Federal Election 2015 Responses to Questions #6 & #7 by the North Okanagan – Shuswap Candidates …

Question #6

Canada’s involvement with Syria – Where should the focus of Canada’s policy lie between refugee/humanitarian support and military involvement? What social assistance should refugees and immigrants receive once in Canada and who should best provide those benefits, government or private sponsors?

Question #7

What would you and your party do if elected to better support suicide prevention and the mental health of our children and youth?

Candidates are sent the questions a week in advance.  No late submissions will be posted unless there is a compelling reason. The next set of questions – for next week – has been sent to the candidates as well.

Lots of readers’ questions have been coming in but there’s still room for a few more. As a FYI, there are already policy Q’s submitted on Health, First Nations, Syria, Senate Reform, the Economy and Climate Change along with other more selective topics.

Your questions should be geared to all of the candidates and not just for one of them. Click here for the criteria and how to submit that burning question for the candidates to Aim High.

Candidate Responses are  posted in the order received:  Chris George, Cindy Derkaz, Mel Arnold, Jacqui Gingras :

Here’s the very helpful  link – for those doing their research – to the Index of previous Q&A’s  and please pass this on to friends and family throughout our riding.

Chris George (Green Party):

Question #6

Canada’s involvement with Syria – Where should the focus of Canada’s policy lie between refugee/humanitarian support and military involvement? What social assistance should refugees and immigrants receive once in Canada and who should best provide those benefits, government or private sponsors?

“We’ve learned the dangers of shortsighted thinking from the ill-conceived military action in Libya, which made the terrorist threat across North Africa even worse. Once again, the Harper Conservatives have no clear direction, end-goal or exit strategy for the Iraq mission, which grew from a non-combat role to a combat mission on the ground, and now would include airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria.

The Green Party has been clear from the beginning: We must not engage in military operations of uncertain scope and purpose that are not in Canada’s national interest and do so little to strengthen global peace and security.

Instead, we must immediately sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty to reduce the flow of conventional arms that fuel these senseless tragic conflicts, crack down on the money flowing to ISIS and other terrorist groups, and collaborate with our allies to relieve the immense humanitarian suffering.”

These words from the leader of the Green party would have been spoken in the House of Commons on March 24, 2015, but she was prevented from speaking to these points by Conservative MPs.

I agree with her 100%.

When people came as refugees to Canada in the period after Confederation, we didn’t provide social assistance, we provided land and opportunity. In our predominantly urban society, this strategy has been modified over time to provide the resources needed to give people fleeing chaos in their homeland a start in our country. Government assisted refugees currently receive benefits that equal provincial social assistance benefits. In British Columbia, for example, a single refugee would receive $610 per month while a family of four would receive $1101.06. I invite people who feel this is too generous to try living on it for a couple of months. Refugees also need assistance with language. The province has a fragmented system that provides free classes to some adult refugees and immigrants, but not all. Refugee children are provided with ESL classes within the educational system.

The across the board budget cuts to our refugee and immigration system by the current government make no financial sense. By assisting immigrants and refugees to gain the necessary skills to begin making productive contributions to Canadian society, we reduce the length of time that they will require income assistance. The cuts insure that integration takes longer and is less effective.

Private organizations have a role to play in sponsorship and providing services to help refugees integrate into Canadian society. The government, however, cannot expect these groups to take on the entirety of the job. Once again it becomes imperative that we work together to achieve common goals. The federal government, the provinces, the municipalities and the private groups providing sponsorship and immigrant services would benefit from MPs who are prepared to work with all groups, even if it is across party lines, to streamline our current system and to ensure that it is meeting the needs of refugees and Canadian society.

A review of official government financial reports shows that more than $350 million dollars in budgeted funding was returned to the federal treasury by the immigration department over a three year period from 2011 to 2014. More than 25% of the $35 million budgeted for the processing of refugee applications in 2013-2014 is included in this total, a number that is 2 1/2 times greater than the previous year. The government has used this money to “balance” the budget, at the expense of many Syrian refugees, some of which can wait years for their applications to be processed. A lack of leadership is apparent. A Green government would work to facilitate applications instead of placing political and institutional roadblocks in the way of effective action by the department.

Question #7

What would you and your party do if elected to better support suicide prevention and the mental health of our children and youth?

I feel that the biggest challenge to addressing mental health, suicide prevention and poverty is for us to stop differentiating between children/youth and adults. Mental health in our society for all people is currently addressed on the streets, through addictions programs, homelessness and the criminal justice system. A Green government would increase transfer funding to the provinces for non-institutionalized mental health patients, including children and youth, to provide adequate community-based support and outpatient and inpatient care by mental health practitioners, including in rural Canada where lack of facilities and trained professionals is acute.

I would support a public health initiative to reduce the use of psychoactive drugs through better rehabilitation and prevention programs, especially for children and provide increased funding for a robust comprehensive mental health strategy for all Canadians in need. It would be important to require greater involvement of people dealing with personal mental health problems in research planning, policy development, program evaluation, and other decisions that affect their lives and communities.

The WHO is calling on Canada to implement a national strategy on suicide prevention. Quebec has implemented a very successful program and provides an excellent example of what can be done. As MP I will work tirelessly with the other parties to develop and implement such a strategy. We tend to take too long on some issues “exploring” and “seeking feedback” before acting. This is a subject that requires action. It is obvious that leadership is problem for our current government, there is no excuse for inaction.

Cindy Derkaz (Liberal Party):

Question #6

Canada’s involvement with Syria – Where should the focus of Canada’s policy lie between refugee/humanitarian support and military involvement? What social assistance should refugees and immigrants receive once in Canada and who should best provide those benefits, government or private sponsors?

From the Quakers who came to settle in southern Ontario in the 1770s, to the Vietnamese Boast People of 1979-80 to the Ugandans who landed in Canada after being evicted by dictator Idi Amin, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada has always had a respected reputation for playing an important role in times of international crises.  That has always included welcoming refugees. The tragic photo of Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi has galvanized people around the world to open their arms once again, and many in Canada feel that over the past decade, Canada has “lost its way.” We are no longer considered to be among the peacemakers of the world, a safe haven for those fleeing political strife and war, a welcoming and compassionate nation.

Stephen Harper has chosen to promote fear over compassion. Yet a considerable amount of the funding for refugees goes unspent so he can “balance” the budget.

Canada is a nation of refugees, choosing this country to escape famine, poverty, strike and persecution. Each group of new Canadians has added immeasurably to the social and economic fabric of the country. Syrians bring skills and education with them, and a desire to be in a safe environment for their children. We are not helping the Syrians by bombing them. Liberals voted against the mission in Iraq and expansion into Syria.

Military involvement should be considered only as part of an international community response with end goals and clear roles to play, with an emphasis on training and advising.

We need to cooperate with all levels of government, community and family sponsors to step up and do what we have always done, work together and find ways to help our fellow human beings, adding strength to the Canadian mosaic in the process.

Question #7

What would you and your party do if elected to better support suicide prevention and the mental health of our children and youth?

Thanks to an unprecedented show of unity in the House of Commons, the Liberal Party of Canada’s motion calling for a National Suicide Prevention Strategy passed on Oct. 4, 2011. The motion was supported by Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. Since then Canada has hosted conferences on suicide prevention strategies, but much to our embarrassment, Canada is still one of the few industrialized countries without a national suicide prevention strategy.

Four years is more than enough time to establish a national strategy that emphasizes suicide prevention and coordinates the necessary critical mental health and education services for all Canadians, particularly for young people who are the most vulnerable.

In its 2014 report to the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention stated:

The Government of Canada has seen the statistics on suicide, and still Canadians ask how many more people need to die and families be torn apart before our federal Government recognizes and publically acknowledges suicide as a major public health issue.  In a letter that the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention received early this summer from the Federal Minister of Health it was clear that with the exception of First Nations and Inuit youth, suicide was not viewed as this government’s business, concern or a priority. Suicide affects everyone and is everyone’s business.  Suicide prevention requires that every level of government do its part as an equal, active and full partner with community counterparts. No one can say that suicide is not their business or that they have done enough.

(“Suicide – A National Tragedy, a National Disgrace” at p.1)

I agree. 

Suicide is a major public health issue and a National Suicide Prevention Strategy is long overdue. It is time for Real Change: time to elect a government which sees suicide prevention as a government issue and that will work with the provinces and territories and community counterparts.

I am working hard to be your next MP as part of the Liberal Team to make it happen.

Mel Arnold (Conservative Party):

Question #6

Canada’s involvement with Syria – Where should the focus of Canada’s policy lie between refugee/humanitarian support and military involvement? What social assistance should refugees and immigrants receive once in Canada and who should best provide those benefits, government or private sponsors?

I began writing this response on September 11, a day which will live in infamy for generations to come.  Our sense of safety in North America was interrupted on that day 14 years ago.

Who could have contemplated the thought that terrorism would erupt on our own continent, mere miles from our border, with such devastating consequences, not only for lives lost, but for the fear that entrenched our two nations for a decade to come.

During the Vernon Candidate Forum, the local NDP candidate asked “who expects terrorism in Vernon?”  I ask in return, who expected terrorism in Ottawa?  On October 22nd last year, after murdering a reservist guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier, a terrorist entered the heart of our nation, our Parliament Buildings.

Our nation has pledged to provide a home in Canada for 11,300 Syrian refugees, and in terms of aid dollars to those afflicted, ranks seventh in the world. While doing this our government is charged with a duty of care to protect the safe being, the freedoms, and security of our citizens for which our soldiers fought.  To toss aside this responsibility on the expectation of political point scoring not only negates the efforts of our military both past and present, but potentially endangers Canadians here at home.

Canada chose to engage the source of the danger to the Yazidi, so that they too could have a peaceful future in their own land, despite the determined opposition by other parties.  A coalition that includes many of Canada’s closest allies and partners is conducting targeted airstrikes to degrade the so-called ISIS and address the root cause of the refugee crisis.

Our immigration laws, and screening, are important to the orderly intake of those from other lands that seek the safety and potential of our great country.  In addition to providing surety for our citizens, it allows us to control our intake so that we can afford to assist these new members of our society with financial support, health care, and access to education without straining our social fabric.

Following the Vernon Candidate forum, I had several people approach me, one woman with tears in her eyes, who as a voice begged me on behalf of the government to proceed with due diligence in allowing refugees into our home.

On this week of the anniversary of that terrible day fourteen years ago, I ask that you consider all aspects of the Syrian refugee issue, so that in the future, we do not look into the mirror and ask “What have we done?”

Question #7

What would you and your party do if elected to better support suicide prevention and the mental health of our children and youth?

Every person in Canada is affected, directly, or indirectly by someone in their lives with mental illness, whether a sufferer is a family member, friend, co-worker, or the homeless person we pass by on the sidewalk or park bench.

I have had in my life a friend who was one of the fortunate few who was able to reign in an addiction, an example of co-currency that often is a symptom of the self-medication practiced by the mentally ill to ease their pain.

I will continue to advocate on behalf of those less able to do so themselves.  Following a meeting with a member of the Social Planning Commission for Vernon, a director from the Community Foundation of the North Okanagan, and attending Vernon council meetings, I have determined that I want to be an active partner in seeking solutions to the challenges presented by mental illness, addiction, those who contemplate suicide, and the homeless of all ages.

Our Conservatives extended the MHCC’s $15-million a year funding in the last federal budget – adding suicide prevention to its priority list – and put long-time mental health advocate Michael Wilson at the helm as chair.

He has stated that his intention is to:

– Support programs that address the stigma around mental health and depression. (MHCC) reference

– Support programs to research the connection between drug use and mental illness.

– Provide those afflicted with a bright future, with available jobs, a chance to grow and feel like they can and are contributing to their community and country.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proclaimed these initiatives as part of his antidrug strategy while driving home his strong opposition to the legalization of marijuana as proposed by the Liberal party, and decriminalization as proposed by the NDP.  Studies have shown that if an adolescent uses marijuana early in life (before the age of 16 years) and for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to a number of significant problems. – See more at: http://learnaboutmarijuanawa.org/factsheets/adolescents.htm#sthash.HuhO2RWS.dpuf

To reference the Canada Health Act follow the link below to see what Canada has in place now:  http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2013-76-e.htm

I support these initiatives and programs as part of our continuing effort to support suicide prevention and the mental health of children and youth.

Jacqui Gingras (New Democratic Party):

Question #6

Canada’s involvement with Syria – Where should the focus of Canada’s policy lie between refugee/humanitarian support and military involvement? What social assistance should refugees and immigrants receive once in Canada and who should best provide those benefits, government or private sponsors?

First some Background:

The crisis in Syria has generated more than 4 million refugees and displaced more than 7.5 million Syrians within the country. This is the largest refugee crisis in more than a quarter century. According to the UNHCR, more than 2,500 people have died this summer crossing the Mediterranean, trying to reach Europe. The UNHCR is aiming to resettle 130,000 refugees by the end of 2016. Canada has resettled 2,374 to date, with a commitment to take an additional 8,926 by the end of 2017. According to Francois Crepeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, has called for the West to resettle 1 million Syrian refugees over the next five years. Canada’s share of the global total, according to Crepeau, would be 9,000 Syrian refugees per year.

The New Democrat Plan:

The New Democratic Party has a five-point plan to address the issue of Syrian refugees:

  • Appoint a Syrian Refugee Coordinator to coordinate the resources of government departments to oversee processing, travel to Canada, and resettlement; and,
  • Bring in 10,000 refugees by end of 2015 and 9,000 a year between 2016 and 2019, making it a priority to keep families together.
  • Increase the number of immigration officials on the ground; and,
  • Work with provinces, territories, municipalities, and others to resettle refugees.
  • Work with Turkey, Greece and other affected countries to streamline exit requirements; and,
  • Treat all refugees equally by ending Canada’s policy of discrimination on the basis of religion.
  • Match Canadians’ humanitarian donations;
  • Increase aid to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees; and,
  • Help coordinate the response of the international community.
  • Fast-track private sponsorships, with no cap; and,
  • Provide temporary resident permits for Syrians who wish to come and stay temporarily with family.

One concern that has arisen during the recent forum discussion is whether welcoming Syrian refugees would permit unwelcome others, namely ISIS, to enter Canada. While I don’t believe that threat to be credible, I do believe it is important to explain how the process would unfold. General Rick Hillier has indicated, screening and vetting processes are in place and which are capable of dealing with the influx. Our NDP government has full confidence in Border Services and Immigration Canada to handle the influx of asylum seekers in the same professional and thorough way they always have. There is nothing to indicate that the methods now in place cannot deal with any influx, regardless of the numbers. And, keep in mind many of these refugees are children and women who no longer have a means of support having lost the men in their lives during the long war.

Secondly, even in such dangerous areas as these, where aid workers and others have been putting their lives at risk. The situation is complex and the NDP intends to work closely with other countries to resolve these issues in a way that military action cannot.

Question #7

What would you and your party do if elected to better support suicide prevention and the mental health of our children and youth?

I have some personal experience with this as several people I know have lost their lives to mental illness. I feel strongly that more needs to be done for children and youth as well as adults, including veterans to promote mental health and support those struggling now with mental illness.

I am proud to share that the NDP Leader, Tom Mulcair, focused on mental health services for young Canadians as he announced another component of his bold plan to improve public health care and reverse the damage done by years of Liberal and Conservative neglect.

We believe that every child in Canada should have access to high quality, effective mental health treatment when they need it and that’s not been the case under Stephen Harper’s lost decade. What the evidence shows is that by addressing mental health in children, we reduce the incidence of serious mental health issues in adulthood, which reduces costs and strain on provincial healthcare systems.

Nearly 1.5 million Canadians under the age of 24 who are affected by mental illness do not receive access to appropriate support, treatment, or care. We must act now with accessible services to protect these at risk loved-ones on our lives.

To support provinces and territories in the delivery of quality mental health services to young Canadians and their families, an NDP government will establish a $100 million Mental Health Innovation Fund for Children and Youth aimed at wait-time reduction and improved care.

The Mental Health Innovation Fund includes:

  • A special emphasis on high-risk populations in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, as well as Canadians in rural and remote communities, and youth transitioning from foster care.
  • $10 million per year for research and enhanced healthcare collaboration across the country;
  • $15 million per year for healthcare providers and community mental health associations to implement best practices for wait-time reductions for better care.

Improvements to mental health services will also be supported through our investments to help build 200 health clinics across Canada as part of our comprehensive plan for healthcare. The NDP will improve mental health care services and balance the budget, by asking Canada’s biggest corporations to pay a fair share. Health care facilities are just one example of the critical needs of small and remote communities. Building such facilities has the added benefit of providing local jobs.

Author: Tim Lavery

Aim High Salmon Arm It matters

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