House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regard.


Calgary Heritage, OxfordVacancies

11 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It is my duty to inform the House that vacancies have occurred in the representation, namely Mr. Bob Benzen, member for the electoral district of Calgary Heritage, by resignation effective Saturday, December 31, 2022; Mr. Dave MacKenzie, member for the electoral district of Oxford, by resignation effective Saturday, January 28, 2023.

Pursuant to subsection 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed warrants to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of writs for the election of members to fill these vacancies.

Message from the Senate

11 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill, to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-11, A fourth Act to harmonize federal law with the civil law of Quebec and to amend certain Acts in order to ensure that each language version takes into account the common law and the civil law.

Acting Clerk of the House of Commons

11 a.m.

Ajax Ontario


Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that consultations have taken place with the House leaders of the recognized parties and that, pending the conclusion of the formal process, the government intends to appoint Mr. Eric Janse to the role of Acting Clerk of the House of Commons.

The House resumed from October 26, 2022, consideration of the motion.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be the first member of the House to rise and speak in 2023. I would like to wish all my colleagues from all parties a happy new year.

We hope that we all have a prosperous year, working together productively and introducing bills that will make a difference. We hope to see strong, decisive action, especially when it comes to language, but also in the fight against climate change. That is very important to me. We also want decisive action for our seniors, meaningful action for housing, and action that will really improve people's lives. I think we also want to hear the expression “triple, triple, triple” less often in the House. I think everyone would like that.

I am very pleased to speak to Motion No. 62. I want to thank my colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard, with whom I was lucky to work at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. He is doing remarkable work. I think this motion is very important. There are all kinds of humanitarian and human rights crises going on in the world right now. I became aware of that, and it is something that matters very much to my colleague as well.

I think it is especially important to talk about the motion before us this morning, which is about what is happening to the Uighurs. I would note that here in Ottawa today, on Parliament Hill, we have Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress; Omer Kanat, executive vice-president of the World Uyghur Congress; Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project; and many members of the Uighur diaspora. I thank them for being here on Parliament Hill, and I hope their presence here will help put some pressure on this government. I really think that is what we need.

First, I would warn my colleagues who are sensitive and have a tender heart. I am about to tell members a really horrific story, one that will make our hearts pound, give us the chills and absolutely stun us. My colleagues should do what I did before becoming a politician. They should put themselves in the other person's shoes. They should try to see things from the perspective of the person I am going to talk about.

This is the story of a Uighur woman who immigrated to Canada several years ago. Her father became very sick and this woman decided to return to her country. When she arrived in her home city, she was welcomed at the airport by her sisters. Her heart filled with joy as she was so happy to see them. It was a meaningful moment. However, a sense of unease came over her. She did not know why, but she sensed that she was not welcome. In the taxi, they asked her to remain silent and not to talk. She thought that things would be all right when she arrived at her home, but her sister asked everyone to turn off their cell phones. She whispered to her that something had been installed on their roof the previous evening and that she had to be careful about what she said.

One night, at a restaurant, she noticed three men seated at the table next to her. She realized they were government agents. She was scared and did not finish her meal. These men watched her suspiciously. She slipped out into the market, which used to be quite vibrant, only to realize that no one was there. Her sister told her that most of the people had practically disappeared overnight, including her best friend. The situation was untenable and was jeopardizing her family. She had no choice but to leave. She left behind her dying father and her sisters, never to see them again. It was a heart-rending farewell. She returned to the comfort of her home in Quebec, while her family lives in fear in China.

This is a very real story. The actions of this government have been very tentative and weak. The government has reluctantly acknowledged that China's treatment of the Uighurs constitutes genocide. While an entire people is being persecuted and employed in so-called vocational training schools, surrounded by walls and barbed wire, watched by guards equipped with batons and shields, the government across the way seems just a tad hesitant.

It is also important to remember that many women are being raped. Some women told the committee about the sexual and psychological abuse they have suffered. Children are being taken away from their families and placed in orphanages or state-run schools. Good people are being forced into factories as slaves, primarily outside the Xinjiang region, further contributing to the shrinking Muslim population.

This is the same government that decided to boycott the Olympic Games, but to no effect. That is what it decided to do rather than demand that the games be moved so that the event could not be used for Chinese propaganda. It was as though the human rights violations and attacks on human dignity that we are talking about were somewhat or partially acceptable. The government will not go all the way with sanctions, because it thinks it can negotiate with people's suffering.

This morning, it is very important to point out how ironic it is that Motion No. 62 states that the government determined that China's treatment of Uighurs is genocide, when, in reality, the executive, the council of ministers, cravenly abstained during the vote on the previous motion in February 2021. We sincerely hope that such will not be the case this time, that the government will take the bull by the horns, show some backbone and truly acknowledge that what is happening in China right now is a genocide against the Uighur people.

We are talking about a regime that spies on and tracks Uighurs even beyond its own borders. Cameras and facial recognition technologies are used to track down deserters. Just like in bad sci-fi movies, this government introduces new family members through sponsorship programs. For example, one day I could end up with a new brother named George who would live with me and who my children would call their uncle. He would have me sent to a prison camp, beat my children and rape my wife. Meanwhile, my colleagues would turn a blind eye and wonder whether boycotting an event would have any kind of political impact.

The government is talking about bringing 10,000 Uighurs to Canada, which is approximately 0.08%. Those are the lucky ones who will be able to enjoy our openness while hopefully avoiding the Chinese service stations set up in our country. They will avoid forced sterilizations and no longer be assimilated. That said, what about the 99.92% of Uighurs who will continue to be raped, assaulted and abused and who may end up with a new brother? Are we going to be complicit in the abuse that these people are going to suffer or will we finally take action to support and help these people, these humans?

There is also talk of foreign interference, given that many of the bordering countries are participating in this genocide, some without the option of refusing. Canada is not immune to these pressures. While the House of Commons passed a motion in 2020 calling on the federal government to have a plan to counter foreign interference, nothing has been done so far. Even in Quebec, we now have Chinese police stations that are calling the shots.

Are we going to do like we did with Yemen? Are we going to keep pretending we are not to blame by consenting to play a political game and by denying our responsibility when we sell arms to Saudi Arabia that are then used to kill Yemenites? Even as we give, we participate in torture. Is that who we are? Can we look forward to this government tabling a refugee resettlement plan quickly so that this does not fall off the radar while people are left to suffer?

These people are enduring slavery, torture, rape, sterilization, abuse, persecution, suffering and death. I admire these deeply resilient human beings who are risking their lives to fight for their freedom and who are not giving up on that dream.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, today we are debating Motion No. 62, a motion that focuses on the human rights abuses and genocide being carried out against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims by the government of the People's Republic of China.

I would first like to thank my colleague, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, for his important motion. All parliamentarians must stand firm in defence of fundamental human rights and condemn such gross violations, wherever they occur around the globe.

Canada has an obligation to uphold and defend human rights in the international community and support Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims, who are facing horrific persecution. I want to send a clear message that New Democrats support the motion, and we stand in solidarity with them in their fight for human rights.

The Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development has studied the human rights situation of the Uighurs. The subcommittee heard witness testimony documenting the mounting evidence of human rights abuses, including mass arbitrary detention, separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, forced labour, torture and other atrocities.

It was the subcommittee's conclusion that this organized and systematic persecution, which includes the largest mass detention of a minority since the Holocaust, constitutes a genocide, as per the genocide convention.

Back in 2018, the subcommittee on international human rights stated:

if the international community does not condemn the human rights abuses in Xinjiang province by the Government of China, a precedent will be set and these methods will be adopted by other regimes. Complacency is entrenched by a lack of access to Xinjiang; by the lack of free press; and through the silencing and harassment of Uyghurs living abroad.

Sadly, since then, human rights abuses have only intensified, and the situation has become even more urgent, demanding greater action. New Democrats have pushed the Canadian Parliament to recognize the treatment of Uighurs as genocide and have called on the government to use every tool at its disposal to help end these abuses. On February 22, 2021, the House unanimously recognized the actions of the Chinese government against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims as genocide, despite the Prime Minister and members of cabinet abstaining from the vote.

Recognizing and fully condemning this genocide was a critical first step, but Canada can and must do more to take a stand against the horrific human rights abuses. Motion No. 62 recognizes that Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims who have fled to third countries face intimidation to return to China, where they face serious risks of detention and other atrocities. The motion also recognizes that many third countries face continued diplomatic and economic pressure from China to detain and deport Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims, meaning that even in other countries, they are not safe.

Importantly, in light of this grave situation, the motion calls on the Canadian government to urgently leverage IRCC’s refugee and humanitarian resettlement program to expedite the entry of 10,000 Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in need of protection. Urgent action is needed.

The NDP fully supports Motion No. 62. However, I will be introducing an amendment to ensure that Uighurs are admitted to Canada via a special immigration measure. New Democrats believe Canada should increase the total numbers of vulnerable people we welcome to our country, including those from East Turkestan, Ukraine, Afghanistan and other places where people are subject to the worst violations of their human rights.

This is consistent with the subcommittee’s recommendations, which call for the creation of “an exceptional refugee stream” to expedite entry for Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. The creation of an emergency refugee program was also among the key recommendations advocated by the World Uyghur Congress. We should not be pitting communities against each other by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Further, while the NDP supports this important motion, there is much more work that needs to be done to put an end to the persecution of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.

Human rights advocacy organizations have been tireless in their work calling for greater action and highlighting the need for the Government of Canada to take a stronger stance for human rights. Some of them are here today.

Groups such as the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project have called on the government to implement the recommendations of the subcommittee report. One of these recommendations is that the Department of Justice develop a comprehensive human rights due diligence law that would compel businesses to respect the most current international human rights standards across their global operations and supply chains, and be held accountable for harms caused in relation to their operations.

Alarmingly, global supply chains are tainted with forced labour. Consequently, advocates have called on the government to strengthen trade restrictions to prohibit the importation of goods manufactured in the Uighur region. Products sold in Canadian supermarkets and stores are being made by Uighur forced labour. This includes products such as bath towels, quilts and clothes, which are made with cotton from the Uighur region. Corporations such as Nestlé, Del Monte and Unilever have also purchased tomatoes from Chinese companies in the Uighur region.

China is one of only eight states that has not yet ratified the International Labour Organization's convention on ending forced labour. Between 2017 and 2019, it is estimated that more than 80,000 Uighurs were forcibly transferred out of the Uighur region to work in factories across China. In 2020 alone, reports revealed that 83 global companies were indirectly or directly involved in employing Uighur workers under forced labour.

A recently released report on the automotive sector has revealed the use of Uighur forced labour throughout the supply chains of major auto manufacturers. The report found that more than 100 international automotive parts or car manufacturers have some exposure to goods made with forced Uighur labour.

It is completely unacceptable that companies are allowed to profit off of persecution, that supply chains involve forced labour, and that the products we purchase are manufactured using forced labour.

Advocates are also calling on Canada to push for an end to the arbitrary detention of Uighur human rights defenders in China. Canada should be working with civil society organizations to advocate for the release of those human rights defenders who have been imprisoned.

New Democrats have also called for sanctions to be imposed on government of China officials responsible for the perpetration of grave human rights abuses. This is also consistent with the recommendations of the subcommittee on international human rights.

The creation of a special immigration measure to expeditiously bring Uighurs and Turkic Muslims to safety is an essential part of Canada's role in defending human rights and taking a firm stand to denounce this ongoing genocide.

I move:

That the motion be amended:

a) in paragraph (c), by adding after the words “into Canada” the following: “and ensure corresponding additional immigration levels in the refugee streams so that other persecuted members in the global community seeking safety in Canada are not impacted”; and

b) in paragraph (d), by replacing the word “120” with the word “100”.

I think that this is essential, if we are going to move forward, as a first step toward supporting Uighurs. It is essential for Canada to take this action to show leadership in the international community.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It is my duty to inform hon. members that pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendments may be proposed to a private member's motion or to the motion for second reading for a private member's bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard if he consents to this amendment being moved.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Sameer Zuberi Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Madam Speaker, yes, I consent.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The amendment is in order.

Resuming debate, we have the hon. member for Scarborough Centre.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 62 by my friend, the MP for Pierrefonds—Dollard, regarding Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.

I want to thank him for his leadership on this and many other issues of human rights around the world in his role as the chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. The bipartisan support we have seen for this motion is a testament to his hard work across party lines, and I am pleased to add my voice and my vote in support of this important motion.

What does this motion seek to do? It consists of four primary components.

The first clause asks us to recognize that Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims who have fled to third countries face pressure and intimidation by the Chinese state to return to China. The evidence makes this an undeniable truth.

In the second clause, we are asked to recognize that many of the third countries these refugees fleeing persecution and genocide are residing in are facing strong diplomatic and economic pressure from the Chinese government to deport these refugees. Again, there is ample evidence to support this undeniable truth.

The heart of Motion No. 62 comes in the third clause, which calls for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and the government, to undertake steps to expedite the entry into Canada of 10,000 Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in need of protection over two years starting in 2024. This is such an important measure.

I have served on the immigration committee since I was first elected in 2015, and I know that we cannot solve the global immigration crisis through resettlement alone. We need a multi-faceted approach that includes humanitarian aid and diplomatic pressure to improve conditions on the ground. Many refugees want to stay near their country of origin, as they are hopeful conditions will improve to allow a safe return.

We need to support those refugee host countries that often lack the resources to care for large refugee populations, but the Uighur community is facing an ongoing genocide. I was proud to stand with the yes votes in 2021 when the House of Commons voted to recognize this sad fact. Canada has agreed to accept 10,000 Uighur refugees fleeing genocide who are most in need of protection.

It is our responsibility as a free and prosperous nation. It is our duty as a democratic nation to tell the world we are a voice for human rights. It will signal to China and the world who Canada is and where we stand. Hopefully, it will also encourage like-minded countries to step up to do the same.

Canada has always done our share in times of crisis. In the late 1960s, we welcomed 1,100 Czech refugees fleeing from the Soviet invasion. In the 1970s, 7,000 Chilean and other Latin American refugees found safety in Canada after political upheaval. We welcomed Iranian refugees after the overthrow of the Shah, Bosnian Muslims escaping ethnic cleansing in the Yugoslav civil war, and more than 60,000 so-called boat people following the war in Vietnam. More recently, we resettled more than 25,000 Syrian refugees, provided a safe haven for thousands of Ukrainians, and we are well on our way to resettling at least 40,000 Afghan refugees.

Canada punches above its weight, but this is not simple altruism. Refugees make Canada better. They enrich our nation, our economy and, of course, our lives. People whose families came to Canada through previous waves of immigration are today members of the House of Commons. They are giving back to this country with their service.

In my community, the first waves of Syrian refugees found jobs in grocery stores, restaurants and landscaping companies. Now, more than five years later, they are opening their own businesses, running their own restaurants, hiring people and providing employment to others. They are also becoming Canadian citizens.

I have spoken here before about two Syrian success stories in Scarborough Centre. Aleppo Kebab serves delicious Syrian food, while Crown Pastries has the best sweets in Scarborough, especially at Eid. I cannot help but imagine what great things these 10,000 Uighur refugees will achieve in Canada. One of them may even be the next chocolate king, like Tareq Hadhad.

What is clear, though, is that too many Uighur people will never have the opportunity to achieve their full potential, to realize their ambitions and their dreams. That is why Canada must act.

Lastly, the final clause of Motion No. 62 calls for the government to table a report on how the refugee resettlement plan will be implemented within 120 days of the passage of this motion.

I welcome this motion and its call for the urgent resettlement of 10,000 vulnerable Uighur refugees in Canada. It builds on our recognition of the genocide occurring in Xinjiang and sends a message to China and its Communist government that Canada and the world are still watching. I hope Parliament will ensure that the hard-working team at IRCC, whom we have asked to do so much in recent years, have the resources they need to do all we ask of them.

As I said earlier, resettlement alone is not an option. Canada must go further to keep the plight of the Uighur people in the public eye, to keep up pressure on China and to rally our allies and the international world with all diplomatic means in defence of the Uighur people. When the government released its new Indo-Pacific strategy, some pundits complained there was not enough attention paid to China. Indeed, the goal is to diversify our commercial and diplomatic interests in the region.

I recognize this may not be helpful to some of those with vested business interests, but I ask them, how can Canada have business as usual with a regime that is perpetrating genocide against an entire community, that puts a minority in re-education camps and then denies their very existence? How can Canada have business as usual with a regime that kidnaps our citizens to be held and used as pawns in business disputes? The answer is clear: We cannot.

China must uphold its international human rights obligations. Human rights are universal. National sovereignty can never be used as a pretext or an excuse for the violation of human rights. We cannot let the world forget that an estimated one million Uighurs and other Turkic groups are in concentration camps in Xinjiang, where they are subjected to forced labour, gender-based violence and torture. Uighurs who have fled their homes to third countries are still at risk of deportation.

I have always been a voice for human rights around the world, for the Afghans fleeing the Taliban, for the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar, for Coptic Christians in northern Iraq and for the Palestinian people denied their basic rights, and I will always raise my voice for those in need.

With my vote on this motion, we send a message: We will not look away.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Madam Speaker, I wish a happy new year to all.

The word “genocide” is not one to be used lightly. According to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:

genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

It was with that definition in mind that this House, on February 22, 2021, recognized that genocide is indeed taking place, being carried out by the People's Republic of China against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.

Since that motion passed in the House, the government has not addressed the concerns it raised. The UN human rights commissioner recently released a report again highlighting the atrocities being committed against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims by the Chinese regime. If we do not act now, when will we?

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration unanimously passed a motion calling on the government to extend existing special immigration measures to Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims, allow Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in third countries who are at risk of being deported back to China to seek refuge in Canada, and waive the UNHCR determination for Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims. This motion is in the same spirit as that one.

It is no surprise that the Chinese government, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, denies what is taking place. In doing this, it is following the pattern set by other autocratic regimes.

The government of modern Russia continues to deny the death of millions of innocent Ukrainians in the Holodomor, even as once again it is assaulting the Ukrainian people. Like the Chinese, it denies the history. The world knows better.

Germany at least has accepted that the Holocaust not only happened but is a national shame. The German people have worked hard to be able to say “never again”.

Standing against genocide is very personal to many people, but there are times when we must do more than just take a stand. This motion is a call for action.

Given the situation Uighurs face, this motion calls on the government to:

urgently leverage Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program to expedite the entry of 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in need of protection, over two years starting in 2024 into Canada;

This House has already stated that the crimes against the Uighur people are a genocide. The time has come to do more than just offer words of support, unless all we want is for the world to see how virtuous we are, how we are on the right side. We must do more, but what should that “more” look like?

It seems simple to say that we must open our borders, that in a country with as much geography as Canada, 10,000 or more people are easily accommodated. Perhaps there are logistical questions in moving thousands of people from the other side of the world to Canada, but if there is a will, logistics can be overcome.

However, we need to remember there is more to this equation than geography and seeing how many people can fit into a particular space. We are not talking about numbers here. We are talking about people, people who have been driven from their homes in fear of their lives and who have been persecuted in ways many of us cannot imagine.

It is not that they want to leave China, but faced with a choice of life or death, they have chosen life. A new life in Canada can offer hope, hope for a new life in a peaceful land where they will not suffer for their ethnicity or their religion.

I know, first-hand, that it is possible, for I have experienced Canada as a welcoming place, but should it be the first choice? Has anyone thought to ask those fleeing the genocide if coming to Canada is their first choice or their second or their third? Maybe starting fresh in Canada seems more appealing than life in refugee camps, but do they know the reality of what life looks like in Canada? I applaud the spirit of this motion, but I wonder if we have explored all options.

Would these refugees be happier if a way could be found for them to be integrated into community life in the countries where they have taken refuge, rather than travelling across the world to a place with an unfamiliar language and culture? Could Canada help with that?

The government is not very good at hands-on compassion. Ask any recently arrived immigrant. Many who come here find that Canada is not that promised land after all. The truth is that people fleeing conflict zones and attempted genocide need more than just a roof over their heads and a few language lessons. They need to know that they are safe and accepted, that there are people in this new land who are very happy to see them, who want to be their friends and who value them for who they are.

Government programs, no matter how well-meaning, cannot replace the personal touch. Those fleeing genocide, and indeed all newcomers to Canada, need someone who can help with the basics. For some, that would be a family member who has come here before them, but for most of those fleeing conflict, such as the Uighurs, it would be a Canadian reaching out in friendship to a newcomer.

That is what we did with the boat people coming from Vietnam in the early 1980s. That is what we have been doing with those refugees who came from Syria seven years ago, and those who continue to arrive on our shores today. We, here, can say, “Let us bring in these people who need our help”, but it is the Canadian people who will make these newcomers feel welcome.

Conservatives believe that Canada's immigration system should uphold Canada's humanitarian tradition of providing safe haven for refugees. I think that may be something that all political parties can agree on.

There may be some who are concerned about the reaction from the government of the People's Republic of China, which has been trying to have the countries where the Uighurs have taken refuge return the refugees, in violation of international law.

I would not be surprised if the Chinese ambassador to Canada calls me to complain about the words I have chosen to use today. His government insists that there is no genocide and feels insulted when people talk about it. I would invite the ambassador to take a trip with me to the border areas of the neighbouring countries where the Uighurs have fled. I would invite him to talk with the refugees, to hear their stories, and then I would ask him again if there is no genocide.

I doubt I will have that opportunity, but we in this House do have the opportunity to show our support for the Uighur people. I urge all hon. members to do so.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to Motion No. 62. Doing so is a big and serious responsibility. When I talk about important subjects like this one, I feel responsible for bringing people together.

I want to take this opportunity to wish all of my colleagues in the House of Commons and the people of Berthier—Maskinongé a very happy new year. My wish for us here in Parliament is that we will be able to work together across party lines with no regard for the interests of individual political parties. I dream of a world where an election campaign lasts only for the time allotted for that campaign and then, afterward, people work together for the common good. That is what we should always be trying to do. That is what I always try to do. I may not always be perfect at it, but I am definitely trying. I urge everyone to do the same.

I would like to remind the House that members of the Uighurs' rights movement are on Parliament Hill today, including Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, Omer Kanat, chairman of the congress executive committee, Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, and many members of the Uighur diaspora in Quebec and Canada.

I would like them to know that we truly respect them. We respect them and we are here to try to help them. I invite every member of Parliament here today to try to put themselves in their shoes for a moment. They are here in Canada’s Parliament, in a free world where people have the right to live according to their values and beliefs. They are thinking about their families and their nation, which do not have such opportunities.

Let us truly think about it. Let us put ourselves in their place. Let us imagine that our brother, uncle, grandfather, daughter, wife are left all alone while we are forced to go to a re-education and training centre, which is actually a concentration camp. These are serious issues.

We do not say this lightly. We have evidence. We have heard testimony, horror stories. Earlier, my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert eloquently shared the testimony of people who visited their family and cut their trip short to avoid hurting the people they love.

I find it difficult to imagine how a member of the House of Commons could sleep peacefully after voting against a motion like this one. That is how I feel.

Clearly, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the motion. The Bloc Québécois rejects any partisanship and wishes to protect the oppressed. Of course, we cannot do it all. My Conservative colleague raised a good question earlier, wondering whether these people really want to come to Canada. Of course not.

Anyone proud of their country would want to stay there and take part in its collective social, economic and cultural development, helping it thrive on the world stage. They would want to promote their nation throughout the world so that all could benefit from their values, progress and achievements in their own quest for improvement. Everyone wants that.

However, this is a situation where people fled to avoid being imprisoned. They fled to avoid torture. They fled to save their wives from rape. They fled to save their daughters from forced sterilization.

Let us think about it for a minute. These women are being forcefully sterilized. It is all well and good to say that China is an important economic partner, but at some point we have to take a stand. We need to do more than take a stand: we need to do what we can. I think that welcoming people who are facing these risks into Canada is the least we can do. Let us do it and not be afraid to do it with our head held high.

I hope that all the members in the House, including the cabinet, will support this motion. In 2022, we adopted a motion to recognize the genocide of the Uighur people and the members of the cabinet abstained. That sends a very sad message.

We need to get as close as possible to a unanimous vote in the House. I would ask members of the government to have the courage to recognize and assert that there is a genocide in progress and to commit to welcoming these people into Canada and doing what it takes to help the Uighur nation.

There are formalities in the motion. It mentions taking in 10,000 people. Of course, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour. In any case, the Bloc Québécois usually votes “yes”. However, we might have been able to do more. Why not take in 15,000 people?

The motion mentions 120 days to implement the plan. The hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, who is a member of the government, sponsored the motion. I congratulate him for it and give him a tip of my hat. As a member of the government, he is aware that the government moves slowly and that it set a 120-day time frame. The NDP has just proposed an amendment to change the time frame to 100 days, and this makes us very happy. However, we might have done better there as well.

We are faced with a world power that is extending its tentacles on all sides thanks to its economy, which is based on miserable working conditions. Let us bear that in mind. I would also like us to take a moment to think about what we have here and everything we have consumed in our lifetime that was made in China.

With this motion and the committee's work, we have learned that factories in the region where the Uighur people live run on forced labour. This is either slavery pure and simple, or horrific exploitation at starvation wages and in appalling conditions.

Let us be vigilant when we order things. I would very much like us to focus on the supply chains in these sectors. We have a duty to not encourage these systems.

China also has the nerve to set up police stations abroad, including three in Canada. It is setting up police stations in Canada to harass, threaten and intimidate Chinese nationals who are allegedly dissidents, whether or not they are Uighurs.

China is also threatening neighbouring countries. I am thinking about countries such as Mongolia. The geopolitical situation in Mongolia is not simple with Russia on one side and China on the other side. It is a landlocked country. It is easy to put pressure on a country like that.

We must stand proud, straight and strong and say no. In fact, why have these police stations not been shut down? Let us shut them down as soon as possible. I am asking everyone to adopt this motion.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard has a five-minute right of reply.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Sameer Zuberi Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank everyone who spoke to this motion.

It is a beautiful thing to hear voices united together, echoing as one, for this particular motion, a motion to help our human family and address a pressing issue. Whether one views it as genocide or grave and serious crimes against humanity, it is an issue that must be addressed with clarity.

This motion will be looked at not only by Canadians, but also by the international community. It is critical that we are clear on this issue and show leadership. I hope and expect each and every member of this chamber, regardless of position or party, will vote for this motion.

Why do I say that? We need to lead. Canada is a middle power. We have the ability to concretely move the needle on things in this world. I ask those who are making a decision right now on how to vote to take a deep and hard look at the information they have access to. Some have information that is only public and others have information that is confidential and classified. I ask individuals who are reflecting on this decision right now to take a look at that information to see what is actually happening.

We know that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic minorities are in concentration camps and have been forced into labour. Their identities are being erased and they are being forced to become people they are not. This is abhorrent.

We have seen this happen in history to different people. We have seen communities wiped off the face of the earth, and the Uighur people are suffering that today. The one million of them who have been forced into concentration camps and forced to produce products that we unwittingly wear and consume are not only forced to work, but are also separated from their children. Hundreds of thousands of children are being made wards of the state permanently. They do not return home during the summer and remain permanent wards of the state.

Women are being forcibly sterilized with IUDs that are so horrible and terrible that when physicians remove them, the whole womb has to be removed. The IUDs are so crude that they are fused to the womb, meaning these women can no longer have children. As a result, eminent jurists have said that, legally, the issue of sterilization and what is happening to the Uighur people meet the level of genocide.

However, let us not debate too much on terms. Let us recognize that there is a minimal floor. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently came out with a report stating that what is happening likely amounts to crimes against humanity. Once that level is engaged, there is a responsibility for states to protect. That includes Canada.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney took leadership on the issue of apartheid and Canada went down in the history books. We speak about that moment in time as leadership. Today, we need leadership on this issue. That is why I implore each and every member of the House, regardless of position, to make their intent clear and vote for this motion when it comes up. Canadians and the international community will be watching. We need to take leadership.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the amendment.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the amendment be carried, carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business



Sameer Zuberi Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Madam Speaker, I would request a recorded division.

Uighurs and other Turkic MuslimsPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 1, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Online News ActPrivate Members' Business



The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The Chair wishes to inform the House of an administrative error that occurred with regard to Bill C-18, an act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada.

Members may recall that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage made a series of amendments to the bill, which were presented to the House in the committee's fourth report on December 9, 2022. The committee also ordered that the bill, as amended, be reprinted for the use of the House at report stage.

The House concurred in the bill, as amended, at report stage on December 13, 2022, and adopted the bill at third reading the following day.

Following passage at third reading, as per the usual practice, House officials prepared a parchment version of the bill, which was transmitted to the Senate. Due to an administrative error in the committee's report, which was also reflected in the version of the bill that was reprinted for the use of the House at report stage, the report and the bill both included a subamendment, adding a new clause 27(1.1) to the bill, which had been negatived by the committee and should not have appeared in the bill.

Given the tight timelines between the presentation of the report and consideration of the bill at third reading, the error went unnoticed before the bill was passed. Nonetheless, the decision taken by the committee was clear, as recorded in the minutes of the meeting. The Chair has no reason to believe that members were misinformed when they adopted the bill.

This error was nothing more than administrative in nature. The proceedings which took place in this House and the decisions made by the House with respect to Bill C‑18 remain entirely valid. The records of the House relating to this bill are complete and accurate. However, the documents relating to Bill C‑18 that were sent to the Senate included an error and were not an accurate reflection of the House's intentions.

Similar situations have been addressed by my predecessors, such as in a ruling on April 12, 2017, found at page 10486 of Debates. Guided by this precedent and others, similar steps have been taken to address the current case.

Once the error was detected, House officials immediately communicated with their counterparts in the Senate to inform them of the situation. The Chair then instructed House officials to take all the necessary steps to correct the error in both the committee's report and the bill itself, and to ensure that the other place has a corrected copy of Bill C-18. A revised version of the bill will be transmitted to the Senate as per the usual administrative process.

Furthermore, the Chair has asked that a rectified “as passed by the House of Commons” version of the bill be printed and that the fourth report of the committee be corrected accordingly.

In light of this situation, the Senate will be in a position to make its own determination as to how it will proceed with Bill C‑18.

I thank all members for their attention.

The hon. member for Calgary Shepard on a point of order.

Online News ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Thank you for making that clarification on Bill C-18.

There is a defect in the design of the House. While making your statement, there was much noise outside, quite disrespectfully, when you were trying to inform us of the corrections that are being made to this bill.

I have raised this multiple times, but since this is the first day of the return of our session, I wonder if you, Mr. Speaker, would be able to ensure that, in the future, people who are walking in the courtyard around this chamber would reduce the amount of noise they are making. I am sure that when the minister rises to make her inaugural speech on the bill she will be moving she would like silence in the chamber, and I would like it as well.

There is too much noise in this chamber that is interfering with the work of members on the floor of this House.

Online News ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I want to thank the hon. member for his interjection. I will be honest, while I was reading I heard the noise as well, and I was thinking, “What the heck is going on here?” It is a problem with the design. Aesthetically, it is a beautiful place, but when it was put together they did not count on the people.

What I did notice is that it lasted for a short time and then somebody hushed them. I know we have signs out there. However, I will talk with the Sergeant-at-Arms, and we will see about getting that noise reduced to the best of our abilities. I do not want to make any promises I cannot keep. I thank the hon. member for bringing that up.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2023 / 12:05 p.m.

Burlington Ontario


Karina Gould LiberalMinister of Families

moved that Bill C-35, An Act respecting early learning and child care in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me tremendous pleasure, and it is an honour to rise in the House today to kick off the debate on Bill C-35, an act respecting early learning and child care in Canada.

I want to start with a few thanks. I first of all want to thank the thousands of advocates across this country who have been waiting and fighting for this day for just over 52 years. It was 52 years ago in December that the Royal Commission on the Status of Women came out with its landmark report that asked the Government of Canada and suggested that it put in place an affordable, high-quality, inclusive and accessible child care system across this country.

Fifty-two years is a long time to wait, and there are lots of families who went through child care during that period of time. However, what I have heard from stakeholders and advocates across this country is that now is a good time to start. It is never too late to do the right thing, and here we are.

Today, we have agreements signed with 13 provinces and territories. As of December, almost all of them have reduced fees by 50%, and we have one more that is going to be making a good announcement very soon. More of those fee reductions are on their way.

What excites me about this system and about this bill is the impact it is having on families. I have had occasion to to travel to almost every province and territory across the country over the past year, to engage with families and to hear from them the stories about how this system is making a difference in their lives. I have yet to speak to a child care centre representative or a family who has not talked about the very real and tangible impact that this reduction in fees is having on their families' bottom line.

I will start by talking about one of the things that we have been doing as a federal government for a while, and that is the RESP, the registered education savings plan. For decades, we have been encouraging families to save for post-secondary education. We understand that this is a huge expense, but that it is important for all of our children across this country, for the future of our country, to make sure that they have the opportunity to attend post-secondary education.

Child care fees can range between $12,000 and $24,000 or even more per year. Multiply that by three or four or five, depending on the province they are in, and it could be two or three times the cost that the average student would spend on post-secondary education, yet we did not have any mechanism, until recently, to support families for this major expense.

It is an expense that starts right at the beginning of their family's journey, often when they have recently purchased a home or when they are just getting started in their careers. We are talking about tens of thousands of dollars. That is a huge impact and, not always but often, it results in the lower-income parent deciding to take a step outside of the workforce, because it just does not make financial sense for them to carry on.

The stories I have heard over the past year are changing that. I have been to every province and almost every territory. I meet parents. It is often a mom, I have not heard from a dad yet, but I am looking forward to that as well. However, I hear from so many moms who talk about the fact that it is because of these lower child care fees that they are returning to work.

There was the mom in Ottawa a couple of months ago who said that because of the 50% fee reduction she enrolled her daughter in day care, and she is returning to work full time as a real estate agent. She spoke of the impact that it had not only for her family's finances but also for her career development.

In Richmond, B.C. in December, in talking to a mom of three, she said that it is because of these reductions that she is able to go from part-time to full-time work, because she can now afford to have two of her children in full-time day care, with one of her children in school.

In Nova Scotia, a mom whom I was talking to said that because of these fee reductions, she is not only returning to full-time work, but she breathes a sigh of relief when she goes to the grocery store. She is not as worried about making sure that she can afford to buy healthy, nutritious food for her family because of the significant fee reductions.

Most recently I was talking to a mom in my community of Burlington, Ontario. She explained that when she and her husband saw the 50% reduction in child care fees, they decided they would not have to give up their house. Financially it made sense to keep her child enrolled in day care. They would be able to afford their mortgage and both of them could keep working.

This initiative is having a real tangible impact on families across the country, and I could not be prouder to be part of a government that is delivering this important policy.

That brings me to today and the introduction of this legislation at second reading. I hope all members in the House are going to support it and get it through committee quickly, so we can cement this important legacy for Canadian families, children and women right across the country.

Let me talk a bit about what Bill C-35 would accomplish. It would provide support for the continued implementation of an affordable Canada-wide system by enshrining the vision, guiding principles and a commitment to long-term funding. It would enhance transparency and accountability by requiring the minister responsible to report annually to the public on progress being made on the system. It would establish in law the national advisory council, which, by the way, is having its first official meeting today in Ottawa. This legislation would also build on the early successes of the Canada-wide agreements.

We are enshrining into law the federal government's commitment to strengthening and protecting this Canada-wide system.

We are enshrining into law the federal government's commitment to strengthening and protecting these Canada-wide systems while respecting provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

Bill C-35 would build on the collaborative work we have undertaken with PTs and with indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast, and it is driven by a shared interest, and close partnerships and collaboration. It respects provincial and territorial jurisdiction and the co-developed indigenous early learning and child care framework that was jointly released and endorsed in 2018 with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council.

By enshrining these principles and vision into federal law, we are building stability into the child care system, and not just stability but also predictability and commitment.

We want provinces, territories and indigenous peoples to know that the federal government is in there for the long term. Importantly, we want parents, families, child care providers and early childhood educators to know that the federal government is also there for the long term. That is so important with Bill C-35, because we have seen in the past, unfortunately, when in 2006 then-prime minister Stephen Harper ripped up the child care agreements with the provinces and territories. It was one of the first acts the Conservatives did when they came into government. We need to ensure we are doing everything we can to make it harder for any future government, like a future Conservative government, to take that away from families, to take that away from our children and to take that away from the Canadian economy.

Let me talk a bit about the Canadian economy, because child care is one of those amazing policies that is not just good, smart, feminist, social policy, but it is good, smart, feminist economic policy. For every one dollar invested in child care, the economy sees a broader return of $1.50 to $1.80.

It is estimated that the Canada-wide system could raise real GDP in our country by as much as 1.2% over the next two decades. An OECD report shows that improvement in gender equality and family friendly policies has boosted growth in per-capita GDP by between 10% and 20%.

In Sweden, for example, when it brought in universal affordable child care, female employment rates increased by almost 30%. The IMF estimated that closing the participation gap between Canadian men and women in the workforce could raise Canada's GDP levels by 4% in the medium term. That is $92 billion.

Gender equality, ensuring women have access to economic opportunities, ensuring our children get the best possible start in life, is not just good for us as a society; that is excellent for our economy.

Let us talk a bit about what that means in real terms. We talk about the macro picture, but when we look at what that means, we have an example in Canada.

Quebec is celebrating 25 years of universal day care. Quebec went from having the lowest female workforce participation in the country in 1998 to now having the highest. In fact, some of the highest rates of women with children under the age of four are working in the entire OECD. If Canadian women join the workforce at the same rates that Quebec women have over the last 25 years, that is an additional 240,000 workers entering our workforce today. That is an impressive number. Those are workers in Canada, people who want to be part of the workforce, but for economic reasons have not been able to justify it or make it work.

As I said, I have talked to moms all across the country for whom this is making the difference. This is really exciting. As to where this is going to set us up as Canada in our future, for our economy and, most important, for Canadians, the potential is unmatched.

I want to spend a bit of time talking about the workforce. We know there is no child care system in Canada without the talented, qualified, well-trained, caring early learning and child care workforce. I want to give a big thanks to each and every one of them. During the pandemic, they went to work so that Canada could keep working. We saw what happened when child care centres were closed. It meant parents were staying home with their children.

It is pretty hard. I do not know about other members, but I was home during the pandemic for the first six months and my two and a half year old was home with me. It is pretty tricky to get work done when parents have a two year old or a two and a half year old with them. Anyone who is a parent or has been a parent of a young child can attest to that.

Those child care workers went to work during the pandemic. They went when we needed them most. We need to recognize that, we need to say thanks and we need to ensure that we have the system in place to support them with good wages and that they have an environment in which they can thrive, grow and develop their careers as well.

When we talk about child care, we talk about the economic impact and the social impact, but we also need to talk about the impact that it has on our children. Being in a safe, secure place is important, one where they feel loved, where they feel cared for, where they are well taken care of, but also where learning is part and parcel of the framework.

The Minister of Finance likes to talk about setting up a generation of super kids in the country, and I could not agree with her more. As a mom who is so grateful to the child care workers who made it possible for me to do my job while my son was little, the absolute illumination that he had when he went to day care and the explosion in learning that I saw from him is one of those things for which I will be eternally grateful.

When we talk about child care, there are so many spinoffs that are important for our society and our economy. I like to describe it as a home run, because it is good for our children, it is good for our families and it is good for the economy.

Bill C-35 is going to help us cement the role of the federal government. It is going to ensure that we are there in the long run for Canadian women, families, children and Canadians in general. It is going to ensure we are setting the country up for the 21st century to take hold of those opportunities and ensure that every child in our country has the best possible start in life.

I hope that my colleagues from all parties in this place will support Bill C-35 and move it forward so we can provide that commitment and assurance to Canadians and their families that the federal government is there in the long term, that we support our children and women, that we are setting Canada up for success.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Michelle Ferreri Conservative Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish everyone a happy new year. It is nice to be back.

It was wonderful to hear so many positive stories, and that is great, but it is not the reality of all the other parents who cannot access child care. How many of those families has the minister spoken to? What are the answers she is giving those families that have been on wait-lists for years, those who cannot go back to work because they cannot access affordable, quality child care?

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I hope my hon. colleague will be supporting this bill on the advancement of child care in Canada. It is an extremely important question and it forms part and parcel of the agreements that we signed with provinces and territories across the country.

I was one of those parents who was on a wait list and was nervous about whether I would get a space for my son, so I understand what that is like. It is why we have committed, with our provincial and territorial counterparts, to increase the number of child care spaces by 250,000 over the course of these first five-year agreements that we have signed. In fact, I have been in many provinces and territories over the past year announcing thousands of new additional spaces that have been created, thanks to the $30 billion of federal investments that we have put in place. Access to these spaces is a key pillar and it forms part of our initiative.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the minister for her advocacy on behalf of families and child care services.

I believe it is important to support them. We are pleased to see that the government is of the same mind and has the will to take action. However, I will nonetheless point out that, in theory, social matters such as the management of day care is a provincial and not a federal jurisdiction. That is very clear.

Quebec already has a day care system and we are happy to have it. We are pleased that the government has decided to exempt Quebec from the federal government's centralizing policy on day care. I also want to point out that the government's approach is patterned after the Quebec model. That is an acknowledgment of the work Quebec has done and how advanced we are compared to the rest of Canada.

More specifically, I would like to know why, in her bill, the minister has exempted Quebec for only five years. In five years' time, Quebec's day care program will still be in place. It is already in place. This is a provincial matter, and I assume that she would like her bill to be in effect for more than five years.

Why is there only a five-year exemption for Quebec?

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Karina Gould Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, we have an excellent relationship with Quebec when it comes to early childhood education and child care. I have worked extensively with my Quebec counterparts on this issue.

As my colleague mentioned, Quebec's child care system has been a source of inspiration for us. We want the rest of Canada to catch up with Quebec and its system. We negotiated an asymmetrical agreement with Quebec for exactly that reason.

Bill C-35 fully respects provincial and territorial jurisdictions. It is based on the principles and objectives we have set out in the agreements with the provinces and territories.

What I understand from the Government of Quebec is that they are happy with this bill precisely because it respects provincial and territorial jurisdictions. It also demonstrates that the Government of Canada will be there for the long term and will ensure that it is not just five years' worth of payments—