Mr. Chairman, when I came back to the house this afternoon, after being absent for two days, I was deeply touched by the welcome I received, since many hon. members have shown concern over my absence and have pointed out that it was impossible to pursue a debate on a supply motion without the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration being in attendance.
I must say that my parliamentary secretary (Mr. Badanai) replaced me in such an intelligent manner that I may be tempted to stay away from the house somewhat more often than in the past, in order to give him the opportunity of showing his real interest in the problems of immigration and Indian affairs.
Since I was away a few days, I had to devote the day to studying very carefully the many speeches delivered by some hon. members on the problems concerning the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, especially on immigration, Indian affairs and citizenship.
I do not intend to discuss fully every point raised by the hon. members who contributed to this debate, especially the member for Parry Sound-Muskoka (Mr. Aiken) who was the official spokesman of the opposition on matters concerning citizenship and immigration, as chairman of the committee of the Conservative caucus on citizenship and immigration, the hon. member for Churchill (Mr. Simpson), the hon. member for Melville (Mr. Ormiston), the hon. member for Kamloops (Mr. Willoughby), the hon. member for Wellington-South (Mr. Hales), the hon. member for Kent (Ont.) (Mr. Danforth), the hon. member for Brandon-Souris (Mr. Dinsdale), the hon. member for Timiskaming (Mr. Peters), the hon. member for Greenwood (Mr. Brewin) and again yesterday, I believe, the hon. member for Vegreville (Mr. Fane).
I wish to thank all those hon. members for their contribution to this debate and for their suggestions which will be fully looked into by my departmental officials and myself. 1 shall have the opportunity, when my estimates are before the house, to deal with the main points raised during this debate.
I should only like to point out tonight a few matters of special interest. First of all, the minister was taken to task for the general policies with regard to immigration, Indian affairs and citizenship.
As far as immigration is concerned, I have already stated in the house that we have now reached a point where a positive and aggressive policy in immigration matters should be established in our country.
However, in order to attain this end, there were three significant stages to observe. The first one was the administrative reform of the immigration service. Hon. members in the official opposition should know the great responsibility which the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has to assume after six years of administration by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Diefenbaker), having to supply that service with all the necessary tools to apply a positive and aggressive policy in matters of immigration. When we came into power, there were 206 vacancies in the immigration branch.
How do you expect such a service to be efficient, when the higher officials left the service and, for austerity reasons, were never replaced.
The first task was to proceed with this administrative reform within the immigration branch. After the deputy minister, of whom I will be speaking soon, we appointed a new director of immigration, whose first task consisted in redefining the functions of that service, while establishing a new staff and, finally, giving the minister the necessary tools to implement his positive and aggressive policy in immigration matters.
I am happy to say that this whole reform of the immigration branch has been approved by the government and that, in a few weeks or months, we will be able to put it into practice.
After this first stage it will be necessary to go on to the next two stages, that is consideration and amendment of immigration regulations and, finally, amendment of the Immigration Act.
We wanted to proceed rationally and I hope that, within a short time, I shall be able to announce changes in immigration
regulations which are established by the government through orders in council, under the authority provided lor in the Immigration Act.
Later, when the business of the house will permit, I hope to make a revision of the Immigration Act, so that it may be more in keeping with the requirements of the twentieth century and the situation in which modern states find themselves which need more and more to welcome new citizens who are willing to go there.
As regards Indian affairs, I am surprised that there was no reference to the announcement I made in this house concerning a community projects program.
When this government accepts to carry out a community projects policy, this means that it is breaking with a long paternalism tradition with respect to Canadian Indians and is entering into a phase-which we hope shall be of short duration-where Indians will progressively assume full responsibility for the administration of their own affairs and enjoy all the privileges of other Canadian citizens.
Mr. Chairman, as you know the government has already announced that it will soon submit to the house an important amendment to the Citizenship Act which will remove any discrimination toward new Canadians.
You are no doubt aware, Mr. Chairman, that the act contains many discriminatory clauses between Canadians born here and Canadians who have obtained their citizenship after having immigrated to Canada.
I think it is unfair-and the government as well as the other parties will agree-that one who has waited five years to obtain his right to full citizenship, no matter if he was born here or not, is the object of discrimination.
Henceforth, that is, when the bill has been approved by the house, every Canadian citizen, whether born here or abroad, will have exactly the same rights, and never shall we have any more second class citizens in Canada.
Mr. Chairman, reading the remarks made by the hon. members who took part in the debate, I was extremely concerned at those made by the hon. member for Timiskaming who launched an unfair attack against the deputy minister of citizenship and immigration, Mr. Claude Isbister, claiming that this man is not at all interested in immigration, that he shows no devotion to the public
welfare and that he displays discrimination in the management of the department's business.
After the hon. member for Greenwood, who is a member of the same political party as the hon. member for Timiskaming, after the Minister of Justice (Mr. Favreau) and after my parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Fort William, I am pleased to tell the house that Mr. Isbister is one of the federal deputy ministers who deserves well of his country, because of his long services in important positions in various departments, especially trade and commerce, finance and, now, citizenship and immigration. Since I became the head of this department, I have always counted on his loyal devotion to the business of the country, of the House of Commons and of the department. I want to say that I have complete confidence in my deputy minister, Mr. Claude Isbister, that I will continue to follow his advice and accept his assistance, and that in spite of the charges made in the house by the hon. member for Timiskaming, Mr. Isbister as well as my other officials and myself will always be pleased to serve as well as we can all hon. members regardless of party affiliation.
The problem concerning the immigration of people from North Africa has been raised. I do not intend to deal with the numerous facets of this problem. My parliamentary secretary did a fine job in that connection while I was away. I should just like to say that before taking such a step in co-operation with the French government, we obtained the necessary guarantees in regard to the value and qualifications of those who will migrate to Canada under that program.
Those immigrants will receive the same treatment as any person who moves to Canada. We will give them the same advantages as all other immigrants but we expect in return that our country will benefit from the new skills we need so badly. In some cases, they will even set an example for some of our farmers who very often follow traditional farming techniques and who need immigrants from the Netherlands, Germany or France living in the same community to teach them new techniques in the field of agriculture. In fact, many experiments were carried out in Canada by new Canadians who came here and who assisted in the development of Canadian agriculture.
Mr. Chairman, someone asked whether the government still intended to set up an appeal board for immigration cases. I do not blame the members of the opposition parties for not giving any publicity to that important point
of the Liberal platform, but let me say that we are very proud of having put that in our platform and I shall be indeed very happy, as minister of immigration, to carry out soon that pledge to set up a court entirely independent from the department, entirely independent from the minister and from hon. members, to which any applicant, personally or through a counsel, could submit all the human and legal points respecting an immigration case.
I hope that pretty soon the government will be in a position to introduce that bill and that the whole house, unanimously, will set up such a court, the establishment of which will be in the interest of the government, of all hon. members, of the immigrants themselves and, I think, of the administration of justice in the country.
Mr. Chairman, concern was expressed, quite properly, about the status of the representatives or officials of the department of immigration in foreign countries. I must say that such a situation is abnormal. I think it was the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka (Mr. Aiken) who quite properly pointed out that immigration officials abroad do not enjoy the same advantages as the officials of the external affairs or trade and commerce departments.
I do not know when this tradition establishing a different status originated, but I think that if we are to give our immigration services abroad the prestige and efficiency we all want, these officials must be given a status that will enable them to represent our country with dignity and efficiency in the community where they live and discharge successfully a responsibility which is becoming more and more delicate, that is to look for good immigrants and convince them to come and live in our country and benefit from the advantages enjoyed by the people as a whole.
Mr. Chairman, my time is almost exhausted and I wish to say a few words about Indian affairs. I mentioned a while ago that the setting up of community projects in the field of Indian affairs was a new departure in the whole history of this country with respect to Indians. But this new program is merely an addition to the regular and improved services of the Indian affairs branch. There is no question of substituting a new program for the whole administrative structure which already existed, but rather of using those community projects in order to increase the efficiency and especially to diversify the services which were already provided by the Indian affairs branch.
During the debate interest was shown for what is happening to the Indian claims commission. I must say that we received excellent recommendations on the part of Indian groups in this country. We received more than 300 briefs from Indian groups and others, and especially from Indians, concerning the various clauses of Bill No. C-130 which has already received first reading in this house. Moreover, I received from departmental officials the report of a preliminary study on all the recommendations made to the department. At the present time, and in agreement with my senior officers, I am studying all those recommendations to find out to what extent we could change the Indian claims legislation in order to make it more consonant with the recommendations and suggestions made by the Indians themselves who, after all, are the most concerned as regards the setting up of this commission.
In the fall I hope to be able to bring forward the amended bill which, this time, could serve as a basis for the establishment of this commission which has been expected for such a long time by the Indians of this country.
Mr. Chairman, I was very much surprised to see that some members have given credence to the report that this government was in favour of the removal or breaking up of Indian reserves. I wish to reassure the house as to my intention and that of the government in that connection. We do not intend and we have never intended to introduce a measure which would be detrimental to Indian reserves, which are so dear to Indians of this country, no matter what new pieces of legislation we introduce concerning Indian affairs. As long as I remain superintendent of Indian affairs in this country, I will never tolerate that officials under my jurisdiction take the decision of breaking up a reserve or bringing any change whatsoever, before the Indians have had the opportunity to consider the problem and have asked that a change be made in the reserve on which they live.
They are the ones primarily concerned; they are the ones who, in consultation with whoever takes an interest in them, should decide whether it would be advantageous for them to change the location of their reserve.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say just a few words concerning citizenship.
A while ago, I referred to the amendments we shall bring to the statute itself. I wish to mention a remark which was made in the house concerning the intricacies of the citi-
zenship act. It was stated that many Canadians have an undefined status, often without knowing anything about it. For instance, some Canadians born in foreign countries and having married foreigners, and so forth, are uncertain with respect to their status and, when they request passports to go overseas, they find out they have not got Canadian citizenship.
The following suggestion was made: the citizenship branch should publish, as soon as possible, for interested Canadian citizens, a booklet containing the main points of the citizenship act, for an insufficient knowledge of this act may have the deplorable consequences I have indicated.
In my opinion, this suggestion is a very happy one, and I hope, when the citizenship act is amended and passed such a step may be taken.
Finally, it was said that the citizenship act is very complicated and that it might be appropriate to publish such a booklet. But I may point out here that it is high time that all Canadians, whether born abroad or in this country, should aspire more and more to obtain the status of Canadian citizen with official recognition by means of registration with the citizenship branch and the issuance of a Canadian citizenship card.
I know that many social clubs throughout the country suggest to their members to register and fill the forms required to get this Canadian citizenship card.
Now, Mr. Chairman, if I may express a wish in closing those brief remarks, I would say that all members of the house and also the public as a whole should register at the office of the registrar of citizenship and carry very proudly their card, because to be a Canadian, even when it is difficult, when clouds darken the horizon, it is something worth while after all.
Topic: INTERIM SUPPLY