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40th Federal Election Debate - Archives Sept-Oct 2008

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George Addison (National Democratic Party), Rick Dykstra (Conservative Party) Jim Fannon (Green Party), Walt Lastewka (Liberal Party) and Sam Hammond (Communist Party) .

The candidates in the 40th parliamentary elections for St. Catharines riding have come together to address issues affecting the multicultural community during a debate and a town forum organized by Mosaic Edition.

The 120 minutes debate and town forum addressed such issues as multiculturalism, Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the popular bill C50, accreditation of skilled professionals, settlement and integration and issues affecting immigrants.

Participants at the forum were George Addison (National Democratic Party), Rick Dykstra (Conservative Party) Jim Fannon (Green Party), Sam Hammond (Communist Party) and Walt Lastewka (Liberal Party). The debate - forum was held at the Robertson Hall in St. Catharines.

The debate was divided into four rounds while the candidates were given 120 seconds to address the questions posed by the moderator. The Forum featured 45 minutes of questions from the public. The candidates were given opportunities to rebut any comments made by opponents and also given time for closing.

In a statement, the newspaper stated that the public debate was sponsored to bring issues affecting newcomers to the attention of the candidates. It was also meant to introduce new Canadians to the civic responsibility of understanding the national political discourse before casting their vote.

The excerpts of the debate are as follow:

1st round

Impact of multiculturalism policy on Canada.

Addison (NDP)

Multiculturalism to us in the NDP and to me personally is the centre point of the central value system, which has evolved since the 1960s. It is an important shift in our thinking because as at that time most Canadians thought of themselves as overwhelmingly white northern Christian people but over the years we have seen that change.

The NDP and myself have been in the forefront of welcoming and trying to construct a new society that is not assimilasionist which is sometimes associated with the United States.They have a notion of melting pot, but some people use the term Mosaic.We believe in Canadian society to enlarge, we grow and benefit from many different cultures taking place.

Dykstra (Conservative Party)

My parents emigrated from Netherlands for a better life for them and their children. They both came from families of nine children, my mother in 1951 and my father in 1950. We come from a family that came to benefit and grow in the country. I am proud that the Conservative Party elected the first moslem to Ottawa.

It has the diverse caucus in Ottawa from the Hindu and the Chinese community and we are prepared to work with everybody in the multicultural community.

Fannon (Green Party)

Vision Green is the platform for Canada 2020. The way we want Canada to look forward.

Multiculturalism is a showcase of our diversity. It is necessary for our community in Canada to showcase their differences. It is necessary that we help people coming into the society integrate through ESL and FSL official languages so that the new immigrants can speak the language quickly and settle.

A healthy society is a diverse society of all colours and races. We want to start a program that helps the 200,000 people who live in Canada now without official status get amnesty. If you have been here working without any criminal record, we would like to make you a productive member of society and give you the benefits we all enjoy.

We want to help the multicultural groups attain a charitable status so that theycan have avenues for fund raising.

Hammond (Communist Party)

If you look into the historical background of Canada this country was made by immigrants but attitudes to immigration and different cultures have not been a straight line. We have had instances and even act of parliament, which had been at best described as racist in the past especially towards the Asian workers in the railroads in 1800s. Looking at things as a process the establishment of multiculturalism was good. Multiculturalism is a healthy development in the country’s history and to me it is recognition that when people come to this country they bring their culture with them and they need not ever lose it. We still have to contend with racism as reflected in some legislation.

Lastewka (Liberal Party)

Canada was built by immigrants. In the late 1800s when the immigration started and the post war years many immigrants came to Canada. Whether it is farmers moving west or miners moving north they went into small areas where there were few people and they built this country to what it is today.

In the years of Pearson and Pierre Trudeau many immigrants came to Canada and the number one thing was that they share one heritage as Canadian. The Folkarts festival is a good example of many languages and cultures we share with each other and St. Catharines is a good example for the country and the rest of the world. How we all go to the city hall steps during the opening of the folk arts festival. When you look around and see different flags and cultures of various people, it makes us proud to be Canadians. What you see there is Canada. Those who have been able to travel will appreciate how big our country is and the fact that we work together and share it together.

2nd Round

Opinion on Bill C50 – Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

Dykstra (Conservative Party)

Bill C50 is aimed at implementing changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, modernize the current immigration system and significantly reduce the wait times and the long process it takes newcomers and their families to reach Canada. It will also help the 900,000 people currently in backlog as the backlog continues to grow.

We value the input that immigrants and newcomers have made to Canada and we want more people to join us. This legislation will provide opportunity for them to find work here and have a better life for themselves and their families. The legislation does not give the minister the power to override and power to reverse individual decisions made by immigration officers, who will continue to make decisions on individual applications based strictly and solely on criteria. We are now processing family reunification cases 40% faster than it was done by the previous government.

Fannon (Green party)

The Green Party strongly opposed the changes made under C50. It has not addressed various issues very properly but has left so much discretion with the minister which opens the process to discrimination and climate of fear. The changes to the IRPA (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act) are significant because of the situation south of the border on war on terrorism. In the name of war on terrorism, native citizens are held in detention for years without charges. That is extremely wrong. We support the immigrant and multicultural community backlash on the process. It is good we are having over 300,000 people in the country every year. It is however wrong for one individual to determine who is a good candidate to be in the country.

Hammond (Communist Party)

We support the position of the advocacy group No One is Illegal out of BC, Toronto and Montreal. Lastewka (Liberal Party) Liberals believe that the immigration system should be open, transparent and rules based. The bill C50 has too much onus on the minister to decide. That is wrong, that is politicizing the process. One of the problems is that there were many openings for judges; 60 of 156 positions are open. That creates a backlog. The problem was created by the current administration because they wanted to politicize the situation.

Addison (NDP)

I think there is a direction here that is really wrong for Canada. People who come to Canada should have rights but these days they have fewer rights. Not allowing those who come to bring their families as the early immigrants did was wrong. Rather, Canada is bringing in many temporary workers not only in agriculture but also in Alberta tar sand. Those are people who should have rights and if they want to stay in Canada we should give them the ability to apply in Canada. The temporary workers that are being brought to Canada not just in Niagara but in Alberta also have rights.

Hammond (Communist Party)

Temporary workers are very important for the Niagara region and many parts of Canada The Communist Party is against the temporary guest worker program because a human being is not a disposable commodity to be brought in, used and then sent home when someone think they are no longer needed. There are efforts by some employers to expand the temporary worker programs because they feel there are shortage of workers. I think bill C50 addresses the employers without addressing the workers.

The Communist Party is in support of scraping bill C50. We are in favour of legislation that is humanitarian and inclusive of families. We believe that every one who comes to this country should have a right to remain in this country. We also believe they should have a right to bring their families here. Every worker who is in this country should have access to our medical system. They paid into it. and denying access is wrong.

Lastewka (Liberal Party)

There are many changes that the Liberal Party will like to implement on temporary workers program transition period. When a temporary worker comes to Canada they have to leave Canada to reapply to come back into the country. The objective of the law we propose is to make this more friendly so they do not have to go out to Buffalo to reapply back into the country. If a temporary worker has been in Canada for a period of time and decides they want to stay in Canada the proposed legislation will allow them to file in Canada. As this will not interfere with the individual’s time as they can continue working while applying same time. The objective is to make people earn money and still be able to apply.

Addison (NDP)

We believe the temporary workers have right to organize as a union and bargain collectively as unions. All these are basic human rights. Why do we have to set up different classes of residency? Those who have rights and the rest who have no rights. We are against bill C50.

Dykstra (Conservative Party)

We have made various enhancements to the temporary workers program. We have special units and making sure that the system is streamlined so that it does not take many years as it used to in the previous administration. I must also say from my offices perspective, we take this very seriously. We have over the past two and a half years assisted in dealing with issues affecting temporary workers. My office recently helped a temporary worker who was struck with cancer .Through the ministry of health he remains here and still gets treatment. I am glad this worker is still here in St Catharines.

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(Transcription of excerpts by Edward Akinwunmi, Mosaic Edition.)

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