October 29, 1996 (35th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Osvaldo Nunez

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Osvaldo Nunez (Bourassa, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to the speech by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. There is nothing new in what she says. The levels set by the government for 1997 are about the same as for this year.
There are, however, a couple of changes. Economic immigrants take up far more of the total: 60 per cent of immigration. Canada will take in between 82,000 and 90,000 skilled workers and between 20,000 and 30,000 business persons. This, I feel, is a good decision, but one that was made at the expense of the family reunification program.
The family reunification program, which involves spouses, fiancés, parents and grandparents, will account for only 35 per cent of immigration to Canada. Until the Liberals came into power, the family class and the economic class were almost equal. This is no longer the case. In all, there will be a total of between 168,900 and
187,700 new immigrants. With the refugees, that makes a total of between 195,000 and 220,000 newcomers to Canada in 1997.
The minister does not, however, mention that some 80,000 people leave Canada each year. The positive balance will, therefore, range between 115,000 and 140,000 new people in Canada.
There is one other comment I would like to make. The government had created the category of provincial or territorial nominee. Last year, the objective for these persons to be nominated by the provinces or territories was set at 1,000. The number for next year will be the same. I have some questions, and the minister is not giving us any answers. Is this new category a failure? Are the provinces not interested in taking part in this program? The Bloc Quebecois believes that provinces ought to play a far greater role in immigration, a far more active role, because immigration is a jurisdiction shared between the federal and provincial governments.
The minister does not indicate where these new immigrants will be coming from, either. As at present, two-thirds of the new immigrants will come from Asia, particularly Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The rest will come particularly from the former Yugoslavia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Pakistan.
When I asked departmental employees this morning, they were unable to tell me how many new immigrants are expected from Latin America.
There are no figures because the numbers have shrunk and are so small that Latin American countries do not rank among countries that provide high levels of immigration. In my opinion, Canada should make a special effort to attract more immigrants from Latin America, as we approach continental economic integration.
NAFTA will be expanded to create a broad economic zone from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, involving the mobility of capital, investment, services and goods. As far as mobility of individuals is concerned, however, problems on our own continent are increasing, and Canada is not very generous to Latin America as far as immigration is concerned.
Africa has the same problem. Today, 42 per cent of the world's refugees come from Africa, this out of a total of 25 million. We see what is happening today in Africa, but the minister remains silent on these tragic events.
However, I do want to point out that the Bloc Quebecois agrees in principle with the target figures proposed by the minister for 1997, although the government is still far removed from the objective set in the red book, which proposed annual immigration levels equivalent to 1 per cent of the population of Canada.
I am critical of the fact that the minister has considerably reduced the family component. There has been a major reduction in this class, which goes against the promises made by the Liberal Party in its red book, where family reunification was one of their priorities. That is not the case. I closely followed the proceedings of the convention of the Liberal Party of Canada on the weekend. They said their record was very positive: 78 per cent of their promises had been kept.
The government's policy is a dismal failure as far as family reunification is concerned. Last year's target figures, which were much higher, were not met.
Under the Conservative government, about 250,000 new immigrants were admitted to Canada annually, but this year, the real figure will be less than 200,000. It is expected that next year, the real figures will also be well below the target figures.
The minister said in her speech, and I agree with her on this point, that we should never lose sight of the human aspect of immigration. However the immigration tax imposed by the federal government in the 1995 budget is certainly not indicative of a policy that is open and fair to all aspirant immigrants.
The fact that each individual has to pay $975 to obtain permanent residence in Canada is a major hurdle for immigrants from developing countries. I realize that at this last convention some Liberals tabled a resolution to eliminate this tax. I also realize that some members, even Liberal members, as yet do not agree with this discriminatory tax, which goes against the government's family reunification program.
This tax is even more irritating when applied to refugees. Even the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressed very serious reservations about this refugee tax. I think it goes against the spirit of the Geneva convention, which is aimed at protecting persecuted people, victims of conflicts, and so on.
I must also point out that this tax is a significant source of revenue for the government, bringing in over $250 million a year. With the other fees immigrants must pay to have their files reviewed, obtain work permits, etc., the Department of Citizenship and Immigration's total revenues exceed $400 million a year, while its overall annual budget is only $600 million.
I would like to say a few words on the issue of refugees and displaced persons. The situation is tragic. In addition to the 23 million refugees I just referred to, there are over 100 million people displaced from one country to another or within their own countries as a result of wars, persecutions, natural disasters, racial or religious troubles, ethnic intolerance, political repression, poverty, and human rights violations.
I think that, without exceeding the general goals set by the minister today, we could make an additional effort for world refugees, especially women and children, who make up 80 per cent of all refugees and persecuted people.
I was very affected by the horrific scenes in Zaire we recently saw on television. In the Goma region alone, 200,000 refugees have gathered in the past few days. With its 214,000 refugees, the new Mugumpa refugee camp is the biggest in the world.
Again, as the Bloc Quebecois did yesterday, I call on the government to help these hundreds of thousands of sick people without drinking water or the basic means to survive.
Even though the war in Bosnia is over, there is still a problem. Some people have returned to Bosnia, but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees tells us it is still too early. Some are so traumatized by the war that they cannot return to Bosnia right away.
There are problems in Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, the Sudan, etc. But it is mainly what is happening in Zaire that should concern the Canadian people. We must provide humanitarian assistance to the African continent. We need special programs to deal with the human tragedies facing Zaire and other African nations.
Under the Canada-Quebec agreement, Quebec set its levels at 27,000 new immigrants for the year 1997. I must point out that Quebec is the most generous province for refugees. In 1995 alone, Quebec welcomed 12,019 asylum seekers, compared to 11,546 for Ontario, the most populous province in Canada. Quebec welcomes 47 per cent of refugee claimants, compared to 45 per cent only for Ontario.
The minister makes no mention of it. In their recruiting campaign, Canada and the Canadian government should promote francophone immigration in Quebec. Quebec is the only French-speaking country, the only French-speaking nation, the only French-speaking state in America and, as such, it has to protect its French-speaking immigration. Quebec believes that it is enriched economically, socially and culturally through immigration.
I would like to mention in passing a survey published today in La Presse , which indicates that the people of Quebec are quite open to immigration. A survey released yesterday by Quebec immigration minister André Boisclair shows that two Quebecers out of three are receptive to cultural diversity and pleased with the number of immigrants coming here every year.
Quebecers are very tolerant, I have always said so, and they do not display any signs of xenophobia toward the minorities. This survey tells us that 67 per cent of Quebecers are receptive to cultural diversity; 56 per cent believe that immigration promotes economic development; and 72 per cent regard immigrants as contributing to the province's cultural richness. Also, 64 per cent of Quebecers, or 11 per cent more than in 1992, believe that immigrants work hard to fit into Quebec society.
Here is what this very serious survey conducted in April says. It shows how open Quebecers are, contrary to what some members have been saying, members of the Reform Party in particular and also members of the Liberal Party.
I agree, as I have just said, with the minister that the positive aspects of immigration should be emphasized. Immigrants make a substantial economic, cultural, social and political contribution. I notice that the minister did not address either, unfortunately, the hostility perceived today in Canadian society toward immigrants and more particularly refugees.
Contrary to a certain statements, immigrants contribute more than they receive. They do not tend to use social services as much as people who were born in Canada. The crime rate is lower among them than among people of Canadian stock. This needs to be repeated in this House, and it is the minister's responsibility to educate the Canadian public on the enormous contribution made by immigrants and refugees as well, since most refugees are young and highly educated individuals fleeing persecution and looking for a better life for themselves, their families and their children. They come to Canada with all this energy they have. They are prepared to contribute to economic growth and to employment development.
I will conclude with a few comments on the IRB. Time and time again the minister has said that the IRB is an independent tribunal, but in Bill C-49 before us, she is giving herself the power to remove the IRB chairperson at any time. Under the current legislation, the chairperson may be removed only after five years, coinciding with the end of his or her mandate. With this new legislation, she would be authorized to dismiss the chairperson after a year or two, then renew his or her mandate, chose someone else, and so on. For these reasons and others, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to Bill C-49.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Immigration
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