Federal Budget 2016
Last week, the 2016 budget was tabled in the House by Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, declaring 2016’s budget would “restore hope for the middle class and revitalize the economy”. Please click here for The Canadian-Muslim Vote's summary of the budget.
Office of Religious Freedom in Flux
A majority of last week’s debate focused on the motion tabled by the Conservatives to renew the current mandate of the Office of Religious Freedom. The government staunchly opposed the renewal of the Office based on the principle that all human rights are interdependent. The NDP also echoed the government’s opposition to the Conservative motion, highlighting a study which showed that Christian minorities garnered twice as much attention from the office as compared to Muslim and Jewish minorities, calling into question the focus of the work of the Office.
The government made it very clear last week that freedom of religion and belief should be situated within the larger framework of human rights and that the Office as it is currently set up “should be broadened and not only focus on protecting minority rights based on religion but also on ensuring the development of human rights and pluralism”, as stated by Liberal MP Brenda Shanahan.
Immigration Processing Times
NDP MP Jenny Kwan inquired into the long wait times to process family reunification applications, specifically the parent-grandparent sponsorship. Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration addressed the terms of the processing times abroad, noting that “they are in the area of approximately four years, and inland, they are in the area of approximately two years”.
However, MP Kwan noted that instead of taking 5 years, the application for parent-grandparent sponsorship is actually closer to taking 10 years to being processed under the current system. Parliamentary Secretary Virani acknowledged the strain that application processing times take on families and noted that the government is trying to reduce the waiting times through numerous measures. Parliamentary Secretary Virani further noted that the government is increasing the amount of family class applicants per year from 5,000 to 10,000, and also that a pilot project providing work permits for applicants in the spousal category is being renewed.
Genocide in the Middle East
Conservatives in the House last week claimed the Liberal government had reversed Canada’s position recognizing the genocide of minority ethnic groups in the Middle East such as the Assyrian Yazidis. Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion argued that Canada recognizes five genocides in the history of the world and in order to recognize a sixth one it will be done properly with the view of the international organizations, noting that this process is the view of the United States, the EU and the United Nations. Furthermore, the Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that there is no evidence that the preceding government has actually passed an act acknowledging the plight of minority ethnic groups in the Middle East as a genocide.