Parliament is back in session, and Mike Sullivan, our MP, has been a busy man. This week he spoke at great length against bill C-43, the “Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act”. The bill would allow deportation without appeal of non-Canadians who commit a crime in Canada that carries a sentence of 6 months or more. Presently, non-Canadians who commit a crime that carries a sentence of two years or more have no right to appeal. The bill would also allow the Minister of Immigration to deny or grant admission to applicants for “public policy reasons”
The gist of Sullivan’s comments was this: the Conservatives are tinkering around the edges of the immigration system to appeal to their law-and-order base when what we need is more wholesale reform and better funding for settlement services. Sullivan gave a long and depressing list of the settlement agencies that have been cut in York South–Weston to prove his point.
…It is difficult to imagine that so much time and effort is being spent on this kind of thing instead of on the real problems that face immigrants in our country …. My riding has seen cut after cut in immigrant settlement services to the point where some organizations have folded altogether. Is that because we have fewer immigrants coming to my riding? No, there are lots coming to the riding. In fact, there are two apartment buildings that are now full of Roma refugees in the last two years, so much so that the superintendent has had to go out and hire a Hungarian translator because he cannot communicate with these people. They are coming to the riding in great numbers but the services that they are asking for keep disappearing.
We have a 6% cut at Access Alliance; a 4.2% at COSTI, which caused a layoff; a 10% cut at the Learning Enrichment Foundation. Midaynta lost all of its funding, $400,000. It has closed up. York Weston Community Services Centre lost $800,000. It closed, with twelve and a half people laid off. Languages that are no longer helped in this riding are Dinka, Nuer, Spanish, Arabic, French, Kiswahili, Russian, Farsi, Dari and Somali.
York Weston Community Services Centre was urged the previous year to sign a long-term lease. It did. The government said the organization was good for it and that it should sign the five-year lease. It signed it and then all of its budget was cut, some $800,000 gone. Northwood Neighbourhood Services lost $378,000, which caused the layoff of five settlement workers and admin staff. That is 100% of its Citizenship and Immigration Canada funds. It gets money from other places, so it is only 30% of its overall budget.
These things are happening in my riding. For the minister to tell us, bold-faced, that he is spending more on settlement services is just crazy. Community Action Resource Centre lost $305,000, which was 40% of its budget. It lost all of the federal funding. It still has some provincial funding, but it has lost 12 staff. It has caused layoffs in my riding, which is already a riding with a huge unemployment problem.
The Vietnamese Women’s Association lost $30,000 in Citizenship and Immigration Canada funding. Access Alliance lost $300,000. Toronto District School Board’s newcomer services for youth lost 100% of its funding and the program was closed.
There actually are many more but I am going to run out of time if I read them all. The point is that the government is single-mindedly focused on the wrong problem. There is a problem with settlement services in the riding. There is a problem with immigration systems into the riding. There is a problem with the family sponsorship system and with too many temporary foreign workers being allowed to come to this country and take jobs that would otherwise be filled by Canadians.
Rather than focusing on those problems, the government is going to speed up the removal of a handful of criminals, and not necessarily even the right criminals….