House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

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

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, this has nothing to do with the expectations of Canadians. Canadians expect the government to uphold our Constitution, to uphold our law and to respect the international covenants that we have signed.

In regard to this law, we have all kinds of laws and legislation to protect Canadians against smugglers. Smugglers are supposed to get life sentences if they are caught. The government harps constantly that deterrents are the solution to all. If deterrents are the solution to all, we have the deterrents now.

We do not need to jeopardize the men, women and children who are dependent on our civility and on our sense of human dignity.

In terms of ability to govern, I do not see it over there. This opposition is ready to offer the compassion, security and intelligent, practical kinds of laws Canadians want.

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

10:40 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's passionate defence of civil liberties and the rights that we have taken on internationally to protect the rights of refugees who come to our shores.

Has she examined the claim by government members that there is some kind of queue for refugees and that these people are jumping the queue? I find that the strangest part of the propaganda for this bill, the notion that there is a queue for refugees. Clearly, in my view, there is not.

I would like to hear the comments of the member for London—Fanshawe.

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

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is very insightful.

The reality is, and I encounter this from time to time when I meet with my constituents, there is this notion that there is a back door and somehow people come in through that door. The truth is there is no back door. There is no front door. We have been rejecting people. We have been sending them away for years, since the government came into power.

A case in point is this. My community has a significant number of Colombian refugees. They are fleeing a draconian government. They are fleeing death sentences. They were labour leaders and business people. In fact, a family in my community right now faces being deported. Family members were told point blank by the FARC that they would be executed, so they ran to Canada, yet they are going to be deported.

My rationalization for this rejection of virtually all Colombians is that onerous and ridiculous free trade agreement that the government signed between Canada and Colombia, an agreement that never should have been signed.

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

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is framing this bill as an attack on trafficking, smuggling and public safety.

Could the hon. member tell us who the bill really targets?

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

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill is targeting the vulnerable, those who are seeking asylum, because the government somehow thinks that it is going to gain points with its base if it appears to be tough on those people who it agreed to bring in to Canada under UN agreements.

In terms of smuggling, as I said in my remarks, in 2007 the committee on the status of women did a study of human smuggling. We have found absolutely that not only were people coming into this country because they were impoverished, but they were being further taken advantage of by the lack of supports here.

There is much to do, and the government refuses to do any of it.

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

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a personal connection to Bill C-4, since my parents are Vietnamese. I know a lot of people who are real refugees and who are commonly known as boat people. I grew up in Brossard, a wonderful, multi-ethnic city where four out of ten people are immigrants, which makes for a dynamic and very diverse multi-ethnic population.

In my riding of Brossard—La Prairie, immigration is important. Twenty-four per cent of the population has ties to immigration. I know from a personal perspective what it is like to be an immigrant, even though I was born in Canada. I know a lot of people and have friends who went through extraordinary ordeals to be able to come to Canada. There are a lot of challenges and difficulties related to that, and that does not just go for the Vietnamese community. There are the Chinese communities, the Jewish communities and the Italian communities. I know it is not easy to be an immigrant, and it is even more difficult to be a refugee.

A large number of families choose to live in Canada for its quality of life. We are an appealing host country, but people do not choose to come here just because they want live here. It is also often because they must flee their country. They do not really have the choice. They decided to leave a country where there is discrimination and where their rights are affected. International law guarantees anyone fleeing persecution the right to go to another country and seek asylum. That is why we have a refugee system. The system exists. The laws are there. It works.

A number of newcomers are fleeing their countries for political or economic reasons. Once again, the Vietnamese community is familiar with that. Starting in 1975, thousands of Vietnamese tried to leave their country by sea to come live in Canada, an open and democratic country that respects human rights.

Canada must offer protection to refugees and to people who fear persecution if they return to their country of origin. So why did the number of asylum seekers in Canada decrease drastically between 2009 and 2010? We are talking about 10,000 fewer people.

The repressive measures in this bill are being criticized by many civil society organizations such as the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Amnesty International is saying that Bill C-4 does not respect Canada's obligations in terms of human rights and the protection of refugees and immigrants.

This government's draconian measures are being rejected by all of the opposition parties and denounced as illegal and punitive by a number of community, religious, union and human rights groups.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the coming into force of the UN Geneva convention relating to the status of refugees. Sixty years. Bill C-4 strikes me as an odd anniversary gift from the Conservatives.

I know that many Canadians want to be tough on smugglers and illegal immigrants, but this bill punishes the refugees and not the criminals. It does not target the smugglers. It does not target the criminals. Individuals and families are the ones being targeted.

I also know that the majority of Canadians do not want to see refugees, including women and children, imprisoned for having sought asylum in Canada. Think about it: a welcoming gift of having children and parents put in prison.

The bill, as it stands, sets out detention rules and a review procedure for the detention of certain types of foreigners. This is yet another policy that divides. Can you imagine a young mother coming to Canada—a place she thinks is free, safe and known the world over to be tolerant and open—only to find herself in prison in Vancouver? Is that really how Canadians wants to welcome political refugees?

The Conservatives are saying that this bill will cut down on human trafficking. But in reality, this bill, as it stands, concentrates too much power in the hands of the Minister of Immigration and penalizes refugees.

The NDP is proposing that the criminals—the traffickers and smugglers—be punished directly.

As currently drafted, Bill C-4 punishes legitimate refugees and the people who try to help them. The proposed process is neither clear nor transparent and, in addition to being arbitrary, it is ultimately quite discriminatory.

Just a few months ago, Parliament passed a new law concerning refugees. What we really need now is better enforcement of that law, not new legislation. We must help equip the RCMP with the tools required to go after criminals. The Conservatives should spend less time on photo ops and more time on proper enforcement of existing legislation dealing with human trafficking. They should also provide the RCMP with the resources they need to do their work effectively, rather than playing political games.

The government wants to satisfy its right wing by using the refugee issue for political purposes. The Conservatives are making this out to be a matter of public safety, but that is not the case. Even though the bill was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety, it primarily concerns the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act . This is about immigration and refugees. Make no mistake. It is not about public safety.

With Bill C-4, there is a total violation of refugees' rights. The Canadian Bar Association, which did not support Bill C-49, the former version of this bill, said that the bill “violates Charter protections against arbitrary detention and prompt review of detention, as well as Canada’s international obligations respecting the treatment of persons seeking protection.”

The NDP cannot support this bill because it could violate section 15 of the charter, which concerns equality before the law. It also creates a second class of refugees who are refused permanent residence. They are also refused a temporary resident permit, the right to apply for permanent residence on any humanitarian grounds and access to travel documents for refugees. This creates inequality before the law simply because the minister has designated these people based on the means of transportation they used to enter the country.

My parents are Vietnamese and I know many people who have fled Vietnam by boat. They crossed the seas and risked their lives for a better future for their children here in Canada. They are not criminals. Under this legislation they could have started their new Canadian life here in jail.

The Conservative government has a blurred understanding of human trafficking, mixing up human trafficking, human smuggling with the irregular movement of refugees. Those are very distinct notions. The government must be aware of that.

Most refugees are themselves fleeing from very difficult and oftentimes very dangerous circumstances, hoping to arrive in Canada, a more tolerant and free country, but they could end up in jail for up to a year. Imagine a mother of three children ending up in jail in Montreal because she has been deemed irregular by the government. The government is once again playing on people's fear. Is it really the way the Conservatives want to rule this country? The opposition cannot support this kind of governance.

The Conservative government is using Bill C-4 as a marketing tool, while on the other hand saying it will protect Canada from human smuggling. What the government really wants is to discourage immigration. It also wants to satisfy its base.

I strongly stand against Bill C-4.

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

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his speech. Certainly, I acknowledge how Canada has been enriched by the addition of so many immigrants from a wide variety of countries and, certainly, I applaud that, and I welcome him. I also welcome his presence here in the House.

However, there are a couple of things that have come out in the last two speeches that I think need to be corrected on the record. There is an implication that somehow Canada is losing its spot in the world as a compassionate country.

I need to remind all hon. members of the action of our Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which actually increased our refugee numbers by 2,500 per year. We are now well over 14,000 per year, the highest per capita in the world. Obviously, all of us would like to do more and we are, as I said, increasing by 2,500 per year.

However, we need to remind ourselves that this bill is an effort to bring balance and fairness into the system.

I would just ask my colleague, is it not fair that border officials and our security officials should have the tools to determine whether, in fact, the persons who are seeking asylum is who they say they are and whether or not they are simply facing persecution or, in some cases, possibly actually fleeing prosecution?

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

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us not forget, here in Canada, when we talk about the respect for refugees and having refugees coming to Canada, Amnesty International Canada says that Bill C-4 falls far short of Canada's international human rights and refugee protection obligations, and will result in a serious violation of the rights of refugees and immigrants.

We are saying, yes, we need to have stricter application of the laws, but they already exist. We need to also support the RCMP, giving them the tools to apply the laws, but not to create a new bill that would actually affect the rights of refugees.

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

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

There will be two and a half minutes left for questions and comments after question period, but now we will move on to statements by members.

Wallaceburg
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, on August 20, I had the honour of attending the TSN/Kraft Celebration Tour events held in Wallaceburg.

Wallaceburg garnered the highest number of online ballots in history to win the competition and claim the $25,000 prize. Although this is a huge accomplishment, to me the bigger story was the presentation of a cheque for $5,000 raised in one morning by the people of Wallaceburg which they donated to Trenton, their competitor.

As one of the hardest hit Canadian communities during the last decade, Wallaceburg, a town of 11,000, has lost 6,000 jobs during this time. Wallaceburg is well known for its generosity in the face of adversity. In this case it showed what it is really made of again.

Residents demonstrated one of the finest examples of community spirit I have ever seen. I applaud the people of Wallaceburg. It is indeed my privilege to be their member of Parliament.

Childhood Cancer
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, on September 14, the waters of Niagara Falls turned gold, and on September 16, the CN Tower was bathed in golden light. These two extraordinary events were because of a courageous and remarkable young woman named Stephanie Simmons, a three time brain tumour survivor.

With the support of her incredible family, Childcan and the many organizations that help children and their families deal with cancer, Stephanie was able to organize the lighting of Niagara Falls and the CN Tower, and host a barbecue at Harbourfront. All of this was to honour the hundreds of children and families who have survived, and the bereaved families who came to Harbourfront for this first national day of awareness and action and draw attention to the reality of childhood cancer.

The House may remember Stephanie's campaign for a gold ribbon stamp and coin in honour of the victims and survivors of childhood cancer. Unfortunately, both Canada Post and the Mint have rejected Stephanie's requests, but Stephanie is persistent. Anyone who can turn Niagara and the CN Tower to gold will not be denied.

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to express my support for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, a cause that is very important to me personally.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among Canadian women, and many of us have been touched by this devastating disease. Personally, my mother Lynne lost her battle with breast cancer in 1989 and this is one of the reasons I am an ardent supporter of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

I was recently joined by over 100 volunteers, including Wayne Noble, Terry Geddes and mayors Linda Collins and Ken Ferguson, at a golf tournament to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

I would like to take this time to thank Jen Nichol, an ardent organizer for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

As a doctor, I am very aware of the fantastic work being done by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

It provides support for high-quality research in all areas, including education and prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment.

As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am proud to stand in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. I ask my colleagues to participate in the Run for the Cure on October 2.

Onward Willow
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday a cornerstone organization of the Guelph community celebrated its 20th anniversary, and we could not be prouder.

Since 1991, Onward Willow Better Beginnings, Better Futures has served the residents of the Willow Road area by supporting families, helping to build a stronger community and a better, more sustainable quality of life for Guelphites.

Families and especially children are the foundation of our cities, and Onward Willow has had an incredible impact on their lives. By finding and implementing new, creative and effective ways to support the healthy development of children and families, Onward Willow established itself as an essential element of the Guelph community for decades to come.

I was proud as a member of the Wellington-Guelph Housing Authority to assist Onward Willow in its infancy. I am prouder as the member of Parliament for Guelph to reflect on the amazing people who have built this organization over 20 years and to be involved heading into the next 20 years.

I congratulate and thank Onward Willow for its first-class service.

International Plowing Match
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise here today to draw attention to the International Plowing Match, which is being held this week in Chute-à-Blondeau, in my riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

The plowing match brings together farmers from across North America and around the globe, giving them the opportunity to show off their skills and to celebrate agriculture. Over 80,000 people are expected to attend this year's celebration. I would also like to emphasize that, this week, we are celebrating the first bilingual International Plowing Match.

I also salute the 30 lovely Queen of the Furrow contestants from counties all across Ontario. I congratulate Courtney Connors of my own county of Prescott-Russell on having been crowned Queen of the Furrow. We are very proud of Courtney.

I personally congratulate key organizers Mayor Gary Barton, Mayor Robert Kirby and Bruno Lecot, and the more than 1,000 volunteers for their generosity and hard work in making this year's International Plowing Match such a tremendous success.

International Day of the Girl
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, although I have had many opportunities to speak in this House, this is the first time I am doing so to make a personal statement.

I would like to begin by sincerely thanking the voters of Laurier—Sainte-Marie for the trust they have placed in me. I will do everything I can to remain worthy of that trust. Since yesterday was the International Day of the Girl, I would also like to thank all the women who have inspired me throughout my life, particularly Jacqueline Raymond Bélanger

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all women, here and around the globe, who, through their intelligence, self-sacrifice and courage, have built countries. Our country remains a work in progress. Our country should not be built on things like the oil sands, for instance, but rather on the firm foundations of social justice and solidarity. We owe it to future generations. That is what I am committed to working on in the coming years.