Madam Speaker, first, I would like to say that I was elected just over a year ago and that the atmosphere in the House of Commons has rarely been as sombre as it has been since the tragic events that occurred in Quebec City.
To build on what my colleague just said, there is no doubt that Canada is a country of immigrants. The story of my ancestors is the same as that of many Canadians. I am proud to say that my family is one of the oldest immigrant families in Canada, even though people cannot tell just by looking at me.
My story is that of the Germans who came to Canada during the War of American Independence. The British hired 30,000 German mercenaries, one-third of whom were based in Quebec. In the end, 1,200 German soldiers decided to be part of the population of Quebec beginning in the 1780s. Today, many Germans have families made up exclusively of Canadians or Quebeckers. I am talking about the Bessette, Besré, Hamel, Jomphe, Payeur, Roussel, Wagner, Wilhelmy, and of course the Berthold families.
In my opinion, there is no doubt that Canada is a welcoming country. People from around the world have helped to shape Canada into the country that it is today. Those who choose to come to Canada do so for all sorts of reasons, not always because of our climate, but because of our people, our values, the prospect of success, and, most of all, the opportunity to live a better life.
In Canada, immigration is not just a matter of statistics. We are not here to figure out which government Canadians think does a better job. I believe that the important thing is the way we welcome immigrants and our ability to help them in this important life choice. That is important to every immigrant who chooses our country.
This evening, we are gathered here to debate Canada's response to our neighbour's decision to temporarily ban from the United States nationals from seven countries where thousands of people have been the victims of war, dictatorship, misery, and poverty over the past few years. The countries in question are Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.
Earlier, I was planning to deliver a very different speech, but because of my colleagues' remarks this evening, I decided to change course. I listened to my colleagues talk about refugees, victims of war and misery. I listened to my colleagues talk about what is going on elsewhere. I listened to my colleagues talk about other people.
I was really struck by something that was said by my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill, who is the official opposition's immigration critic. She said that Canada is a destination of choice for refugees from around the world because it is a peaceful country. My colleague rightly wondered whether we are taking that peace for granted.
That brought another thought to mind: what if it were us? If we were talking about our fathers, our mothers, our sisters, and our neighbours tonight, would we be saying the same things? Imagine war breaking out in Thetford Mines. Imagine witnessing the systematic extermination of citizens, of our neighbours, because of their race, their beliefs, or their political affiliation.
I invite Canadians to imagine what their neighbourhood would look like if their street was bombed; if businesses were destroyed one after the other; if they suddenly lost their jobs, had no food, and did not have the means to earn some money. Let us imagine that we no longer had a roof over our heads. Let us imagine that we lost contact with every member of our family and that we did not know where they were, whether they were dead or had been tortured, or whether our sisters and mothers had been raped. Let us imagine that all our family members had to flee their city, no matter where in Canada, to ensure their safety and survival.
When we put ourselves in the shoes of the people who live with this reality every day, and we picture the images and faces of our loved ones, we cannot look at refugees in the same way.
We can imagine asking for help and hoping that someone, somewhere, will answer our call for help.
Of course, we are here to talk about the U.S. decision, which we unfortunately can do little about. Our Prime Minister responded by taking to social media. Canada's response, according to the Prime Minister's tweet, was as follows: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength. #WelcomeToCanada.”
These are fine words, which elicit more images. However, that will not change the lives of the people we want to help. Since that tweet, there has been no concrete action, no political or administrative gesture to make these words reach those they should really be intended for.
I listened earlier to the speech by the new Minister of Immigration, whom I congratulate on his appointment. I heard him give a speech on what Canada is doing on immigration. It was a self-congratulatory speech that did not provide any concrete solutions to the current situation.
There are things that could have been done a year ago. There are things that we could do now to speed things up. Unfortunately, itsseems that the government has done nothing, despite having many opportunities to take action. Of course the government cannot give a response in 140 characters. Governments do not make commitments in 140 characters. It is possible, however, to be more proactive and do certain things.
Let me give a few examples.
Consider the Yazidi refugees, a subject the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship did not even bother to address in his speech this evening, despite everything we have talked about in the House regarding the importance of taking action to help Yazidi refugees. It took my colleague asking a question for the immigration minister to finally bother addressing the situation facing Yazidi refugees. Despite the unanimous motion that was adopted here last October on fast-tracking refugee claims and the promise to process them within 120 days, we have yet to see any concrete action. The Liberals are all talk and no action. Not one new Yazidi refugee has been welcomed here in Canada.
We want tangible action, not just vague promises. The government committed to taking action within 120 days of the adoption of the motion. The deadline is February 22. The government must set a target for the number of Yazidi refugees. The government must fast-track the asylum claims of Yazidi victims of ISIS so that they may find refuge in Canada.
ISIS continues to commit genocide against the Yazidis in northern Iraq. Thousands of Yazidi women and girls are being detained by ISIS soldiers. They are being raped, beaten, and sold as slaves. We must act. Unlike the Liberal government, the Conservatives in the official opposition are not afraid to call these crimes by their name: genocide.
In closing, the official opposition has made several suggestions and recommendations to the government to help it provide a concrete response and tangible assistance to the Yazidi refugees and to respond in our own way to recent developments south of the border.
I invite the government to go over the various proposals that the official opposition has made in the past, to act immediately, and to show compassion toward these Yazidi refugees, these women who are being tortured, raped, and used as slaves by ISIS. This is a tangible response to what is happening with our neighbours to the south.