Evidence of meeting #48 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 justice.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jayne Stoyles  Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice
  • Loly Rico  Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees

3:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Jayne Stoyles

Yes, I think it's a good question.

I don't know a lot about what happens at that end of it, in terms of what's happening in the countries themselves as people are making the applications. But my sense of things is that certainly if there were significant resources to really be able to investigate someone's background and history, and make a decision on that basis, then I understand the idea of trying to prevent more people from coming.

My sense is that at that stage, it can be fairly loose evidence against someone, and that you may in fact be preventing also some of the victims and people who legitimately have refugee claims, and really need to prevent—

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you.

I think, though, with war criminals, part of this study has to do with biometrics, as well. We want to determine that the person who applies is the person who arrives, and that when people arrive, they are actually the people they said they were.

With biometrics, you're not doing only that; you're also checking the databases of some of our allies around the world. Those types of things, with war criminals and so forth, would be detected. I think that's the real benefit. We want to stop those people from coming into Canada.

I know that you're here to represent the real victims of war crimes and so forth, so I do appreciate your being here.

Just in line with that type of question, our government, actually our Prime Minister, recently set aside $12 million to prevent human smuggling operations in Southeast Asia. We're actually working with other police and other organizations around the world. We're trying to prevent them from coming to Canada in the first place. This is completely new. I think the majority of Canadians would welcome that.

My question goes to knowing who arrives on your shores. Would you not agree that on exit and entry, being able to know ahead of time who's coming in and who's leaving is something that's very important for the safety and security of Canada and Canadians as a whole?

4 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Jayne Stoyles

My points, given the mandate of our organization, are more about the issue of justice. I'm sure that there are others who can speak more to what's happening at the border. That's really not our area of expertise.

The point I really want to make is that, in a sense, when someone who's accused of some very serious crimes comes here, it almost presents an opportunity, if there are a few cases that can actually then be prosecuted. My point is about prevention and the opportunity, by having some cases here, to send a message that there really is nowhere to go if there isn't going to be justice in the affected country.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

I understand. We've heard your opinion expressed.

The point I'm trying to get at is that it's important that we, as Canadians, try to prevent situations from occurring as opposed to dealing with them after the fact. I think you agreed that it's more important to identify people before they arrive in Canada, so I thank you for that.

I'm just going to ask Ms. Rico a couple of questions as well. I know that you're here talking mainly about women and children, and I know that you're opposed to detention.

Do you not think that a woman could also be someone who could present a serious security risk to Canada? I know that you're tending to group everybody in the same bunch, male and female. In actuality, terrorism, war crimes, and so forth are not always isolated to one sex or the other. I would just like you to acknowledge that there is a possibility that women, not just males coming into Canada, could also present a problem. Could I have your comments on that, please?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees

Loly Rico

Yes, I understand that. I'm not coming to say that whoever comes here doesn't have a criminal background. One of the things right now in the bill, in the law, is that the minute anyone comes to Canada and claims refugee status, they immediately start doing a fingerprinting process. That's how you find them.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

You mentioned people being in detention. Why are they in detention?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees

Loly Rico

Most of them are in detention because they don't have ID documents. Some of them are there because they are going to be removed.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

I had another question to ask you specifically.

Obviously, at one time, fraudulent documents meant just passports, but now we're getting into things such as birth certificates, accreditation, diplomas, and so forth. It has surpassed what we're familiar with in regard to fraudulent documents.

Would you not agree that in the best interests and the safety and security of Canadians as a whole, as a government, we must be focused primarily on the safety of our own citizens? If someone comes in with fraudulent documents and we cannot prove one way or another....

I'm alarmed that you think someone should just be released into society. I have to tell you that I'm a mother of two children. I'd be very concerned if that were the rule of law in this country.

Please acknowledge that a government's main priority is the safety and security of its citizens, first and foremost.

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees

Loly Rico

One experience I have had in my 21 years of working is that I haven't seen any woman who has been involved in criminal acts. Second is that what we know is that most of the refugees, you see, are victims of war crimes. They come—

Let me finish.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

No, Ms. James. I'm sorry. That's it.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, 41 Sun Sea and Ocean Lady were inadmissible to Canada, so I'm not necessarily buying that statement.

Thank you.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

Thank you.

Ms. Sims.

June 12th, 2012 / 4 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

I want to thank both our presenters for coming and presenting to us.

My first question is for you, Jayne. You have expressed concerns regarding the refusal of the government to make any additional funding contributions to the war crimes program since its inception. The most recent report from the government on this program, which spans the entirety of the period between 2008 and 2011, states that turning war criminals away at our borders is the most cost-effective means of dealing with war criminals who come to Canada.

Can you explain how other aspects of the program such as the criminal investigation and prosecution of war criminals are important, if the program is to succeed as a doorstop to impunity for war criminals?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Jayne Stoyles

To give you and perhaps others some details about the program, it was created in 1998 and had a budget of $15.6 million and that has never been increased. After September 11, a fourth department was added, which was the Canada Border Services Agency, as it was created. That same amount of money, $15.6 million, went from three departments to four departments. Now CBSA has its own funding and has taken some of that funding as permanent funding. So it's actually down to $8.4 million, I understand, for the three departments that are left.

It's absolutely right in terms of cost effectiveness, working at the border. It means you can have many more cases where people are then excluded from entering Canada. What we feel is very important, at least in a few cases at a time, is that we do have the resources in Canada to have the RCMP investigate allegations of war crimes and genocide, and to bring some of the cases to trial. We believe strongly that this actually is what sends a message.

The things we do at the border are cost effective, but what do they achieve? They might contribute to the prevention of atrocities by sending a message that you can't go to another country very easily, but if people know they might face a life sentence for the commission of atrocities, that's something we start to see globally. We are seeing that globally. We're seeing many countries throughout Europe and countries in other parts of the world addressing their own history. Then we've sent a message that there will be accountability, and I think, it's very intuitive that we will start to see a lessening of these situations occurring. That's a wise investment.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

You've also talked about the important role that prosecutions for war crimes at a national level play in creating a deterrent for such atrocities.

Can you expand on this for us? Why are national prosecutions important? Can you talk about the message prosecutions send to perpetrators? And what kind of message do national level prosecutions send to victims of war crimes?