Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to pay my respects and send thoughts and prayers to the people of Toronto. The tragedy that happened yesterday hurt me and hurt all Canadians. When something like that happens, it is not only regional or provincial; it is national. All Canadians are with the people of Toronto.
This debate goes to the heart of Canadian identity and what we want to do as Canadians. We all know that Canada is the product of an absolutely extraordinary human collaboration. Canada has always been populated by first nations. I know what I am talking about because Wendake is in my riding, and people have been living on that land since the dawn of time. Beginning in 1534, the first nations have welcomed millions of immigrants from all over the world to Canada.
On August 22, 1958, at around 4:00 a.m., the Arosa Star, a ship from Le Havre, France, docked at the Port of Quebec. On board were some 60 people who wanted to live in Canada, including my father, my mother, and my brother. They set foot on Canadian soil nearly 60 years ago and were welcomed here on August 22, 1958, as recorded in a document at the Port of Quebec. Sixty years later, my parents are still here, and I am here to carry on the family tradition with my children, my brother, my niece, and all the rest of the family.
Canada was built by immigrants. My parents, like millions of people over the centuries, came to Canada by obeying the rules. My mother spent nearly a week at the Canadian embassy in Paris trying her best to convince Canada to welcome my family. Her efforts paid off, to say the least.
In order for Canada to truly prosper, the rules must be obeyed. For over a year now, the situation in Canada, in human terms, has been totally unacceptable. Unfortunately, Canada has simply been allowing thousands of people to enter the country illegally, which is utterly disrespectful to the millions of people around the world who dream of legally immigrating to Canada and contributing to its success. Those who wait in embassies, those who wait in their home country, those who follow the rules have to wait while others enter illegally. I am not talking about two or three people. I am talking about tens of thousands of people.
This completely unacceptable situation was created by the Prime Minister of Canada. He made the ill-advised decision to post a tweet on January 28, 2017, at 3:20 p.m., saying that anyone who wanted to come to Canada was welcome, that Canada was a safe haven. He told them to come and that Canada was expecting them. He just forgot one little thing, and that is that anyone coming to Canada must do so in accordance with our rules and laws. As a result, thousands of people around the world decided that they could and would come to Canada. It threw Canadian embassies around the world into chaos.
On April 3, Marie-Danielle Smith of the National Post quoted a public servant from our embassy in Mexico who said that they needed to know how to respond to the many refugee claims they had received following the Prime Minister's tweet.
A few days later, the first secretary at the Canadian embassy in Mexico said that they were receiving an ever-increasing number of refugee claims as a result of the media attention garnered by the Prime Minister's tweet welcoming immigrants.
It is not Conservative supporters who are saying this. It is employees of our foreign embassy who have to deal with people who want to come to Canada on a daily basis. They are wondering what to tell these people who are watching television and seeing thousands of people going along a narrow path to cross into Canada while others are being asked to go to the embassy to fill out forms so that their claim can be processed. That is the reality. The current government is the one that created this problem.
What happened is that more than 20,000 people came here along the little path by Lacolle last year. Ninety-one percent of them entered via Quebec. Quebec has had to pick up the tab for all that. I will talk more about that later. When they realized what a mess the Prime Minister's tweet had made, the Liberals reacted, but it was too late. They decided to send the members for Bourassa and Honoré-Mercier to meet with people in Miami, Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas and tell them to follow the rules and obey the law. It was very nice of those two MPs to do that, but the problem is that they did it because the Prime Minister had created the mess in the first place by sending a message to the world telling people to come here and everything would be fine.
As a result, over 21,000 people entered Canada illegally, which led to untold grief, untold problems, and untold numbers of sad, deplorable humanitarian cases. In Quebec alone, provincial authorities had to accommodate 2,500 children. Schools had to make room for 2,500 new children. That is like opening five elementary schools from one day to the next. Premier Couillard himself said it was a ridiculous situation.
The same goes for four ministers who came during the past week, and I am sure I will have a chance to say more about that in a few minutes, right?