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 refugees.

Topics

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is another point of order. It would appear that the Bloc Québécois members are asking you to apply a double standard. During her cut-and-dried statement moments ago, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville provided an excellent example of that double standard.

About 15 minutes ago, the opposition members criticized the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism for not being at his seat when he spoke in the House. He was a few feet away from his seat. There was a point of order, and he was obliged to return to his seat.

Then, when she made her statement, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville was about 10 seats away from her assigned seat, but that was okay. The Bloc members are always trying to get away with a double standard in the House. They are always so self-righteous. Just now, we even heard threats of a witch hunt to find people in the party whose views are not politically correct.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to get involved in their debate, but I have an important request to make of the government House leader.

I understand that debates can get heated, but on behalf of Pierre Laporte's family members, who do not appreciate the incident being used as a diversionary political tactic or for any other purpose, I would ask members of the House not to play politics with the memory of Pierre Laporte. His family and his children have suffered enough.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to apologize for losing my temper a few moments ago. However, I would also like to add that I will never, ever allow a member opposite to point his or her finger at me because I asked a question that the member did not like. I call that intimidation and making a threat.

No, I was not in my seat. However, I will not be intimidated and threatened in that way just because I am a woman. Earlier, the member, whose riding I do not know and who was seated beside the parliamentary leader, wagged his finger at me and said that I would not be asking any more such questions. I will not tolerate that.

Mr. Speaker, henceforth, I am asking you to provide some protection for female members of Parliament here in this House.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am not quite sure. The problem is that such things happen from time to time in the House. I have seen it often over the years that I have spent here and other members have also witnessed it. This must not happen all the time, but it does happen from time to time.

I believe we had a discussion this afternoon. I suggested some things that can be done to somewhat resolve these problems and I encourage discussions about this matter at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. All members are certainly entitled to attend these meetings and to make suggestions to the committee members.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Papineau had the floor before question period, and he has about seven minutes left for questions and comments.

Since there are no questions, we will resume debate. The hon. member for Abbotsford.

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

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is great to get back to matters of substance.

It is an honour to have the opportunity to rise today in support of Bill C-49, an act to prevent human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system.

Canada has a history and a tradition of welcoming immigrants who wish to start a new life here. On a per capita basis, we now welcome more newcomers than any other country, nearly a quarter of a million last year alone.

Through the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, introduced by our Conservative government, we have committed to resettle 2,500 more refugees living in refugee camps and urban slums. This is a source of pride for our country and a reflection of the generosity of our nation. It is part of our national character.

Unfortunately, Canada's immigration system and our generosity have become a target for human smuggling operations. The arrival of the MV Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady in a period of less than 12 months clearly demonstrated that human smuggling networks are extending their reach to our borders. Our intelligence indicates that these voyages, organized by criminal syndicates, will continue.

This form of illegal commercial migration is dangerous and exploitive by nature. The journey of these migrants is treacherous, and every year people around the world die in human smuggling operations.

The ringleaders of these smuggling operations are ruthless profiteers. They are vile, despicable criminals who consider their passengers to be little more than cargo. Those profiteers cause misery and suffering, and risk the lives of those they purport to be helping. Human smugglers and those on board their vessels also provide financial support to dangerous international criminal networks.

Many who use these types of smuggling networks are economic migrants. When they use this unlawful behaviour to arrive on our shores and then claim to be asylum seekers, they abuse our country's generosity.

These operations are unfair to those seeking to come to Canada by legal means. Millions of people around the world aspire to come to our great country, and it is gross unfairness to allow others to jump the queue through illegal means and co-opt those who use legal means to come to Canada.

Those who use illegal means take up space and resources in our immigration system, which should be focused on those who have applied to immigrate legally. They deprive true refugees of the opportunity to be granted protection in this great country of ours. When genuine refugees use these illicit networks to get to Canada, they put themselves and their families at risk.

If we do not take strong action now, more vessels will arrive in Canada and more lives will be put at risk. We cannot just stand by and allow these exploitive operations to continue. We must act now.

We must act to avoid a two-tiered immigration system: one tier for legal immigrants who wait patiently in the queue for the privilege of coming to Canada; and a second tier for illegal migrants and queue-jumpers who pay human smugglers to get them to the front of the line.

Canadians have reacted strongly to these unwelcome arrivals. More than 50% of Canadians polled agreed that this type of migration is unacceptable. These events have put at risk public support for immigration in general and refugees in particular.

We are a generous country. We welcome immigrants and refugees from around the world. I would hate to see our national support for that program decline because illegal migrants and smugglers are abusing the system.

We need to maintain public confidence in our immigration and refugee system, since immigration will soon become the source of all our labour-force growth and a critical part of our economic growth.

The legislation before us will help prevent abuse of Canada's immigration system and goodwill. It will help us prevent human smuggling operations. It will provide disincentives to would-be migrants, so that they do not place themselves at the mercy of human smugglers on these treacherous ocean journeys.

I would like to outline how this legislation will do just that. First, the law before us proposes to introduce mandatory detention for up to one year. This will allow for determination of identity, admissibility, and illegal activity. As I am sure most members of this House are aware, people who arrive on these vessels often do not have proper documentation, whether by design or not.

We do not know who they are or whether they might have been involved in criminal or terrorist activities. We as a government need to have time to confirm their identities. This becomes particularly difficult in the case of mass arrivals, as we have recently experienced, when hundreds of people arrive at the same time without the proper paperwork.

As we are now learning, some of the migrants onboard the Sun Sea have already claimed refugee status in other countries such as the United Kingdom, and have already been found not to be in need of protection.

Detention will allow us to verify and confirm the identities of these individuals. This way we can determine whether they are admissible to Canada, or whether they are, or have ever been, involved in illegal activity.

That is fair and reasonable, and Canadians agree with us. Our main priority is to protect the safety and security of Canadians. We need to know who these people are before they are released into our Canadian communities. This is the least that Canadians can expect of their government, and we are delivering on that expectation.

Second, this legislation aims to introduce several disincentives to stop those who are tempted to use this perilous form of migration. A key disincentive is that those who arrive as a result of a designated smuggling event will not be able to apply for permanent residency for a period of at least five years. This applies whether they are found to be in need of protection or not.

During that five-year period, persons found to be in need of protection would be restricted from travelling outside Canada and would be unable to apply for permanent residence to Canada through other means. As a result, they would not be eligible to sponsor family members into Canada or to become Canadian citizens during that time.

For those who received protected-person status, reporting requirements would be put in place. This will allow our government to be able to initiate proceedings before the Immigration and Refugee Board to remove their protected-person status if there is evidence that the individual no longer needs protection. This would apply, for example, if the individual returns to his country of origin or if conditions in that country change.

If someone is able to return safely from a holiday to his country of origin, the country that he claims to be fleeing, then he is clearly not in genuine need of Canada's protection. In such cases, the existing legislation would allow the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to make an application to the Refugee Protection Division for a cessation of the individual's protected-person status.

These legislative amendments would ensure that while an individual is subject to a cessation application, his application for permanent residence would be suspended and would not be processed until a decision is made on the minister's application. If the Refugee Protection Division upholds the minister's decision and the application for cessation, the individual would be removed from Canada.

An individual would be allowed to apply for permanent residence only after five years, if he is determined to be in further need of protection. This means that people in this category could apply for permanent residence only if no cessation proceedings had been initiated as a result of changed country conditions, or if they had not returned to their country of origin, or if the minister's application for cessation was not positively decided by the IRB.

If there is evidence that the protected-person status was obtained fraudulently, if, for example, an individual has directly or indirectly misrepresented or withheld material facts relevant to his situation, then the Minister of Public Safety would be able to apply to the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB to revoke the individual's refugee protection status. If the original decision is cancelled and no other grounds for protection remain, the individual would be removed from Canada.

Once in force, the bill would also eliminate access to the Refugee Appeal Division for people who want to review a negative decision on their claim. While they would still be able to ask the Federal Court to review a decision, they would not benefit from an automatic stay of removal from Canada while their application was being considered.

These measures that our government has proposed are firm but reasonable. They are exactly what Canadians have been calling for. They would maintain our Conservative government's goal of faster protection for those who truly need it and faster removal of those who do not. This will be achieved through the balanced refugee reform act, the bill before us today.

To further discourage individuals from coming to Canada as part of a smuggling operation, we are also taking measures to ensure that these individuals have access to fewer Canadian benefits. Canadians enjoy health services that are among the best and most generous in the world.

Currently, asylum seekers, resettled refugees, failed asylum seekers awaiting removal, detained individuals, and victims of trafficking are all provided with temporary health care coverage through the interim federal health program.

Under the changes we are proposing, the scope of services provided under the IFH program would be reduced for those who arrive in Canada illegally by way of human smuggling. They would receive only basic coverage, including medically necessary care and the immigration medical exams that refugee claimants must take upon their arrival in order to ensure that they do not pose a risk to public health or safety.

We need to ensure that illegal migrants are not receiving health coverage that is more generous than that offered to hard-working Canadians.

Canada is a fair, generous and welcoming country for those who want to work for a better life, but our generosity should not make us a target for criminal activities such as smuggling operations. In order to avoid becoming a target, we must remove the incentives for people seeking to come here by way of human smuggling.

These measures before us today are right. They are fair. And they are necessary. We know that Canadians agree with us. Poll after poll shows that Canadians want firm action taken on human smuggling, on cheating the system.

Cultural groups across the country have endorsed our measures. The Peel Tamil Community Centre stated that it was “pleased to see the government taking action to deter human smugglers who charge victims enormous sums of money”. The Taiwanese Canadian Association of Toronto said, “We need to know the identities of these individuals before they are released into Canadian society. That's why we also support the mandatory detention of illegal migrants who use human smugglers”.

Our government is committed to protecting the integrity of our immigration and refugee system. We are committed to upholding our laws. We are committed to protecting the safety and security of Canadians.

Taken together, the changes we have proposed will help safeguard our fair and generous immigration system. Moreover, they will help ensure that Canada is not an easy target for criminal organizations involved in human smuggling.

As I mentioned before, this legislation has won the support of virtually all key stakeholders. The legislation has resonated with Canadians at large. In fact, recent polls show that 60% of Canadians want to send ships back without allowing them to land on our shores. Yet we know that as a compassionate country we have to leave room for legitimate refugees. It is the abuse of the system that we object to.

Canada is a compassionate country, but because we are compassionate and generous, there are people around the world who will abuse that generosity, and Canadians do not tolerate abuse. In fact, I am shocked to hear the opposition parties in this House actually criticizing and opposing this bill. It is very clear that they are still not listening to Canadians.

We have consulted broadly with Canadians on this bill and we know that Canadians support it. My invitation to the opposition parties is to join us in doing the right thing for Canada.

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

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that I come from a riding that is one of the most ethnically diverse ridings in all of Canada.

One of the things I heard loud and clear this past summer was that people wanted us to stand up for Canada once and for all. People wanted to ensure that our immigration system and our refugee protection system put Canadian interests first. They wanted to ensure that the people who needed help were getting help but they did not want us to see our system and our generosity abused.

I wonder if the hon. member received the same type of reaction in his riding that I received in my riding, not just from Canadians who have been in this country for many years, but also from new Canadians who came to me and said that we needed to do something about this, that we needed to ensure that people are not abused and people are not taken advantage of by human smugglers.

I wonder what reaction the people in his riding had over the summer. I wonder if he could, in some way, explain to me and to this House how any of the members of the opposition could possibly, at this point in time, be contemplating going against what I think are the wishes of most Canadians, certainly the wishes of the people in my riding, to finally, once and for all, put Canada first when we are talking about immigration and refugee protection.

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

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I, like my colleague, come from a riding that is very diverse. In fact, I believe the city of Abbotsford is the fifth most diverse community in Canada on a per capita basis.

Do members know where the support for this legislation is the strongest? It is in the immigrant communities. They understand because got to Canada by following the law. They are law-abiding citizens. They do it right.

What they object to are the human smugglers around the world who see Canada as a soft touch and then have people pay them, in some cases, $50,000 per person to smuggle them into the country and essentially, by extension, jump the queue that many other immigrants are prepared to legally immigrate to Canada through.

It is disgraceful that we would have opposition parties in this House actually opposing these kinds of reforms. It is so puzzling to me that the opposition parties, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc, still are not listening to what Canadians are saying.

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

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

It confuses me when I hear certain things from the opposition on occasion. This bill deals with both sides of the equation: the smugglers and those who are taking advantage of the situation. I relate it to those who are thieves. A thief will steal something and sell it to somebody else. Those persons who have those stolen goods are still breaking the law by having stolen goods.

Why is it important that this bill deals with both the smugglers and those who are being smuggled? If he could possibly answer that question, I would really appreciate it.

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

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague from Burlington is a great MP who gets the issue, unlike members of the opposition parties who continue to whine, criticize and oppose what Canadians are demanding we do.

He is right. It is a matter of balance. First, we are going after the smugglers themselves because they are part of international criminal organizations. They earn millions upon millions of dollars every year on the backs of the human suffering of others. We are targeting them and imposing much tougher penalties on them if they do arrive in Canada. We are also working with international authorities to interdict them before they ever leave their countries of origin. We are working very hard with our domestic and international authorities to ensure we go after human smugglers before they ever get here.

Second, we are also going after the customers because many of the customers are actually illegal migrants. They are coming to Canada for purposes other than true refugee reasons. They are coming here because they may be economic migrants or they may be escaping criminal or terrorist activity elsewhere.

This is a balanced bill because it goes after the human smugglers and their customers.

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

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, given my colleague's experience in law, his extensive international experience and the different cultures that he interacts with on a regular basis, would having a law that appears to clamp down on human smuggling enforced increase or decrease the interest of qualified people who would like to immigrate to our great country?

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

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has touched on the key element of this bill, and that has to do with the integrity and credibility of our refugee system in Canada.

If legitimate immigrants and refugees from around the world think that if they use legal means to get to Canada to make a new life here that they will be in a long lineup and others will be jumping the queue by cheating, then they will be discouraged. Those very people who are prepared to be law-abiding will not come to Canada and we will be stuck with those who abuse the system.

In Canada we want immigrants and refugees who are in need of genuine protection. We want them to be here in Canada, build new lives for themselves and become law-abiding citizens. This bill would ensure that the credibility and integrity of our refugee system is maintained.

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

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, unlike my colleagues from Oak Ridges—Markham and Abbotsford, the riding I represent is not known for the number of immigrants it welcomes, or for being ethnically diverse. On the contrary, Lévis—Bellechasse is a typical region in Quebec. The people are proud and happy to welcome immigrants, but they are against organized crime groups that smuggle migrants in ahead of everyone else and, even worse, exploit them.

I have a quote from Antoine Malek, the president of the Association of the Coptic Orthodox Community:

It is time for Canada to send a clear signal to the world to discourage and fight human smuggling. That is why the Coptic community supports new federal legislation to protect human life, Canada's security and the integrity of Canada's immigration policy as a whole.

My question for the member is clear: will this bill allow us to preserve the integrity of our immigration system by preventing the entry of illegal immigrants, and by ensuring that organized crime groups do not bring people to Canada illegally?

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

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am actually the son of an immigrant. My mother came to Canada through legal means after the second world war and, boy, was she grateful for the opportunity to come to this country. My mother and father are law-abiding citizens who worked hard to build a life for themselves and to provide us children with an education knowing that Canada was a country that gave their children so much opportunity.

However, that opportunity is dependent upon the rule of law and the assumption that every Canadian citizen and permanent resident will follow the law and be a law-abiding citizen.

This legislation is absolutely critical to ensuring that tradition carries on in Canada, that the refugee system has credibility and integrity.