Wednesday Night #810 – The Hon. Lucienne Robillard

10 September 1997


by the Hon Lucienne Robillard – député

Last Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of being the invited guest at the home of Diana and David Nicholson for their weekly Wednesday night discussion group. These meetings have, over the years, become a Westmount tradition, as members of the community come together to talk about the issues making headlines.
The debates are made interesting by the fact that there is a true sense of a freedom of opinion, as those in attendance are encouraged to voice their views on the issue at hand. As well, the participants not only come from various backgrounds, but there is also a range in age, giving the discussion a certain uniqueness as all opinions are welcomed.Every week is different. For instance, on the evening I spoke, those in attendance included Westmount Mayor Peter Trent, Canada’s Ambassador to Israel Mr. David Berger, Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, as well as one of my former colleagues from my days in provincial politics, Mr. John Ciaccia, MNA for Mont-Royal.
Upon my arrival, I took some time to mingle with those in attendance, discussing their concerns and opinions regarding the various issues facing us today. After an hour, Mr. Nicholson led us to the dining room where we watched a videotape highlighting my career in politics, both on the provincial and federal level. This provided the basis from which an interesting discussion evolved. Those present were interested not only with my duties as a Member of Parliament and as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, but the current situation facing Canada in terms of immigration. This provided me the chance to discuss my recent trip to Australia and New Zealand where I met with various immigration officials to learn more about their recent reforms on immigration.
As the evening progressed, so did the discussion, which turned towards Mr. David Berger, the former Member of Parliament for St-Henri-Westmount and Canada’s current Ambassador to Israel. After watching an informative tape examining recent events in Israel, Mr. Berger explained to us our country’s policy and position in light of these recent developments, as well as what life is truly like in that region of the world. This was quite interesting as it gave those in attendance a unique insight into something most of us only read about and see on television.
In closing, I would like to thank Diana and David Nicholson, and acknowledge the wonderful work they do in preparing these evenings. For example, the various videos that were shown throughout the evening were not only well prepared, but contained footage dating back a few years, as well as, some as recent as a few hours prior to the meetings. This clearly demonstrates the amount of time and work dedicated to making the discussion both interesting and entertaining. They also have a unique ability to keep the discussion going at a comfortable pace, while maintaining a certain amount of decorum. I know that for myself, this proved to be both an enjoyable and insightful evening, where I had the chance to truly address the concerns of those present.
For those of you who are interested in obtaining more information about the Nicholsons’ Wednesday night discussions, I invite you to visit their website.
by the Hon Lucienne Robillard – député

The Report

The eight hundred and tenth Wednesday evening at the Nicholsons’ was the first of the post-summer season and proved to be a memorable one. Labour Day normally marks the transition between summer activities, autumnal thoughts and raiment, and a renewal of large crowds at 33 Rosemount Avenue on Wednesday evenings. Wednesday the tenth of September however attracted an especially large group of well over forty guests, crowding the dining room and spilling over into the living room, including academics, economists, politicians from the three levels of government, lawyers, industrialists, architects, film-makers and others, including an amateur scribe.The only credible explanation for this greater than usual interest was the presence of two special guests, namely
The Honourable Lucienne Robillard, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration of Canada and His Excellency, David Berger, Canadian Ambassador to Israel.
The interest in these special guests was such that none of the usual general discussion took place other than a rather reluctant statement that a decline the stock market is to be expected at an undefined future date. The remainder of the evening was taken with fascinating discussion between Mme. Robillard and Mr. Berger and the assembled guests. Over two and a half hours of exchanges seemed to pass in no time.
Mme. Robillard was introduced by Peter Trent, and David Berger by John Ciaccia.

Immigration Policy:
Canada’s immigration policy appears to make it difficult for some people to immigrate, while it seems to favour people with money. This perception does not relate to Reality. An accord exists between Canada and Québec giving them shared jurisdiction over immigration into Québec with Canada predominating. This has worked very well.
There are four categories of immigrants:
Independent or skilled workers
Investors, business people, entrepreneurs
Family Reunification
Each category has its own criteria. Only the skilled worker category has a point system. The reason that language skills count for so many points is the importance of language at work for smooth integration. Just as Québec has language requirements, New Zealand, the only other country in the world to do so, instead of a point system, requires a deposit of the equivalent of twenty thousand dollars which is lost if the English language is not acquired in three years.
The federal Immigration system is as flexible and humane as ever. Although she cannot reverse a deportation order, the minister is open to acting on proven cases in hardship before they reach the stage of deportation and can be reached in her riding office each Friday.
A discussion took place on the projection of a majority Allophone population for Montréal by the year 2007. The study was apparently flawed because it did not include the entire territory of greater Montréal. Several factors emerged:
– The pool of Francophones wishing to emigrate to Québec is drying up.
– As Allophone immigrants arrive in Montréal and move into the city, there is an exodus of both Anglophones and Francophones. This movement is neither linguistic or cultural, but economic in nature. Allophones leave in the same proportion as native Montrealers.

Both Israelis and most European countries relate to both Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately, news photos of rock-throwing have overshadowed news of a booming economy in Israel. Until recently, Israel and the United States had a free-trade
agreement, and bilateral trade between Canada and Israel was understated because much went through the United States in order to avoid trade barriers. Since the signing of the Canada-Israel free trade agreement, the figures have climbed significantly. Trade has increased by thirty-eight percent in the first five months of the year. Much of this has included research and development projects. Québec has been particularly active in bilateral trade. Up until a few yeas ago more than fifty percent of trade with Canada had been from Québec. This figure may still hold true.
Israel has become the second silicone valley of the world, a fact not widely known.
Canada also provides aid programs for Palestinians:
– Canada fund – a small community based fund
– Dialogue fund – promotes dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

John Ciaccia thanked Mme. Robillard, pointing out that there is very little friction between Québec and Ottawa in the field of Immigration which they share. A former constituent from Chambly, Amy Friend of ATS, and regular, Jean Bourbonnais of Alis Technologies, added their words of praise.
Julius Grey thanked David Berger, describing him as open, neutral, impartial and standing up for decency, justice.

2 Comments on "Wednesday Night #810 – The Hon. Lucienne Robillard"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson September 10, 1997 at 6:39 pm ·

    Attention was drawn to the beautiful floral centrepiece decorating the table, a gift from Councilor Cynthia Lulham to thank David for his effort in creating original photos and text on this westweb site. Cynthia credited this with helping to win the “Four Iris” trophy awarded to the City of Westmount in the Villes, Villages et Campagnes Fleuris contest, one of only two cities to be so honoured.

  2. Diana Thébaud Nicholson September 10, 1997 at 6:40 pm ·

    John Ciaccia, wearing his hat of Dean of The Québec National Assembly, announced that The Assembly of Parliamentarians of the Americas will take place in Québec City, September 18 to 23rd. The purpose of this meeting is the elimination of trade barriers. Positive responses have been received so far from twenty-six countries, three hundred parliamentarians and three hundred observers. To date, the only refusals received have been from Washington Senators and Representatives, although many individual American states will be represented.

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