Madam Speaker, I am a little surprised that there were no questions and comments. My colleague gave an excellent speech, after all.
I happen to have the best speaking time, right before question period. I am pretty happy to have this time slot.
Since the war in Ukraine began, more than 7 million Ukrainians have had to leave their country, often leaving everything behind in the hopes of finding refuge elsewhere. In the host countries, most of the newly arrived refugees come from areas that have been seriously affected by the conflict. They often arrive in a state of distress and anxiety, worried about what lies ahead for their family members, whom they reluctantly left behind.
To help these families, Canada set up the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel. This program allows refugees to obtain a visitor's visa to come to Canada temporarily. Applicants can then obtain a work or study visa if they wish to remain in the country. However, the administrative delays seemed endless for families. I have often mentioned this in the House when asking questions of the hon. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. These delays were preventing Ukrainian refugees from entering the country. The minister and I had some pretty heated exchanges in the House, despite the fact that he ultimately intended to be collaborative.
More than a month after the war began, thousands of Ukrainians were still waiting for authorization for emergency travel to Canada. Once again, Canadian bureaucracy was slowing down the process. As I have often said, in my opinion, it was not because the minister lacked the will. I think the minister's will was definitely there.
Unfortunately, the problem at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or IRCC, is not the captain. The issue is with the boat, the vehicle. There is water in the gas tank and sand in the gears. We have all had to deal with cases like this in our constituencies. It is never the minister's will that is lacking, it is the actual structure of IRCC that needs to be reviewed on a number of levels.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, the Bloc Québécois has made many suggestions to quickly improve the plight of claimants, given the state of emergency. Fortunately, the government implemented some of them to more quickly welcome Ukrainian families to Canada. For example, the government lifted the requirement to collect biometric data for some population groups and it chartered flights. Unfortunately, it only chartered three flights. The provinces chartered more flights than the federal government. Once again, we can see the disconnect between the minister's will and the action that his department is taking.
It would have taken too long, because, let us be honest, when such a large military invasion occurs, it is not the time to fool around with paperwork. People need to get here as quickly as possible, without compromising their safety. Even if good measures were put in place, this once again shows that the government's response time is still much too slow in times of crisis.
The Bloc Québécois has suggested many times that the government create an emergency division at Citizenship and Immigration, a permanent emergency mechanism that would be triggered in the event of an international crisis, whether an armed conflict or a natural disaster. Having such an emergency mechanism would allow the government to intervene quickly as soon as a crisis leads to a flood of refugees, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan or the earthquake in Haiti. This mechanism would allow refugees to get help as soon as possible.
The Bloc Québécois's emergency division proposal included the implementation of a special emergency visa, the expansion of the sponsorship program and the partial lifting of biometric data collection requirements. Depending on the nature of the crisis, some levers would be automatically triggered. Depending on the context, others would not be used.
Again, it is too little, too late. The minister told me in committee that, after we made our proposal, he asked his officials to implement such a mechanism. That was in the fall and I have not heard any more about it since. I am quite curious to know where things stand.
What I notice about the government's management of humanitarian crises is how painfully slow it is. I am not alone in making this observation. Most of the people directly concerned, by which I mean the victims of this crisis, also think it is too slow.
However, Quebeckers, like Canadians, want Quebec and Canada to remain a land of refuge for people fleeing war, corruption—