Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act

An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Jason Kenney  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Balanced Refugee Reform Act to, among other things, provide for the expediting of the processing of refugee protection claims.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is also amended to authorize the Minister, in certain circumstances, to designate as an irregular arrival the arrival in Canada of a group of persons and to provide for the effects of such a designation in respect of those persons, including in relation to detention, conditions of release from detention and applications for permanent resident status. In addition, the enactment amends certain enforcement provisions of that Act, notably to expand the scope of the offence of human smuggling and to provide for minimum punishments in relation to that offence. Furthermore, the enactment amends that Act to expand sponsorship options in respect of foreign nationals and to require the provision of biometric information when an application for a temporary resident visa, study permit or work permit is made.

In addition, the enactment amends the Marine Transportation Security Act to increase the penalties for persons who fail to provide information that is required to be reported before a vessel enters Canadian waters or to comply with ministerial directions and for persons who provide false or misleading information. It creates a new offence in respect of vessels that fail to comply with ministerial directions and authorizes the making of regulations respecting the disclosure of certain information for the purpose of protecting the safety or security of Canada or Canadians.

Finally, the enactment amends the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act to enhance the authority for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to enter into agreements and arrangements with foreign governments, and to provide services to the Canada Border Services Agency.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • June 11, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • June 11, 2012 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “this House decline to give third reading to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, because it: ( a) gives significant powers to the Minister that could be exercised in an arbitrary manner, including the power to designate so-called “safe” countries without independent advice; (b) violates international conventions to which Canada is signatory by providing mechanisms for the government to indiscriminately designate and subsequently imprison bona fide refugees – including children – for up to one year; (c) undermines best practices in refugee settlement by imposing, on some refugees, five years of forced separation from families; (d) adopts a biometrics programme for temporary resident visas without adequate parliamentary scrutiny of the privacy risks; and (e) is not clearly consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”.
  • June 4, 2012 Passed That Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, as amended, be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31, in Clause 27, be amended by replacing line 10 on page 15 with the following: “foreign national who was 18 years of age or”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31, in Clause 27, be amended by replacing lines 1 to 6 on page 15 with the following: “58.1(1) The Immigration Division may, on request of a designated foreign national who was 18 years of age or older on the day of the arrival that is the subject of the designation in question, order their release from detention if it determines that exceptional circumstances exist that”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 27.
  • June 4, 2012 Passed That Bill C-31, in Clause 26, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 33 on page 14 with the following: “critère”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 26.
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31, in Clause 23, be amended by adding after line 5 on page 13 the following: “(3.2) A permanent resident or foreign national who is taken into detention and who is the parent of a child who is in Canada but not in detention shall be released, subject to the supervision of the Immigration Division, if the child’s other parent is in detention or otherwise not able to provide care for the child in Canada.”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31, in Clause 23, be amended by replacing line 28 on page 12 with the following: “foreign national is”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 23.
  • June 4, 2012 Passed That Bill C-31, in Clause 79, be amended by replacing line 22 on page 37 with the following: “79. In sections 80 to 83.1, “the Act” means”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 79.
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31, in Clause 78, be amended by adding after line 19 on page 37 the following: “(4) An agreement or arrangement entered into with a foreign government for the provision of services in relation to the collection, use and disclosure of biometric information under subsection (1) or (2) shall require that the collection, use and disclosure of the information comply with the requirements of the Privacy Act.”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 78.
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31, in Clause 59, be amended by adding after line 15 on page 29 the following: “(3) The regulations referred to in subsection (1) must provide, in respect of all claims for refugee protection, that the documents and information respecting the basis of the claim do not have to be submitted by the claimant to the Refugee Protection Division earlier than 30 days after the day on which the claim was submitted. (4) The regulations referred to in subsection (1) must provide ( a) in respect of claims made by a national from a designated country of origin, that a hearing to determine the claim is not to take place until at least 60 days after the day on which the claim was submitted; and ( b) in respect of all other claims, that a hearing to determine the claim is not to take place until at least 90 days after the day on which the claim was submitted. (5) The regulations referred to in subsection (1) must provide, in respect of all claims for refugee protection, that an appeal from a decision of the Refugee Protection Division ( a) does not have to be filed with the Refugee Appeal Division earlier than 15 days after the date of the decision; and ( b) shall be perfected within 30 days after filing.”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 59.
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31, in Clause 51, be amended by replacing lines 36 to 39 on page 25 with the following: “170.2 Except where there has been a breach of natural justice, the Refugee Protection Division does not have jurisdiction to reopen, on any ground, a claim for refugee protection,”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 51.
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31, in Clause 36, be amended by replacing line 32 on page 17 to line 35 on page 18 with the following: “110. A person or the Minister may appeal, in accordance with the rules of the Board, on a question of law, of fact or of mixed law and fact, to the Refugee Appeal Division against ( a) a decision of the Refugee Protection Division allowing or rejecting the person’s claim for refugee protection; ( b) a decision of the Refugee Protection Division allowing or rejecting an application by the Minister for a determination that refugee protection has ceased; or ( c) a decision of the Refugee Protection Division allowing or rejecting an application by the Minister to vacate a decision to allow a claim for refugee protection.”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 36.
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing line 16 on page 3 with the following: “prescribed biometric information, which must be done in accordance with the Privacy Act.”
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 6.
  • June 4, 2012 Failed That Bill C-31 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
  • May 29, 2012 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
  • April 23, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
  • April 23, 2012 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, because it: ( a) places an unacceptable level of arbitrary power in the hands of the Minister; (b) allows for the indiscriminate designation and subsequent imprisonment of bone fide refugees for up to one year without review; (c) places the status of thousands of refugees and permanent residents in jeopardy; (d) punishes bone fide refugees, including children, by imposing penalties based on mode of entry to Canada; (e) creates a two-tiered refugee system that denies many applicants access to an appeals mechanism; and (f) violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and two international conventions to which Canada is signatory.”.
  • March 12, 2012 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, not more than four further sitting days after the day on which this Order is adopted shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the fourth day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the bill.

Having listened closely to the previous speaker's presentation on your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I will speak to one point on the issue that relates to Bill C-31 and to Bill C-38.

There are a number of issues in Bill C-38, our budget bill, that have a lot to do with immigration. I appreciate the member's description of what the opposition's role is in terms of keeping the government to account and accountable. However, what he failed to mention was the amount of time allocated in committee for both Bill C-31 and Bill C-38. Bill C-38 was given an unprecedented amount of time for debate, more than for any other bill in recent history. The fact is that the member would not and did not acknowledge the hours and hours spent debating each and every one of these clauses at committee, which is part of the parliamentary process. He did not even want to acknowledge the time given by the government, in agreement with the opposition, to have that debate.

I have said that because we took exactly the same approach with Bill C-31. We opened the doors at committee and said that we should bring in all witnesses. The opposition members believed that this was a big, fundamental bill that would change the refugee system in our country so they wanted to hear from all the experts in the country. Even though we had gone through the entire process once already, we went through it again. I did not hear an acknowledgement from the member opposite for the efforts made in terms of our parliamentary process and listening to what people had to say, and not just witnesses but all members of the opposition who had the opportunity to present their changes, thoughts and beliefs on what the bill should look like. With respect to Bill C-31, there were two significant amendments that were made at committee. These were not amendments that had to be made. As everyone knows, there are enough votes at each of our committees here on the Hill for us to win without having to make changes, without having to do anything other than that this is what will be moved forward for third reading and this is the bill that will receive royal assent.

In our case, we heard from witnesses and we made two significant changes. One had to do with cessation. The way the clause could have been interpreted, an unintended consequence could have been the potential for that individual to lose permanent residency if the country of origin had changed status. We made adjustments to that piece of the legislation. We also made a significant change to the detention issue for irregular arrivals. The original clause included a detention period of up to 12 months. Upon hearing from experts and witnesses who presented their case, the minister and the government listened and made a significant decision. We said that individuals who arrive in what is deemed an irregular arrival, as we saw with the Sun Sea or the Ocean Lady in British Columbia, they would have a hearing after 14 days. Subsequently, if they have been determined to have or not have success with respect to their refugee application, they would be given another hearing after six months.

Therefore, contrary to what the opposition members have been saying over the last week about this government's position with respect to listening, it does listen and it has listened. Bill C-31 is a stronger bill today at third reading than when it was introduced at first reading. Contrary to what the opposition members are saying, this government does spend a lot of time listening, understanding and moving toward the best piece of legislation that we can put forward.

In fact, it speaks to our refugee system here in the country. We welcome more resettled refugees than almost any country in the world. Based on the continued implementation of Bill C-31, which encapsulates a number of pieces of Bill C-11, which was our original refugee reform act, we will have an additional 2,500 refugees per year settle into our country, which is a 20% increase.

It again shows that Canadians have always been known to be fair and compassionate. Our country has a long and proud humanitarian tradition. This bill only strengthens that tradition all the more.

However, it is safe to say that our system, and it is no secret, is also open to abuse. We see that abuse on a daily basis. We are a generous and welcoming people but we do not have tolerance for those who take unfair advantage of our country. Canadians have told us loud and clear again and again that they want a stop put to the abuse which exists within our immigration system. By introducing Bill C-31, and where we are today at third reading, we will see and have shown to those people in this country who have asked us to, that we will protect the integrity of immigration and our refugee system.

There are three main areas covered by the bill which are all interrelated.

First, Bill C-31 includes further and much needed reforms to our asylum system. While the Balanced Refugee Reform Act went a long way to reforming Canada's refugee system, further reform is absolutely necessary. The opposition likes to ask why. The answer is very simple but it cannot be found by using political rhetoric. This is all based on a very factual, necessary and purposeful argument.

We need to look at the cold, hard and indisputable facts. In 2011, Canada received a total of 5,800 refugee claims from democratic, rights respecting member countries of the European Union. That is an increase of 14% from 2010. That number is actually more than the number of claims that we receive from Africa or Asia. There is a simple problem here. The top source country for refugee claims is Hungary, which is an EU member state. Of all refugee claims in 2011, 4,400, or 18%, came from Hungary. That is up almost 50% from 2010.

What is even more telling is that in 2010, of the 2,400 claims made by Hungarian nationals, only 100 of them were actually made in countries other than Canada. They all came to Canada to make a refugee claim from one country, except 100. There is a problem here. There is an obvious issue that needs to be dealt with. It means that Canada received 2,300 claims from Hungary, which is 23 times more than any other country has received from Hungary. The fact that most gets to the core of why further refugee reform is needed is that virtually every one of these claims was abandoned, withdrawn or rejected. Refugee claimants themselves are choosing not to see their claims to completion, meaning they are not in genuine need of Canada's protection. In other words, their claims are bogus.

The reason these claims are bogus is that people are choosing to come all the way to Canada. They have a choice. There are 26 other countries right next door and most, if not all, are part of the EU. These bogus claimants come here to exploit Canada's generous asylum system because of the lucrative and expensive taxpayer funded health care, welfare and other social benefits that are allowed under the current system we have in place. In fact, these bogus claims y cost Canadian taxpayers in excess of $170 million, and that was just last year alone.

Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act, is part of our plan to restore integrity to our asylum system and restore Canadian's confidence in our immigration system. The bill would make Canada's refugee determination process faster and fairer and would result in faster protection for those who legitimately need refugee protection. It would also, and this is the important aspect of it, ensure faster removal of those whose claims are withdrawn, those claims that are bogus and those claims that have been rejected.

We will speed up the refugee claims process in a number of ways. For example, one major component of Bill C-31 is the improvements to the designated country of origin provision. This will enable the government to respond more quickly to increases in refugee claims from countries that generally do not produce refugees, such as most of those that are in the European Union. Claimants from those countries will still have the opportunity to be heard in terms of their application and to be deemed refugees in Canada.

Contrary to what the opposition has said, there is, for every person who claims refugee status in this country, an opportunity to be heard and an opportunity to have their case determined by the Immigration and Refugee Board. We will change that process so that it will take close to 45 days versus close to 1,100 days that exists now, more than on average three years to process a refugee application in this country.

If 97% or 98% of claims from particular countries are abandoned or withdrawn, we can just imagine how many months and how many years an individual can take advantage of the Canadian system just because of the number of days it takes to get through this process. This will happen no more. We will turn the system around. We will ensure that everyone gets a hearing and we will ensure it is completed within and about as close to 45 days as possible.

The designated country of origin provisions, which I mentioned and are included in Bill C-31, would bring Canada in line with its peers. Countries, like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, all recognize that some countries are simply safer than others and we can presume them to be so based on criteria, both quantitative and qualitative, that are included within the bill itself. Therefore, refugee claimants from those designated safe countries may be reasonably considered under the expedited process, the 45 day process that I mentioned.

We have had some discussion about the UN lately. I am encouraged, or at least listening, when the opposition stands to speak in favour of pretty much anything that the UN does. I thought it would be important this morning to show that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has acknowledged that by saying:

...there are indeed safe countries of origin. There are indeed countries in which there is a presumption that refugee claims will probably be not as strong as in other countries

Mr. Guterres also agreed that as long as all refugee claimants have access to some process it is completely legitimate to accelerate claims from safe countries.

I will take that one step further. Abraham Abraham, who is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also is not opposed to the process upon which we have designated safe countries. He indicated:

...as long as this is used as a procedural tool to prioritize or accelerate examination of applications in carefully circumscribed situations, and not as an absolute bar.

We are not just implementing a process that is being used everywhere in a number of countries in the world. We are using a process that is endorsed and understood to be a correct one. It does not exist in our Canadian system as it is right now.

I want to underscore, despite what the opposition has said, that every refugee claimant will continue to receive a hearing before the independent quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board regardless of where he or she came from. Furthermore, every refugee claimant in Canada will have access to at least one level of appeal. These procedures exceed the requirements of both our domestic law and our international obligations.

I will add this is not the purpose nor the reason for passing the bill, but there is a financial benefit to the process in which we will now receive and determine refugee applications. We will save not just federal taxpayers, but provincial and territorial taxpayers, $1.65 billion over a five year period.

How will we use that money? The premiers, finance ministers and ministers of immigration across this country will tell us exactly how they could use that money, whether it be for settlement services, or whether it be for enhancing health care delivery. What we are offering is an opportunity for savings, an opportunity for that money to be used not to fund bogus claims, not to finance those who want to take advantage of our system, but to actually assist Canadians here in our country.

Unfortunately, what is lost in debate over the bill is what it will mean for genuine refugees who are fleeing persecution and who fear for their lives. Under Bill C-31, genuine refugees will receive Canada's much needed protection much more quickly. They will not be waiting three years in the determination process, but will be waiting as little as 45 days to know that they indeed have a home here in Canada. I cannot for the life of me understand how the NDP and the Liberals could be against that process.

Bill C-31 includes tough but fair and necessary measures to combat, deter and crack down on the criminal act of human smuggling. On this side of the House, we are not scared to face the issues of human trafficking and human smuggling. We will face them like no government in this country has before, and we will continue to do that.

Until recently, most Canadians believed that large-scale human smuggling was something that did not happen here, that it was something they just read about in the paper. They thought it only happened in other countries, for example, Australia.

That all changed in 2009 when Canada witnessed the arrival on the west coast of the MV Ocean Lady, which carried 76 migrants. It was almost as if it were a test case to see what would happen when the ship arrived, because less than one year later, the MV Sun Sea came, which held close to 500 migrants. This was not a cruise ship. This was not a ship designed to hold individuals. This was a ship designed specifically by human smugglers who take advantage of these individuals and extract as much money as they can, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, from individuals, who end up spending most of their lives paying that money back. The smugglers would put these individuals on not much more than a freighter to come across the ocean and land here in Canada.

Just as we have new members who are seeing individuals who are not true refugee claimants come to Canada to take advantage of our system, so we have human smugglers who understand the business of smuggling and the lowest common denominator in terms of which country will accept the individuals and how to take advantage of that. Not only are they taking advantage of our country, but they are taking advantage of the individuals.

We all know the stories. On board many of these ships are criminals and terrorists from a country and the human smugglers themselves who, unbeknownst to others, are dressed as if they are also in a position to claim refugee status in our country.

That is going to change. We are going to let the world know that human smuggling is not only unacceptable in this country, but that there will be a very significant price to pay for those who want to get into this business.

We do not have to look too far back to the past number of short weeks and months to know that we are catching these individuals. They are being sought out. They are being charged and they will be convicted. That is how we will stop this business.

There are so many more parts of Bill C-31 that are critically important, whether it be human smuggling, whether it be the issue of irregular arrivals, or whether it be the system itself in terms of how long it takes. We are moving from a system that takes 1,000 days on average to answer a refugee application submitted to the minister to one in which it will take anywhere from 45 days for those who are coming from designated safe countries, versus those who are coming from non-designated safe countries. There is an appeal process in place for each one of these individuals.

There is a process in place where we are now responding to those who truly deserve to be in our country. The best part of all of this is it sets in place a process that is fair to Canadians.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. I would remind him that we heard from various witnesses in committee. They all pointed out that this bill is discriminatory because it unfairly creates two classes of refugees. The witnesses also pointed out that the measures in this bill do not target human smugglers; they target refugees, taking them hostage.

This bill will also deny some refugees the right to apply for permanent residence and be reunited with their family members, including their children, for five years. Why is the government preventing family reunification?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, it behooves me to suggest that the opposition take one step back into the past instead of taking one step into the future. They should take one step into the past and recognized that there are individuals around the world who are fleeing for their lives. Those people can seek and obtain refugee status in our country to protect themselves, when they flee for their lives from a country that offers them nothing other than torture or death. They come here and within a very short period of time they receive an answer to the question as to whether or not they are true refugees. Under the bill, somewhere in the future, all of them would have an opportunity to have their families come to our country. Their families, if they are fleeing persecution, would also have the opportunity to seek refugee status in our country.

We are going to set in place, with the bill, a process and laws that say to human smugglers, “Not here. Not in this country”.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, every legal expert has pointed out that the minister's discretionary power is problematic and should be removed from the bill. That is one of the reasons they say this bill should be withdrawn entirely. The minister will have the discretionary power to define what constitutes a safe country and to determine which countries are safe, as well as to define what constitutes an illegal arrival.

Basically, this means that, based on their country of origin, people coming here will be granted or denied status, will be found to be from safe or unsafe countries, and will be found to have arrived legally or illegally.

Is this discretionary power not the reintroduction and legalization of something much like racial profiling? When these people come here, the ones the minister finds ideologically acceptable will be okayed, while those he does not like will be declared illegal arrivals.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his contribution at committee. We spent hours and hours, days and days, listening to witnesses and working through the bill. He was probably a little surprised that two very significant amendments were proposed by the government and were accepted. In fact, I have to thank the member. Both of the amendments put forward by the government were supported unanimously by the government, NDP and Liberal members at committee.

What we have in the bill, and it has been through the legal process in terms of understanding the designated safe country origin, is a quantitative and a qualitative analysis of how the designated safe country process would work. As good as Bill C-11 was, it lacked the accountability of how that designated safe country process was going to work. It was actually going to be in regulation. We are much more transparent in our approach to designated safe countries with Bill C-31 because the process is actually in the legislation itself.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has explained in layman's terms exactly what this change in immigration policy is, but one of the concerns out there is the situation surrounding detention. There has been a lot of misinformation, most of it emanating from the other side of this chamber, but there is some misinterpretation from members of the public because of that. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could expand on some of the issues surrounding the detention part of the bill.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. The detention issue has been the one which has been most significantly torqued by the opposition in terms of what it exactly means.

In our country over the last 8 to 10 years, approximately 100,000 refugees have sought and obtained refugee status. I mentioned in my speech that we have had two irregular arrivals. Arrivals such as those will be deemed to be irregular arrivals if they happen in the future. In those situations, because individuals come over in mass quantities, literally hundreds of individuals and families, we have no method to determine the identity of those individuals or whether they deserve to seek refugee status in our country.

It is important to know that when individuals are detained, they will be treated fairly. They are going to be well taken care of, but they are going to be detained until we can identify them and determine that they are not going to be a harm to Canadian society and until it is determined whether they truly deserve refugee status in our country. The opposition has failed to acknowledge that less than half of one per cent of all of the refugees who have come to this country in the last 10 years would be deemed to be irregular arrivals. Significant as it is, we can see that this is a very special process that will be used very little, but human smugglers will know it will be used once Bill C-31 is passed.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech closely.

Once again, the government wants to create two classes of refugees. It wants to divide refugees into two groups.

The other message I got from my colleague's speech is that some countries of origin will be considered good and others will be considered bad. Here again, the government is categorizing things in a way that I find troubling and somewhat arbitrary.

What does my colleague have to say about this approach based on dividing people into two groups?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

To the contrary, Mr. Speaker, and I wish the member had listened to the speech. It indicates how we treat those who come to this country is going to be enhanced. Refugees will actually have a better opportunity under this process to be determined whether they are true refugees and become permanent residents and Canadian citizens much quicker than under the current system.

I will add that the only class of importance that we have in this country is the class of becoming or being a Canadian citizen. That is what this bill is all about, the importance of acknowledging fairness in a process. Whether it be immigration or anything else that we are responsible for in this country, fairness is what Canadians expect and anticipate. It is why most Canadians support this piece of legislation. They understand it is fair to the refugees coming to our country who, if in fact they are true refugees, will be able to seek and be granted asylum here. Canadians understand that this process upon which one achieves refugee status is going to be fair for them as well.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we worked long hours at committee, but we appreciated the couple of amendments that did mitigate the possible damage we saw within the bill. However, as I look at the legislation we already have in place, I wonder why need the proposed legislation.

In 2011, legislation that was praised by the minister of education, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, actually addressed the issues that the government says it is trying to address. In fact, Professor Audrey Macklin had this to say:

I think that the Balanced Refugee Reform Act seemed to address many of the legitimate policy objectives that the government seeks to attain under Bill C-31. What Bill C-31 adds to it are provisions that are unconstitutional, and from a policy perspective, I think, problematic and unlikely to achieve what they claim.

There are some significant concerns that the opposition has with the legislation, and not just in relation to this bill. One of the key areas of concern is where the Conservative government seems to be moving, and it is not toward parliamentary democracy. It is becoming very difficult for parliamentarians to debate key issues because more and more power is rested in the hands of ministers, and in this case, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. That is a very dangerous precedent. It is not a road we should go down.

We, as parliamentarians, get elected and the opposition has a critical role to play. The role of the opposition is to hold the government accountable and all members of parliament should be able debate legislation. However, in this legislation, more power is given to the minister. It is more power than the minister already has, which, by the way, is far more than any minister should have, regardless of political party. I am not speaking against the minister, but against the power that would be vested in any minister.

This power used to belong to an independent panel of experts, and the opposition agreed with that. We were in full agreement with that in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which had an independent panel of experts. It was a panel, independent of government, that would make the designations of so-called “safe countries”.

Here we are once again with the arrogance of the Conservative government. It is trying to put more and more power into the hands of its ministers to escape the scrutiny that any legislation or any changes to areas such as immigration deserve. We have considerable concern with this.

I think we have agreement, and even with members on the government side at committee stage, that none of us can guarantee that there is one country that is absolutely safe for all citizens. Even democratic countries have human rights violations and sometimes incidents that would fall under the legitimate UN resolutions to protect people from persecution.

For example, Mexico is a democratic country. However, we know that the LGBT community in Mexico comes under considerable persecution and that has been recognized with the number of asylum seekers accepted from Mexico.

Chantal Desloges, an immigration lawyer, had this to say:

I have major concerns that concentrating the power of the DCO list only within the ministry and not consulting a panel of experts is wrong, because it opens the system to major political influence.

In the previous incarnation of this bill, the DCO list was decided by a panel of experts, and as a professional, I would be comfortable with that. However, leaving that decision to the sole discretion of the ministry is not a good idea.

We are not making this stuff up. We have heard witness after witness say that the concentration of power in the hands of the minister was absolutely the wrong way to go.

When we look at the legislation, it also violates international conventions, to which Canada is signatory, by providing mechanisms for the government to indiscriminately designate and subsequently imprison bona fide refugees, including children, for up to one year.

Liberty is something we value. We will cases in Canada where asylum seekers who, as my colleague pointed out, do not come here on a cruise ship. They endanger their own lives because it is more dangerous for them to stay where they are. They come to our country to seek refuge. By the way, under a UN convention, to which we are a signatory, they are doing something that is perfectly legitimate. They are coming to our country to seek asylum.

Once those asylum seekers, if they should arrive by ship, are in our country in numbers of two or more, what will we do to them? Remember, these people are not escaping from affluent lifestyles. We are talking about people who might have been on the run for a long time and are willing to risk their lives and leave their loved ones behind to escape to find a safe haven.

What does a safe haven do for them? As soon as they land, we tell them that we will imprison them. I will use that word because we do not have enough detention centres. We heard witnesses testify that even, today, on any given day, some people end up in provincial jails. For example, British Columbia has no detention centres, so irregular refugees would be placed in a regular jail. Guess what? If they are 16 years of age or older, they will be placed in jail as well. I do not know about other members, but I know that when my son, who is now close to 30, was 16, I certainly did not think he was an adult. Sometimes I wonder about even now, but that is beside the point.

For children under the age of 16, we were absolutely pleased when we first heard the minister say that accommodations would be made for them. However, when I heard what that accommodation was, I thought, what kind of choice was that. The accommodation is that the parents will have a choice. They can give their child up to provincial agencies or they can keep them with them in prison.

If they are escaping from the kind of life-and-death situations that we have heard about, stories of rape and other horrible situations, then we are telling them that they can give their children to absolute strangers or they can keep them in prison with them. That is absolutely not a choice. It is a shameful way for us to treat arrivals into our country.

I want to expand on this a bit. The NDP, the official opposition, was absolutely clear. We know that when people arrive, we need to have identification. We also tried to move amendments that once the checks had been done and they were not considered a threat to the country, they would be released. We did not get that. For up to a year, these people will be kept in a prison, and once again we have to trust the minister may do this.

If we have learned anything, we should learn from the experiences of others. In testimony from Australia, we heard the kind of emotional and financial costs and also the long-term costs to society to which this kind of a detainment could lead. We cannot ignore the experiences of other countries.

Being a teacher, I am always very hopeful that we will learn from mistakes made by others. I am pleading that we do not make the same mistakes and then end up with social costs to our communities. It is very difficult to feel welcomed and then to get engaged in nation-building and to really be productive in their community when the first thing people face is prison for up to a year. It is not a way to treat children. Also, as members know, there are other costs to the health care system as well.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I finished off by talking about the mandatory detention of bona fide refugees just because of the way they arrived here in Canada and the impact that would have on children. I want to expand on that a little bit.

I talked earlier about the emotional and the social costs, but we also have to look at the financial burden that the Canadian public would have to pay, because to keep people, legitimate refugees once they arrive and have gone through identification and security checks, in a provincial prison will be a costly matter. The last time I looked at those numbers, we were looking at anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 a year to keep somebody in a provincial jail.

Besides that, we have to look at the human cost. Here we would not only be fiscally irresponsible and break UN conventions, conventions to which we are signatories, but we would also be fiscally irresponsible at a time of restraint, and it would be a cruel way to treat some of the world's most vulnerable people when they arrive on our shores.

I have heard a lot about how the bill will punish smugglers. I look on the bill as the “punishing refugees bill”, because that is what it does. Under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, we already have $1 million in fines and life imprisonment for smugglers. If we really want to go after smugglers, we have to work with the international community and get to the source. It is my belief that all these smugglers we are supposedly going to catch will not be on the ship or boat when it arrives.

The current detention and security check system that we already have actually led to charges being laid against some of the people on the boat that arrived from Sri Lanka, but over 90% of the people who arrived on that boat were accepted by Canada as legitimate asylum seekers. However, under this legislation, we would be putting them in prison, and that just makes no sense to me.

There is another aspect we have to look at. We all know the importance of family. All of us like to have our family around us. We can imagine refugees arriving here after running away and putting their lives at risk to get to this new country where they will seek protection. Their number one goal will be to have their family members join them also . Sometimes it will be a mother who might have been able to run away with only two of her kids and might have had to leave a kid behind. Sometimes the whole family remains behind, and only one person escapes.

In those cases, under this legislation, once again we have a two-tiered system that would prohibit legitimate asylum seekers from applying to have their families join them here. They would not have any travel documents. That again goes against the UN convention.

We are not talking about going away on cruises and things like that. For example, if somebody gets here, they might have some family just over the border in the U.S. and they might be able to go there and meet them. If they have arrived here from Mexico, maybe they cannot go back to Mexico but some of their family can get into Guatemala, and they could meet with them there. In these cases, we would once again be limiting and denying some very fundamental rights to people.

This five years of forced separation, by the way, is before they can apply. We know, given the way processing goes in this country right now, two or three or four years could be added to that. We can imagine the impact that kind of separation would have on families.

Once again it would not just be the mental torture that the families would suffer in knowing that their children and other family members were in danger; it would also be the social impact.

There would also be health care costs. Just imagine the impacts it will have on health care. Not only do we keep people in prison for up to a year, but now we will keep them separated from their families.

The impacts cannot be underestimated. We had witness after witness tell us about the impacts of incarceration on children and on adults. Every one of them said that it interferes with the settlement of families and becoming productive, and we heard as well about the costs to health care that I just raised.

Also, we are concerned about biometrics. We are not concerned that biometrics will be used in two areas, fingerprinting and digital photos. Rather, what we are absolutely concerned about is that the committee has not had a chance to study the privacy impact assessment. That is very important for all of us. Obviously, these reforms are not clearly consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At this time I have an amendment.

I move, seconded by the member for Saint-Lambert:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: this House decline to give third reading to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, because it:

(a) gives significant powers to the Minister that could be exercised in an arbitrary manner, including the power to designate so-called “safe” countries without independent advice;

(b) violates international conventions to which Canada is signatory by providing mechanisms for the Government to indiscriminately designate and subsequently imprison bone fide refugees—including children—for up to one year;

(c) undermines best practices in refugee settlement by imposing, on some refugees, five years of forced separation from families;

(d) adopts a biometrics programme for temporary resident visas without adequate parliamentary scrutiny of the privacy risks; and

(e) is not clearly consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.
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St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I certainly respect the member's position and her speech this morning on Bill C-31. Of course, I disagree with just about everything she had in there.

However, there were two amendments that the government moved, and I would thank her and the other members on the committee from the NDP and from the Liberal Party for agreeing and voting unanimously in favour of both amendments that the government passed. While we heard a lot of opposition to the bill today, there was a faint hope within the context of the bill, and we did see some support.

This leads me to believe that once the bill is passed and we have moved forward, a number of members from both the Liberal Party and the NDP who will see the light of day and see that this is in fact the right bill. Bill C-31 is the right legislation in terms of reforming our refugee system.

The member spoke for a couple of moments on designated safe countries. It should be made very clear that the transparency about the method and scope of how safe countries would be designated is now in the bill. It was not in the prvious bill, Bill C-11, but it is in the current bill now.

Most importantly, the member spoke at great length about the issue of children and that a decision would be made for those under 16 years of age. That is an addition to the bill that did not exist under Bill C-11. I know she was not here back when we were talking about this issue, but when the government passed legislation on the issue of sexual consent of a minor, we moved the age from 14 to 16. I would like the member to comment on why her party argued so vehemently against raising the age of consent to 16, yet today she says that 16-year-olds are not in a position to make the types of decisions that she is talking about.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make it very clear that we supported a couple of amendments that were brought forward by the government side because they mitigated the extensive damage that we see in the bill.

One of them was an unintended consequence, as the minister said. I felt good that once he realized there was an unintended consequence whereby people could be deported after many years of living in Canada because the country they had fled from would become considered safe, the government side actually addressed that unintended consequence. I acknowledge that there was some movement.

However, I want to get back to the detention issue. I absolutely cannot, as a mother, a parliamentarian and a teacher, stand here and say that being kept in detention would be okay and would not have a devastating impact on young children, no matter whether they were 3 or 9 or 16 or 17 years old.

Once again, these are the reasons we are so adamant that the bill goes way beyond. It is not only we who see the bill as draconian; expert witnesses agree. It is actually a “punishing refugees bill”, because there is nothing more in it that would punish smugglers than there already is in Bill C-11.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech.

We were obviously together on the same committee and we heard the testimonies regarding similar legislation that was passed in Australia and regarding its proven ineffectiveness.

Furthermore, in November 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of two Sri Lankan refugees, who said that the laws prohibiting them from appealing to the Australian courts were unfair. The same thing could happen in Canada if this bill is passed.

Could my colleague speak to that?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint-Lambert for working tirelessly on this bill. Since we finished the committee stage, she has been doing stellar work in her community and in other areas because this is a topic she feels very passionate about and is very concerned that the compassionate face of Canada is being changed so dramatically.

As I said earlier, arbitrary detention is a violation and I am absolutely convinced that there will be legal challenges.

I also want to talk about learning from the mistakes made by others. When we looked at the omnibus crime bill motion, the United States was telling us over and over again that mandatory detentions did not work in the United States but we still passed a bill that is basically a prison building agenda.

Now we are dealing with the world's most vulnerable people. When they land on our shores, they could be identified as legitimate asylum seekers but they will be incarcerated in provincial jails.