Mr. Speaker, I paid close attention to the statement made by the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
I want to put this motion into what I think is its proper context by clearly outlining what is in fact occurring in Sri Lanka. It is a very serious issue that we collectively, as members of Parliament in the House of Commons in Canada, need to give the attention it justly deserves.
The situation in Sri Lanka is the following. The escalating violence between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent, largely Tamil civilians, many of whom are relatives of citizens here in Canada. Many more have been displaced and left homeless. We feel that the international community has a responsibility to intervene and protect these innocent victims of civil war.
We on this side of the House recognize that Canada is in fact home to one of the largest Tamil communities outside of Sri Lanka. Many Canadian families are under tremendous emotional strain.
I have witnessed that emotional strain. I met with members of the Tamil community in my constituency office in recent weeks and saw how the children, parents and grandparents, individual Canadian citizens, are deeply concerned about the status of their own family members in Sri Lanka.
It is really when one looks into their eyes that one sees the distress they are in and one recognizes that we as a great compassionate and humanitarian country cannot sit idly by and watch what is going on without doing something about it. That is one of the reasons the Leader of the Opposition met with members of the Tamil community last week, to hear first-hand from the Tamil Canadians whose families and friends in Sri Lanka are suffering from this crisis.
I say to hon. members on the government side that, in fact, Tamil Canadians deserve the support of their government to help keep their family members safe. For months, the Liberal Party has called on the Conservative government to press for the creation of a humanitarian corridor for the delivery of aid and the safe evacuation of the affected population.
Also, in relation to the issue of immigration, we have called for the Canadian government to examine the feasibility of fast-tracking existing visa applications under a special assisted relative class for those wishing to escape the violence and join their immediate family members here in Canada. New applications should be dealt with as quickly as possible, and processing fees should be waived for those who have been personally affected by the escalating violence.
The government, of course, should not only make a statement about doing this, but as everyone knows, the immigration system in this country also requires greater funding and resources to turn the words that we say in the House into reality so that people can in fact be helped.
On this issue, a senior humanitarian assistance delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs should be sent to Sri Lanka on an emergency basis to assess the situation and report back to Parliament. This delegation should evaluate what can be done on the ground to assist the victims of the violence and whether it is feasible to send Canada's disaster assistance relief team to help relieve the suffering.
As one can see, this motion and the statement I made about the immigration component of this issue are part and parcel of a greater, more comprehensive plan that the Liberal Party is offering.
Canada also has a special responsibility to assist in international efforts to bring about a political reconciliation. Canada must assume a leadership role in condemning the ongoing violence in the region and press the Government of Sri Lanka to commit to an immediate and permanent ceasefire. Renewal of Sri Lanka's International Monetary Fund loans should be contingent on their commitment to such a ceasefire.
The Government of Canada must also press the United Nations to appoint a special representative for Sri Lanka to facilitate a return to dialogue. The Government of Sri Lanka must understand that there are no military solutions. Canada must call for national reconciliation and help build a future of justice in Sri Lanka.
This immigration issue cannot operate in isolation. It must operate within a wider, more comprehensive and more holistic approach to resolution of the crisis. It is also very important that Canadians understand that our party has made clear statements about the measures we are calling for. These include the creation of a humanitarian corridor for the delivery of aid and the safe evacuation of defected population, the fast-tracking of new and existing visa applications for those wishing to escape the violence and join their immediate family members in Canada, and Canada must press the government of Sri Lanka to commit to an immediate and permanent ceasefire.
I reiterate: These are important points that the government needs to think about as it tries to address this issue.
I want to read on the record some statements that were made by the Leader of the Opposition, so that Canadians are very clear on his position on this particular issue. On April 8, he said:
The humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka has continued to deteriorate, causing grave concern to the international community and demanding urgent and coordinated action to end this conflict....
The international community has a responsibility to intervene and protect these innocent victims of civil war. As home to one of the largest Tamil communities outside of Sri Lanka, Canada has a special responsibility to assist in international efforts to bring about a political reconciliation and to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those who need it.
The Liberal Party will continue to put pressure on the Canadian government and the UN Secretary General to appoint a Special Representative for Sri Lanka to serve on behalf of the international community to assist in bringing about an immediate ceasefire and an end to this crisis.
Canada must continue to press for diplomatic engagement and additional humanitarian assistance while strongly condemning these ongoing attacks on the civilian population. We stand with the people of Sri Lanka in calling for an end to all hostilities as well as with Canadians of Sri Lankan descent whose lives and loved ones are affected by this conflict.
Ultimately, we in the House must remember that we are talking about people, people who are in need, people who look to us to provide them with what they need to be part of that global village that is committed to peace and committed to individuals who want to help one another.
I will conclude with this: Recently, my leader met with members of the Tamil community and once again called for access to humanitarian efforts and dialogue. He said:
We cannot sit back and watch as thousands of innocent lives are lost in the cross-fire, and we condemn any attempt to use civilians as human shields.
Let us always remember this as we continue to address this very important issue.