Deepak OBHRAI

OBHRAI, The Hon. Deepak, P.C.

Personal Data

Party
Conservative
Constituency
Calgary Forest Lawn (Alberta)
Birth Date
July 5, 1950
Website
http://deepakobhrai.com
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=9f0040ba-a9d7-4aa4-b2e4-f3213a4e024f&Language=E&Section=ALL
Email Address
deepak.obhrai@parl.gc.ca
Profession
businessman

Parliamentary Career

June 2, 1997 - March 26, 2000
REF
  Calgary East (Alberta)
March 27, 2000 - October 22, 2000
CA
  Calgary East (Alberta)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
CA
  Calgary East (Alberta)
December 12, 2003 - May 23, 2004
PC
  Calgary East (Alberta)
February 2, 2004 - May 23, 2004
CPC
  Calgary East (Alberta)
June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
CPC
  Calgary East (Alberta)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
CPC
  Calgary East (Alberta)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (February 7, 2006 - September 18, 2013)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation (March 26, 2008 - November 6, 2008)
October 14, 2008 - March 26, 2011
CPC
  Calgary East (Alberta)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (February 7, 2006 - September 18, 2013)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation (March 26, 2008 - November 6, 2008)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation (November 5, 2010 - January 29, 2011)
May 2, 2011 - August 2, 2015
CPC
  Calgary East (Alberta)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (February 7, 2006 - September 18, 2013)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights (September 19, 2013 - November 3, 2015)
October 19, 2015 -
CPC
  Calgary Forest Lawn (Alberta)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights (September 19, 2013 - November 3, 2015)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 367 of 371)


December 11, 1997

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, last week the auditor general stated that he “deplores the fact that it takes on average more than two and a half years to settle a refugee claim”. Today 38,000 refugees have their lives on hold as they wait to have their claims heard.

The fact of the matter is that the auditor general has been calling for an overhaul of the minister's department for the last 10 years. Now another promise has been made.

Will the minister commit today to the urgent implementation of the auditor general's recommendation?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Refugees
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December 8, 1997

Mr. Deepak Obhrai

Mr. Speaker, I do not think so. I still say that this is a change, not taking rights away. I still feel that parents in Newfoundland have the basic right to educate their children in the manner they want.

I know that in Calgary those who do not agree with that are teaching their children at home. Basically I am looking at this through the referendum and the desire of parents of Newfoundland who are asking for a change to be made to better administer the system. As a person who belongs to a minority I would be the first to raise the flag if I felt a minority right was disappearing. I do not feel a minority right is disappearing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Amendment To The Constitution Of Canada (Newfoundland)
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December 8, 1997

Mr. Deepak Obhrai

Mr. Speaker, there are some good analogies there.

To answer the question, in the case of slavery, that referendum was taking away the basic human rights of someone, treating someone as inferior.

In this case we are talking about a change in the system, not about taking away the rights of somebody. We are talking about changes. That is the way I view it. I do not view it as somebody's basic human rights in the province being attacked. All it is doing is changing the basic system which the people of Newfoundland people think would be far more effective for them and at the same time is giving them religious rights.

It is not taking away religious rights or the right to send my child to a religious school. I can keep my child at home and teach him religion. So there are two basic, strong fundamental factors here.

The bottom line is that in this referendum I do not view that a right has been snatched away from someone in Newfoundland. I feel that the referendum has asked them if they want a change in the system. That is the way I view it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Amendment To The Constitution Of Canada (Newfoundland)
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December 8, 1997

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today after hearing compelling arguments put forward by members on both sides of this issue.

Having listened to my colleagues it is a very difficult situation for me to make a decision on. I have thought and thought about it. Especially being a minority myself, this is a very important question for me. Are we trampling on minority rights? There is always the possibility that a majority can trample minority rights, and being a minority this is a very important issue for me. I have looked at the issue very seriously. I sat in the House and heard all members talking about the pros and cons.

Where do I stand on the matter? After listening to everybody and looking at what we have stated as our policy, I have learned over several years that amending the constitution is never an easy undertaking. Nor should it be.

The constitution contains the principles and underpinning upon which we govern and are governed. Its influence on the daily activities of Canadians is all encompassing. Therefore our constitution must reflect the will of the people.

Some who have not followed the issue closely may wonder what exactly is happening with this amendment. Basically by amending term 17, the Newfoundland and Labrador school system would change its common denominational nature within the province, allowing the province to move to a single, publicly funded school system.

It should be noted that even with these changes this amendment would not take religion out of the schools. Term 17 contains a provision which guarantees that religion must be taught and that religious observance must be permitted in schools where requested by parents.

My colleagues feel this is not exactly guaranteeing minority rights that were guaranteed at the time Newfoundland joined Confederation. I agree that is true, but does it really take away a minority right? That is the question I was wondering about. I personally feel that it does not take away a minority right. It is there. It may not be in the same manner as it was before but it is there. Therefore I feel that the basic principle of a minority right being taken away is not a major issue.

On the other hand, children would not be forced to participate in such activities if the parents or themselves did not wish that. These issues are very emotional ones which go to the basic values of individuals. Each time this has been debated in this place we have heard very eloquent and heartfelt arguments on both sides as to why or why not we as parliamentarians should support or oppose this resolution.

As a new parliamentarian I have heard from several concerned individuals on both sides of the issue. This is a decision that one cannot enter into lightly. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about it. After thinking very hard on the issue I have come to the conclusion that I am in favour of this resolution. I feel that it follows the democratic will of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

My colleagues have stated that the question put forward was not clear and was changed and that the referendum did not meet the criteria of a real referendum.

I would submit that this debate has gone on in Newfoundland and it is the people of Newfoundland who are ultimately responsible for making this decision. In the second referendum over 73% of the people agreed on this issue. I can share some of the concerns my colleagues have expressed and I would agree with their sentiment. However, they have gone through two referendums in Newfoundland and in the second referendum the percentage increased. Therefore I am quite satisfied this was a legitimate referendum.

One of the first and foremost principles of our party is the equality of provinces and respect for provincial jurisdiction. We support each and every province's having equality of status and equal powers and Parliament and the Government of Canada's treating all the provinces equally. Term 17 deals with the provincial power over education and the amendment allows the house of assembly to decide.

I agree with my colleague who said education should be the responsibility of parents. The primary responsibility of education must fall on parents. The parents who live in Newfoundland have made a decision through the referendum that this is the way they want to do it.

Another principle deals with respect for the equality of all citizens. We are in favour of citizens having equal rights under the law. Under the current system with term 17 there are not equal rights for all citizens. What is at issue here is whether the existing rights have to be swept away or whether they could be accommodated in some other manner.

Another guiding principle refers to the basic right of freedoms of conscience and religion. At issue here is whether the right to denominational schools is an element of this freedom or not. Under the new amended term 17 education in religion is not specific to any denomination but what is guaranteed is the right to religious observance for all.

The last two principles deal with the will of the majority while at the same time respecting the rights of minorities. At issue here is whether the procedures of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador were fair and whether the rights and interests of minorities were safeguarded, as I alluded to in the beginning.

There have been arguments on both sides that have dealt with the fairness of the procedures used by the government in obtaining its mandate to reform the school system. On one side it has been argued that the government did not give the citizens enough time to make an informed decision, that it was a short campaign during the summer months and that the text of the referendum question was released only a week prior to the referendum date. The government actively campaigned for the amendment, as my colleague mentioned.

On the other side, this was the second referendum in a two year period, which supported the changes to the educational system in the province. The second referendum received a substantially higher percentage of support than the first one. As I mentioned earlier, the referendum question was supported basically in every part of the province and gained the unanimous support of the house of assembly.

When it comes down to whether the importance we attach to democratic consent and respecting the will of the majority outweighs our concern about the impact of this amendment on denominational rights in Newfoundland, I think it does. That is why I will be supporting this resolution.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Amendment To The Constitution Of Canada (Newfoundland)
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November 25, 1997

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, today I join a growing number of Albertans who want their next senator elected. Many residents in my riding have called saying they want the Prime Minister to allow the province of Alberta to elect its next senator. But the Prime Minister is not listening.

The poor attendance record of some of the senators, the partisan appointments of this government and the constitutional inability to “dis-appoint” delinquent senators all make the Senate increasingly irrelevant. It is time to change this institution now. The first step toward this move would be by ensuring there is an election in Alberta. This move is nothing new. Precedent has already been set with the election of Senator Stan Waters. So why the hesitation?

I stand before the House today as a representative of thousands of Albertans who want change. Let Albertans elect a senator who will represent them.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   The Senate
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