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West Block Transcript: Season 6 Episode 16

THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 16, Season 6

Sunday, December 25, 2016

 

Host: Tom Clark

 

Guest Interviews: Jennifer Bond, Gregory Maniatis, Charlotte Gray

 

Location: Ottawa

 

 

 

On this Christmas Sunday, Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Program is the envy of the world, so what lessons are other nation’s hoping to learn from us? We’ll ask two experts on global refugees.

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Then, the promise of Canada, we’re going to talk to author and historian, Charlotte Gray on what it means to be Canadian as told in her new book through the stories of nine remarkable and surprising people.

 

And then, festive traditions: What do your MPs get up to under the mistletoe?

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! It is Sunday, December the 25th. And from the nation’s capital, I’m Tom Clark. And you are in The West Block.

 

Well, leaders from around the world gathered in Ottawa earlier this month to hear firsthand how Canada resettles its refugees. The Canadian program is a combination of government and private sponsorship, and this model is the envy of countries who want to improve their resettlement efforts. I spoke to two leaders on the global stage for refugee resettlement and here’s that conversation.

 

Joining me now to discuss this further is Jennifer Bond; she’s the Chair of the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative and a professor at the University of Ottawa. And Gregory Maniatis; he is a senior European fellow with the Migration Policy Institute based out of New York and an advisor not only to the United Nations but also to people like George Soros on this whole question. The point of the conference that has been taking place in Ottawa has been to showcase the Canadian response to private refugee sponsorship programs. Showing it, I think is the expression goes, as the best practice in the world. But Gregory, let me ask you this as the non-Canadian here at the table. Does Canada have, in terms of best practices, the best practice in the world when it comes to refugee sponsorship?

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Gregory Maniatis: Absolutely and it’s unique in the world. And it is unique in engaging citizens in the process of integrating newcomers. In this case, refugees, but you can imagine it applying to others as well. And there’s no place else that does it at the level of Canada in terms of the scale or it nor the quality. And this is a moment now where countries all over the world are looking around for solutions and this is one of the best.

 

Tom Clark: So Jennifer, that leaves the obvious question. What makes what we’re doing so good? What’s the essence of what we’re doing that is world beating?

 

Jennifer Bond: I think that the very simple answer is we found a vehicle through which we can tap into our communities. So we have a way for individual Canadians across the country to really engage, to feel engaged and to be engaged, to lead in fact on refugee resettlement. And that’s the part that is so exciting and so important about what we do. We’re not looking to take Canada’s exact model and put it into a whole bunch of other countries. We have to help countries learn from Canada and then adopt a model that’s going to work for their particular circumstance. But the underlying core, how to mobilize communities, how to get them engaged and tap into that compassion within all of us is really what Canada has figured out how to do very well.

 

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Tom Clark: You know I want to get into the distinction between private refugee sponsorship and government refugee sponsorship as we’ve seen it in this country. But just before we go there, I wanted to ask you, we’re coming up now to the one year anniversary of the first batch of Syrian refugees, who came to Canada, privately sponsored. Some of the government money is now drying up after a year. Maybe some of the enthusiasm is not where it was a year ago. What do you do about that enthusiasm gap because the first one is always the easiest, but how do you keep that going?

 

Jennifer Bond: Yeah, well I think actually the enthusiasm in Canada has sustained itself. There’s actually many, many more sponsor groups seeking to bring people in than are currently arriving fast enough. So we’ve heard some questions from sponsor groups saying ‘you know we’re still keen. Let’s have our refugees arrive as soon as possible’. So I think there is actually quite a lot of enthusiasm. That being said, we do have to realize this is very human work. It’s not always easy. Some days are very difficult and we do have to support our sponsors to make them feel that they’re part of a community, because there are days when it’s tiring and it can be frustrating. So I think that Canada is still working on the best ways to support sponsors, to make sponsors feel as though that this is not something they were doing alone, that there’s a whole community. But overall, I think actually Canadians remain engaged, and I actually think that across month 13, 14, 15, Canada is still leading the world in this space too. We have a community that remains welcome and open to refugees and I’m excited about that.

 

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Tom Clark: Gregory, let me ask you on a broader scale and just take it outside of Canada for a minute because you study migration all over the world and resettlement. Are we close though to a migration or refugee fatigue? I’m thinking not so much of Canada. Jennifer said there is still a level of enthusiasm here. But when you take a look at Europe, your particular area of expertise, is there fatigue setting in?

 

Gregory Maniatis: Well there’s certainly fatigue in some places. I think in Germany, you had over a million newcomers over the past two years and that is hard to deal with. But, let me point to something about Canada which is so interesting. You have a problem here now in the number of sponsors who want refugees. So in fact, the problem here is that you don’t have enough supply of refugees to be able to meet the demand. And that is a really crucial insight into understanding why this program is successful because it meets the needs not only of refugees, but also of communities. It allows communities to come together around a shared common purpose and give meaning to people’s lives in a way that they may not otherwise have it. What you see in Europe in particular right now is there are not many ways for people to help. So there are not structures for people to volunteer. Fifty-thousand people made it to the Island of Lesbos last year alone on their own to volunteer to help refugees there. There was no organization for that. And there are not programs like the private sponsorship there to allow this compassion and this interest in supporting refugees and in coming together around a common cause that exists to allow people to participate in this way. And I think that that is what we need there.

 

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Tom Clark: Let’s come back to this question of the two forms of accepting refugees. We’ve talked about the Canadian experience in particular about private sponsorship, but what about government sponsorship because that is a different kettle of fish. And that is based much more on public policy than it is on private actions. Is private sponsorship demonstrably better in terms of results than government sponsorship?

 

Jennifer Bond: I’m going to suggest to you that actually both forms of sponsorship in Canada are a public-private blend with a slightly different division of responsibilities between the two. So I think both engage both citizens and government. In the government assisted program, of course, the government is really taking the lead and we get those government assisted refugees from the UNHCR. They tend to be the most vulnerable people and it’s true they take longer to integrate. So whether or not that’s because of the form of the reception here in Canada or whether or not that’s because of who they are in terms of their particular vulnerabilities, it’s hard to pin down. But over time, they do very well. And after the five year mark, our success at integrating government assisted refugees is very strong as well. Privately sponsored refugees, the citizens are in the lead. But of course this program isn’t possible without governments enabling it through legislative framework and also doing oversees screening and supporting here at home and resettlement too. So I think that we work in partnership, government and community in both structures. And how we work in partnership is the part that can be a little bit different between the two.

 

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Tom Clark: Or difficult as they might say.

 

Jennifer Bond: Or difficult. [Laughs]

 

Tom Clark: Gregory, in the very short that I’ve got left I want to turn the tables or get you to turn the tables. Take a look at the Canadian experience, the one that you like, and tell us the weakness in it. Tell us what’s wrong that should be fixed.

 

Gregory Maniatis: I think that one of the weaknesses is evident and that is that it’s not large enough to satisfy the demand in Canada. There are smaller points about it that one could look at it and prove. There’s no doubt about it. But it is a world leading program. There is a lot of room always to improve any program, but I think that Canada is on the absolute right track, has a lot of experience and we can see that with the enthusiasm of the countries who’ve shown up here this week to learn from Canada. They’re not going anywhere else. They’re coming here to Ottawa. And I think it’s exciting to know that you have created a program which is relevant all over the world.

 

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Tom Clark: We could go on for hours talking about this. It’s a fascinating topic and we barely scratched the surface but thank you for doing that. Gregory Maniatis from New York, and of course Jen Bond from Ottawa, from the Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, I appreciate your time.

 

Jennifer Bond: Thanks for having us.

 

Gregory Maniatis: Thanks a lot.

 

Tom Clark: And coming up next, the promise of Canada: What the last 150 years has taught us about being Canadian.

 

[Break]

 

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Tom Clark: Welcome back. The writing of history is a matter of making choices. What you choose to write shapes, in fact, it creates the history. And on the eve of the 150th anniversary of Canada, much will be made of our history and no doubt it will contain conflicting accounts and interpretations. But, if we are to start anywhere down that path, this book, “The Promise of Canada” is a pretty good place to start. It profiles nine Canadians, who in the view of the author shape the country that we call home. That author joins me now, historian and biographer, Charlotte Gray. Charlotte good to have you here.

 

Charlotte Gray: Great to be here, Tom.

 

Tom Clark: I want to start off with something a little bit more contemporary. Earlier this month, the Government of Canada announced that Viola Desmond is now going to be on the $10 bill. A human rights advocate from Nova Scotia, what do you make of that? She’s not in your book, but what do you think of that?

 

Charlotte Gray: I think it’s a fabulous choice. I think to have a Canadian of African extraction be highlighted on our money is great, particularly because you know she came from a particular community, the Nova Scotian black community, which had been in Canada, in fact, since the 18th century. So she’s both representative of current diversity, but she’s also part of a community that’s been part of our fabric for so long.

 

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Tom Clark: I want to go to the book and take a sort of 30,000 foot look before we drill down into it. You know we’re hearing a lot about Canadian values these days on the political stage. Is there such a thing, after you’ve looked at this and all the historical work you’ve done on Canada, is there such a thing as Canadian values that can be summed up in a few bullet points?

 

Charlotte Gray: Well I think there are Western liberal values that are common to actually peoples in many different countries sort of respect for human rights, respect for dignity. You know what is crucial about Canada is not simply the values that in fact most countries share if they’re developed democracies. What’s crucial about Canada is how we put them into practice. And what I did in the book was I realized that in the last 150 years, this country has reinvented itself in every generation. We started with a bunch of ill-assorted colonists. We’re today one of the most successful countries in the world. And there’s particular style of that evolution which is unique to Canada and it’s about accommodation, compromise and pragmatism. So when I think about Canadian values, I actually think all those things that outsiders say about Canada, you know we’re so modest, so quiet and sometimes I have to say, so dull. It’s because we don’t believe in settling battles with blood shed.

 

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Tom Clark: I want to drill down for a minute because you’ve chosen some fascinating people, nine in total, a few others around the edges as well to make that point that you’ve just made now. Sam Steele is probably a Canadian that not many Canadians know about. Yet he is probably, as you say in the book, ‘the founder of our very idea of peace, order and good government’.

 

Charlotte Gray: Yes, I always had fun writing about Sam Steele because he’s a really colourful character. You know the sort of very early recruit to what was then the Northwest Mounted Police, who did an extraordinary job out west in making sure that the way the Canadian west was settled was very different from the sort of Okay Chorale system of Western settlement in the United States.

 

Tom Clark: He wasn’t a shoot ‘em up kind of guy.

 

Charlotte Gray: Not a shoot ‘em up kind of guy. But he’s also representative of our affection for peace, order and good government, which was in the British North America Act. But also, you know the Mounties were the first Canadian institution. The first institution that was actually unique to Canada. And although they’ve had a chequered history over the last 150 years, I’m going to defend everything they ever did. If you go through an immigration ceremony as I did, you’re with all kinds of people from all different parts of the world and there’s a guy standing in the front of that court, the immigration ceremonial court who everybody recognizes is the guy in the black boots and the red tunic. He is so emblematic of Canada. And Sam Steele was the first person who embodied it.

 

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Tom Clark: One of the things that I really noticed about the book is there’s not a single prime minister profile, which is for a Canadian historian a courageous move as they say. We’ve only got a minute left, but I want you to delve into Bertha Wilson for a second. Again, a Canadian not well known, but who you think was fundamental to our core.

 

Charlotte Gray: There are two aspects of Canada that Canadians always site as being two of the most valuable institutions. One is Medicare. The other is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which we’ve only had since 1982. Who put teeth in to that charter? A woman called Bertha Wilson, who was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, a very modest Scottish lawyer who in fact had arrived in this country as an accompanying spouse to her husband. She was the one who made sure that the charter defended the underdog. She was absolutely remarkable and a joy to write about because hardly anybody’s heard of her.

 

Tom Clark: Charlotte, it’s fascinating. There are so many other characters in here from Elijah Harper to Tommy Douglas, and to people that you wouldn’t even guess would be part of the fabric. And I think it’s interesting that the history comes from somebody who has chosen Canada such as you as opposed to those of us who have lived here for a while. Charlotte Gray: The Promise of Canada. Thank you very much for being here, I appreciate your time.

 

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Charlotte Gray: Thank you, Tom.

 

Tom Clark: And coming up next, MPs share their favourite holiday traditions right after this.

 

[Break]

 

Tom Clark: Welcome back. Well before Members of Parliament left Ottawa last week, there were a few jibes across the aisle as members finished off their closing statements and final session of Question Period for the year. Here’s just a bit from two MPs. First, Conservative Blaine Calkins and then, Liberal Rodger Cuzner. Take a listen:

 

The Member for Red Deer-Lacombe

 

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Blaine Calkins: Mr. Speaker, it is that time of year again. That’s right, Festivus is upon us and I am filled with the sentiments of Frank Costanza who said, “The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people and now you’re gonna hear about it”.

 

For example, the Prime Minister set out his own accountability rules, which he and most of his ministers wasted no time in breaking. We have ministers selling access to themselves for $1,500 a pop to rich lobbyists and foreign governments. Not only that, the Prime Minister has admitted to taking money from elite billionaires who make no effort to hide their intention to buy influence with government.

 

Mr. Speaker, most Canadians do not have $1 million to buy the PM a statue. Most Canadians are not going to fork over $1,500 just so they can get in a room with him and his ministers. It’s time the Prime Minister and his government stopped pandering to elite donors and started listening to ordinary Canadians. We are only asking for a “Festivus for the rest of us”.

 

[Laughter and applause]
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And now as we all look forward to every year, the Honourable Member for Cape Breton-Canso.

 

[Applause]

 

Rodger Cuzner: Manage your expectations, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Speaker,

 

‘Twas the week before Christmas and one thing’s for certain;
Both Opposition Parties were definitely hurtin’.
In their letter to Santa, they each had one ask;
To find a new leader, who was up to the task.
The orange leader looked beaten, a force that was spent;
When all he could muster was 47%.
The Dippers they’re nervous, cuz they tried and they tried;
They posted the job, but no one applied.
They may turn to the Internet, to help fill their wish;
And place a help wanted ad, on “Plenty of Fish”.
Now the Tories have 14, with credentials to tout;
And their values-based screening, knocked none of them out.
They’ve gone coast to coast, speaking right from the stump;
It’s evolved to a game of out Donalding Trump.
Of course the word on the street, without Peter MacKay;
They hope the interim leader, chooses to stay.
But with their win down south, the far right have a theory;
The heck with them all, let’s draft Kevin O’Leary.
To all candidates I offer, Christmas love, peace and joy;
But when it comes to the next election, I’d still bet on our boy.

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[Laughter and applause]

 

Tom Clark: Well, before they left for home, we asked a few Members of Parliament to share their holiday traditions and you may be surprised. Here are their stories:

 

Ed Fast, Conservative—BC: We get together as a family and we love to sing. And my daughter’s and I have done a lot of singing in different places throughout Western Canada. We love to harmonize our Christmas carols in a way that perhaps people haven’t heard before. So that’s one of my favourite things around Christmas.

 

[Piano playing Christmas carols]
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Jenny Kwan, NDP—BC: One of my favourite things to do for the holiday season is to cut footprints, giant footprints out of shimmery paper and place them all over the house on the 24th, so when the kids wake up in the morning the house actually seems magical. And for a long time I told them Santa Claus actually came and he left footprints for you. So it’s one of those exciting things and now the kids of course don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore. I still do it anyway because they just think it’s so exciting. And for me, I just love to see the glimmer in their eyes and just for a minute they think maybe Santa did come.

 

Jim Carr, Natural Resources Minister: The holiday season’s a great time for us because we’re a blended family, we have six children. So three celebrate Hanukkah and three celebrate Christmas and we celebrate it all together. So depending on when Hanukkah falls, we could be celebrating for a long time. And at the centre of it all is lots of food and fireplace and talk, lots of talk. It’s stimulating, occasionally feisty, always rewarding and a pleasure to have everybody at home.

 

Matthew Dubé, NDP—Quebec: So our big tradition over the holidays, and it’s become more difficult with our busy schedules compared to when we were kids. But it’s finding an evening where we go to my mom’s, my brothers and I, and we sit down and we watch Miracle on 34th Street, the original, not the 1990s remake with Matilda in it, but really the black and white one, although we luckily have the colour version. And it’s a great time. We always enjoy the evening with a mug of hot chocolate and it’s for us the kickoff of the holiday season for the two weeks of celebrating that we do with Christmas day and New Year’s Day and all that coming up in the weeks following. And it’s good to remember the time with family, especially when you’re as busy as you are as a Member of Parliament.

 

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Catherine McKenna, Environment Minister: So my favourite Christmas tradition, after we open the presents with the kids is tobogganing assuming there’s snow. And you’re even allowed to toboggan in your pajamas with your snow pants on. And it’s just so great getting outside, having nothing else to do in your day except go tobogganing with the kids.

 

Harjit Sajjan, Defence Minister: So it’s a tradition within our family, and my wife and I. My wife’s a doctor and I was a police officer before as well, so one thing both us have done is actually work during Christmas to allow somebody who needs to have time off with their family. So we’ll take a shift. My wife’s doing that again this year and I’m going to be going visiting the troops. But right after Christmas with the holiday spirit, we always have the family come together. And it’s always been a tradition of ours to take the family on actually a vacation somewhere warm, something that my kids look forward to and allows us to go in a place to kind of create those special moments and have that Christmas spirit.

 

Tom Clark: You may have recognized the piano player. He is Conservative Ed Fast and we wish him and his family the best of the season, and a very speedy recovery to Mr. Fast.

 

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Well that is our show for today, for Christmas Day. Thank you very much. We’ll see you back here New Year’s Day. Until then, have a great time.

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