House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugee.

Topics

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague, who said that this bill will hurt immigration rather than help it. I was also surprised when I saw Bill C-49. I thought that on the other side of the House it would be called the “Tamil bill”. Their bills always address specific events.

I would like the member to talk a bit more about the punitive aspects of this bill.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I, too, am surprised that the Conservatives have not come up with a smarter, snappier little title that actually tries to further confuse the issue, because let us be real; this is about Tamils. This bill is about keeping out a certain group of people. The Conservatives were very clear; before the boat even landed they were already decrying that these were probably terrorists, that these people were going to come into our country to cause trouble.

The Tamil people who live in my riding are Canadians who are building this country with me and they are concerned about sisters and brothers in that country where they are a minority that is persecuted. I think the hon. member is absolutely correct by saying that we have to look at this problem with a broader lens and a lens that punishes the people who are meant to be punished and actually cares for the people who need to be cared for. Punish the smugglers. Care for the vulnerable.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank the Liberal opposition members for leaving the new Conservative government a 750,000-file backlog because of their ineptitude in running the immigration system.

I have to make this comment. The member for Don Valley West is trying to draw a comparison between this latest ship that came over, run by human smugglers, and the 1939 St. Louis and the Komagata Maru. For him to do that is very deceiving. It is misrepresenting the facts between the ships we are talking about now and the two incidents, one in 1939 and one in 1914. He should be ashamed of himself for trying to draw that conclusion.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. I must give the hon. member for Don Valley West equal time to respond.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I find that outrageous for two reasons. Once again the government side is confusing immigrants with refugees. They do not understand that the 750,000 are immigrants. Immigrants begins with an “i”; refugees begins with an “r”. These are two different bills, two different ways of looking at the world, two different systems. One is about conventional refugees and claimants and the other is about an immigration system that the Conservative government does not know how to fix.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, order. The time has run out for this member's speech and period of questions and comments.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Oak Ridges—Markham.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Madam Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that this is a government that truly understands how the immigration system should work. It truly understands what Canadians look for in an immigration system.

When we took over, we saw a waiting list of one million people. If that is what the Liberals are claiming was a successful immigration system under their watch, I can certainly assure the member that people to whom I am talking in Canada's most diverse riding certainly do not agree with that assessment. What they are saying to me is that the system under the previous administration was a catastrophe and they are certainly happy that this government, this Minister of Immigration and the Prime Minister, stepped in to fix the mess that was left behind by the Liberal government after 13 years of terrible rule.

Let me say this. We do not need any lessons from the Liberal Party or any of the members opposite on how to deal fairly with refugees and with immigration matters.

However, getting back to this bill specifically, I welcome the opportunity to rise in support of Bill C-49, the preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act. I am sure hon. members will agree that human smuggling is among the most loathsome of criminal endeavours, and judging from the comments on news websites, the letters on the pages of newspapers, and the calls to talk radio shows, Canadians definitely feel the same way. Some have suggested that Canadians' reaction to the recent arrivals of the smuggling ships was somehow improper, ungenerous, inhuman or worse. I do not believe anything could be further from the truth.

Canada's international reputation for generosity, as a place of refuge and welcome to newcomers, is definitely a source of pride for all Canadians, but no one wants our generosity to be abused, and most certainly, Canadians do not want unscrupulous operators to line their pockets from the desperation of the downtrodden and the generosity of the Canadian immigration system. That is why Canadians are angry and that is why our government has acted.

As an editorial in the Calgary Herald put it a few days after the Sun Sea docked in Esquimalt:

[I]t's not that Canada has lost its tolerance for refugees. What we've lost is our tolerance for refugee smugglers.

The bill makes it clear that Canada and Canadians do not and will not tolerate human smuggling. In fact, this bill makes it even more clear. Canada has always been a strong and visible supporter of international efforts to fight human smuggling. Our signature on the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air demonstrates our commitment to be part of the solution. Bill C-49 reinforces that commitment. It would allow law enforcement officials additional tools to investigate and to prosecute individuals who organize, engage in and profit from human smuggling.

As hon. members are aware, existing laws are very narrow in terms of the activities that can be prosecuted in this regard. The Crown must prove that the accused knew that the people being smuggled did not have the documents needed to enter Canada. This bill would change that. The amendments our government is proposing would broaden the application of the law so that it will be easier to prosecute human smugglers.

That sends a message to would-be smugglers. Bill C-49 underscores that message with mandatory minimum penalties for anyone convicted of human smuggling. Depending on the circumstances of the offence, these mandatory sentences would range up to a minimum of 10 years for the most grievous offences, such as those involving organized crime and endangering the lives of smuggled persons.

Similarly, this bill will increase the penalties for violations of the Marine Transportation Security Act, such as refusing to comply with a ministerial directive to leave Canadian waters or providing false or misleading information to officials. Individuals, for example, would be liable to fines of as much as $200,000 on indictment, up from the current $10,000. Individuals convicted on indictment for failure to file a pre-arrival information report would be liable to a maximum penalty of one year of imprisonment or a $75,000 fine, or both.

These changes would deliver a strong, clear message. It is a message that must be delivered before the next MV Sun Sea sails for our shores, and that risk is very real.

The bill would deter human smugglers from mounting such ventures. Indeed, we must do more than simply express our distaste for human smugglers as the opposition have been wanting to do today.

There is also the simple, yet profound, matter of exercising our right as a sovereign nation to protect our borders.

Canada has the right to decide who enters this country, and there is no question that Canada is very generous in that regard. At the same time, we have an obligation and we are committed to protecting the safety and security of Canadians. We have to be certain that the individuals claiming refugee status in Canada are not war criminals or a danger to Canadians.

The existing rules allow a foreign national or permanent resident entering Canada to be detained if an immigration officer considers their detention necessary in order to carry out a proper examination, to make sure that the person is who they say they are and that there is nothing in their background that would make them inadmissible to Canada.

Detentions of this kind must be reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Board within 48 hours, again within seven days, and if necessary, within every 30 days after that. This system works well most of the time; however, it is not designed to deal with hundreds of people arriving en masse at one location, as was the case with the Sun Sea.

Instead of concentrating on the investigations that are so vital to public safety, border officers find themselves devoting hour after precious hour to preparing for these numerous detention reviews. That is why Bill C-49 would give the Minister of Public Safety the authority to designate anyone who arrives at our border in circumstances such as the Sun Sea as an irregular arrival.

As an irregular arrival, individuals would be detained until the Immigration and Refugee Board determines that they are legitimate refugees. If they are still detained after one year, their detention would be reviewed at an IRB hearing that would decide whether detention should continue. Subsequent hearings, if necessary, would follow at six-month intervals. Where exceptional circumstances exist, the minister would have the authority to order early release.

Other changes in this bill would require designated arrivals to wait a minimum of five years before they could apply for permanent resident status in Canada or sponsor family members who come to our country. Designated arrivals would also not be able to access the supplemental benefits under the interim health plan, which provides benefits more generous than those available to Canadians. This is only fair. People who push to the front of the line should not be rewarded.

The changes that we are proposing in this bill would enhance the safety and security of Canadians and protect the integrity of our immigration system. Every successful incident of human smuggling encourages more people to try to take advantage of Canada's generosity, to cut in front of those who have followed the rules, who have filed papers, who have filed proper papers and waited patiently for the opportunity to begin a new life in Canada.

Canada needs immigrants. We cannot afford to allow criminal acts to discourage the newcomers to our country. We cannot afford to allow human smugglers and queue jumpers to undermine the public support of our immigration system. That is one of the reasons I am urging all members to support this bill.

Let me just say this. The hon. members across, the Liberal Party in particular, like to wrap themselves in the cloak of a generous party, as people who care about refugees and immigrants. We have heard constantly today, speaker after speaker and the critic talking about the Tamils. I do not have to remind the hon. member that it was a Conservative government in 1984 that began to open the door to Tamil refugees in this country.

I represent the riding of Oak Ridges—Markham, which is home to a large diaspora of Sri Lankans, both Tamil and Ceylonese people. We have been working together to try to find solutions to the problems that they have back at home. What we consistently hear from the Liberal Party are these great platitudes of what we should accomplish, but they never have solutions to the problems.

Here they have an opportunity to vote for a solution, to put an end to human smuggling in this country, and what are they doing? They are wrapping themselves up like pretzels. They are flip-flopping. What they are doing is ignoring what Canadians want.

I just hope that by the time we get this debate completed they will actually see the light, they might listen to what Canadians want, they might read the hundreds of emails and letters and listen to the phone calls, and the opposition coalition might for once listen to Canadians and vote the right way.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's discussion. He has been here all day asking questions and talking about this very important bill.

I just want to say that my in-laws are of Italian descent and my mother-in-law came here on a boat. I can say that when that happened earlier this summer in Vancouver, the first call I got was from my in-laws asking what we were going to do about this issue, and this bill addresses that issue.

I want to thank them for that call and I want to thank my colleague for his presentation today.

I would like to know, as the hon. member talked about the Liberal side flipping and flopping, if at any time today the Liberals indicated whether they were supportive of this bill going to committee so that they can actually have a discussion.

The Liberals claim they have all these people who are opposed and know all these groups that are opposed. Well, if we went to committee with it, we would be able to study the issue and have a discussion at committee.

Can the member tell me if the Liberal Party indicated whether it would be supporting this bill or not, based on his time here this afternoon?

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Madam Speaker, I have been here all day, but I have been having trouble following the Liberal position on this. On this particular bill, they seem to be flip-flopping more quickly than they have on some of the other things that they have flipped and flopped over.

My parents too came from Italy, through Pier 21. They worked very hard and they built a spectacular life here in Canada. They have a son in Parliament. That is the type of Canada we built. We built the type of Canada that encourages immigration to this country and that respects those who need our help. We have always been a very generous country.

To answer the hon. member's question directly, I have no idea where the Liberals stand on this. I have no idea where they stand on anything, to be honest. I know one thing for sure. They will always stand on the opposite side of where Canadians stand, and that is a true shame. They are working with their opposition coalition here to subvert the wishes of Canadians.

What Canadians really want is an immigration system, a refugee system, that respects those who come to this country, work hard and build a better life for themselves. That is what this side wants. That is why we are building a better immigration system. That is why we reformed the immigration system. That is why the immigration backlog has been reduced. That is why we are opening up our arms to those who come to this country and who need our assistance.

I think about what happened in Haiti and the quick response this government had to the people of Haiti. The opposition is suggesting that we should forget emergencies and we should look at other instances.

I think it is about time the Liberals did what is right, paid attention to what Canadians want and voted in favour of this bill. Let us get it to committee and make it better.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

When this debate resumes, the hon. member will have two minutes of comments and questions. As it is 5:30, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' bills as listed on today's order paper.

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

October 28th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should continue to address the rising financial and human costs of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in Canada by ensuring, now and in the future, that its programs and policy development related to this issue continue to recognize: (a) the right to dignity and compassion of patients stricken by such conditions; (b) the emotional and psychological toll on family members and friends of patients afflicted by such conditions; (c) the increasing costs imposed on public health systems by the treatment of such conditions; and (d) the role played by such civil organizations as the Alzheimer Society of Canada and Neurological Health Charities Canada in furthering our understanding of the impacts of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Madam Speaker, it is truly an honour today to stand in the House and address the very serious topic of Alzheimer's disease and what we can do about it, not only in this Parliament but across the country.

I do want to state at the outset that I am not an expert on this issue. That is not why I am addressing this topic here today. I am addressing it because it deserves a discussion in this Parliament. It deserves a national discussion. All of those people who are suffering from this disease, and all of those people who are suffering with people with this disease, deserve to have a national discussion on this topic in this chamber.

I do want to outline a bit of the current situation in Canada. At this time, approximately 500,000 Canadians have some form of dementia. More than 60% have Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia in Canada. It is becoming a much more noticeable issue. There is not a Canadian I have spoken to who has not had some personal contact with this disease, be it through a friend or a family member. We do therefore need to address this issue. We need to sustain our focus on it.

There has been increasing awareness in society and in the media as well. I would point to a recent Globe and Mail series, which I thought was very well done. I would certainly like to commend the newspaper for raising awareness and for generating discussion on this issue.

We need to have this discussion now to plan for the future and to develop an approach to what will be one of the biggest challenges facing us as human beings and as a country in the years ahead. This is an issue that demands attention from society in general and from parliamentarians in particular.

The reality is clear. Individuals with dementia are not the only ones affected by these conditions. Dementia places a long-term burden on those who care for them, on family, on friends, on our public health care system and on society in general, and they must all be addressed.

The Alzheimer Society estimates that the total economic burden of Alzheimer's and other dementias in Canada today is approximately $15 billion per year. The emotional and the psychological costs to patients and their families are immense but, as we all know, they are very difficult to quantify. However, all of us have spoken to people who have talked of the challenges of facing this disease.

The fact is that demographic trends will contribute to the scale of the challenges we will face in coming years. As our population ages and individuals live longer, an epidemic of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias is poised to overwhelm our health care system.

Without new policies, breakthroughs or interventions, it is projected that by 2038, more than one million Canadians will have some form of dementia, which is more than double what we have today. The annual costs will rise from $15 billion today to a staggering estimated $153 billion by 2038. Demand for long-term care will increase tenfold from today.

In light of these startling figures we need to foster a national discussion. We must work with the provinces and territories that obviously provide health care services. We must develop a very comprehensive approach to confront this issue.

What has been done thus far? Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, our government has invested more than $176 million in research on Alzheimer's disease in recent years, spending approximately $22.7 million in 2009-10 alone.

The government is also working with Canada's major neurological charities. I would like to commend all of these charities for their work. They have committed to providing $15 million for a four-year population study of Canadians affected by neurological conditions. This study will help us better prepare to meet the needs of Canadians affected by these conditions.

In partnership with like-minded countries around the world, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has also developed an international collaborative research strategy for Alzheimer's disease. It will help enhance relations between Canadian scientists and Alzheimer researchers around the world. I want to commend the action taken in this area.

Canadians have access to compassionate care benefits under the employment insurance system. The CPP and QPP also pay disability, survivor and children's benefits to those who qualify. The Income Tax Act also provides for a caregiver amount tax credit, a tax credit for infirm dependents and a medical expenses tax credit.

While these are all steps in the right direction, a continued focus is required to learn more about the implications of dementia for Canadian society and to develop appropriate responses.

What can be done, therefore?

First, in the area of research, to address the challenges that these conditions present, we do need some new approaches.

Alzheimer's and many other dementias are irreversible. There is no known cure at this time. However, through biomedical, clinical, quality of life, health services and knowledge translation research, we can develop new and more effective responses.

In this regard, we should continue to support the work of such excellent organizations as the Alzheimer Society of Canada and the Neurological Health Charities Canada, and I do want to commend them for their work. We should also continue to support post-secondary institutions that are partnering on research, such as the University of Toronto's Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases, McGill University's Centre for Studies in Aging and the University of Alberta's Centre for Alzheimer and Neurodegenerative Research.

The second area of what can be done is prevention. Prevention obviously is the least costly and best approach.

It is estimated that a 50% increase in level of activity by Canadians over 65 years would result in substantial reductions in the incidence of Alzheimer's and other dementias. Reducing the number of people diagnosed would ease the burden, obviously, on family members, friends, long-term care facilities, community care services and informal caregivers. The potential benefits from investing in research are, therefore, extraordinary. If we can delay the onset of Alzheimer's and related dementias by only two years, the CIHR estimates we will reduce the cumulative costs over the next 30 years by $219 billion and reduce the number of new cases in Canada by more than 400,000 people.

The third thing in terms of what we can do is, I would suggest, the most important from a human point of view. It is support for patients and their families.

With demand for long-term care projected to outpace the availability of space, more and more care will be provided informally in the home. The number of hours of home care provided by Canadians is expected to more than triple by 2038.

We need to ensure that there are programs and services in place, therefore, to support caregivers. Possibilities could include better access to information and educational resources, the creation of new financial supports for patients and caregivers, and continued support for non-profit groups that provide assistance.

Almost every member here today can point to a friend or a family member who has been directly affected by Alzheimer's and related dementias. Whether they know a patient or someone providing care for a patient, one does not have to look far to see the impacts of these conditions.

In time, the situation will only become more urgent. That is why it is vitally important that these issues be brought to the forefront today.

The Alzheimer Society released a study earlier this year, which was very aptly titled “Rising Tide”. I encourage all members to read that report. It is an excellent report. I would also encourage them to read the report entitled “A Brain Strategy for Canada”, by the Neurological Health Charities. Both of these documents are excellent foundational documents, which we can build on in this chamber.

Inaction will result in the overwhelming of our public health systems. It will only mean that families will continue to struggle to keep their heads above the rising waters, as demand for private care increases dramatically. That is why we do need to act now. That is exactly what the Alzheimer Society is asking of all of us as parliamentarians.

I therefore call upon all members of this House in all four parties to support this motion and I welcome their questions at this time.

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the member from Edmonton—Leduc. In his motion, he referred to programs and policies that the federal government should implement, according to specific criteria, to combat Alzheimer's disease.

In referring to these programs and policies, is the member talking only about those that the government can implement in matters under the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada?

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I understand that the Bloc Québécois will be bringing forward an amendment that would ensure that the motion itself applies to the jurisdiction under the Parliament of Canada itself. I welcome that amendment. In fact, that was certainly the intent of the motion when I drafted it. So, I certainly welcome that amendment and I would certainly support it in the House.

It is obviously my intention that we work with the provinces, which have the primary responsibility in terms of delivering health care to the citizens of Canada.

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for bringing this motion forward. He is so right when he says that Alzheimer's and early dementia is touching the lives of so many in our communities.

He made mention of the Alzheimer's Society's report, “Rising Tide”. In that report, as I recall, there is an emphasis on what non-profit groups and what caregivers can provide outside of the institutional environment. We all know that there is a point where institutional care will be a part of the total care delivery system, but there is also the incentive that can be given to caregivers and non-profit organizations.

Does his bill include the analysis out of “Rising Tide” of looking at incentives through our taxation system that would provide the family members of people with Alzheimer's to continue to give care within the family environment? Are there incentives for assistance in that?

Alzheimer's Disease
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, the motion is very broad, so it certainly includes that topic within the motion itself. I would point to the escalating costs imposed on the public health system for the treatment of such conditions and also in terns of the leading role played by civil organizations such as the Alzheimer's Society of Canada.

I would also point out that the motion is broad enough to include that. I think the member is absolutely right. More and more people with Alzheimer's, at least in the early stages, are being cared for at home. It is not only an increasing financial cost but it is also an increasing human cost on family members and on friends, which is something that we need to look at. It is something that both of the reports I mentioned from the Alzheimer's Society and from the neurological centres have looked at and are encouraging us to look at further in terms of how we address those human and financial costs incurred by family members and friends.