Liberal MP Peter Schiefke takes on new role
By Carmen Marie Fabio
PHOTO COURTESY THE OFFICE OF PETER SCHIEFKE
Following a 15-month position as Parliamentary Secretary for Environment and Climate Change, Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke will now step into the role of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
Vaudreuil-Soulanges Member of Parliament Peter Schiefke will be stepping into the role of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship effective immediately alongside Minister Marco Mendicino.
“It’s the fourth file I’ve been given since 2015,” said Schiefke whose previous posts included Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister for Youth, Parliamentary Secretary for Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, and most recently as Parliamentary Secretary for Environment and Climate Change.
“It’s a really important file,” he said. “Our whole country was built on immigration. Unless you’re Indigenous Canadian, every one of us is either a new or previous-generation immigrant.”
The timing of Schiefke’s new appointment coincides with a personal project he’s been working on with his own family.
“My great-grandmother Isabelle Guirado left Spain during the Francisco Franco dictatorship and, following a two-year work visa in France, she came to Canada in 1952 with her husband as refugees, choosing the destination over Brazil.”
Guirado’s collection of refugee papers, Canadian visas, and citizenship papers were handed to Schiefke’s grandmother who, before passing away, turned them over to his great-aunt, the lone survivor of that first generation.
“A couple of months ago I was entrusted with all the documents and I’m in the process of studying and digitizing them to protect them for future generations. And then I get this call….,” he said of his new position.
Knowing his family benefitted from Canada’s immigration policy has cemented his resolve to jump into the new role.
PHOTO COURTESY PETER SCHIEFKE
MP Peter Schiefke has been studying and digitizing all the visas, landing papers, passports, and citizenship memorabilia from his great-grandparents emigration from Spain, to France, and finally to Canada in 1952.
“People come to Canada in search of a better life,” he said. “They’re leaving something that’s either dangerous or just not conducive to a secure and healthy life for them and their families.”
Besides the importance of family and spousal reunification for those waiting to immigrate to Canada, Schiefke said we are all directly affected by immigration on a daily basis through temporary foreign workers and skilled trade workers.
“Farmers all across Canada depend on the foreign workers – our agriculture sector would not succeed without them and the shortage of skilled labourers is detrimental to our small businesses that are trying to grow.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing international border closures has had a significant impact on immigration and Schiefke said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this particular portfolio requires him to ‘dive in’ and get to work immediately.
“I appreciate the fact that he called me for this. It means a lot to me. He has faith that I can do what needs to be done in challenging situations.”
“(The new role) is kind of bittersweet for me,” Schiefke told The Journal. “Environment and climate change is something that I’m passionate about and it’s what I did prior to entering into politics. To be able to work on environmental issues over the last 15 months has been really exciting.” As per a communiqué issued this week, Schiefke worked on the strengthening of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the development of Canada's strengthened climate plan that is projected to exceed the Paris Agreement targets, and the Government of Canada’s plan to ban harmful single-use plastics which was announced in September of 2020.
Schiefke was formerly the National Director of The Climate Reality Project Canada, an organization founded by 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Al Gore. His office in Vaudreuil-Dorion was the site of a recent protest over a 17-house development project in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot by residents who oppose building on environmentally sensitive land containing rare White oak trees and breeding grounds for the Western Chorus frog.
He told The Journal discussions are currently taking place between the federal and provincial environment ministries, the latter of which is responsible for issuing the construction permit. “The results of those discussions will determine what the next steps are.” He said he plans to follow the file.
To see copies of some of Peter Schiefke’s family archival documents, see our Facebook page.