(i) the Century Initiative aims to increase Canada’s population to 100 million by 2100,
(ii) the federal government’s new intake targets are consistent with the Century Initiative objectives,
(iii) tripling Canada’s population has real impacts on the future of the French language, Quebec’s political weight, the place of First Peoples, access to housing, and health and education infrastructure,
(iv) these impacts were not taken into account in the development of the Century Initiative and that Quebec was not considered,
the House reject the Century Initiative objectives and ask the government not to use them as a basis for developing its future immigration levels.
He said: Mr. Speaker, once upon a time, there was a company called McKinsey and a scheme known as the Century Initiative. I am deeply averse to speaking English in the course of my official duties, but I believe in calling a thing by its right name. An initiative that will sabotage French in Quebec and Canada over the long term cannot be called by a French name or by a name that can even be translated to French. I feel it is only right to continue to use the name Century Initiative when speaking French, not its amorphous French name, “Initiative du Siècle”.
It outlines a vision of an economy serving capitalism, a vision of people's labour serving the economy. The Bloc Québécois, however, thinks it should be the other way around, that the economy should serve the people.
The idea is to increase the population of Canada, should it survive in its present form until then, to 100 million inhabitants by the end of the century. Truth be told, that is rabble-rousing lunacy. It is a delusional vision of the future whose true purpose is more immediate.
They say they want Canada to be a global superpower. What are Canada's greatest resources? They are: brains, institutions and democracy, of course, but also natural resources, such as oil, which some of us are still mulishly dependent on, forestry, ever the poor cousin, mines, which could be Quebec's ticket to leading the transportation electrification charge, a role some would rather see Ontario take on using polluting western Canadian natural gas, and water, which will be on the table sooner or later.
Add to that cheap labour, the labour market imbalance, and the struggle for collective representation that is increasingly coming under fire, the struggle for unions and the labour movement that are so readily demonized. Backed by the NDP, which claims close ties to unions, this pro-scab government rejects the importance of prohibiting strikebreakers, proof positive that it is not a pro-worker government.
I find it hard to understand, moreover, how the labour movement can still identify with a who repeatedly said yesterday that he had spoken to businesses or with an NDP that supports big business against workers. It is like trusting this government to protect jobs in the forestry sector. We have no such trust.
McKinsey has a terrible reputation in human resources. One does not have to get to the end of the book When McKinsey Comes to Town to realize that the same story keeps repeating itself. We see the same manoeuvres: breaking workers, degrading working conditions.
The Century Initiative is a vision that has blindly, or complacently, been adopted by Ottawa with, moreover, an outsourcing of certain immigration services. Ottawa either has a hostile bias or is indifferent to a normal Quebec desire to make, at least in some respects, its own way in Canada, or not.
Mr. Barton acknowledged in committee, in response to a question I put to him, that he had not considered Quebec at all in the development of the Century Initiative. For them, passively or actively, Quebec was simply a community created by earlier immigration and it had to fit in the anglicized mosaic of Canada.
At least Mr. Barton admitted in his testimony that they were making recommendations and that the Prime Minister was the one responsible for deciding on the implementation of a policy whose known effect—which we can assume was at least partly intended—was a direct threat to the continued existence of a Quebec people.
There are many benefits to immigration. Are labour issues part of that? Certainly, subject to how we treat people who choose to come to make their life in Canada or in Quebec. Is it the solution to the labour shortage? It is certainly one of the possible solutions, but it is not the solution. Here again, it falls under the slogan that a former colleague called the kinglets of chambers of commerce.
Immigration comes with humanitarian and intake responsibilities. It comes with the responsibility of an unavoidable fact: With climate change, in which Canada is a central player with its insistence on toxically exploiting hydrocarbons that directly heat the climate, tens of millions of people around the world will need to move. Those are climate migrations. It would be very irresponsible to not welcome at least some of them, but on what terms? That is another part of the debate, but they will have to be welcomed. Accepting responsibility in sharing the weight of the misery inflicted on those who are less fortunate than us is itself fundamental to a sound immigration policy.
There is also the inevitable desire of people to immigrate and make a better life for themselves. That comes with uncertainties. It has been said and repeated. Without protecting a political lever, those who said it were not heard, here in Ottawa.
There will be an enormous impact on the costs of an educational system, which increase much faster than the economic or fiscal contribution of newcomers. The same reasoning applies to a health system that is severely underfunded due to willful ignorance, an ignorance some might argue the cultivates. So there are issues and demands for health transfers.
There will also be pressure on child care services. The housing crisis will not be addressed by welcoming 500,000 people a year in Canada, 110,000 of which would be destined for Quebec. The same is true for income support for these people who are arriving and who are sometimes helpless and, of course, for francization and the development of a sense of belonging to this people, this nation that is welcoming them. There is a risk of different kinds of social problems. There is the issue of the coherence of a cultural body that allows everyone to function within the same society, with a big neighbour trying to ensure its dislocation. There is also the appearance or increase of pockets of poverty for those that the system will be unable to integrate harmoniously and the appearance of cultural-linguistic ghettos of people who will not integrate and for whom it will quickly become too late, because the correct action was not taken or action was not taken at the right time or, in Ottawa's case, action was not taken with the right intention.
There is also the issue of the indigenous peoples. I cannot speak for them, but the numbers speak for themselves. The natural growth of the indigenous populations cannot keep up with the immigration of 500,000 people per year, which, hypothetically, would mean 100 million people in Canada by the end of the year. This great scam requires associating, integrating and amalgamating first nations as if they were immigrant populations. In the eyes of the first nations, I am an immigrant. We are the immigrants. Unlike this potentially infinite influx of people who are welcomed through immigration, no one can immigrate and say they are indigenous. One is indigenous or one is not. A person is born indigenous or is not born indigenous.
There is a threat strictly in terms of demographic weight. Maybe this is an opportunity for the first peoples to realize that Ottawa is not working for them.
There is a risk, as a nation, of losing part of our soul, most of our weight, and of failing to bring forward a different and unique culture in which and to which the contribution of immigrant communities is essential; it transforms who we are. Do we want to say in a very healthy way that we have a common language, that we have common values, that all equalities are eminently valid, that the state, to be progressive, must be secular? These are fundamental elements that define us. Besides that, there will always be a cultural and artistic contribution that enriches us, as long as it is done harmoniously. We must not fail.
We therefore have three choices. The first is to shrug our shoulders, increase immigration levels and lose our language. The second would be to obtain a guaranteed percentage of seats in the House, which we were refused outright. The government knew very well what they were doing. They knew very well that, by refusing a predetermined percentage of seats for Quebec and by implementing an immigration policy involving an extremely large number, they were condemning Quebec to being reduced and diminished within the federation.
However, there is a third way: The appropriation of all attributes of sovereignty for the Quebec people. Sovereignty is not a fictional intellectual concept or a bargain-basement anglophone bogeyman. It is the normal appropriation of all the means we have to choose, even if some are then freely and consensually shared.
Let us not fool ourselves, the NDP and the Conservatives agree with this idea of 100 million Canadians and 500,000 immigrants per year. Maybe the means could be debated? Maybe this issue could be reviewed? Maybe there is an opening, particularly among the Conservatives, that I would welcome with great enthusiasm? However, care must be taken to not create consensus that will isolate Quebec. I will come back to that.
There is a concept that exists in the intelligence community, that of useful idiots. That is the second English term in my speech. When someone, without realizing it, serves the interests of someone else, such as systematically supporting policies that benefit big money and disadvantage Quebec, while imagining that they are doing good, they may be a useful idiot. They are people who do not realize that, if they conducted themselves differently, Canada and Quebec would be better off.
Immigration is not simply good or bad. We need to make sure that integration is effective and that the people who choose us have the tools they need for a new successful life. First, there is language and then adjusting to employment, where language is the primary factor. There is also the recognition of diplomas and full training or supplementary training for a diploma to be recognized. There are many issues.
Is immigration really a numbers issue? I would say that anything is possible. I have always been very resistant to debates about numbers. A number like 110,000 looks high for Quebec, anyway. I would say that if Quebec chose to increase the number of immigrants it receives, the levels should be increased gradually. We would need tools to measure the success of everything put in place to promote sound and successful integration. There needs to be a common melting pot of a changing national culture.
We are told that sovereignty would change nothing. That is also what I heard yesterday on television. In fact, sovereignty would allow for clear integration policies, a clear message about places where people would arrive and full political weight to make decisions on our soil. Above all, sovereignty would end Ottawa's usual practice of undoing what Quebec has done through heavy-handed legislation, gobs of money and court decisions.
Because of the fiscal imbalance, and according to the government’s own figures, in 30 to 40 years the total debt of the federal government would be eliminated, while at the same time, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, most provinces would technically be bankrupt. This is known as the fiscal imbalance. This is essentially Ottawa grabbing fiscal resources that it does not need at the expense of the provinces and Quebec, which do not have what they need. This is how to dismantle the provinces and the Quebec nation.
The naive, high up in their ivory tower in Toronto, believe that the fiscal imbalance, the Supreme Court biases, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—designed against the Quebec nation—and the activism that replaces collective rights with individual privileges will save Canada. God Save The King. Some of these naive people are francophones from Quebec, but I am not looking at anyone. They are wrong. Quebeckers are patient, generous and welcoming, but there are many who realize that the immigration policy advised by McKinsey, which is laughing all the way to the bank, threatens the very existence of the Quebec people. They will want to act.
Sooner or later, this will be known as Quebec’s sovereignty. In the meantime, someone here has to stand up and denounce this vision that is harming Quebec, and that someone is the Bloc Québécois. We will not wait long. We will get ourselves a country.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my dear colleagues for giving me the opportunity to take part in the important debate we are having here in the House of Commons today.
I would also like to thank my colleagues for their support as I attempt to improve the quality of my French. Members from every party have helped me learn this new language. When I arrived in Ottawa after the 2015 election, I did not speak French. In fact, all I could say was, “bonjour, je m'appelle Sean”. Before, when my colleagues asked how I was doing, I sometimes forgot how to answer that question in French. Thanks to my colleagues' support, I am now able to convey simple ideas in French.
Today, I would like to share an idea that is simple, yet important for Canada's future. It is the idea that we can welcome newcomers to areas across the country and still protect the French language and francophone culture. Not only can we do it, we actually are doing it.
During the debate, I will make several points.
First, immigration is essential for growing our economy and offsetting the demographic decline caused by population aging. It is very important to continue to welcome new immigrants, while protecting the demographic weight of francophone individuals and communities.
Before getting to the crux of my speech, let me be very clear: The Century Initiative does not dictate federal government policy. I am the one who tabled the immigration levels in the House, I am the one who made a commitment to organizations that represent francophone communities, and I am the one who signed the agreements.
I will now address the importance of immigration for Canada's economy.
It is essential that Canada welcome new immigrants, and the current situation in this country is very interesting. To understand why Canada needs to favour people with skills that are useful to the economy, it is essential to understand the current economic context.
Like other countries, after the COVID-19 pandemic, that is, following the reopening of the borders and the economic recovery, Canada entered a major recovery period. There have never been as many workers in Canada as there are now. Many people have good jobs. The GDP is higher today than it was before the pandemic. Despite this success, there are currently more than 700,000 vacant positions in our economy. Employers are seeking workers to help them grow their businesses.
Without immigration, Canada cannot maximize its economic potential. Immigration is extremely important because there are not enough Canadian workers to fill the vacant positions, either today or in the future. It is important not only for the economy, but for society as a whole. It is especially important that Canada offset the demographic decline caused by population aging.
Fifty years ago in Canada, there were seven workers for every retiree. Today, that number is close to three workers, and when I am ready to retire, I think it will be only two.
Immigration is essential for us to welcome people who have the skills we need and face demographic challenges. If we do not change our approach to immigration, it will not be possible to make the investments needed to ensure the delivery of public services.
Immigration is very important, as it allows us to welcome the people who have the skills we need. The people who are currently participating in our economy have skills, and it is essential that we find other people who have the same skills. Given our aging population, we need more employees to ensure the delivery of health care. There are many reasons for welcoming new immigrants. They make an enormous and essential contribution to the vitality of our communities.
I can give an example of a situation that happened in my riding. Right after the 2015 elections, we lost a school because many families were leaving the community.
Mr. Speaker, I think you know what I am talking about, because you are from Nova Scotia. Young people were leaving Nova Scotia to find work in other provinces and countries. I am familiar with the situation. I myself worked in Alberta for five years because I was looking for a good job.
Right after the 2015 elections, my community also lost a mental health professional. My community lost mental health services. It was very difficult for the community to lose the school and health care services. However, the people in my community can find another school and another doctor. It will not be easy, but it is possible.
That said, consider the consequences for francophone communities facing the same problems. When I visited with francophone communities, I saw that finding a doctor who speaks French is not just difficult; it is impossible. When schools close, people cannot simply decide to attend school in a neighbouring community. If the neighbouring community is anglophone, it is impossible for these families to live in French or have access to day cares where people speak French. Students cannot study in French. Customers cannot be served in French at the store. For these communities, this is a matter of identity.
It is extremely important to continue ensuring that people who live in francophone communities can live their lives in French. We know that the French language is in decline in North America. It is very important that we continue to ensure the sustainability of francophone communities and to put in place conditions conducive for these people to speak and live in French.
It is not just a matter of ensuring the sustainability of francophone communities. It is a reality now. I am very proud to be the minister who welcomed the greatest number of newcomers to Canada, in general, but I am also very proud to be the minister who achieved the 4.4% target for the first time in 20 years.
We are working closely with stakeholders to ensure that francophone communities have the capacity to accommodate people who have essential skills and language skills. The fact that we have achieved these targets is not an accident or a coincidence. It is the clear result of the decisions our government made last year. Our government put in place a plan to welcome francophones. We introduced an action plan for official languages with the necessary investments to ensure its success. We also continue to make investments in organizations that provide settlement services. We are making sure that these people not only come to Canada, but also integrate into their communities.
We continue to hold events to recruit and promote Canada as a destination to people who are looking for opportunities in another country.
We continue to propose essential solutions for protecting the demographic weight of francophones across Canada. We are making changes to the express entry program so that francophone and bilingual applicants get more points.
The next changes include new paths in the express entry program exclusively for francophones. This initiative is very important to me because, if we want to increase the number of workers in this country, we absolutely need to support French speakers to protect their demographic weight as well. It is essential for the future of francophone communities in Canada. All this is possible thanks to our government's immigration policies and decisions. We are already seeing the results.
Of course, the situation in Quebec is different. The federal government has an agreement with the province of Quebec. Under this immigration agreement, Quebec is responsible for establishing immigration thresholds and the number of new immigrants arriving in the province each year. It is also up to Quebec to choose the immigrants it welcomes for economic reasons. That decision is not under the federal government's jurisdiction. All this is set out in the agreement with the Quebec government.
The federal government's role is to process applications, verify admissibility and ensure safety, but it is up to the province of Quebec to determine the number of immigrants, assess their language skills and choose which immigrants will be welcomed based on their skills and how they impact the economy. These decisions are made by Quebec.
In order to support the integration and francization of new immigrants to Quebec, the federal government gives Quebec almost $700 million a year. That is a good thing. When I meet with Quebec entrepreneurs, they ask me to continue welcoming workers. It is essential to protect jobs in their companies.
There is currently a labour shortage within and outside of Quebec. One does not have to listen to me or look up what Statistics Canada has to say to understand that there is a labour shortage. One only has to walk down main street in every community in Canada to see the extent of the situation. Employers need workers to help the economy recover after the COVID‑19 pandemic. It is very beneficial for Canada to welcome people into our communities.
I have spoken with my international counterparts. It is not right that Canada is the only country that is having such a hard time processing applications more quickly to meet the needs of communities. It would be a good idea to seize this opportunity and to have the courage to welcome people with essential skills so we can ensure a bright future for Canada's economy and communities.
It is important for me to explain the many reasons why I will be voting against this motion. First, I am being accused of following the Century Initiative. Once again, I want to be very clear. The Century Initiative did not establish the Government of Canada's plan. My plan includes many other policies like the Century Initiative. For example, there is a whole chapter on francophone immigration, which is very important. There is a plan to welcome the most vulnerable people. I also think that it is very important to ensure that the smaller provinces are able to welcome newcomers. Normally, newcomers prefer to settle in Canada's bigger cities.
Whoever looks at the details of my plan, including its immigration thresholds, can see that we are protecting the accommodation capacity of the Atlantic and northern regions, and that we are allowing the francophone community to benefit from immigration while also protecting its accommodation capacity.
It is not right for the Bloc Québécois to hide behind the Century Initiative and say that Canada needs to reduce the number of new immigrants. In my opinion, that is not right. If they think that Canada should reduce the number of immigrants, let them just say so. The House is the best place to hold that debate, but today's debate is a red herring, because the plan is the government's, not the Century Initiative's. The signature on the dotted line is mine.
I began learning French after the 2015 elections. I learned a lot of things. I am not perfectly bilingual, but I can hold a conversation. It turns out that I did not only learn a new language. I also learned the importance of protecting the francophone community's continued ability to exist. I learned the importance of protecting francophones' ability to live their lives in French, to live with their children in their francophone communities.
People who vote in favour of the motion are voting against Canada's ability to welcome the most vulnerable and the people with essential skills for our economy.
I have a message for Acadians, Quebeckers, Franco-Ontarians, people who live in francophone communities in western and northern Canada: I work every day to protect their ability to speak French, to ensure the sustainability of their communities and to protect their ability to live their lives in French. I worked on it today, I will work on it tomorrow, and I will continue to work on it in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud and, especially, very grateful for having been born here in Canada. It is a major victory to be born here in Canada, because it is a country full of opportunity. I was born to a single mother and adopted by two teachers who always taught me that here in Canada, no matter where you come from, you can achieve whatever you want as long as you work hard. This is the same country where my wife arrived as a refugee and it is the country we want for our children.
Unfortunately, it is not the country we are seeing today. Everything is broken in Canada, after eight years under this . He does not like it when I say that, so I will say it again: everything is broken after eight years under this Prime Minister. This includes the immigration system. Our country had a reputation for its immigration system, which is one of the best in the world. It was based on common sense. People were invited to come work here, people like the Italians who built our infrastructure. Workers from around the world have come here to build hospitals, houses and our economy, and to enrich everyone's lives.
What do people see when they come here now? They see no houses. Nine out of 10 young Canadians are convinced they will never be able to buy a house. We lack health care services. Why? It is because our immigrants are being blocked from working as doctors and nurses. Over a million immigrants who are interested in coming here, to Canada, have had to wait longer than the government's prescribed waiting period.
Even when they do manage to get here, immigrants have a hard time getting work permits. People want to work, but this and his utterly incompetent government stand in their way. Not only that, but the strike that the Prime Minister caused led to even longer wait times for families living apart, potential workers who cannot start their jobs, and refugees seeking safety and security here in Canada. The Prime Minister's utter incompetence is the cause of these problems.
Instead of focusing on the job, which can be boring, and repairing the damage he has done, the Prime Minister and his multinational executive friends, like Dominic Barton, want to create grand utopias for us. Instead of building our country on the basis of common sense, which has worked for over 100 years, the Prime Minister wants to create a great revolution and paint a utopia that will never exist. He should focus on the backbone of our system, in other words, reduce the time it takes for a small or medium-sized business or a farmer to hire a foreign worker when no Canadian is available to do the job. He should unite families, especially in the case of grandparents, so that they can take care of their grandchildren when the parents are at work. Finally, he should allow more non-profit organizations to sponsor refugees and provide them with care, opportunities to learn English or French, and access to a job and housing.
He should do the common-sense work. Instead, the wants to focus on the priorities of large multinationals, such as McKinsey, and its former CEO, Dominic Barton. That company has received over $100 million in contracts from this government and dreams of turning the country into a utopia.
I will never listen to those people. I am going to listen to the common sense of ordinary Canadians, the people who do the work. That is how the common-sense Conservative government I will be leading will repair the damage.
That is why I will be voting for this motion. Because I want to reject Dominic Barton and the Century Initiative and to base our immigration system once again on the common sense of ordinary Canadians.
Speaking of common sense, I will be splitting my time with the common-sense Conservative member of Parliament for , Mr. Speaker.
I am so proud and grateful that I won the lottery of life to be born here in Canada. I was born of a teenage unwed mother, who put me up for adoption to two school teachers. They taught me that it did not matter where I came from; it mattered where I was going. It did not matter who I knew; it mattered what I could do.
That is the country my wife came to as a refugee. That is the country that a lot of her family, her brother to be a soldier, her other brother to be a carpenter, her sister to be a nurse and for her family to work hard and achieve great things. That is the country I want all our kids to inherit, but that is not the country we see today.
Canada, after eight years of the , the out-of-touch Prime Minister, is broken. What is especially broken is the immigration system that leaves a million immigrants waiting longer than the acceptable wait time to get into Canada.
We see international students abused and exploited by human traffickers, shady consultants, some of them losing their lives and being sent back to places like India in body bags because the Prime Minister and his government have failed to protect them from the predators and the scam artists who are destroying their lives.
We see 20,000 brilliant immigrant doctors blocked from working in their professions by government gatekeepers. We see 32,000 immigrant nurses blocked from their jobs. It boils my blood to sit in a hospital waiting room for five hours with my daughter who has a migraine headache because there are not enough doctors and nurses, while gatekeepers block brilliant immigrant doctors and nurses from doing their jobs.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister gleefully tells us about all the wonderful meetings he is having with mayors about housing and infrastructure. I do not really care about their meetings, because the gatekeepers at municipal governments, the governments that the Prime Minister is funding with billions of dollars, are blocking housing construction, so our immigrants, working class and youth cannot get homes.
After eight years of the Prime Minister everything is broken. However, instead of fixing the basics, he is focused on another grand utopian project, that of his friend, Dominic Barton, the multinational CEO, former ambassador to Communist China, who helped bring about the opioid crisis that is savaging our working-class families. He has come up with a bright, new idea that he is going to triple our national population to 100 million. We do not need anymore utopian schemes from globe-trotting millionaires and multinational insiders. We need common sense for a change.
Here is our common-sense plan to get back to the basics. The first is to clear the backlog so immigrant families can be reunited, so our farmers and small businesses can fill jobs for which there is no Canadian available; allow our churches, mosques, synagogues and other non-profit organizations to sponsor more legitimate refugees; get them language training so they can learn how to speak French or English, get a job, get working and get contributing; speed up work permits for those people who already here waiting for their cases to be heard. They might as well be out earning a wage, contributing to the economy. They want to work. Let them work. It is common sense, for God's sake.
Speaking of work, let us bring in a blue seal national standard for all our professions. We have a Red Seal standard that allows tradespeople to take a test, prove they are qualified, get to work and move across the country to fill needed vacancies in the job market. Why do we not have a blue seal standard that would allow foreign-trained nurses, doctors, engineers and other professionals to prove they are qualified and within 60 days of applying to work in their field, get a yes or no based on their tested ability, not based on where they come from? We would have more doctors, more nurses, more common sense.
What I am saying is let us get back to the basics. Our immigration system was the best in the world eight years ago, but now we have immigrants who come here and then say they want to go back because this is not what was promised.
I have said that everything is broken, but what is broken most of all is the promise, the promise of Canada; the promise that we will reinstill a promise that in Canada it does not matter where people come from, but where they go. It does not matter if their name is Martin or Mohamed, or Singh or Smith, or Chong or Charles, or Patel or Poilievre, if they work hard, they can achieve anything they want in the greatest and freest country in the world. This is the common sense of the common people united for our common home. It is their home, my home, our home. Let us bring it home.
Mr. Speaker, one of the hardest parts of being in politics is having to speak right after the leader of the Conservative Party. He just delivered a powerful speech that was full of compassion for newcomers who choose to settle in Canada.
As many members know, I was myself a newcomer several years ago. I immigrated to Canada from Communist Poland. That country is no longer communist. That era is behind us. It is now a democratic country, and I am proud of my ethnic background.
My leader was right. Everything in Canada is broken. All federal government programs are broken, but immigration programs are even more broken.
As the immigration critic for the Conservative Party, I follow this file closely. I would also like to point out that one can become francophone as an immigrant. As I have often mentioned in the House, I am a child of Bill 101. It really is possible to learn how to be a francophone as an immigrant.
I know that the leader of the Bloc Québécois often mentions, with a hint of despair in his voice, that protecting Quebec culture is impossible. From my personal experience, I think culture can be preserved.
I am a Calgary MP, as my family is in Calgary now, and I am a proud Albertan. I still follow the day-to-day happenings in Quebec, but I also follow the work of great comedians. I want to mention one in particular who, to me, is one of the best in Quebec: Sugar Sammy. He is a great comedian. Many allophones and immigrants who have lived in Quebec, or who are still living there, follow Sugar Sammy.
I was in Quebec a few weeks ago, and I saw several announcements about an upcoming Sugar Sammy tour in Quebec. I know he may not be the comedian the Bloc would have preferred me to name, but I want to mention him, because I think he is a great Quebecker. He makes me laugh.
I want to come back to the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. There are backlogs in nearly every program. There are over 2,000 immigration applications from newcomers to Canada that are behind schedule. These people are waiting to come to Canada or to be allowed to stay in Canada.
I want to mention a few programs because I do like numbers. Let us talk about the government-assisted refugees program. I know that many Liberal members are going to talk about this program. One Liberal member already has. In 2019, it took 15 months to process applications. Today, it takes 33 months. That is a three-year wait.
There are also privately sponsored refugees. I am talking here about charities, churches, mosques or temples that decide they want to sponsor a refugee, usually from their community, and bring them to Canada. These refugees are desperate people who need help, and Canada gives them that opportunity. Private community groups cover all of the costs associated with that refugee coming to Canada. In 2019, it took 23 months for the federal government to process that type of application while today it takes 38 months. That is nearly a four-year wait.
Let us now talk about the federal skilled trades program. As another member mentioned, in 2019, it took 12 months to process applications under that program. Now it takes 20 months. For skilled workers in Quebec it used to take 22 months to process their applications and now it takes 73 months. As for business people in Quebec, it used to take 54 months to process applications, and now it takes 67 months.
I am not pulling these numbers out of thin air. These numbers can be found on the government's website. The came to the House to tell us that these numbers were not up to date and that this would take only six months from now on. If it is a six-month wait time for people applying today, then that is great. However, those who submitted their application one, two, three or four years ago are waiting their turn and will continue to wait. They will wait four, five, six or seven years. Sometimes no one knows how long it will take.
What is more, 90 to 95% of the files that are sent to Conservative MPs at their riding offices have to do with immigration. An error was made, the wait times are too long, the questions are not clear, etc. No one answers the phone. No one answers the email. The responses provided by the employees at immigration are sometimes confusing and contradictory and no one knows where we are headed.
We should be focusing on what could be done to help newcomers and people in our communities in the next 75 days, not the next 75 years. The Liberals have caused the challenges people are facing today.
In 2015, there were no backlogs in processing applications. The Canadian immigration system was the best in the world, and countries everywhere were trying to copy it. It was based on a points system, which gave everyone the chance to come to Canada. I want to be clear that it was a neutral system. If the person was young and well educated, they had a better chance of coming to Canada as an economic immigrant. Our immigration system treated everyone equally. Other countries wanted to copy it, but no one wants to copy our current system, which was created by the Liberals eight years ago. The backlog in the current system is over two million applications. After the pandemic, the backlog reached 2.9 million.
The Liberals claim that the backlog was caused by the pandemic, but that is not true: it was caused by them. The backlog had reached two million files before the pandemic. The pandemic made matters worse.
As my leader said, the things that newcomers go through and the services they receive from the federal government do not meet our expectations.
I myself am an immigrant, and I know that the people in our communities have a hard time finding a job, a place to live or people who share their mother tongue. In Canada, we can learn French and English. I, for one, learned French from Passe-Partout; I know all Quebeckers are familiar with that show. English is my third language, and I learned it by watching Sesame Street.
This is a good opportunity for me to switch to English. There are a lot of opportunities for immigrants who come to this country, including those like me. I grew up in Montreal and am a child of the Bill 101 education system. It does work; I am proof, I think. There are many of us who are proof that it does work, that they can take up the language.
However, we have unrealistic plans. The false utopias that are being proposed by the Century Initiative are completely ridiculous. We have McKinsey executives, big business executives, including one from BlackRock and others, who do not spend the time visiting communities, smaller towns and rural regions, which are desperate for workers. Newcomers are coming to Canada, and there have been so many waves of immigration to Canada that have vitalized entire regions and communities. I know that, for example, in northern Alberta, there is a huge Ukrainian community, of Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox people, which is now accepting another wave of people fleeing the war in Ukraine. They are finding an opportunity to speak their mother tongue while also brushing up on their English or their French.
There are also communities in northern Alberta that are French communities and that have a historic French connection. I remember that, my first time in Alberta, when I first moved out there, I went into a rural area for, I think, a birthday party. There were two nuns there. They spoke to me in French. I could not believe it; it was immaculate, perfect French. They came from a French convent. We had a long discussion in that language, because that was their experience of being in Alberta: They had been brought up with both languages.
My was right. The Liberals have had eight years and have completely broken the immigration system. What we should be looking at is services. The newcomer experience to Canada is awful. That is why so many of them are talking about returning to their country of origin; it is because they cannot find the opportunities that they were promised here.
There is so much we can do to make sure foreign credentials are recognized. My father was not able to practise here as an engineer because he could not pass a language exam. He passed all of the technical exams. That is the experience of so many immigrants who come here and are discriminated against just because they have credentials from overseas. We have heard the numbers: 32,000 nurses and over 20,000 doctors. There are engineers in my riding who cannot practise here easily, because they are being discriminated against because of where they got their years of experience or where they got their credentials and education.
The provincial colleges need to be told to stop gatekeeping and allow people to practise their professions, to do the thing that they love here in Canada, to add to our communities, build a family and provide for themselves. That is the Canadian dream. That is what we have to restore.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to say that I have the honour and pleasure of sharing my time with my colleague, the member for .
Today we are seized with a motion that opens up a debate, which is clearly necessary and could very well be done for any public policy. A discussion of immigration, immigration levels, integration capacity, language, living together and living in harmony is always welcome, just as we would talk about public policies on health, the environment, international trade, and so on.
However, as La Presse columnist Rima Elkouri says, approach is everything. That is the point I want to make. Beyond the specific language it contains, this opposition motion is part of a wider political context where the issues of immigration and integration are being used as political tools.
Before I go into those details, however, I would like to read my colleagues a poem. I do not do this sort of thing every day, but I would like to read a short poem by Gérald Godin, one of Quebec's great poets. I really enjoy his work. This poem was transformed into urban art near the Mont‑Royal metro station, not far from my riding and my home. I would like everyone to keep these words in mind:
at 7:30 a.m. the Montreal Metro
is full of immigrants
are up early
are they the reason
the city's aging heart
the city's worn and aging heart
it has every reason in the world
to give up
I see this tribute to immigrants, who get up early to go to work, every day and every week in the Montreal Metro in my riding, Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
Last weekend, I had the honour of participating in a graduation ceremony for a social integration enterprise called PROPRET. The graduates, 90% of them immigrants, most of them women, went through housekeeping training and follow-up. Many of the people in the program also get French training. Diplomas were awarded to 67 people who have been through tough times but who work very, very hard and often struggle. However, they were proud of what they accomplished and of their successful integration into the labour market in French. It was wonderful to see.
I think we need to highlight these successes and this reality on the ground. This is what is really happening. The disaster that had been predicted by some news media has not happened. They like to light fires to get attention and clicks and thus make a profit.
It also reminds me of a documentary called Essentiels, by Sonia Djelidi and journalist Sarah Champagne, about temporary foreign workers. There are several beautiful stories in that documentary, but also some painful ones, because we really need these temporary foreign workers, which the Premier of Quebec seems to have just realized.
Edyn, a Latin American man, said that he worked 10 hours a day, had to take care of his two children who were going to school and cook for them, and that his wife had remained in their country of origin, with children as well. He said he did not know when he would have time to take French classes. He had tried to fit them into his schedule, but it had been difficult and he had failed several times.
Edyn eventually graduated, but the reality on the ground is that people have two or three jobs and work 60 or 70 hours a week to be able to make ends meet. They are told they just have to learn French, but it is not that easy. It makes for a good slogan on a leaflet or a button but, in the real world, these people are just trying to survive.
I also want to talk about Mamadou. People called him a guardian angel while he worked in long-term care facilities during the pandemic. He caught COVID‑19. Despite all his work and his knowledge of French, he is now threatened with deportation. That is the kind of case we see in our offices. That is the reality on the ground.
That is why the debate on immigration levels to Quebec has become a bit toxic and unhealthy, because there is a lot of vocabulary being used to divide people, namely, us, the old-stock Quebeckers, the historical majority, versus them, the newcomers who are being singled out. That is really unfortunate. There is not a lot of that kind of rhetoric in today's motion, but that is why I am saying that we need to pay attention to the context, which has been ongoing for many years.
We have had reasonable accommodation, the charter of values, very closed-off and discriminatory secularism, and negative language that has led to all kinds of problems. These are not just empty words.
In the most recent Quebec election campaign, candidate and minister Jean Boulet claimed that 80% of immigrants do not work and do not speak French. He said that during the election campaign, when he was minister. However, it is completely false. According to statistics from the Institut de la statistique du Québec, in 2021, close to 75% of immigrants spoke French.
I have said it before in the House, but we need to stop talking about how a mother tongue is such an important indicator of the health of French in Quebec. The purpose of Bill 101 was and still is to ensure that the mother tongue indicator no longer makes any difference. The idea behind Bill 101 is to ensure that, even if first-generation immigrants do not speak French and are unable to learn it, their children will learn it and integrate into our Quebec society. That has been a success. There are a lot of children of Bill 101 in my circle, and one of them lives with me.
We also have to be serious when we talk about whether Quebec is receiving the funds it needs to integrate immigrants into French-speaking society. Once again, the reality in the field contradicts what some, like Coalition Avenir Québec, are saying. In an article published last year in La Presse, journalist Joël‑Denis Bellavance wrote that, of the $697 million that the federal government sends to Quebec for teaching immigrants French, 75% was used for purposes other than French courses.
Instead of complaining and saying that its integration capacity is stretched to the limit and that the federal government is not doing its fair share, maybe the Quebec government should do some soul-searching and consider spending this $700 million on French courses for immigrants who want to learn French but are being forced to wait a long time.
Minister Boulet was not the only one to speak this way. Premier Legault calls immigration an existential threat. He warns that Quebec will become the Louisiana of the north and says that recklessly raising the number of immigrants would be suicidal. Those are weighty words. They taint the whole debate around integration capacity, immigration rates and Quebec's levels. I would point specifically to the front page of last Saturday's Journal de Montréal, with a headline that translates to “Quebec is caught in a trap”, followed by subheadings such as “French forced into decline”, “They want to assimilate us” and “Two worst-case scenarios”. One columnist, Mathieu Bock-Côté, talks about “demographic drowning”, echoing certain satirical cartoons that show a massive wave of immigration. That is tantamount to saying that we are being invaded.
I do not know the semantic difference between demographic drowning and replacement theory, but we hear about a lot it from figures on France's far right, including Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour. They evoke the spectre of the disappearance of the Quebec people under the threat of immigration, when we should be using more positive language to refer to newcomers, in the spirit of dialogue and openness. Instead, they play on insecurities and fear, including the fear of the other. Fear of the other leads to insular attitudes and close‑mindedness, division in our society between the original population, a concept that leaves out indigenous peoples, and our capacity for integration.
I do think we need to be vigilant. French is a minority in North America and always will be. We need to make an effort to protect and promote French. We need to pay attention to social cohesion and our capacity for integration. However, social cohesion comes with open arms, openness, support, not demeaning attitudes, finger-pointing and viewing immigrants as a threat to the Quebec people or the French language.
I am rather dismayed that, after all these years, we are having a debate that is extremely toxic and negative. Quebec is fully capable of working with the municipalities and the federal government to welcome people properly, make them future Quebeckers and stop seeing them as threats to Quebec culture and identity that need to be rejected out of hand. It is an extremely dangerous slippery slope. With this type of motion, at this time, in the current political context, I think we need to cross our t's and dot our i's.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to say that I am heartened to hear my colleague's words, to say that, when we engage in this debate, it is about the importance of it and what it means for all of us, but at the same time not to take an approach that vilifies and points fingers at others.
I look around this chamber and there are very few of us, truth be told, who are not immigrants, either ourselves or our ancestors. For those of us who are not indigenous, we came to this land as newcomers. Over the years, we have seen changes made. As always, when newcomers come to a country, to a new place, there are feelings of threat and fear, I guess, because of the unfamiliarity of these individuals.
For indigenous peoples and their history, and we already know Canada's colonial history, it is sad to say that those fears are very real and have done tremendous harm to indigenous peoples, to which Canada is still trying to reconcile, to reconcile in a real effort, in a meaningful way, and we have a long way to go. There is no question about that.
Now, with respect to other communities that are newcomers, there are those of us who came to Canada as immigrants. In my case, back in the seventies, when my family immigrated here, we were new in this country as well, but over the years we have worked hard to integrate into Canadian society. We learned the language, learned the Canadian culture and Canadian values, and actively participated in our communities. Some of us achieved different things, and I would say without hesitation that the immigrant community has contributed to Canada in every aspect and is engaged in Canadian society in every way. The contributions are significant economically, socially, culturally and environmentally, to be sure.
On the situation of what we are talking about here, we are now saying we have too many immigrants and we fear that, with more immigrants coming, it would take away from what we have. I think we need to think about what some of the concerns are that have been brought up.
First is the issue around ensuring that Quebec and the French language and culture are protected. I absolutely agree that Quebec is a very unique province and that it has a distinction with its language and culture, which we need to do everything we can to protect. Part of that work rests with the federal government, with its immigration measures, particularly as it pertains to ensuring that the immigration target for francophonie immigrants is achieved. Sadly, that is not the reality.
The Liberal government has failed to meet the target year after year after year. In fact, the FCFA made a recommendation at the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration calling on the government to adopt a new francophone immigration target of 12% in 2024 and to gradually increase it to 20% in 2036. I think that should be done. I think it needs to be done. We need to be aggressively pursuing those targets to realize that. We also need to do a lot of work to ensure that francophonie targets outside of Quebec are also met. In addition to that, the work we need to do across the country is to ensure that languages, French classes, are made available to students.
I can say from personal experience that I desperately wanted my two children to have access to French immersion. What did I do? After they were born, I enrolled them in the lottery. That is the system that we have. I had to enrol them in a lottery to see if they would get picked to get into French immersion. Sadly, for my family, neither one of them won that lottery. That is the reality.
To fix and address the question of preserving the French language, we need to make sure those kinds of programs are not done through a lottery, but rather, are made available for people. That is not the reality, and that is what we need to fix. That is not an immigrant problem. It is a Canadian problem that we need to face up to and ensure resources are provided and those programs are in place.
When I think about the contributions of the immigrant community, especially now in this period of dire need for health care workers, during the pandemic it became very clear that the immigrant community helped Canada in significant ways, sometimes by taking on jobs that put them in danger. We saw that in the aquaculture industry. Some migrant workers actually died while working to put food on our tables. That is the reality, and that continues to be a challenge for migrant workers who are taken advantage of because they do not have full status. They should be given full status and be regularized, by the way.
On the health care piece, let me put some important information on the table. Immigrants account for 36% of physicians, 33% of business owners with paid staff and 41% of engineers. What that tells me is that immigrants are engaged in all walks of life, in every profession in our communities, and they contribute significantly to our communities.
More specifically in the health care sector, 23% of registered nurses are immigrants; 35% of nursing aides and related occupations are immigrants; and 37% of pharmacists, 36% of physicians, 39% of dentists and 54% of dental technologists and related occupations are immigrants. At a time when we have a major need for health care workers, the immigrant community has shown, and I believe they will continue to show, their important contributions to the caring economy and the service economy, which we all depend upon to keep us healthy in our communities.
Part of the problem for the immigrant community in getting into these professions, which we have all talked about and needs to be addressed, would be for the government to ensure that credential recognition is made easier. Some provinces have embarked on that, which I am glad to see, and the numbers are astounding. The interest that has been shown is astounding. In Nova Scotia, as an example, almost 1,500 people showed interest in a new program that was put in place to start May 1. British Columbia is embarking in this process as well.
That is what we need to do. We need to eliminate the barriers for the immigrant community so they can fully participate in Canadian society. This will also ensure that the talents they bring are recognized so they can practise their professions. This will help all of Canada and most certainly help Quebec as well. In fact, Quebec specifically, during the pandemic period, wanted an immigration measure for health care workers to regularize those in Quebec in the health care profession. There is no question that the value of the immigrant community is significant. We need to make sure we also facilitate the process to support them in their contributions and successes here in Canada.
There are many aspects, when we are looked at as individuals, as human beings, that we have—
Madam Speaker, I want to note that I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for Saint‑Hyacinthe—Bagot.
I will start by saying this: I am pro-immigration, much to the chagrin of my detractors on social media and probably the member for , who pride themselves on knowing my own thoughts better than I do. As I was saying, I am pro-immigration. The organizations I work with are aware of that. Together, we try to ensure the well-being of families in Quebec, including some families who entered the country through Roxham Road but would have deserved a proper welcome with dignity. These people should have entered Quebec through the front door. I repeat: I am pro-immigration.
Quebec is also pro-immigration. Quebeckers want to welcome newcomers with respect and dignity by offering them the resources and tools they need to make their immigration project a success so that they stay in Quebec. With the Century Initiative, it is impossible to do so.
People have heard me say many times what I am about to repeat, but I will do so once more. Newcomers are men, women, children and whole families who are looking for a better life. They are parents who want the best for their children. That is what we all want, in the end: to give the best to our children.
Many have decided to come to study and work in Quebec, charmed by the quality of life, the wide open spaces, the Quebec winter, of course, and Quebec culture. Others are attracted by better career prospects, a higher standard of living or educational opportunities. Their plans for the future contribute to Quebec society as a whole. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish them success. We hope they do well. Under no circumstances should their dreams be shattered by federal interests or lobby groups.
I will say it again: I am pro-immigration and so is Quebec, but not just any how and certainly not at any cost. As a small nation that speaks a minority language within North America, Quebec has a different capacity for integrating immigrants. Quebec's immigration policy has to take this integration capacity into account, as does Canada's. That is why Quebec's National Assembly unanimously condemned the Century Initiative targets. Just yesterday, the Bloc Québécois leader reminded us of a lesson from history when he said that those they intend to harm do not get consulted.
The Bloc Québécois strongly condemns the federal government's failure to consult the Quebec government, or the first peoples, for that matter, before increasing its new immigration level to 500,000 per year. The Bloc Québécois also condemns the thrust of the Liberal government's immigration policy, which includes targets that match those suggested by the Century Initiative lobby group to boost Canada's population to more than 100 million by 2100. The Bloc Québécois considers it imperative for the House to reject these targets and to ask the government not use them as the basis for developing its own future levels.
That is why we are calling on parliamentarians of all parties to firmly reject this irresponsible and unrealistic option. This project would seek to increase Canada's population to 100 million by 2100. Oddly enough, the federal government's new immigration targets directly correspond to the objectives of the Century Initiative.
I will say it again: Neither Quebec nor the first peoples were consulted. Still, tripling Canada's population has real repercussions. There are repercussions for the future of the French language in Quebec and in Canada, Quebec's political weight, the place of first peoples, access to housing, and health and education infrastructure. None of these were considered when developing this project.
Moreover, as stated by those who thought of and developed this initiative, social issues and demographic and language considerations were removed in their entirety from the assessment criteria. It is no secret that I enjoy debates. It is normal and healthy in a democracy, especially for important issues that shape the future. This discussion about the future of our nation is a democratic discussion that concerns all citizens of Quebec and Canada.
Unfortunately, because it is a part of Canada, Quebec is all too often faced with choices that are not its own. Too often, federal choices and priorities involve interests that have nothing to do with the interests of the Quebec nation, as it is the case with the Century Initiative. It is generally the case with the Liberal approach to immigration.
Let us talk about Liberal interests. In 2016, Dominic Barton, who still headed McKinsey, was appointed chair of the advisory council on economic growth set up by the Government of Canada, the Liberal government. Dominic Barton and his colleagues recommended substantial increases to immigration thresholds to increase Canada's population to 100 million people by 2100.
By Mr. Barton's own admission, some members of the committee felt that these levels were too high. Judging by the current immigration targets, however, the Government of Canada ended up following Dominic Barton's recommendation.
The former CEO of McKinsey is also the co-founder of Century Initiative, which is recommending gradually increasing immigration to more than one million permanent immigrants a year for a certain number of years, a calculation that is included in the detailed plan.
This lobby group is financially backed by many Toronto banks and corporations. Let us talk about lobbyists. The group is registered as a lobbyist. They are on the list of members of the board of directors. Some are Liberal Party donors and Conservative Party donors. I am not making that up, it is a matter of public record. Not surprisingly, the lobby group also wants Canada to continue oil and gas exploration and development. A lot of deposits are on first nations land. As far as we know, the lobby thinks that Ottawa should find a way forward. This is the lobby the motion is referring to, that we are talking about today. History tells us that we rarely consult those we might harm.
To sum it all up, the Liberal government decided, of its own accord, to exponentially increase immigration targets without any consultation with Quebec or the first nations and without any consideration for the particularities of the Quebec nation or Quebeckers' desire to appropriately welcome newcomers by providing them with access to decent housing, health care and a quality education.
Either I do not understand or the government does not understand anything. Either way, one thing is certain, and that is that we do not agree on the targets. It seems as though we will never agree. However, let us remember one thing. If the federal government does not want to hear what Quebec has to say, then perhaps it is because Quebec no longer has a place in the Canadian federation. The day when we can no longer agree with the federal government on anything at all, we can always become independent.
That would be a really great societal undertaking that I am sure people from all over Quebec would want to participate in because we love Quebec and we want to take care of the people who live there. Taking care of our people cannot be done any which way and especially not at any price. Taking care of our people involves letting them in through the front door, with dignity and respect, knowing that we have room for them and that they will be happy here. That is what the Bloc Québécois is saying.
Madam Speaker, Ottawa appears to want a post-national update to Canada 3.0.
The feds have given a multinational firm, a state within a state, the sprawling McKinsey firm, the lucrative mandate to set immigration thresholds, an incredibly important aspect of public policy. The matter is settled and the PR campaign is implacable. The only way to avoid accusations of racism, the only way to continue to shine in Toronto's salons, is to increase Canada's total population by 100 million by 2100.
In cobbling together this announcement, tailor-made for the big bosses, Ottawa combined its ignorance of what is needed and its desire to distinguish itself culturally from Quebec and the first nations with utter scorn for realistic immigration capacities. Ottawa does not even have the decency to provide services to these future newcomers and or even ensure that sufficient housing is built for them.
Let there be no doubt that the Century Initiative is not the idea of the century, despite the empty rhetoric that seems to be second nature to this Prime Minister.
Quebec, as a nation, has had a history marked by periods of survival and moments of affirmation, and its constant concern has been its cultural and linguistic continuity. In 1978, René Lévesque's Parti Québécois government adopted Quebec's policy for cultural development. It was written by two of the greatest thinkers in our history, Guy Rocher and Fernand Dumont, who worked for the brilliant minister, Camille Laurin.
I want to point out in passing that Camille Laurin was the true architect of the integration of newcomers to Quebec, more so than Gérald Godin, for whom I have a great deal of respect, but who is used as argumentative support so frequently that I find it somewhat annoying.
Everything was clear. What could be called traditional French culture must be a focus for cultural convergence. The reason is quite simple. In a democratic state, citizens must be able to agree on a common place of exchange. We will patiently repeat what we have said before. It is not a question of Quebec culture abolishing other cultures on our land, but rather about establishing a concrete and sensitive meeting place necessary for creating a common feeling of belonging, a shared vision of the common good. Quebec can be as much the nation of Gilles Vigneault as that of Dany Laferrière.
In 2023, that was reflected in the unanimous, all-party vote against the Century Initiative by the National Assembly, who, let us not forget, was never consulted about it.
To some extent, Quebec, a welcoming and generous nation, is ready to welcome as many immigrants as possible, but the word “possible” is key here. The numbers are important. If our state has the capacity to set the number of newcomers per year, it is legitimate to discuss, debate and reflect on it. Unfortunately, this debate is too often shut down or restricted through name-calling, such name-calling serving ostensibly to demonize the miscreants who, in reality, are only calling for a more harmonious integration.
We often hear the tap metaphor when talking about immigration. Let us reflect on that. What is a tap? For a sink not to overflow, it needs to be filled mindfully and responsibly. Applying orange and red ideologies to this issue is quite simply wrongheaded, just as the will to exclude dissenting opinions from the debate is repugnant. These opinions are sometimes rigorous demonstrations by experts who point out the enormous danger to the very survival of the Quebec nation in the face of increases that would be too brutal, not harmonious enough and poorly thought out.
Canada, on the other hand, is infected to the core by a utopia, that of multiculturalism, the idea that all newcomers have to do is to huddle in inward-looking communities based on the old ways of belonging. The Canadian regime is oblivious to the existence of a nation with a common core where citizens have equal rights and duties. Instead, it sees a big pile of minority communities that can spend their entire existence without even needing to speak to each other.
This radical utopia became institutionalized in the Canadian Constitution, a Constitution that is impossible to reform, that is set in stone, imposed unilaterally by Pierre Elliott Trudeau and to which Quebec is still not a signatory today. The government of unelected judges is in charge of dismantling Quebec laws such as the Charter of the French Language, which is a shadow of its former self, such as Bill 21 whose future could be no brighter than Bill 101. The powers that be pride themselves in neutralizing Quebec democracy, suppressing its affirmation as a nation and stifling its political institutions.
It is hardly surprising in that perspective that junior now wants to fulfill daddy's dream. It is hardly surprising, not in terms of the drastic increase proposed today nor in terms of the depoliticization of such an important decision, that all of this is to the benefit—in every sense of the word—of the stateless clique at McKinsey, that is wreaking havoc and causing scandals everywhere it goes. Enough is enough.
Dominic Barton led the McKinsey firm, a state within a state, from 2009 to 2018. In 2016, Barton, who was still leading the McKinsey firm, was appointed to head the Advisory Council on Economic Growth, formed by the Canadian government. In addition to being led by this McKinsey executive, the group was supported by McKinsey Canada employees.
Dominic Barton is also a co-founder of the Century Initiative lobby, financially backed by big business in Toronto, which aims to gradually increase immigration to more than one million permanent immigrants per year. It should be noted that the Century Initiative also stands out for its aggressive stance on pushing oil and gas projects, notably in indigenous territory, regardless of indigenous support.
Could it be, in this case, that the wokeism of the great Canadian stateless capitalists—these two qualifiers may seem contradictory but very often go together—is simply artful posturing, self-righteous posturing that applies on a sliding scale? In this case, it presents itself as a lack of respect for the will of indigenous communities, who are shackled by the racist regime of the Indian Act, regardless of the sorrowful speeches we often hear in the House that are meant to make the speakers look good in high society.
When Dominic Barton appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates as part of the study on McKinsey, he admitted, in response to a question from the member for , that the pressure group never took into account the impact that its proposal to increase immigration could have on the French fact. Forget about that. It was never even considered. There is no report on the group's website that mentions the impact that this massive increase in immigration levels would have. No one in the red and orange troops seems to be upset or concerned about that.
It is important that the Century Initiative's dangerous project be immediately shut down. However, if we want to get away from constantly begging, from forcing the Quebec National Assembly to repeatedly adopt unanimous motions that will not receive even the slightest bit of attention from the House of Commons, and from the trend where Quebec's weight in this House is permanently shrinking, which will only serve to make Quebeckers a minority that will no longer warrant any attention whatsoever from the government, and if we want to make it clear to any individual who wants to settle in Quebec that they will belong to a homeland called Quebec and be one of us, then let us choose freedom.
The choice is clear: freedom or collective powerlessness and mediocrity; independence or folklorization and marginalization until we completely disappear. We will have our free, independent and resolutely French Quebec, and it will be one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the member for .
I am very pleased to rise today to discuss a topic of deep concern to my community and my constituency of Lac-Saint-Louis.
Canada is confronting demographic issues and a serious labour shortage. Every time I am on the ground meeting with business owners, whether they come from the tourism, restaurant, farming or manufacturing sectors, they all tell me about the daily effects and challenges they face because of the labour shortage. For SMEs, the consequences are painful. They mean excessive workloads for employees and delayed or lost contracts, not to mention the economic losses that result nationwide.
Canada's current unemployment rate stands at an all-time low of 5% nationally, and 4.1% in Quebec. Although Canada's economy regained 129% of the jobs lost during the pandemic, this excellent news comes with its own set of problems.
Fifty years ago, there were seven workers for every retiree. Today, there are three for every retiree, and in less than 15 years there will be two. These figures speak for themselves. Canada's economy is growing faster than the ability of some employers to fill positions, and this has been the case for several years.
As I was saying, whether in the fishery, agriculture, forestry, mining, tourism or processing industry, and in every other industry for that matter, there is a significant labour shortage in our country. It is a problem that our government takes very seriously and is tackling with a multi-pronged approach. One way to address the labour shortage is through immigration, because 100% of the increase in labour currently comes from immigration. That is a direct solution to the labour shortage in addition to being the historical foundation of our beautiful and great country. However, in recent days, misinformation has been circulating, and I believe it is important to clearly point that out.
The Century Initiative is not a government policy. I again want to be clear. The government does not subscribe to the findings of this independent group and does not have as an objective increasing Canada's population to 100 million.
In November 2022, our government announced our immigration targets for the next three years. These targets were set based on Canada's needs, recognizing that immigration is essential to help businesses find the workers they need and to continue to grow our economy. It is important to remember that before we announce our targets every year, we consult with the provinces. Last November's targets were a reflection of current labour shortages, regionalization of immigration and francophone immigration.
I want to reassure the House. Increasing francophone immigration to halt the decline of French is a priority for our government and is even included in Bill , which we will vote on at report stage this afternoon. Last year, we met our target of 4.4% of francophone immigrants outside Quebec, which is obviously good news.
We will not stop there. More recently, we announced our new action plan for official languages, which is more ambitious than ever. One entire pillar of that plan focuses on francophone immigration with an investment of $137 million. This is a historic first. The plan includes seven new measures to support francophone immigration, including additional support for employers to recruit francophone foreign workers and for newcomers to learn French.
Through Bill C‑13, we are also developing a new francophone immigration policy with clear objectives, targets and indicators to guide our action.
These examples show the importance of pursuing ambitious targets while trying to tackle current challenges too. On this side of the House, we believe in taking responsible action to address these urgent needs, which is exactly what we are doing.
Immigration levels are reviewed and revised every three years based on Canada's needs and capacities.
In conclusion, I would say once again that the Century Initiative is not a government policy and that our immigration targets are not based on its targets. Furthermore, immigration is a tool that will help us address the labour shortage. For a member from a region like mine, immigration is an essential part of regional economic growth.
Madam Speaker, before addressing the Bloc Québécois motion, I would like to extend my most sincere condolences to the family of Sergeant Eric Mueller and the two police officers who, unfortunately, were injured in Bourget, which is in my riding. I want to salute their courage and thank the community, including the police officers and first responders who responded to this tragedy.
I want to thank you, Madam Speaker, and the distinguished members of the House of Commons for giving me the opportunity to speak to the Bloc Québécois opposition motion concerning our government's immigration policy. It is important to point out that many considered efforts have been made by people across the country to support immigration, and that many different groups and think tanks have provided suggestions, comments and advice. The perspectives, including those of the Century Initiative report, are part of a national dialogue on immigration and are accessible by any member or Canadian. The only thing they do not represent is a government policy.
As a Franco-Ontarian, I would like to focus my remarks on one important aspect of the reform of Canada's language regime, specifically francophone immigration. Francophone immigration is one of the cornerstones of the Government of Canada's vision for official languages reform, which was announced in February 2021 in the document entitled “English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada”.
Francophone immigration has been the subject of numerous studies, reports and parliamentary debates, and often makes headlines in the Canadian media. There is no doubt that francophone immigration is one of the factors that will contribute to slowing the decline of French and increasing the demographic weight of official language minority communities.
Overall, our reform of Canada's language regime is based on two complementary components that include important measures on francophone immigration. First, legislative measures on francophone immigration are included in Bill to strengthen and modernize the Official Languages Act. Second, seven new or enhanced initiatives for francophone immigration have been included in the action plan for official languages 2023-2028, with an investment of more than $137 million over five years.
Now let us talk about Bill , which gives concrete expression to our desire to halt the decline in the demographic weight of francophone minorities, specifically by ensuring that the demographic weight is restored and increased. In addition to adopting a strengthened francophone immigration policy, the bill reiterates the importance of sectors that are essential to the development of official language minority communities, such as culture, education, health, justice, employment and immigration.
In addition, by strengthening part VII of the act and specifying the obligations of federal institutions to take positive measures and to evaluate their effects, federal institutions are encouraged to take positive measures in all of these key areas, for all of their policies, programs and major decisions.
I would now like to speak in more detail about our official languages action plan, entitled “Action Plan for Official Languages 2023-2028: Protection-Promotion-Collaboration”, which was unveiled to Canadians on April 26 at the Cité collégiale, where I had the pleasure of being a student, once. We are very proud of this plan, which includes a historic investment of more than $4 billion over five years.
Francophone immigration is one of the four pillars that define and guide our five-year official languages strategy. This pillar confirms our government's commitment to fostering the vitality of francophone communities by addressing economic and demographic challenges through francophone immigration. As I mentioned, this pillar represents new investments of more than $137 million over five years, divided among seven initiatives in support of francophone immigration.
The first initiative is the implementation of a new francophone immigration policy, similar to what is provided for in our bill to modernize the Official Languages Act, Bill . This new policy will include objectives, targets and indicators to guide the development and implementation of policies and programs across the entire continuum of francophone immigration, from promotion to selection and integration of French-speaking newcomers to Canada.
The second initiative focuses on targeted expansion and increased promotion and recruitment support in order to raise potential immigrants' awareness of francophone communities and the services and programs available in French.
The third initiative provides a corridor for the selection and retention of French teachers in Canada through interconnected initiatives that aim to boost foreign recruitment and retention of French and French-speaking teachers.
The fourth initiative involves establishing a strengthened francophone integration pathway to facilitate the settlement and integration of newcomers to Canada and bolster the reception capacity of francophone minority communities.
The fifth initiative focuses on creating a centre for innovation in francophone immigration that will enable francophone communities to take part in activities to promote, identify, support and recruit French-speaking and bilingual candidates.
The sixth initiative relates to developing a francophone lens that is integrated into the economic immigration program so as to improve the selection of francophone and bilingual immigrants.
Finally, the last initiative aims to provide and develop measures to help newcomers learn French or English by increasing grants and contributions therefore expanding the geographic coverage and improving the quality of language training for newcomers.
I would also like to add that, alongside these initiatives, which will be developed and deployed by my colleague, the , Canadian Heritage backs the initiative to recruit and retain French and French as a second language teachers in Canada, which aims to recruit and retain teachers who are recent immigrants. Canadian Heritage also provides contributions to provincial and territorial governments for minority language services. Our agreements enable these governments to focus on enhancing services in priority sectors, such as francophone immigration.
Lastly, I also want to point out that, in the action plan for official languages 2023-2028, our government committed to promoting diversity, inclusion and equity through new initiatives designed to support more vulnerable clienteles. That is what we will do.
In conclusion, immigration is absolutely a pillar of our Canadian language reform agenda. We hope opposition party members in the House can see that we kept our promises with historic investments in excess of $4 billion over five years for official languages. We hope they will support Bill .
Madam Speaker, I will take it upon myself to deliver to the Government of Quebec the message given by my colleague, who just finished his speech, that it should pull up its socks on the immigration file. I think it might appreciate the message, but I am not sure.
I will begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Terrebonne.
Our motion today is very simple. I think it has been a few minutes since we repeated it. It states:
(i) the Century Initiative aims to increase Canada's population to 100 million by 2100,
(ii) the federal government's new intake targets are consistent with the Century Initiative objectives,
(iii) tripling Canada's population has real impacts on the future of the French language, Quebec's political weight, the place of First Peoples, access to housing, and health and education infrastructure,
(iv) these impacts were not taken into account in the development of the Century Initiative and that Quebec was not considered,
the House reject the Century Initiative objectives and ask the government not to use them as a basis for developing its future immigration levels.
It is not a very complicated request. It only makes sense. It is a question of understanding each other.
This objective of increasing Canada's population to 100 million by the end of the century is something that worries me. I must say that I am finding the ruse to be less and less subtle. It is difficult to believe that the hidden agenda is not basically to put an end once and for all to Quebec's never-ending demands, which certain self-righteous federalist thinkers see as a fly constantly buzzing around their heads.
There are two ways of looking at this. The first is to see bad intentions. The government and its policy-makers know full well what they are doing to Quebec by setting immigration targets that are much too high for the province to absorb. They know that by doing this, they are ensuring that Quebec's francophone culture, the Québécois culture, will be completely snuffed out.
How will that happen? It will be because of the massive influx of newcomers who, even if they speak French, will not be welcomed as Quebec likes to welcome its immigrants. They will not be able to integrate into Quebec society properly because the infrastructure and services are insufficient and ill-equipped to receive such an influx. What happens when a host society is unable to welcome and integrate its newcomers? This leads to ghettoization. Newcomers gather where they feel safe, where they feel a sense of familiarity, and this creates ghettos. This leads to what we have already seen around the world, including in some Canadian cities. This is not what Quebec wants.
Quebec wants large numbers of francophone immigrants so that the common language, the language of work, the language of everyday life, is French. Quebec wants to welcome and integrate its newcomers based on a model that is not one of multiculturalism. Quebec's specificity is precisely that it has a language to protect, a language that is constantly at risk of disappearing in an ocean of some 300 million anglophones in North America.
There is also the issue of Quebec's political weight, which is mentioned in today's Bloc Québécois motion and is fuelling this discussion and debate. If Quebec loses political weight within the Canadian federation, it means that the various laws that protect the specificity of the Quebec nation will be open to more vigorous attacks, and Quebec will be even less able to defend itself. Consequently, Quebec will continue to dwindle gradually, little by little. It is a bit like putting a frog in a pot of cold water and then turning on the heat, letting the frog slowly get used to the heat as the temperature rises until, well, we know the rest of the story. I am not sure that has been scientifically proven, but everyone gets the picture.
In short, Quebec will fade away and accept its fate, telling itself that a known misfortune is probably more comfortable than an uncertain happiness. We will then find ourselves in the ocean of multiculturalism that Trudeau senior dreamed of all those years ago. I will not be fooled into believing that protecting the French language was part of that particular dream.
That widespread lack of sensitivity is disappointing, but it also makes me realize that this is one of multiculturalism's adverse effects on French.
We know that Quebec culture is gradually drowning in the Canadian and North American cultural maelstrom. Those who champion French are increasingly viewed by many in the rest of Canada as old grey-haired reactionaries straight out of what they wish was a bygone era. I have to acknowledge that I myself might be an old grey-haired reactionary not unlike my colleague from . No doubt he approves.
If we allow things to carry on as they are, speaking French will eventually become a mere curiosity. A comparison comes to mind that deeply saddens me. It will be a bit like the first nations we hear about, where the language is still spoken by some elders but has disappeared from everyday use. Young people are trying to resurrect those languages. I recently talked to an Abenaki woman who told me she was trying to relearn her grandparents' language, which is no longer being spoken. Maybe one day my great-grandchildren will ask their grandfather, “Grandpa, say a few words in French.” It will be cute and quaint, but also pathetic and sad.
That is what we are trying to protect. We are not trying to sow division or stir up trouble, as our friends on the other side like to say. We are trying to protect something that is dear to us, namely our culture, our language, our specificity.
We talk about political weight. Sometimes people say that Quebec's political weight boils down to the number of seats it has in the House of Commons. It seems that some people do not appreciate the importance of that. What is the effect of Quebec having less political weight? In future elections, if we do not correctly adjust the number of seats that go to Quebec, if we do not give Quebec a minimum number of seats, as is the case for other Canadian provinces, we will once again lose the influence we can have here in the House of Commons. We will lose the number of seats held by Quebec members of Parliament. I am not even considering the political affiliation, because the Quebec seats lost will not just be the ones held by the Bloc Québécois, but also those of Conservative and Liberal members of Parliament. There will be fewer of them because there will be fewer seats available for Quebec.
Would it have been possible to protect supply management, for example, if there had been fewer members of Parliament from Quebec? The work of my colleague from and the Bloc Québécois on this file should be noted.
Bill also comes to mind. It was tabled in November 2020 as a modernized Broadcasting Act and was later rebranded as Bill in the next Parliament. It contained nothing for Quebec culture. Without a strong Quebec caucus and the Bloc Québécois's unwavering determination to add measures to the bill to protect the French language and content created by our artists, I am not sure if the new Broadcasting Act would have provided any protection for Quebec's francophone culture. Quebec's political weight made all the difference.
The more influence that Quebec loses within the Canadian federation, the more Ottawa can push its centralizing agenda and keep sticking its big fat nose where it does not belong. On February 8, 2022, the House had a great chance to show Quebec that it believes in the need for Quebec to preserve its culture and acquire tools to protect the French language. On February 8, 2022, I had the honour of tabling, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, a bill to amend the Constitution Act. Yes, while awaiting independence, a Bloc member is trying to amend the Constitution Act.
We simply wanted to add a provision that would guarantee Quebec 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. That would have been a game-changer because, with a threshold of at least 25% of the seats, we would no longer have to worry about the political weight of Quebec being at risk and the consequences that would bring, regardless of any demographic changes that might occur in the coming years.
That is why the Bloc Québécois is moving a motion today to reject the immigration levels proposed by the Century Initiative, which the government seems to be following very closely. This is a good opportunity to debate that, but it is also a good opportunity to understand why the Bloc Québécois wants to reject those objectives.
Madam Speaker, Canada is a concept, one that has changed greatly over time. At first, Canada was the heart of New France. The conquest brutally changed its identity and turned it into a British colony.
Modern Canada arose from another change that took place with the betrayal of the night of the long knives, when the country's DNA was changed in secret, behind closed doors and without Quebec or the first nations.
We are on the eve of another great change. We can rest assured that the very essence of Canada respects the strong tradition of ignoring democracy when it comes to major issues. I am of course referring to the Century Initiative. I am saying this in French in the House, because French was never considered by this initiative, as admitted by one of its authors.
Economists, and I am well positioned to talk about them, do not always think about identity. It is not necessarily the first thing they think of when developing a public policy. French, democracy, political balance, political weight are not necessarily their priorities. They think about GDP, productivity and the cost of labour. It is up to us in the House to reflect on these issues.
However, even in terms of economic issues, the Century Initiative project is poorly designed, poorly thought-out and impossible to implement. I say that the project is poorly designed because this Liberal government sets its economic targets based on false and simplistic economic parameters. If we want to solve the labour shortage, says the government, let us bring people from all over the world to work here.
Although immigration has a role to play in filling specific gaps in the labour market, it is far from being a magic bullet to fix this problem.
As economist Pierre Fortin explained in the report he presented last year to Quebec's ministry of immigration, francization and integration, a sustained increase in immigration creates a bigger workforce, but also increases demand for goods and services. He believes that in taking into consideration the further increase in demand for health services and education, the increase in employment opportunities would be negligible.
Other public policies can be put in place at the same time to address the labour shortage, as the Bloc Québécois has proposed on numerous occasions and in a constructive manner. For instance, tax credits should be granted to people who have reached retirement age but may want to remain in the workforce. Let us think about it. These individuals are trained and want to work. However, ridiculous tax policies prevent them from staying in the workforce. This could be fixed quickly. This is not a long-term solution like immigration.
Rodrigue Tremblay, professor emeritus of economics and a minister in the René Lévesque government, also explained the situation like this:
A rapidly growing population requires additional infrastructure (housing, hospitals, schools, universities and infrastructure of all kinds). Savings and capital are therefore needed to build that infrastructure.
He goes on to say the following:
When a population grows too quickly, this can sometimes lead to a general decline in the standard of living.
Ultimately, the countries that perform the best in terms of standard of living and quality of life are not the most populous countries in the world. They are countries like Norway, Ireland and Switzerland, whose population size is more similar to that of Quebec than Canada.
What makes Quebec unique, in addition to its language and culture, is the quality of its social safety net and its public policy, which are recognized as progressive. I am extremely proud of them. Quebec's low-cost child care system sets the bar. In fact, the federal government is trying to set up something similar, the kind of system we have had for decades. Quebec's affordable education system, its universal health care system and all its other social policies also set the standard.
Here is another example I am very familiar with: Quebec's parental insurance plan, copied by other jurisdictions around the world and head and shoulders above other such programs in Canada. To maintain and even improve that level of service, the Government of Quebec has to make wise economic and demographic decisions that ensure the long-term sustainability of its social services. The National Assembly provides all those social services, so it is up to it to determine Quebec's optimal population level.
It will be up to Quebec to offer and use its own budget to pay for the services and infrastructure that will be specifically offered to the newcomers we welcome with open arms, as everyone knows.
This project is poorly thought-out. Indeed, one has to be extremely out of touch with reality to think that a country like Canada, with such a delicate political balance, could work with this type of immigration policy without even consulting Quebec and the provinces. I really wonder why the Bloc Québécois has to keep reminding the House of this, but Canada is not a unitary country. The onus will be on Quebec and the provinces to deal with this immigration flow. The federal government is not a character in a video game seeking to make Canada an empire. It cannot continue to impose the whims of its preferred consultants on the democratically elected governments throughout Canada.
I have said that the project is poorly crafted and poorly thought-out, and I would like to add that it is impossible to implement. How does the federal government think it can pull off something this big when it is not even able to adequately deliver on any of its missions?
The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has a chronic inability to process claims in a timely manner. I will give some brief examples. After the pandemic, there were over 2 million files in the department's backlog. We are talking about the labour shortage, and 25,000 applications for skilled workers in Quebec were on hold on the federal government's desk. Skilled workers wanting to work in Quebec had to wait over 24 months—if they were lucky—while the service standard is 11 months, which itself could be considered to be quite long.
As we can see, the Century Initiative is a bad project. It is politically problematic, economically ill-conceived, and administratively impossible to implement. It has only one great advantage: It forces the people of Quebec to choose between turning into quaint folklore and becoming independent. My choice is obviously independence. I do not think that is news to anyone in the House.
I am an immigrant myself. I was born abroad. The language we speak at home is Spanish, and that is the language I use when I speak to my son. My mother came to Quebec at the age of 37 and passed the bar in her third language. We grew up in a house where the first language was not French, and yet we all chose independence. This is our project. We will build this country together, newcomers to Quebec with old stock Quebeckers, as well as with our brothers and sisters from the first peoples—because anyone who wants to be a Quebecker is a Quebecker.
Canada wants to reach a population of 100 million people and invite immigrants to come and contribute to its economic growth. All my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I can do better. What we can offer immigrants, whom we will always welcome with open arms, is an invitation to the founding of a new country. That is the idea that drives us, and it is the idea of the century.
Madam Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time, if there is any left, with the member for .
As the member for , immigration is so important to me and to the survival of my region that it was out of the question for me to participate in today's debate without discussing the realities of rural regions, and in particular the realities of the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands.
The newcomers and temporary foreign workers in my riding have helped my region get through various crises. Without the temporary foreign worker program, the fish processing plants in my region would have closed their doors many years ago, as there would be no one to work there. For many years, immigrants and temporary foreign workers have enabled our communities to survive and thrive. Our newcomers learn French. When they arrive in our region, every spring, people are happy to see them.
With respect to renewable energy, in my riding, in the Gaspé, there is the largest wind turbine manufacturing plant in North America. Securing the development of this plant required welcoming a Filipino community. Expansion announcements were made and the plant practically doubled its production. More than 200 new Filipino workers were brought in, because the region does not have enough people for this kind of development. This goes to show how much businesses need immigrants. We need people who have received training, but we also need workers.
During my election campaigns, I went door-knocking. My colleagues from the Bloc may not realize what people in the regions are going through. They need to talk to entrepreneurs in the tourism or hospitality sector, among others. Every entrepreneur we met wanted to grow their business in the region, and they were prepared to invest in expanding their operations.
Some entrepreneurs cried as they were talking to me, because they were unable to develop their business, even though they had the ambition to do it. What was the hold-up? It was the labour shortage. During the election campaigns, they kept telling me that they could not go on for much longer, that they needed people to grow their business and take their place.
I know this scares the Bloc Québécois, but you cannot build on fear. In reality, we are all immigrants. Jacques Cartier arrived in the Gaspé and it was there that he met the indigenous communities.
When I was young, there were six elementary schools in my small village that served 700 children. Only one school remains, and it does not even have 70 students now. Will we ask 70 children to provide for an ageing population? The regions need immigrants.
When I was young, there were seven schools and now there is one. I do not see any reason why we could not build schools if we brought in immigrants.
The people who will come will work and ensure that our communities are vibrant. We will be able to populate and use our land. We talk about old-stock Quebeckers and I am one of them. Newcomers have never prevented us from continuing to speak French. I have never been afraid of that. I have not lost my culture. That is what the Bloc Québécois is trying to make us believe.
When we are proud of our culture, we promote it, we talk about it and we welcome newcomers and immigrants. We share our culture with them because we are strong enough to preserve that culture.
I will cede the remainder of my time to my collegue from .