Evidence of meeting #33 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was refugee.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Martin Collacott  Spokeperson, Centre for Immigration Policy Reform
  • Peter Showler  Director, Refugee Forum, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa
  • Noa Mendelsohn Aviv  Director, Equality Program, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
  • Julie Taub  Immigration and Refugee Lawyer, As an Individual
  • Nathalie Des Rosiers  General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
  • Toni Skarica  Crown Attorney, Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario
  • Debbie Douglas  Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
  • Francisco Rico-Martinez  Regional Director, Toronto, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

5:50 p.m.

Crown Attorney, Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario

Toni Skarica

Yes, go ahead.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Who is not going to like this bill?

5:50 p.m.

Crown Attorney, Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario

Toni Skarica

These people, the people at the top of this list, are not going to like it.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

So it's in the best interests of everybody except for the people who are seeking to abuse our generosity.

5:50 p.m.

Crown Attorney, Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you very much.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you.

Madame Groguhé.

April 30th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to the witnesses for joining us today.

During the debates on Bill C-31, we have heard on a number of occasions that asylum seekers are abusing Canada's generosity. What is your comment on that, Ms. Douglas?

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Debbie Douglas

I think we generalize to the detriment of those bona fide refugees that we keep hearing about while we continue to talk about refugees as a group who are taking advantage of our system. But I think Francisco wanted to comment on this specifically.

5:50 p.m.

Regional Director, Toronto, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Francisco Rico-Martinez

You have to check the percentage of refugee claimants in our criminal system. It's very low. The bill is not going to catch these people. Mr. Skarica is very passionate about it. Why? Because the refugee hearing will be in 30 days. There won't be enough time to do a criminal check of anything. This person could be accepted as a convention refugee very easily.

One of the problems he detected was that the RCMP, the CBSA, or whatever, don't do the checks that need to be done. Do you know what I mean? He is very clear about how Hungary is a safe haven for criminals in that particular sense. How are we going to deal with that situation here in 30 days? Maybe the person will be accepted. And we are going to have an issue if that person is accepted.

So the double-checks are important. That's why the shorter terms, when we have a system that has been proven not to work in many circumstances, are a problem.

5:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Debbie Douglas

I should say that the latest statistics from the Ministry of Community and Social Services in Ontario do not bear out the fact that refugees and immigrants are overrepresented in our social assistance system. We can certainly take a look at those statistics.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

As a democratic country, we have made enormous progress in basic human rights. Earlier, one of our witnesses stressed the importance of a society being founded on the rule of law rather than on the power of any one person, the minister in this case.

Minister Kenney has said that democratic countries are safe countries that cannot produce refugees. Do you share that opinion? If not, can you give us examples that would demonstrate the opposite?

5:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Debbie Douglas

One of the arguments we have been making is that there are people who belong to particular social groups who, even within democratic countries, are discriminated against and at times even killed. In particular, we are looking at lesbians and gays.

For example, I come from the Caribbean. Not to stereotype or generalize about Caribbean culture or practices, but we do know that there are a number of gays and lesbians from some Caribbean countries who have had to flee, including to Canada, for protection because of their sexual orientation. Will our minister deem those countries to be a democratic? Absolutely. They're part of the Organization of American States. We have very good trade relations with the Caribbean, as we should. But at the same time, we have to recognize that there are particular groups of people who need Canada's protection even when they are born and live in countries we deem to be democratic.

5:55 p.m.

Regional Director, Toronto, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Francisco Rico-Martinez

And on the other hand, one of the main problems we have with the modification of the designated country of origin is the process with which that country will be determined. In the original Bill C-11, when it was passed, they were talking about refugee rights, the standards of rights or the standards of violations in that particular country, and a specialized team was going to analyze that particular concept of the evolution of the human rights issues in that particular country.

Now, that situation is gone, and we are only going to use the statistics prepared in Canada, such as the rate of acceptance, withdrawal, and 30 cases in particular time. Those are statistics in Canada. Why don't we go back to the idea of the specialized team that would take a look at the human rights levels or issues going on in that country, and provide a report on that? This would work better.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Madame Groguhé, you have two minutes.