now to turn to research from Amnesty International, which shows that in Australia, unsympathetic views from the population toward asylum seekers are not racially motivated, nor do they stem from a lack of compassion; rather, the research found that community fear of asylum seekers stems from the media and both major political parties.

I think it is fair to suspect that our own government is guilty of diffusing such fears. Let us think back, for example, to 2009 and 2010, when immigrants arrived off the shores of B.C. in two different vessels, and the Conservative government of the day showed fear that a significant number of those individuals might have links with the Tamil Tigers, a listed terrorist organization. On that particular matter, Amnesty International reminds us that it is legal to seek asylum by boat under international and domestic law, and that nearly all asylum seekers who arrive by boat are real refugees.

This bill would in fact create two classes of refugees: one class of refugees who arrive by boat, and another class made up of all the others. In this regard, the Canadian Council for Refugees states that this is discriminatory and contrary to the charter, which guarantees equality before the law.

My colleague from Saint-Lambert made a very interesting remark: people do not necessarily choose how they escape a natural disaster or menacing regime; they take the first opportunity that arises to save their lives or that of their children. I know that it is inconceivable, but this bill would create two classes of refugees based on method of arrival.

One could be forgiven for wondering why the government has introduced this bill when it has made previous attempts to pass similar legislation. Why has the government not opted instead to introduce changes to assist in combating traffickers rather than refugees? I just alluded to the disparity in the treatment reserved for the two classes of refugees under this bill, but more to the point, this government is engaging in the rhetoric of fear. They refer to immigrants as potential terrorists. They speak of security rather than of issues involving immigration and citizenship. And yet, I believe this to be a matter of immigration and citizenship rather than national security.

On another note, I should stress that this bill would allow for the arbitrary detention of refugees. This matter has been discussed at length, so I will not belabour the point, but this bill could authorize the detention of refugees on the basis of the minister's suspicions or the refugee’s method of arrival. I would however like to focus specifically on the treatment of children under this bill.

I join my voice to that of the Canadian Counsel for Refugees and many other organizations that condemn the raft of measures proposed in Bill C-4, measures that fly in the face of our obligations to refugees and, of course, to children. Indeed, in addition to the proposed measures regarding detention, this bill would slow down the family reunification application process and prohibit applications to travel abroad for a period of several years.

On the matter of child detention, the Australian Human Rights Commission tabled a brief in May 2004 in the Australian parliament stating that child refugee detainees’ rights were repeatedly violated. More specifically, the Commission reported that Australian immigration detention law fails to protect children's mental health, provide appropriate health care, protect children's right to an education, and does not necessarily protect children in need of assistance or those with a disability.

Children arriving in Canada already face a number of challenges, even if they arrive under optimal conditions. They have to learn the language and adapt to the climate, a new culture and a new school system that is very different, and often they then have to help their parents and family integrate into this new country when they are sometimes the only one in the family who knows the language or the culture. With these coercive measures, children will hardly be arriving under optimal conditions conducive to their integration into the country.

We have every right to wonder if Bill C-4 aims to protect the rights of these children whom the government plans to so summarily detain if they are refugees that are suspicious or arrive by boat.

Our country signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and I am very proud of that fact. This convention states that signatory states must take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect children and to prevent all types of abuse, neglect or negligent treatment. Those protection measures are not being discussed today. We are talking about Bill C-4 and the possibility of detaining children, but we are not talking about what else will be put in place to protect these children who may be put into detention centres. What will be done to ensure that these children receive an education and care? That is not being discussed, and that is very worrying.

The New Democratic Party promised Canadians that it would develop a fair, efficient, transparent and accountable immigration system and that it would put an end to restrictive immigration measures rooted in secrecy and arbitrary decisions by ministers.

We also think it is important to increase resources to reduce the unacceptable backlogs in processing immigration applications, with an emphasis on speeding up family reunification. These are certainly not priorities that are reflected in Bill C-4.

The problem is that the Conservatives are saying that this bill will help reduce the magnitude of human trafficking. In reality, the bill as currently worded puts too much power in the hands of the immigration minister and unfairly penalizes refugees, as we discussed just now with my colleague. We see more than just measures for reducing trafficking. We also see measures that penalize newcomers.

My colleagues and I agree that we have to address trafficking and smugglers, but we are seeing more than that. The thing that worries me about this bill is the way refugees are treated.

Refugee determination by independent decision-makers is a fundamental aspect of a fair justice system. The way we receive refugees is often cited by the international community as a model of fair treatment, but this bill risks putting us in another category. It would not be the last time we disappointed the international community.

Can the minister tell us when the government is going to stop going after refugees and focus only on the criminals?

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

6:20 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for another fine speech in the House.

I know that her riding, like mine, is quite diverse. I would like to know what she thinks of the immigration system as it is presently managed by the Conservative government. In my riding, we receive many complaints about the fact that it is a poorly managed system and that it penalizes new Canadians. We are now seeing bills along the same lines. I would like to know what she thinks of how this government is managing the immigration system.

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

6:20 p.m.


Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for asking me this question as it gives me another opportunity to highlight the concerns of the people of my riding.

Wait times are horrible. People who are refused rarely understand why, and cannot speak to anyone about the reason for the refusal or what steps to take next.

People are unable to have their credentials recognized and it is shameful every time a fellow citizen tells me about this problem. In fact, we seek out skilled people. We go to their country and tell them to come to Canada where they will have an incredible quality of life as well as work. When they get here, after leaving behind everything and trusting our representatives abroad, they are unable to find work and their credentials are not recognized. They are intelligent people who have been trained at no cost to our country, and they are not allowed to work.

These are just a few examples of the frustrations of citizens in my riding as well as in other ridings. I hope we will be able to address this soon.

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

6:20 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, in the introduction of Bill C-4, the minister and others on the government benches talked about how this bill would target the profiteers and smugglers. We in the Liberal Party and, I believe, most, if not all, members of the opposition have indicated that they are not really the primary victims. The primary victims are the refugees seeking asylum. I would suggest that the number of profiteers or smugglers, which this bill is actually named after and, apparently, targeting, who will be impacted is pretty close to zero, if not zero.

Does the member want to comment on the title of the bill and on how the government seems to be of the opinion that this bill targets profiteers or smugglers?

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

6:20 p.m.


Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

If this bill were simply about smugglers, we would not be having this debate today. Since so many of us are raising our concerns about the treatment of refugees, there is obviously something wrong with the bill and we are not ready to support it.

I would like to add something here. Yesterday, I spoke to a 10-year-old. He told me that we adopted the British criminal law system in Canada because we felt it was more fair and allowed for a person to be considered innocent until proven guilty. We even read a page from his history book. It was wonderful. When we finished reading, I kept myself from saying that it could all change soon. I hope that we will still be proud in the future to read our history books that we are innocent until proven otherwise. This bill, which would lead to detaining people on suspicion or because they arrived by boat, does not convince me that I will still be proud to read a history book with a child in a few years.

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

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Windsor West may begin his intervention 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.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I guess I will wind down this debate here today. A lot of facts in the bill are still out there in terms of specifics that the minister could do to really ramp up his powers. However, I would like to talk more about the personal aspect of this.

I used to work at the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County and I dealt with not just new Canadians but sometimes people who came through the refugee system. It is important that we talk a little about the people who would be affected because, at the end of the day, some of them may be our neighbours, friends and family. They are not just soulless people looking to sponge off Canada, which is often the perception presented by those who are for this bill indirectly. It is there. I can feel it in the House here that they understand people have a certain advantage to take from Canada versus a contribution.

We must remember that refugees come here because they or their families are under physical threat of rape, torture or a series of different things. They often give up every cent they have for the chance at a better life. Sometimes they do not know the language. Sometimes they do not trust the people in whom they are putting their families' lives but they know it is a better chance for them and their survival at that moment in time than the alternative in their own home country.

We can just imagine that the place where we grew up, where we had our family and where we wanted to have a future becomes too dangerous for us to stay. People decide to risk everything to go to a country like Canada which has been a beacon in many respects for the globe and here we are out to punish them.

I cannot think of a single refugee, be it a man or a woman, who walked into the doors of that agency who would have benefited from jail time. I cannot think of a single instance when that would have been necessary for the people I served. I can only imagine the horror situations that we will face when we lock up families up to a year or even for a few months.

There is mental, physical and emotional grief and stress of not knowing one's future not only on the streets of the country where one may be dependent upon social services and other not for profits that remarkably help people every single day, but if the refugees go through our system they become Canadian citizens, taxpayers and contributors. Many have come through this system and have left a mark on our country.

If these people are deemed not to be valid through our system, I do not want them going back worse. I do not want them going back with more trauma. I am willing to face the consequences that we live in a world that we cannot turn our backs on. There are evil people out there who take advantage of people on a regular basis, but those victims do not need to be turned away. They need to be supported. We are on one planet here.

We seem to forget that. We think it is a free ride to come over here and people will have a great ticket and never contribute. That is not what is happening on the streets and that is not what is happening with our immigration policies. We know that when people come here they often work harder, take less social assistance and often contribute more. They are like anybody else. They have their chances and once they get here they take those chances and put them to good use.

In the youth programs I used to run, we had eight youth who were born in Canada and making bad decisions. We put them with eight youth who were new to Canada and could not figure things out. We mixed them together and our program had over a 90% success rate where they either went back to school or found a job. The reason was that there was a thirst from the new people who were coming here to have a better opportunity. They remembered some of the war-torn countries they came from and the people they left behind who they missed so dearly, but they had to move on with their lives and, in moving on with their lives, they were grateful to a country that had taken them in.

We are a multicultural country, so when we see these issues and the connections to families that are being broken, that is wrong because we have asked people to come here.

We cannot sustain our society without immigration and without refugees coming here. We cannot sustain the lifestyle that we enjoy right now. That is a fact. We cannot afford our pension system. We cannot afford the trading deficits we have. We cannot afford any of those things. Therefore, we need a workable system. The refugees coming through this system are good people who contribute to our society.

To intern people for up to a year is wrong. What would happen if parents and families are broken up and some are released and others are not?

Let us think of refugees as contributing to and not taking away from our society.

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

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member. He will have four minutes when the bill comes back for debate.

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

September 20th, 2011 / 6:30 p.m.


Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, we have recently learned from a report commissioned by the Minister of National Defence that the government plans to cut jobs in the Canadian Forces. This report was produced by a committee that was struck in June 2010, and headed up by General Andrew Leslie, to plan the restructuring of the Canadian Forces.

This report proposes radical measures supposedly intended to try to make the forces more efficient. It recommends massive cuts to military and civilian jobs and the transformation of thousands of stable, full-time jobs into part-time positions, but according to General Leslie, it is merely to trim the fat.

The general recommends that the Minister of National Defence reassign or simply eliminate 11,000 positions among the 145,000 existing positions. In addition, at least 4,500 reservists who currently work full time would have to fill precarious, part-time positions. Lastly, DND would also have to reduce its use of external consultants, who are often retired officers, by 30%.

This favoured consultant of the Minister of National Defence goes much further. He recommends being prepared to accept the risk of completely eliminating certain organizations of the Canadian Armed Forces. Given these recommendations, there is truly cause for concern for the members of our valiant army who have dedicated themselves to serving our country. During the last election campaign, the NDP committed to maintaining DND's budget, and that is the position that my colleagues and I are defending today.

The Valcartier military base is located in my riding of Portneuf—Jacques Cartier. The base employs approximately 7,000 men and women, civilian and military. As a result of the leak of this fairly disturbing report, all of these people want to know whether the government is really going to cut their already tight operating budget.

The Valcartier military base is home to the Royal 22e Régiment, which has a very special place in the hearts of Quebeckers because of its remarkable history. It is the only regular regiment in Canada that is entirely francophone. Since it was created, the members of the Royal 22e Régiment have participated in virtually all of Canada's military operations, including the two world wars and, of course, the war in Afghanistan.

The Royal 22e Régiment is made up of approximately five battalions of soldiers, including two reserve battalions. Most of its members are deployed to the Valcartier base.

In addition to the Royal 22e Régiment, the Valcartier base also houses the Valcartier Army Cadet Summer Training Centre. All these young people are the army's future and they deserve to have access to the best resources and the best instructors. If we go by General Leslie's report, essential services for these passionate young cadets could suddenly be taken away as a result of draconian cuts to staff.

The Valcartier military base is a major economic engine for neighbouring communities, such as Shannon and Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier. Each position that is cut will likely have a very negative effect on the citizens of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

General Andrew Leslie's report proposes many brutal cuts, and the citizens of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier are very concerned. The 7,000 employees of the Valcartier military base demand to know whether the government will follow General Leslie's recommendations and what the consequences of implementing these massive cuts will be.

Can the Minister of National Defence or his representative confirm to people in my region that there will be no cuts to the Valcartier base?

6:30 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario


Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for her important question.

The government understands just how much the Valcartier base drives the economy of its region, of Quebec and of Canada. We also understand the role that this military base has played in our past and present military history. I would like to thank all our Canadian Forces members from Valcartier and from the Royal 22nd Regiment who participated in the mission in Afghanistan and for helping with the effects of the flooding of the Vallée-du-Richelieu last spring. But the future and the evolution of this base are part of an overall Canadian armed forces strategy that is national, of course.

In 2008, our government articulated its vision for the Canadian Forces in the Canada First Defence Strategy. This strategy calls on the Canadian Forces to achieve a level of ambition that enables it to meet the country's defence needs, enhance the safety of Canadians and support the government's foreign policy and national security objectives.

To deliver on this level of ambition, the Canadian Forces will maintain its ability to conduct six core missions: conduct daily domestic and continental operations; support a major international event in Canada; respond to a major terrorist attack; support civilian authorities during a crisis, as we saw in Vallée-du-Richelieu this year; lead or conduct a major international operation for an extended period, in Afghanistan and Libya, for example; deploy forces in response to a crisis elsewhere in the world for shorter periods.

To facilitate the military's efforts in meeting this level of ambition, the government committed to providing stable, predictable funding as well as the right equipment and training, and also to working in partnership with Canadian industry. The Government of Canada remains committed to providing the men and women of the Canadian armed forces with what they need to take on the challenges of the 21st century.

Since this government took office, the defence budget has grown by almost $8 billion—an average of over $1 billion a year. Of course, the Valcartier military base felt the effects of these increases. After years of this unprecedented growth, Canadians are tightening their belts from coast to coast to coast in the face of the global economic downturn and the slow global recovery.

So too must the Department of National Defence in order to make the best use of tax dollars. Canadians expect the government to be even more vigilant with their money during tough economic times. As stated in Budget 2011, the Department of National Defence is on track to achieving the savings required to meet the commitment to restrain growth in defence spending by: increasing its efficiency and effectiveness of program delivery, focusing on its core role, and meeting the priorities of Canadians.

We cannot do everything, and the department used the 2010 strategic review process to examine its spending to identify savings of $525 million in 2012-13 and $1 billion annually thereafter, starting in 2013-14.

6:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the parliamentary secretary but I am going to give the floor to the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. The parliamentary secretary can then comment.

6:35 p.m.


Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be generous and ask my question again so that I will have the opportunity to discuss this issue with the hon. member. What I have been hearing, at least up to this point, is “increase effectiveness”. This seems to be an administrative euphemism for “major cuts to staff”. I do not know yet whether these cuts will directly affect the Valcartier military base. That is what I would like to know. I will give the hon. member the opportunity to answer this question.

6:40 p.m.


Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, the government remains committed to supporting the needs of soldiers in order to allow our troops to continue performing the important tasks we assign them. More than ever, during these difficult economic times, the department is taking its role as a steward of public resources very seriously. It is doing everything possible to ensure sound financial management of taxpayers' money by spending responsibly.

Every government department and agency, including the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, will have to manage their activities within the constraints imposed in the operating budgets. Following the department's participation in the strategic review, millions of taxpayer dollars will be saved over the next few years.

6:40 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, this summer the case of the Maeng family gave Canadians an opportunity to observe and reflect upon certain aspects of our immigration system. Specifically, Canadians reflected upon the inadmissibility of an individual on the grounds that he or she “might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.”

When this Moncton family was denied permanent residency and ordered to return to South Korea, Canadians were shocked. The Maengs seem to be a perfect example of the Canadian immigrant success story. They are successful small business owners. Their eldest child was a student at Dalhousie University, on his way to becoming a dentist. They lived in Canada for seven years and had obviously established roots in, and a deep connection with, our community.

Canadians were most concerned about the reason for the family's residency denial, the fact that the youngest child, Sung-Joo is autistic. It was determined that the boy would be too much of a burden on the health care system and other aspects of our social safety net.

When I rose in this House on June 7, I asked the minister if he would reconsider the decision to send the Maengs back to Korea. At the time the minister said that he would not comment on the case but claimed that we have a fair process and that the Maengs had been through that process.

I should note that the minister later decided to grant the family a temporary reprieve for three years while the permanent residency process continues. I congratulate the minister on that decision.

While Canadians were happy with this change of heart, the questions remain. I think most, if not all, Canadians agree with the principle that a person should not be granted permanent residency status if the person represents an unacceptable or extraordinary burden on our social safety net. However, it is in the narrow application of this principle that we raise concerns.

My question tonight is directly related to the Maeng case. Why is autism considered a condition that would place an undue burden on our system? I think many Canadians would be surprised or even insulted to hear that their government considers autism to be such a drain.

People with autism spectrum disorder, ASD, are not considered sick by most Canadians. ASD is a developmental disability that may require intervention from medical and educational professionals. However, Canadians realize that autistic individuals make great contributions to our society.

With the proper treatment and resources, autistic individuals can and do excel in life and work. They can be productive members of our society. They are always cherished individuals in our communities.

This Sunday people across Canada and in the United States will gather together for the fourth annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks. I will be joining that walk at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver Kingsway to show my support for better government policy and more resources for people with autism and their families.

People with ASD are valued for their economic contributions and are important members of our families. Our lives are enriched by the perspectives and diversity that come with sharing our lives with people with all kinds of developmental disabilities.

Upon reflecting on this rule, I am also reminded of a case in my own riding where a live-in caregiver could not bring her daughter to live with her due to a medical condition that had developed in the years since she had come to Canada. After years of being separated from her family, toiling away in Canada working as a caregiver on the promise that her family could join her, this rule kicked in and her dreams were crushed.

There is a very simple solution to this problem. Have the family get medical checks at the beginning of the process and accept that in the intervening years one or more may become sick. It is not very much to ask.

Clearly there is an inherent injustice in the application of this rule. Will the minister commit to review the application of the rules governing inadmissibility on the grounds of presenting a burden to the Canadian system in an effort to make it fair for everyone?

6:40 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond this evening to the question put and also to comment that I look forward to working with my hon. colleague on the Standing Committee on Citizenship Immigration and Multiculturalism.

I appreciate the depth with which he is at least attempting to put forward in a positive way. He and I could spend some time dealing with the scope and magnitude of the issues that the Immigration and Refugee Board faces when it has to make decisions with respect to individuals.

I really do want to try to address the issue. It is an interesting point and one that deserves an answer, but it is very difficult. We are not in any way, shape or form allowed to divulge personal information, the personal decision-making process about individuals or families who make application to come to Canada, under many different magnitudes and many different opportunities. I find it difficult, based on the fact that the hon. member has pointed out a very specific case. He has the details. He has obviously been given authority by the family to speak to those details. We, as a government, are not in a position to do that.

Quite frankly, I do find that somewhat frustrating and difficult. In my years as parliamentary secretary at Citizenship and Immigration, I have noticed time and time again that members of the opposition speak to individual cases. Many of those times, those questions that arise during question period are not cases that have been brought forward by that individual to either myself or to the minister to review or at least accept the issue, the concern, on a private basis. Generally speaking, they are done in a way that those issues have been brought out through the media. The individuals, the families have gone to the media to discuss these issues and think it is a way that will somehow assist them in their case.

I can assure the House that it does not assist anyone. It does not assist the government, or the individual or the family. It certainly does not assist members of Parliament who have brought these forward, unless members do so because it would somehow assist them in their goals as opposition members to try to make the government look bad. I am certainly not suggesting that my colleague, the critic of the opposition party, is doing it for that reason. I do not believe that, but I believe a number of members of Parliament bring these issues up during question period to do that.

I ask this evening that all opposition members, who determine that cases like this, cases that they believe will offer them some sort of media hype or media attention or assist them in their own careers, not to do it in this way.

The way we should be working through this process is simply by speaking to each other, obviously an individual member of Parliament from the opposition speaking with myself as the parliamentary secretary or speaking with the minister in order to try to assist them with the individual case. It really makes it difficult for me to speak to an issue that the member has brought forward with respect to illness on the one hand and on the other hand in his specific case, the issue of autism and the impact that has on an individual's opportunity to come to Canada, whether it be through permanent residency or whether it would be to study, whatever that issue may be.

However, as members of the opposition know, before they stand to ask these questions, they will not get a specific answer. We are simply not allowed to proceed and put forward an individual member's private issues under our Privacy Act.

6:45 p.m.


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not raising an individual specific case tonight; I am raising an issue of policy.

As well, I think it is fair to say that when individuals are frustrated by poor government policy, they often use the media and the opposition to raise those issues, and that is how positive change is made in our country.

People with autism deserve our support and nurturing. They deserve our understanding, welcoming and full integration in all aspects of our society.

Canada should play a leading role on the world stage by demonstrating that autism is something to be understood and accepted. Autism must never be a barrier to citizenship.

With respect to live-in caregivers, the only just approach is to assess the medical conditions of families once and before they make profound sacrifices. Live-in caregivers should be united with their families immediately upon entry to Canada. We must stop this unjustified and painful separation of families.

Caregivers should be granted permanent residency immediately upon entry to Canada. They should be able to bring spouses and children with them and their family members should also get work permits.

Current government policy treats people with autism as undesirable citizens. Current government policy separates families. Keeping families together is the NDP way. Why is not the government's way?

6:50 p.m.


Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, I can absolutely go through a host of issues, resolutions and legislation that we have passed in the House of Commons that deal exactly with what the member is speaking to.

I would suggest to him that there is a third way for us to work through these issues, and that is in consultation with each other. We did it with Bill C-11, the refugee reform act, and we did it with Bill C-35, the crooked consultants act. In the last Parliament, with a minority government, these two major pieces of legislation went through with unanimous consent from all parties. I suggest to him that the third way to do that is for us to sit down and continue to work together, to work in committee to bring these issues together, and we will work as a government to try to solve them.

6:50 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, Canadians across the country are talking about fracking, meaning hydraulic fracturation, and the shale gas industry. They want to know what the fracking process entails. They want to know how it is being done and the potential impacts of fracking. They also want to know where it is being done. Most of all, Canadians want assurance that there are systems in place to protect their environment and their health.

Last year the former environment minister told us that shale gas regulations were “a work in progress”, despite the fact that hydraulic fracturation has been used in Canada for years. When I asked the government about the status of these regulations on June 22 of this year, no timeline was given. Therefore, I am here tonight to ask the government again. Regulations have been promised; it has been over a year; when can we actually see these regulations?

The current minister said that the government would engage itself on the issue. In fact, he said on June 16, with respect to shale gas projects, “The federal government has an interest and can involve itself when a threat is perceived and reported”. When I asked a question on shale gas regulations, the response on June 22 of this year by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment was, “Environment Canada officials have been given the opportunity to comment on provincial and territorial environmental assessments”.

At the beginning of the summer, the government clearly stated that ministry officials were looking into the issue of environmental and health impacts of fracking and that the government was prepared to respond to threats to the environment. However, only a few weeks later it announced massive cuts at the department. How will the government respond when it is cutting 11% of Environment Canada's staffing positions and 20% of its budget?

On top of this, it has announced a 43% budget cut at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. This cut will cripple the agency's ability to prepare for and respond to threats to the environment, including proposed new oil and gas projects like hydraulic fracturation, which is an exploratory mining technique.

It is important to keep in mind that during the 2011 Speech from the Throne, the Canadian Conservative government reasserted its commitment to improving federal environmental assessments, which makes it even more disturbing that it is now actually gutting the very institutions that carry out this environmental oversight.

Many of the concerns that Canadians have with fracking have to do with potential impacts on our drinking water systems, but again the government has announced cuts that will come to programs like the action plan on clean water, even though the former environment minister said last March that this plan was a priority. The government has delayed the regulations on fracking and now has made cuts to programs that will protect drinking water. These are the very issues that these kinds of regulations should be addressing. It is clearly problematic, and I hope that the parliamentary secretary will be able to shed some light on the reasons behind the government's actions.

Earlier today I asked the minister in the House if he would provide parliamentarians with the analysis that proves his claims that Environment Canada's functions will not be affected by these massive cuts. He chose not to answer the question, nor has he been able to point to what the government considers core programming. I consider these programs core programming. Considering the wide range of program cuts that are expected, it does not seem as though the government considers any of the programs to be a core function of this department.

Therefore, I ask the parliamentary secretary this: can she provide the evidence I have asked for time and time again in the House on how the government will keep our environment healthy and our water safe, and when will the government move forward with the fracking regulations it said it was going to create?

6:55 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta


Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, shale gas is an important strategic resource that could provide numerous economic benefits to Canada. Canada's abundant supply of clean burning natural gas would help strengthen Canada's position as a clean energy superpower.

Our government recognizes that a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. Our government has taken action in several areas to ensure stewardship of our natural environment, including our action plan for clean water and our clean air regulatory agenda.

At the same time, the member opposite must be cognizant that jurisdiction ultimately lies with the provinces to determine how or if shale gas resources will be developed. Provinces also manage environmental impacts of resource development through their regulatory systems.

Federally, involvement in resource development falls under the mandate of several departments, agencies and boards.

Environment Canada is working within its jurisdiction to examine potential environmental issues related to shale gas development to further our government's strong commitment to the conservation of Canada's natural heritage and the safe, responsible and sustainable development of our nation's natural resources.

Via the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Environment Canada provides expertise and advice in relation to both federal and provincial environmental assessments.

To help understand any potential environmental impacts of shale gas development, the Minister of the Environment has undertaken the following initiatives.

The minister has recommended a proposal to the Council of Canadian Academies for an independent, expert panel assessment of the state of scientific knowledge on potential environmental impacts from the development of Canada's shale gas resources.

The minister has also asked Environment Canada officials to develop an in-house work plan to examine any potential environmental aspects of shale gas development.

Working with industry on this matter is also important. I welcome the recent announcement by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, or CAPP, of its guiding principles for hydraulic fracturing.

On September 6 of this year, CAPP announced that it will support the proactive disclosure of fracturing fluid additives. Such voluntary disclosure is an excellent example of industry working proactively with government to help ensure the safe and effective development of this clean burning source of energy.

6:55 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to hear that the minister is looking into the state of scientific knowledge and has requested an in-house work plan. The question that remains is whether regulations are forthcoming on hydraulic fracturation.

I do not agree with the position of the government that jurisdiction is solely within the provinces, especially when we consider the possible impacts on drinking water, on the navigable waters act, on the Fisheries Act, and the possible impacts on first nations.

Are regulations on fracking forthcoming?

6:55 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Madam Speaker, as I have already indicated to the member opposite, Environment Canada has initiated two examinations into the environmental impact of shale gas fracturing.

One study will be conducted by an independent panel of experts, while a further in-house study examining shale gas development will be undertaken within Environment Canada.

Our government is strongly committed to supporting clean energy initiatives to protect our environment and improve the quality of the air that we as Canadians breathe.

We are committed to the safe, responsible and sustainable development of Canada's natural resources, to securing Canada's position as a global clean energy superpower, and to ensuring economic growth occurs within a framework of environmental stewardship.

6:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:59 p.m.)