House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was indian.

Topics

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private members business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

That sounds like a point of debate, not a point of order.

We will go back to the parliamentary secretary.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private members business

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials have determined and proven that, as a result of this provision, immigration officials would be powerless to refuse military deserters or a family member, even if they would otherwise be inadmissible for a war crimes, crimes against humanity or serious criminality.

To put it frankly, the bill would leave Canada unable to stop foreign criminals from remaining in Canada even if they happen to be military deserters or if they are required to serve in their country's armed forces.

Bill C-440 also goes against some other laws and principles that govern Canada's own military. The bill is also incompatible with Canada's code of service discipline as set out in the National Defence Act. This code is the basis for Canadian Forces military justice and is designed to assist military commanders in maintaining discipline, efficiency and morale within the force. The code deems that desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces is punishable as an offence in Canada. This would apply even if forces members refused a lawful order to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations.

As a result, if the bill were implemented, Canadian soldiers would be punished for desertion while foreign nationals would be welcomed to Canada even after they had committed the same offence.

Under the logic of the bill, Canadians who abandon their comrades in arms would continue to be treated like criminals and Americans who do the same would be welcomed by the Liberal Party as heroes.

In fact, the member across the way has singled out the Iraq war. I would simply ask that he rise on the first occasion and explain why he has singled out only that conflict. There are conscientious Americans who believe, through conviction, that the American involvement in Afghanistan is unjust and wrong.

I happen to disagree with that particular perspective, but it is a legitimate point of view. If the hon. member were to take the logic that he has applied to the Iraq war, he would then also allow deserters from the U.S. forces who are escaping their service in Afghanistan and allow them to come here, desert their comrades in arms, and leave behind the duties that they joined the forces to undertake. They would be able to come to Canada as deserters and be given an opportunity to jump ahead of the queue and have a status as permanent residents in this country.

Would it not be ironic then if we would have members of the American forces allowed to desert from the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, but at the same time Canadian soldiers, who if they did exactly the same thing, would be treated as criminals? That would be an incredible double standard.

I would also like to point out that this bill does a great disservice to the thousands of would be immigrants from around the world who follow the rules, who obey the law, and who come to this country, going through all of the normal steps in order to become citizens of Canada. It would be a disservice to have them pushed back in the line-up so that we could give preferential treatment, as the bill would give, to deserters of the U.S. armed forces. It would not only be an insult to our own soldiers but also be an insult to the legitimate would be immigrants from around the world who are following the rules.

The bill also seeks to grant permanent resident status to individuals who upon their return to their country of origin may be compelled to return to military service. This means that former military personnel from countries with conscription could be captured under this provision.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada researchers have found that some three dozen countries have some type of mandatory military service. This bill would throw the door wide open to anyone from those countries who could in theory eventually be forced into military service. This list includes countries such as Israel, Germany and Denmark, countries which are both democracies and close allies of Canada. If Bill C-440 were made law, it could apply to all former military personnel from these countries.

It should be noted that in the American context the United States armed forces do not have conscription, so those who sign on to join the forces do so knowing that at some point they could be called to duty and, as a result, have already made their conscientious decision to sign on for that duty at the time they join the American armed forces.

We are also concerned with the impact this bill would have on Canada's foreign relations if Canada is compelled to grant permanent residence to citizens of our allies trying to avoid obligatory military service. Passage of this bill would send an implicit signal that Canada condemns the practices of our allies and could establish Canada as a safe haven for individuals seeking to circumvent those practices.

We also object to the fact that Bill C-440 distinguishes conflicts sanctioned by the United Nations from conflicts that are not. It would be presumptuous and unprecedented to require Canadian immigration officials to pronounce on the so-called illegality of a given conflict. Furthermore, Canada and its NATO allies have in the past and reserve the right in the future to participate in military action that the United Nations may or may not have already sanctioned.

I should note that a decision by the Canadian government to resort to force is not subject to review by Canadian courts. It is a matter of high policy reserved to the executive. Scrutiny by a Canadian court or a Canadian immigration official of a foreign government's decision to resort to force would, therefore, be unwarranted and could have a negative impact on foreign relations.

Finally, Bill C-440 proposes that the government stay the removal of applicants until a decision on permanent residence for individuals could be made. This undermines the security and enforcement agenda that this government is undertaking and could be open to abuse.

I will simply point out that this government will be voting against this bill as it causes serious problems for the security of this country, and the integrity of our immigration and foreign relations systems.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private members business

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to comment on the bill before us today. This bill raises a moral question: should we force the beliefs of this Parliament and this country on the world?

We are asking if we should welcome someone who has refused to participate in overseas military action—which Canada is not involved in and for which there are no United Nations sanctions—and who is asking for our protection.

The Bloc Québécois' answer is yes, of course we should. The war in Iraq is perhaps the prime example, the one the first comes to mind. I remind members that there was once widespread disapproval of the war in Iraq. Despite this, some politicians supported action in Iraq. Obviously, the Prime Minister of Canada, leader of the Conservative Party, was in favour of action in Iraq. The Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Liberal Party was also in favour of the war in Iraq. However, even though these two leaders defended the war, the majority of Canadians and Quebeckers were undoubtedly against it.

Who could forget that, at the time, hundreds of thousands of people in different cities, including 200,000 or 300,000 in Montreal alone, filled the streets. They braved the cold to say that they did not want to participate in what they felt was an unjust war not sanctioned by the United Nations, an unjust and unjustifiable war. They felt that the war would unduly punish Iraqi civilians and society. People also knew that there was a hidden strategic agenda involving control over oil production and so on.

Now we know that George Bush and his administration told all kinds of lies to convince people that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There were no such weapons. There was widespread consensus.

People considered the war illegitimate. Reacting to public opinion, Parliament decided it would be illegitimate to send soldiers there to fight. That is logical. If something appears to be illegitimate, stay out of it.

That being said, my Liberal Party colleague's bill raises a very interesting question. Were we justified in believing that people around the world should have shared our conviction at the time? If the Iraq war is illegitimate from our perspective, should it not also be illegitimate from the perspective of the United States, Germany, England and lots of other countries?

If, as parliamentarians, we strongly believe that this is a universal value and that human beings should not participate in immoral bilateral conflicts not sanctioned by the UN, then we should also believe that people from other countries who share that conviction should not be required to participate. That is what the bill before us proposes.

This bill would not allow people who simply refuse military service to stay in Canada, but it would admit people who refuse military service because they are ordered to participate in a mission they consider to be illegitimate or immoral. Such individuals would be permitted to apply for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds as conscientious objectors if they believe, as we do, that the war they are expected to join is immoral and illegitimate.

That makes sense to me. The government had a number of things to say about this. My Conservative colleague who spoke before me said that this does not at all correspond to the definition of a refugee. I will admit that, but we are not talking about refugees. We are talking about an application for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds. This does not correspond to the definition of a refugee and it is for that reason that the spokesperson for the bill did not put it in the section on refugees. I do not know whether my Conservative colleague read the bill before writing his speech, but his comment is irrelevant.

They also pointed out the possibility of an incredible influx into Canada of conscientious objectors from all over the world. That is somewhat exaggerated. Most people who decide on a military career will abide by the army's decisions. A certain number believe they made a mistake. They joined the army in good faith but, after deployment, they realized that it was an illegitimate war and changed their minds. Not all of them want to leave their families. If they are considered deserters in the United States, they can come to Canada, but they can never return to their country. There is no reason to believe that there will be an influx of applicants. There will be applications in particular circumstances. Nevertheless, we must listen to these people and protect them.

We also heard the government cite the issue of national security. I wonder how anyone who has been security cleared in order to become a member of the U.S. army could suddenly become a threat to national security. Was the parliamentary secretary suggesting that the American army hires potential terrorists? This seems to be a ridiculous argument.

Behind these supposedly rational arguments, the government simply does not want to rub the Americans the wrong way or jeopardize its relationship with the Republicans and George W. Bush in the United States. Then there are the Liberals who do not want to jeopardize the position of their leader, who was in favour of the war in Iraq. I applaud the fact that even though he supported the war in Iraq, the Liberal Party leader—the Leader of the Opposition—nevertheless allowed one of his party members to introduce a bill on an issue that directly concerns that unjust war. Most of the recent cases involve people who participated or are being forced to participate in the war in Iraq.

The Liberal Party leader has not yet told us whether he has changed his mind. He has not told us whether he believes, like most Canadians and Quebeckers believed at the time, that the war was immoral or illegitimate or whether he still believes that Canada should have participated in the war. Even though he has not stated his position, he allowed the Liberal Party member to introduce this bill. That is a good sign.

I hope that, contrary to what happened with a recent motion, all Liberal members will support their colleague's bill to make it the law of the land.

I would like to conclude by comparing this issue to the ongoing debate on access to abortion services in other countries, which is a major issue. We know that even though they will never say so openly, the Conservatives want to reopen the abortion debate, and they are imposing their beliefs on other countries.

It is kind of the same thing with deserters. As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, they say that the war was legitimate and moral. They do not see why we would accept American deserters who refused to take part in it. The two situations are similar, and I would like them to stop.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private members business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, deciding to leave the army, navy or marines is never an easy decision for a soldier.

In speaking about his decision to leave the army after nine years, Patrick Hart, a constituent in my riding, who was a supply sergeant who served in Germany, the U.S. and Kuwait after the invasion of Iraq, explained the reasons that led him to resist serving in Iraq. He recounts that he spoke to many of the soldiers who had been in Iraq and he heard really upsetting things, especially about what happened to children caught in the fighting. He said that he thought of his son, Ryan, and realized how horrible it must be for Iraqi parents. He realized that he could not continue to be part of the army anymore. It was a hard decision but in August 2006 he moved to Toronto.

Patrick Hart, his wife, Jill, and his son, Ryan, are contributing residents of Canada. Patrick volunteers at his son's school and fundraises for the Epilepsy Foundation of Canada. They serve as active members in a housing co-op. Jill works at Lula Lounge, a very famous place for downtown Torontonians. They are constantly worrying about being deported from Canada.

The war in Iraq is an invasion, no doubt about it. It is not liberation. The invasion of 2003 has caused a million people in Iraq to die in the wake of post-invasion violence. Sectarian wars have torn the country apart, while foreign troops have established huge military bases.

Today, 70% of Iraqis lack potable water and unemployment hovers around 50%. The situation is so grim that there are over two million Iraqi refugees and almost three million internally displaced Iraqis. That is a fifth of the population of Iraq.

Phil McDowell, a former sergeant in the United States army, is one of the many resisters who has first-hand experience on the front lines in Iraq. He said that throughout his tour he was told to run civilian cars off the road if they got in the way. He said that he saw the mistreatment of Iraqi civilians or detainees who he found out later had done nothing wrong at all. He saw more evil being brought to the country that they were supposed to be liberating. He said that he went there to look for weapons of mass destruction so he could protect his country but he found none.

What is this Iraq war all about? It is all about oil. It makes one wonder if maybe that is why the Conservative government has ignored both motions put forward by New Democrats and have passed this Parliament. The first one passed on June 3, 2008 in the 38th Parliament. A year later, on March 30, 2009, it passed in the 39th Parliament.

Is it possible that the government would rather listen to its pals in the oil companies, such as Talisman, Western Zagros and Nexen which have oil interests in Iraq, than listen to the will of Parliament? Last fall, Iraq oil fields management, the government, signed contracts with both Shell and CNPC, a Chinese firm. By the end of this year, 30 more countries have been approved to bid on the next round of contracts.

What we are seeing in Iraq is the real reason for this war. It is not about liberation. It is really about oil. That is why some of the soldiers have said that they do not want to go back to Iraq. They were there and do not support stop-loss, and they do not want to be forced back.

If they are deported from Canada, the war resisters will be court-martialled and given dishonourable discharges. This would go on their record as a felony offence and it would greatly hamper their future educational and employment opportunities as they serve time in jail.

I visited a war resister, Robin Long, in jail. Robin served a year and said that he was having a hard time coming back to Canada to visit his son. He served a longer sentence than those who have committed serious crimes. His only mistake was refusing to fight in an unsanctioned war.

In 2004, Jeremy Hinzman and his family were the first Iraq war resisters to come to Canada and apply for asylum. Today his case was heard in court again.

For six years, the war resister campaign support team, led by Michelle Robidoux, with members such as Alex Lisman, Lee Zaslosky, Charlie Diamond, Ken Marciniec, and lawyers Carolyn Egan, Alyssa Manning and Jeff House, have been working hard. They have been meeting every Wednesday to assist war resisters in their efforts. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their dedication and hard work.

They are not alone. A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid found that 64% of Canadians supported Parliament's vote directing the minority Conservative government to immediately stop deporting Iraq war resisters and to create a program to facilitate the resisters' requests for permanent resident status.

The Nuremberg principles established that soldiers have a duty, not a choice, to refuse to carry out immoral orders. Article 18 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and chapter 5, section B, of the UN handbook for determining refugee status, make clear that conscientious objectors to war have rights and can require protection from states.

Kimberly Rivera and her family felt the need to come to Canada because her Christian values were opposed to the war in Iraq. She explained that “on leave back in the U.S., my husband and I decided the war was wrong based on our values as Christians, and the Army was tearing my family apart. We decided that we would go to Canada”. She said that as a Christian, when she was told to harm mothers and children, every time she imagined her own children being harmed, and that is why she could not go back to Iraq.

Perhaps Kim Rivera is sympathizing with the one million widows in Iraq. That is correct. Right now, after all the years of fighting and invasions, there are one million widows in Iraq. Kim Rivera, thinking of her children, did not want to participate in this war. She has other children, but we should allow her and her two children born in Canada to be allowed to stay in Canada, together with other families, whether those of Phil McDowell, Jeremy Hinzman, or Patrick Hart.

We should support this private member's bill and let the war resisters stay in Canada. As we go through second reading and when the bill is sent eventually to the immigration committee, I would ask the government to respect the will of Parliament and not inflict deportation on the war resisters, because if they were deported they would experience serious jail sentences.

We in the New Democratic Party of Canada are supporting this private member's bill. We have tabled in motions to that end and will continue to push for war resisters to be able to stay in Canada.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private members business

7 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lend my support for Bill C-440 as presented by the member for Parkdale—High Park. I am very pleased that he has advanced this bill. It will come as no surprise to members of the House that on many occasions, I have had the opportunity to speak to the importance of giving asylum to those who have engaged in the war in Iraq, and for conscientious reasons have objected to that war and asked for asylum in Canada.

The story resonates well with me, because the first war resister I had the opportunity to meet was Jeremy Hinzman, who was a constituent of mine in Davenport. Mr. Hinzman was a soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division. He applied for conscientious objector status and served one tour of duty in Afghanistan in a non-combat position. After being denied conscientious objector status, Jeremy learned that he was being deployed to Iraq. He and his wife, Nga Nguyen, and their son, Liam, came to Canada in January 2004. Their daughter Meghan was born in Toronto in the summer of 2008.

The member for Trinity—Spadina was also present at many of the meetings that I had with Jeremy Hinzman, as well as at several rallies that took place throughout Toronto with the participation of church groups, different faith groups, NGOs, civil society and labour groups. They showed solidarity for Mr. Hinzman and his family. As I said, one of his children was born in Canada.

Many of these soldiers who came to Canada to seek refugee status in fact have established themselves with their families and have children who were born in Canada. They have lived here for quite some time.

I have also had the opportunity to speak to Robin Long, who served two years as a tanker in the U.S. army. He came to Canada in July 2005 and applied for refugee status because he felt he could not participate in the war in Iraq. On July 15, 2008, the Canadian government deported Robin to the United States, where he was arrested and court martialled for desertion. Robin was sentenced to 15 months in a military prison and received a dishonourable discharge from the military. The sentence is one of the harshest handed out to U.S. Iraq war resisters.

The other war resister whom I would like to mention is Joshua Key. I would encourage all members to read his book about a soldier's story of what takes place in Iraq. It is a compelling story of what took place in that war and why he came to the conclusion that he was against the war and why he could not serve his country and made the difficult and painful decision to come to Canada.

Key was a private first class in the U.S. army. He served an eight-month tour in Iraq in 2003. What he saw in Iraq convinced him that he could not participate in the war any longer. He went AWOL and came to Canada with his family in March 2005. On July 4, 2008, the Federal Court ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to hold a new hearing for Joshua's refugee claim. Joshua is awaiting a decision on that hearing from the Immigration and Refugee Board.

As far back as December 2008, I issued a press release. I was very concerned that on Christmas Eve of 2008, there was an order to deport Clifford Cornell in advance of the decision of the Federal Court of Canada on the appeal of the war resister Jeremy Hinzman. What concerned me was that the plan was to move Mr. Cornell the day before Christmas Day. I thought that would be incredibly painful for the family, but I think that for most Canadians, however they felt about the issue, it just did not seem right that on Christmas Eve there would be a deportation order, when the minds of Canadians were focused elsewhere. In many ways, it was designed to have as little publicity as possible and it worked.

I thought it was very tragic and sad for that to happen, and most Canadians would want the decisions to be made in a way that certainly has sentiment and feeling for that very important occasion of Christmas.

What this particular bill tries to establish is the whole idea of the Canadian government supporting people who have made a claim of conscientious objection in Canada and allowing them to stay here. This is consistent with many polls and with the views of Canadians. In fact, the majority of parliamentarians have voted twice in past Parliaments to allow them to stay in Canada. The will of Parliament, expressed in both June 2008 and March 2009, should be respected.

The House and the previous prime minister, Jean Chrétien, made what I think will be known in history and will certainly be recorded in history as one of the most courageous and righteous things ever done by any prime minister. He said no to an illegal war, a war not sanctioned by the United Nations. That was the invasion of Iraq.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Chrétien was here today for the unveiling of his portrait. We certainly wish him luck. Most of us were quite impressed with the portrait that was unveiled today.

We owe him a great deal of gratitude for the many things he has done for this country. Canadians will also remember him fondly for saying no to the war in Iraq. Many of the coalition partners at that time were, like Canada, strong allies of the U.S., but as an independent nation, we decided to take an independent stand.

We have done this throughout our history. Canada has always shown that yes, we are best friends with the U.S. Yes, Canadians love the U.S. and think very highly of its institutions, government, and people, but at the same time, as friends, we can disagree on many issues. We disagreed on the war in Iraq, but we participated in the war in Afghanistan, because it had a UN mandate, and we thought it was important to go through UN channels.

The UN is very clear that under chapter VII, article 39, the Security Council should be the only one to determine whether there is a threat to peace. There was no chapter VII, article 39 authorization for the invasion of Iraq. There was one for Afghanistan. Chapter VII was never called upon for Iraq. Of course, there is always article 51 on the inherent right to collective self-defence—

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private members business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have to stop the hon. member there. He will have a minute and a half left to conclude his remarks the next time the bill is before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 7:13 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:13 p.m.)