House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, for several decades now, after several wars of aggression, people have learned some lessons about human rights, freedom of expression and the sovereignty of nations. Soldiers have learned that “I was just following orders” is not an acceptable excuse.

I think that Canada should allow these people to come here to live the values they share with the people of Quebec and Canada. I will end on that note because I have no more time left.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to participate in this debate. I am not going to quote the third report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which we are debating today, because many of the members who spoke before me have read it word for word.

I am a woman and a lawyer, and I tend to try to find solutions when problems arise. I listened to the parliamentary secretary to the minister ask if our way of seeing things should change depending on whether the person is a volunteer who enlisted in a country's armed forces or someone carrying out mandatory military service.

Should we consider the report's recommendation to set up a special program that would offer special treatment, compared to other people who come here and apply for refugee status or those who submit normal immigration applications?

Would that give an unfair advantage to American soldiers who decide to come here rather than continue serving with the army in Iraq?

I see it as much larger than that, because a lot of the government members have really homed in on the fact that it is American war resisters who have come to Canada and who have made claims for refugee status. They are saying that for the government to somehow facilitate their staying in Canada and to regularize their legal status in Canada would confer upon them a privilege that we do not give to anyone else.

Therefore, I looked at the law, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In looking at that law, I realized that there are different sections that the government can actually use if it so wishes.

Before I get to that, Mr. Speaker, I will note that I am pleased to split my time with the member for Kitchener—Waterloo. I forgot to say that.

I received an email yesterday from a Mr. Griffin Carpenter, who writes:

As you may be aware, Iraq war resister and AWOL soldier, Corey Glass, has been asked by Canadian officials to leave Canada by June 12, 2008. This decision goes against the recommendation made on December 6, 2007 by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. Canadians are outraged with the failure of the government to act timely enough to stop this first deportation as the Iraqi war was unsanctioned by the UN and opposed by Canada. Do you support the [committee] recommendation and do you believe that an appropriate bill should come before the House?

I look forward to hearing your response.

In part what I am going to say today is in fact my response. First, I support the committee report and I will vote in favour of it. Second, I also support the government actually taking action. One of the ways the government can in fact take action is to recognize resolution 1998/77 of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which recognized that military personnel, whether volunteers or conscripts, can develop a conscientious objection.

That specific resolution actually puts no limits as to whether the objection is to all war in general. We do have members of the House, and Canadians, who believe that all war is wrong. We have others who believe that there may and can be and have been just wars.

However, the United Nations Human Rights Commission resolution recognized that whether the objection is to all war or to a particular war, it is in fact most often in the actual experience of war that many basic human attributes, including conscience, are developed.

We also know that many states clearly recognize that members of voluntary armies can and do develop conscientious objection. The reason we know it is that in their military acts or national defence acts those states actually have provisions that in some cases allow that objector to seek a discharge. However, if we look at Iraq, the United States policy does not quite align with that.

How can the Canadian government, the Conservative government, actually help war resisters, whether they are from the United States or from another country, to regularize their situation in Canada and provide them with legal status to remain in Canada, recognizing that individual persons can develop conscientious objection to war in general or to a particular war precisely because they have themselves now experienced it?

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, there is section 25. Section 25 actually states that for various humanitarian reasons, including reasons of “public policy”, a person may establish humanitarian grounds.

Let me give an example of one such public policy that a previous government established and as a result allowed a whole class of people claiming refugee status, who were being consistently refused by the IRB, to be received and have their claims accepted. Those are victims of domestic violence.

There are countries and states where women, as victims of domestic violence, receive absolutely no assistance from the state or from the law enforcement within that country, in some cases because the country and state itself does not recognize domestic violence. In other cases, the state may under its law recognize it but is unwilling to actually apply the law.

There were cases back in the early 1990s and the mid-1990s of women coming from, for instance, Guyana and other Caribbean countries, and from some African countries and South American countries who fled their country because they were subject to domestic violence. They had reasonable grounds to believe that their lives, health and safety was in danger and that they could not seek protection from the law enforcement there.

The IRB, with the initial claims, rejected them and said, no, there is a law against assault in that particular country, but the Canadian government at that time, in its wisdom, recognized that although here in Canada our law enforcement and judicial system do take the issue of domestic violence seriously, that is not the case in all countries.

Canada issued a public policy that if individuals were making a claim for refugee status and these individuals were able to establish that they had a well-founded belief of persecution as victims and were victims of domestic violence, and were unable to receive protection from their government, either because the government was unwilling or unable to provide that protection, that it was grounds for humanitarian acceptance of their claim. Since that time women who have been able to make the case have had their claims accepted.

We know that the United Nations, in its refugee handbook at paragraph 170 states:

There are, however, also cases where the necessity to perform military service may be the sole ground for a claim to refugee status, i.e. when a person can show that the performance of military service would have required his participation in military action contrary to his genuine political, religious or moral convictions, or to valid reasons of conscience.

The Conservative government simply has to issue a directive stating that it is now public policy that any person making a claim for refugee status who is able to show that they have a conscientious objection to a war or a war in general may have their claim accepted. That is really simple. That is section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I offer it--

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments. Resuming debate. The hon. member for Kitchener—Waterloo.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate. Let me say that this was an issue that we debated, and thought long and hard about at the citizenship and immigration committee. I remember when my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas first broached the topic that there was initially not a great deal of support. However, we talked about the issue. Afterwards, the committee came out with its report which is now before this House and is asking the House to concur in the majority report of the citizenship and immigration committee.

Having listened to the debate, I want to touch on a few cases where this issue has a historical background when we are talking about people seeking refuge in Canada rather than engaging in combat, doing military service and going to war.

The first case we had in our history was in 1793 when the First Assembly of Upper Canada passed a law exempting Quakers, Mennonites and Tunkers from military duty. This cleared the way for thousands of these people to arrive in Ontario and Canada.

In 1877 there was a large number of German Mennonites living in Russia that expressed an interest in moving to Canada to settle on the Prairies. The government passed an order in council confirming that they too could be exempted from military service.

In 1898-99 the government passed similar orders in council for Doukhobors and Hutterites respectively, thereby facilitating the arrival of more newcomers to the western Prairies.

This whole issue of offering refuge in this country relates to those who are against compulsory military service or against military service where they might have volunteered, but found out during the course of their duty that they were engaged in an illegal war and the cause that they were fighting for was not the cause that they originally joined up for and subsequently developed a conscientious objection.

We do not have to go very far away to show that the issue relates to the war in Iraq and how the administration of the United States misled the American people. Yesterday, we had the reports from the former press secretary to President Bush, who made the allegation that indeed while he was the press secretary and having reflected on the matter, it was an exercise in deception in terms of getting the American public behind the war in Iraq.

The fact that the president's former press secretary is now under attack by associates of the White House is not surprising. If we think back to the timeframe of the Iraq war and the debate that raged throughout the world, where the world community was pleading with the United States not to take unilateral action, that was not to happen.

The United States did invade Iraq with the coalition of the willing. I must say that the ranks of the coalition of the willing has shrunk a great deal. We are now talking about the United States standing virtually alone in Iraq.

The motion we are debating today could very easily be the same action as that taken by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who stated in regard to the Vietnam war:

Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war...have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.

When Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made the courageous decision and the right decision that Canada was not going to engage in the war in Iraq, he and the Liberal government were attacked by the leader of the Canadian Alliance, the present Prime Minister, and the present day public security minister , who was also with the Canadian Alliance at that time. I quote from a letter they sent to the Wall Street Journal:

Today, the world is at war. A coalition of countries under the leadership of the U.K. and the U.S. is leading a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein. Yet Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations. This is a serious mistake. For the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need.

The Canadian Alliance--the official opposition in parliament--supports the American and British position because we share their concerns, their worries about the future if Iraq is left unattended to, and their fundamental vision of civilization and human values. Disarming Iraq is necessary for the long-term security of the world, and for the collective interests of our key historic allies and therefore manifestly in the national interest of Canada.

Make no mistake, as our allies work to end the reign of Saddam and the brutality and aggression that are the foundations of his regime, Canada's largest opposition party, the Canadian Alliance will not be neutral. In our hearts and minds, we will be with our allies and friends. And Canadians will be overwhelmingly with us.

We do not need to have people coming to Canada and asking for refuge because they do not want to participate in a war that has been judged to be an illegal war.

Canada likes to think of itself as a peacekeeper, and Canadians are most comfortable in that role that Canada plays in the world. As we all know, it was Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, prior to becoming prime minister, who received the Nobel peace prize for inventing peacekeeping. That peacekeeping situation with the blue berets came into play in the Suez.

We ask the government to stand up and make a decision to support people who seek not to serve in unjust wars and people who are against serving in wars. That is the right thing to do. That is what the Canadian public overwhelmingly expects us to do. I believe the American public does the same.

Look at the support for the president who led the United States into war, which is recorded in history. To their chagrin, the American people realized, unfortunately too late, that this war has had a tremendous cost to the social, economic and moral values of the United States of America.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have asked a series of questions from a number of members who spoke today and have not received a direct answer to any one of those questions. I wonder if the hon. member will make it a less than perfect record by directly answering any one of the following questions.

First, is the program proposed in addition to, or in lieu of, the present program we have for refugee protection and application for refugee protection for humanitarian and compassionate grounds?

Second, does it matter whether the applicant was drafted or volunteered for service?

Third, would it be incumbent to ensure that the procedural options that are available in the country of origin are actually used before an application is made?

I notice that the program they want to implement would not apply to those who might have a criminal record. For those who do have a criminal record, does the member propose that they be entitled to apply under our current refugee protection system on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, which provides for a hearing in the first instance and eventually leave to appeal to the federal court and, with leave, an actual hearing before the federal court and leave to appeal to the Supreme Court?

A direct answer to any one of those questions would be appreciated, to see if we could get a less than perfect record.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 29th, 2008 / 1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, the government should apply a general policy that all the people who fit the motion are let in without any kind of refugee hearing to put them through the process.

When the current government came into office two years ago, less than 20,000 people were waiting in the backlog of refugee cases and that number was steadily dropping. Since the Conservative government came into office, those numbers are up to 45,000 and they are expected to be 62,000 by the end of the year. The refugee board system is in a crisis. As I said before, it is my belief that the government is growing the backlog in the refugee division because it wants to abolish that system. This goes with his first point. I want it as a general policy.

On his second point, one can be drafted to go to fight in a just war. I believe many of the soldiers, just like many of the people who went to Vietnam and then became resisters, believed they were fighting in a just war. Once they got there and saw the reality on the ground, all of a sudden they did not want to do service because their conscience would not allow them to do that. There is a difference in fighting in a just war, fighting in an unjust war and fighting in an illegal war.

On his third point, he asked whether people with a criminal record should be able to go through the refugee determination system. For the small number who would be left, the answer is yes, probably under humanitarian compassionate considerations as well.

On our refugee determination system, because of action by it where it has refused to appoint IRB members, the government has created a crisis which threatens the very existence of the IRB. I really believe that is the ultimate goal of this government.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a historic moment in the history of our country. We have a chance to make some history by taking a stand for justice and peace in this world as we charge our independent course.

We know our country has officially refused to fight in Iraq. Logic would have it then that we would support those who refuse to fight in this illegal invasion of a sovereign country. They need our support. I just met with Corey Glass who is facing deportation. I have met with other war resisters in my riding, in the town of Nelson. I have listened to their testimony in committee. I believe we have an obligation and responsibility to help these young people.

The argument often is that they volunteered, they chose to go. A lot of these people were deceived, and I will give a couple of examples.

The tenure of Mr. Glass, a native of Indiana, began in 2002 in the military when he joined the National Guard to complete “humanitarian work” within the United States, he was told. At that time, he had no idea he would end up fighting on foreign shores. When he joined the National Guard, he was told the only way he would be in combat was if there were troops occupying the United States. He signed up to defend people and do humanitarian work, such as filling sandbags if there was a hurricane. That was not what happened to Mr. Glass.

I met a young couple in Nelson. The young man was told if he signed up for the military, it would pay for his university education when he got back and it would give his wife health care. She was one of the 40 million people in the United States who did not have health care. What choice did he have? He had the promise of finally getting through school with some help and being provided medical assistance for his wife.

We have to put this in context. In the past we have supported those who did not want to fight or fled the United States because of the unjust war in Vietnam.

I will quote from a couple of letters. One is from Mr. Klaus Offerman of Nelson, who said that according to war resisters he talked to and according to former Iraq weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, the U.S. army used economic, educational and health care incentives to lure and pressure young, poor potential recruits into military service before they understood the reality of military life and responsibility. Meanwhile, their commander-in-chief deceived them into thinking they had a just war and they were going to search out weapons of mass destruction.

Another one of my friends and constituents, Jennifer Voykin, states that she feels:

—we, as responsible and ethical Canadian citizens, have the opportunity, as well as an obligation, to protect the human rights of people who are morally opposed to the American-led invasion of Iraq. We must uphold international laws and support those deserters who seek refuge from military court martial in the United States. No deserter, including those that have already been issued Pre-removal Risk Assessments, should be removed from this country until the Supreme Court of Canada finalizes their decision.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

It is now my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Karen Redman

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the vote be deferred to the end of government orders on Monday.