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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was infrastructure.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Parkdale—High Park (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act May 25th, 2010

moved that Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to a bill that requires the Conservative government to take into account the opinion of Canadians regarding the war in Iraq.

It is a bill that is very basic in its presentation to require the government to take Canadians into account on a matter that, on the face of it, might seem to only affect a relatively small number of people, perhaps 200 Americans who came to Canada looking for refuge based on their conscientious objection to the war in Iraq. Worse perhaps for some people in the House is they are people who do not even vote. They do not have a consideration in terms of whether at the next election anybody is returned to this place.

Despite the behaviour of the government to date, and we hold out hope, the bill would give all members of Parliament a chance to examine not just their consciences but their role as parliamentarians in expressing a will for Canada on important issues.

Underlying a simple law amending two parts of the Immigration Act, which would very directly provide for conscientious objectors to become permanent residents of Canada, to be eligible for wars that were not authorized by the United Nations in particular, that this would give them an ability to be considered. They would still have to meet all kinds of other criteria, and I mentioned that as I will later on, to ensure there is no distortion of what we are dealing with today.

Beyond those simple clauses, protecting them, protecting their families, ensuring they can be heard from is a bigger requirement. That bigger requirement is for this generation of Canadians to address how we feel about Canada's ability to determine who should be part of our country and how we feel not just about our traditions but about a Canadian sensibility going forward.

The bill is meant to give life to a Canadian sensibility that so far has been resisted from the government benches, certainly on the part both the minister responsible and the Prime Minister in terms of the public comments they have made.

It is essential that all Canadians have some access to this debate. It is not because it should command their attention or it should be a worry for them, but it is those quiet noises, the ones we do not ordinarily see, that are the measure of the character of a country.

All Canadians should be alert to those kinds of questions. While the Iraq war resisters from the United States may be voiceless in a classic sense, it is how we treat those kinds of individuals and classes of people that determines who we are as Canadians.

We have answered these questions before. A previous generation had not just the temerity, not a particular courage but just a sense of themselves to say to the Vietnam War resisters, those people who were volunteers in the army and decided, based on what they were asked to do and saw in that war, that they could not prosecute that. Over 10,000 of the 50,000 Vietnam War resisters who came to Canada were people serving in the military service at the time and they were accepted by a previous generation to Canada.

That was done out of a fulsome sense of what Canada was, not better, not against in terms of who we thought Americans are or were at that time, but rather who we are. We are a country of some tolerance, a country of some patience, a country willing to provide for differences in how some of these moral questions are addressed and willing to acknowledge that we in our country will have the gumption to take on those questions without trying to defer or without trying to say it is somebody else's decision.

It is our decision when people from wherever in the world present themselves to us and ask for asylum. This would allow us to address that question.

It is also necessary to keep in mind that this is a remedy because we have already addressed this question in other ways before.

In June 2008 and March 2009, the House of Commons adopted motions that we should welcome Iraq war resisters.

The question has already been discussed and by vote decided in terms of whether Canada wishes to provide a welcome availability to those types of people who want to be brought into permanent residence in our country. The difference is the government chose not only not to accept it, but to act in a way that was adversarial to their chances of being considered.

But the Conservative government rejected all of the applications. It publicly criticized the resisters, thus limiting their chance of a fair hearing. There were serious penalties for those who were repatriated to the United States.

This is not only about whether people get to become Canadian, but what should happen to them next. For those who were deported even as the debate was taking place, a few days later this chamber decided that it wished to provide a home in Canada to American Iraq war resisters. A few days later the government deported someone who subsequently received a 15 month sentence, someone who had participated in good faith.

Like all questions of principle, this basically rides on a human dimension, a human dimension of being Canadian. This is not a question of just 200 people. It is a question of giving a fair hearing to any group of people who find themselves in difficulty. This debate today is about whether or not this chamber is capable of providing that fair hearing.

Let me use as an example Chuck Wiley, one of the Iraq war resisters, who served 17 years in the American military. There may be some members of this House who believe they can speak of devotion to duty and we have some serving members who have exhibited that. I want people to consider what it was like for Mr. Wiley, who served in the navy for 17 years, and who arrived at a conscientious objection that did not permit him to serve in Iraq. I want people to consider what they know about American military sensibility and how difficult it was for him having served all those years, two years away from a pension, to walk away from his service as a matter of conscience and appeal to this country instead.

Words have been used by some of the members and ministers opposite and they invoke things like cowardice. They walk in the easy shoes of judging people without really giving full consideration to what happened in terms of an individual situation. The situation is tied to a larger perspective, the Iraq war itself.

Canadians had a perspective on the Iraq war. All we are being asked to do today with this bill is to confirm a perspective where 82% of the people of Canada oppose the war in Iraq, a perspective where the Government of Canada decided that this country did not support the war in Iraq. With all due respect to others who decided to participate and to sanction that war, we did not and neither did the United Nations Security Council. The facts about the famous weapons of mass destruction that informed that debate are available to members of this House.

Canada has spoken in that regard. It was a difficult debate. A decision was made after due consideration, and it is a decision that needs to be upheld not out of any sense of superiority but simply because we have the right to be sovereign in terms of how we look at developments in the world that engage us both ethically and morally and with the resources of this country. We made that decision.

The question for this House now is: Why in the face of that decision do we not extend some understanding to the people who appeal to us? Why does the government instead wish to impose its minority view, a view at one time that supported the war in Iraq, but a view that has changed? The Prime Minister has now said it was a mistake and he shares the same view as that held by the current President of the United States, that the Iraq war was a dumb war, that the United States should not have been involved in the first place. The Iraq war has a strong resonance for Canadians. It is something that they understand was a distinction Canada decided to make.

Some people might ask why we would entertain service personnel from another country. Would that not somehow affect us? It would not.

Different rules prevail and much of that is now recognized in the United States itself. Various hearings have been held in the U.S. which indicated that people were subject to irregularities, to conduct in terms of some of the incidents involving civilians, the Abu Ghraib prison, things that I believe this House, this country would wish the discretion for our service personnel faced with certain decisions of conscience. I believe there is faith in this House and faith in this country that Canadian soldiers would take those kinds of decisions if they were faced with them.

People who are asking for our consideration through this bill today faced a number of situations, but again many of them, like Mr. Wiley, are people who served not just a tremendous amount of time but served under a tremendous amount of difficulty. Some of them were subject to provisions that do not exist for service personnel in our country.

For example, there is the question of stop-loss. People like Phil McDowell served his time in Iraq. He served his contract. The Iraq war was being prosecuted at the time and there was a dearth of personnel. People may not realize it, but the Americans have fewer people under arms than at any time in their history. To conduct a war in Iraq required taking people and bringing them back again and again. That form of compulsion that exists is not to be found in how we deploy our service today.

The contract provisions for stop-loss have been found to be extremely difficult. The current President of the United States has asked that they be eliminated, but they were enforced particularly at the peak of the war. Phil McDowell, who served in Iraq under difficult circumstances, came back to the United States to find that the fine print in his contract required him to go back. After what he had seen, in good conscience, he could not.

That is what the House is being asked to uphold. This is how we respect some of those decisions that were made, a sensibility that in this country is every bit about endorsing a view of how we see our military operating, which is with some extreme level of decision making for individuals based on their conscience.

Those provisions exist and are available in the Canadian armed services. They were not available to many of the people like Jeremy Hinzman, who sought to be seen as conscientious objectors. Because of the difficulties and the challenges in terms of having enough personnel, for months stretching into years in terms of deployments, those provisions were not available to American service personnel.

There are distinctions that are made in how the National Guard was used and how other things were done in this war that meant there were some extraordinary circumstances faced by these personnel. That relates back to the war itself. People like Robin Long, who got 15 months in military jail, faced a very harsh outcome as a result of the government not listening to the House.

We understand there is a characteristic that some members opposite feel very comfortable with of a government that puts itself above Parliament and that is accountable to no one and to nothing. I would like to believe it will not find its way expressed in this bill. However, there is also something just as serious and that is the government putting itself above the Canadian people.

According to an Angus Reid poll conducted in 2008, nearly one-third of Canadians wanted Americans who opposed to the war in Iraq to be allowed to stay in the country.

Two-thirds, or 65%, of Canadians would like to give American resisters a chance to be citizens in this country, just as a previous generation gave to those from the Vietnam War. That may sit uncomfortably with members opposite, but it is something to be listened to. How Canadians feel on a question of conscience is something to have regard for. It needs to find expression and I am hoping that is the spirit in which this debate will be considered.

Canadians have that point of view and they look to the House to give it respect. I submit the only way for that to be given respect is to give this its expression in law.

We hear from some of the members opposite the idea that they cannot even give it consideration. Somebody said, “Not a chance”. People need a chance because this is a test.

As John F. Kennedy said, war will be less available when conscientious objectors have the same status as warriors in our society. Canada is not afraid to be a refuge against a militarism that is unthinking and that does not trade off against the rights and needs of individuals. This law will do exactly that.

Balanced Refugee Reform Act April 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for elaborating some of the minister's comments for him. I think that was helpful, but in the main it is a question of how we can stand on guard here in the House.

It is tempting to look for easy solutions. If there is a way to put definitions in, we still have to ask ourselves a question: can we have a safe country? Can we actually make a definition that will work? That is what the test is for the House.

In doing so, what are the byproducts? What are the consequences? What otherwise safe countries might still have people subject to persecution? That is what we cannot be afraid to hear over the coming weeks.

I saw the minister's remarks. He said he would put some of those criteria in legislation. That is the kind of thing that would start to bring comfort to people, but we need to make sure this is not about shortcuts. There is a welling up in this country that wants us to be effective and intelligent in our compassion, but they will punish us severely if we end up adopting the wrong measures.

I am not calling into question the minister's sincerity. I am simply saying that this bill is a test for him and a test for all of us. If Amnesty International or the United Nations refugee commission or others who are completely independent can be part of that referencing and part of that definition, then we would find ourselves in a different place.

Balanced Refugee Reform Act April 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the minister would agree, on reflection, that it all depends who is hearing from individuals on whether they are really getting individual consideration, if there is no right to counsel, if there is inadequate time to prepare their case, if there is not a way to express themselves or to be considered because their country of origin denied them the right to appeal, or if they really should have been a humanitarian and compassionate case, but they will not get that for a year.

These have the possibility and the high prospect of being arbitrary decisions that take away the individual assessment to the degree that it exists today. There is a harder road to go, but I am glad to hear the minister say that he is claiming this high value of independence. I want to take that at face value because that means that he would be open to amendments that would make the IRB thoroughly independent and out of the reach of political parties.

That is the kind of thing that would begin to shape the building blocks of trust for this. This should not be subject to only partisan consideration. It should be one where the merits are clear and conspicuous. In terms of who will get to hear the hearings, he has to reflect on the experience of Great Britain in terms of clogging up the appeal process. When we are simply hearing from front line bureaucracy, there is a prospect of trying to please the minister that then turns out to foster a huge number of appeals.

That is not the kind of reform that would be fair or equitable or would address what we want to accept. If the minister wants to see things fair and fast, he needs to slow down only long enough to ensure that these things will actually work. I think it is encouraging if the minister is at least acknowledging that he would be open to making some of those fundamental changes.

For my part, I am happy to be open to see it proven. I think the questions I am raising are all legitimate, but I would welcome the changes that I have talked about and would laud them from the minister.

Balanced Refugee Reform Act April 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the short answer would be, yes. There was the work done by the hon. member for York West in terms of setting up criteria and screening to ensure that people would be not just credible but trained and effective at doing this. I spoke to someone at a refugee hearing this afternoon, though, and this individual is fundamentally discouraged that we are not getting the trained and qualified people sitting at the IRB.

Again, this is a moral equation. These people need to be able to represent us in a knowledgeable and thorough way. This is our discretion being exercised. That has to be paramount. I think a further, complete degree of independence should be in this bill. I would join my colleague and others in the House to entertain that as the kind of amendment that we can bring forward to make this a workable reform.

Balanced Refugee Reform Act April 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this debate on refugee status in Canada.

We have in front of us a very fundamental bill, a bill that is not just about how we treat refugees but how we consider ourselves.

I want to say at the outset that we want to see the backlog dealt with, we want to see a way of reducing the number of people who make claims that are not accurate or false and we want to see fairness and speed put into the system. However, there are fundamental questions.

Is this a reform bill? Does it ensure fairness and balance?

The fundamental thing that we need to arrive at as a Parliament, and as a committee when it gets there, is whether the government is engaged in fairness and balance in reform, or whether it is just mining a weariness on the part of Canadians and cultivating the wrong idea about who is taking advantage. Is this a bill that can move forward when it is admittedly something of an intractable problem over some period of time, or is it simply a cover for lack of effectiveness on the part of the minister and on the part of the government?

For example, the crux of the bill is to contend with the backlog of refugees claiming the protection of Canada and yet the government has allowed compassion to be denied because it has been so delayed. This has caused thousands of people to have a shadowy existence in our communities, with no real status and trying to find a resolution to how they are being regarded.

Two-thirds of the current backlog of refugees comes from the government's action and inaction. When we look at the presumption that somehow we need a law to change things, we also need a government that is committed to treating people fairly, equitably and in a manner that actually respects their rights. Currently, 60,000 are waiting for that treatment and 40,000 of them were put there by the government and by the minister. It is very important that people understand that in some ways we need to evaluate that. The government was busy replacing every appointee of the previous government, no matter how qualified, with its own highly partisan replacement. We need to ask ourselves why else the government was taking its time. Was it trying, as some of its ideological colleagues have done in other jurisdictions, to create a crisis that would then be stampeded into having to be reckoned with?

What is worrisome is that the government's behaviour today belies some of the goodwill that it says it wants to generate in the House and in subsequent considerations at committee. It is worrisome that the government has, at different times, taken sweeping aim at anybody who has disagreed with the bill, trying to discredit the dialogue and the opposition on it. The government is limiting debate. It is forcing it to second reading and not considering hearings after first reading. The test will be how it behaves from here on in, because there are fundamental issues at root here on which Canadians need to be heard. They need not to have this debate put on artificial timetables. I just want to outline some of those for the House and for the people who will, I believe, pay fundamental attention when they realize exactly what is at stake.

We need to step back and realize that the whole idea of acknowledging refugees is based on their individual claims. In the name of convenience, in order to get rid of some of the problems in processing, the bill would take that away from whole groups of people. Refugees would no longer be considered by Canada for protection on their individual merit, but rather governed in large part from what country they came from. That has huge ramifications for legitimate people claiming and needing the protection of Canada.

Instead of actually finding a better way to run the system, the government is proposing a shortcut and one that short-circuits the consideration for people in terms of the fundamental reason they are appealing to us. The bill could cause thousands upon thousands of people to end up going underground because it would not give them the consideration they are looking for.

In the bill there is a tremendous tendency to give arbitrary powers to the minister to create something called a safe country. It is not referred to in the bill. There is no definition of what is safe. There is no definition about how we would find out whether that country was safe or not. Even in democratic states, it does not consider what could happen to certain minorities that are being subject to persecution. The minister only would have a say, with no check or balance, because the government wants to avoid the determination of a country of risk to be something that could be appealed.

In the context of doing that, it would set it outside of the reach of anyone. Neither the courts nor this House, no one could comment on the designation of countries. That is a first time event as a way of dealing things and it smacks of convenience, not of a real goodwill effort to try to deal with the problem. The arbitrariness that could happen there would undermine the reason to have the system in the first place.

I would put forward, for example, Gustavo Gutierrez, a police chief from Mexico who has a well-founded threat of prosecution and who has difficulty being heard. Even under the current system, Mexico, presumably, would be declared a safe country of origin and he would not even get a hearing. He comes from a state where nine police chiefs have been killed.

Mr. Gutierrez has been trying to uphold the law in parts of Mexico, where the law has become almost impossible to uphold, in the face of some of the anarchy that is happening either by organized crime or by the misplaced efforts of states to deal with things, and the gross violations of human rights that have been well-documented. This House will get a chance to consider some of these as we bring some of these people forward.

I want to touch on some of the specific provisions.

In terms of getting a hearing, it would be terrific if it could be done in eight days and it could meet the test of fairness but the people coming forward would not have any access to counsel. Somebody who manages to come here from a country like Iran or some other place where he or she has been tortured in a prison will need to deal with his or her own case within eight days and go in front of an official who is only responsible to the minister who devised the system. This certainly has to ring alarm bells for people concerned with justice and a fair process.

Those who were listening closely to the speech given by my colleague from Vaughn would have heard a very clear articulation of what happened in the United Kingdom when it did this very thing, when it made the front line response come from bureaucrats. Tens of thousands of cases ended up going to appeal and 23% of those cases, almost one-quarter of them, were upheld at appeal.

The appeal rate at the court of appeal in Canada is only 1% successful. Our courts will be plugged the way the courts are plugged in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has an 18 year backlog as a result of adopting a system very similar to the one that the Conservative government is bringing forward.

It is at least worth asking these fundamental questions here in the House and in committee. The minister himself cited in his speech that we have made mistakes in the past, that we have refused people who should have been able to come to Canada. In the run up to World War II, entire groups of people were turned away.

We know the problem with labelling people a certain way and then not accepting them. This House should not repeat that mistake. We need to fix the system, not because we will get a pat on the back from weary people out there who want the so-called refugee system fixed, but because people in here will stand on principle, roll up their sleeves and do the hard work. We need to ensure that this House does not become the House that does a sloppy repair to a system that needs attention.

When people ask why this did not get fixed, I think everyone in this House and everybody watching knows the answer. It is because refugees are perhaps the most powerless group in this country. They are not able to articulate for themselves. If we do not do this carefully, prudently and in alignment with principles, they will get left out of this equation.

This is not about the convenience of the rest of us. The character of a country, the character of a political party and, indeed, the character of all of us in public life is told by how we attend to the quiet noises, to the things that happen when no one is paying attention.

I would like to think that Mr. Gutierrez and others can depend on us to bring forward significant amendments to this bill or to not bring this bill all the way through the House. We stand at the precipice of getting rid of individual assessments and denying people on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

I can see the genesis of this bill. Some may look at how many people make claims but we must understand that when people make a refugee claim, they need to make a choice. Will they have a chance under that system? Will they have a chance on humanitarian or compassionate grounds? Under this bill we would have to make that an absolute choice. People would not be able to appeal on humanitarian or compassionate grounds if their refugee claim was rejected even though there are different considerations there. Even if they make the choice for door number two and take humanitarian or compassionate grounds, they could be deported from this country before their case is heard. Under the present government, it takes over three and a half years to hear from people with legitimate humanitarian or compassionate claims.

If this is a sincere effort to reform the system, where is the reform of the people who are the middlemen, the false arbiters of hope who are making huge amounts of money here in Canada and in places abroad by bringing people here to abuse the system? Where is the effort to actually focus on where people are coming from in the first place? Rather than trying to arbitrarily label people for our convenience, why are we not trying to fix the system?

If we are being frank in this House, what is happening with the changes to the IRB, a politicized system? By the minister's own admission, that system held up at least 25,000 applicants because of delays he created by hand-picking his own partisan cronies to sit on the actual panels. There is an ideological bent that is discernible.

The Colombia free trade agreement has been discussed in the House and suddenly all claimants from Colombia are having tremendous difficulty.

We need to fix this. There need to be independents sitting in front of people. We are conveying a chance to be part of this wonderful country and we dishonour that if we do not do that in full, good faith. We need to do that with people who have no other answerability, no other accountability than doing a good, fair and just job.

That cannot happen if the bureaucrats are responsible to the minister. For my money, it cannot happen by appointed people whose only pleasure is whether or not they keep the minister in power happy with their performance.

There needs to be a turn taken. We should use the bill to reform that system. I ask the question, why in the House, and we need to repeat it again in committee, are we not taking on the people who bring people to Canada, who instruct them and counsel them falsely to break the rules? Why are there no penalties for that in the bill? We want to avoid visas for innocent people. We should be looking at systems that bring people to us rather than just reacting. The bill only gives us the capacity to react.

There are things in the bill that we do need. There does need to be an appeal process. We need to relieve some of our court system by getting a fair appeal process in place, but that is going to be denied to a very large number of people who will be screened out. They will be screened out on criteria that do not exist in the bill. They will be the criteria determined by the minister of the day who will have imperfect information.

I challenge the members opposite. Let Amnesty International, let the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Refugees, let someone objective set those labels if they must have them for those countries, but do not have it as part of our diplomacy or our economic relations because Canada's standing, which the minister relied on as part of his moral authority bringing the bill in, will be lost.

We may accept 10,000 or 11,000 people a year, but we cannot just do that where it is convenient for us. Human rights is not necessarily convenient and many of us are here because of our heritage, a million people who were accepted as refugees in this country. The only way to honour that heritage is to create a bill and amendments to this bill that are really going to follow the footsteps of what has gone on before.

This has been framed with the idea that there will be new quotas, that there will be an increase in the number of people who will be welcome. That is a chimera off in the distance. It is not to be found in the bill. The idea that we are going to accept additional people is nowhere to be found.

In the 2010 budget there is no extra money. So the minister has committed in the House that he would be fixing the backlog in tandem with these new rules, but he does not have the fiscal ability to fulfill that promise.

On the government side, it really bespeaks a certain kind of challenge for the public and for people everywhere in terms of being able to believe that this is a goodwill real reform, or fairness and balance in the system. Or is it just something the government wants to make it look like it is being tough on, a certain class of immigrants who cannot speak for themselves, for whom every person elected to this place has a special responsibility, not because they can vote for us but because they cannot, not because they can donate to us but because they do not have a lot of means.

We cannot fail the people who have gone before us and create a mess of a system simply because we did not meet the challenge of having it better run. A government that let the backlog triple should come to the House with humility. What it needs is some assistance. It needs the best ideas to come forward from those who are housing, sheltering and representing real refugees in this country. It needs to hear about the systems of deceit that are out there, counselling, aiding, abetting and scalping people who have gone through tremendous trauma of their resources or bringing people in to make false claims under false assumptions.

That is what should be targeted here. It is not to be found in the bill and I wonder why not. Why can we not take on the shady consultants? Why can we not take on the people who are mocking the compassion of Canada? Why do we not protect Canada's compassion before it wears out rather than trade on it for changes that on the face do not seem to really go to the root of where this problem has come from: not having enough people in place, not having enough resources, and ultimately not sending the right signals out to countries of origin where people are coming from.

There are even in countries that we respect and admire exceptions for humanitarian and compassionate grounds and even people who can be persecuted for their status, whether as women or sexual minorities. Those things need to be considered because they are part of our values: to have as broad as possible a tolerance for people and to accept that as a basis for being able to be here. There are different definitions for that, that need to be entertained, and a one size fits all which could come with some of the provisions of the bill would really give us difficulty.

The minister, in his remarks, stated that we would not be increasing detention, which happens in a lot of other countries that have this system. It is not in the bill, but his sticker promise is a 60-day turnaround for hearings. How, but through detention, will he be keeping track of people for that period of time?

We need clear talk on the part of the government. Is it planning to put tens of thousands of refugees in some form of detention centres on their way to these streamlined hearings? That is the experience of other countries and it is what happens when they artificially and conveniently try to manage this flow of people instead of trying to understand it and finding principled ways to separate it.

If we had the right of counsel at the beginning, answerable to independent people, that would be a means to have a trustworthy way of weeding out good and bad cases, or at least understanding that the people who are applying have their documentation in order and they are not surrendering rights, which will be applied for anyway.

Why should we be passing this on to the much more expensive system of the courts? Why should we be putting people through the vagaries of that kind of process, when we could be fixing it right here, in this House, in committee?

There are people out there who are discouraged by the manner in which the government has come forward, that there has not been a real openness to listen. The Canadian Bar Association refugee lawyers and Amnesty International issued a statement today saying how disappointed they were that they are not going to get a chance to get at, what again I started my remarks with, which are the principles underlying this, because once we go to second reading, we are not able to discuss the principles of the bill. I would say that the principles of this bill are either very hard to find or they are founded on a skewed idea of why we have this welcome system in the first place.

We need to accept proper refugees. We need to not have the system be clouded and corrupted by false claims, but to do that, there needs to be a system of management.

We need a welcome system that respects the rights of all citizens, but first we must establish the targets of this program.

We have to have the refugee in mind because this is not a group of people who will otherwise be present in this place. We need a time for reflection that need not get in the way of this longstanding problem being resolved, but we cannot rush this and feel like this place is functioning the way it should. There are certain matters that need delicate handling.

Most of us do not come from backgrounds of people who have been persecuted. Most of us do not understand what it is like to be part of 10.5 million real, genuine refugees worldwide. The fact that we are taking on 10,000 of them should be a credit to us. If we end up excluding people, as we have, whether it was inadvertently due to a misunderstanding or a social conception that we did not come to terms with in the past, as we did with Jews trying to get admitted to the country before the second world war, as we did with Sikhs seeking refuge from India, as we did with other people, then we will not give honour to this place or to the values that are supposed to be reflected in this bill in the first place.

My challenge to the government is not to accept any blame but to rise to what is required here, an openness, an unlimited number of hearings in the sense of not being artificially restricted, a reasonable amount of time for Canadians to be heard on this, for the refugees themselves to be heard, and for us to deal with this complex matter in a way that brings honour to ourselves but also to the courage of the people that we want to admit as new Canadians.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 21st, 2010

With respect to the Economic Action Plan in Budget 2009: (a) for the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, (i) what meetings have taken place to date between federal government officials and their provincial counterparts, (ii) who was in attendance, (iii) what agenda or minutes were produced in the lead up or subsequent to the meeting, (iv) what briefing notes were prepared for the meeting or as a result of decisions taken at the meeting, (v) when and where did the meetings occur, (vi) was a cabinet minister, parliamentary secretary, or employee of the office of a cabinet minister in attendance and, if so, who; (b) under the Building Canada Fund – Communities Component, (i) what meetings have taken place to date between federal government officials and their provincial counterparts, (ii) who was in attendance, (iii) what agenda or minutes were produced in the lead up or subsequent to the meeting, (iv) what briefing notes were prepared for the meeting or as a result of decisions taken at the meeting, (v) when and where did the meetings occur, (vi) was a cabinet minister, parliamentary secretary, or employee of the office of a cabinet minister in attendance and, if so, who; (c) under the Building Canada Fund – Communities Component top-up, (i) what meetings have taken place to date between federal government officials and their provincial counterparts, (ii) who was in attendance, (iii) what agenda or minutes were produced in the lead up or subsequent to the meeting, (iv) what briefing notes were prepared for the meeting or as a result of decisions taken at the meeting, (v) when and where did the meetings occur, (vi) was a cabinet minister, parliamentary secretary, or employee of the office of a cabinet minister in attendance and, if so, who; (d) under the Building Canada Fund – Major Infrastructure Component, (i) what meetings have taken place to date between federal government officials and their provincial counterparts, (ii) who was in attendance, (iii) what agenda or minutes were produced in the lead up or subsequent to the meeting, (iv) what briefing notes were prepared for the meeting or as a result of decisions taken at the meeting, (v) when and where did the meetings occur, (vi) was a cabinet minister, parliamentary secretary, or employee of the office of a cabinet minister in attendance and, if so, who; (e) under the Provincial/Territorial Base funding acceleration, (i) what meetings have taken place to date between federal government officials and their provincial counterparts, (ii) who was in attendance, (iii) what agenda or minutes were produced in the lead up or subsequent to the meeting, (iv) what briefing notes were prepared for the meeting or as a result of decisions taken at the meeting, (v) when and where did the meetings occur, (vi) was a cabinet minister, parliamentary secretary, or employee of the office of a cabinet minister in attendance and, if so, who; (f) under the Recreational Infrastructure program, (i) what meetings have taken place to date between federal government officials and their provincial counterparts, (ii) who was in attendance, (iii) what agenda or minutes were produced in the lead up or subsequent to the meeting, (iv) what briefing notes were prepared for the meeting or as a result of decisions taken at the meeting, (v) when and where did the meetings occur, (vi) was a cabinet minister, parliamentary secretary, or employee of the office of a cabinet minister in attendance and, if so, who; (g) under the Green Infrastructure Fund, (i) what meetings have taken place to date between federal government officials and their provincial counterparts, (ii) who was in attendance, (iii) what agenda or minutes were produced in the lead up or subsequent to the meeting, (iv) what briefing notes were prepared for the meeting or as a result of decisions taken at the meeting, (v) when and where did the meetings occur, (vi) was a cabinet minister, parliamentary secretary, or employee of the office of a cabinet minister in attendance and, if so, who; and (h) under the National recreational trails program, (i) what meetings have taken place to date between federal government officials and their provincial counterparts, (ii) who was in attendance, (iii) what agenda or minutes were produced in the lead up or subsequent to the meeting, (iv) what briefing notes were prepared for the meeting or as a result of decisions taken at the meeting, (v) when and where did the meetings occur, (vi) was a cabinet minister, parliamentary secretary, or employee of the office of a cabinet minister in attendance and, if so, who?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 21st, 2010

With respect to the Knowledge Infrastructure programs within Budget 2009: (a) under the Universities and colleges program, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) has the provincial government approved funding for the project, (iii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iv) who are the partners involved, (v) what is the federal contribution, (vi) what is each partner’s contribution, (vii) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (viii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; (b) under the Canada Foundation for Innovation, (i) what projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) has the provincial government approved funding for the project, (iii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iv) who are the partners involved, (v) what is the federal contribution, (vi) what is each partner’s contribution, (vii) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (viii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; (c) under Canada Health Infoway, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) has the provincial government approved funding for the project, (iii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iv) who are the partners involved, (v) what is the federal contribution, (vi) what is each partner’s contribution, (vii) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (viii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; (d) under the broadband in rural communities, (i) what projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) has the provincial government approved funding for the project, (iii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iv) who are the partners involved, (v) what is the federal contribution, (vi) what is each partner’s contribution, (vii) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (viii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; and (e) under the First Nations infrastructure programs, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) has the provincial government approved funding for the project, (iii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iv) who are the partners involved, (v) what is the federal contribution, (vi) what is each partner’s contribution, (vii) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (viii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 21st, 2010

With respect to the Economic Action Plan in Budget 2009: (a) under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, (i) what applications for projects have been rejected for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who would have been the partners involved if the project had been approved, (iv) what was the requested federal contribution, (v) what was the requested contribution from each partner, (vi) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects, (vii) in what ways did the project not match the criteria; (b) under the Building Canada Fund – Communities Component, (i) what applications for projects have been rejected for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who would have been the partners involved if the project had been approved, (iv) what was the requested federal contribution, (v) what was the requested contribution from each partner, (vi) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects, (vii) in what ways did the project not match the criteria; (c) under the Building Canada Fund – Communities Component top-up, (i) what applications for projects have been rejected for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who would have been the partners involved if the project had been approved, (iv) what was the requested federal contribution, (v) what was the requested contribution from each partner, (vi) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects, (vii) in what ways did the project not match the criteria; (d) under the Building Canada Fund – Major Infrastructure Component, (i) what applications for projects have been rejected for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who would have been the partners involved if the project had been approved, (iv) what was the requested federal contribution, (v) what was the requested contribution from each partner, (vi) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects, (vii) in what ways did the project not match the criteria; and (e) under the Recreational Infrastructure program, (i) what applications for projects have been rejected for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who would have been the partners involved if the project had been approved, (iv) what was the requested federal contribution, (v) what was the requested contribution from each partner, (vi) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects, (vii) in what ways did the project not match the criteria?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 21st, 2010

With respect to the Economic Action Plan in Budget 2009: (a) under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who are the partners involved, (iv) what is the federal contribution, (v) what is each partner’s contribution, (vi) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (vii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; (b) under the Building Canada Fund – Communities Component, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who are the partners involved, (iv) what is the federal contribution, (v) what is each partner’s contribution, (vi) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (vii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; (c) under the Building Canada Fund – Communities Component top-up, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who are the partners involved, (iv) what is the federal contribution, (v) what is each partner’s contribution, (vi) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (vii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; (d) under the Building Canada Fund – Major Infrastructure Component, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who are the partners involved, (iv) what is the federal contribution, (v) what is each partner’s contribution, (vi) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (vii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; (e) under the Provincial/Territorial Base funding acceleration, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who are the partners involved, (iv) what is the federal contribution, (v) what is each partner’s contribution, (vi) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (vii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; (f) under the Recreational Infrastructure program, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) where are the located and in which federal riding, (iii) who are the partners involved, (iv) what is the federal contribution, (v) what is each partner’s contribution, (vi) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (vii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; (g) under the Green Infrastructure Fund, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who are the partners involved, (iv) what is the federal contribution, (v) what is each partner’s contribution, (vi) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (vii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects; and (h) under the National recreational trails program, (i) what applications for projects have been approved for funding to date, (ii) where are they located and in which federal riding, (iii) who are the partners involved, (iv) what is the federal contribution, (v) what is each partner’s contribution, (vi) how much of the funding has flowed and to whom, (vii) what were the criteria used to determine approved projects?

Poland April 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer my deepest condolences to the Polish nation for the tragic and sudden passing of President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and 94 members of Poland's civilian and military leadership.

It is barely possible to comprehend that there could be another Polish tragedy associated with a place called Katyn. I say that particularly mindful of the Canadian families of the original victims of the Katyn massacre 70 years ago that remember it every year at the monument in my riding.

It is too early to say what the tragic plane crash of April 10 will mean for Poland. It is not too early to speak about the courage that it took to keep the idea of Poland and the truth of Katyn alive over the years, including by Polonia here in Canada. It was done despite much indifference internationally and in the face of brutal regimes. Nor is it too early to recognize that the incredible perseverance of the Polish people has built a strong, stable democratic country, which Canadians greatly admire.

As Poland mourns and recovers from this tragic event, Canada can and must continue to be a strong friend by officially recognizing the original Katyn massacre and pressing for Russia and others to do the same. I invite members to join me in that commitment.