House of Commons Hansard #227 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was marijuana.

Topics

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

Vote #385

Act respecting the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Criminal ActsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from October 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-315, An Act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act (Conservation of National Historic Sites Account), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-315 under private members' business.

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

Vote #386

Parks Canada Agency ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from September 20 consideration of the motion.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has two minutes remaining in his comments.

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize my colleagues on both sides of the House, in particular the member for Davenport who has done an outstanding job in recognizing the importance of Canada's Portuguese community in all regions of our country. I applaud her efforts in reaching out to all sides of the House to build unanimous support for a fantastic idea.

We often hear the Prime Minister of Canada say that the greatest strength we have as a nation is our diversity. That diversity shines through in many different ways. The Portuguese community is one of those communities that has helped build our nation to the way it is today.

With the efforts of the individuals who had the member for Davenport engaged on this very important issue, to colleagues who have already spoken to the resolution, I stand in my place today to highlight the importance of the Portuguese community. The idea of designating a month to the Portuguese community is well-merited and deserves to be supported by all members.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise today to support the member for Davenport's Motion No. 126. It seeks to declare June 10 each year as Portugal day and the entire month of June as Portuguese heritage month. This, I believe, would pay tribute to the important contributions of Canadians of Portuguese descent in building the Canada that we know today.

In my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood, there are approximately 815 citizens of Portuguese descent. Granted, it is not a huge population, but they are a vibrant, close-knit community with very strong ties to their heritage.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Portuguese explorers were among the first Europeans to see Canadian soil way back in 1852. Subsequently, Portuguese fishermen fished for cod on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, but the big wave of immigration to Canada began in the 1950s, with immigrants coming mostly to work on farms and CNR railway back then.

I am going to cite a number of people from my city of Saskatoon. I know there are different pockets of Portuguese around this country and we welcome them all here. One such man from my city of Saskatoon was Mr. Manuel Neves. He said the first Portuguese immigrants to Saskatoon came in 1957. They came from the Azores and mainland Portugal to work on the railroad. It was the CNR back then. It was a terrible situation at first. Let us face it: they came from Portugal to Canada, they were homesick and missed their families, and they had difficulties back then with the language and different customs, and the isolation caused many of them to go back home. Manuel still remembers the hardship and bitter tears, but the will to succeed was great.

He said he had left his wife, along with his two daughters, back in Portugal. Can anyone imagine his first winter? It must have been miserable. The temperatures in Saskatchewan in the winter are usually in the -30s and -40s. He was working in those temperatures and said that they were unbearable. He said none of them had imagined those temperatures and that they had felt demoralized. However, back in 1959, more families arrived from the Azores and, according to Manuel, the first roots of the Portuguese community started then and became stronger. In fact, by the late 1960s, there were about 45 Portuguese families in my city of Saskatoon.

The Portuguese community continued to grow in my city and in 1988 the Saskatoon Portuguese Canadian Association was formed. The association generated a lot of interest, holding social events and celebrations. One of the goals of the association was to plan the annual religious event, the Our Lady of Fatima celebration. Sadly, Mr. Manuel Neves passed away a few years ago. However, he did leave us with this interesting history of those precious Portuguese immigrants who came to my city of Saskatoon. We certainly thank him for his contribution and tonight I salute him and all Portuguese in my city of Saskatoon.

I also heard from two sisters, Maria Zalashak and Edweena Silvaida, who arrived in Saskatoon when they were very young. They were only 12 and nine at the time and arrived in Saskatoon with their parents, Juszai and Maria Silvaida, and their brother, Juszai Carlos. They started their lives here living in their uncle's basement. Imagine that. They were only nine and 12 years old. Maria wrote that at school they were forced to go out during recess, but just stood by the building because they did not know anyone and, of course, they could not speak English. They wanted to stay inside the school, but the teachers would not allow that. They arrived toward the end of September, and we know what happens in September: school starts right away, and then winter arrives.

They had never seen snow or experienced this kind of cold. It was very hard to adapt, especially since they did not have a car. They walked or took the bus. They remember that when they rode the bus, they never made eye contact. Maria said she looked down. She was afraid if someone started talking to her she would not understand, and not be able to answer.

Maria went on to say it was in grade 10 that she learned proper English. Her teacher was a nun. She did not remember her name but it was due to her professional dedication as a teacher that she learned the language properly and was able to become a teacher. Maria teaches English as an additional language. What a wonderful story to hear of a teacher and her student, and then the student becoming a teacher.

Another member of my Saskatoon Portuguese community, Tony Bairos, shared his family's story of immigration to Canada saying that his parents, Jose and Ines Bairos, came to settle in Saskatoon in the fall of 1970. They wanted to make a better life for themselves and their future children. They came with two suitcases. That was quite common back then.

He said that it was his mother's sister and her husband, Jose and Emilia Cabral, who sponsored his parents and helped them get on their feet. They came filled with hope for a new life in a new world with opportunities. They came from a small island called Santa Maria in the Azores Islands belonging to Portugal. They brought very little with them, but they did bring a willingness to work hard, a strong sense of family, and a faith in God.

His father Jose found work as a labourer with a construction company, while his mother found work as a seamstress in Saskatoon. Shortly after their arrival, they started their family and raised three children, Antonio, Dino, and Nelia. They worked hard to build a life in their new country. They would often work two jobs to provide for their family and their continued success. We often see this today. Jose developed his skills in the construction industry and soon become a skilled mason and foreman for the jobs that he would take on in Saskatoon.

Family is an extremely important part of Portuguese life. As well, the Portuguese work ethic is outstanding. The Portuguese family story is no different than that of many other immigrants who have adopted Canada as their new home. They are very proud of being Canadian and Portuguese.

Manuel Neves, Mrs. Zalashak's family, and Tony Bairos' family came to Canada hoping for a better life. They went through went through many hardships, but persevered. They have contributed greatly to Saskatoon and their Portuguese community, similar to many other Portuguese from coast to coast to coast.

At least two past members of Parliament, Dr. Keith Martin from Esquimalt —Juan de Fuca, B.C. and Mario Silva, from Davenport, Ontario were of Portuguese descent.

Two popular singers in this country, Nelly Furtado and Sean Mendes, are also of Portuguese descent.

Two professional hockey players, John Tavares of the New York Islanders and Drew Doughty, a talented defenceman from the Los Angeles Kings, are both of Portuguese descent and currently playing in the national hockey league.

Those people are just a small representation of the Portuguese community who have made contributions to entertainment, politics, and sports. They even have their own walk of fame in downtown Toronto.

The Portuguese are very proud of their culture and have a strong work ethic. Their family and their faith are the cornerstones of the Portuguese culture. They love to sing and dance when they get together for religious festivals.

It is my belief that we should have a Portugal day and a Portuguese heritage month to celebrate these and the many other contributions they have made to make Canada a better place for us all. I hope my colleagues will support this motion.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, as the NDP critic for multiculturalism, I am pleased to rise in this House to support Motion No. 126, Portuguese heritage month.

I have always been proud of the NDP's support of multiculturalism in Canada. My colleagues and I always welcome the opportunity to celebrate the unique heritage of Canada and the contributions made by so many different ethnic and religious groups.

Portuguese Canadians have a rich cultural history and heritage, with many traditions brought over continuing to flourish in the various Little Portugals in Canadian cities today. With nearly half a million Canadians having Portuguese heritage, the tie created between Canada and Portugal is significant.

This motion provides Canadians with the opportunity to understand, appreciate, and join in the celebration of the traditions and heritage of the Portuguese community. I believe this also gives us an opportunity to look at what Portugal is doing today that Canada can learn from.

During the 1990s, Portugal was experiencing a national crisis regarding heroin addiction. At its height, one in 100 Portuguese citizens was using heroin, overdose deaths were robbing families of their loved ones far too soon, and dirty needles were contributing to the highest level of HIV infection in Europe.

A little over 15 years ago, with the realization that the current approach simply was not working, Portugal made a decision that things needed to change. Portugal embraced the harm reduction approach, understanding that addiction issues were better suited to being addressed by the health care system and the social welfare system, rather than the criminal justice system.

Portugal took what seemed like a radical step to many peer nations: it decriminalized minor possession of all drugs and dramatically shifted resources away from the criminal justice system towards health and social services. Now if people are caught possessing what is deemed an amount equivalent to individual possession, they are sent to report to a warning commission on drug addiction. Here they are assessed by social workers and other health care professionals and are referred to treatment centres, if appropriate. Instead of criminal charges tying up the courts, and criminal records with lifelong impacts, individuals are referred to services that will actually help them and are given fines equal to parking tickets.

Those against these ideas suggested that it would be the end of Portugal, that people from all over the world would flock there simply to use and abuse drugs, and that this would simply make things worse. Nearly two decades later, that fearmongering has been shown to be just that. Drug-caused deaths in Portugal have fallen well below the European Union's average. New HIV infections due to IV drug use have dropped from over 1,000 cases in 2001 to fewer than 100 in 2013. Overall drug use has actually gone down.

As I have said in the House before, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The Portuguese model has saved lives, reduced infection rates, and alleviated the burden on the criminal justice system that drug use and addiction causes in countries like our own.

It is clear that as Canada grapples with the current opioid crisis, there is much we can learn from Portugal. The success of harm reduction in east Vancouver, most notably with the establishment of lnsite, is indisputable. However, that is not enough. We need more sites. We need more funding for treatment options, including expanded heroine maintenance programs and services. We need to make more use of the health care system and less use of the justice system. We need to support the front-line workers and first responders. We need to call it what it is: a national health emergency.

In his first visit to the west coast after becoming leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh stated:

Thousands of people are dying in our country as a result of this crisis and it needs to be named a national crisis first.

He also noted that the Portuguese model of harm reduction resulted in a dramatic decrease in overdose deaths and a reduction in addictions. He said:

That should be the focus if we really want to address the opioid crisis, and really want to reduce the significant and terrible deaths.

Canada can and should learn from the Portuguese model.

Aside from the opioid crisis, Portugal is also concerned about climate change. Portugal's geographic location on the Iberian Peninsula has brought the impact of climate change to the forefront. It is believed that this region will be hit hard by climate change impacts. This past summer, Portugal, like Canada, experienced devastating wildfires. It is believed that the impact of climate change has lengthened Portugal's wildfire season from two months a year to up to five months of the year.

The European Environment Agency reported this year that Portugal has lost 6.8 billion euros as a result of climate change from 1980 to 2013 alone. Portugal has committed to the Paris agreement and made ambitious goals to combat climate change.

The climate change performance index, which is an index by Germanwatch and the Climate Action Network Europe, ranked Portugal 11th in the world for 2017 compared to Canada at 55. It was noted that Portugal was one of the only two countries that leapt from “moderate performance” into “good performance”, whereas for Canada they wrote:

Without significant movements in either direction, Canada remains in the bottom group of most CCPI categories. The only sector where the country ranks in the middle field is the emissions development but even there it lost some ground...

In June, the Portuguese prime minister reported that Portugal had already achieved over 87% of its 2020 goal. Unfortunately, our Prime Minister cannot say the same. Despite the government's sunny ways, it has only committed to reach the former Conservative government's climate targets for 2030, targets which were hardly considered world-leading then or now. Unless a dramatic change of course occurs, Canada will not meet its targets for 2020 or 2030.

Finally, coming out of the global financial crisis, many countries, Canada included, adopted an austerity mantra. Social services were cut, and in some cases deeply. Austerity measures have always clearly had the biggest impact on the vulnerable segments of our population, and this true in Canada or anywhere abroad.

In much of Europe, where the crisis hit harder than here, even deeper cuts and austerity demands impacted the lives of countless people already struggling to get by. The Portugal government, elected in 2015, determined that it would not take that approach. Much like the reaction to Portugal's harm reduction measures, many said this would prove to be a disaster.

Portugal's government has moved to increase minimum wages, reverse regressive tax measures, reinvest in the public service through wages and pensions, increased social security for lower-income families, and introduced a luxury charge on homes worth over 600,000 euros. After one year with these changes in effect, GDP was up, corporate investment was up, deficit spending halved to the lowest point in 40 years, and the economy grew for 13 straight quarters and counting.

Portugal is investing in its people to grow its economy, and it appears to be working.

Canada can and needs to do more to invest in our people to grow our economy. Too often we put vulnerable groups against vulnerable groups. Instead of tackling tax havens and loopholes in our tax system used by only the wealthiest people to avoid paying their fair share, the government floated tax measures that would have impacted small business owners, and even measures that would impact minimum wage retail workers.

Portuguese Canadians should be proud not just of their Portuguese heritage and history but also of the present. While celebrating Portugal day in June, Canadians with or without Portuguese heritage should not just learn more about the history but learn more about today. It is through this exchange of dialogue that Canada can continue to push to be as great as we possibly can. This is one of the great aspects of Canada's multiculturalism policy and it is one of the reasons I am proud to support this motion.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

November 1st, 2017 / 6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Madam Speaker, I am proud to support the motion by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth to declare June 10 as Portugal day and the month of June as Portuguese heritage month. In doing so, I know I would have the support of many Portuguese Canadians in my riding of Kitchener South—Hespeler and throughout the Waterloo region. I know that members for Kitchener Centre, Cambridge, and Waterloo would fully support the motion as well.

I send my condolences to all those in Portugal affected by the fires this past summer. We can relate to them, given the fires that happened in British Columbia and Alberta. We know that many families and properties were affected in Portugal, and around 30 people were killed by those fires. Our condolences go out to all those family members who have been affected.

Canada has become home to many people of Portuguese heritage, with the Portuguese language ranked as Canada's 10th most common immigrant mother tongue in 2016. One of the first large waves of Portuguese migrants arrived in Canada in 1953. Since then, many people of Portuguese origin have come to Canada in search of greater opportunities for themselves and their families. Today, there are approximately 483,000 people of Portuguese birth or descent living in Canada, and a significant number of them live in my riding of Kitchener South—Hespeler. According to the 2016 census, Waterloo region is home to just over 21,000 people of Portuguese ethnic origin, with a little over 7,000 born in Portugal.

In Waterloo region, the Portuguese community is welcoming and vibrant. Whether I am celebrating Portugal day on Saturday morning at Escola Lusitana with students, teachers, and parents, or watching and celebrating the 2016 European championship final at the Kitchener Portuguese Club, I am always welcomed with open arms and walk away with a rich sense of community. I have been at the club on numerous occasions, whether for my close friends' engagements and weddings, or community fundraisers and festivals. I always enjoy the company of the members of this great community. I am proud that the Kitchener Portuguese Club is in my riding of Kitchener South—Hespeler, adding to our cultural mosaic since it was established in 1969. Part of the club's mission is to be a positive influence on the local community, and it does this very well. On its part, Cambridge is home to two Portuguese clubs serving our region.

Together, all of these institutions support Portuguese Canadians in preserving their cultural heritage and traditions, and sharing them with the community as a whole.

My support for the motion is of personal significance to me. I was privileged to grow up with many Portuguese Canadians in Kitchener. In fact, my very first job in high school was working at restaurant owned by a Portuguese Canadian. Before I started university, I worked for another Portuguese Canadian, an entrepreneur in the construction field. With great certainty I can say that both of these individuals helped lay the foundation for the person I am today. These two employers instilled in me their values of hard work, ambition, and dedication, the values that I stand for each and every day as I fulfill my duties as an MP.

Earlier this year during the second week of June, I spoke in the House about celebrating the day of Portugal, Camões, and the Portuguese communities. Every year on June 10, Portuguese Canadians across Canada celebrate what is popularly known as Dia of Portugal. The date marks the anniversary of the death of the greatest Portuguese poet who ever lived, Luis de Camões, who captured the essence Portugal, its history and its people. It is a day for the diaspora to celebrate their cultural heritage.

In Waterloo region, I have celebrated this day at the Portuguese school and in the annual Portugal day parade in Cambridge, alongside the members for Kitchener Centre, Cambridge, and Waterloo. This past June, woven into the day's celebrations at the Portuguese school was Canada's 150th anniversary since Confederation. It was a celebration of their cultural heritage and this country that is their home.

Portuguese Canadians have contributed greatly to fields such as politics, business, arts, science, and much more in Canada. This community has helped shape an exceptional Portuguese Canadian culture that is an integral component to the Canadian mosaic. This motion recognizes the important contributions of Portuguese Canadians in building Canada and to Canadian society in general. Motion No. 126 celebrates the cultural diversity of the Portuguese community in Canada, and the importance of education and reflection upon Portuguese heritage and culture for future generations.

I want to close with this. A lot of the Portuguese who have immigrated to Canada from Portugal immigrated a long time ago in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and many years beyond that. They came for better opportunities for their families and for themselves. With this, they came here and helped build the foundation of our communities and our cities that we live in today. For that, we want to thank and honour the Portuguese with this motion. I believe that this is a motion we can all get behind and support. We want to ensure that we honour the Portuguese who have contributed so much to the social fabric, to our communities, and to everyone around this nation.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fonseca Liberal Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Motion No. 126. I want to commend the member for Davenport for recognizing June as Portuguese heritage month and for her passion and commitment to the community.

[Member spoke in Portuguese]

[English]

The story of the Portuguese presence in Canada dates back to the age of discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is well documented that Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real landed in Newfoundland in 1501. His statue stands proudly in St. John's today.

Evidence of the Portuguese presence is manifest in the many places and names of Portuguese origin in Atlantic Canada. Most notably perhaps is the name Labrador, which is believed to be named after Joao Fernandes Lavrador.

Portuguese-born Mateus da Costa was Samuel de Champlain's interpreter with our indigenous peoples, and in the early 1600s might be considered the first Portuguese person to have lived in Canada.

Canada's first letter carrier was Pedro da Silva, “Le portugais”, here from 1647 to 1717. He paddled his canoe between Montreal and Quebec City delivering mail.

We have to jump 300 years to our modern day multicultural immigration system that turned a trickle of Portuguese immigrants into a veritable flood of people that would follow.

Sixty-nine men boarded the Saturnia which arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax on May 13, 1953. This marks the date that opened the doors to large-scale immigration from Portugal to Canada: 17,000 men and women of Portuguese heritage in the 50s; 60,000 in the 60s; and 80,000 in the 70s. Canadians of Portuguese heritage settled throughout our great country.

Today, 500,000 people of Portuguese birth or descent live in Canada, making it one of the largest ethnocultural communities, with the largest Portuguese communities being in the greater Toronto area and Montreal. They worked hard, with their hands, com as maos, in construction, farming, forestry, mining, and manufacturing.

My dad Joaquim “Jack” dos Santos Fonseca left Portugal for Canada a month after I was born in 1966 to escape a dictatorial government, and make a better life for his family. He had saudades, a longing, to have his family join him, and two years later my mom Maria Ernestina Fonseca and I arrived. My sister Nancy was born a year later here in Canada.

I grew up in the member for Davenport's riding in what is today called Little Portugal. My dad, who was an airline mechanic in Portugal, worked in Canada as a foreman at the Inglis plant near the CNE. My mom, who was an administrator, worked at the Toronto Western Hospital as a clerk. We found ourselves almost every weekend at Kensington Market buying fresh fish and produce for our traditional meals, enjoying an espresso coffee and reading the Portuguese papers. We belonged to the Portuguese Democratic Association and the First Portuguese Club in Toronto.

Portuguese Canadians have enriched our arts, sports, politics, business, science, cuisine, and much more. It can be said that Portuguese living here have put down their roots, and created a wonderfully unique Portuguese-Canadian culture. The community is one of the many gems that make up our great Canadian mosaic.

I want to thank the many Portuguese clubs, news outlets, specialty stores, settlement organizations, businesses, the first immigrants who, because of them and through their sacrifices, we can stand on their shoulders. These organizations allowed the community to survive and thrive in a land with a very different climate, when we get into the months of January, February, and March, with weather 10 or 20 below, and a very different culture and food. Through that community, they were able to provide all of that, and preserve that familiar culture again that they brought from the old country of Portugal that allowed them to thrive and survive.

The Portuguese community in Mississauga, and in my riding of Mississauga East—Cooksville, has contributed to the culture, heritage, faith, sports, social services, and business development of our community. Whenever the Canadian-Portuguese in Mississauga saw there was a need that needed to be addressed, they got it done. They rolled up their sleeves, raised the precious funds, and fulfilled the need. That happened when the community came together in the 1980s to build the Portuguese Catholic church, Cristo Rei, Christ the King, at Confederation and Central Parkway.

In the 1990s, they built the Portuguese Cultural Centre of Mississauga. The Portuguese club hosts functions every week of the year, where delicious caldo verde, bacalhau, and pastel de nata are served and Portuguese music, like fado, and traditional dance are performed. The club hosts the Carassauga Festival of Cultures. It is the biggest multicultural festival in all of Canada, sharing the Portuguese culture with all the communities in our great city of Mississauga.

It is with great pride that I announce the most recent project. Freshly opened this year is the Luso home for the disabled. This centre, run by the Portuguese community, is providing services to all citizens of Peel Region with disabilities.

These organizations are only viable through the lifeblood of our volunteers. They are people like Jack Prazeres, Joe Botelho, Lena Barretto, Armindo Silva, Frank Alvarez, and Tony de Sousa, and I could go on and on. I know it is a slippery slope, but there are so many unsung heros, and I would love to name them all.

Many of these worthy community initiatives take many resources to build and operate, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the many contributors. There are some organizations, like LiUNA 183 and 506 and their business manager, Jack Oliveira and his executive, that have been stellar in their support of the community.

The Federation of Portuguese-Canadian Business & Professionals and its members have also been instrumental in helping raise funds for many causes. Under the dynamic leadership of Michelle Jorge, the current president, her executive and the many past presidents and boards have come together. They understand that investing in our young people, that investing in scholarships for the community, will allow future generations to succeed and continue to keep the culture and heritage of Portugal alive in Canada.

There have been three Canadian parliamentarians who have had the opportunity to sit in this chamber: Mario Silva, who served the riding of Davenport from 2004 to 2011; the present member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert; and me. We all know it is because of the Portuguese community and its support that this has been possible. We are all very proud to be a voice here in Parliament for that community, for the many Portuguese, 500,000, across our great nation. We have ridings such as Davenport, Cambridge, Streetsville, the Brampton ridings, Kitchener, Sault Ste. Marie, London, and Hamilton. I am sure I could name every riding in the House and all would have at least a number of Portuguese who live within their communities.

It was a proud moment for all of us on the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group to hold the first ever Portugal Day on the Hill last year. We had another one this year, and I am sure that next year, with the proclamation of June as Portugal heritage month, it will be fantastic. We encourage everyone to come out for some really delicious food and festivity.

[Member spoke in Portuguese]

[English]

I encourage all members in the House to come out and enjoy the festivities as we enrich our country. I congratulate the member for Davenport on Motion No. 126, which is long overdue.

[Member spoke in Portuguese]

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute pleasure for me to be wrapping up the debate for my private member's Motion No. 126. It is so great to see that we have cross-party support for the motion. Indeed, the Portuguese community is well represented right across the province and the country.

I am so very proud, and I feel so privileged to speak to Motion No. 126, which pays tribute to the contributions of Canadians of Portuguese origin to this magnificent country. I want to thank the members of all parties for supporting my motion.

From my Conservative and NDP colleagues, we are reminded that the Portuguese are well known for their hard work, entrepreneurial spirit, and that they are not people who shy away from facing and overcoming challenges. They are warm and generous people who are fanatical about soccer, who are proud of their explorer past, who love their gardens and growing things like food and flowers, and who are so well known for their bacalhau, pasteis de nata, Vinho Verde, and port wines. I want to thank my colleagues on the opposite side of the House for their support.

I want to acknowledge the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the member of parliament for one of my neighbouring ridings in Toronto, who has reminded us that the Portuguese language is the tenth most spoken non-official language in our country and that at the heart of our nation is the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, enacted in 1988, a groundbreaking, historic act that preserves and enhances the multicultural heritage of all Canadians, stating that each culture is upheld as equal in our economic, social, cultural, and political life. Indeed, it is this policy that allows us to proclaim loud and clear that one can be a proud Portuguese and a proud Canadian and there is no conflict. It is also this policy that has allowed diversity in Canada to become our strength.

I want to also thank the members of the Canada-Portugal Parliamentary Friendship Group. Many of them have spoken today and many just a month ago. They are colleagues from ridings right across the country and they truly love and honour the Portuguese communities of which they are so proud to serve. I give them a huge thanks.

Finally, I want to once again thank the many Portuguese leaders from Portuguese clubs and associations, and the Portuguese media. They have come to me over the last few weeks and have told me how important this motion is to them and the community and how proud they are that it has been introduced at the national level. Indeed, I dedicate this private member's motion to all those who have tirelessly promoted the Portuguese culture, language, and community. I am standing on their shoulders.

We would not have reached this moment without their hard work, persistence, and love of their culture, language, and traditions. I give them them heartfelt thanks. Our nation is stronger because of their efforts, and our Canadian society so much richer.

Last, I did not get a chance to truly recognize all the heroic work of the Portuguese clubs right across the country. Over 150 clubs exist in Canada, and 20 to 25 are in my riding alone. Week after week, they tirelessly work to celebrate all that is Portuguese. I want to recognize their accomplishments.

[Member spoke in Portuguese]

[English]

Finally, what a personal privilege it is for me to present the motion. Culturally, I am half Hispanic and half Ukrainian, but represent the largest Portuguese community in Canada. What a beautiful reflection this is of Canada and how wonderful it is that I am able to do so. It shows that it does not matter what a person's background is, or the colour of a person's skin, or what religion a person practises. In this country, if people work hard and take advantage of the opportunities before them, they can succeed and achieve their potential.

The second reason is because it truly shows that diversity is indeed our strength and that all cultures that make up our great country make us a more beautiful and stronger population. It is in the differences that our beauty lies and in the heroic efforts we make each day to understand each other, live with each other, appreciate each other, and ultimately see that no matter how different we may seem on the outside we have so much more in common. We are drawn together by a common humanity, one that says we are all equal.

It is an honour to present my private member's motion, Motion No. 126.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed will please say nay.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Portuguese Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 8, 2017, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, when I rose in the House on May 31, it was to mark a tragedy. It had been reported in the news that a woman had died attempting to make the irregular crossing from the United States into Canada around Emerson, Manitoba.

Since that time, we have seen irregular crossings continue. Up to the end of September, a total of just over 15,000 individuals have been intercepted at irregular crossings. Through regular and irregular entries to Canada, there have been upwards of 35,000 asylum claims filed in Canada this year alone.

Today, the government tabled the immigration levels plan for 2018. In its multi-year plan, the government has shown once again that it is failing to treat the current asylum claim trend seriously. The 2018 plan increases the target for protected persons in Canada and dependants abroad only by 1,000, to 16,000. This target includes those crossing regularly and irregularly.

As reported, there is currently an acceptance rate of 69% for asylum claims that have come before the IRB by irregular crossers. Should that trend continue or even if that rate decreases marginally, the targets put forward by the government today have no basis in reality.

There is nothing to suggest that asylum claims to Canada will be reduced over the next three years. There are 65 million people globally who are forcibly displaced. There is no sign that the current anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric and policy in the United States will improve.

When I spoke with the IRB chairperson in the spring, it was clear then and it is clear now that rhetoric and those policies are helping drive people from the United States to Canada. Experts on the matter have been clear since January. The issues in the U.S. asylum system such as lack of access to legal counsel impact a person's ability to build his or her case, resulting in legitimate claims being denied. We now know this to be true. Sixty-nine per cent of irregular crossing claims have been accepted in Canada so far.

Let me remind the parliamentary secretary of Seidu Mohammed. He lost most of his fingers to frostbite making the crossing. He was put in immigration detention by the United States. He was unable to adequately prepare for his asylum hearing. His claim was denied. In Canada, he was able to adequately prepare. As a member of the LGBTQ community from Ghana, he faced a serious threat of persecution and violence on the basis of his identity. His claim was accepted.

He was just one case of those 69% of successful claims. I have been informed of the details of other similar cases as well.

Why has the government been so reluctant to proactively deal with this situation? On what basis do the Liberals believe that levels announced for this category of claim are realistic? Are we going to be turning away legitimate refugees as a result of the government's failure to act?

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Serge Cormier LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for raising this issue. The question she had submitted dealt mainly with the Canada-U.S. safe third country agreement. She wanted to know whether we planned to revisit that agreement. My speech will therefore focus primarily on the Canada-U.S. safe third country agreement.

Asylum claims are governed in part by international treaties Canada has signed on to. As such, we have a legal responsibility to assess asylum claims made under these international conventions. That is why the asylum system is fundamentally different from all other areas of immigration.

The Canada-U.S. safe third country agreement is a treaty that was negotiated between Canada and the United States. It is premised on a principle accepted by the United Nations Refugee Agency that individuals should seek asylum in the first safe country they reach. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act requires the continual review of the U.S. to ensure that the that the conditions that led to its designation as a safe third country continue to be met.

Recent changes to U.S. immigration policy have not affected the functioning of the U.S. asylum system. In fact, as the head of the UNHCR in Canada has indicated on several occasions, the conditions that prevailed at the time of the agreement in 2004 remain the same today, and it would therefore be irresponsible to withdraw from it. The agreement remains an important tool for Canada and the U.S. to work together on the orderly handling of refugee claims made in each of our countries.

That being said, entering Canada illegally between designated points of entry is very dangerous and is considered a violation of the law. Individuals who are intercepted by the RCMP or local law enforcement after crossing the border illegally are brought to an immigration officer who will conduct an examination to determine the identity of the person and their admissibility to Canada. An initial security screening is also conducted to ensure that the individual does not pose a security threat to Canada and to determine whether they are eligible to make a refugee claim.

The Government of Canada recognizes that the increased number of asylum seekers in Canada is putting pressure on the provincial governments' social assistance budgets. If an asylum seeker wants to apply for an open work permit, he or she must first attend the initial interview to determine whether he or she has an eligible asylum claim. The claim must then be sent to the Immigration and Refugee Board.

We have expedited the processing of all applications for work permits submitted by asylum seekers across Canada. This allows them to look for work as soon as possible, so that they can take care of themselves and their families. We will abide by our 30-day service standard.

The Government of Canada is aware of the tragic incident the member mentioned in her speech, and we offer our condolences to the family and friends of the woman who passed away.

I assure my hon. colleagues in the House that our government takes illegal border crossings into Canada very seriously. We are monitoring this situation closely with our colleagues from the Canada Border Services Agency. We will continue to ensure that the Canada-U.S. safe third country agreement is honoured. We will also work with our American counterparts on this matter.

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, the government's own levels plan that was just tabled today shows that it is not taking this situation in a serious way. The government's failure to adequately staff and fund the IRB shows that it is not taking this situation seriously, unless the plan is just to create what we call “legacy claims 2.0” and have those asylum seekers wait and wait with their lives held in limbo.

The IRB is currently facing a backlog of over 40,000 cases, which increases by 1,400 cases per month. These lengthy backlogs will leave people's lives in limbo for years as they wait for their hearings. However, the backlogs might also allow the government to delay claim acceptances long enough to stay within its annual targets.

Is the Liberals' plan simply to not deal with the issue and stick their heads in the sand so that people's lives could be held in a situation of uncertainty?