I am proud to officially support our federal commitment to diversity as the Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism to the Minister of Heritage. I have been fortunate in my new role to build upon and apply my skills and experience from my work as the former Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration, and I strive to blend my experience working to bring newcomers to Canada with my new portfolio.
I also bring my personal experiences to my Parliamentary role of supporting multiculturalism in Canada, as a Muslim Canadian, and a Ugandan Asian refugee. I have been fortunate to have studied and worked overseas – I completed a year of training at the Middle Temple, Inns of Court in London, UK; researched caste discrimination in Northern India; served as a Programme Officer with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in New Delhi; and spent a year as an Assistant Trial Attorney prosecuting genocide at the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Tanzania. This international work and exposure to diverse communities around the world, informs my view about the importance of promoting diversity here at home, and entrenching supports for the various communities that call Canada home. Budget 2017 does just that–it works to enhance the lives of Canadians and newcomers of all backgrounds, cultures, races, and religions.
Security Infrastructure Program
No one deserves to feel unsafe because of their faith. With the rise in hate-motivated crimes, I am proud that our Government has responded with a program to support targeted communities. Budget 2017 will provide $5 million over five years to support the Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program. The program provides funding for not-for-profit organizations to make needed security infrastructure improvements, such as the installation of outdoor lighting or security cameras. I was proud to personally support applications for to this program for places of worship in Parkdale-High Park, so that community members and worshippers can feel safe and secure regardless of their religious background.
Better Legal Aid Services for Asylum Seekers
Personally, I am heartened to see more support for legal aid services for asylum seekers. Throughout my education and legal career, I advocated for human rights and increased access to justice. I was one of the founders of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), and served on its Board of Directors for nearly eight years to help secure permanent annual funding.
I was also proud to stand with Minister Joly on February 7, 2017 to announce the reinstatement of the Court Challenges Program to ensure access to justice for those who need it the most.
The immigration and refugee application system can be difficult for newcomers. Legal aid services provide invaluable advice, information, and representation for eligible asylum claimants to help establish their cases, and contribute to fair and timely decisions. Budget 2017 will provide $62.9 million over five years, and $11.5 million thereafter to enhance the delivery of immigration and refugee legal aid services in partnership with the provinces and territories. We have an open and compassionate immigration and refugee system–this legal aid funding ensures that our welcoming system is also accessible, to all who legitimately seek safe haven in Canada.
Recognizing Foreign Credentials
I have heard from newcomers about the challenges they face when trying use their skills and experience to contribute to our workforce. Even after obtaining Permanent Resident status, highly skilled newcomers face barriers that limit their employment opportunities, and their successful integration into Canada.
To ensure that we are maximizing their potential contributions to our economy and allowing them to put their skills to good use, Budget 2017 will reallocate $27.5 million over five years, and $5.5 million per year thereafter from the current Employment and Social Development Canada’s existing resources to a Targeted Employment Strategy for Newcomers.
The Strategy will have three components:
- Improved pre-arrival supports, so that newcomers can begin the foreign credential recognition process before arriving in Canada.
- A loan program that will assist newcomers with the cost of having their foreign credentials recognized.
- Targeted measures to test innovative approaches to help skilled newcomers gain Canadian work experience in their profession.
Our Government will also eliminate the Labour Market Impact Assessment processing fee for families seeking to hire foreign caregivers to provide care for persons with high medical needs, and for middle class families with less than $150,000 in annual income seeking to hire foreign caregivers to provide child care.
Waiving the fee for these families will ensure that support is targeted at those most in need of assistance to meet their family caregiving responsibilities. Budget 2017 will allocate $24.5 million over five years and $4.9 million per year thereafter to make sure this is possible. This initiative will also directly assist thousands of persons of Filipino and Asian descent, who serve as caregivers in Canada, by facilitating their ability to work and eventually settle in Canada.
“Asylum seekers who are often traumatized need legal help to ensure that their claims are properly presented. Given the funding challenges faced by legal aid plans across the country the provision in the budget of additional funding for legal services for refugees will help ensure that claimants have access to justice. I am very pleased to see this measure in the budget.”
– Lorne Waldman, President, Canadian Association Refugee Lawyers
“We applaud the Government of Canada for doubling its investment in the Security Infrastructure Program, a vital program that has benefited many places of worship, schools, and community centres across the country…. Today’s announcement reflects the government’s commitment to supporting the security needs of the Jewish community and other at-risk segments of Canadian society.”
– Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
MP for Parkdale-High Park
Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism