Evidence of meeting #39 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 children.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Okay.

I'm not going to be able to get an answer, but I have to tell you that my responsibilities as a parliamentarian, and my responsibilities to the Canadian taxpayer and my constituents of Scarborough Centre, that I believe we should err on the side of caution and not on the side of ignorance.

I think my time is probably done because so many points of order were taken up and—

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

You actually have a whole minute, Ms. James.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Okay, thank you very much.

Actually, I'm going to ask a different question, directed to you.

The issue that the four panellists are here today for is on the less than 1%, but a large portion of this bill deals with legitimate refugees who have to wait up to two years for their first hearing. It costs taxpayers a lot of money. Let's face it, refugees are waiting to have their claim processed and a decision of yes or no. We are trying to improve that situation so that legitimate refugees can have their hearing much quicker, are able to integrate into Canadian society, and can start to contribute to Canada's economic prosperity as well.

Do you think this bill ensures that legitimate refugees have their cases heard much quicker so that we can put our resources into the legitimate refugees coming to Canada and not into the ones abusing our system?

Just to give you a bit of background on the ones that are abusing our system—

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

You're well over time, Ms. James.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Okay. Thank you very much.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Madam Groguhé.

5:35 p.m.

Executive Director, Action Réfugiés Montréal

Glynis Williams

May we answer that question?

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Well, my problem is that you talked well over your time. People have set rules and I'm trying to follow them.

Madam Groguhé.

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Just before I start asking my questions, I would like to emphasize the fact that the witnesses are here to be heard. We must show our respect to our witnesses, whoever they may be.

We had a witness yesterday, a woman from Australia. She told us about her concerns about Bill C-31. In fact, a similar bill has been implemented in Australia particularly with respect to mandatory detention. She told us that this mandatory detention has significant economic and social costs, particularly for children.

My question is for either one of you. What type of mental and physical health risks are there for children who are detained in the longer term? Under this bill, some children will be separated from their family. What are the consequences of this kind of separation on their health and their subsequent reintegration?

5:40 p.m.

President Elect, Canadian Paediatric Society

Dr. Richard Stanwick

Perhaps I'll start, again highlighting the paper that did appear in Paediatrics & Child Health. Probably some of the most severe is the future suicidal ideation because of the consequences associated with sleep disturbances. Children experienced mutism—in other words, they lost their voices.

I think we've emphasized again, these children lost some of their milestones. Child development is a one-way process, and if you lose those steps you can't go back and fix them. B.C. has probably a world expert, Clyde Hertzman, who speaks to the importance of making sure that children fulfill the normal steps in childhood development.

That is why we're expressing such great concern that if this bill does go forward, respect must be given to the fact that children only get one chance at being children, so the exercise piece has to be there, the play piece, and the education.

Again, in terms of dealing with the criminality aspect, what we're trying to suggest, particularly in avoiding foster care, is that future criminality can, in fact, be avoided by the appropriate steps, should this bill go forward. That is the plea that we're making. We know there are going to be health consequences and if we don't do it properly, basically we'll be jeopardizing this whole population of individuals coming in.

May 3rd, 2012 / 5:40 p.m.

Marie Adèle Davis Executive Director, Canadian Paediatric Society

Perhaps I can add, it's not only the negative effects, but there is an opportunity cost. Kids are incredibly resilient, which is wonderful. But the sooner they get into a normal situation with their family, and they have access to recreation, the sooner they can get back on that developmental trajectory and become the future Canadians we hope they will be—that they will be going to secondary education and will become vibrant members of the workforce. So there's a whole host of negative consequences, but then we lose opportunities by not giving kids access to what they need as soon as possible.

5:40 p.m.

Executive Director, Action Réfugiés Montréal

Glynis Williams

May I also say that a child watching his or her parent become disempowered in detention, and also suffer mental health consequences, has an even more dramatic effect on that child. One year in the life of a five-year-old is 20% of all of their life. It's a huge period of time.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

That's fine, thank you.

One of our witnesses reminded us about the content of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines a child as a human being below the age of 18 years. Under this bill, children over the age of 16 years will be detained in centres. What types of services will be offered to young people detained in provincial prisons? Are these centres suitable for children?

5:40 p.m.

Program Coordinator, Action Réfugiés Montréal

Jenny Jeanes

Basic school services are currently offered, but it isn't a full-time school. There may be a few hours of schooling a week offered to school-aged children. Otherwise, as Dr. Stanwick said, very few activities are offered, aside from television.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you.

Mr. Opitz.