House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.

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The House resumed from May 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to continue the government's response to Bill C-440, which calls for amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which I will refer to as IRPA, to require the granting of permanent residence status in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds to war resisters.

The government opposes the measures proposed in Bill C-440 for several reasons. Based on how the bill is currently written, Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials have advised that military deserters could be granted permanent residence in Canada despite being inadmissible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, security, or for serious criminality based on offences such as sexual assault or murder.

Immigration officials and officers would be powerless to refuse a war deserter application even if they were concerned that the applicant had been involved with such serious matters as I have outlined. It could leave Canada unable to stop foreign criminals from remaining in Canada if they happened to be military deserters.

The bill would force the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and officials acting under his delegated authority to grant permanent residence to people who might otherwise be inadmissible. In worst cases, this could oblige Canada to allow military deserters into this country who might also be criminals and whose claims would be normally rejected outright to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.

Worse still, it could prevent us from deporting those already here who may in the future be required to serve in their country's armed forces.

In addition to these safety and security implications, the bill proposes staying the removal of applicants until a decision on permanent residence is made.

Currently, stays of removal for particular groups are only put into effect when there is a general risk associated with a particular country or place. Providing an automatic stay of removal without any evaluation of merit is open to abuse by non-genuine applicants who are subject to removal and wish to remain in Canada. Every citizen of a country with conscription who is illegally in Canada would actually be able to have the removal stayed.

As a result, the bill risks the safety and security of Canadians.

As noted earlier, Bill C-440 also goes against some of the laws and principles that govern Canada's own military. It is incompatible with Canada's code of service discipline as set out in the National Defence Act. This code is the basis of the Canadian Forces military justice system and is designed to assist military commanders in maintaining discipline, efficiency and morale within our own forces.

The code deems desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces to be a punishable offence in Canada. This would apply if a forces member 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, such as military deserters from the United States, would be welcomed to Canada. The Liberals would continue to treat Canadian deserters as criminals but would welcome American, Israeli and Iranian deserters as heroes.

Worse still, implicit in the rationale for the bill is the assumption that U.S. military practices are somehow unjust; or to put it another way, the Liberal Party is accusing the government of President Barack Obama of persecuting American citizens who are war deserters. This is a claim that even though is popular among the rabble and “no one is illegal set” has been rejected by the independent and arm's-length Immigration and Refugee Board at every instance.

As drafted, there are no amendments to Bill C-440 that would address the government's concerns. The bill is fatally flawed.

I would submit that our current immigration system is more balanced and already provides protection to individuals who are from countries where military desertion or refusal to participate in an armed conflict when the circumstances warrant.

In summary, Bill C-440 presents significant risks to our immigration and refugee system, as well as the general safety and security of all Canadians. Based on this, I would strongly encourage my hon. colleagues in the House to vote against the bill.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak in support of Bill C-440, as other of my colleagues from the New Democratic Party have done.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Parkdale—High Park for bringing forward this bill. It is a very important measure.

I am very disturbed to hear the comments from the parliamentary secretary and to hear the member completely dis the bill and the genuine and humanitarian intent that is contained within it. I think the member and the government are obviously fearmongering.

It was very interesting to hear the parliamentary secretary say that it is popular among the rabble. I am not sure who he means. This bill has very broad support right across the country from significant organizations, from faith communities, from the war resisters support network, from many organizations. It is very disturbing that the government would undermine the bill and its intent in that way.

We are debating the bill at second reading stage. If the bill passed this critical vote on Wednesday, it would go to committee where there could be further examination. It would be perfectly in order to raise any of the issues and concerns the government has at the committee and to have a response and amendments, if necessary. However, to want to kill the bill at this point is very unfortunate and something with which we certainly do not agree.

I do want to speak about this issue because one of the war resisters, Rodney Watson, is actually in sanctuary in my riding of Vancouver East in the First United Church. He just marked the first anniversary of his being in sanctuary. He is a 32-year-old man who came to Vancouver in November 2006. He was deployed in Iraq in 2005. He is a very courageous young man. In making the choice not to participate in the illegal war in Iraq, he made a very big life-changing decision that affected him, his family, his future. He did it as a matter of conscience, as a matter of principle, of integrity about what he felt, what he had witnessed, what he had experienced in Iraq.

He chose to come to this country. Many Canadians have welcomed this young man. In fact, the War Resisters Support Campaign and network across the country has been unbelievable in its tremendous volunteer effort in supporting the 300 or so war resisters in Canada. Probably about 40 of them are engaged in various legal campaigns around their status here in Canada.

The bill before us would allow someone like Rodney to apply for permanent resident status. We have to think of this in a historical context. It was not that long ago that Canada welcomed about 80,000 draft dodgers, war resisters from the Vietnam war. They came to this country and are now very much a part of the Canadian society, the Canadian fabric. They became doctors, lawyers, professors, workers of varying kinds. They are people who have contributed to Canadian society and Canada is the better for their contribution.

Here we are 40 years later and we see that the war resisters are fighting a tremendous battle to have their conscience respected, to find a way that they can make a humanitarian option for leaving the military. I support the bill and I know my colleagues support it because we believe there has to be a way within the system to accommodate these war resisters who are people of conscience. I hope very much that within the House there will be a majority vote that will allow the bill to go to committee.

I want to thank all of the folks at the War Resisters Support Campaign and network, people like Sarah Bjorknas, who has done outstanding work; people like Reverend Ric Matthews who is the minister of mission and community life at First United Church. This church has opened up its space, its mission to welcome this young man, Rodney Watson, his wife and his young son, Jordan. They are currently involved in an application but I know they are hoping that the bill will be supported.

It is like a beacon of hope for all of the people involved that we are debating this issue in Parliament and that we are trying to find a way forward to ensure that this young man can remain in this country, and others like him who have made this very courageous decision.

When the Conservative members play this politics of fear and put out misinformation that this bill would undermine the whole citizenship and immigration system and put Canadians at risk, which is what we heard the parliamentary secretary say, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, what we do know is that all of the usual procedures that are within our system would still be in place. What we are trying to do is to find a humanitarian way, an objective way and a good way of allowing these war resisters to remain in our country so issues around criminality, which are issues that are usually dealt with within the system, nothing would be different here.

It is very disturbing that the government would kind of play on those fears and undermine this very genuine attempt by a majority of members of the House to find a way for war resisters to remain in this country.

I do note that a motion expressing that sentiment was passed in Parliament by a strong majority, and I think it is shared by a vast majority of Canadians. These war resisters pose no threat to our country. They are people of conscience who have chosen a way of peace rather than participating in a horrific experience. These are people who want to contribute to Canadian society and be members of our greater community.

I know that personally, having visited Rodney Watson in Vancouver a number of times. I have talked with him and have met his wife. I attended his marriage at the First United Church where he has been in sanctuary. We must remember that this young man cannot go outside of this building. He cannot see his son play in a park, nor can he take a walk down the street. He is very happy that the First United Church has offered him sanctuary, which is a time-honoured tradition to have sanctuary, but it has placed his life in a very difficult circumstance.

I and others are very hopeful that the bill will pass second reading, go to the committee where it will be objectively discussed and maybe there will be improvements that are brought forward, which is all in the realm of possibility, then it will come back to this House and be passed. This would give hope to the war resisters that Canada is still a place of refuge, a place of welcome, a place where people of conscience can seek refuge and a place where they can go through a proper process instead of having all of their hopes dashed, as I think the government would like to see.

I wholeheartedly support this bill and urge all members of the House to support it. It would reinforce the reputation Canada has had over many years as being a place of compassion and a place where people, on humanitarian grounds, can be welcomed and protected. That is what we would like to see with this bill and this is what the bill would make possible, not only for Rodney Watson and the situation he is in, but for the many others who are in a similar situation.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we share a North American continent with a global superpower: our American friends with whom we share many foundational democratic principles and with whose economy ours is intimately and intricately intertwined.

Although we share many of the same values as our American friends, there have been times in history when we fundamentally disagreed with our American friends on issues of human rights, human dignity and especially on issues of war and peace. In fact, during those times there have been Americans who have disagreed with their own government, with their president, their commander-in-chief, and made the very difficult personal decision of uprooting their lives on a matter of principle and heading to the Canadian north to seek sanctuary in Canada.

It goes as far back as the Loyalists who headed north to Canada because they wished to stay loyal to the Crown. We provided them with refuge. Blacks escaping slavery through the Underground Railroad sought sanctuary in southern Ontario where they built new lives and enjoyed freedom.

More recently, during our lifetimes, there have been wars in Vietnam and in Iraq. There have been resisters to those particular wars who have once again uprooted themselves and have come seeking sanctuary in Canada. They fundamentally disagreed with their president's doctrine, as did Canadian prime ministers of that time. They disagreed with the doctrine of U.S. presidents, such as Nixon and Bush, who believed that one could bring democracy to middle powers half a world away through the barrel of a gun, to countries that had no traditions or institutions of democracy.

Over the past few years, as Iraqi war resisters landed in Canada, they expected the same treatment as Vietnam war resisters received two generations ago, that they would be given refuge in Canada. Unfortunately, prime ministers have changed since Canada's decision to not engage in the Iraq war. It is no longer the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, whose greatest legacy will be his resistance to bringing Canada into the Iraq war. He was a prime minister who did not listen to President Bush's embellished evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction, which was later found to be false. Instead, he listened to the UN inspectors who said that there were no weapons of mass destruction. He resisted President Bush's arm-twisting, who said that the war was about freedom and democracy and that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, a monster and a crook.

However, there are many tyrants and monsters.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre is speaking and I think he deserves the respect he has shown to others here this morning. If people want to have a conversation, if they could take it out to the lobby it would be appreciated.

The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Unfortunately, the world is full of monstrous despots, such as Zimbabwe's Mugabi. Why Iraq and not Zimbabwe? Many Canadians, I among them, perhaps feel that it had more to do with Iraq's vast oil reserves than freedom and democracy. What was the end result of the war in Iraq? Over 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians. Yes, today Iraq's oil reserves are controlled by U.S. oil interests and not the Hussein family interests, but at what cost? Over 100,000 innocent civilians are dead.

For some in this House, that might be a statistic that they joke about, but there were brave soldiers on the front line who saw what it meant. People like Kimberley Rivera volunteered because she believed her president when he said that American freedom was at stake. She went to Iraq, half a world away, and saw the destruction of the personal property of Iraqis, the death of Iraqi civilians and the shell-shocked Iraqi children wandering Baghdad.

Robin Long, on July 4, ironically, was deported to the United States by our government a month after the House of Commons voted by majority to provide refuge to Iraqi war resisters. A U.S. military tribunal sentenced him to 15 months in prison. He told me that the only evidence brought forward was the fact that he called the Iraq war illegal on CBC.

We can compare that to the justice of Belmor Ramos who received seven months by a similar U.S. military tribunal for having taken part in the blindfolding and execution of four innocent Iraqi civilians who they then dumped in the Tigris River. One suspects that U.S. military courts have an agenda other than justice when we deport Iraqi war resisters who speak out against this unjust war.

There are others. Chuck Wiley, with 17 years service in the U.S. navy, who came back and could no longer take part in this unjust war, uprooted his life. Jeremy Hinzman and hundreds of others have arrived in Canada seeking refuge.

Eighty-two per cent of Canadians supported Canada's decision not to go to war in Iraq. Over the last number of years, continuously, 65%, two-thirds of Canadians have said that we should provide sanctuary to the Iraqi war resisters. Twice in the House of Commons we have voted by majority to provide refuge for those Iraqi war resisters, but unfortunately, the government is not respecting the will of the Canadian people and is not respecting the vote in the House of Commons of the people of Canada.

It is high time the government ceased standing shoulder to shoulder with a discredited Bush doctrine of chest thumping, unintelligible, unimaginative militarism, and instead, stood shoulder to shoulder with those courageous men and women in uniform who made that difficult and brave decision to say no to their commander-in-chief because they believed he had lied to them and that it was an unjust war they were being forced into. Those courageous young men and women of the American forces then sought sanctuary here in Canada. They did not listen to the unjust orders of their commander-in-chief but listened to the command of the real commander-in-chief who says, “Thou shalt not kill”.

Economic Action Plan
Routine Proceedings

September 27th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, for the information of the House, I have the honour to table the sixth report of Canada's economic action plan.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, as said previously by my colleagues, the government objects to Bill C-440 and urges all members of the House to vote against it.

I will continue the government's response to the bill by addressing the effect it could have on military lives and relations.

Canadians love and value their freedom. We have a proud military tradition that proves we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to protect it. Some 600,000 Canadians served in the first and second world wars. Over 100,000 Canadians gave their lives for our freedom and the freedom of others. We remember these sacrifices each year on Remembrance Day, November 11, one of the most important days on the Canadian calendar.

In Afghanistan the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces are carrying on this tradition. Over 140 members have made the supreme sacrifice to bring freedom and security to Afghanistan and prevent the country from serving again as a base for global terrorism.

When the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism speaks to new citizens, he sometimes talks about the need to meet obligations to family and community. He often cites Canada's military tradition as an example of how citizens have met these very obligations. However, to properly honour this past we must oppose the bill because it could pose challenges for some of the principles that apply to our military.

The bill would let military deserters from any country participating in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It proposes to allow those individuals to remain in Canada based on a moral, political or religious objection. It would allow those subject to compulsory military service to refuse to return to service in their country of nationality. It proposes that the government would stay the removal for these applications until a decision on permanent residence for the individuals could be made.

As drafted, Bill C-440 is incompatible with Canada's Code of Service Discipline, as set out in the National Defence Act. The code is the basis of the Canadian Forces military justice system and is designed to assist military commanders in ensuring that the forces remain disciplined, efficient and motivated.

The Code of Service Discipline provides that desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces or failure to obey a lawful command of a superior officer are both punishable offences in Canada. These offences would apply in a situation where a Canadian Forces member refused a lawful order to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations.

This is, however, the very same conduct that Bill C-440 seeks to use as grounds for granting foreign nationals permanent residence. As a result, Canada could become a haven for military personnel who commit acts for which members of the Canadian Forces would be subject to punishment. The Liberal Party wants to treat Canadian deserters as criminals, but American, Israeli and Iranian deserters as heroes.

The provisions in Bill C-440 also extend beyond those persons refusing to participate in an unsanctioned armed conflict.

The bill seeks to grant permanent residence to individuals who, upon return to their country of origin, may be compelled to serve in the military. This provision is overly broad as obligatory military service is practised in many countries, including Israel, Germany and Denmark, countries which are both democracies and close allies of Canada. If Bill C-440 were made law in Canada, it could apply to all former military personnel from such countries.

Passage of the bill will 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. This, when dozens of countries around the world have either obligatory military service, a combination of obligatory and voluntary military service or voluntary systems that rely on obligatory service in emergency situations.

Bill C-440 proposes that refusing to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations should be grounds for granting permanent resident status. It has, however, not been common practice for the Security Council to sanction international armed conflicts. The UN is more commonly silent on the status of a conflict. As such, the bill would cover a large range of conflicts worldwide.

Thus, by allowing all military deserters who are seeking to avoid participation in armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations to be provided special treatment, the provision could apply to conflicts that the international community, the Canadian government and/or Canadians deem to be legitimate.

Furthermore, a decision by the Government of Canada to resort to force is reserved to the executive and not subject to review by Canadian courts. Scrutiny by a Canadian court of a foreign government's decision to resort to force would therefore be unwarranted.

Given the scope of Bill C-440, the number of foreign nationals eligible to apply under these provisions could be enormous. In theory, military personnel from any country with armed forces could qualify for permanent residence in Canada. Has anyone on the opposition benches given any thought to that at all?

As I noted, the proposed amendments could also establish Canada as a haven for military personnel who commit acts such as desertion, for which the Canadian Forces would be subject to punishment. The bill as drafted contains no clear amendments to address these concerns. I would argue that our current immigration system is more balanced and provides sufficient protection to individuals facing persecution or undue hardship.

Bill C-440 risks undermining the very principles upon which Canadian soldiers take to battle, principles that are fundamental to our military's code of service discipline and to our country's military relations with other countries around the world. Given that, as has been noted earlier, the bill could undermine the government's security and enforcement agenda and the security and safety of Canadians.

Bill C-440 could pose substantial challenges for Canada. It would present risks to our immigration system, conflict with our military laws and could put at risk the general safety and security of Canadians. Based on these factors, I strongly encourage all hon. colleagues in the House to vote against Bill C-440.

I will address some additional issues that have been raised by the hon. member across the way.

The hon. member seeks to impugn the motivation of other countries that have in fact sought to defend their people who live under tyrannical regimes, dictatorships and from those who do not respect the liberty or freedoms of their own citizens. We have a great tradition in our country of standing up for those who cannot stand for themselves. Sometimes that means the government has a responsibility to make decisions that are not easy. The member seeks to impugn governments that make those decisions to take out a dictator who punishes his or her own people.

He spoke of some people that are particularly offensive. I do not want to put words in the hon. member's mouth, but he indicated that the U.S. government took out a family that was not friendly to it on oil and put in a group that was friendly to it on oil. He did not speak at all about that family, about the former President Saddam Hussein's record on human rights and the travesties that dictator imposed upon his people. He can stand in judgment of the motivations, but I really take offence to the indication that the only motivation to take this man out was to gain control of oil. Those comments are highly offensive to one of our strongest allies and friends, our U.S. neighbours.

I would also argue that there have been other cases and points in time where the United Nations has not seen fit, as I noted in my speech, to endorse a military action, but where nations of conscience have sought to go in and defend the people. We have seen many instances where the right to protect clause was not enacted by the United Nations, but where I think a lot of people on the outside looked at it and thought maybe it was an instance where it should have been. I do not think we should rely on that as our moral compass for whether or not we should go in and defend a people under a tyrannical regime where they are under threat.

As I said, the bill is very poorly drafted. The government cannot support it and I urge all opposition members to join us in our opposition to it.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park for bringing Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters), to the House.

This is not the first time we have debated the issue of war resisters. A motion, first presented to Parliament on May 29, 2008, by the member for Trinity—Spadina, was based on an earlier Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration motion that called for the creation of a special government program to allow conscientious objectors, and their families, who had been refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations to apply for permanent resident status.

The motion also called for the government to immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

There are currently more than 200 Iraqi war resisters in Canada. They are either living underground or they have declared themselves in Canada. This group of men and women of all ages, ranks, family status, political affiliation, has been living and working in Canada since 2004, when the first war resister, Jeremy Hinzman, crossed the border into Canada after his U.S. conscientious objector application was denied and he ran out of other legal options. Since then, the community of resisters and community members have been determinedly fighting for the right of these young men and women to remain in Canada.

The current private member's bill supports the tradition that Canadians respect, and that is the hopes, the wishes and the conscience of those who refuse to commit human rights violations. This goes back in our history. Most of us will remember, most notably, the days of the Vietnam war in the 1960s and the mostly young men but a few young women who came here and became part of our country's fabric, who made tremendous contributions.

The 2008 motion and the subsequent motion from March 2009, again from the member for Trinity—Spadina, passed in the House.

I will tell the members a bit about our experiences of war resisters in London, Ontario.

In total about 10 war resisters have called London home over the past 5 years. London currently has three living in the community. These people are not looking for a free ride. Every one of them went out and found work as soon as they received work permits. Often they were low-paying entry jobs. These young men and women struggled to make ends meet, but they, nonetheless, worked to pay their own way. They also became active volunteers, participating in a number of community projects, including this past spring, helping to plant trees along Veterans Memorial Parkway in my riding, in memory of London's fallen soldiers.

I want to talk about one young man in particular because I think his story is important and it is important for the House to hear the story.

The young man, Josh Randall, joined the American army at age 17 because of lack of any other opportunity. He came from a very poor family. Poverty was the reality. He knew the only way he could escape that poverty for he and his future family was the offer of an education from the army. Therefore, he trained as a medic and was sent to Iraq.

One of his jobs, in addition to being a medic, being there to look after those who were wounded, was to go on night patrols. I do not know if members know much about these night patrols, but basically three or four soldiers would go into a neighbourhood. They were supposed to be searching for insurgents. They had to break into a house to do the search. They would put an explosives belt around the door and blow it in so they could gain entry. A lot of damage is caused by that kind of explosion as, in the case of these homes, most of the doors are made of wood.

At any rate, this group would plant the explosives, break into the house, and they would go from room to room to see if they could find insurgents.

On this particular night, Josh was with his group, and they did what they were supposed to do: they burst into the home and quickly made a search. There were no insurgents there, but there were three females: a young mother, her 12-year-old-daughter, and her little one, who was about three years old. Josh said that the three-year-old had been hit with splinters and the woodwork from the door. Her face and chest was covered with splinters, and she was bleeding profusely and crying desperately.

The mother knew only one word of English, and that was “girl”. She kept pointing to the child and saying, “girl”. It was clear that it was a plea for help. Because of his training, Josh immediately wanted to go to work, because he knew that the wounds were such that this child would bleed to death, and that he was the only one who could help her.

He was ordered out of the house. The sergeant said they had an obligation to get out of here and go on to the next house. He said not to worry about it, that the Red Crescent Society would come in and it will look after the child and she would be fine. Josh knew that this was not true. For this woman to get help would be impossible, because she would be leaving the child alone in her misery and her despair.

That was what convinced him that what his country was doing was wrong and he had to leave.

He had already served his tour. He came home and was terrified that he would be a victim of the stop-loss policy, that they would break the contract that he had signed and force him to go back to Iraq and continue to do the kinds of things that he simply could not do. He could not bring himself to be part of that anymore.

Josh is in London, Ontario now. He brought his young wife with him to Canada and they have a child, a little fellow who was born last May. That little one is the light of their lives, an incredible child.

I think in light of what Josh experienced, we have to be aware of what we are doing here in this place. To stand up and talk about how people will abuse the right to stay in Canada is beside the point. The point is that people came here acting on conscience, and they had real reason.

I want to read a bit of what Josh has to say. I want to put his own words on the record. He said:

I would first like to say that I am no longer a member of the United States armed forces. When I crossed the border January 3, 2008, I had little intention of crossing back over that border. I have officially and strongly resigned from a military that insists on occupying a country and ignoring the rights of the impoverished indigenous peoples. I am no longer a soldier in the U.S. army. I will never stop being a soldier. A soldier fights for the oppressed; he does not become the oppressor himself. Defending your country does not mean destroying other nations out of, or for, revenge.

It certainly does not mean invoking “my country right or wrong“ as a reason for plundering the resources of another country, as we have seen in Iraq. It is pretty clear that this war was as much about oil as it was about any indignity done to the United States.

The fact that Iraq was targeted instead of another nation when the government of the U.S. knew that Iraqis did not play a role in 9/11 leads us to be suspicious of all this.

I want to finish with a word about the reality that we face in Canada with regard to our own military: we need to support our own military as much as any of those coming in.

I will leave my remarks at that.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the members participating in today's debate.

I would like to address my remarks to the people out there who could be a little confused about what we are debating today.

Each member in the House received a kit about what this bill attempts to do, what it will do if it is passed at second reading. It will, in a way that respects our military and our relationship with the United States, accept people who for reasons of conscientious objection have decided not to participate in a particular war that was not sanctioned by the United Nations, and that contained acts that many in the United States have regarded as illegal. It would introduce measures that conform to a Canadian sensibility.

We have noted today that the members opposite have taken this as an anti-government bill. They have responded only in the voice of the government. They have decided that they are afraid to debate the concepts in this bill, the concepts that affirm the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Nuremberg Principles that protect our military. These rights and principles make sure that when we have soldiers under arms we have them there for the right reasons, at the right time, under the right direction.

This bill reflects a Canadian sensibility, but also some of the duress that a number of these soldiers were under. I know there are members in the House who have served in the military, but most of us have not. Some of these members have been disdainful of the people we are talking about, without reading the books or the literature or talking to the people involved.

There are people like Chuck Wiley, who spent 17 years in the military. He walked away from a pension of $1,700 a month when he was three years away from it, because of his conscience. He had more guts than anybody in the House has a right to dispute. His situation demands that each hon. member in the House give consideration to this bill on its merits. Unfortunately, that is not what we heard from members opposite.

There was an element of compulsion at the peak of the Iraq war, a practice called stop loss, which affected people, many of whom find themselves in Canada today. They did not have the choice of honourably serving out their commitments. They were pulled back into service by a trick in their contracts. They were supposed to go back into service after their full services were rendered. In fact, this policy affected as many as 15% of the personnel in U.S. services. The current president has agreed to phase it out. However, it reflects the difficulty of people in that war.

Distinct from any service personnel under the Canadian flag in any other war, they did not have recourse to the options that most modern armies should have in respect to conscientious objection. Anyone in the National Guard who signed up to serve domestically was forced to go overseas.

I have made it clear that I am open to looking at any language brought forward by the government. There has been none. There have been no opinions tabled by the Department of Immigration. There has been no information forthcoming, only threats and accusations from various members of the government party who have spoken on this bill.

It is disappointing. I think people have a right to be disappointed in the inability of the House to take on a bill that contains some contentious elements. I would very much respect those who might sit in opposition to this bill if their opposition was derived from what the bill actually contains.

This debate has been unfair to the people coming in. This summer, Jeremy Hinzman, one of the resisters, received a court decision that said exactly what this bill says: that conscientious objection is reasonable and must be taken into account. It was sent back for a new evaluation.

We do not want to send people through courts and grind them through processes. However, the reaction of the government was not that it should maybe take a look at this. Instead, it sent out a one-sided bulletin that prejudiced the chances of anyone's getting a fair hearing. That is the behaviour of a government that does not listen to two motions passed in the House. It does not give heed to the fact that Canadians have pronounced themselves on not just the Iraq war but on the ability of Canadians to have a national sensibility. We accepted 50,000 people at the time of the Vietnam War. Some people in the House are too timid even to debate these 300.

I believe this is a character test for us in the House. I look forward, whether it is here or in a public debate with members opposite, to meeting that test honourably and giving due consideration to people who have put themselves in our hands. They deserve an honest reply.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those in favour will please say yea.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.