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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Bloc MP for Vaudreuil—Soulanges (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 26% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Immigration March 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the government has missed an excellent opportunity to put the refugee appeal division in place, by not earmarking the necessary funds in its latest budget.

How can the government justify this lack of political will at a time when everyone is calling for the establishment of the appeal division? Once again, a promise made, refugees deceived.

Immigration March 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the immigration act was amended three years ago now, but the refugee appeal division has not yet been put in place, despite the promises made.

Does the government realize that this is not just a commitment but also a duly enacted legislative measure, which has not yet been implemented over three years later?

Immigration February 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, last week, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration told us that the case of Mohamed Cherfi was following its course. In Le Soleil a spokesperson for the department said that nothing would be done, while another source reported that the file is being studied and a decision is imminent.

Can the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration be clear with us and reveal his true intentions with respect to Mohamed Cherfi?

Chinese Canadian Recognition and Redress Act February 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak to this motion tabled by my colleague from Durham on Bill C-333, an act to recognize the injustices done to Chinese immigrants by head taxes and exclusion legislation, to provide for recognition of the extraordinary contribution they made to Canada, to provide for redress and to promote education on Chinese Canadian history and racial harmony.

As the House now knows, at the end of the last century, Chinese immigrants were employed in western Canada to a large extent in mining, but especially in the construction of a major Canadian symbol, the Canadian Pacific Railway. This was certainly a very expensive project, economically speaking, but it had a much higher cost in terms of the treatment of the railway construction workers and their families.

The contribution of the Chinese community needs to be recognized, and this dark chapter in Canadian history needs to be redressed. When economic conditions deteriorated toward the end of the 19th century, an anti-Asian sentiment developed in Canada. This led to the introduction of a tax to limit immigration by Chinese people, in particular.

The first measure of this kind was a $50 tax per person introduced in 1885. This tax would then increase twice going from $50 to $100 in 1903. Then, three years later, it was increased to $500. It goes without saying that for most people, $500 at the time was as much as two years' salary.

These immigrants, not all of whom had a choice about coming, had to work like slaves and neglect their families to repay this huge sum, which took them many long years to do.

Because immigration from China continued, despite the fact that anti-Asian sentiment did not wane, on July 1, 1923, the Dominion passed legislation known as the Chinese Immigration Act, restricting immigration from China. This legislation, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, was viewed as a terrible humiliation by the Chinese community living in Canada.

It is not surprising that, for over 20 years, the Chinese community, specifically, the Chinese Canadian National Council, has been demanding that the government redress the past injustices that Asian immigrants were subjected to. That is the purpose of the motion by my colleague from Durham. Furthermore, the Bloc Québécois is happy to discuss this alongside him, because it is a matter of righting a past injustice.

I want to remind the House of a 2001 decision by the Ontario Superior Court. This decision noted, among other things, that Canada should consider providing redress and apologizing to the descendants of the Chinese Canadian community, as a result of these disgraceful acts committed during the last century.

Canada has already shown such wisdom in the past, under Brian Mulroney. It issued an apology to Japanese citizens who were interned or deported or had their land expropriated during the second world war.

However, the Chinese community, which built Canada and its railroad, is still waiting for such redress. We must not be afraid of words: discrimination by Canada against these immigrants is unacceptable, particularly for a country founded on immigration and proud of its fundamental values of humanitarianism and tolerance.

These immigrants were forced to come here. They were used to accomplish an extraordinary feat. This incredible undertaking shaped the future of our country, but once completed, these people were no longer wanted. They were subjected to unthinkable acts. We must also remember that we denied these immigrants the right to bring their spouses to Canada, under legislation adopted in 1923, which remained in force for 25 years.

I want to acknowledge the determination of the Chinese community in holding its head high, despite this despicable and shameful situation.

I would like to point out to the House that something equally reprehensible, though without the scope of the actions taken in the last century, was said recently at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. It was the suggestion that Chinese immigration be limited for reasons relating to financial capacity. From this, we can only conclude that we will never be free of discriminatory comments. I would just like to see this House recognize the errors of the past and recognize clauses that discriminate against any nation of this world when it is enacting legislation on citizenship and immigration.

Sooner or later, the darkest moments in Canadian immigration policy must be recognized. It is time to acknowledge the actions taken by the politicians of the day against the entire Chinese community. The first of these date back more than 120 years, and were only attenuated some 60 years ago, so there were 60 dark years in Canadian history the harmful effects of which need to be acknowledged.

As long as this is not settled, Canada will bear the stigma of these questionable actions of the past. This House has had several opportunities to acknowledge the injustices committed against the Chinese community. Similar bills have been introduced on several occasions since 2002, but have always died on the order paper.

Now, however, it is time for the government to act responsibly and to make a formal apology for its past behaviour. The Chinese community is now an integral part of the Quebec and Canadian mosaic, and it is most reprehensible that this matter has not yet been settled by Canada.

It is my heartfelt wish that the government will be in favour of this bill. I also hope that it will recognize, along with the official opposition and the Bloc Québécois, that such behaviour is unacceptable in the society we have built together.

It is never too late to do the right thing, and I would therefore call upon the government to respect its own principles and defend minorities that have been neglected in the past. Granted, this reprehensible behaviour was not the responsibility of the present government, but it is responsible, on several occasions in more recent history, for having stifled bills similar to this. It has a responsibility not to miss the opportunity given it this time.

Two decades ago, the Canadian government offered compensation to the Japanese for the wrongs and abuses they suffered during the second world war. A bill is currently before Parliament on the subject of the Ukrainians. It is time to do the same for the Chinese immigrants at the turn of the century.

While in many matters the present government will be recognized for its failure to act, at least here, when it comes to making reparations for past errors, it has an opportunity to leave its mark. That is still better than nothing, and I suggest the government should not let it slip by.

The House should deal swiftly with this bill so that it will get to committee as quickly as possible and we can determine the exact form the reparation should take. The House has the moral obligation to recognize that such actions are part of its past and that it is time to turn this dark page in our history—a dark cloud that for too long has cast its shadow over the fundamental Quebec and Canadian values of tolerance, openness and welcome, which built our shared cultures and keep them moving forward.

The Bloc Québécois will continue the fight for democracy by supporting the differences in our communities. Whether the issue is to defend the right of the Chinese community to be given apologies for being made the victim of racist policies, to continue to demand more international aid, to denounce the antiterrorism legislation that discriminates more against certain people than others, to propose bills that offer progressive solutions to problems of employment in our communities, or to fight for a more inclusive society: I ask my colleagues to vote in favour of Bill C-333.

Official Languages Act February 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that history and the past few months have shown that, in every instance where individuals had church protection, including church sanctuary, their applications were valid. The current minister has approved such applications and granted special status.

In the case of Mr. Cherfi, Citizenship and Immigration Canada violated the sanctuary. Mr. Cherfi enjoys very wide support from various people, people who knew him and well-known community figures.

In fact, Mr. Cherfi has been accused of not working. A man who volunteered so much time to help his people deserves at least to be considered on humanitarian grounds. The work he has done must be taken into consideration. We must not forget that he has made a life for himself here, that he is a part of Quebec's society now and, also, that has a spouse impatiently waiting for him here.

Now, his life is threatened because this matter has caught media attention. We ask the minister to approve his application.

Official Languages Act February 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of this Parliament, I have asked many questions in this House concerning the federal government's treatment of Mr. Mohamed Cherfi. Both the officials of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and the minister are still dragging their feet in this case.

In Mohamed Cherfi's case there are several important elements. Mohamed Cherfi is an Algerian who fled his country and sought refuge in Canada. His request for refugee protection was turned down in 1999. He was able to remain here because of a moratorium on the deportation of Algerians. Like his countrymen, Mr. Cherfi lobbied to have his status recognized. It has been his bad luck to become the spokesperson for these people treated so unfairly by Canada.

Faced with such lobbying, the then Minister of Citizenship and Immigration had no other choice but to give in. An amnesty was declared for non-status Algerians, but in a vengeful gesture, their spokesman, Mr. Cherfi, was excluded.

The only solution remaining to him was to hide out in a religious sanctuary. In an unprecedented move, Citizenship and Immigration Canada insisted that the Quebec City police force violate the sanctuary of the Église unie de Saint-Pierre, on Saint-Ursule Street in Quebec City. From there, Mr. Cherfi was taken to the American border and ever since, he has been held in the United States.

These actions by Citizenship and Immigration have mobilized the community.

To help Mr. Cherfi return, five upstanding citizens of Quebec, including Marc Ouellet, agreed to sponsor him as a person in need of protection. Mr. Cherfi has a great deal of support in the community in Quebec.

Since he went public with his position on non-status Algerians, the risk to his safety has increased tenfold. He is now perceived as someone who has tarnished Algeria's image abroad.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada promised the sponsoring group it would make its decision quickly so that Mr. Cherfi could return, if possible, before he is deported from the United States.

A coalition was created to support him and his family at every turn.

They have received support from the Civil Liberties Union, the Amnesty International French Canadian chapter, the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the Fédération des femmes du Québec and many others.

I have the following question for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration: why did the Government of Canada not allow Mr. Cherfi to return?

Has his department lost all human sensitivity? Is the presence of a non-status Algerian in Canada, who exercises his freedom of expression, an embarrassment to Canada?

Immigration February 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, Mohamed Cherfi has been detained in the United States since Canada deported him after removing him from a Quebec church. A group of Quebeckers has been trying to sponsor him ever since. Immigration Canada promised them a response by January 7, but they are still waiting a month later.

Can the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration explain to us why his department is dragging its feet on this, thereby delaying Quebec's decision on Mohamed Cherfi's status?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 2nd, 2005

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois welcomes Bill C-283 presented by my colleague from Newton—North Delta with pleasure.

The text amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations is intended essentially to facilitate the issuing of visas through a sponsorship system and to bring about improvements to a system that was greatly in need of them. The Bloc Québécois agrees with the principle of facilitating visits by family members of permanent residents in this country.

I would remind hon. members that this measure is based on close family ties, and is intended to facilitate family visits and not new immigrants. Those who would be eligible under this measure, close family members, are already able to take advantage of other, existing measures in order to establish themselves in Canada under the family reunification immigration category.

Let us look at the details of the proposal. As far as the guarantee of return is concerned, this measure is intended solely for the relatives of visitors who have had an application for visa denied. What is proposed in Bill C-283 is that a close relative established in Canada will be able to sponsor a visa applicant and provide a guarantee, thereby allowing the applicant to obtain a visa and come to visit his or her relatives.

Bill C-283 applies only to close relatives: husbands, wives, children, sisters and brothers, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, and no one else.

It provides that the guarantee posted will be refunded only after foreign nationals report to a Canadian officer upon returning to their country. The officer or other representative of the Government of Canada absolutely has to be outside Canada for the visitor's return to be confirmed and the guarantee reimbursed to the sponsor. This deposit or guarantee forces foreign nationals to leave Canada once their visa has expired. It ensures that those benefiting from this measure will leave.

Note that, under CIC's current voluntary return policy, there are no mechanisms to monitor the departure of individuals who are issued visas. This is therefore an improvement on the existing system. Later on, CIC will have to look into the issue of managing departures.

These visas may not be extended at all. They do not allow foreign nationals to work or study in Canada. They are clearly intended only for travelling. Moreover, the foreign nationals will not be permitted to apply for permanent resident status while in Canada and will have to leave even if they married or applied for refugee status. They absolutely have to leave the country and apply from their home country.

The fact that the bill ensures the return to the country of origin reduces the risk of compromising the primary intention of the legislation. It seems to create an incentive to reduce the amount of abuse and to discourage people from trying to enter the country permanently this way.

I want to commend my colleague for his interest in nurturing the family values of Canadians and Quebeckers by relaxing the rules for visits by close relatives.

As I was saying earlier, currently only officials have the authority to issue visas. Bill C-283 aims at giving visa applicants more chances by reducing the discretionary power of CIC personnel. It gives power and responsibility to the citizen.

This legislation fights the democratic deficit that exists in all aspects of our society. It is a small measure, a drop in the bucket, but its symbolic significance is much greater than it may seem at first.

The Prime Minister cannot be against this principle, he who is constantly trying to find ways to bring citizens closer to the decision-making process. Well, this is a fine example of how to do just that.

The bill states that applications can only be made if an application was previously denied by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. In other words, not every citizen will automatically resort to Bill C-283. Otherwise, the department would be left with a door wide open. Instead, the bill offers the possibility of appeal where there is none.

I still have a few questions on certain points such as the workload and processing deadlines. I wonder about the proposal to issue visas individually, without grouping applications. As has been pointed out, the bill is very specifically aimed at visitors of the family class. It is common for people to travel with someone else. There has to be a way to make it easier to submit these types of applications.

Likewise, children should be allowed to accompany their parents, if that is the wish of the visiting family. Since this legislation is directed at relatives visiting from far away, it seems relevant to process a single application for all parties rather than individual applications.

It is also important to ensure that the issue of the deposit of security is fair for everyone.

It would be deplorable if only those who were better off could take advantage of this measure. The plan is for the officer to determine the amount according to a number of factors, including the individual's financial resources. But there must still be assurance that this is not a way of placing overly onerous conditions on certain applicants. Refugees must still be entitled to make application.

The intended purpose is to make it easier for families in Quebec and Canada who are far away from their loved ones to have them visit. It would be deplorable if some of them could not afford to take advantage of this. There is a control measure already in place for people who sponsored someone who did not fulfill his or her obligations. If this is the case, the applicant cannot apply again for five years. I would like this to be looked into. We need to be sure that this is indeed the best way to protect against abuse of this measure.

More than 72,000 visitor visas were issued in 2003. That is just the total that were granted. I am sure that some of the ones denied were refused on good grounds, according to the administrative criteria. That does not, however, mean that, if they had been issued, national security would have been endangered.

Bill C-283 will make life much easier for many families. The Bloc Québécois is happy to encourage such a thing.

Bill C-283 is clearly not in draft form. The bill has been polished since its first version and can now be referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. It is legislation the country can use and that is why I encourage all my colleagues to join me in voting to refer this bill to the committee for consideration.

Canada Border Services Agency Act December 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank my dear colleague for his question. As I was explaining earlier, this is a department with complex responsibilities. In addition, there is the role played by Citizenship and Immigration and the coordination between these two departments.

With respect to the review and appeal mechanism, it is certain that at present, we have the same concerns about the agency's services. Decisions made by officers at the borders cannot be appealed. We have some concerns about that. People have no access to a safety net or recourse. Therefore, we must be certain that justice is done. If the system is to be based on values of justice and equity, the mechanisms to support those values must also be included.

That is one of the issues we have with immigration. When a refugee receives a negative decision, the decision is without appeal. We must explain to those listening that in the beginning, there were two commissioners on the IRB. With the changes in legislation in 2002, there is only one commissioner who makes the decision to keep or deport a refugee claimant.

The fact that there is no possibility of appeal takes away a certain safety net that used to exist. Previously, if one of the two commissioners decided in favour of the claimant, the individual could remain in Canada.

One of our demands is the implementation of the refugee appeal division. That is somewhat relevant to what I said earlier. If we want a fair and equitable mechanism, we must have a means of appeal and a way to review the file of any person who believes there has been a miscarriage of justice. That is currently lacking in immigration.

Transferring that idea to Bill C-26, it is rather similar. If we want there to be justice and equity within our borders, we must make sure that we have the mechanisms in place to give people who feel they have been treated unfairly by the system a chance to appeal the decision and receive fair treatment.

Canada Border Services Agency Act December 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a critical point about what the hon. member opposite was saying.

Our position is quite simple. We are saying that we can and must remain critical in respect of the application of the measures that will transform this entity. On October 12, 2004, the government announced it was reversing two decisions. Assessing risk before referral is now the responsibility of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. The signature of two ministers responsible is needed for issuing security certificates.

We are saying that currently, individual freedoms have to be respected. The rights of immigrants and refugees must also be respected. We must keep a critical eye on the procedures implemented. We must also recognize that the Border Services Agency has highly complex responsibilities.

To name a few: it must ensure that all people coming into Canada are admissible and comply with Canadian laws and regulations. This responsibility is quite broad. The agency must also interdict inadmissible people and detain and remove persons who have been determined to be inadmissible to Canada. This also requires a great deal of coordination. Furthermore, the agency must develop policies for implementing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, for individuals who are inadmissible for reasons of security, violation of human rights or involvement in organized crime; decide whether an immigrant who meets the inadmissibility criteria can be exempt for lack of danger; ensure payment of duties and tax; and identify and intercept goods prescribed as high risk.

I have just listed seven responsibilities. They make for a highly complex agency. As I was saying earlier, with the coming into force of the Safe Third Country Agreement, because of the level of coordination and complexity, we must keep a critical eye on the way this agency establishes procedures.

I simply want to mention to the hon. member opposite that we are not necessarily against the principles of Bill C-26. The only thing we are saying is that we must remain on the lookout, because of the complexity of this agency.