House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was energy.


Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing forward this bill. It is a very meaningful bill.

When he talked about listening to each other and learning from each other, it brings back the memory of the late member for Scarborough—Agincourt. For those new members who have not seen this video, I strongly encourage them to take a look at the video of Arnold Chan's speech. It was very inspirational and I think it speaks to the spirit of today's bill.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will use this short answer to commemorate my good friend Arnold Chan, a young man who I actually drafted into public life. He was a very fine and decent man. I would recommend everybody watch the video. It was one of his final speeches and, in fact, a very moving invocation of what we are supposed to be doing here as we come together at our best.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to offer my support for this bill, the Arab heritage month act. I want to thank the hon. member for Ottawa South for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. There are more than a million Canadians of Arab descent. They are found in every province and territory. Each one has a different story of how they or their ancestors came to this country.

No matter where they came from originally, whether it was Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Palestine, Jordan or any of a dozen other countries, one of the things Arab-Canadians have in common is that they came here seeking a better life. Another thing they have in common is their desire to give back to Canada. It is that desire to give back that I want to celebrate today. There are those of Arab heritage who have become well known in Canadian society. They are not thought of as hyphenated, but as proud Canadians.

Some of those with Arab heritage have become well known in our society. Actor Keanu Reeves was born in Lebanon. Hockey star Nazem Kadri is of Lebanese descent, as is filmmaker Donald Shebib. Being in Ottawa, I must mention singer Paul Anka, whose family came from Lebanon and Syria. That is not to mention the long list of Canadian politicians with Arab roots, some of whom are sitting today in the House of Commons.

There have been many business people as well. Arab-speaking Middle Easterners are known the world over for their entrepreneurial skills. While there may be instability in their home countries, they have flourished in their new lands. Unlike the famous actors, musicians and politicians of Arab descent whose names are well known, most of the entrepreneurs spend their careers outside of the public eye. Their contributions to Canadian society, though, are deep and long lasting.

I too am an Arab, an immigrant, and my story is like that of many others. I came to Canada leaving behind a country that had suffered from 15 years of civil war. I had few memories of what life was like in a country at peace. I was looking for a new life.

It was a beautiful snowy day on December 19, 1990, when I just arrived at the Edmonton International Airport, and I had never felt so cold, at -20°C, before. More than two dozen people were waiting to welcome me in the wonderful city of Edmonton, Alberta. The warmth of their reception made up for the chill in temperature. On the drive to the north side of Edmonton, with the white of the snow covering the fields and the roads, I felt peace and tranquility mixed with excitement. This was to be home.

The next morning, I went outside and took a deeper breath of fresh cold air. It tasted of freedom and opportunity. There was something about this place that made me believe that the choice I made to immigrate from Lebanon to Canada was the right choice. Looking at the challenges ahead of me, I could see possibilities of success looming much larger than failure. I found my first job at a factory on the north side working as a labourer, packing furniture. A few months later I made a transition to the cost accounting department. I learned manufacturing first-hand, and realized how important this sector is to the Canadian economy.

Through that factory I made my way to the international market, exploring an opportunity to promote a made-in-Edmonton product in the Middle East. Only two months after becoming a Canadian citizen, I was once again on a plane, but this time as a proud Canadian exploring the Middle East to open markets for Canadian products, in a region where Canada is respected as a beacon of freedom, democracy and peace.

As my horizons expanded, I began to understand what makes the economy grow and how opportunities could be found. Opening that Middle East market was a success story for a local manufacturing company and a professional milestone for this new immigrant.

In Edmonton's Castle Downs community, I became involved with a group of volunteers, wanting to make a difference and give back to the community. I looked at politics and got to know the system, to better understand how to make our lives better and to help shape policies for the betterment of all. There I met wonderful, dedicated people who were passionate about service. I learned more and more about the local communities and became familiar with the different dynamics within our small world.

As I said, my story is typical of so many Arabs who have come to this country to seek a better life and to give back to the community. I am proud of my heritage and am happy to see the establishment of Arab heritage month. I am prouder still to be a Canadian and to have been chosen by my fellow Canadians to represent them in the House of Commons.

I would be remiss if I did not take time to sing the praises of the Arab language that is spoken by so many Canadians. It is the language of poetry and mysticism, law and humour. Just the sound of it is pleasing even to those who do not understand it. It is a language that unites people across the Middle East and north Africa. The rich literature that can be found in Arabic tells the story of many cultures united under a common banner. To me, that sounds like Canada.

The Arabs have always exported their culture. One can see the Arabic influence when one visits Spain's Andalusia region and sees the Arab influence in the architecture of the region.

Who are the people we celebrate with this bill today? They are employees and employers, doctors and nurses, athletes, singers, actors and audiences. They come from all walks of life, from every strata of society, united by their heritage and a common identity as Canadians.

Let us join together in the House and support this bill. Let us declare Arab heritage month, and let us celebrate the contributions of Arab Canadians to this great country. In making Canada their home, they have enriched us in too many ways to count. Let us make this, and every April, a celebration of a culture that has contributed so much to the richness of Canada. Let us honour those Arab Canadians who have contributed to making this country a multi-ethnic, multiracial mosaic where people live in peace and security.

Canada is an example of what society can be when people celebrate their heritage without forgetting what unites them in common purpose. Let us celebrate Arab heritage month, and whoever we are and wherever we are from, we can all eat some baklava and shawarma at the end of the day.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 3rd, 2022 / 5:45 p.m.


Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to point out that all my thoughts and all the thoughts of the Bloc Québécois members are with Ukraine and the Ukrainians at this difficult time.

I will be speaking today to Bill C‑232, an act respecting Arab Heritage Month. This bill was introduced by the member for Ottawa South, and it is at second reading stage. More specifically, Bill C–232 proposes that the month of April become Arab Heritage Month in Quebec and Canada. The Bloc Québécois is pleased to celebrate the Arab community's extraordinary contribution to Quebec society. Last year, we passed a motion to have Irish Heritage Month begin on March 1. I had the honour of celebrating that month with various members of the House.

The Bloc Québécois does support the bill. Nevertheless, perhaps some of my colleagues, like me, find that we know very little about the importance of Arab communities in Quebec and Canada. I propose clarifying a few things first.

What exactly does “Arab” mean?

The term can cause some confusion because it refers to the people of the Arabian peninsula, to people who speak Arabic and to people of Arab culture. Arab language and culture are not exclusive to Arabia, however; they extend from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean via the Near East and the Maghreb. Historically, the spread of Arab language and culture is due to Arab conquests that occurred from the seventh century on after the birth of Islam. Not all inhabitants of the Maghreb are of Arab language and culture. Exceptions include the Berbers.

It would be wrong to define our Arab communities solely on the basis of their language, their country of origin or their religion, because what we are talking about here is a civilization. The west would never have had a Renaissance if the Arabs, during the golden age of Islam, had not transmitted and advanced the precious knowledge of the Greeks, which had been either forgotten or forbidden during the Middle Ages. From mathematics and philosophy to medicine, astrology and literature, this civilization's historic contribution to the human race is monumental. Today, Arab civilization continues to enrich our societies, including Quebec society.

Since the Arab world was largely colonized by France in the 19th and 20th centuries, the French language took on a prominent role. French is the first or second language of tens of millions of people from the Maghreb and the Middle East. The French language is just one of the things we have in common, because Quebec, as I said, has deep economic, political and cultural ties with the Arab countries.

I could mention, as an example, the co-operation agreement between the Quebec government and the Algerian government in the field of education and training. Quebeckers and Canadians of Arab origin form a sizable demographic in our population. As the preamble to Bill C‑232 points out, Canada is now home to over one million Arab Canadians. We are still waiting for the updated figures for 2021, since the number I just mentioned is from 2016.

There is, however, something that bothers me about the preamble to Bill C-232. By referring to Canadians of Arab origin and Arab Canadian communities, the bill presents a portrait of the Arab populations in Quebec and Canada that is not entirely consistent with reality, in my opinion. It seems to suggest that the Arab diaspora forms a uniform community across Canada. Am I surprised? No, I am not.

This is a typical example of the Canadian multicultural vision, which tends to consider Canada's population as a vast cultural mosaic, which would not be influenced by the existence of nations. However, there are nations. There is the Quebec nation, which has a different approach to the integration of its immigrants and cultural minorities than Canada does.

In Quebec, we believe in interculturalism, a model for living together where the equality of cultures is indissociable from francisation and secularization. With their knowledge of French, Arab immigrants integrate extremely well in Quebec.

Immigration may be a federal jurisdiction, but Quebec's explicit desire, expressed since the Quiet Revolution, to strengthen its ties to the countries of the Maghreb and to obviously promote francophone immigration cannot be ignored. Language is very important.

Immigrant populations are settling in Canada. Quebec is integrated into Canadian society, that is to say the English Canadian majority. At the same time, immigrant populations that settle in Quebec are integrated into Quebec society, that is to say the francophone majority.

It is obvious that the integration is different depending on whether immigrants come to Quebec or to Canada. That is why we believe that the terms “Arab Canadians” and “Arab Canadian communities” are misnomers.

Furthermore, in 2016, 368,730 people in Quebec identified as being of Arab ethnic origin. Of these, 91.8% spoke French, while 44% spoke it most often at home. Therefore, a vast proportion, or almost half of people of Arab origin living in Canada are Quebeckers and Arab Quebeckers, not, in my view, Arab Canadians.

I would like to use my personal experience to illustrate this point. During the last election campaign, I had the honour and pleasure of being invited to the Centre communautaire des Basses‑Laurentides, near my riding, for a political debate. This is a Muslim community centre. We spoke about language, secularism and sovereignty. I was not expecting it, but that is what I discussed with about thirty people.

I should also mention that during the election campaign a few months ago, I met with Bishop Tabet, an influential Lebanese Maronite bishop, and this meeting really stuck with me. Bishop Tabet is an extraordinarily sensitive man who is incredibly perceptive about the Quebec reality. He gave an incredibly candid speech on the historical ties between Quebec and Lebanon. It was clear to me that this man has an abiding love for Quebeckers.

I learned a lot from these people I met, and the connections I made will no doubt continue in the future.

I want to dedicate the end of my speech to all Arab Quebeckers. I thank them for enhancing the francophonie and contributing to the development of Quebec society. On April 1, I hope to be able to contribute to what will be known as Arab heritage month.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for this very delightful discussion. I believe many folks are in agreement about the importance of this work.

For too long, Canada's large and diverse Arab communities have not received the recognition they deserve from our institutions, including the House. This must change. That is why New Democrats are proud to support this crucial piece of legislation to recognize the month of April as Arab heritage month.

I am delighted and honoured to rise in support of the bill as the member of Parliament for Edmonton Griesbach. As a member who has the honour of representing one of Canada's largest and oldest Arab communities, I would like to take a moment to thank my colleague, the member for Ottawa South, for his leadership in drafting this important private member's bill.

As an indigenous person, I know first-hand how racialized folks are left out of the history books. Too often, our contributions go unnoticed, and even sometimes our words. Our stories often go untold or unrecognized. Whether it be Arab heritage month or even Black History Month, any history of racialized folks is often forgotten, which is why this work is so important.

We are often taught diluted stories about own own histories, of our own experiences. We see this clearly with indigenous history and our fight to ensure that true stories like those of the residential schools continue. Like many racialized folks in Canada, I grew up without seeing myself represented in media, books, advertisements and, yes, our history. Today I and many others still have long-lasting and real trauma related to the reclamation of our own identities and our ability to see our culture, language and achievements seen and valued here in Canada. I want to see a world where my niece and all young people who are racialized do not have to ask, “What is wrong with me?” “Why am I not beautiful, and why do I not belong?”. I want to live in a Canada where she does not have to say that she is going to play “pretend” to be white just in order to play with other kids. All children deserve to be seen, and they deserve to be recognized.

Without this necessary work, a whole generation of Arab Canadians will not see themselves and their extraordinary contributions to this country. This is important work, especially as we witness the rise of anti-Arab and particularly anti-Muslim hate across Canada, which is often gender-based and dangerous. This is certainly true in my home community of Edmonton Griesbach. We must do everything we can, like ensuring visibility and recognition are truly part of how we relate to our fellow neighbours, our friends, our family members, our colleagues and the people we see in our communities.

Arab heritage month would provide us all with an extraordinary opportunity to learn more about Arab Canadians and their achievements as part of our country, whether it is in the arts; sports; politics, as was mentioned by members previous; business; academics; sciences; and literature. It is also a time for us to recognize the ongoing challenges and barriers that are being faced by Arab Canadians. Hate crimes are still on the rise in Canada and, sadly, we have seen the horrific results of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate across our country.

Celebrating and honouring the many contributions of Arab Canadians is an important part of the work we all must do as parliamentarians to combat all forms of discrimination and hate-fuelled violence directed at Arab communities across our country. Arab history month and every month after that can be a time for us to continue working towards a compassionate, inclusive and safer Canada for everyone.

I am calling on all members of the House to come together and pass the bill as soon as possible. April is just a few weeks away, and with unity and leadership across all parties, we can ensure that the next month is Canada's first-ever Arab heritage month.

I hope that next month we can all have the opportunity to celebrate Arab heritage month, regardless, in our communities. Arab Canadians are there so long as they can be seen.

I would like to spend the remainder of my time telling a story from the remarkable Arab Canadian community in my riding of Edmonton Griesbach. Edmonton is home to almost 5% of Canada's Arab population, and I am proud to say that the heart of our Arab community is in my riding. Arab Canadians lived on Treaty 6 territory since before Alberta was even a province. The first immigrant families from Lebanon and Syria arrived in Alberta over 130 years ago in the 1880s to meet my families, who were fur traders at that time.

I want to tell a story about one remarkable Arab Canadian woman who came to Canada all the way back in 1923 but whose contributions are still felt every single day in my riding. Her name was Hilwie. Hilwie Jomha was born in Lala, a small village in the Beqaa Valley in what is now Lebanon, in 1905. She was the daughter of a leading family in the village, whose culture was a mix of Sunni and Shia as well as Christians and Jews.

Hilwie's future husband, Ali Hamdon, had come to Canada in the early 1900s. Together with relatives and friends from the Beqaa Valley, he became a fur trader in Fort Chipewyan, where my relatives have been for thousands of years, in northern Alberta. After he set up a home there, he returned to Lala and Hilwie. She immigrated with him in 1923 to begin a life here in Canada.

Hilwie quickly adapted to life in Alberta. She struck up a deep friendship with the Jewish families in Fort Chipewyan. After Hilwie had children, the Hamdons moved to Edmonton. Edmonton is where Hilwie truly made her mark as a citizen. The city's small but fast-growing Muslim community had a big problem in the 1930s. Like everywhere else in Canada at the time, it did not have a mosque. Prayers had to be held at individuals' homes, but there were limits to what they could do without a common meeting place.

Hilwie had a natural gift for connecting people. She brought Muslims together for Ramadan and became the fixture of the local community during the 1930s. It was a decade when Arab businesses in Edmonton were making their mark on the city's business scene. The Arab community in Edmonton had great strength and the people began discussing building their own mosque.

Hilwie was at the heart of these conversations. Soon these talks turned to action and Edmonton's Arab community hatched a plan to build North America's first mosque. Along with a group of Arab businessmen, Hilwie approached the mayor of Edmonton about buying some city land for a mosque, but there was a problem. The mayor wanted $5,000, a large sum of money at that time for a property. The community was not organized and there was no central body that had enough money to pay for the mosque.

To solve this, the community came together to found the Arab Muslim Association. Hilwie was at the heart of the organizing. She marshalled the entire community, including some of the various religious groups, to build the very first mosque. Hilwie went from door to door on Jasper Avenue, not far from where I live today in the heart of Edmonton Griesbach, and asked business owners to support the project, as well as community members and neighbours. These efforts allowed the group to buy land for the mosque and build its foundation.

However, there were more challenges. The initial funding was not enough to complete the mosque. When the money ran out, Hilwie and Arab communities sprang into action and made appeals for funding from the Muslim business communities across western Canada. This work finally culminated into finishing the Al Rashid Mosque, which opened its doors in 1938.

I would like to end my speech by repeating my call for all of my colleagues to unite and ensure the bill to enact Arab heritage month passes as quickly as possible. I hope to celebrate it at my community's Al Rashid Mosque next month, the very same one I spoke about in our history.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Sameer Zuberi Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to rise in the House to speak in support of Bill C‑232, which would designate the month of April as Arab heritage month. I also want to thank the hon. member for Ottawa South for introducing this bill.

I would also like to take a moment, given the context we are in right now with world affairs, to mark and speak about Ukraine. We know that this is a grave humanitarian crisis. We know that the people of Ukraine are fighting for their country and for their freedom. I am grateful to our government, and to all of us together in the House, for uniting to help the people of Ukraine and to avert this humanitarian crisis.

Slava Ukraini.

Returning back to Bill C-232 and Arab history month, in my university days in the early 2000s I first came to know who Arab Canadians are and who Arab people are, including their history and culture. It was at this time in my undergrad that I got to have and develop deep friendships with my Arab classmates. As somebody from a diverse background, a father that came here to Canada in the seventies and a mom who a third-generation Canadian of mixed Italian and Scottish heritage from Brockville, Ontario, I am personally fascinated by people's stories.

I am fascinated by people's personal stories, their ethnicities, their cultures and their heritage. That is how I became fascinated by Arab Canadians and all Canadians who I was studying with while at university. I learned that Arabs are not a monolith, but are of diverse cultures and diverse backgrounds. I learned too that there are contours to the Arab people. Their history and culture is deep.

Later on, once I completed my degree in mathematics, I ended up working in Kuwait. For the first time since being born in Canada, I was living outside of Canada. It was there that I got to again know what Arab culture is about, but that is just one small aspect of Arab culture in the Gulf.

I also had the chance to visit other countries, such as Bahrain. I had the chance to see the beautiful deserts of Saudi Arabia, to see Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in UAE and to go to Morocco, and I acknowledge that not all Moroccans identify as Arabs. Many will identify colloquially as Berbers, or Imazighen, who are indigenous people, in contrast to Arabs.

I have also had the chance to visit Jerusalem and the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. I have seen the diversity of Arab peoples, at least a part of it. There are 400 million Arabs in the world. There are 25 countries that have Arabic as a first language. There are many Canadians who also link themselves to Arab culture and heritage.

Arabs are not only geographically diverse and living in many different countries, they are also diverse when it comes to their faith traditions. The caricature is that Arabs are mostly Muslim, and while that might be true, there are important Christian communities within Arab lands who speak Arabic. There have also been historically Jewish communities that are within Arab lands.

In my riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard, I have had an amazing conversation with a gentleman who is living here today who lived in Iraq and who is attached to the Arabic language and culture of Iraq. Arabs are also of Druze faith and the Baha'i faith and no faith at all. Arabs are actually quite diverse in terms of their religion and background.

Before I leave the regional diversity of Arabs, it would be wrong of me not to speak for a moment about Yemen. We have the caricature of Arabs, especially those in the Gulf, as being wealthy oil sheiks, but there is also poverty. There is sometimes deep poverty, and right now in Yemen, there is what the UN has said might be the deepest humanitarian crisis currently on earth with over 20 million people starving due to six years of conflict. This is something for us to reflect upon.

This is something for us to reflect upon, and as we think of the people of Ukraine, one million of whom are displaced, I am sure our hearts and minds also go to the international community and to people who are suffering on this earth, such as in Yemen at this point in time, too.

I would like to switch a moment and go from diversity of regions, regionality and contours, and destroying and breaking some caricatures, to fleshing out the diversity of faith of Arab peoples and to note their large contributions to humanity.

We know today of the current geopolitical challenges in the Arab world, but we sometimes also forget about the contributions Arabs have made to humanity. I will name a few.

One is al-Kindi, who was a father of Arab philosophy in the 9th century. He lived in Baghdad. He brought into the Arabic language Greek science and philosophy and made it available to humanity. He was also a luminary in metaphysics, ethics, logic, psychology, medicine, pharmacology, mathematics, astrology and so many other subjects. If only we could be like people of ancient times who were luminaries in many different domains.

There was also Ibn Rushd, commonly known to many of us here in the west as Averroes, who lived in the 12th century. He was heavily influential in contributing to the European Renaissance movement. He also was a luminary in philosophy, medicine, theology, astronomy, physics, mathematics, law and numerous other fields. He also had many treatises and commentaries on Aristotle.

If we fast-forward to present day, Umm Kulthum was an Egyptian singer who so many know, especially those who are connected to Egyptian culture and heritage. She was a film actress also. A singer-songwriter from the 1920s to the 1970s, she is very well known.

There is also Nancy Ajram from Lebanon, who is also quite well known.

I mentioned earlier our human family, in which Arabs number upward of 400 million and 25 countries have Arabic as a first language. Let us zoom in here on Canada, where at least one million Canadians mark their heritage as from an Arabic background. In Quebec, ma belle province, there are 170,000 Canadians and Quebeckers of Arabic origin. In my riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard, there are 7,000 Canadians and residents of Arabic origin.

Arab Canadians are a fast-growing population. They are also highly educated. Among the highly educated people within our country, 61% of Arabs have a post-secondary diploma, degree or certificate. This is something that is important to note. Arabs are hard-working.

The first known Arab to come to Canada arrived in 1882 and settled in Montreal. From that time until now, we have seen Arabs come to Canada and contribute to our social fabric.

I want to take a moment to highlight the importance of this heritage month. Arab heritage month, like so many other heritage months that give communities the chance to educate fellow Canadians about their culture and heritage and give communities the chance to share their contributions to humanity, would give Arab Canadians a chance to contribute to our social fabric and to share their contributions.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been wonderful today to sit in this chamber and listen to these speeches on why it is so important to have an Arab heritage month. We are living in a country where today in this chamber we are talking about the Ukraine. I have listened to so many of my colleagues talk about what is happening in Ukraine, and this is what Canada is. It is a country made up of so many different nationalities, and I am so fortunate to represent the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, where one of the largest populations in the city of London is Arabic.

I really want to talk about this motion and I am thankful for being able to do so. I want to thank the member who put it forward. It has given me a good chance to reflect on my own community and reflect on why it is important that we have this heritage month.

Earlier I said something to one of my staff. Her name is Raghed, and I said to her, “You learn about other people when you break bread with them.” When we had our staff retreat last summer, I asked her, “Can you bring some food, because we want to learn more?” That is what we do and that is why, when we are having these heritage months or heritage days, we can actually sit there and say, “This is where I came from. This is the language I speak. These are some of our traditions.” I think it is very important.

I want to speak about some things that we see in the city of London. I know the member for London West is here, and we should be very proud of the people we have in our communities. I want to read an excerpt, and to be honest, I have stolen a lot from this excerpt, but it was so well written that I want to read it into the record. This was from the University of Western Ontario, in the Western News. Adela Talbot wrote this article a few years ago. It is a history of the Arab community in the city of London, and I quote her:

Starting in 1890, and continuing throughout the 20th Century, generations of Arab immigrants came to London, Ont., to establish a new life for themselves and, in turn, to build a community that continues to flourish today. Many of the original names from those early immigration waves still resonate: Hasan. Barakat. Said. Aziz. Hajar. Fadel. Shoshar. Sala. Hejazi.

Perhaps quite familiar to the Western community, Philip Aziz was a well-known member of one of these families. With a father from Lebanon, Philip grew to become a professor at Western and have a street named in his honour.

I just lost that street in the redistribution a few years ago, but I am so proud of that. The article continues:

These families have succeeded in countless areas. But across the years, it was a deeply rooted respect for the history and future of the Arabic language that united this community and created a lasting legacy for native speakers to pass along to the next generation.

In 1950, the community organized the first Islamic Benevolent Society to care for newcomers by assisting with language, local customs and cultural issues. This promoted ties of friendship and cooperation with the non-Arab, non-Muslim members of the wider community. The society built bridges of understanding that integrated the new arrivals into the heart of their adopted land.

As time passed, the Arabic-speaking community institutionalized the learning of their mother tongue. They reached out to friends in surrounding communities for support. More than a thousand people — from London, Toronto, Windsor and Sarnia — attended the first conference of Arabic native speakers. They expressed their wish to strengthen cultural ties, and encourage future generations to preserve the linguistic and cultural heritage of their common roots.

As more immigrants came to Canada from Muslim and Arabic-speaking countries, the importance of Arabic was a concern felt among many of the more educated members of the community. Worried about the loss of their Arabic roots, and the identity of their children, parents donated for the construction of a modest location for prayer. This also served as a space for speaking Arabic....

Since I have only a minute left, I want to talk about this. This is the mosque that people will find in London. It was built on Oxford Street back in 1957. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed it back in 1962, but the community came to rebuild the mosque, and it was rebuilt in 1964. Those are things that we should be proud of. Those are things that a community does.

There are over 400 million Arabs throughout the world, and in Canada we know that they are coming to this beautiful place to find hope, sometimes refuge and a new life. I am so proud to welcome so many Arabic community members to the city of London to be our neighbours and recognize that when we take time to learn and we have time to celebrate the heritage of another country, we learn how wonderful Canada really is.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting day in the House. I know my colleague across the way is expecting some communication that I might have about mandates and health. I will get to that in a minute, but there were some other things I wanted to mention coming out of what I heard today in the House. It was a very interesting discussion.

As we know, about 30% of the natural resources in Canada is from foreign countries, and that is primarily used in the eastern part of our country. Also, in just a couple of decades, $500 billion from Canadian energy has been shared across the country and used extensively in Canada to build roads, schools and hospitals, but we have also spent $500 billion on bringing foreign resources into our country. One of those foreign resources would be Russia, which exports to Canada.

Canada spends about 1.4% of our GDP on military, while Russia spends 5%. It gets a lot of its resources from exporting of resources. Some statements have been made that I will refer to. The Ukrainian foreign minister said that the world needs to boycott Russian oil and gas. To begin with, here in the House, there was a discussion of that, and a minister said that we do not take Russian crude. Eventually it got to the point that we do take oil derivatives, and extensively in the billions, over the years.

What has Russia used this money for? According to Ukraine's foreign minister, a full embargo is needed, because Russia now has the means to pay for arms to murder Ukrainian men, women and children. We have to understand the challenge that it is.

Some people would suggest that I think in my riding it is all about oil and gas, but that is not so. Some of the largest wind farms in Canada are in my riding. The largest solar farm in Canada is being built in my riding. We are one of the sunniest places in this country, if not the sunniest. We have a lot of different sources that we use as we talk about energy. In my riding, there are a lot.

However, Russia has gotten $13.1 billion from Canada for their oil. In 2021, it was almost $400 million of oil. This is what Russia used to pay for a lot of things they are using against Ukraine. We need to use Canadian resources going forward as we have a transition in our economy. We have to stop importing oil from countries like Russia.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Milton Ontario


Adam van Koeverden LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and to the Minister of Sport

Mr. Speaker, the question that was on the Order Paper was not asked, so I am unsure if the member opposite would like me to talk about measures at the border, health or oil and gas. I am never shocked when members of the Conservative Party would prefer to talk about oil and gas over pretty much any other subject, but here we are.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the government's border measures to protect Canadians from COVID‑19.

Border measures are based on available data, scientific evidence and monitoring of the epidemiological situation both in Canada and internationally.

In response to the omicron variant, we implemented a number of measures to protect Canadians. Recent data indicates that the latest wave of COVID‑19, driven by the omicron variant, has passed its peak in Canada, which we can all be grateful for. Therefore, we can move toward a more sustainable approach to the long-term management of COVID‑19 at our borders. This approach includes adjusting our border measures and posture somewhat.

As of February 28, 2022, the mandatory randomized testing surveillance program for vaccinated travellers now applies to all vaccinated travellers. That means that travellers who qualify as fully vaccinated, arriving to Canada from any country, will not need to take a COVID‑19 molecular test upon arrival unless they are selected at random. These randomly selected travellers will not be required to quarantine while they await their testing results. Children under 12 years old who are not yet fully vaccinated but are travelling with their fully vaccinated adult parents or guardians will continue to be exempt from quarantine, but now they are exempt without conditions. This means they no longer need to wait or to self-isolate before they can attend school, day care or camp. Also, they are no longer subject to testing and other specific requirements.

There are no changes to requirements for unvaccinated travellers at this time. These travellers will continue to be required to test upon arrival and on day eight, and to quarantine for 14 days.

Another change that was recently implemented is that travellers now have the option to use a negative COVID‑19 rapid antigen test or a molecular test for pre-entry requirements. In order for the rapid test to be valid, the test must be authorized by the country in which it was purchased and must be administered by a laboratory health care entity or a telehealth service. If it is self-administered, it must be observed by a lab, a testing care provider or via audio-visual means with the lab that performed the test.

Travellers choosing to present a valid negative rapid antigen test will have to have taken that test no more than one day prior to their initially scheduled departure time or before entering Canada by land or water. For those choosing to take a molecular test, the requirements will remain the same. It is to be taken 72 hours before their flight or arrival at the land or sea border.

Finally, the Government of Canada has adjusted the travel health notice from a level 3 to a level 2. This means that the government is no longer recommending that Canadians avoid travel for non-essential purposes, which is exciting for those looking forward to a trip in March.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is working closely with other departments, including Global Affairs Canada, Transport Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to prioritize all the necessary measures to facilitate the inflow of refugees from Ukraine.

As we have said all along, Canada's border measures remain flexible and adaptable, guided by science and prudence.

In closing, I want to say how happy I am that my colleague opposite highlighted how good Alberta is at dealing with renewable energies, in particular solar and wind. We can all be very proud of that.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I respect my colleague. Anybody who can be an Olympic athlete deserves respect, and one who has represented our country I duly respect, so I respect my colleague across the way.

With respect to the mandates, one of the challenges we are having in the ag sector in southern Alberta is because of the mandates. I have heard from a lot of people in the ag sector that 200 families have left for either Texas or Mexico. We have incredible productivity in the irrigation area: 20% of the ag GDP is from irrigation in Alberta. The ag people in my riding, and other southern Albertans, are extremely upset that we have lost so many because these people chose not to be vaccinated and chose to oppose the mandates. This is going to be an incredible problem in the ag sector in southern Alberta this year.

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his kind words with respect to the Olympics. I know he was a school teacher and taught my very good friend. I can say her name since she is not a member of Parliament: Sherraine Schalm. She competed in fencing.

The Government of Canada's adjustments to the border measures are possible because we have a variety of tools at our disposal now. These include strong surveillance systems, a highly vaccinated population and continued access to vaccines and therapeutics both in and outside of our hospital system, and increasing access to rapid tests.

I want to remind Canadians that they should still exercise caution when travelling abroad and that the risk of becoming sick while abroad is still very real. Canadians need to be aware that there is still a possibility that they will need to extend their trips if they test positive for COVID‑19 while abroad.

There is also an ongoing risk that measures relating to travel abroad as well as to Canada may be changed during travel. The Public Health Agency of Canada works closely with other departments such as Global Affairs Canada—

HealthAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, direction and control regulations are a problem for the charitable sector in Canada. Direction and control regulations require that when charities are involved in activities, those activities are to be under the full direction and control of those charitable organizations. It is right that there be rules and restrictions around charitable organizations, that they be accountable for the dollars given to them and that they align their activities with their charitable purpose in accordance with the rules that exist, but this requirement of direction and control is not necessary to ensure accountability. We can have a framework that requires accountability without the restrictiveness of direction and control.

The effect of direction and control is particularly strongly felt in the area of international development because it really limits the ability of charities to form constructive partnerships with organizations in other parts of the world. The best practice in international development is to see the people in developing countries as the heroes of their own story and for donors and external organizations to be supportive, not to try to control and manage all aspects of the development process or of those communities' lives. Direction and control regulations therefore run totally counter to the best practice of self-determination in development. Effectively, they force the kind of ongoing neo-colonial view that many organizations, as well as individuals in developing countries, want to move away from.

In response to these concerns that come up repeatedly from various organizations that work in international development, and that are concerns for other charitable organizations as well, Senator Omidvar put forward a private member's bill that addresses this by moving away from direction and control while still ensuring accountability in accordance with a charitable purpose. This bill passed unanimously in the last Parliament and it passed in the same form unanimously in this Parliament. It now stands in the name of my friend, whose riding I cannot remember, in the House.

We asked the government, on February 14, what its position was on the bill. We asked three questions about direction and control, and I am following up on those questions because, unfortunately, the answers seemed to suggest the minister was not even aware of the issue. I am hopeful that maybe there was some mistake in the process of response and that we can get some clarity tonight about where the government is at on this direction and control issue.

I say to the government that this is not a partisan issue. Fixing direction and control should be a win-win. My colleague who put forward this bill had an NDP member second it as a demonstration of cross-party support. I believe that all opposition parties have been clear already about their support for this bill, so a majority of the House wants to see this bill pass, but sometimes the challenge with private members' bills is that we run out of time. We have a good idea people agree on, but it does not make it through the process quickly enough.

I would like to ask the government what its position is on Bill S-216, the direction and control bill that has now twice passed the Senate unanimously. If the government supports the bill, is it prepared to work with us to try to move this process along so that this Parliament can be the one that finally gets it done? I have worked on other issues, such as organ harvesting and trafficking, for example, where we have a good bill that everyone agrees on and yet it takes over 10 years and we are still talking about it because the clock has run out in every Parliament. I hope that will not happen in this case.

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Outremont Québec


Rachel Bendayan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to exchange with my hon. colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, with whom I also sit on the foreign affairs committee. As members can imagine, over the last number of weeks we have been very busy addressing the developing situation in Ukraine and now, of course, the illegal invasion. I believe my colleague wished earlier to refer to the hon. member of Northumberland—Peterborough South, who introduced the companion bill.

I would like to begin my response to my colleague by being very transparent, both to him and to every member of the House, in saying that our government is currently analyzing carefully Bill S-216 and will communicate its position as the bill makes its way through the legislative process in the House of Commons. Indeed, there is much at stake, and we must consider very carefully how the framework for charities that work in partnership with other charities in Canada and internationally could be improved.

As my hon. colleague knows full well, Canada's tax incentives for charitable donations are among the most generous in the world, and Canadians are also very generous. They claimed $11 billion in donations made to registered charities and eligible recipients in 2020. That translated into $3.1 billion in federal tax relief for the donators through the charitable donation tax credit.

In the meantime, corporations made $3 billion in donations and received roughly $710 million in federal tax assistance through the tax deduction for charitable donations.

The generosity of this tax assistance and other tax benefits given to charitable organizations means that organizations that decide to register as a charitable organization follow a host of specific rules set out in the Income Tax Act. These rules are designed to ensure that the donated money is indeed used for charitable purposes. Through this function, these rules protect the public trust in the entire charitable sector.

The Income Tax Act, one of the main rules governing charities, allows registered charities to use their resources in two ways. They can use their resources on their own charitable activities or they can make gifts to qualified donees. This rule was designed to guarantee a high level of accountability for tax-deductible donations.

Under the current provisions of the law, charities are able to partner with intermediaries to carry out their charitable activities, but yes, they must maintain sufficient control and direction over the charity's resources. That is how the law is currently drafted. The intention here is that federal tax rules should support the work of charities while still ensuring accountability for the use of donations so that Canadians know and can be certain that the tax-assisted donations they are making to charitable causes are actually going to those causes.

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the parliamentary secretary, for responding and for being transparent about the fact that the government is still studying this.

I would submit that we do have a little bit of a process problem on private member's bills, where it seems they are considered and ultimately maybe they are going to cabinet at too late a stage. It would nice if private member's bills could be considered earlier. Then the government could come to a position earlier on them so that, in cases where the government supported a private member's bill, we could move it along faster. However, instead we end up in this situation where there is delay and delay, because it does not seem to get considered in terms of the government coming to a definitive position until we are already at the second hour of debate.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary to do all that she can to ensure that, prior to the first hour of debate at least, which is scheduled for mid-May, there is a discussion where the government actually comes to a conclusion, because if we are able in that first hour to say that everybody agrees to expedite this bill and skip the second hour, then we could move it along faster. Again, I do not want to see this bill die in this Parliament again and have to keep bringing it back. Let us work so that the discussion happens, but let us work to see that we can get it done.

Canada Revenue AgencyAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the suggestion from my colleague in terms of procedure. It is my understanding that Bill S-216 did recently pass the Senate, and it is now in our legislative process in the House of Commons. Our government, as I mentioned earlier, is in the process of analyzing it, and we will come to a decision.

I look forward to working with my colleague opposite and all colleagues interested in this issue in order to address the proposal put forward in the Senate bill.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Anna Roberts Conservative King—Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, before having the privilege of representing the residents of King—Vaughan, I worked in banking for many years. Throughout my career, I experienced many ups and downs in the Canadian housing market, but I must admit that the current situation facing our country has me extremely worried.

Prior to the pandemic, many Canadians were already facing an unaffordable housing crisis. Since May 2020, home prices in Canada have skyrocketed by almost 50%. In the seven years since the Liberals came to power, the cost of a typical home in Canada has doubled. Let me be clear. This is not normal. A doubling in national housing prices in just seven years is alarming.

What does the government propose as a solution? In this current market, how can we provide assurances to new homebuyers that purchasing their first home is still possible? The Minister of Housing recently hosted a national housing supply summit, which perfectly illustrated that the minister and his government are all about lights and camera, but no real action. I will give the Liberals credit where credit is due. The Liberals never miss an opportunity for self-promotion.

However, I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is painfully obvious that the government has no real plans for solving the housing crisis emergency. In fact, earlier this week, Liberals sitting at the finance committee rejected a two-year ban on foreign money investments in Canada's real estate, even though they explicitly campaigned on supporting this measure less than a year ago. Why does the government continue to make promises that it has no intention of keeping?

The Minister of Housing has presented a few spending initiatives and construction projects but, as always, it is much too little and way too late. This year, rather than increasing, housing construction has stalled with no guarantee that it will reach the levels required. Currently, estimates show that Ontario alone would require over 650,000 new builds for its per capita ratio to equal that in the rest of the country, in comparison to our G7 neighbours. Canada is in an alarming position, given that we simultaneously have the lowest population adjusted housing inventory and the fastest-growing population in the G7. All this combined, housing prices are predicted to increase another 10 and a half per cent over the next year.

The government announced ambitious immigration targets. It hopes to settle over 400,000 newcomers in Canada this year. It is certainly something to consider, given that we have an aging population and we have the physical space in this country to welcome more immigrants. However, the problem is with roofs, not land. In the face of a staggering shortage of supply, the government proposes to stimulate demand that much more. Frankly, unless we have plans to bring in tens of thousands of construction workers, how does the government expect these newcomers to find homes?

We face a severe lack of affordable housing and the Liberal government is doing everything it can to avoid accountability. After seven years of inaction and broken promises, Canadians deserve leadership to revive the dream of home ownership. What plans does the minister have to address the crisis that has developed under the Liberal government?

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Hochelaga Québec


Soraya Martinez Ferrada LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Housing)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from King—Vaughan for raising the important issue of housing.

The government's primary objective is to help Canadians meet the challenges they are currently facing. We have not stopped investing in affordable housing since we first came to power. I am proud of the record we have to show Canadians. We have worked hard to house Canadians across the country.

Many Canadians struggle with housing and affordability. This is why the government is making sure that all Canadians have a safe and affordable home. As we grow, it is essential that the housing supply grows along with us.

We have grown investments in affordable housing. We recognize that there is still much to be done, including building more housing every year, increasing the number of affordable housing units and putting an end to chronic homelessness. The government is committed to working with its partners to deliver concrete results.

We recognize that buying a home is especially hard for young people in this country and that the housing market is also creating wealth inequality between the older and younger generations. I only have to think of my brother, who cannot buy a home right now. We are going to do this for him and for all young people across the country.

Our government wants to help. That is why we are bringing in a more flexible first-time homebuyer incentive program. Additionally, to help renters work towards buying a home, we will explore establishing a fund to design and increase rent-to-own projects across the country.

We are also reducing closing costs for first-time homebuyers. All this is made possible by our national housing strategy, a $72‑billion, 10-year plan that will give more Canadians a place to call home.

We have a whole host of programs in place under the national housing strategy that are getting results. Last week, the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, in collaboration with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, hosted the virtual 2022 National Housing Supply Summit. Over 300 people from across the country took part in the innovative discussions on housing supply challenges and solutions.

I would like to reassure my esteemed colleague opposite: Off camera, by which I mean our computer cameras, there was a lot of discussion about innovation. Our government is going to make significant investments, and we are going to continue to invest in housing because we all believe—and I hope the opposition will be on board—that everyone deserves a chance to succeed and thrive, and part of that is having a roof over our heads.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Anna Roberts Conservative King—Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, here is the situation. Just today, we got notice in the city of Toronto that the average home just jumped to $2 million. It is not just a lack of inventory. It is also the fact that we are not building the properties fast enough or ensuring they are affordable for first-time homebuyers.

There are programs, and I agree with my colleague. There is the RRSP program where people can use the first $35,000, and I believe that could be up this year. However, how many first-time homebuyers do we know who have that kind of money when they have just graduated from school? We need programs that will include first-time homebuyers and give them the hope of home ownership.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, we recognize the challenges Canadians are facing. We recognize that the cost of living is going up, that the cost of property is going up, and that the cost of housing specifically is a big challenge right now.

We are committed to building a stronger housing system. As I said earlier, this is a program that will enable renters to become homeowners. The national housing strategy will allow us to step up our efforts. I hope we can count on the support of the official opposition this time for the programs that are coming.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:49 p.m.)