House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wto.

Topics

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before we get to that, we are going to see what the hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca wants to ask you.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member was in Colombia and saw what was there.

I would suggest to him that the farmers are having difficulty exporting because of trade barriers. Trade barriers were one of the major obstacles for Colombian farmers to grow something other than coca.

Does the hon. member agree that what needs to be done here in North America is reduce the consumption of drugs? Probably that is the most effective way in which we can reduce that bloody conflict in Colombia that has claimed more than 30,000 lives over the last 20 years.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, certainly trade barriers are a problem for Colombia. However, Colombia has so many problems it would be hard to say that is the key problem.

The farmers in Colombia also suffer from a lack of transportation. They suffer from thugs and criminals who impose themselves on them, threaten them, put fear in their lives and direct their operations in many ways, despite what I think are tremendous efforts by the Colombian government with limited resources to combat that.

Certainly in Colombia there are a lot of problems to address. One of them is trade barriers. At the moment there are much bigger problems to deal with and I hope Colombia is successful in dealing with them.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I almost thought I was back in question period when my colleague asked me a question even though I had not given a speech.

In the spirit of the co-operation I have enjoyed with my colleague and friend across the way, I will confer with our officials and report to him this day exactly which provinces are represented because as always, I would not want to give him any inaccurate information.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Calgary West.

I have a great deal of difficulty with the bill but I support it. My party supports it. Our hope is that the removal of trade barriers and the inclusion of China in the WTO will add to a liberalization of the country and an improvement in human rights within that country.

China represents one-fifth of the earth's population. It is our fourth largest trading partner. It has the largest economy not currently in the WTO.

Part of the reason we would like to see the removal of trade barriers is that trade does not necessarily confer a moral agreement with the regime in power. Trade exists between individuals and firms. We cannot confuse our moral condonement of a nation's policies and behaviour with a desire to increase bilateral trade. Our hope is that when we look at this in 20 years we will see that the improvement of trade has actually increased discourse between cultures and individuals and that it has managed to liberalize the political environment within China.

One of the primary faults in geopolitics is the belief that there is only one superpower, the United States. I believe that is a myth. China's behaviour could best be summed up in a comment made by Sun tzu, the famous Chinese philosopher. He said that one of the best ways of displaying strength is to show a rather benign and weak front to an opponent but behind that, to develop an extraordinary amount of strength.

China has been doing that for some time. Not only has it had a super heated economy but it has had a super heated military machine. While we have been looking at other problems around the world, China has been developing ballistic missiles and nuclear capabilities. It has been purchasing and producing large scale armaments, including aircraft carriers which will enable it to extend its reach abroad. This is often denied and ignored in international foreign policy.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister with our allies must pay close heed to this behaviour in future dealings with China. We simply cannot ignore it. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Some people have articulated very well what China has been doing over the years.

China's behaviour is another matter. If we look at the Spratly Islands, Taiwan and Tibet in particular, which my friend and colleague will discuss, China has displayed repeatedly an absolute utter neglect for the basic norms of human rights that Canadians and the international community hold dear.

China is among the worst abusers of human rights in the world. Tibet is a case in point. In the 1940s China annexed a good chunk of Tibet and was responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of innocent Tibetans. The Chinese murdered thousands of monks and nuns and burned down almost all the 6,400 monasteries in Tibet. It was an act of cultural genocide. This is something the international community has chosen to pay little heed to.

It is instructive to judge a country's future by looking at its past. The repressive regime in China thinks very little of human rights or human life. Today it continues to abuse the basic human rights of people in Tibet. In fact, 74% of the political prisoners in Tibet held by the Chinese are nuns and monks. It is a case of overt religious oppression by a repressive regime.

Other members have mentioned this eloquently both inside and outside the House. The government could have spoken more forcefully on this issue. The government could have been more aggressive by bringing the issue to international fora such as the UN but it has chosen not to.

It is sad, because if we do not discuss these egregious abuses of human rights, in a way we become party to them. We have seen many cases in history where our neglect to examine abuses of the basic human rights of people has caused widespread traumatic problems for all of us.

Fair trade is good, but we simply cannot ignore the situation on the ground. The saving grace in the liberalization of trade is perhaps the response of the more hard line members of the Chinese regime, those who would wish to support and continue the status quo. They are against the normalization of trade between countries. That fact gives me hope that what we are trying to do is the right thing, that it will improve human rights, liberalize the country and ensure that the basic human rights of Chinese people will be improved and not worsened and that by liberalizing trade we are not part and party unwillingly and unwittingly to a worsening of human rights.

The militarists and reactionaries of China oppose the liberalization of trade. They correctly see it as a threat to their repressive regime. My hope is that in the engagement of trade we also put in conditions that China cannot engage in human rights abuses on one hand while engaging in the normalization of trade on the other.

In the discussions on including China in the WTO, it was very interesting to see the behaviour of China. China tried to introduce a number of loopholes through which it could be included in the WTO if it were to adhere to the spirit and meaning of the WTO. That is a vague and open-ended statement if ever there was one. We cannot tolerate that. China has to adhere to the same human rights norms that we, the United States and all parties to the WTO must adhere to. It is not an either/or situation. It is a condition upon China being introduced and becoming a full, respected member of the WTO.

China must not engage in behaviour that will compromise the regional security in that area. I mentioned the Spratly Islands, Taiwan and Tibet. The international community cannot turn a blind eye to that type of behaviour. Nor can it turn a blind eye to the acquisition of ballistic missiles, nuclear capable technology and the expansion of China's military hardware.

I find it remarkable that the government chooses to give aid to China, a country that is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on improving and expanding its military capabilities. I do not think Canadian taxpayers want to see their hard earned money sent under the guise of official development assistance to a country like China, which is one of the largest economic powers in the world, to build up its military hardware. That is not why we help underprivileged countries. The government should stop its official development assistance to China immediately.

I strongly encourage the government to speak out more forcefully against the human rights abuses against the people of Tibet and China's egregious abuses of the norms of international security when it rattles sabres against Taiwan. The only resolution to the Taiwan-China situation will occur through peaceful negotiation. Sabre rattling against Taiwan or the Spratly Islands only causes concern for the international community as well as for the region.

In conclusion, our party supports the inclusion of China in the WTO but it is not support at any cost. The Canadian Alliance will be paying close attention to the behaviour of China on human rights and religious freedoms and in engaging in fair trade, not the abusive trade practices of the past.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I commend my hon. colleague from Esquimalt for his eloquent remarks. He is well esteemed in this place as one of its principle and most consistent voices in defence of human rights. I associate myself strongly with his critique of the policies of the People's Republic of China.

However I am not entirely persuaded by my hon. friend's argument that passage of Bill C-50 and the accession of the People's Republic of China to the World Trade Organization would lead to an improvement of the human rights situation. I am not entirely persuaded it would end the cultural genocide in Tibet or stop aggressive militaristic Chinese foreign policy vis-à-vis Taiwan.

Does the hon. member not think granting the dictatorial Chinese communist authorities treasured access to international markets would reward them for perpetuating a system based on denial of human dignity and violation of human rights? Does he not think it perverse to reward the Chinese government with economic opportunity before it has shown concrete steps toward ending the repugnant practices to which his speech referred?

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
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5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his question. It is an essential moral question I struggled with regarding Bill C-50. I do not know the answer. As I said in my speech, we must look at it 10 years down the line to see if it has worked. My hope and prayer is that it will.

I take some solace in Bill C-50 because the most hardline supporters of the despotic regime in China are those most opposed to the liberalization of trade. That fact alone gives me hope that by liberalizing trade and increasing discourse between China and the free world we would be able to improve the norms of human rights within China.

Do I think it would change the situation in Tibet overnight? I absolutely do not. Nor do I think it would change in the intermediate term. The only way to change the situation in Tibet and China is by fostering repeated and increasing discourse between the free world and China. We need to break down barriers and strengthen the Chinese middle class. We need to make the young and the middle class in China understand that basic human rights are fundamental to the security of a country. We need to show them that respect for human rights in other countries is fundamental to the strength of China as a nation. My hope is that this will occur.

As I said in my speech, liberalizing trade would not give tacit moral approval to the Chinese regime. Trade is a discourse between individuals and firms. We could use other measures to express our dissatisfaction. If China took a hard turn toward becoming more despotic we could use WTO trade levers against it. I hope the government has the courage to do that. Members of the Canadian Alliance would be pushing the government to do it.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has touched on a lot of the issues. I will address an issue I did not hear in his speech.

The People's Republic of China is using our foreign aid to build a railway from its interior regions to the area that used to be known as Tibet, an area which was significantly larger before the turn of the last century. If we look at atlases from that period Tibet was probably three times the size of the area China recognizes today. Canadian foreign aid is being used to build a railway so Chinese troops can be sent to suppress potential independence movements in Tibet.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, China has annexed over half the territory of Tibet. Not only that has happened. In the World Bank there was a proposal to move large numbers of Chinese people into eastern Tibet. It is an issue many of us in the Canadian Alliance have fought hard against and put a freeze on for the time being.

As a party we are completely and unequivocally opposed to the use of Canadian taxpayer funds for the abuse in any way, shape or form of the Chinese people or the aggressive extraterritorial actions of the Chinese regime.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, in response to the question of the member for Calgary Southeast regarding China's accession to the World Trade Organization, Bill C-50 would implement safeguards and anti-dumping rights so we could protect Canadian industries in the event there were surges of imports from China that could cause injury.

Bill C-50 raises a number of difficult moral questions. I am generally a big believer in free trade. That being said, we jeopardize free trade when we allow countries to wipe out our ability to produce strategic goods by flooding us with cheap products of their own. Such is the case with microchips, precision small ball bearings and whatnot. We do not want to lose our ability to produce the things that are essential for the security of our economy. That is where I draw the line.

The hon. member for Calgary Southeast and my other colleague raised another moral quandary. It is tough to imagine a country with a worse record than China with regard to human rights issues, expansionism or militarism. China is probably the single greatest human rights abuser in the world today. We need to consider whether a country like China should receive the open trade policies and foreign aid Canada condones giving it.

First, let us take the Falun Gong or Falun Dafa movement. It exists outside China, but those who practice it inside China are detained without trial. They suffer beatings. They have died in massive numbers in custody. They have had their tapes and printed materials confiscated and destroyed. What has it all been for? The pacifist group is today's moral equivalent of Mahatma Gandhi. It is persecuted in China because it has a larger potential support base than the communist party. That is the chief reason Falun Gong practitioners are persecuted.

I am not raising these questions only with regard to what goes on in China. I am talking about what China's embassies, missions and consulates in other countries do to Falun Gong practitioners on behalf of the policies of the People's Republic.

Canadians living here have had their business dealings interfered with. Officers of the People's Republic of China have gathered information about them and communicated with their families back home to apply pressure. The issue goes above and beyond anything China is doing within its own territory or to its neighbours. It is affecting people here in Canada.

With regard to Taiwan, some hon. members have talked about China's gunboat threats, patrols and exercises in the Formosa Strait. During the Taiwanese elections Chinese military leaders bragged about two stage rocket technology with a range that could hit Los Angeles. Let us imagine conducting an election campaign next to a massive nation with a population of 1.3 billion and one of the largest armies in the world. Let us imagine it rattling sabres and talking about how it could storm not only you but the biggest ally that could ever hope to defend you. Compared to that, other issues seem benign.

China does not recognize the independence of Taiwan. It fights diplomatic recognition of Taiwan whenever it can. I will go on record in this place as saying I support the Canadian government getting off the fence and giving Taiwan full diplomatic recognition.

It goes on from there. In 1997 Hong Kong went back to Chinese control. What have we seen since? Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Hong Kong and come to Canada for refuge. One might ask why. It is because there has been a chilling of freedom of the press and a suppression of freedom of speech.

The main Chinese population which happens to be Han is flooding Hong Kong. According to estimates anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000 Chinese of Han ethnicity have flooded into Hong Kong to try to drown out what was a symbol of free trade and free enterprise. Cantonese, the language commonly spoken on the streets of Hong Kong five years ago, is giving way to Mandarin.

As one of my hon. colleagues mentioned, China's military is building aircraft carriers. It is trying to develop three stage rocket technology for intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is still putting new nuclear submarines into the water.

With regard to Tibet China has seized the Panchen Lama, the person who would succeed the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is exiled. He must operate out of a base in northern India at the Dip-Tse-Chok-Ling monastery among other places.

My hon. colleagues have talked about religious repression, the murders of tens of thousands of monks and nuns, foreign aid being used to build railways so the Chinese can suppress Tibetan independence, and the flooding of Tibet with members of the Chinese Han population as a form of territorial expansion.

Within its own population China enforces its one child policy by forcing abortions on women at the end of a bayonet.

With regard to student democracy movements, we all know what happened in Tiananmen Square where tens of thousands of students were arrested and many were killed.

Not a single one of these activities should be supported, condoned, or given any form of reward. It is troubling. Edmund Burke said evil triumphs when good men do nothing. Turning a blind eye to the activities of the People's Republic of China toward its neighbours, its own citizens and the operations of its missions, consulates and embassies overseas would be a grave mistake. Its activities should not be rewarded or condoned. We should not treat them lightly as though China were just another peaceful neighbour.

China has territorial expansionist aspirations. Such things should be checked. With regard to free trade policies we should be helping countries like India. India's one billion population and non-expansionist behaviour would make it a far better trading partner than a regime like the People's Republic of China.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was not intending to speak to this bill until I realized a few moments ago that it was on the order paper. I join my colleagues from Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca and Calgary West in expressing grave concerns about the bill before the House.

I say that as somebody who is often accused of being a knee-jerk free trader, somebody who believes implicitly in the idea of free trade between civilized nations. We have much to look at in the past 50 years in terms of the improvement of living standards throughout the world by the expansion of the circle of exchange and enterprise permitted by free and orderly trade between countries.

However, free and democratic countries such as Canada and the United States must realize that free markets in and of themselves are not a panacea to all political and economic problems, particularly when it comes to regimes such as the communist dictatorial regime of the People's Republic of China whose very premise is the denial and denigration of the dignity of the human person.

My colleagues from Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca and Calgary West have itemized some of the atrocious abuses committed against human rights by the PRC authorities. It includes the 50 year campaign of cultural genocide in Tibet which has virtually destroyed a people, their culture and their faith and a contemporary campaign against a relatively small and innocuous group, Falun Gong.

However there are other groups which are persecuted in China who receive less notoriety in the west. They receive less press coverage perhaps because we have for some reason less sympathy. The Chinese government has a very deliberate campaign of religious persecution. It persecutes religious minorities, in particular Protestant churches and Catholics loyal to the Pope, namely fully communicating Catholics.

The Chinese constitution ostensibly permits freedom of religion but only for those who practise religion in institutions, that is, in churches formally recognized and ordained by the state which itself excludes most people of faith who refuse to allow their faith to be exercised under the ambit of the state.

Let us make no mistake about why this is. We are talking about a communist regime whose official creed is atheism. It has an official established religion, and that is the rejection and denial of God. When individuals choose to assert their relationship to God, the government intervenes, crushes them, arrests them, throws them into forced labour camps or throws them into prison.

I recently read an autobiography of a humble Chinese Catholic priest who spent 35 of the past 40 years in a series of Chinese labour camps and prisons. He was forced to do disgusting labour of the worst kind and living in the most deplorable circumstances. His experience is not uncommon in the People's Republic of China.

Last week the Vatican released the names of 33 bishops and priests who were detained or are being kept under strict surveillance and forbidden to worship. These are people who were arrested in the last couple of weeks. It is estimated that there are several thousand Protestant and Catholic clergy in similar situations. President Bush during his trip to China made this clear during his time in that country.

For example, Father Lu Genjun, a 39 year old underground Roman Catholic priest was arrested two months in Heibei province and has now apparently been sentenced to three years in a labour camp. His crimes were receiving theology training, being ordained a Roman Catholic priest, refusing to recognize the patriotic association which is the bogus shadow Catholic church contrived by the communist authorities and conducting evangelization.

This kind of thing happens on a daily basis in China for those who seek to publicly express their most deeply held conscientious faith convictions. My hon. colleague from Calgary West talked about the ugly side of the Chinese single child population policy which includes documented cases of forced abortions and sterilizations.

China is ordering one of its remote poverty stricken regions to commit at least 20,000 abortions by the end of the year. This is the state creating an abortion quota. This has been documented by Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute and formerly the Wall Street Journal . Chinese population authorities, who by the way are funded in part by the United Nations fund for population activities, which in turn is shamefully funded by our own CIDA, set up population control tents in remote provinces in smaller communities. They do a survey and if people there have been having more than their quota of a single child, the authorities will go from house to house and arrest and round up women who may be pregnant with a second or third child.

There are documented and in some cases filmed experiences where mothers have been taken to these so-called population control tents and forced to undergo abortions or sterilizations. This is the kind of regime that we are dealing with.

Steven Mosher, who has written books and articles about this for western journals has said:

If medals were given to nations for committing human rights abuses, China would win the gold every time.

Before we approve the bill I hope that we are fully conscious of the kind of regime which we are seeking to reward with greater economic trade benefits through accession to the WTO.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Refugees
Private Members' Business

February 27th, 2002 / 5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I wish to inform the House that there is an error in the text of Motion No. 422 in today's Order Paper. The motion suggests changes to paragraph 101(1)(e) of the Immigration Act and not 101(7)(e). I regret any inconvenience this may have caused hon. members.

Refugees
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should make regulations under paragraph 101(1)(e) of the Immigration Act with the effect that people claiming to be refugees pursuant to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees will not be admitted for consideration of their claim from the following countries: the United States, New Zealand, Australia and all countries that are members of the European Economic Union.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to discuss my private member's Motion No. 422. I would first like to express my disappointment that the motion was deemed non-votable, especially when business can come from the other place without ever having to enter into the lottery and is instantly made votable.

I dare say that public safety and secure borders are more relevant to most Canadians than creating a national horse or setting aside a day in honour of a former prime minister. That is not to suggest that those issues do not have merit. They certainly do, but we must get our priorities straight in this place.

That being said, the motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should make regulations under paragraph 101(1)(e) of the Immigration Act with the effect that people claiming to be refugees pursuant to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees will not be admitted for consideration of their claim from the following countries: the United States, New Zealand, Australia and all countries that are members of the European Economic Union.

The issue of refugees coming to Canada has been of significant public concern for decades. If average Canadians were asked what they thought about Canada's refugee system we would find they are very proud of the fact that we have assisted tens of thousands of people who are genuinely persecuted in foreign lands. I also think we would hear that people are tired of Canada's generosity being taken advantage of by fraudulent refugee claims.

My motion would virtually eliminate the practice of silent shopping and the use of our refugee system as a back door immigration method. This would help offset public opinion that in one survey says 70% of Canadians agree that many people claming to be refugees are not real refugees.

It is vital for Canada to continue its tradition of helping those less fortunate and I truly believe that. I believe that if Canadians were able to see that only genuine refugees were being admitted those attitudes would greatly change. It is as equally vital that Canadians not feel used. By prescribing certain nations as safe third countries the government would restore a lot of confidence in Canada's refugee system.

Before addressing the motion I would like to congratulate the government for entering into an accord with the United States that would implement one aspect of my motion. It was only shortly after I gave notice of my motion that the former immigration minister announced that Canada and the United States would be entering into a safe third country agreement that would turn back refugee claimants coming from either country.

This is especially significant considering that the majority of asylum seekers come to Canada through the United States by using its visa system as a staging ground to enter Canada for an easy refugee claim. Unfortunately all we have at this point is some talk. We have no agreement yet.

I would now like to address why it is important to list all western democracies that adhere to and are signatories to the United Nations convention on refugees. One immigration policy expert, James Bissett, who spent several years in the civil service, says Canada could reduce bogus claims by 40% if it adopted a safe third country rule across the board. Thus Canada would stop accepting refugees who travel to Canada via the United States or other modern, liberal democracies where they clearly face no threat of persecution.

This is what my motion suggests. Canada is a destination of choice for refugee asylum shoppers because it accepts up to 60% of all claimants compared to 28% in the United States and only 10% in Europe. This rule would force claimants to make their case in the first country they land in rather than the most likely country to accept them.

The member for London North Centre, the Liberal chairman of the all party committee on border security, said the two countries must put a stop to economic migrants who claim refugee status after gaining legal entry into Canada. He said:

If you are coming from a safe third country, that is, the United States, you are not being persecuted and you are in that country, why do you want to make a refugee claim here? We should be able to deport them and send them back to the United States. What the United States wants to do with them is their own problem. It shouldn't become our problem.

What many Canadians do not recognize is how expensive it is to allow people coming from safe third countries to make a claim in Canada. It cost Canadian taxpayers more that $21 million last year just to provide free lawyers for refugee claimants, many of whom entered from the United States after their visitor, work or student visas expired.

The costs do not include welfare and health care spending to accommodate refugee claimants. With both our health and welfare systems strained to the breaking point, it is ridiculous to continue allowing people to come to Canada to make a refugee claim when they could have made that claim in the first country in which that they landed.

Critics of a motion such as mine will say that I am being cold and heartless. That could not be further from the truth. I am very proud of the role Canada plays in assisting people with nowhere else to turn, those who are genuine refugees. It is an unfortunate reality, however, that we have also become the destination of choice for asylum shoppers.

If my motion had been deemed votable and subsequently passed in the House of Commons, the government could have virtually put an end to the practice of asylum shopping and sharply curtailed queue jumping, leaving room for our overtaxed refugee determination system to focus on people truly in need of Canada's assistance.

This of course raises the question of who is in need of Canada's assistance.

Canada expects to receive 45,000 refugee claims by the end of this fiscal year, up from 38,000 last year, of which only 8,000 of the claimants are government sponsored. Are 45,000 claims that are expected to arrive not a truly disproportionate number to the 8,000 that have been pre-screened and known to be genuine refugees long before they came to Canada?

If we did not have so many people constantly showing up at our doorstep, imagine the relief we could provide to refugees in camps around the world where people have no hope of ever finding asylum because they are the poorest of the poor.

The majority of the 45,000 asylum seekers will come through countries where they could make claims but have chosen to come to Canada, most likely because it is widely known that if they make it to Canada they are all but assured of having their claim accepted and if it is rejected, it is also widely understood that one will never get deported.

It is very clear to anyone in the world that Canada does not have the wherewithal, nor perhaps the political will, to deport failed refugee claimants or even dangerous criminals. This point is made very clear by the fact that Canadian immigration officials have no idea where over 27,000 failed refugee claimants are, even though they have been ordered deported.

If the government were to list all the countries that are signatories to the UN convention on refugees, our immigration system could put far more focus on removing undesirables from this country instead of simply losing them and not knowing if they have or have not left the country.

Let me take this one step further. If we had implemented the safe third country strategy in time, we would likely not have had to deal with the likes of Tafari Rennock, a violent fugitive who was deported from the United States for sex offences and was later granted refugee status after slipping into Canada.

When Canadians read regular news stories like this one, they certainly do not feel safe, especially considering the recent terrorist attacks on America. If we are willing to provide a safe haven for violent sex offenders, who else are we willing to harbour?

What is worse is how this looks to our allies. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, despite all its bristle and the introduction of Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act, the federal government has stubbornly refused to acknowledge that our overly generous refugee system poses a major threat to our country's security and to that of our American neighbour.

Last year, we know that more than 45,000 asylum seekers arrived in Canada. Most of them were smuggled into the country by international criminal organizations that, in turn, brought these people through safe third countries. I would point out that many of these smuggling problems would be solved if we listed all western nations as safe third countries. After the events of September 11, it is inexcusable not to list all UN signatories to the refugee convention as safe third countries.

However, even more alarming is the knowledge that since the attacks against New York City and the Pentagon last September, more than 15,000 asylum seekers have entered Canada. Of these, close to 2,500 have come from terrorist producing countries, like Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Somalia, Algeria, Albania and Afghanistan. An additional 870 have arrived from Sri Lanka, almost all of them undoubtedly Tamils.

That is certainly not to suggest that all of these claimants are bogus. However, some could quite easily be members or supporters of various well-known terrorist organizations, like al-Qaeda or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE is one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world and is banned in Britain and the United States. I would suggest that if Canada had already proscribed the countries mentioned in my motion, this number would be significantly smaller and there would be far fewer opportunities for terrorists and criminals to slip through undetected.

Even if we were to disregard the current events, the reality is that when an illegal entrant arrives on Canadian soil and claims to be a refugee, there is very little chance that the individual will be removed, as I have already mentioned; remember the 27,000 deportees missing.

Unfortunately, this is especially true of serious criminals and terrorists because their removal frequently means they would be required to face justice in their homeland. Any thought of removal in such cases runs up against formidable obstacles. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies not only to Canadian citizens but also to anyone on Canadian soil whether in Canada legally or not.

In addition to the charter protection, even the most outlandish allegation that the individual might be mistreated or tortured will guarantee months, if not years of litigation. After several years of reviews, appeals and rehearings, the individual's own country will often refuse to accept the person back. Canada has been stuck with a number of these cases.

It would be easy to go on about this issue but I am allowed only so much. More important, I am looking forward to what my colleagues have to say about my motion. As I said before, it is unfortunate that this motion is not votable especially because the government appears somewhat warm to the idea of implementing safe third countries in our immigration policy.

Refugees
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Gatineau
Québec

Liberal

Mark Assad Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I would like to start by pointing out that the government cannot support the motion by the hon. member for Surrey North. It is not that we are fundamentally opposed to the underlying notion. We agree that asylum seekers should make their claims in the first country that they can.

We do not agree that Canada should take unilateral action. We do not believe that a responsible member of the international community should return refugee claimants to the last country they passed through with no thought to the implications for either the individual or the third country to which the person is being returned. Aside from the many legal and human rights questions that idea raises, it would not help our relations with those other countries.

Let us start from a basic point. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration just announced will be implemented on June 28 of this year, authorizes the Government of Canada to create a list of countries to which refugee claimants can be returned in safety and to pursue the claim. This is not a new provision. Variations on the idea of protection in safe third world countries have been in Canada's immigration legislation since 1989. The approach is inconsistent with our obligations under the Geneva convention on refugees.

Our new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act allows Canada to enter into what are commonly called safe third agreements with other countries. To do so, we are obliged to consider some key factors.

First, is that other country a signatory to the two major conventions on refugee protection and torture? Second, are that country's refugee claim policies and practices in keeping with its obligations under the two conventions? Third, what is its human rights record? And, finally, does that country have an agreement with Canada on the sharing of responsibility for refugee protection?

In essence, all this is designed to make sure that refugee claimants get fair and impartial hearings at the first reasonable opportunity. None of this is designed so that countries can evade their responsibilities under domestic law and international agreements.

Without a doubt, the best way for Canada to guarantee that we will achieve our policy goals is by developing agreements on sharing responsibility for refugee claimants with other countries.

There is a precedent for that kind of agreement. Member states of the European Union have established a responsibility sharing agreement through their Dublin convention. So, what about the United States then?

In fact, the Government of Canada has pursued the idea of a responsibility sharing agreement with the United States. Back in 1995, officials from both governments built on three years of discussions to create a draft memorandum of agreement that would have established a safe third country process for Canada and the United States. However since the Americans were more focused on implementing changes to their own refugee system, they were unable to move forward. By 1998, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the attorney general of the United States decided that it was not practical to move forward at that time.

However that does not mean this idea has been shelved. To the contrary, just last December the United States and Canada signed a joint declaration for the creation of a smart border for the 21st century. Renewed work to develop a responsibility sharing agreement on refugee claimants is a major commitment to that. These measures contained in the 30 point action plan are regarded by both governments as matters of the highest priority. That brings me back to the substance of the motion.

The operative words in what the government is doing are co-operation and shared responsibility. Those are not operative words in the motion of the hon. member. The motion calls for Canada to make a list of countries and then start unilaterally sending people back to those countries with no certainty that they could pursue a refugee claim. It pictures a one-way street. As well, this is a key issue for the protection of refugee claimants. For Canada to unilaterally return claimants to a country they have transited en route to Canada could deprive the claimant of the right to make a claim, which we want to avoid.

Canada will get nowhere if we move forward unilaterally. Given the Americans' fully understandable concerns about security, does the hon. member really believe that they would cheerfully welcome Canada just sending back claimants who had passed through the U.S.?

And this is not just about their feelings. It is about their laws. American law is also open to the idea of safe third country protection, but only on the basis of an international responsibility sharing agreement. The U.S. government would not view unilateral Canadian action as consistent with efforts to jointly manage our common border.

The reality is that the movement of refugee claimants goes both ways. People come through the U.S. to get to Canada. Others arrive in Canada as a way station to the United States. So, both countries need to work together on this.

Both our countries appreciate that the status quo encourages people smuggling and other irregular movements of people across our shared border. The lack of a shared process weakens public confidence in the refugee determination system.

So the obvious direction is a responsibility sharing agreement for refugee claimants that would provide a clear and transparent basis to better manage movements between the United States and Canada. And we will not get there if Canada takes a knee jerk response that ignores the interests of the United States. It will not be helped if we avoid working out a fair and effective system that meets the needs of both countries.

So, at a very simple operational and international level, this motion will not work. However, it would demonstrate other flaws almost immediately on implementation.

The motion is based on an appealing idea; that people should make a refugee claim at the first reasonable opportunity. It reflects the view the government holds that people should not shop around from country to country for protection However it is fundamentally flawed. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration says this without drawing any negative assessment of the claims processes in the countries mentioned in the motion under debate. It is a motion that is basically problematic.

The way forward is through bilateral agreements. The way forward is through collaborative efforts that meet international standards of protection for refugee claimants as well as domestic expectations. That is the path the government has chosen and that is the path we intend to follow.