Evidence of meeting #38 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 detention.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Delphine Nakache  Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
  • James Bissett  As an Individual
  • Chantal Tie  Working Group Chair, Inland Protection, Canadian Council for Refugees
  • Loly Rico  Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees
  • Marc Sougavinski  Director General, Centre de santé et de services sociaux de la Montagne
  • Marian Shermarke  Clinical Advisor, Centre de santé et de services sociaux de la Montagne
  • Donald Galloway  Co-Chair, Legal Research Committee, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers
  • Lesley Stalker  Member-at-large, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers

10:30 a.m.

Clinical Advisor, Centre de santé et de services sociaux de la Montagne

Marian Shermarke

Actually, I will address that point as well with regard to the alternatives to detention. In Quebec we have a service called PRAIDA, the one that we are representing today here. That is quite a good alternative to detention. It's a public service. We have the mandate to be designated representatives. We go before the IRB. In detention revision cases we do propose alternatives. Where the person is released, PRAIDA takes over the person. We do shelter people, especially those from vulnerable groups and unaccompanied minors. We do make sure that they present themselves for any conditions where they have to sign. We do make sure that the IRB and the CIC, as well as the SFC have their addresses.

As soon as we see any strange movement by the asylum seeker, we do call the border agency and Immigration Canada and let them know what's going on. At the same time, Immigration Canada as well as the border agency and the IRB do call our services sometimes and say, “Would you please assist this person, and we're going to confine the person if you don't propose an alternative”.

Thank you.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Please go ahead.

10:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees

Loly Rico

Also, I would say that in Toronto there is the Toronto bail program, and that's an alternative to detention. The person has to go and report to the bail program. This has been successful because in our refugee centre we have been accommodating women with their children, especially if they are pregnant and are going to have the baby in the community.

The other point about identification, that is, how to identify the criminals. Anyone who claims refugee status right now in Canada has to be fingerprinted, and with the fingerprints they can be identified immediately because it will be seen through Interpol, etc. That applies to anyone who comes in at the border. I believe we have that already in the system to identify small numbers.

One of our recommendations as an alternative is the community. We are ready to accommodate them. And there are measures already in place to comply with, such as the bond system, the bail programs, and the reporting system they have at this moment.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Good for you, Mr. Scott. You got everybody interested, but unfortunately your time is up.

Mr. Lamoureux.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank all the presenters. I wish we had more time to ask a number of questions to each of you, but I want to focus on your comments, Mr. Galloway, regarding the whole issue of travel documents.

We've heard a lot about the mandatory detention from a financial point of view, and about it being unconstitutional and all of this kind of thing, but one of the areas that we haven't really talked very much about in committee is in fact the issue of the travel documents. In fact, we had Julie Taub, a former IRB member, express confusion about why a refugee would want to have a travel document in order to go back to their own country of origin or the country from which they are fleeing.

You started to explain what I think was a very important point for all committee members to hear, and that's in regard to clause 16 and the impact that clause 16 will have. You have two, three minutes, however long is left out of the five minutes I have, to emphasize that particular point.

10:35 a.m.

Co-Chair, Legal Research Committee, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers

Donald Galloway

Thank you, Mr. Lamoureux.

There are really two points that I would like to make. One is that genuine refugees who are fleeing often cannot stick together. They end up in different countries. There are families I know in Victoria who have very close family members in Sweden. They need to be able to go and see these family members to look after them. They need the travel document in order to do so. The travel document is something that we undertook to provide when we signed on to the refugee convention.

Clause 16 tells us that from now on we're going to give a narrow interpretation of the refugee convention and only supply this travel document to refugees. If they have come here in an irregular manner and are designated, we're only going to give this travel document to individuals after they become permanent residents, after the five-year process, or after they gain a temporary permit.

When it signed up to the convention, Canada attached a reservation. The reservation that it attached said that for two articles we would like to give a narrow interpretation of the phrase “lawfully staying”. These two articles relate to the provision of welfare services. Canada did not exercise its right to attach that reservation in relation to eight other articles, one of which is article 28. In other words, with full knowledge of what we were doing, we signed up to this international regime of granting families who had been split up the chance to go to other neutral countries in order to meet up with their family. That is what's at stake here in clause 16.

It looks like a very odd interpretative clause. I think it's essentially important, that it is really vital to understanding what we're doing. I fear that it may have been attached there because of a mistake. I fear that it is actually there because the government, or the drafters, were actually concerned about people returning, using this document in a way that they are currently not entitled to do. If you go to the passport office, if you go to their website, you will see that these documents are not valid for return to the country of origin.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you. Mr. Lamoureux.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Ms. Rico, I was touched by the fact that you have a personal story. I'm wondering if you could comment on your situation when you applied as a refugee. Can you give us a chronological timeframe for the length of the process, and so on? Hopefully, you have enough time. If not, maybe you can get back to the committee.

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees

Loly Rico

The way that we came here 22 years ago was by what's called early admission, because my husband had moved from El Salvador, where there was a civil war, to Guatemala. We were lucky that the consul from the Canadian embassy was in El Salvador and took him to Guatemala. Then they moved the whole family to Canada, and we finished all our process here in Canada. It took us two years to get our permanent residence in Canada. We have a minister's permit, and that's why we were saying that as a way of paying back, we have the refugee centre to which we welcome women and children.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you.

Mr. Dykstra.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

I'm going to turn five minutes of my time over to Mr. Weston.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Thank you.

I'd like to start where you took us, Ms. Stalker.

Everybody in this room is on the side of people who are persecuted around the world. I just want to say that this is a government that has taken the case of people like Aung San Suu Kyi, a personal hero of mine, to new heights; this is a department that is led by perhaps one of the most ardent advocates for human rights that our government has ever seen in this portfolio; and I personally am the founder of the Canadian Constitution Foundation. I think we'd be on the same page in many areas. I walk shoulder to shoulder with MPs throughout the House in that area.

So when I hear something such you said, Chantal, calling us a nation of human rights abusers, I take great exception. As my colleague Ms. James said, we have to balance. We have to care for people who come to our country like you, Ms. Rico, and we do; but we also have to care for the safety and security of our nation.

Going back to the Constitution, that's why there's a reasonable limits clause in section 1. It says, as you know: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Sure, Ms. Shermarke, we can take the case of an individual and say, this person will be discriminated against in an unfair way. But we have to look at the overall system. We need to preserve our refugee system and make sure that we can identify the 41 persons mentioned by Mr. Menegakis and keep our Canadian society safe. If we fail in that important mission, Canadians will rebuke the whole refugee program, and we as parliamentarians will not be able to stand in front of them and say, yes, we want to continue to welcome refugees to our shores.

So we have to do the balancing act. Please don't demonize those who want to make sure there's security for Canadians and say that they are anti-refugee.

10:35 a.m.

An hon. member

Hear, hear!

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

I'll turn it back to you, Mr. Dykstra.

May 3rd, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Thank you.

I want to clarify one point. I was sent a note concerning Ms. Tie's comments with respect to what the minister said when he was here. She said that the penalties were meant to be punitive. He actually said that it was a deterrence measure. There's a big difference, from the perspective of what people may think of the word “punitive” versus the word “deterrence”. I think it's important to note that.

One of the things we have in front of us that Ms. Sims asked for yesterday is a document from Citizenship and Immigration that notes the top 10 source countries of refugee claims in Canada. You may not have this in front of you, so I will describe it. Hungary is now the number one country on the list. In 2006 it had 26 individuals seeking asylum; in 2007 it was 23; and in 2008, the year we lifted the visa restrictions on that country, it was 302. It's interesting to note that in 2009 it went to 2,532, and in 2010 to 2,333.

I do a lot of reading. I keep up on what's happening in the EU, and I didn't see anywhere that there was a terrible civil war or any type of oppression happening in Hungary during 2008 and 2009. But somehow, with the lifting of those visas, we had over 2,300 more people seeking to claim asylum in Canada.

Perhaps I could direct this question to Mr. Galloway. Do you agree that our system here in Canada is broken and that we need to fix the refugee system?