Bill C-35 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
Jason Kenney Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
April 23rd, 2012 / 12:55 p.m.
Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-31. However, I would have preferred that this bill not be introduced at all and that we not debate it. In my opinion, this is an objectionable bill. There are a number of problems with it and it is certainly going to result in legal challenges.
I would like to start by saying that Bill C-31 builds on Bill C-11, which was introduced in the previous Parliament. With a minority government, the Conservatives were unable to pass the strict and severe bills that they wanted. Now, they are taking Bill C-49, which was also from the previous Parliament, and making the necessary changes to complete their biased and discriminatory immigration policy the sole purpose of which is to close our borders for as long as possible to foreigners seeking asylum in Canada.
The change in this government's tone on immigration and citizenship is striking. Most of Bill C-31 is practically copied word for word from the former Bill C-49, the short title of which was Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act. It was promoted as the bill that would protect refugees and discourage smugglers who were endangering the lives of foreigners trying to enter Canada by boat. Bill C-31, which is pretty much the same, is entitled Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act. The image is eloquent.
The Conservatives are now showing their true colours. The intent of Bill C-31 is no longer to protect refugees, but to protect the integrity of Canada's immigration system against ill-intentioned refugees who abuse the generosity of Canadian laws and who try to take advantage of our country. These comments were made and repeated by the previous speaker.
In the previous Parliament, some immigration bills, especially, Bills C-11 and C-35, were passed after much discussion, debate and compromise by all parties. A compromise was even reached on Bill C-49, the predecessor to Bill C-31. This time, the Conservative government is no longer receptive to amendments. On the contrary, the minister himself said that there are gaps in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and that Canada needs stronger measures that are closer to the original bill we introduced in March 2010.
This time, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is not honouring the agreements reached by the various parties.
At the time, a number of groups that defend rights and freedoms condemned Bill C-49. Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Barreau du Québec and Professor Peter Showler, to name just a few, roundly condemned several key provisions of the bill, saying that they represented a serious violation of Canada's international and constitutional obligations.
In fact, this government is still using the pretext of national security to justify its lack of transparency and its desire to keep people in need out of the country, with no regard for Canada's constitutional and international obligations.
Far from having improved his bill in response to the criticisms about humanitarian considerations in previous bills, the minister instead says that he will not give in to the “immigration industry” lobby whose criticisms only reinforce the idea that the government is truly on the right track. It would be hard to be any more arrogant.
In addition to the government's arrogance, its narrow vision and demagoguery must be condemned.
With this bill, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is creating a new category of immigrants and giving himself the power to arbitrarily impose a different processing system for those immigrants than for other asylum seekers. This discretionary power is, in fact, the power to declare the entry of foreign nationals into the country as irregular by using loosely defined criteria based on national security interests, which was probably the genesis for the idea that this power cannot be delegated.
The creation of this category of refugee was specifically designed to block the entry of as many refugees as possible and it completely disregards the right to equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These asylum seekers often come from countries where fundamental rights are denied and where living conditions jeopardize their health and lives.
It is utterly ridiculous, even irresponsible, for a government to arbitrarily punish refugees who arrive by boat on the pretext of wanting to separate the good refugees from the bad as quickly as possible. That makes no sense. A refugee is not a qualified immigrant who can be selected. We cannot select refugees, simply by virtue of their refugee status. According to this government's logic, refugees who are not selected are bad refugees.
The fact that the minister would be able to create two classes of people is unacceptable and downright disturbing. Human beings are all equal, and the minister must never forget that Canada has a legal responsibility toward these people under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a moral responsibility arising from its international obligations under various human rights treaties.
According to Peter Showler, director of the Refugee Forum and former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, concerns about a deluge of illegal refugees are unfounded because both routes to obtaining refugee protection—the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, which targets international refugees as defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Canada's Inland Refugee Protection System for refugees arriving in Canada spontaneously—have historically been responsible for the same number of permanent residents in Canada, around 12,000 per year.
The difference between the two systems is control: control over the number of people coming in, the selection criteria, and the procedures and processing times. This is a legitimate concern, but it should not legitimize the crass justifications that the government is using to block access for people who need help.
For example, the minister claims that Canada is getting more and more claims from certain countries, such as Hungary and Mexico, and that these claims often come from “bad refugees” who do not really need protection. According to Mr. Showler, the Immigration and Refugee Board nevertheless accepts a significant number of claims from those two countries, 17% and 8%, respectively.
The minister also claims that this new bill will enable the board to do some “housecleaning” and shorten the waiting list for “good refugees” who have to wait patiently in refugee camps because illegitimate refugees who arrive by boat bog the system down by using fraudulent documents to get into Canada.
That, according to Mr. Showler, is not true because, on the one hand, not all refugees abroad can reach refugee camps, and on the other hand, the United Nations convention recognizes that it is difficult for refugees to be granted asylum, so it allows them to use fraudulent documents to seek refugee protection.
The Conservatives are trying to create an unhealthy climate around immigration, and specifically refugees. The executive of the Canadian Council for Refugees is very concerned about this and stated, “it is very worrisome when the government tries to create an anti-refugee sentiment among the population”. Several statements made by government MPs have promoted that very sentiment.
According to Wanda Yamamoto, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, “the bill is discriminatory and creates a two-tier system of refugee protection in Canada. It also makes it dangerously vulnerable to political considerations, rather than ensuring a fair and independent decision about who is a refugee. Our refugee system needs to give everyone a fair hearing, based on the facts of their case and regardless of their country of origin.”
Determining refugee status will henceforth be directly controlled by the minister, who now has the power to establish his own criteria. Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees said, “there is an arbitrary element in this, which the government is exploiting and abusing.”
Politicizing the immigration system is a very dangerous thing to do. The system had found a rather fair balance between security and individual liberties. All of that is now being compromised in the name of national security. From now on, any difficulty identifying refugees will be considered a threat to national security and, as a result, will justify different, more severe and punitive treatment than for all other kinds of refugees.
The Canadian Bar Association stated that Bill C-31 lacks clear qualitative thresholds and raises serious concern about excessive ministerial discretion. Furthermore, given the serious legal consequences that flow from a designation made by the minister, these amendments are overbroad and unsustainable.
Executive officers of the Canadian Bar Association went even further and recommended that implementation of the proposed changes be delayed to allow for immediate and meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.
I have only touched on some of the important aspects that support dropping this bill. We have asked the government many times to drop Bill C-31. This bill fuels an anti-refugee sentiment and exacerbates fears that are often legitimate, but that are being misguided with a bill like this one.
I think it is a shame that we are voting on this bill this evening with yet another time allocation. The NDP cannot vote in favour of Bill C-31.
We will strongly condemn this bill.
October 27th, 2011 / 1 p.m.
September 29th, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.
Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic and Program Policy, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
I'll start with Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which received royal assent in June of last year. We are working towards implementation of the provisions of that bill by June of 2012. Under the act, the transitional provisions allow a period of 24 months from royal assent before coming into force. We're working on that now across CIC, the IRB, the Border Services Agency, Justice, and others. So it's a lot of detailed work, particularly regulatory drafting. Many packages have been prepublished already, systems work is well under way, and we're starting to see things come together in a way that's going to allow us to meet those timelines.
On the previous cracking down on the Crooked Consultants Act, which is now Bill C-35, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, we have moved forward very quickly. The minister has already made the designation of a new regulatory body for the consulting profession. That transition took place at the end of June of this year, and we are moving forward with the new ICCRC to ensure coverage of the consultant community. The transitional provisions, with the transfer from CSIC, the previous regulator, to the current one, expire at the end of October. At that point, as we understand from ICCRC, close to 1,700 consultants will be licensed by them, as the new regulator.
September 29th, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.
Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON
In terms of a couple of things that we accomplished in the last Parliament, number one, the passage of Bill C-11, the refugee reform act, and number two, Bill C-35, the Crooked Consultants Act, could you provide the committee with a brief update on both of those pieces of legislation, not so much obviously from a government perspective on the bill itself, but rather on the implementation of them both? They both bring sweeping changes to their respective departments and obviously will lead to some fairly significant changes within your departments. Would you mind updating us on the status of both pieces of legislation in terms of practicality?
Safe Streets and Communities Act
September 27th, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.
Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON
Mr. Speaker, I understand the point the member is making. I compliment him on his appointment as critic for the third party at our citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism committee. I look forward to working with him on that committee.
The member understands. He was here for part of the 40th Parliament when we introduced and passed Bill C-11, Balanced Refugee Reform Act and Bill C-35, the crooked consultants act, two pieces of significant legislation. In fact, I would argue that, aside from our budget, Bill C-11 was the most significant piece of legislation that this Parliament passed in the 40th Parliament. That legislation arrived in this House after second reading, went to committee, came back for third reading and was passed unanimously by the House.
I can let the member know that we have lots in this bill that we want to pass. We have passed quite a bit with respect to citizenship and immigration. There is a lot more to come.
Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
September 23rd, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Mr. Speaker, I want to correct the record. I appreciate the fact that the member is making his presentation and speech on how he feels about Bill C-4 but he does need to ensure he is delivering what is factually in the bill.
He indicated that it would create two streams of refugees. In fact, that is not the case. The individuals who are on these ships are not refugees. They are not refugees until they have actually gone through the process and have either qualified or not qualified through the process. Therefore, in no way, shape or form are there two sets of refugees based on the bill. It is a very factual bill and the member needs to ensure he is correct on it.
I do want to ask him one question. He indicated that the government was not prepared to listen in the 40th Parliament with respect to the bill. I would say to him that if he looks at Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, and looks at Bill C-35, the crooked consultant act, he will find that we listened to all the parties on the opposite side of the House and came back to the House with both those bills passed unanimously.
Why will he not try to help us get the bill passed at second reading and get it into committee so we can talk about it?
September 20th, 2011 / 6:50 p.m.
Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON
Madam Speaker, I can absolutely go through a host of issues, resolutions and legislation that we have passed in the House of Commons that deal exactly with what the member is speaking to.
I would suggest to him that there is a third way for us to work through these issues, and that is in consultation with each other. We did it with Bill C-11, the refugee reform act, and we did it with Bill C-35, the crooked consultants act. In the last Parliament, with a minority government, these two major pieces of legislation went through with unanimous consent from all parties. I suggest to him that the third way to do that is for us to sit down and continue to work together, to work in committee to bring these issues together, and we will work as a government to try to solve them.
Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
September 19th, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON
Mr. Speaker, there are two points I want to make very quickly.
The first point is that those individuals who seek asylum in this country and who deserve asylum as refugees will receive it. There is absolutely no question. This legislation would not change any of that from happening. It will not, it cannot and it shall not.
The second point is this. I know the member was elected in a byelection in the previous Parliament, so he was here for part of it. We introduced this legislation in the last Parliament. We literally begged the opposition to support it, at least at second reading, so that we could get this legislation to a legislative committee to study it and try to work with them. I can explain to members that on two occasions both Bill C-35, the crooked consultants act, and Bill C-11, the refugee reform legislation, ended up coming back to the House and after negotiation and work passed unanimously. Every member sitting on the opposite side who was here in the last Parliament said no to that opportunity.
We are not going to say no to Canadians. It is back in the House. It is a priority. We said it was a priority. Those on this side of the House keep their word.
Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
June 21st, 2011 / 5:50 p.m.
Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON
Madam Speaker, there is one word to describe Bill C-4 and that word is cruel. The dictionary defines cruel as inflicting pain or suffering, and that is exactly what the bill would do. It is designed to punish refugees. If passed, the bill would inflict pain and suffering on the most vulnerable people trying to get to our shores.
Why do I say that? I say that because the bill would not punish smugglers. Under our present legislation, a smuggler would be jailed for life. We have the most severe punishment for people convicted of smuggling. What could be more severe than putting them away for life? We cannot get more severe. The bill is not really about the smugglers. It is about the refugees.
This legislation would require the mandatory detention of all people arriving in Canada, including women and children, whether they arrive by foot, by boat or by air. A mom and a two year old child, a five year old child, or a baby, would be jailed a minimum of 12 months. After they serve that 12 months they might receive some consideration. They would also be denied permanent residence or family reunification for at least five years.
Let me use as an example a dad who leaves a troubled country and his wife and children are left behind in a refugee camp. He arrives in Canada by himself and gets designated by the minister. The minister could not even explain a few minutes ago what criteria he is going to use. He mentioned those individuals who do not have documentation. Most refugees who come to Canada do not have documentation. How can we expect people who live through an earthquake or arrive from a war-torn country to have identification? A lot of refugees arrive at our shores without identification. They could be designated. More than two refugees who arrive on our shores could be designated as a group.
Let me revert to my example of the dad who arrived in Canada after fleeing from a war-torn country. Under this rule he would be sent to jail for at least a year. Let us say that he goes through the process and is determined to be a genuine refugee. For five years he would not be able to sponsor his wife and children from a refugee camp. What does that mean? It means that he will be separated from his family for at least seven years. These refugees will have to determine whether or not they want to leave their loved ones behind because they will not see them for at least seven years. Do they want to come to this country alone or do they want to make a dangerous journey together? That is why I say the bill is cruel. But that is just the beginning.
If these people do become refugees they have no chance to go to the United Nations to speak in a criminal court against a dictator who inflicted war crimes against them. For example, a woman who has been raped by the militia could not go to the UN to explain to the court what happened to her. Even though she is determined a genuine refugee, she will not be able to travel anywhere for at least five years. This means that she would not be able to go to the UN to bring war criminals to justice.
Why would the Conservatives bring forward a bill like that? The minister nailed it right on the head. He wants immigrants to think that there are all kinds of queue jumpers. There is in fact a huge amount of frustration from the immigrant communities. They are frustrated because they are waiting at least 6 to 10 or 13 years before they can bring their loved ones to Canada. When they try to sponsor their fathers and mothers, they are told that it will take 5 or 10 years. They wait and wait.
I will give some statistics. The backlog for parents who are waiting to come to Canada is in the hundreds of thousands. Why? It is because the number of visas for parents and grandparents issued this year has been reduced to close to 44%. It is getting longer and longer. This year there are only 11,000 parents who can come to Canada, which is a reduction of 9,000 because the 2005 and 2006 targets were 20,000. It is now only 11,000.
Immigrants are resentful because they are waiting longer and longer to bring their loved ones to Canada. Then they are told that there are people jumping the queue. These people are not jumping the queue because they are refugees and there is no queue for them to line up in. If they are in danger, they have to leave, unlike their parents, which is a completely different class of applications.
On top of that, the Conservative government claims to have cut the backlog of skilled workers. I do not know whether members will recall that a few years ago Bill C-50 got stuffed into a budget bill that was passed in the House of Commons with the help of Liberals supporting them. That bill was called fast, fair and efficient in cutting the backlog. Actually, the backlog for skilled workers grew. In 2005, it was 487,000 and now it is 508,000. It has grown by 173,000.
This so-called clearing the backlog is not working for skilled workers and it is not working for parents and grandparents. There are hundreds of thousands of people waiting patiently, some not so patiently, to come to Canada. It is under this failed immigration policy that the Conservatives try to find a scapegoat. Immigrants are really upset that they have to wait so long. The Conservatives try to find a scapegoat and say that it is not their fault. They say that it is not due to the Conservatives, that it is really the refugees' fault, which is why this bill was introduced, to my mind.
Let us look at the details in this bill. The mandatory detention for people arriving in Canada without any chance of review is at least 12 months, children or not. By the way, I do not know whether members of Parliament have read psychological studies of children being detained but studies done in the U.K. show that, even in just a few months of detention, what happens to a child is tragic. They wet their beds, some become mute, others stop learning, they become withdrawn, they are not able to go to school because they cannot focus, some lose a lot of weight and some eat much less. Psychological scars are inflicted on children who are being jailed for not just a few weeks or months, but we are jailing them for at least a year. It is totally unjustifiable.
There is mandatory detention for 12 months. There is a denial of the right to apply for permanent resident status until five years have passed, and that is after a favourable determination of their protection claim. These are genuine refugees. I am not talking about the bogus ones. If there are those who are determined to be bogus, deport them, that is fine. I am talking about genuine refugees. They are not even allowed to assimilate to Canada because they cannot become landed immigrants.
They also would be denied access to relief based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. They cannot get temporary resident permits or refugee travel documents for five years or longer. They are not given the right to appeal to the refugee appeal division, which is unfair. On top of that, the minister has the discretion to designate foreign nationals. It is not limited to mass arrivals. It could be two, three or four people and it could be applied retroactively to March 2009. This bill could be passed in 2012 but it could be retroactively applied to a few years before. I do not know how that could be called fair.
As I said earlier, the arrival or two or more persons by irregular means could attract designation.
Much has been said about the denial of detention reviews, because it is mandatory that they be jailed for at least a year, which breaches sections 9 and 10 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because these rights are supposed to protect people against arbitrary detention and the right to prompt review of detention.
If we look carefully, why is it that we need to protect them? Why are we jailing them? Normally a person is jailed because they are a danger to the public or that person is a flight risk and could disappear.
In these circumstances, when we jail a child, a refugee or these people, the government does not have to prove that the person is a flight risk or endangering anyone. A person would be detained even though they are not endangering anyone in this country or not trying to fly anywhere and disappear. They would still be jailed for at least a year without access to any appeal whatsoever.
We know that this kind of behaviour not only breaches sections 9 and 10 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but it is also in conflict with our obligations under the convention relating to the status of refugees and the international covenant on civil and political rights.
It is interesting that this bill makes no reference to the human smuggling issues. Just a few months ago, the immigration committee dealt with several bills. It dealt with Bill C-35, which cracked down on crooked consultants. At that time, on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada, I expanded the amount of time that we could go after people who are smuggling from 6 months to at least 10 years.
We already closed the loopholes, because it used to be that we could only go after them for six months. If we could not catch them and prove that they had committed an offence, then we could not go after them after six months. We expanded it for a long period of time.
As I said earlier, if convicted it means life imprisonment, so this has nothing to do with going after smuggling.
The amendments in this punishing refugees bill would affect permanent residents and foreign nationals regardless of how they arrived in Canada. What it does is it expands the grounds on which the port of entry officers can detain permanent residents and foreign nationals, it would expand the grounds on which permanent residents can be kept in detention while the minister takes “responsible steps” to inquire if they are suspicious.
Lastly, it would remove the appeal rights from the Refugee Protection Division. This would apply to permanent residents also, not just refugees. Therefore, this bill is not just punishing refugees, it is punishing permanent residents as well.
Another problem with the bill, and the minister, by not answering my question, alluded to it, is that it would give tremendous power to the minister to designate people coming into this country. Anyone coming into the port of entry by any mode of travel could be called an “irregular arrival”. Actually, most refugees arrive in Canada irregularly.
In the 1930s, the S.S. St. Louis carried a large number of refugees fleeing Nazi Germany to Halifax. They came without a lot of documentation and arrived on the shore of Halifax and Canada sent them away. Some of them died at the hands of the Nazis.
With this bill, we are not sending a ship away. We could assume that if a ship like the S.S. St. Louis arrived on the shore of Victoria instead of Halifax, the women, children and the entire family would be detained in jail for a year. They would then be subjected to a search of their documentation to ensure they were really from Germany. They would then go through the process. Assuming that all of them would be declared refugees, they would not be able to bring any of their loved ones to Canada safely for five years. This is the kind of treatment we would be putting refugees through in coming to our shores.
I want to point out that most refugee claimants coming to Canada obtain documents from agents and sometimes these documents are not necessarily their real identity. For some of the genuine refugees this is the only way they can leave their country and come to safety. It is because there is no other way they can get on commercial carriers. With this bill, any group of two or more claimants leaving a country that is homophobic, for example, or they are being pursued, when they arrive here they could be designated as an irregular arrival and be subjected to that kind of treatment.
There are other aspects of this bill that are extremely draconian. For example, after the 12 months of detention, refugees are then allowed some kind of hearing every few months. However, that would also be very difficult. It means that they could face an indefinite detention.
In summary, this bill is not designed to prevent human smuggling because we already have laws that do that. It is designed to distract the public and put the blame for the long wait list that immigrants now have to endure in order to bring their loved ones to Canada on people who are desperately trying to leave a dangerous situation. It is unfair, cruel and not worthy of our support.
Business of the House
March 24th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON
When members are called smug, they all cheer and applaud.
As for the business of the House, I believe the minister responsible for the Status of Women has a motion that she would like to move after I have concluded my response to the Thursday question. Following that, without anticipating the outcome of any vote of the House, there seems to be an appetite to allow members who will not be running in the next election to have two minutes each to make statements. Following these statements, we will continue with day one of the budget debate.
Tomorrow we will consider the last allotted day in this supply period. I do not know why the opposition coalition is talking about ending this very productive Parliament to force an unwanted and unnecessary election. Recent weeks have led me to conclude that this is the most dysfunctional Parliament in Canadian history.
Yesterday our Conservative government achieved royal assent for the following bills: Bill S-6 to eliminate the faint hope clause; Bill C-14 to provide hard-working Canadians some fairness at the gas pumps; Bill C-21 to crack down on white collar crime; Bill C-22 to crack down on those who would exploit our children through the Internet; Bill C-30, R. v. Shoker; Bill C-35 to crack down on crooked immigration consultants; Bill C-42 to provide aviation security; Bill C-48 to eliminate sentencing discounts for multiple murderers; Bill C-59 to get rid of early parole for white collar fraudsters, a bill the Liberal government opposed but the Bloc supported; Bill C-61, the freezing of assets of corrupt regimes; and Bill S-5, safe vehicles from Mexico. What a legacy for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
The work of this Parliament is not done. There are a number of key and popular government bills that Canadians want. Next week, starting on Monday, we will call: Bill C-8, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement; Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement; Bill C-51, investigative powers for the 21st century; and Bill C-52, lawful access.
Does the Minister of Justice ever stop fighting crime? He gets more and more done. In many respects, as House leader I am like the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice.
Of course, we need to complete the budget debate to implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low tax plan for jobs and growth. Therefore, Tuesday we will debate day two of the budget, Wednesday we will debate day three of the budget and on Thursday we will debate day four of the budget. We have lots to do and I suggest to the members across that we turn our attention back to serving the interests of the public.
While I am on my feet, I would like to serve those interests by asking for unanimous consent for the following motion. I move that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act shall be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.