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 detention.

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The House resumed from September 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-4, 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, and of the amendment.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act
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10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-4. Many of my colleagues on both sides of the House have spoken for and against the bill with great passion over the last few days. I will now inform the House of my views on this draconian and, as some would say, backward bill.

First, the bill would give the minister the power to create a two-tiered system and designate groups that he or she feels are an irregular arrival if the minister deems that people's identity or their inadmissibility cannot be determined in a timely manner. It would give the minister a new discretionary power that he or she can exercise in the public interest to order the arrival in Canada of a group of persons to be designated as an irregular arrival.

These individuals are then subjected to mandatory arrests and detention. Those who are detained are forced to wait at least 12 months before their cases are reviewed. This goes against section 9 of the charter that calls for prompt review of detention.

Those deemed irregular arrivals, which automatically makes them designated foreign nationals, would need to wait at least five years before they could apply for permanent residence, temporary residence, a temporary resident permit or an application on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.

We cannot let the politics of fear undermine the Canadian commitment to protect the rights and freedoms of those who come to our shores fleeing persecution.

I will give an example of how the bill would hurt refugees to whom we should be giving safe haven.

In 2009, Mr. Arjan Tabaj and his wife, Anilda Tabaj, along with their daughter, Maria and their two sons, Vincenzio and Christian, were deported from Canada despite interventions personally made on the family's behalf by the former member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre. These were made to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

Mr. Tabaj is a partially paralyzed survivor of an assassination attempt during the elections in Albania. Albania continues to experience regular political assassinations and the shooters in this case are free due to alleged political connections. The Tabaj family has spent the last two years in hiding out of fear for their safety in that country. They were here in Canada before and were sent back.

Following the government's wrongful deportation, Mr. Wrzesnewskyj, the former member for Etobicoke Centre, privately sponsored immigration lawyer Katherine Ramsey to challenge the decision in the Federal Court of Canada. The hon. Madam Justice Simpson's August 30, 2011 ruling compelled the Government of Canada to issue temporary resident permits and visas to facilitate the Tabaj family's immediate return to safety in Canada.

Upon learning of the court victory, the Tabaj family left their hiding spot in Albania, first travelling to Greece and then to Italy. They finally arrived yesterday at terminal 3 at Pearson International Airport at 2:45 p.m. They finally came back after being sent to Albania.

Supporters and Etobicoke community members, including Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj, were present at the airport to greet this family. What a wonderful end to a tragic story.

This is a prime example how the government is failing to deal with the smugglers but hurting legitimate refugees.

The House of Commons and, in particular, the government, should realize what damage can result when we are dealing with refugees who come to our shores.

Many of us in this House and maybe some of the listeners today may not realize the terrible mistake that Canada made in 1944 when Canada refused entry of the S.S. St. Louis to our ports. On board the S.S. St. Louis were a shipload of Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany trying to find a new home. They were refused in many countries and, of course, at that time the minister made a terrible decision and he refused them access to our shores. The boat went back and terrible things happened to those people. That is an example of what we did wrong.

As Canadians, we have done things wrong and I think we realize that and we move forward with better legislation. I just talked about the Tabaj family. The Conservatives made a mistake as that minister in 1944 made a mistake. The Conservative minister made a mistake and he should apologize to that family for what it went through.

I bring this example of the S.S. St. Louis because Bill C-4 is a knee-jerk reaction, if we think about how it came out this summer, to make political points. Who are the points to? These refugees are not voting. However, like the Tabaj family, those passengers on that S.S. St. Louis were sent back to a terrible situation. We are fortunate that the Tabaj family came back here alive.

This bill fails to achieve its stated principle of cracking down on human smugglers and instead targets legitimate refugee claimants and refugees. I believe the House should pass our amendment that states the following:

this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-4, an Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act, since the bill fails to achieve its stated principle of cracking down on human smugglers and instead targets legitimate refugee claimants and refugees, and because it expands the Minister's discretion in a manner that is overly broad and not limited to the mass arrival situation that supposedly inspired the introduction of this legislation, and because it presents an imprisonment scheme that violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protections against arbitrary detention and prompt review of detention, and because its provisions also violate international obligations relating to refugees and respecting the treatment of persons seeking protection.

I am a son of immigrants. They were welcomed into this country in 1952. Our family has been embraced by Canadians since that time. It is a great honour that I stand here today as a son of immigrants to represent the people of Sydney—Victoria. My father often stated that Canada was one of the best countries in the world because of its opportunities and fairness.

I believe when we draw up legislation in this House we must constantly ask ourselves two questions: Does it give opportunity to people? Is it fair? Those are two major questions that fit into all legislation. That makes our country one of the best countries in the world.

As we move forward with this legislation, we would hope that the government would see the relevance of these amendments that we are bringing forward and just stop here for one minute and see what we are doing here. I ask that it look at the amendment, take it back to committee and see what other countries are doing.

We have such a great record in this country dealing with immigrants and with refugees, which is why they come here. When we go into a business shop or go with a taxi driver, these are refugees who came here over the years and we gave them opportunities and they have given back to us.

Let us not go on the slippery slope for ideological reasons and have draconian measures that may suit some voters. Let us move forward as one of the best countries in the world, accepting people out there to come into our country. Just because they come by water, they should not be discriminated against?

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10:10 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill deprives some refugees of the right for five years to apply for permanent residence and therefore reunification with their families. This includes children.

I would like to ask the hon. member why he thinks the government is interested in blocking family reunification.

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10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, it baffles me because Canada used to always welcome families. When families came ashore, we did not ask if it was economical. Is it economical to bring people here to let them work? I do not know what it is. It just does not make sense.

I have an example in my riding where we have, not refugees, but doctors who have come to Cape Breton and are working in our hospitals. They sometimes have to wait two, three or four years before their families can join them. It is ludicrous.

How are we going to get the brightest and the best people or refugees to come to this country if they are going to be split up from their families? It is just not fair. It is really against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for us to have those systems in place.

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10:10 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, similar to the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, I also have concerns. We have a lot of legal opinion that this bill would violate the charter and be struck down by the courts.

However, we also have, pertinent to the last question, obligations under the right to family, which is enshrined under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Even when someone has been designated, under this very difficult act, as legally entitled to remain in Canada, they must wait five years before being able to get the legal status to reunite with their family.

I wonder if the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria has any further thoughts on the way the act would actually violate our legal obligations to the right to the family.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is a great friend of Cape Breton and we always welcome her when she comes to visit.

Why do we need to go to the courts to settle these things? Why did the Tabaj family have to go to court? Why cannot we in the House during committee come up with very positive, very good legislation so that we do not need to go to the international courts? Why do we not, as a committee, look at what Australia and other countries are doing with refugees and immigrants to see how we can streamline this and make it more suitable to families.

We hear cases time and time again about how families are being split up. It makes them non-productive. The sooner they integrate into Canadian society as young families the better. They learn our culture and our languages. It is terrible that we are in a situation now where legislation comes from the government that is against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and needs to go to the court system. That is why we have committees here to deal with that and move things forward.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the issue of fairness.

Members will recall that when the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism introduced the bill, he said that the primary purpose of the bill would be to target the smuggler or the profiteer. When the member makes reference to the need to see bills that are fair, when we look at this particular bill, even though the minister talked about getting the profiteer, in reality, it would not do anything for getting the profiteer. The real victim here seems to be the refugees.

I appreciate the story the member made reference to in terms of the Tabaj family that came back to Canada. Here we have refugees who are victims in a country where they come in hopes of getting asylum, and now we have a government, through this legislation, making the family a victim once again.

I wonder if the member would comment as to the fairness of that.

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10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have been watching the debate and we have talked about the smuggler and the profiteer. We need to get to the source. We should not wait until they come to our shores. We need to get to them in the countries where they are pulling off these stunts. We should be working with international police systems. That is where we should be going to stop these characters from doing this to these refugees.

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10:15 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in Bill C-4 as I have worked and do work with refugees. Every day I see the great work that is done for them through organizations such as the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association and others in northern Ontario, as well as across Canada.

I will offer some background on the bill. It is a reintroduction of Bill C-49 from the last Parliament. In part, it was drafted in reaction to the arrival of the MV Ocean Lady and MV Sun Sea to the shores of B.C. in 2009 and 2010. At that time, the government stoked fears that a significant number of the individuals aboard those vessels might be criminals or might have links to the Tamil Tigers, a listed terrorist organization. That is where Bill C-4 comes from, just so people understand.

This is my analysis of Bill C-4. It is by no means complete but all I am able to fit into nine minutes or so.

The minister can designate any group of refugees as “irregular arrivals” should he believe that examinations to establish identity and so on cannot be conducted in a timely manner. Another criteria would be if it is suspected that they have been smuggled for profit or that a criminal organization or terrorist group was involved in that smuggling.

Designated claimants are then subjected to all kinds of special rules. This is my concern. It is discriminatory. It creates two classes of refugee claimants. It possibly violates the charter's equality rights, as well as the refugee convention which prohibits states from imposing penalties on refugees for illegal entry or presence.

It is important to remember that designated claimants, including children, will be mandatorily detained upon arrival or designation. There will be no review by the Immigration and Refugee Board of their detention for a year. Their release is only possible if they are found to be a refugee or if the refugee board orders their release. The minister may determine there are exceptional circumstances.

My concern is that this mandatory detention is a clear violation of the charter. The Supreme Court has already struck down mandatory detention without review on security certificates. It could imply indefinite detention on the basis of identity with no possibility of release until the minister decides identity has been established. Arbitrary detention is also a violation of a number of international treaties.

Mandatory conditions set out in regulations would be imposed on all designated claimants released from detention. This also causes me concern as the conditions are not specified but rather are based on unfair principles that do not take individual cases into account. It could be very burdensome as well as very expensive.

Once a designated claimant is accepted as a refugee, regulations require that he or she must then report to an immigration officer to answer questions. The decisions made regarding designated persons cannot be appealed. Not only is this discriminatory and risks violating provisions in the refugee convention, it is similar to the government's attempt in previous legislation to exclude nationals from designated countries from an appeal process.

A designated claimant cannot apply for permanent residency for five years. If the person fails to comply with the conditions or reporting requirements the five-year suspension can be extended. This rule applies to those accepted as refugees as well as to those who have been refused or have never made a claim. The worst consequence for accepted refugees is that this rule can delay reunification with their spouses and/or children for five years or more.

Designated persons can make a humanitarian and compassionate application and apply for a temporary resident permit before five years. My concern is that this would be an undue barrier for humanitarian and compassionate claims. It may also be a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as there will be no opportunity to consider the best interests of the child.

Article 28 of the refugee convention says that states must issue travel documents. That does not apply to designated persons until they become permanent residents or are issued temporary resident permits. This means that designated refugees cannot travel outside of Canada for at least five years after they have been accepted as refugees. My concern is that this is an attempt to legislate away the rights of refugees established by international treaty.

The minister can make retroactive designations for arrivals in Canada since March 31, 2009. For example, the passengers of the Ocean Lady and Sun Sea could be designated.

What is happening is the Conservatives are playing politics with refugees, pure and simple . They are trying to frame this as a public service or public safety issue. The bill was introduced by the public safety minister, despite the fact it primarily deals with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This is an immigration and refugee issue not a public safety issue. The current law has dealt with the cases of the Ocean Lady and the Sun Sea quite adequately.

The New Democrats recognize and respect our responsibilities to refugees. The Conservatives have taken an approach that would damage our standing in the international community and violate our commitments under the convention relating to the status of refugees, the refugee convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The proposed process is unclear, arbitrary and ultimately very discriminatory. It will not curb human smuggling.

In my opinion, the Conservatives should be less focused on photo ops and more focused on enforcing the existing laws against smuggling. Rather than playing politics, they should provide the RCMP the resources they need to get the job done.

There are many organizations which do not like the bill. The Canadian Council for Refugees has called for the bill to be scrapped. Amnesty International Canada stated that this bill:

...falls far short of Canada's international human rights and refugee protection obligations and will result in serious violations of the rights of refugees and migrants.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has issued a scathing attack on the government's attitude toward refugees.

Ultimately this goes against Canadian values. We in this place and a majority of Canadians believe that as a free nation we have a responsibility to ensure that we provide a home to those refugees and migrants escaping situations that have put their lives and the lives of their families in peril.

As members can imagine, I will be voting against the bill. I welcome any questions the members may have.

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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member would comment on why the New Democrats think Canada is still being chosen as a target for these ships.

The Sun Sea was a vessel, if we could call it that, that departed from Thailand, travelled halfway around the world and passed within miles of many other destinations that could have provided safe shelter. Instead, it headed for Canada, not only because it was the safest destination, I would argue it was because the smugglers knew we have a very generous immigration system.

Why would the member want to see Canada exploited for that purpose?

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are approaching this issue on the basis that everyone is evil. They believe that people who arrive on our shores looking for a better life for themselves and their families do not deserve to be here and should go to some place else. The Conservatives are saying that Canadians do not want to help them.

To answer the hon. member's question, the current legislation allows for a life sentence for human smuggling. We have existing laws on the books that do that.

I reiterate that this is not a public safety issue. It should be a refugee issue.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member's presentation. I heard him say that there is a possible charter violation in this legislation. He made reference to the 2007 Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Charkaoui case where the 120 day mandatory detention was struck down. The Canadian Bar Association and many legal commentators have been unequivocal in their criticism of this legislation because of charter violations.

In view of the comments made by the Supreme Court of Canada and the legal commentators on the case, is it not the case that this is more than a possible charter violation? I would suggest that it is virtually certain the bill runs afoul of the charter.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of sections that Bill C-4 would violate.

Section 15 of the charter talks about equality under the law. Bill C-4 would create a new second class of refugees who are denied a temporary resident permit or a humanitarian and compassionate grounds application. For all of these reasons it would go against that section and section 9 of the charter, which deals with arbitrary detention.

We are simply not allowed to do that. This legislation calls for that and it is wrong.

I also mentioned the UN convention relating to the status of refugees. The bill is probably in violation of it.

Article 31 states:

The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.

The UN convention would also be broken by this legislation.

It is unfortunate that the government has a majority in this particular case. I hope the bill will go to committee and that the parts of it that are contrary to our charter of rights and the UN convention will be struck down.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-4, the so-called act to prevent human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system, and I do so with great trepidation. The bill is another misleading and ingenuous device by a government bereft of compassion and determined to exercise its majority with a punitive and heavy hand.

I would like to speak to two specific elements of Bill C-4, the first being human trafficking. The truth is that the Conservative government is playing politics at the expense of the human beings who need help and support to find a better life for themselves and for their families.

We studied the issue to trafficking human beings at great length in the status of women committee. The committee found, in its 2007 report, that the issue of human trafficking was complex and many steps needed to be taken to address this horrendous crime against vulnerable people.

The underlying cause of trafficking is poverty. Individuals are trafficked into Canada from other countries where there is no hope for a future. It often is more difficult for a woman to immigrate to Canada because there are many more barriers such as the need for money and education, which are for many women inaccessible. Immigration laws need to be changed to allow more women to immigrate on their own and not through means that leave them vulnerable to human trafficking. The temporary resident permit process needs to be reviewed and victims who have been trafficked should be sheltered for 180 days and allowed to work. The government should ensure their basic needs are met during this period.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act needs to reviewed and amended. In particular, section 245 (f) of the regulations states in part that a “victim having been under the control or influence of traffickers...is more likely to require detention”. This section needs to be eliminated. Many traffic victims are threatened with criminal or immigration exposure by their traffickers. That is preventing them from seeking help. Section 245 (f) assumes that these people are criminals and not victims. This simply reinforces the power of the traffickers. Steps need to be taken to help victims of trafficking or those in danger of trafficking instead of treating them like criminals.

The Conservatives claim that the bill cracks down on human smuggling. That is not so. As it is currently written, it concentrates too much power in the hands of the Minister of Immigration and unfairly penalizes legitimate refugees. The government should, by all means, go after the criminals, the traffickers, the smugglers, but do not pursue a course of action like that proposed in Bill C-4 that jeopardizes the innocent and the vulnerable.

The other issue I want to discuss relates to the predecessor of Bill C-4, Bill C-49, introduced in the last Parliament in reaction to the arrival of the MV Ocean Lady and the MVSun Sea from Sri Lanka. When the MV Sun Sea arrived in B.C. in 2010, the government fanned the flames of fear and racism about the individuals on the boat by insisting that many of them may have had links to the Tamil Tigers. Without any investigation or efforts to determine who was on the ship or what they had endured, the government incarcerated 492 men, women and children and set in place barriers to their refugee claims.

What were these Sri Lankans trying to escape? Amnesty International provides some insights.

During the Sri Lankan civil war some 300,000 Tamil civilians were displaced by armed conflict and consequently detained in government camps. Those suspected of ties with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE, more than 12,000, were detained separately. Many were held incommunicado and sometimes in facilities not designed to hold prisoners, or they were detained in secret places. Innocent civilians were trapped for months prior to the conflict's end, without adequate food, shelter, sanitation and medical care, or any access to humanitarian aid. The LTTE used civilians as human shields, as well as using threats and violence to prevent them from fleeing the conflict zone. Government artillery killed and wounded those same innocent civilians, including patients in hospitals and medical workers.

The government of Sri Lanka failed to address the impunity enjoyed by warring factions for past humanitarian violations and continued to carry out enforced disappearances and torture. Hundreds of Tamils continued to be detained in the south for lengthy periods without charge under special security legislation. Human rights defenders and journalists were killed, assaulted, threatened and jailed. Police killings of criminal suspects intensified.

In May the Sri Lankan government declared victory over the LTTE ending more than 25 years of armed conflict. However, an end to fighting did not end the government's reliance on draconian security legislation or stem human rights violations.

Both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE violated international humanitarian law. The Sri Lankan government used heavy weaponry indiscriminately in areas densely populated by civilians. The LTTE forcibly recruited adults and children as combatants, used civilians as human shields against the approaching government forces and attacked civilians who tried to escape. Independent accounts from the conflict areas were limited as access by the media, the UN and humanitarian agencies was absolutely restricted.

According to UN estimates, thousands of civilians died in the fighting. Displaced people reported enforced disappearances of young men separated from their families by the military as civilians tried to cross into government territory. The government did not reopen the highway to the Jaffna Peninsula until July, thus severely restricting civilian access to humanitarian supplies during the first half of the year.

By the end of May, civilians displaced by fighting were confined to government camps in the north and east where conditions were crowded and unsanitary. The Sri Lankan government initially banned humanitarian agencies from the newly established camps, which were run by the military, and only gradually eased restrictions to allow delivery of relief material.

Humanitarian workers were not permitted to speak to displaced people. Visits by journalists were tightly controlled and no independent human rights monitoring was permitted. By year end, restrictions on freedom of movement had been relaxed, but over 100,000 people remained in the detention camps and they were dying by the thousands.

During all this time and all this misery, the Government of Canada refused to act, refused to speak out, refused to demand an end to the atrocities. Canadians of Tamil descent came by the thousands to Ottawa to beg their country, to beg their Prime Minister to do something, to say something in the desperate hope that the slaughter of their families would end. The Prime Minister did nothing. Therefore, in fact, the government helped to create the refugees it denied in 2009 and 2010.

New Democrats recognize and respect our responsibilities to refugees. By all means enforce the many laws already in place to prevent criminals from smuggling human beings or trying to gain access to our country, but do not arbitrarily abandon our human obligations to others and do not further expose our country to the criticism of other nations, which wonder aloud what happened to Canada's respect for human rights.

The bill has been soundly criticized by the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Bar Association and an expert panel at the Centre for Refugee Studies. They have told the government that Bill C-4 violates Canada's international human rights and refugee protection obligations. It violates charter protections against arbitrary detention and prompt review of detention.

Bill C-4 undermines Canadian values of humanity, honourable conduct and obligation to our fellow citizens both at home and around the world. They are asking how their government could justify the detention of children, defend blocking family reunification and how it could justify giving the government the power to arrest any non-citizen or permanent resident without evidence of criminality. Indeed, Canadians are asking, “How did we come to this? How do we get our Canada back, the one that we love?”

We need a resounding “no” to this legislation.

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10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is continuing the rhetoric we keep hearing from the NDP members, proving once again they are really not ready to govern this nation.

Public safety is at the heart of these measures. If Canada cannot maintain the integrity of our borders, if we cannot control who shows up, who wanders our streets or who has access to our health care and benefits, then we have a serious problem. This is why the bill is so important.

Why is the hon. member so quick to dismiss the expectations of law-abiding Canadian families that their government will stand up for them and keep our borders, streets and communities safe?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

Army Cadets
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago two of Oshawa's finest cadets from the 1913 Ontario Regiment Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, Adrian Francisco and Kyle Ryan, earned a tremendous honour by receiving their jump wings from the Canadian Forces parachutists course.

Adrian and Kyle were among the 47 cadets from across the country who were selected for the course which took place at CFB Trenton on Canada Day.

Over a five-week period, Adrian and Kyle learned the basics of parachuting and underwent several gruelling challenges, including hanging from the rafters in flight suits during flight instruction.

Kyle brought home top honours in the course and was named Canada's Most Outstanding Army Cadet and received the 2011 General Walsh Memorial Sword.

The focus, determination and discipline that Kyle and Adrian have demonstrated should serve as an inspiration to all of us. Their accomplishments are something all Canadians should admire.

I am honoured to stand before the House today and congratulate both Kyle and Adrian. They have represented the 1913 Army Cadet Corps with a tremendous amount of pride and honour.

Pat Burns
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pride and a heavy heart that Stanstead will officially open the Pat Burns Arena this weekend. We lost Pat Burns last November. Throughout his career he was one of the most popular coaches in the National Hockey League.

His fans cheered when he won the Stanley Cup and was named coach of the year. His fans were also there for him during his three bouts of cancer. Pat Burns said about the arena that the next Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby might come from Stanstead and play at the arena that bears his name.

I am sure that is true and that one day, he or she will win gold with Team Canada. It was a great privilege to have someone so determined and so passionate living in our community, and thanks to this arena, he will continue to have a positive influence on young people for a long time to come.

Junction Shul
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the 100th anniversary of the Junction Shul in Parkdale—High Park. It was built in 1911 to house the Congregation Knesseth Israel. It is the oldest original synagogue in Toronto still in use today.

In the early 20th century, the founding families donated funds to purchase a parcel of land on Maria Street and built the synagogue with community donations of money, labour and materials. It quickly became the heart of the Jewish community.

The descendants of these original founders continue to care for the building and congregation, and through their generous donations and hard work, the Shul has been restored to its original condition.

This past weekend, old and new members of the congregation put together a joyful street festival and welcomed in the community to celebrate this local landmark.

On this historic anniversary, we celebrate more than a historic Toronto building: we honour a community at the heart of Canada's rich and diverse history.

Wireless Communications
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, a significant report released by the Convergence Consulting Group earlier this week held good news for Canadian consumers.

The report noted that more and more households are using cell phone services only. Why? Because wireless prices have come down dramatically due to greater competition, which is a direct result of the AWS spectrum auction conducted by our government in 2008.

In fact, the report indicated that new competition in the market has spurred price drops of almost 58% on voice and data plans. It has also led to a more diversified market, with new entrants forecasted to occupy 12% of the market by 2014, up from 5% today.

Decisions by our government have resulted in a wireless sector that offers more competition, greater choice and, most important of all, lower prices for consumers. These are decisions that we can be proud of.

Circuit des couleurs Cross-country Race
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier is a riding marked by the dynamism of its people, who are very involved in their community.

This weekend, the first edition of the Circuit des couleurs, a cross-country event organized by the Cantons-Unis de Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury, will be held.

I would like to mention the excellent work done by the Association des citoyens et citoyennes de Tewkesbury in organizing this event, which aims to highlight the cultural and natural heritage of the region.

This event will be an opportunity to meet the residents of Stoneham and Tewkesbury and also to admire the exceptional scenery in the valley of the Jacques-Cartier and the beautiful fall colours.

I invite everyone to come discover the recreational tourism services of the united townships and the studios of the region's artists who will be there. I look forward to seeing you there.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we had the privilege of welcoming British Prime Minister David Cameron to the House.

He reminded us all of the importance of Canada's economic leadership.

To quote Prime Minister Cameron:

In the last few years, Canada has got every major decision right....

Your economic leadership has helped the Canadian economy to weather the global storms far better than many of your international competitors.

But there was also an important message: the global economy is fragile and the time has come for countries to face fiscal challenges.

This is also the message that Canada, through our Minister of Finance, gave at the G20 meeting today.

Europe must take decisive action to resolve the debt problem in countries like Greece. Canada's experience and success in implementing the economic action plan serve as an important example for the entire international community.

Joan Farley
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the late Joan Farley, a remarkable woman whose vision and actions transformed Montreal's West Island community in profound and lasting ways for the benefit of thousands of children and adults with special needs and their families.

Joan was a pioneer. She sought respect and recognition for the rights of the intellectually handicapped and those experiencing mental health problems. Among the organizations Joan helped establish are the John F. Kennedy School, the Gary Taylor Centre, the West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped, Omega Community Resources, and the Lakeshore Vocational Projects Association, now known as the Centre de réadaptation de l'Ouest de Montréal.

In 1976 she founded West Island Citizen Advocacy, a group that advocates for the rights of people with special needs, creates one-on-one matches between special needs clients and volunteers, and provides supervised housing for people with mental health challenges.

In recognition of her contribution to building a better Canada, in 2004 Joan received the Order of Canada from then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.

Joan will be greatly missed, but her memory and spirit will live on and inspire future generations of community activists and volunteers.

Volunteer Firefighters Tax Credit
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, our government and in fact all Canadians appreciate the tremendous service provided to us all by our first responders.

This year in budget 2011 we created a new non-refundable tax credit in the amount of $3,000 for certain volunteer firefighters, a well-deserved initiative by this Conservative government.

Fire chief Rob Simonds, the president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, said it best when he lauded this move by the Conservative government. He said:

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) commends the federal government for reintroducing a $3,000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters in the 2011 Federal Budget.

We would like to recognize the government for following through on its campaign commitment to pass this important initiative into law.

Our Minister of National Revenue travelled across the country all summer, promoting the awareness of many new and important tax credits which benefit all Canadians. While in Fort McMurray, I believe she said it best:

On behalf of the federal government and all Canadians, I want to thank you very much for your dedication and your selfless service. You are part of what makes Canada the best place in the world to live.

The People of Beauharnois—Salaberry
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, on July 18, a boat carrying a couple and their two children went down on Lake St. Francis, close to Sainte-Barbe.

Enormous waves overturned their boat. At about two o'clock in the morning, a young resident, Ève Davignon, heard yelling and alerted her father, Pierre Davignon. Pierre, with the help of a neighbour, Sébastien Frappier, managed to save the entire family from drowning.

The fire chief, Camille Pilon, and his colleagues also demonstrated courage and level-headedness. They did not hesitate to do everything necessary to help the two children, who were suffering from hypothermia.

On behalf of all the people of Beauharnois—Salaberry, I would like to commend everyone involved for their bravery. Thank you so much.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Bryan Hayes Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday marked one year since an important vote here in the House, a vote that took place on ending the ineffective and wasteful long gun registry.

How important was it? Let us ask the member for Ajax—Pickering, the member for Yukon or the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming, because those ridings were let down a year ago, let down by members of Parliament who listened to their Ottawa bosses instead of the people who sent them here, and now they are gone. They have been replaced with great Conservative members.

Canadians have given us a strong, stable majority government to implement our strong mandate, a mandate that includes eliminating the ineffective and wasteful long gun registry. I for one look forward to that vote.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, it took a visit from another Conservative for the Prime Minister to acknowledge, albeit reluctantly, the looming threat to the economy. We know that at the last minute the Prime Minister added a few lines to adjust his speech last night after David Cameron's warnings, the same warnings the NDP has been issuing for weeks now. Mouvement Desjardins has now added its own voice and its own warnings. If nothing is done, Canada will be hit by another recession, the second one under this Conservative government.

What is the Conservative government's plan for dealing with this potential crisis?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. He mentioned the Prime Minister of England. I would like to quote him.

He said, and I quote:

In the last few years Canada has got every major decision right. Look at the facts. Not a single Canadian bank fell or faltered during the global banking crisis. Canada got to grips with its deficit and was running surpluses and paying down the debt before the recession, fixing the roof while the sun was shining. Your economic leadership has helped the Canadian economy to weather the global storms far better than many of your international competitors.

I repeat, as our Minister of Finance has: we have the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, which will continue us on the path of success.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government can no longer blame the Greeks and the eurozone for the economic problems here in Canada. That argument does not hold water. It is a diversionary tactic. The Conservatives have to take responsibility for their economic failure, their inability to capitalize on Canada's advantages. We have the fiscal capacity that others do not. We can invest in infrastructure, get an excellent return on our investment, strengthen employment and the economy and give ourselves a sound competitive advantage.

No private investor would pass up such an opportunity. Why is the government passing it up once again?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the House that we do have a plan to support jobs and to create some growth here in Canada. It is a plan that, unfortunately, the NDP and the Liberals voted against.

In fact, they voted against things like flowing $1 billion in federal funding to provinces and territories for infrastructure in 2011-12, helping manufacturers by extending the accelerated capital cost allowance for two years, renewing EI pilot projects to help the unemployed, extending work-sharing agreements to help protect jobs, and creating a hiring credit for small business to help create jobs.

They need get on side with us and help--

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Outremont.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the British Prime Minister called the current global economic crisis a “debt crisis”. His solution is more austerity, but it is a diagnosis that simply does not apply here in Canada. Ours is a crisis of inadequate demand in the economy caused by a lack of private investment, debt-burdened households, a growing trade deficit and government cutbacks. The obvious and immediate solution is long overdue investment in infrastructure and job creation.

Will the Conservatives stop making excuses and start investing in the projects that will restore falling infrastructure while putting Canadians back to work and strengthening our economy?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what this country cannot afford to do. Let us see the facts once and for all.

Canada has fared relatively better than most during the global recession. In fact, Canada has the best fiscal position in the G7, the lowest net debt in the G7, among the lowest of deficits in the G7 and, as we all have heard, the IMF and OECD both project that Canada's growth is going to be among the strongest in the G7 if we continue on this low-tax plan that we have put in place.

The last thing that we need is to tax our businesses $10 billion more, which would in fact kill jobs.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the last few days have underlined once again what a gamble the government is taking with the retirement security of Canadians. Its so-called pooled pension scheme throws the retirement savings of Canadians into a market roulette wheel. On the other hand, the Bay Street fund managers will have guaranteed returns.

The government's preference for padding the pockets of financial managers while ignoring the needs of Canadians for pension security is what is happening. When will the Conservatives provide guaranteed retirement security for Canadian families?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we have been working very hard to improve Canadians' retirement security. Let us just go over some of the things that have been done.

We cut taxes for seniors and pensioners by over $2 billion annually. That includes pension income splitting. We reformed the framework governing federally regulated pensions to better protect pensioners. We are working with the provinces. We studied proposals and we are going to make further improvements. Now, with them, we are working on the introduction of the new pooled registered pension plan. The PRPPs will provide low-cost pension plans to millions of people who never had a pension before.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the benefits of public sector versus private sector pension plans are clear. The Canada pension plan and the Quebec equivalent are less costly to manage and they are guaranteed. The problem is that the Conservatives are not allowing citizens to use their preferred method of saving. People want to see action on this file. Canadians should be able to invest their savings in public pension plans if they so desire.

Why do the Conservatives prefer that people lose their shirts on the stock market?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we have worked hard to increase retirement security for Canadians. For example, we cut taxes for seniors and pensioners by more than $2 billion, notably by allowing pension income splitting. We have worked with the provinces to look at proposals for other improvements and, as I said earlier, we are about to implement the pooled registered pension plan. The PRPP system will provide low-cost pension plans to millions of people who do not have a pension.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the past few months have brought us the protectionist buy American legislation, an economic downturn this quarter and a rising unemployment rate. Instead of helping Canadians by creating jobs, the Conservatives are using the situation as an excuse to cut and eliminate vital programs and services. Making cuts in a time of economic downturn only exacerbates the problem.

Will the government show some flexibility and put those cuts on hold until the economy is in a better position?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, our government cares about what matters most: the economy and jobs. Canada's current economic growth is proof that we are on the right track for Canadian families. Both the IMF and the OECD agree that Canada will have one of the fastest growing economies in the G7. In addition, Moody's has just renewed Canada's AAA credit rating because of our economic resiliency, financial strength and low susceptibility to event risk.

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, whether it is a tony royal gazebo, fake lakes, G20 spending or now fishing trips on search and rescue aircraft, the government's ministers think taxpayers' money is their personal reserve. No one is buying the defence minister's excuse that his lift from a fishing camp was a preplanned training demo. Training demonstrations are day-long exercises.

Could the minister confirm that his office overrode the local base, which initially denied his demand for vital rescue equipment to give him a lift to the airport?

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, I was on a trip to the beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador, a trip I paid for myself. As a result of pressing government business, I was called back from that vacation. I left the vacation early to come back to work.

As the member might know, the government has reduced the use of government aircraft by over 80%. We take the use of government aircraft very seriously. It is used for government business. That is the line we will follow.

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about tourism here. We are talking about accountability and responsibility on the part of ministers and the spending of taxpayers' money. This minister's story is falling apart. We know he could not have been scheduled to participate in a training mission because he knew he had to be in London, Ontario, for an announcement.

This is arrogant, high-flying abuse of life-saving equipment, plain and simple.

Can the minister table one email, one piece of paper, one piece of correspondence to back up his cockamamie story about a preplanned demonstration, or will he just fess up, apologize and--

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The hon. Minister of National Defence.

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I came back to work as a result of government business. With respect, our government has reduced the use of government aircraft by 80% in the past three years. As the hon. member knows, aircraft are used for government business.

With respect to the member himself, I am surprised that he would raise the issue of helicopters, given that his government cost taxpayers $1 billion by cancelling the EH-101 program, when it came to the Sea King helicopter replacement.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today Canadians learned that our military trainers in Afghanistan were involved in active combat last week when a NATO compound in Kabul came under attack.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence repeatedly told Canadians that this would be a non-combat mission. Clearly, that is not the case. This training mission is a combat mission that continues to put Canadian troops at risk.

Will the government now acknowledge that there is no non-combat military role in a war?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the combat mission in Afghanistan has now come to an end. We have transitioned to training. That training is taking place in and around Kabul. However, I do not think the member is naive enough to suggest that Canadian Forces are not going to protect themselves when in a volatile city like Kabul. They will return fire and protect themselves. That is what happened in this instance. The member and Canadians would expect no less.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is holding the government to account that says one thing and then does the other.

This incident undermines Canadians' trust in the government. We were told this would be a non-combat role. That is clearly not the case. We were told that our troops would be out of harm's way. However, the Canadian Forces say that Kabul is an extremely violent environment.

We were even denied a chance to debate and vote on this mission in the House of Commons.

Why did the government mislead Canadians on this issue?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I agree with some of what the hon. member is suggesting.

Yes, Kabul is a very dangerous environment. I have nothing but the greatest respect for the Canadian soldiers who are there, doing their fine work in training the Afghan national army and police.

Yes, Canadian Forces will in fact protect themselves in that environment. As I said, the hon. member would expect no less.

To suggest somehow that the Canadian government has said there will be no danger in Kabul is completely wrong, and he is misleading the House.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence had a search and rescue helicopter pick him up while on a fishing trip. Later, he flew to London, Ontario, on a Challenger jet, and that is not all. He travelled by jet to Halifax to attend a lobster festival.

Is this the minister's way of familiarizing himself with all our different means of air and military transportation, or does he plan on becoming a pilot?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, taxpayers expect government officials to conduct the nation's business at a reasonable cost. It is something that our government takes very seriously.

I want to be clear. Our use of government aircraft by our ministers is always in compliance with policy. We do follow the policies, and we have reduced the use of government aircraft significantly, as we have said.

When we look at Challenger use by the Liberals who spoke earlier about this issue, we have reduced our use 80% since they abused them as personal limousines constantly. We only use them for government business.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can a lobster festival have anything to do with the army? Not so long ago, the Minister of National Defence condemned such actions. The minister's office maintains that his flight on the Cormorant had been in the works for some time. However, we learned today that the helicopter was ordered that same day.

Why was a search and rescue helicopter used for a private fishing trip?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, taxpayers expect government officials to be careful and prudent in their use of government aircraft. However, they also expect government officials to carry out the government's business and sometimes that necessitates the use of government aircraft. We are very careful and prudent in doing so.

We will ensure that we continue to keep the costs of such use down and respect taxpayers' dollars; something that is certainly not a priority for that party across the aisle.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the minister's office claimed that his flight on a search and rescue helicopter was part of a long-standing request, but now we have learned that the request to pick him up from his fishing trip was ordered at the last minute.

After logging countless hours on Canadian Forces executive jets, does the minister now feel he is completely familiar with their operations, or does he need to jet around to a few more lobster festivals, just to make sure?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, our ministers and our government officials are proud to do the government's business. We are doing the government's business for the people of Canada, and we do so in a careful and prudent fashion that respects taxpayers' dollars. We will continue to do that. We are always very careful to respect taxpayers' dollars.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence is becoming as leaky as a used British submarine: leaks coming out to discredit the brass and leaks about the minister's fondness for executive travel, for fishing trips, and lobster festivals.

It seems the government is losing the confidence of the senior leadership in the Canadian Forces. Could the minister tell us who is running the show in his department?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of the leadership within the Canadian Forces. Our chief of defence and down through the ranks have done an outstanding job: distinguishing themselves in international missions; responding to challenges here at home, whether it be floods or fires; and conducting themselves in concert with other government security forces during the Olympic games, during the G8 and G20.

Our Canadian Forces do a spectacular job. I could not be more proud of their leadership.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the illogical tale of the HMCS Chicoutimi continues after being bought second-hand from the British in 1998. After having suffered a fire in 2004, the submarine is still in dry dock today.

The government has made a claim that she will sail by 2013. Is it not true that the HMCS Chicoutimi is now being dismantled for parts?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

No, Mr. Speaker, that is not true.

In fact, what we have are four submarines that have interchangeable parts. What we are doing, of course, is trying to have those submarines available for use.

No one would deny there have been challenges with respect to these submarines that were purchased by the previous government. In fact, submarines bring an important credibility and an important capability to the Royal Canadian Navy. We are going to continue to work with our officials to see that that capability is available to Canada. That asset is something that will serve our country well in the future.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, seriously, a former sailor says that there are only 80 qualified submariners in the entire Canadian Navy. Not so long ago, there were 300. Parts from HMCS Chicoutimi have even been installed on HMCS Victoria.

Will the government now admit that we will have to wait until 2016 before a single submarine is operational in the Canadian Navy?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this is an important capability. The submarine program has been plagued with difficulties. These are very sophisticated vessels. One person compared their sophistication to the space shuttle in terms of the amount of equipment on board that submarine.

With respect to their availability, we have had use of those submarines at various times since taking possession of them. They are involved in an upgrade right now that will see their availability in the future, and we continue to work toward that process.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, from 6,800 veterans fighting the government in the Supreme Court to get their SISIP clawback done, from widows fighting for enhanced VIP services for themselves, from atomic veterans with no compensation package, to an agent orange compensation that left out thousands of people, we now have an increasing number of homeless veterans and veterans using food banks.

When the minister said yesterday in the House that we have a seamless transition to civilian life, does this mean transition to the good shepherd's society, does this mean transition to the streets, does this mean transition to food bank shelters? When will the government--

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South
Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to agent orange, our government acted when the Liberals refused to act.

When it comes to homelessness, our government is taking action. In fact, in March we established the new emergency funds that allow veterans and their families to access emergency cash when there are no other funds available. We have established new initiatives in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, to help with the homeless. We have asked all of our district offices to go out and search, and assist our homeless veterans.

We take our veterans very seriously. In fact, no other government has served our veterans more honourably.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, after spending two very difficult years in Albania, Arjan Tabaj and his family are finally back in Canada. The Federal Court ruled that this family had been deported without justification.

Today another family is being separated by this government. Ms. Paola Ortiz came to Canada to escape a life of physical abuse. She is married and has two children. As we speak, she is on a plane headed back to Mexico, back to the hardship and violence she was fleeing.

Why has the minister not intervened to avoid ripping this family apart?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, part of CBSA's mandate is to investigate and remove persons who are in violation of Canada's immigration laws. Those individuals who are assessed to be in violation and do receive orders, do receive due process before the law. They are subject to various levels of appeal, including a pre-removal risk assessment.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, by attacking the savings of Canadians with dual citizenship and imposing massive fines on them, the American government is threatening the financial security of hundreds of thousands of Canadians. The Conservatives responded by writing a letter.

Why is the government allowing the United States to treat law-abiding Canadians as though they were tax-evading billionaires?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. We share Canadians' concerns about this situation. We raised those concerns directly with the American government. Most Canadians who are affected by this are honest, hard-working people who obey the law. We have to do more, which is why we asked the United States government to treat these people with clemency. We also clearly explained that the Canada Revenue Agency will not collect the fines imposed by the IRS under FBAR on their behalf.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are only too happy to cave in to any U.S. demand when it comes to security, but they allow the U.S. to threaten Canadian jobs with its protectionist buy American policy, and now they have failed to defend law-abiding Canadians.

Conservatives are eager to follow U.S. orders on border security, but they do nothing to protect our own citizens from the American taxman.

Why will the Prime Minister not pick up the phone, call President Obama, and stand up for Canadians' interests?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I said just a moment ago in French, we have acted on this file. We have the same concerns that most Canadians have. That is why the Minister of Finance took immediate action and spoke with our American counterparts. That is why he wrote a letter indicating to Canadians that we are working on this issue.

We do not believe that it is justified that Canadians who have bank accounts here, who are honest and credible taxpaying Canadians who simply did not know that they have to file these documents, should be targeted. We are going to continue to insist that our American counterparts work on this. We are going to insist that the CRA is not going to collect these taxes on their behalf.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada has one of the best trained and most productive public services in the world. By blowing money on unnecessary high-priced consultants, the Conservatives are throwing money at a problem that does not exist.

At a time when the government is preaching restraint, why is its budget for consultants totally out of control?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, reckless spending and out-of control debt are the key problems facing other countries today.

Private sector advice is an essential part of our plan to ensure Canada avoids the economic and financial problems that have plagued much of the rest of the world. For every dollar that is spent, we expect to receive $200 in savings.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government is wasting money by creating a shadow public service. It is an insult to our government employees, it is an insult to our taxpayers, and it is another way for the government to reward its special friends. It does not make any sense to spend money to reduce expenses.

Why is this government refusing to invest in job creation but throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars out the window on expensive consultants?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, Canada is not immune to the problems other countries are facing. Canadians gave us the strong mandate to protect and pursue Canada's economic recovery. Our government has a plan that involves keeping taxes low, creating employment for Canadians and ensuring economic growth. Irresponsible spending and uncontrollable debt are significant causes of the problems other countries are experiencing today.

President of the Treasury Board
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board did not invent rum bottle politics or unbridled patronage but he has certainly raised it to a high art.

We now know that the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka bought the 2008 election using the public treasury as his personal campaign war chest.

As much as we love hearing from the member for Calgary East read us prepared notes, I am not asking him. I am asking how the Prime Minister can put up with a Treasury Board President who violates his own Treasury Board guidelines to such an egregious extent.

President of the Treasury Board
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, that kind of mud-raking by the opposition was rejected in the last election.

I will be clear. The facts have not changed. This issue has been thoroughly aired. The Auditor General had all the government information.

This government is focused on what matters to Canadians, which is jobs and the economy.

President of the Treasury Board
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, next to out and out corruption, nothing offends the sensibilities of Canadians as much as patronage pork-barrelling.

We now know that the President of the Treasury Board was setting up his buddies with lucrative and generous G8-related consulting contracts, as if, again, he had this money to dole out.

It is that kind of “who you know” politics that fuels the cynicism in an already jaded electorate.

I want to ask the Conservatives what ever happened to the Public Appointments Commission that was supposed to put an end to patronage. What ever happened to the Federal Accountability Act?

President of the Treasury Board
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, maybe the hon. member should see his voting record and find out how they voted against it, because he will get the answer faster.

The facts have not changed. This issue has been thoroughly aired. The Auditor General had all the government information. I will tell the member that this government is focused on jobs and working for the economy. That is what Canadians elected the government for.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Liberals were up to their old tricks by once again obstructing our measures to get tough on crime.

Our government's Safe Streets and Communities Act would increase sentences for child sex offenders, end the use of house arrest for serious and violent crimes and increase penalties for drug dealers who specifically target our children.

Victims, police and Canadians are clear. It is time we put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals and ensure that all criminals are held accountable.

Would the Minister of Justice please tell the House why all members should support Bill C-10?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, Canadians gave our government a strong and clear mandate to continue making our streets and communities safer.

During the election, we committed to introducing and passing comprehensive legislation within the first 100 days of sitting in the new Parliament. We are delivering on this promise.

We talk the talk and we walk the walk. On this side of the House, the message to law-abiding Canadians is that we got their back.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the minister's explanations to justify cuts to the budget for monitoring the ozone layer do not make sense. The minister claims that cuts are necessary to better monitor the pollution in the oil sands. The Conservatives are telling us that we have to sacrifice the ozone layer to better understand the pollution in the oil sands. The cuts will have consequences on the quality of our environment.

Why are the Conservatives not telling Canadians the truth?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I will say again that Environment Canada will continue to monitor the ozone. The World Ozone and Ultraviolet Data Centre will continue to deliver world-class services. Our government will continue to protect the environment in the most cost-effective way possible.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the minister continues to insist that the cuts to the ozone monitoring programs are harmless, and he makes it sound so simple. He says that we have two ozone measurements and now we are just going to have one. However, he is disregarding the science because they measure different things.

Because of the minister's shortsightedness, now we will not have the data that we need to track the hole in the ozone layer. Why is the minister disregarding both science and common sense?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has misquoted me, but I will assure her that the environment remains a key priority for this government, even at times of fiscal restraint. As we are doing across all of government, we will be taking a close look at all of our spending over the next year and the results of our deficit reduction action plan will be announced in the budget next spring.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Keystone pipeline is another example of the government's failed economic and environmental policies. The pace of development in the oil sands means that the government will not even meet its own climate change targets.

Will the minister explain why the government keeps summarily promoting this pipeline instead of defending the best interests of Canadians?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the Keystone XL pipeline will provide a substantial economic benefit to both Canada and the United States. We trade oil, natural gas and electricity across our borders every day.

While the opposition continues to bash Canada abroad, our government will defend the Canadian economy, will defend Canadian resources and will defend the 600,000-plus Canadian jobs that we have created since the recession started.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister is talking about economic development, but we are talking about jobs. Workers in the region are very clear: the pipeline will cause the loss of thousands of good jobs in Canada.

Why is the government prepared to sell our jobs and our environment?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the NDP talking about jobs and the oil sands is ridiculous. Its past environment critic has called for a moratorium on oil sands development that would kill tens of thousands of Canadian jobs. We know there are over 100,000 Canadian jobs that are tied to the oil sands. The NDP wants to stop every last one of them so it is willing to sacrifice good Canadian jobs. We are not willing to do that. We will stand up and defend Canadians.

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister declared that his new government will govern for all Canadians, but he will not even govern for Canadians who voted Conservative.

Peter Hoff, a wheat farmer in Alberta and a Crowfoot constituent, is one of thousands of western wheat farmers who did not vote Conservative to end the single desk Canadian Wheat Board.

Why is the government insisting that 39% of the vote is good enough to elect the Conservative government but 62% of farmers' votes are not good enough to preserve Mr. Hoff's livelihood? Why is the member for Crowfoot not standing up for his constituents?

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of western Canadian farmers understand the need and the requirements to market on their own behalf. They do that so well. Globally, they market canola, pulses and livestock domestically and around the world. We know they can do that with wheat as well. They just need a chance to do that. We will offer that. They can say no but, at the end of the day, this will happen.

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about government hypocrisy.

On the one hand, approximately 40,000 Prairie grain farmers voted 62% to keep the Canadian Wheat Board. The Prime Minister declares that the vote means nothing, that it does not count. The Prime Minister, like the minister, says the Wheat Board must go.

The CWB vote had a 66% turnout and 62% said yes, and yet in British Columbia the HST vote had a 52% turnout and 55% said to get rid of the HST. There was no question on the validity of that one. My question for the government--

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister did an excellent job on Monday explaining to the Liberals how even they could elect more members if they use a skewed voters' list like the Wheat Board did. Of course, anybody who has to go back five years in order to prove their point is not moving forward with actual producers trying to build a future and a positive outcome to their bottom line. That is what we are acting to do. We know that value added and innovation will only follow a free market. We will deliver that free market for western Canadian farmers. The Liberals will try to keep them in shackles and chains, like they did back in 2002. We will not allow that.

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives on the Standing Committee on Official Languages rejected two motions to enforce the Official Languages Act. The opposition members want all subsidiaries of Air Canada to be subject to the act, which was rejected by the Conservatives. We also asked to examine the reason why Afghan detainee documents were not in both official languages, which was also rejected.

Will the government start to work with us to enforce this legislation?

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

We are happy to have started working together on the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Our government is determined to continue to protect and promote our country's two official languages. We allocated record funding to the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality.

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives refuse to consider opposition proposals and motions, official language minority communities are the ones that suffer. There are consequences for the members of these communities who do not receive services in the language of their choice.

Can the Prime Minister and the official languages minister ask the Conservative members sitting on the Standing Committee on Official Languages to show some good faith and to work with the opposition to serve all Canadians fairly?

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleague that we allocated record funding to the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality. This money will strengthen the country's existing official language minority communities and will bring language and culture to new communities across Canada. I hope that we can set partisanship aside and work together on this committee.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, later today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is due to address the United Nations General Assembly and perhaps table a resolution calling for full member status of a Palestinian state that does not yet exist.

Given that the attention of the world is focused on the United Nations today, could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs remind the House of the long-standing position of the Government of Canada?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the long-standing position of the Government of Canada has not changed.

The only route to peace in this conflict is a peace negotiated by both parties. One of the states must be a Jewish state and recognized as such, while the Palestinian state must be a non-militarized one.

Any unilateral action is unhelpful to the situation. We urge both parties to get back to the table to undertake constructive, peaceful talks that may one day lead to an acceptable solution for both parties.

Employment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I asked a question yesterday in the House about the loss of jobs in Cape Breton.

The answer I got from the Service Canada minister was, “Tough luck, I am taking your jobs.”

My question is for the Minister of ACOA. If he will not stand up to the callous actions of his colleague who is stealing away our jobs, what will he do to recover the more than 10,000 jobs that have been lost, stolen, in the forestry, automotive, pharmaceutical and service industries? What will the Minister of ACOA do to help Cape Breton with those jobs that were lost under the government?

Employment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, first, the hon. member knows full well that as much as he wants to use hyperbole in this place, it does not serve any purpose. The reality is that with NewPage alone—

Employment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Help us. Help us.

Employment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

We are trying to help. We absolutely are.

The Minister of ACOA and the Minister of National Defence have met repeatedly on this issue. They have had long and ongoing discussions on this matter.

The closure of the mill is due to a global economic downturn. Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation has assigned a representative to a committee—

Employment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, my constituents in Thunder Bay are agonizing over the unexplained deaths of seven first nations students in seven years. One week ago, on Pikangikum First Nation a sixth young man this summer took his own life.

Has the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development read the Ontario chief coroner's report on the Pikangikum suicides? When will the minister act on its recommendations? What is the minister doing to make life safer and brighter for first nations youth on and off reserve?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to express condolences to the community of Pikangikum for its losses. My department has been in regular contact with the community of Pikangikum and continues to work with it and other partners to ensure lasting improvements in the community.

We are working to address the nine recommendations made to our department in the Ontario coroner's report released this month and we will do everything we can to address the situation.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, today the finance minister is representing Canada at key meetings of the global financial leaders taking place in Washington. We all know Canada's experience and success in implementing Canada's economic action plan. Our strong fiscal fundamentals, with the lowest total government net debt to GDP ratio by far in the entire G7, and our plan to return to balanced budgets has set an example for the rest of the world.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance please outline what Canada is saying today about the current global economic challenges?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I reiterated earlier today and as Prime Minister Cameron said yesterday, Canada is indeed an example to follow. To quote the prime minister, “[Canada's] economic leadership has helped the Canadian economy to weather the global storms far better than many of [our] international competitors”.

Today, Canada will continue that economic leadership by calling on the European governments to act swiftly to fix their debt issues and all European economies must tackle their debt overhang quickly to help secure the global economic recovery. Even more, countries with long-term debt problems must put in place and implement credible fiscal consolidation plans now.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Tunisians living in Canada want to vote during the upcoming Tunisian general election, but it seems as though they will not be able to vote because the government is telling them that Canada cannot be an electoral constituency in a foreign assembly.

Does the minister know that Canada and the United States have elected officials in France's National Assembly? Does he know that the constituency being proposed by Tunisia includes Canada and the United States?

Will the minister take the necessary measures to allow Tunisians living in Canada to vote?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we understand full well how important it is to Canadians, especially new Canadians, to be able to exercise their democratic right to vote. However, our government is opposed to Canada being used as an electoral constituency by a foreign country.

However, we wholeheartedly support Tunisia's democratic transition, as we have from the outset.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, millions of dollars have been spent on personal travel by the former Governor General and the Chief of the Defence Staff for their vacations, by the defence minister for a fishing trip and by the Prime Minister for a hockey game, and now the CBC has revealed even more foolish spending on Challenger flights. Altogether, taxpayers paid $563,000 on unjustified air travel for the month of June alone.

Given so much wasteful spending, is the Minister of Finance not embarrassed by his little lecture to Europeans yesterday about their management of public money? Is that not the pot calling the kettle black?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

Noon

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we have been very prudent in the use of government aircraft. If we compare, for example, what happened under the Liberal Party when the typical use of a Challenger for cabinet ministers was 153 flights a year, we are looking at about 24 or 25 flights in a year, a significant reduction.

That being said, in the process of our deficit reduction action plan, we are looking at all options for savings because we want to see the taxpayer dollars treated with respect. We do not want to see waste in any aspect of government.

Libya
Routine Proceedings

Noon

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table and put on notice the following motion. I move:

That, in standing in solidarity with those seeking freedom in Libya, the House adopted government motions on March 21 and June 14, 2011 authorizing all necessary measures, including the use of the Canadian armed forces and military assets in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973; that given the current military situation and the success of National Transitional Council (NTC) and anti-Gaddafi forces to date, the House supports an extension of up to three months of the involvement of the Canadian armed forces operating with NATO in accordance with the legal mandate from the UNSC Resolution 1973; that the House continues to support Canada's engagement in all spheres in the rebuilding of a new Libya, including human rights, democratic development and the rule of law; that the House deplores the violence committed by the previous regime against the Libyan people, including the alleged use of rape as a weapon of war; that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Standing Committee on National Defence shall remain seized of Canada's activities under UNSC Resolution 1973 and in the rebuilding of the new Libya; and that the House continues to offer its wholehearted and unconditional support to the brave men and women of the Canadian armed forces, who stand on guard for all of us, and continue to protect Libyan civilians from the risks still posed by the Gaddafi regime.

Excise Tax Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-282, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (feminine hygiene products).

Mr. Speaker, this is an important bill in regard to the sale of feminine hygiene products and the extension of the GST because these products are a necessity. If we look at the experience of most women in Canada, it is a 40-year experience. These products are certainly not a luxury and that their use deems an exception from the GST.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Independent and Effective Office of the Veterans' Ombudsman Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-283, An Act to establish the office of the Veterans’ Ombudsman.

Mr. Speaker, this is a bill of which I am very proud. It is in regard to support for our veterans and peacekeepers.

Too many veterans are denied benefits and former peacekeepers have been abandoned. We see the evidence of this with the many homeless veterans and people who depend on food banks.

In regard to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, it is important to have qualified members on the board, people with medical credentials and also individuals who have served in the Canadian Forces because they have experience of the reality of CF personnel.

I hope the House will support this because it supports veterans.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Status of Women Canada Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-284, An Act respecting Status of Women Canada.

Mr. Speaker, this bill seeks to re-establish the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. As we know, Canada is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and encourages the advancement and full participation of women in all spheres of life.

We know the commission was unceremoniously defunded in 1996 and its work was clearly not done. Its role was to advise the minister, promote gender equality and advance the full participation of women in our country.

With the current government, we have seen nothing but defunding of programs that would indeed advance the equality of women. It is time that we once again had an advocate who could advise the minister to ensure that women are regarded as they should be.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-285, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda).

Mr. Speaker, this bill seeks to amend the Criminal Code to expand the definition of “identifiable group”, in relation to hate propaganda, to include any section of the public distinguished by sex.

As members will know, women are not included in this. The reality is that misogyny is alive and well and women need this protection. Therefore, I am pleased to extend this bill for consideration by the House.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-286, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (compassionate care benefits for dependent children).

Mr. Speaker, this bill is inspired by a number of realities, first and foremost, experiences in my riding.

When a parent is looking after a seriously ill child, six weeks is just not adequate. It simply will not do. I suggest and ask that the support period be extended to 15 weeks. When a child is seriously ill, the entire family suffers. Parents very often have to leave their jobs and the family is in a situation where it is financially stressed. When a child is ill, a family should not ever have to endure the extra concern of a financial impediment.

I would ask that members of the House consider the reality of families that deal with children who chronically or seriously ill and consider and support my bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Senior Consumer Price Index Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-287, An Act respecting a Senior Consumer Price Index.

Mr. Speaker, this bill arises out of some consultations that I have had this spring and summer with seniors and seniors' organizations. In our country the Consumer Price Index and our understanding of the poverty level that seniors are experiencing is inadequate.

My bill would amend the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security Act to provide that pensions provided under those acts are indexed in accordance with this senior consumer price index. We have a different reality today in terms of the needs of individuals and I would hope the House would support the bill and, thus, the seniors of our country.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Libya
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I would ask for unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, on Monday, September 26, 2011 the House shall consider the motion tabled earlier today by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons relating to Canada's engagement in all spheres in the rebuilding of a new Libya and at 15 minutes before the expiry of time provided for government orders on that day, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the motion shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Libya
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Libya
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Libya
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Libya
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Libya
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Notice of Proposed Procurement Concerning Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to be here today. As I said earlier, I am rising to make an additional response on behalf of the government to the contempt allegations made by the hon. member for Malpeque on Monday, September 19, further to the initial and, I think, very adequate reply made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Ultimately the member opposite is making an attempt to block planning efforts for bringing in a bill to give western Canadian grain farmers the marketing freedom our government has committed to giving them. It should come as a surprise to no one, as the parliamentary secretary has mentioned, that this has been a staple of Conservative election platforms.

In May Canadians, including western Canadian grain farmers, gave our government a strong mandate to implement our commitments, including our pledge to give those farmers the freedom to choose how to market their grain.

The two items cited in the member's submissions both relate exclusively to the government's planning efforts in preparing to bring in a bill and to be ready for its subsequent implementation if and when it is passed by Parliament.

Before returning to the bulk of the critic's arguments, I want to briefly address his suggestion that there was a breach of section 47 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. While I could go on at length that these allegations are false and spurious, it is well established that these questions are beyond the jurisdiction of the Chair. I would refer the House, for example, to page 261 of O'Brien and Bosc, together with the cases noted in footnote 75 there.

At the core of his submissions, the member for Malpeque claims to rely upon the October 10, 1989, decision of Mr. Speaker Fraser at pages 4457 to 4461 of Debates. For the benefit of the House, it may be helpful to recap very briefly what happened in that situation.

The government, having proposed a series of tax reforms but before legislation was tabled in the House, ran full-page newspaper ads about those reforms. The ads in question, which ran in August 1989, opened with the words:

On January 1, 1991, Canada's Federal Sales Tax system will change. Please save this notice. It explains the changes and the reasons for them.

In other words, it was a general broadcast to Canadians that not only presumed that Parliament would adopt these measures but that it would do so in an unamended way. That could not be further from the situation before us respecting the two items cited by the hon. member.

First is the MERX posting, which I hasten to add is a focused form of communication intended for a targeted audience of service providers and very distinct from full-page ads in newspapers of general circulation, which communicate directly with the public and provide authoritative guidance in managing their own affairs.

The document cited seeks an assessment and identification of assets and financial contracts of the Canadian Wheat Board. The purpose of the contract, as noted in the posting, is to:

provide reasonable assurance of the total financial impact of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

Later on, the notice of description reads that one of the audit's objectives is

to determine the potential financial impact of the repeal of the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

Let me repeat the word that I emphasized, and that is the word “potential”.

The critic for the third party has also taken exception to the comment that such a repeal for the purposes of this audit engagement is “expected to be July 31, 2012”. Again, I should emphasize the word “expected”.

You will note, Mr. Speaker, that it does not use words that prejudice the ultimate decision of Parliament, such as the “will change” line used in the GST ads, but rather that it simply notes a date when such a transition could be “expected” for the benefit of giving certainty to the auditors' terms of reference.

To put it another way, the government is seeking additional information in the nature of quantifying the impact with respect to our very well-publicized proposal to introduce marketing freedom for western Canadian grain farmers. Moreover, if no fixed timeframe was suggested in the scope of the audit exercise, it would serve only to frustrate the original point of generating certain and reliable data in this process of quantifying the impact of the government's long-proposed plan.

I could ask why a Liberal critic is suggesting that an audit should be weakened, but I will move on.

To be clear, this request for proposals, found only on a procurement service website, is part of the government's planning efforts. To suggest that the government should be utterly incapable of consulting outside experts on proposals for significant changes in policies, let alone on a significant change like this, is folly.

Second, the hon. member for Malpeque cited an article in the July 28, 2011, edition of the Western Producer, which made reference to a task force constituted for the purpose of giving the government advice on “issues that are likely to arise once legislation to end the single desk is passed”.

Part of the future scenario the task force is asked to contemplate turns on when such legislation is passed, in order to give focused advice to the government on this scenario.

Again, this is entirely consistent with the planning activities of the government in preparation to implement its electoral commitments to Canadians.

I want to return to Mr. Speaker Fraser's 1989 ruling, in which there is one passage I wish to stress. In coming to his conclusions, Mr. Speaker Fraser said:

I can express my own opinion that the content was obviously drafted in a cavalier manner; there is an element of confidence, if not a boldness, in the use of a phrase as definitive as “save this ad!”.

The hon. member for Cardigan also quoted from a May 29, 2008, ruling of Mr. Speaker Milliken, found on pages 6276 to 6278 of Debates. Key words from the decision quoted here on Monday were that there was no prima facie case of privilege in that case because there was

no misrepresentation of the proceedings of the House or of any presumption of the outcome of its deliberations.

There was, I would argue, no misrepresentation here, nor was there a presumption of what will happen here. Yes, assumptions were set for the scenarios under which planning materials were to be prepared, but these were not presuming the role and place of Parliament to pass legislation.

Next, let me turn to a second decision of Mr. Speaker Fraser on September 30, 1991, found on pages 2920 and 2921 of Debates, respecting government ads respecting the then government's wage offer to the public service workers. This decision allowed him to distinguish his GST rulings. With respect to the wage offer ad, he said:

...where it falls away from being exactly the same or even nearly the same as the ad on the GST is that this is not talking about in my view legislation which “has been passed or is in place”. It is talking about an offer made under circumstances which I think it would be reasonable to assume the government would then have to do whatever was imperative to place that offer into effect in the event that the offer was accepted.

Mr. Speaker Milliken also had an opportunity to add to this field of precedence. In his November 25, 2002, decision on pages 1822 and 1823 of Debates respecting ads about the Kyoto protocol, he opined on the thrust of the original GST advertising ruling by noting:

The suggestion was that these changes were in fact already passed, and the tenor of the advertisement was extremely important in this regard and very important in regard to Mr. Speaker Fraser's ruling, as he said, first of all, that the date was fixed as to when these changes would come in when in fact the act had not been passed by Parliament, and second, that it said to save the notice because there would be no changes, that this was the way the tax would be, that “you can save this notice now knowing that this is the way it is going to be on January 1, 1991”.

It was these two points that were made by Mr. Turner as objections to this particular advertising campaign and with which Mr. Speaker Fraser expressed his grave reservations at the end because of those two particular points.

Later in that ruling, Mr. Speaker Milliken added:

Generally advertising has been permitted, but what has been criticized and was criticized by Mr. Speaker Fraser, and where he had his reservations concerning the advertising campaign, was where the advertisement itself stated that there would be an implementation date and that the material in the ad was the final product. That was the objection.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, the two decisions I have just quoted from relate to advertising, not to consultations sought for the purposes of supporting the government's planning efforts. However, they may nonetheless be of benefit to the Chair in these circumstances.

Picking up on Mr. Speaker Milliken's interpretation here respecting the tenor and the content, I want to underscore that with respect to the two documents cited, they relate to the government's planning efforts. That is their tenor, and the content relates to setting out a particular scenario for these experts to use when generating their analysis and advice.

I would argue that the government must have the ability to plan intelligently, or manage, its proposals for legislative change. What the government has done here is simply an extension of that. On the other hand, what the hon. member for Malpeque is asking for would paralyze the process, and by extension could freeze the statute books, thereby doing far more to impair Parliament than to assist it.

The government will be bringing in legislation on this issue. We have been clear on that. The House will have a chance to debate that important bill, and most certainly it will have a chance to vote on it. Nothing to the contrary has been suggested here.

Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you find there is no prima facie question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Malpeque.

Notice of Proposed Procurement Concerning Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I do not have much further to add, but in his initial remarks the member clearly tried to debate the issue.

This is not about debating the right of government to bring in legislation. This is about a government that is bypassing this place in the advertisement setting up their task force and basically leaving the impression with the world that it is a fait accompli that the Canadian Wheat Board is gone effective July 31, 2012.

It injures our international reputation in terms of the debate, among other things, but it is bypassing this place, and that is the point of my argument that I laid out the other day.

I would again refer to the task force report terms of reference, which state:

The group will take as given that

--all grains will be removed from the monopoly by August 2012.

It is very clearly saying that it is already done, even though no legislation has been introduced in this place to be debated and so on. There has been no real consultation with the Canadian Wheat Board to that effect.

No legislation has been proposed here. However, based on remarks and papers by the government, the public could assume that the Wheat Board is already gone effective July 31, and that is absolutely wrong.

Mr. Speaker, I would refer you to two further points. I already tabled this, but I will just refresh your memory. As shown on page 10 of the selected decisions of Speaker Fraser, he said, when referring to the GST debate:

I expect the Department of Finance and other departments to study this ruling carefully and remind everyone within the Public Service that we are a parliamentary democracy, not a so-called executive democracy nor a so-called administrative democracy.

I would say the government is actually operating like a dictatorship.

Second, Speaker Fraser concluded by stating:

...if ever this issue has to be debated and considered by this House again, these comments will serve to guide the House in its deliberations.

That is a very key point. I would urge you, Mr. Speaker, to take the statements of Speaker Fraser very seriously. I know it is a long time ago, but he warned future governments not to do as the past government had done, and this alleged contempt by the government went much further in its documentation and in its task force. It is basically saying that the Canadian Wheat Board is all said and done without legislation having been brought forward in this place.

Western grain farmers need the opportunity to be heard before the committee. During question period today we had a member stand up and quote a Conservative who voted for that government in the election. He very clearly said he did not vote to do away with the Wheat Board, but he is now to assume the Wheat Board is gone and done, and he has no opportunity to have a say before a committee or anything in this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I go back to my original remarks and ask you to consider that presentation very seriously. I know the government is now trying to take a defensive action. We heard it from the minister today in his response. This week we heard the Prime Minister say in response to a question in the House that basically the Wheat Board is done. There has not even been legislation introduced yet. Today in response to the member for Guelph, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board basically said that the Wheat Board is done. There is no legislation to kill the Wheat Board in place yet, but the government is operating as if it has been here, debated and finished.

We can make amendments here.

To conclude, I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to take the point of privilege and contempt very seriously.

Notice of Proposed Procurement Concerning Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will be very concise because I made an intervention earlier, as the member for Malpeque knows.

Just to underscore what I said in my earlier intervention and to underscore what the parliamentary secretary just referred to, there is a huge difference between expectations and statement of fact. The analogy the member for Malpeque is trying to use is that the message on the MERX website was similar to the public advertisements placed by the former Liberal government in 1989 concerning the GST. Those ads back in 1989 said that that would occur and to save the notice to ensure that people remember when the GST changes would be effected.

We are talking about expectations. Our expectation is that the Wheat Board will be fundamentally altered when we introduce legislation, when legislation is voted upon. In fact, we have talked about expectations about the Wheat Board and changes to it for several years. In the last four election campaigns we said that if elected, we would try to enact changes to the Wheat Board. Expectations have been there for several years. There is no difference now.

To suggest that we cannot talk about expectations is folly, and that is what the member for Malpeque is trying to do. He is trying to convince the Chair that by talking about expectations and the potential for change is somehow a breach of privilege and is contemptible. Nothing could be further from the truth. If members agree with the argument placed by the member for Malpeque, then no political party would be able to talk about anything during an election campaign. Parties would not be able to talk about their expectations and what they plan to do if elected because according to the member for Malpeque that is contemptible by his definition.

Clearly, there is no question of privilege here. There has been no contempt here.

Mr. Speaker, I do agree with one point raised by my colleague from Malpeque. We do urge you to give this serious consideration and get back to this House with your ruling at your first and earliest opportunity.

Notice of Proposed Procurement Concerning Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank all hon. members for their interventions. I assure them that I will take this matter very seriously and will come back to the House in due course.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-4, 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, and of the amendment.

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

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

When we were debating this before statements by members, the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie had two and a half minutes left for questions and comments.

I will recognize the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore.

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

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on his election. I suspect he is going to have a long and very productive career as a member of Parliament representing his riding.

The member's parents immigrated to this country and so did I. We want to make sure that all people who seek refuge or opportunities in Canada have an equal and fair opportunity to help build the mosaic of this country that we love so much.

Could he please elaborate ever so slightly on some of the pitfalls of Bill C-4 and where some legitimate refugees may not ever have that opportunity to call Canada home?

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

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question and for his wise guidance since I came to this House.

The effect for refugees is humongous. Refugees come to Canada in order to seek a new life. They want to flee from persecution. When they come here we put them in a category where they almost have to go to jail. That is how we welcome those refugees. It is not acceptable. It goes against what Canada stands for in terms of opening the door to people who want to come here.

We have seen in the past how immigrants have helped Canada move forward. My parents came from Vietnam. I have friends and family members who have come to Canada by boat. They would be directly attacked by this bill. It really goes against what Canada stands for.

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

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, since Confederation and leading up to it, Canada has served as a land of opportunity and hope for generations of immigrants who, from every corner of the globe, seek a better life for themselves and have even greater aspirations for their children.

Together, new Canadians and long-time citizens have worked co-operatively to build communities and to build a country that is second to none, and is a model for the world. Canada's distinction, uniqueness, strength and success are drawn in part from the cultural wealth arising from the diversity of all of its citizens.

It is from that strength we have built a country that is indeed immeasurably greater than any particular region, province, culture or group within it. Just as the measure of a person is how he or she treats others around him or her, stranger or not, fundamentally the measure of a country is how it deals with those men and women who seek refuge from poverty and violence, persecution and oppression, who arrive on its shores.

As parliamentarians it falls on us to make the rules that determine how these men, women and children are received. As a parliamentarian, it does well to be reminded that there are episodes in our past where we approached those seeking refuge in a manner that was misguided and wrong.

Incidents like the Komagata Maru in 1914 and the SS St. Louis during the Second World War resulted in refugees being forced to return to an almost certain persecution, and in far too many cases, death. Generations before them, we dealt poorly with the Chinese, imposing a head tax and then an outright ban on immigration, which was only lifted in 1947.

It is incumbent upon us to not make the same mistakes that generations of lawmakers before us made. That is why the legislation before us demands serious reconsideration.

The bill, despite its stated intention to cut down on human smugglers, fails to do so, and instead targets legitimate refugee claimants. The mechanism exists already under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to penalize an individual found to be engaged in human smuggling. As it stands, a human smuggler faces up to $1 million in fines and a maximum of life imprisonment for smuggling more than 10 people into Canada. Yet earlier this week, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism characterized the bill as a disincentive for human smugglers. I fail to see how the bill accomplishes that goal if the prospect of life imprisonment and a $1 million fine does not.

By granting the Minister of Public Safety the all-too-broad discretion to designate the arrival of a certain group of refugees as a “human smuggling event” or an irregular arrival subject to a mandatory one year detention, the government opens up any arrival of two refugees or more to be a potential crisis.

Once again, experts decry the move toward mandatory detention as not only ineffective, but also likely illegal. The government insists that it requires the time to determine the identity and admissibility and investigate illegal activity. However, existing statutes provide ample time for immigration officials to make these determinations.

Yet again this is an example of a government that refuses to deal with the complexities of a given situation, of a government that refuses to see an issue any other way than in black or white. Much like its misguided mandatory minimum provisions in the omnibus justice bill, it is attempting to force through the House, the solution the government has arrived at is to detain and then incarcerate that which it cannot understand.

Further to mandatory detention, the bill will restrict designated refugee claimants from making an appeal on humanitarian or compassionate grounds for five years, or from appealing to the new refugee appeal division. This legislation will surely be challenged.

The appeal process exists for a reason. Humanitarian and compassionate applications are meant to catch those cases that fall through the cracks of our legal system.

Yet if a refugee claim is found to be legitimate, the government still intends to produce more hoops to jump through, including a provision that bans a refugee from applying for permanent residency for five years after arriving.

Not only is this provision a clear violation of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees as it refuses the right to assimilation and naturalization, but it is the cruel act of a government saying to someone who has already endured significant hardship, “You can stay and work to support yourself and your family and pay taxes and contribute to society, but at any moment we can decide to send you home if we feel like it. Also, by the way, you cannot leave, or you have to stay out”.

That does not perpetuate loyalty; it perpetuates resentment. This is from the same government that cut $53 million in funding to immigration settlement services across Ontario just before Christmas last year.

Guelph is a gateway community in Canada and 21% of its residents consider themselves immigrants.

Last week I attended the annual general meeting of the Guelph settlement services centre. This organization provides numerous programs to facilitate speedy integration of new immigrants into our community. Fifteen per cent of its budget was needlessly cut by a government that really does not understand the new face of Canada.

This year we watched as 492 Sri Lankan Tamil refugee claimants landed off our west coast. Barely a year before that, Canadians watched as a civil war tore apart that country. We watched incidents of terrorism and saw the squalor of poverty brought on by massive instability. Some 492 men, women and children packed themselves into a boat that was little more than a floating cargo hold and set out across the Pacific Ocean. There was little better about their accommodations for those months on the boat than the country they left for a better life. There was illness and death, but they came anyway.

Many of those refugees are still in detention, but there is no doubt that even the past year in prison here in Canada has been better than the wreckage of Sri Lanka. If members do not believe me, I would refer them to the comments of the Minister of Public Safety yesterday when he spoke during the debate on the justice omnibus bill. The minister said that often foreign prisoners would much prefer incarceration in Canadian jails than in their home countries, and by extension, would prefer detention in Canada to any refugee camp in the world. Really there is no disincentive in the bill for those who are seeking refuge here in Canada and even less for the real criminals in this situation, the human smugglers.

In the face of an uncertain world with increasing costs of food causing global unrest and climate change creating even larger displacements of people from African and other countries, refugee claims will only increase. Already we need measures much more creative than what is in the bill. Instead of trying to satisfy a small though vocal base by ideological legislation that looks tough but accomplishes nothing, Canada needs to begin looking to bigger and longer term solutions. We need to engage internationally in programs to deal with immigration and refugees.

Human smuggling is a scourge that will only get worse if we do not actually combat human smugglers instead of penalizing refugees. As a maritime country, we are a natural destination for boatloads of displaced immigrants. Efforts at the UN with maritime and non-maritime countries will need to be undertaken to ensure that all nations assume their responsibility to help refugee claimants.

Just as we need to be smarter on crime, we especially need to be smarter on immigration. Canada is a beacon of light for people around the world. We cannot shut our doors and turn our backs on men and women, families, seeking a better life. But we also cannot allow criminals to take advantage of the system and make money off of refugees who are only looking to escape persecution, violence and oppression.

Bill C-4 is not the right answer to what will be a defining issue for many years to come.

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, looking at this bill, which attempts to legislate against smugglers and human traffickers, we see potential for some worthwhile legislation against this type of trafficking. However, this bill is far from what it claims to be. It is a direct attack against this category of refugees who arrive in Canada seeking asylum. I would like the hon. member to comment on the fact that there are no real measures in this bill that truly address human trafficking.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. There are already penalties for human smugglers; there is a $1 million fine and up to life imprisonment. What do the Conservatives do? They demonize and vilify people who are trying to escape circumstances which are a direct threat to their health, safety and their very lives.

As I said, those people may be willing to spend a year in detention rather than face those circumstances. In fact this legislation is not really meant to deter people from coming here. It is meant to provide cosmetic window dressing to the Conservatives' base so that Canadians and particularly the Conservatives' base think the government is doing something about this problem.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on a very good speech. I have a couple of questions.

First, the government brought in Bill C-11 about a year and a half ago. The features of that legislation have not yet been fully implemented. The point of that legislation was to reduce the refugee backlog. I would ask the member why he thinks the government is not waiting to see if it is successful before introducing this bill.

Second, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said in the House that there are people overseas who believe that if they come to Canada as refugees they will get a monthly income forever. That is obviously false. It is a misconception.

In a world where no information is perfect, I would ask the member what he thinks leads the minister to believe that these people who misinterpret or get false information will actually understand the provisions of the bill. They will certainly not hear about the tough new rules from the smugglers. How will these people know about these tough new provisions?

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, in answer to the first question, the fact is the government refuses to apply the proper resources to deal with immigration matters and frankly to deal with refugee claims.

Up to a million people are trying to get into this country. The number was about 700,000 several years ago. The government is clearly not interested in helping immigrants get to this country.

In answer to the second question, it is like the government's crime bill. Those who are about to commit an offence do not look at the Criminal Code because they think they might have to spend some time in jail if they commit a crime. People do not think that way.

Similarly, people who are trying to escape life-threatening circumstances do not look at our immigration laws to see how they will be treated when they get here. They will escape to a country that is considered to have a welcoming and inviting reputation, one that presents them with a future for themselves and their children.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point is the Supreme Court struck down a security certificate's detention aspect because it was unjust. Here is the government proposing another piece of legislation that does very similar things.

Does the member not believe that would be justification for striking it down?

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree with the premise of the question. It is in violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is in violation of the Supreme Court decision. It is in violation of the United Nations declaration on the rights of refugees.

I have no doubt that this legislation will be successfully challenged once it is passed by the government.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-4, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act. Unfortunately, the title is an unworthy message for the government to convey to the rest of the world.

My riding of Parkdale--High Park is in downtown Toronto. It is a very mixed income community. For many newcomers to Canada it is a first stopping-off point. Over the years, waves of immigrants have put down roots and created institutions in our community.

Earlier today, I spoke about the 100th anniversary of the Knesseth Israel Shul in my riding. It is the oldest original synagogue in Toronto that is still in use today. Many of the original congregants of this shul came to Canada to escape the persecution that the Jewish community was facing in Europe and other parts of the world, while others came for economic reasons. In many cases, they came with little more than the ability to work hard, their ingenuity and their creativity. Although small, this magnificent institution is so beautiful. It adds glimmer to the heart of a community that was formed 100 years ago in our neighbourhood in the Junction. That is typical of many newcomer communities in Canada.

My community is home to many who have fled Soviet bloc countries: Poles, Ukrainians, people from a variety of backgrounds. We have many Vietnamese, Tamils, Latin Americans, and most recently, Tibetans. We now have the largest Tibetan community in Canada. Also, many of the Roma from Hungary are coming to our community. A number of these community members came here as refugees because they feared for their safety and well-being in their countries of origin.

For example, the repression of Tibetans is well known. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an honorary Canadian citizen and has come to this Parliament. We were all thrilled to meet with him. He so elegantly and generously described the struggle of Tibetans not only in modern day Tibet as it presently exists within China but also in refugee camps in India and Nepal.

Many people around the world are living with instability, war or repression. Refugees are seeking shelter from these conditions.

As part of out citizenry in the international community, Canada has signed international agreements to receive not all refugees, but our share of refugees, and to roll up our sleeves and contribute with the rest of the world to helping those in need.

In fact, I would argue that many other countries do so much more. Some of the poorest countries in the world, countries in Africa for example, have some of the largest numbers of refugees who have fled wars, famine or other kinds of hardships from nearby countries.

Canada's history is one of living up to the international treaties we have signed, as well as living up to our responsibility as a strong member of the international community.

My colleague from the Montreal area spoke earlier about how his family came to Canada as Vietnamese refugees.

We have a large Vietnamese community in Toronto, people who fled with not much more than what they could carry. They have made an enormous contribution to our country.

Again, I look at my own community and the institutions people have built and the tremendous creativity of people, the jobs they have created, the businesses they have opened, the art they have created, and what they offer to our country.

It is a wrong notion that somehow Canadians are paying something when refugees come here. I think we gain a tremendous amount. Canada is built on waves of immigrants, but many refugees as well, and they have made an enormously valuable contribution to our country.

When it comes to this bill, I have to ask myself why we would want to target or demonize refugees. That is what the bill is doing. It is somehow tarnishing refugees and putting all of them under suspicion as potential smugglers and potential abusers of Canada's immigration system.

The bill claims it would crack down on human smuggling, but as the bill currently stands, it concentrates too much power in the hands of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and unfairly penalizes refugees. It sets up different tiers of status for refugees.

Our party would rather deal with criminals, the people who are abusing the system, the people who are indeed trafficking or smuggling. Yes, let us deal with them through our judicial system. However, as it stands, this bill is more likely to hurt legitimate refugees and the people who are trying to help them, people who are seeking safety and solace here in Canada.

As many of my colleagues have described, this process is unclear. It is arbitrary and ultimately very discriminatory. We have to ask ourselves why this bill is even before us when we just approved a refugee law a few months ago. What we need now is full implementation and better enforcement of that law.

The government should be less focused on photo ops and demonizing people who come here seeking legitimate refugee status and more focused on enforcing the laws against human smuggling that we already have and giving the RCMP, who are tasked with this job, the resources they need to get the job done.

Our concern is that the bill is more about politics, very divisive and dangerous politics, and less about ensuring an effective and fair refugee and immigration system.

We are not just saying that. We are backed up by the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Bar Association, an expert panel at the Centre for Refugee Studies. Those who are experts in international law, in our charter rights here in Canada and in international covenants share our deep concern about the flaws of the bill and the damage it could do certainly to our country's reputation, but much more importantly to individual lives. We are talking about people who are at their most desperate, who are fleeing for their lives.

We think this is an unnecessary bill, a bad bill, a bill that is going to tarnish Canada's reputation and endanger those who need shelter most.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I support the emphasis the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park is placing on the importance of refugees here in Canada.

I have had the privilege of working in her area as a law student and had the great opportunity to understand some of the communities that she represents.

In terms of refugees, I am given to understand that Canada receives a higher proportion of refugees than any other country in the world in terms of our population. People around the world put great stock in our refugee policy. In fact, I was just in Iraq and met people who were concerned about coming to Canada. It is only because we can protect the integrity of our refugee system that we can open our doors as we do. I ask the member to respond to that.

Without the abuses that have happened, does she understand that we can therefore protect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of true refugees who would come to our shores?

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what abuses the member is talking about, but I do know that if we look at some of the poorest countries in the world, their number of refugees is far greater than that of Canada. While we may have a smaller population, we certainly have the resources and land mass to be able to accommodate refugees.

I would ask the member, in response to his question, for someone who understands my community and understands the importance of the refugee and immigration system, how can he justify the mandatory detention of children? How can he justify violating international treaties with the bill? These are treaties that we have signed onto and are part of our international commitment.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I share many of the concerns of this flawed piece of legislation with the member for Parkdale—High Park.

Earlier in the debate, the member for Toronto Centre suggested that, given the concerns that have been expressed by the Canadian Bar Association, the former chair of the Immigration Refugee Board, and many other legal commentators on this matter, it would be appropriate to have the bill referenced to the Supreme Court of Canada.

I wonder if the member for Parkdale—High Park and her party would support that suggestion from the Liberal Party.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, in analyzing the bill I look to the expertise of those who work in the field of immigration and refugee law: the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Bar Association, and the Centre for Refugee Studies. All of these organizations have said that the bill is draconian, that it could violate the charter, that it could violate our international commitments, and it is legislation that is not needed given the recent adoption of the refugee bill earlier this year.

I think it would be of great value to the House to have opinion from outside experts to analyze whether this bill would likely be a contravention to the laws that govern our land and international treaties that we have signed.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, of the 492 men, women and children who came to Canada on the MV Sun Sea, a significant number were indeed children. Ten of those children came to live in London, Ontario. They are sponsored and supported by the Tamil community there. Last Christmas they put on a concert with singing, music, and a nativity scene. Some of them were as young as two and a half years old.

I come back to the member. Why on earth would we ever support a bill that would allow for the incarceration of children?

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1 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know what the Conservatives have against children.

I think it goes down to our essential humanity. If we support families and the value of refugee processes, then we have to understand that these are very draconian measures that could be very harmful to children.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-4 has a very clear short title: Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act. That sounds right, pertinent and unequivocal. We expect a well thought-out bill that would help our law enforcement agencies catch criminals who are involved in human trafficking, a very serious crime that is punishable by life in prison.

Except for in this title, there is no other mention of smugglers. They vanish just as quickly as they came. There is not another word about them, and the emphasis shifts immediately to refugees, the very victims of the smugglers mentioned in the title. And how are these refugees treated in this bill? They are described as potential terrorists, fleeing criminals or people abusing Canada's goodwill and the hospitality of its institutions.

In fact, the bill seems to be suggesting to Canadians that the current refugee processing legislation is naive. It needs to be updated and reflect the current focus on international terrorism. We quickly realize that the real short title of this bill is something along the lines of “the arbitrary radicalization of the legal treatment of refugees act”.

We should not think that we do not already have a law that targets smugglers. This phenomenon was not discovered last week. This criminal act is already punishable by a very severe sentence, the most severe sentence in fact: life in prison.

Why does this bill focus on refugees? Why does it want to make them guilty of other people's crimes?

What is a refugee? Must I remind the House? From the outset, we are talking about almost unbearable situations. We are talking about men, women and children who have only one simple hope left. They have just spent several weeks at sea in unsanitary conditions. They are put on unsafe boats with no guarantee of safety. When they finally reach land, they often do not have passports or any money. They have basically been denied their human dignity and who has done this? The smugglers that this bill supposedly wants to bring to justice. However, these smugglers cannot be found. They are still abroad where they continue to engage in illegal practices. In return for large amounts of money, these smugglers lead less fortunate, persecuted people who do not feel safe in their own country to believe that they will have a better life in a developed country. Those people are victims and nothing more. They are in the most vulnerable state possible.

What is the Conservative government proposing we do to lighten the load for these victims whose courage and determination brought them to Canada? The Conservatives are proposing that we persecute them even further by treating them like criminals and looking for terrorists among children. Who will be given the right to do this? A government institution that is well-equipped with experts? The RCMP? No. To our great surprise, it is the Minister of Immigration who would have this right. I would like to ask why.

Why would a minister be granted such power? It is completely unjustified. It would be a backward move, a legal anomaly that would be fundamentally unCanadian. In this country, we do not place such a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of a minister.

From a strictly legal point of view, this could violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-4 could be contrary to section 9 of the charter, which pertains to arbitrary detention. By creating two categories of refugees, Bill C-4 could violate section 15 of the Charter, which pertains to equality before the law. The NDP is of the opinion that Canadians do not feel there is any justification for questioning such things. The charter is a building block of our state. If we circumvent the charter, we are circumventing democracy.

If I may, I would like to give an example to show just how weak the government's argument in favour of Bill C-4 is. I hope I have the Conservatives' attention. I repeat, the NDP takes its legislative responsibilities very seriously, especially when it comes to the safety of Canadians. That is our duty. Consider the case of a refugee who has been detained as a designated foreign national under Bill C-4, but decides to exercise his rights and take the government to court over these violations of his basic charter rights. It must be understood that this person was incarcerated without any valid reason whatsoever. Well, there is a provision, in section 1, that allows reasonable limits on Canada's basic rights and freedoms. That said, the burden of proof lies with the government, which must prove that a rule of law that it is adopting can override the charter.

Such exceptions are justifiable only within reasonable and demonstrable limits in the context of a free and democratic society. As proof, in R. v. Oakes in 1986, a judge described very clearly what has since become known as the Oakes test, to determine whether such limitations on basic rights are justifiable in the context of a free and democratic society.

How does the Conservative government plan to prove that 12-month, arbitrary detentions imposed by a ministerial decision will satisfy those criteria? I am referring to the minimal impairment criteria. Will the new legislation the government wants to use to achieve its objective repudiate a charter right in the smallest possible way? Will the limitations on basic rights be proportional to the objective of this new legislation? No. From a legal perspective, that is all untenable. This government cannot justify limiting basic rights like that.

The problem lies in the fact that the smugglers are the real criminals in this matter. And where are they? Are they in the makeshift boats that land on our shores? Do they accompany their victims? No, they are long gone and untouchable. And the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism cannot do anything about it, regardless of the powers he gives himself.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the only organization capable of cracking down on human smugglers. The RCMP's expertise is a precious and available resource. Its legal role has already been established and there is no risk of abuse. The NDP believes that our police force should be provided with the resources required to go after these criminals. The NDP does not understand what future immigration ministers would accomplish by incarcerating these refugees.

There is no justification for this bill. It does nothing to improve the security of Canada and its population. It punishes people who need us. And, above all, it does not provide the RCMP with the necessary resources and wastes its expertise. The measures are arbitrary. Yes, the problem does need to be resolved. We must pass legislation against smugglers. Unfortunately, the Conservative government is taking the wrong approach. It is proposing to indiscriminately put all refugees through the wringer. It is trying to kill a fly with sledgehammer. What criteria will be used to determine who is a designated foreign national? Why is the bill not clear in this regard? It is unacceptable to introduce such vague legislation.

Canada was not built by giving such absolute discretion to a minister. We realistically expect that laws be rational and predictable. That is not at all the case with Bill C-4, and I am disappointed.

In closing, who are the biggest abusers of the immigration system? It is the Conservatives. Taking their cue from a vague feeling of xenophobia, they are claiming to deal with a scourge, yet they are doing nothing more than playing politics, and rather shamelessly at that. They are trying to appropriate abusive powers, nothing less. They are trying to tarnish Canada's good name. That is unwarranted. Our country is a symbol of justice throughout the world. For millions of people living precariously, Canada is a symbol of hope and humanity.

Does the Conservative government, which incessantly proclaims its patriotism, truly want to diminish our greatest achievement just for a shameful power grab? There are not many countries like Canada, and it is our duty to maintain its generosity, which is legendary and the reason why Canada is held in high regard throughout the world. More powerful nations would give anything for such an illustrious reputation.

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very intently to my colleague across the way. We do take our duty as legislators very seriously. As a matter of fact, during the last campaign we let Canadians know exactly what our intentions were with regard to this type of legislation.

Not only that, but the response I have received is that we want to maintain Canada's great reputation as a country that takes in more refugees than any other developed country and provides for them every opportunity.

I have heard from members opposite that the asylum seekers are detained for 12 months before receiving a trial, but I would like to point out that those who are detained have access to legal counsel throughout the process, something that does not occur in every country in the world. As soon as these asylum seekers are determined to be refugees, they are released. If the minister thinks there is a humanitarian concern; for example, people with children or an illness, he has the discretion to make exceptions.

Therefore, can the member opposite explain why the opposition is consistently ignoring these facts when talking about the minister and the level of his discretion within the bill?

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

When refugees arrive in Canada without papers or anything else because they have fled a war-torn country or an absolutely horrific situation, we cannot then put them in preventive detention and tell them that they have the right to legal counsel. Imagine. These people are completely impoverished and have no way of defending themselves against this type of illegal action.

The government likes to brag about welcoming refugees, so why is it that the Canadian Council for Refugees is opposed to this bill? Why are Amnesty International and the Canadian Bar Association both saying the same thing: that this makes no sense?

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1:10 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I, too, listened to a number of presentations this morning. I have a question for the member as well.

I will quickly set the question up in terms of content. In the 40th Parliament, we introduced this bill, almost identical to the way the bill is today. The opposition parties were very clear that they would not support this at second reading and would not allow it to go to committee so we could have had the exact discussions that the member spoke about where some recommendations from them could have been brought forward.

We have reintroduced pretty much the same bill. I am listening to all these speeches. I am hearing opposition members complain about what the government is trying to do, even though most Canadians support what we are trying to accomplish. I hear nothing in the way of recommendations or suggestions as to how they would make the bill stronger. I would ask them to please give me one or two suggestions.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I said in my speech that it is important to try and do something about human trafficking. The bill, as it stands, only serves to punish refugees who arrive here under the worst possible conditions. If the bill at least contained something about human trafficking and smuggling, of course we could get on board and see what was there. But right now I see absolutely nothing worthwhile in this bill.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her very relevant comments. Why does she think that the government has decided to go after refugees instead of focusing on criminals?

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the current context, it is clearly simpler and easier to pretend to crack down on human trafficking by targeting the most vulnerable people, who have very little means to defend themselves and assert their rights.

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4. However, I wish it were a bill that would enhance our place and our policies as a forward-looking country. Instead, the bill is the direct opposite. It would move our policies and our place in the world backward, showing a kind of intolerance that we might have seen half a century ago.

The bill is a policy that is built on fear, intolerance, ideology and an avoidance of the serious facts. Laws should be improved, in my view, based on facts and on knowledge of what works.

Bill C-4 is a bill that almost gives the minister dictatorial powers. I will name three particular areas. I am especially concerned about that particular minister.

The bill would authorize the minister to designate as an irregular arrival the arrival in Canada of a group of persons, the result of which is that some of the foreign nationals in the group become designated foreign nationals. It would authorize an officer or the minister to refuse to consider an application for permanent residence. It would provide that a person may not become a permanent resident as long as an application by the minister for cessation of that person's refugee protection is pending.

I outline those points just to show how the bill would basically give the minister almost dictatorial powers. He or she would have a lot of say and a lot of authority over the lives of people who perhaps are thinking of moving to the promised land.

It is a bill that almost certainly, I believe, will be found to violate our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

My colleague, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, summed it up best. I will restate for the record his comments because they cut to the heart of the serious issues in the bill. The member for Lac-Saint-Louis stated:

It [the bill] creates two classes of refugees. One class would be the regular refugee stream. The second class would be denoted by the minister as designated arrivals, which, upon being designated accordingly, would be treated differently. They could be held in detention for up to 12 months.

What is really happening is that the government is categorizing refugees. It is creating classes of refugees for different treatment based on, if we really look at it and read between the lines, the mode of transport the refugee claimants have used to get here. Refugees who come by plane typically would not come in big groups and would not receive the ministerial designation of designated foreign nationals and would not receive the different treatment that is being reserved for designated foreign nationals in this bill.

He concluded by saying:

Refugees who come in groups who will be designated as designated foreign nationals under the act typically will come by ship in squalid conditions. If they come by plane, they are not considered to be designated foreign nationals under the law.

I think that sums up one of the greatest concerns in the bill.

The long and short of the bill is that, in many cases, Bill C-4 would make victims of the very people that Canada traditionally and historically has tried to help. I find it amazing that the government, which is always talking about the protection of victims, is, in this instance, using ministerial authority and attacking the very victims themselves through Bill C-4. It goes against the kind of traditions and history we have as a country. We are losing our respect around the world by the actions of the bill and the government almost on a daily basis.

For a government that often goes to great lengths to talk about victims, then Bill C-4 exploits victims who are so often victims as a result of human smugglers themselves.

The people who get on these ships get fed a line in their home country. They may be fleeing persecution or war. They are, as I said, fed a line, told a story. They sometimes very innocently get involved and believe they are going to a welcoming country because Canada traditionally was a welcoming country until some of the activities of the current government.

We are a country that is historically seen as a country with the balance of law, protection of rights and freedoms, not a country that makes victims of people who are fleeing persecution or war, or being abused in other ways, but that is what the bill could possibly do. The bill could in fact leave those who come here further exploited by a law and actions perpetuated by the government itself.

Canada has a long deserved reputation as a safe haven for those so deserving of a haven in the world. We are a country of immigrants and a country, to a certain extent, of refugees. The ancestors of many of us in the House came from foreign lands. Mine came from England and Scotland. They came to this country and built a great country that was open to all.

In attempting to deal with a small criminal element, the federal government should be extremely careful and must take the necessary time to ensure that legislation, such as Bill C-4, accomplishes what it intends while respecting both our international obligations and domestic laws. I believe the bill seriously fails to do that.

As the parliamentary secretary said a moment ago, the bill was introduced in the last Parliament. It was opposed in the last Parliament by the opposition and opposed strenuously. We would think that a reasonable government would have taken that as a message that there were some problems with the bill, would have taken it back and met with other groups across the country and tried to change it and recognize some of the concerns. We cannot throw out everything the opposition says. We have some reasoned opinion too, and the government should have listened to that, been concerned about it and changed the bill accordingly.

In response to the bill, the Liberal Party has raised a number of concerns that we believe need to be addressed. My colleague, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, outlined those concerns and they are on the record. We are committed as a party to finding pragmatic and evidence-based solutions to human smuggling. We reject this draconian and backward piece of legislation that targets legitimate refugee claimants and not the real criminals, the human smugglers themselves.

As I said earlier, the bill is really nothing more than crass fearmongering and we cannot support the bill as currently constituted.

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1:25 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I want to correct the record. I appreciate the fact that the member is making his presentation and speech on how he feels about Bill C-4 but he does need to ensure he is delivering what is factually in the bill.

He indicated that it would create two streams of refugees. In fact, that is not the case. The individuals who are on these ships are not refugees. They are not refugees until they have actually gone through the process and have either qualified or not qualified through the process. Therefore, in no way, shape or form are there two sets of refugees based on the bill. It is a very factual bill and the member needs to ensure he is correct on it.

I do want to ask him one question. He indicated that the government was not prepared to listen in the 40th Parliament with respect to the bill. I would say to him that if he looks at Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, and looks at Bill C-35, the crooked consultant act, he will find that we listened to all the parties on the opposite side of the House and came back to the House with both those bills passed unanimously.

Why will he not try to help us get the bill passed at second reading and get it into committee so we can talk about it?

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary can try to allege in the detail certain things, but the fact is the net result at the end of the day, because of the actions in the bill, is there will be two classes of refugees.

As I have said in my remarks, the Liberal Party believes very seriously that there has to be a serious discussion on the bill. The bill is based on fearmongering, mainly, and the reaction to what happened in one ship and needs to be more seriously thought out before it becomes law.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question regarding his comments about the fact that the bill would create two classes of refugees.

What does the member believe the effect would be on refugees and also on Canada's image around the world?

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the impact or effect on refugees is very clear. As I outlined in my speech, with one class of refugees, the bill, as sponsored by the Government of Canada, would be made victims of the very people that Canada has traditionally welcomed as a safe haven.

It is kind of guided on the possibility that we would be going after human smugglers. That is not necessarily so. The human smugglers may be getting off the hook, but the people who have been encouraged either to get on a boat or whatever by these human smugglers and abused in that way, in terms of their financial and human resources, are themselves, rather than us helping them as a country, going to be made the victims. That is the bottom line. That is the long and the short of it.

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1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, in his presentation, the member mentioned that some of the people on these ships are fleeing prosecution.

Is Canada the destination and is Canada a country that should providing safe haven for those people fleeing prosecution in their country? Is that the kind of immigration we want to establish?

The member said that people on these ships are fleeing prosecution. Is Canada, in his mind, supposed to be the kind of country that is providing a safe haven for criminals and criminal organizations trying to escape justice in their own countries?

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would think that Hansard would have that word correct. It is really “persecution”. However, with my Island accent, it might have sounded different for the member for Yukon, who is so far away up there in the chamber.

Certainly we want to help people who are fleeing persecution or wars in other countries. That has been our tradition. We have always been an open haven and a welcoming country and operated on good laws. This, as I said in my remarks, would move us back to a different time, to a less open haven as a country—

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1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have before us a bill that is rather questionable in several respects. It is also a bill that, unfortunately, demonstrates some very worrying trends we see in this government.

This bill was criticized in its previous, but similar, incarnation by a number of experts and organizations for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons that often came up was the fact that this bill does not respect our international obligations. Amnesty International is now saying that Bill C-4 does not respect Canada's obligations in terms of human rights and refugee protection, and that it would lead to serious violations of the rights of refugees and migrants.

This illustrates some trends. It is very clear that this government is not always strong when it comes to respecting its international obligations and commitments. Take, for example, the Kyoto protocol or the treatment of Omar Khadr, to name just two. Then we wonder why Canada's reputation is suffering in the world. These issues play a big part in that.

In this particular case, both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees are being violated. And we are not the only ones saying that. Experts such as the Canadian Bar Association agree. I would like to read a quote from a Canadian Bar Association report about Bill C-49 that also applies to Bill C-4:

The denial of detention reviews breaches the section 9 and section 10 Charter protections against arbitrary detention and right to prompt review of detention. The provisions for mandatory unreviewable detention and for denial of access to permanent resident status or travel documents conflict with Canada’s obligations [and I would like to emphasize “Canada's obligations”] under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Association goes even further, and I quote:

The Bill C-49 mandatory detention provisions (and other punitive measures) would also violate Article 31 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Convention, ratified by Canada and more than 180 countries, sets out obligations for the treatment of refugees seeking protection within their borders. Article 31 prohibits the imposition of penalties against refugees on account of their illegal entry or presence without authorization.

Yet that is exactly what this bill would do.

We know that this government does not always have the utmost respect for experts, but I think it is important to continue quoting the experts from the Canadian Bar Association. They also point out that this bill violates Article 28 of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees concerning the right to a travel document.

Finally, and to finish quoting this report, the bill also violates the obligation under Article 34 of the United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees, which states, “The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings”, and the duration of such proceedings.

What is more, in this bill we see the government's very typical tendency to arbitrariness. The minister gives himself power, as my hon. colleague was saying earlier, that is arbitrary and lacks transparency. The proposed detentions are essentially arbitrary detentions.

The third tendency we see in this bill is the refusal to listen to expert opinion. I believe there are 80 different agencies that had something to say about the previous bill, which was identical to this one. Every one of them, in one way or another, indicated their dissatisfaction, their problems and their serious concerns with the bill, but the government is not taking that into consideration.

One last problem with this bill is the fact that it claims to be about punishing smugglers. It does not punish smugglers; it punishes refugees. It creates two categories of refugees because a refugee arriving by plane is not the same as a refugee arriving by boat.

We know that people who fish have developed nets with which they can catch tuna and let dolphins go free. In this bill, we get the impression that if the smugglers are the dolphins and the refugees are the tuna in this analogy, then the government is casting a large net to catch refugees and let the smugglers go free.

From the simple standpoint of respecting international conventions—let alone the other problems with this bill—this legislative measure is a disaster. Canada's image has suffered greatly over the past few years and this is certainly not going to help. Far from it.

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1:40 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I certainly understand that under parliamentary procedure and the fact that we have three parties in the House of Commons we will not to see eye to eye on every issue, but when members speak to an issue, it should be from the perspective of clarity. I am hearing continuously both from the member and those who have spoken before her this image they want to portray that there are two streams of refugees. She is making assumptions that are completely unjustified.

The fact is that individuals who come on those ships are not refugees. They do not land and immediately have refugee status. They must go through a process like every other individual who lands in this country and claims refugee status has to go through.

People who have been declared refugees by the United Nations, who are not in this country but are waiting in other countries, deserve and have earned the right for a new life. We offer that in Canada. Those are the people who come here to live and lead a better life.

Why do the member and her party continue to try to misinterpret what the bill means? Please clarify for me why she misinterprets what the bill means?

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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to note that the answers given by my colleague across the floor all presume that these are not legitimate refugees, but rather bogus refugees. The organization Rethink Refugees reminds us that under international law, arriving by boat is completely legal. Individuals cannot be charged simply because they arrived by boat. It also reminds us that the vast majority of passengers are legitimate asylum seekers. But instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt and treating them like people who are suffering, which is what they are, the government is reversing the burden of proof.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is clearly a public safety measure. Invoking Omar Khadr as a method of trying to communicate on this issue is questionable judgment at best. I have a question for the hon. member opposite.

What does the hon. member have to say to Canadians who want to keep their families, their streets and their communities safe?

A simple question.

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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I would like to tell Canadians, including myself, people I know and my family who want to keep our streets safe, is that the source of crime in Canada is not boatloads of refugees armed to the teeth who are coming here to attack us. That is just not the reality. I find it rather odd that some people automatically think it is a criminal matter when refugees come to seek assistance from Canada.

I would also point out that Canada is but one country in the world. Its security comes from global security. Helping refugees and showing compassion for other countries will only benefit Canada's security in the long run.

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1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

There is enough time for a short question and a brief answer.

The hon. member for d'Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, in her speech, my colleague emphasized the fact that expert reports state that the bill does not comply with the law, for example. I would like to know if there is a reason why the Conservative government, before introducing this bill, did not pay heed to what the experts said?

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues for their questions, something I did not do before.

This is indeed rather disturbing. However, as I said in my presentation, this government seems to have a tendency to pay little attention to expert opinion. In this case, I quoted at length from the Canadian Bar Association report, because I thought it was important. I do not think the Association can be accused of being biased and its comments should have been taken into account.

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I listen to the debate in this House on Bill C-4, there are some very obvious themes that are arising. One of the central themes that we keep coming back to is the issue of fundamental human rights and freedoms. I think that the Canadian public and we ourselves in this chamber can reasonably expect some disagreements between members of different parties. Sometimes those disagreements can be profound disagreements.

However, it saddens me that we disagree on these very issues of fundamental human rights and freedoms. It seems to me that we in this chamber should not have to be debating whether or not everything we do, every bill we consider, should be based on, or consistent with, principles that human beings are entitled to fundamental rights and freedoms. One would have thought, or at least hoped, that we were past that.

We have, after all, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that forms part of the Constitution of this country. It recognizes, as I hope we all do, that certain rights and freedoms are not conferred just by way of Canadian citizenship but are universal. In the words of the charter, they belong to everyone.

Long before our charter, we were signatories to the charter of the United Nations. As that charter says, we became signatories as a result of our determination:

to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war [...], and

to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

What follows, of course, is our signature on a number of United Nations conventions and declarations that are intended to put these beliefs into practice. So profoundly certain are we of the legitimacy of such fundamental human rights and freedoms that we are even prepared from time to time to send Canadian men and women around the world and into war to protect people, not just Canadians but people of all citizenship, who are denied such rights and suffer as a result.

We all know there are many places around the world where people are denied such rights and freedoms, and are subject to discrimination, persecution, violence and even wrongful prosecution. From time to time, people end up on our shores, seeking safe haven or asylum from more persecution, understanding that this is a country known to the world as a place where one can enjoy such rights and freedoms in peace.

One would hope that we respond to such people in a manner consistent with our explicit commitments to respect fundamental rights and freedoms, the most obvious of these commitments being our own charter of course but also, most relevant to Bill C-4, the commitments we have made to the international community about the appropriate treatment of refugees and, indeed, children.

However, Bill C-4 strays from those commitments, some of which have governed or guided us for 60 years. I would like to point today to a few parts of this bill where I think this is the case.

Bill C-4 places into the hands of the minister the power to create a second or, in the terms of the bill, a designated class of refugee claimants. There are very few criteria or parameters made explicit in the bill for making such a designation, leaving very broad discretion to the minister and therefore little accountability for the decision. This is of great importance because of the profound implications of being placed into the designated group. Mandatory detention follows such designation.

Section 7 of our charter says:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Which is to say, if we are going to deprive someone of life, liberty or security, we better have a really good reason for doing so and a really sound process for doing so, a reason and process that enjoys the consensus of all Canadians.

The good reason and the sound process do not exist under Bill C-4. One of the few explicit reasons the minister can invoke the designation is out of suspicion that those claiming refugee status have already been victimized by a smuggler.

Further, the detentions are group detentions, which is to say that the bill does not require an assessment of the threat that any individual refugee claimant may pose. Absent such an assessment, the detention of everybody means, at a minimum, the arbitrary detention of somebody. Such arbitrary detention raises the violation of section 9 of our charter; that is, the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

The fact that there is no review of the detention for at least 12 months raises further issues. Section 10 of the charter requires that everyone arrested or detained has the right to: be informed promptly of the reasons therefore; retain and instruct counsel and to be informed of that right; and to have the validity of the detention determined within 48 hours and to be released if the detention is not lawful.

To return to an earlier point, the detention for in fact seeking asylum, and that we need to keep in mind just what triggers this detention, simply a claim for refugee status, seems also to run afoul of the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees, which says:

The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who...present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.

Article 31 of the refugee convention further states:

The Contracting States shall not apply to the movements of such refugees restrictions other than those which are necessary--

Of course, as previously discussed, the designation process does not provide for an assessment of necessary restrictions of movement for individuals as the movement of everybody in the designated group is restricted simply as a matter of being so designated.

Sadly, the denial of rights and freedoms to those in designated groups extends beyond their recognition as a refugee by this country.

First, Bill C-4 would prevent designated refugees from applying for temporary or permanent resident status for five years and further, prevents them from obtaining refugee travel documents for five years. Again, this would seem to breach the refugee convention to which we are a signatory, which provides that the contracting states shall issue to refugees lawfully staying in their territory travel documents for the purpose of travel outside their territory unless compelling reasons of national security or public order otherwise require.

Second, Bill C-4 would impose on refugees from a designated group a continuing obligation to report to an officer to answer questions and provide information or documents as so requested. This kind of surveillance outside of the criminal justice system is unheard of in Canada. Further, it must be remembered that this kind of surveillance under Bill C-4 flows from the very arbitrary designation in the first place.

The sum total of the foregoing analysis of Bill C-4, albeit cursory and partial as it is, goes to my final point.

Bill C-4, if we are to believe its title, is intended to counter human smuggling. Throughout this entire debate I cannot recall any member of the House making the claim that human smuggling is not a serious offence, that it is not a practice that should be defeated, and that offenders should not be subject to very serious punishment. Human smuggling is after all the exploitation for profit and/or other nefarious advantage of people who are most vulnerable, and in most need of protection.

The perversity of this legislation is that it heaps punishment on those very same people that the human smugglers are exploiting. A further twist to that perversity is that not only does the bill promise harsh treatment for those seeking asylum in this country, a country where they come in the hopes of being able to enjoy the rights and freedoms that they could not access at home, but it proposes to deny these asylum seekers the very rights and freedoms that define this country for ourselves and in the international community, and make us so proud to be citizens of it.

Somebody gave the bill a very fine and aspirational title, and then things went very seriously wrong. If it is the belief of the government that provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are insufficient to deal with human smuggling, then I would urge the government to bring back before the House a bill that punishes human smugglers, not those that they exploit.

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1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member continues to misrepresent the purpose of detention. We have heard time and again that detention is for one purpose, and that is to identify who these individuals are if they turn up without documents, as is almost always the case on these vessels. The authorities must have the time to properly identify these people and the bill provides that time.

I wonder why the member seems to be saying that we should let anyone turn up on our shores to roam our streets and communities without first knowing who they are and what kind of threat they may pose to Canada. Could he please answer that question?

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague seems to understate the limitations that the detention imposes on people. In this country, we take very seriously the right of everyone to liberty, life and security, but the bill would not respect those rights. Holding people, including children, the elderly, the disabled and those who so obviously pose no threat to this country, in detention for a minimum of a year is a breach of fundamental human rights and freedoms and entirely unnecessary.

I would suggest that the government put forward a bill that would find a way to manage and administer large groups of refugee claimants who come to this country in a way that respects rights and freedoms.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was a little surprised in terms of the Conservative member's question. I was under the understanding, based on what the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said, that the primary reason for this particular bill is to target the profiteers, the smugglers.

Having said that, I ask the member if, in his opinion, he believes that Bill C-4 would have more of an impact on the profiteers and smugglers, or would he agree with the Liberal Party in saying that the real impact would be in making victims of the refugees.

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, as reluctant as I am to agree with the Liberal Party, I think I do in this case and I will have to admit so.

The reasons for the detention are, frankly, quite elusive. They are not there in the bill and they are at the minister's discretion. It seems entirely arbitrary and vague at best.

I think it is most certainly the case that what is happening here under the bill is that we would end up mistreating refugee claimants to this country, presumably, if I am to follow the logic of the title, in an effort to somehow get at the human smugglers. However, I see nothing in the bill that in fact provides a means for dealing with the smuggling itself.

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2 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are mobilizing our troops to go to Libya, to teach the world about democracy and supposedly to bring in better practices. What will we fight in countries with a dictatorship? We will fight everything that is arbitrary, all the random acts of people who grab power.

Are we not heading down a very slippery slope?

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2 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my speech, I tried to point out that this is a country that is, in fact, putting our forces into war zones around the world, presumably for the purpose of protecting the fundamental human rights and freedoms that we are speaking of here today. There is a very profound fundamental inconsistency between that language and those actions that the Conservatives are talking about and their consideration of human rights and freedoms in the bill.

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2 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, gives new latitude to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism when it comes to refugees and newcomers. The bill gives the minister new discretionary powers over the legal system as it applies to refugees and it limits the rights of newcomers.

According to the bill, the minister has the power to designate as an “irregular arrival” the arrival in Canada of a group of persons, and then to identify some members of that group as “designated foreign nationals”. The bill restricts the rights of these foreign nationals who want to receive permanent resident status in Canada by means of the following measures: first, the right of an officer or the minister to reject an application for permanent residence from a designated foreign national; second, the power to detain a permanent resident or a foreign national because there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the person concerned is inadmissible on grounds of serious criminality or organized criminality; third, detention rules and a review procedure that are specific to the detention of certain designated foreign nationals; fourth, the provision stating that a person cannot become a permanent resident as long as an application by the minister for cessation of that person's refugee protection is pending; fifth, for the purposes of determining the penalty for certain offences, the addition to the list of aggravating factors of the fact that, as a result of the offence committed, the life or safety of any person was endangered; and, lastly, the extension of the time for instituting proceedings by way of summary conviction from six months to five years.

In addition to arbitrarily and inadequately amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, this bill also amends the Marine Transportation Security Act by imposing more severe sentences on people who fail to provide the required information before a vessel enters Canadian waters, people who fail to comply with ministerial orders, and people who provide erroneous or misleading information. The bill also creates a new offence related to vessels that fail to comply with ministerial orders. It also amends the existing act by authorizing the enforcement of rules governing the disclosure of certain information in order to ensure the safety or security of Canada and Canadians.

I would like to express my concern about the concepts of “regular arrival” and “designated foreign nationals”. The minister can deem the arrival of a group of refugees to be an “irregular arrival” if he believes that examinations cannot be done in a timely manner, if he suspects that the people were smuggled in exchange for money, or if he suspects that a criminal organization or terrorist group is involved in the smuggling. The people in the group that the minster deems to be “designated foreign nationals” will be subject to a legally questionable system of justice. First, we must consider whether this concept violates section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which pertains to equal rights, or article 31 of the UN convention relating to the status of refugees, which prohibits states from imposing penalties on refugees for their illegal entry or presence in the country.

Article 31(1) states: “The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.”

Bill C-4 may also be contrary to section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which pertains to arbitrary detention.

This section states, “Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.” In contrast, the bill allows for the arbitrary detention of designated foreign nationals for a period of 12 months. Furthermore, in terms of procedure, decisions related to claims made by designated foreign nationals cannot be appealed to the refugee appeal division. This provision is discriminatory and may even contravene the UN convention relating to the status of refugees.

Lastly, it is worth noting that the minister can retroactively confer the legal status of designated foreign national on anyone who has arrived in Canada since March 31, 2009, which means that the Ocean Lady and Sun Sea passengers could be subject to this precarious legal status.

This bill, which is supposed to punish individuals who engage in human trafficking, is completely inappropriate in that we already have legislation that imposes a life sentence for people convicted of such activities. This bill creates a second class of refugees who are denied permanent residence, temporary residence permits, the right to apply for permanent residence based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and, finally, refugee travel documents. It creates inequality before the law, simply because the minister has identified these people as designated foreign nationals based solely on the mode of transportation they used to enter Canada.

Bill C-4 to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which was introduced not by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism but by the Minister of Public Safety, shows the government's willingness to pursue an ideological security policy that is detrimental to refugees and newcomers.

Under the guise of working to combat human smuggling, this bill penalizes refugees who are already in difficult situations and who have chosen to come to Canada simply to improve their living conditions. NDP members rejected this bill when it was introduced in the previous Parliament as Bill C-49 and they will do so again in this Parliament because the bill is inadequate, it violates international law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it tarnishes Canada's international image as a welcoming country.

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2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the debate on this bill and there are some facts that should be addressed.

First, Canada has a very generous immigration and refugee system. The majority of the people arriving in this country arrive as accepted applicants for permanent residency. There are a lot of refugees from different parts of the world who come under a UN program.

This legislation is aimed at people who use smugglers and at smugglers whose business is bringing people to this country illegally. There is a lot of discussion around the rights of people.

I have question for the hon. member. Do the citizens of this country have a right to protection? Does the government and Parliament not have an obligation to protect the country's borders and to protect our citizens?

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2:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. Canada has the right to be protected from smugglers, from the real criminals. Canada has the right to invest in the RCMP to give police the means to conduct investigations and arrest smugglers. However, Canadians also have the right to hear from the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Centre for Refugee Studies and the Canadian Bar Association, so that the laws and regulations respect the rights of Canadians.

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2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, many organizations have said that the bill contravenes the charter. Our party leader has suggested that we seek the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada as to the constitutionality of this bill.

Does the member agree with this idea?

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2:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

In response to what I have heard from the other side of the House, all scenarios are on the table. It is important that the government listen to the opposition and especially to organizations such as the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, the Canadian Bar Association, the Centre for Refugee Studies, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which give advice on how to improve laws and regulations. It is very important that the proposed bill be improved.

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2:10 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his presentation.

He mentioned problems related to the fact that this bill is not consistent with certain international conventions, particularly United Nations conventions. I would like my colleague to talk about the impact that could have on Canada's image on the world stage.

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2:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his question.

Canada has always been perceived by other countries as a welcoming nation, as a very democratic country that gives new arrivals a chance to make their way. If we fail to respect all the laws, charters and advice from the agencies mentioned earlier, I think our reputation as a welcoming nation will be seriously and profoundly tarnished.

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2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a little bit last minute but I will try to put a couple of thoughts together. I do not think I will take too much time but I will try to resume what has been spoken about.

We have been talking about two classes of refugees, basically the type of bill this is, and we are obviously hearing rhetoric from both sides of the House. However, when members listen to what we have to say, it is normal that we are the ones who are right in this area because the Liberal Party brought in the charter and believe in giving people the rights to which they are entitled.

It is astounding what we hear from the Conservative government. I have a piece of paper with the background of what brought all this to light.

In August, 2010, a total of 492 Tamils arrived on a boat. The time before that, in 2009, 76 Tamils arrived here on a boat. In the last couple of years, we have had about a thousand people who have come on a boat claiming refugee status. Now, all of a sudden it requires a new bill. Every person who has ever come in a boat, any person who has come from Sri Lanka, any person of Tamil background is considered a terrorist. Anybody who has ever been an immigrant, anybody who has ever made a refugee request is considered a criminal. Where is the end in all this?

All this does is create controversy and division, which is typical of what the government does, but most of all, it is supposed to be a cost-conscious type of government and this costs money. All this amount of paper for what? Because the government is saying that criminals are in the boats? Those are not the criminals.

The bill does not address the criminals, the smugglers. So, what are we looking at? There are criminals on the boat, criminals arriving on the boat and criminals sending the boat. The criminals who are sending the boat from wherever the place of departure is, are not being addressed. However, all of a sudden, anybody who has ever set foot in a boat now becomes a criminal, according to the other side, and anybody associated with wanting to help those people is considered a criminal.

What does that mean? That means that we will need to pay consultants, lawyers and all kinds of people to ensure those supposed criminals, however many there are, will be put in a detention centre and supervised. They will go be uneducated, not being fully utilized for any of the services, and then again it will cost money.

I have examples in my office, representing a riding in an urban centre rampant with immigrants and refugees, of people who come for help. The majority of the refugees who come to my constituency office, and sometimes do pass by my house, come with some of the best family values we could ever imagine. Their kids go to school. They are not out of line. They get great grades. The parents are working at not one job, but two jobs and sometimes three. They are working around the clock because they have come here to make a better life. The life that they have left behind is not the life they wanted, not only for themselves, but for their families. The people across the chamber should realize that those are the people we are talking about.

Canada brings in 300,000 people every year and 40,000 or 50,000 of those are refugees. Is the bill, by trying to penalize the people on the boats, like we said, creating a separate class, worth the cost?

There would be additional cost involved afterward when we consider the logistics of trying to accommodate these people. We would be putting them in a detention centre for up to a year, and some people are saying up to five years. I am not the expert so I would not be able to say how much that would cost, but we have had numbers up to a couple of billion dollars, which is a thousand million, in case somebody is wondering how much that is.

Hearing the rhetoric from all sides of the House, eventually someone will dispute the bill in a court of law, which will cost money. The Conservative lawyers will get rich and probably pay independent contractors $90,000 a day. Again, this will create controversy and division and for what? We still have not arrested or incarcerated a single smuggler.

There are different ways to address this. I am told that the immigration minister has nothing to do with the bill, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is defending it. The government is tossing the bill around, saying it is a question of security, but the parliamentary secretary is defending the bill. I feel sorry for him because he is a good guy and a good parliamentarian too. It is very difficult to address the validity of the bill.

I am a big promoter of sending a bill to committee to try to make it better, but there does not seem to be a willingness to make the bill better because it is a failure from the start. As my leader and our critic have said in previous discussions, the bill is totally against the Charter of Freedoms and Rights. As an accountant, that tells me it will cost dollars, so again the Conservative government does nothing better than to spend money on professionals, contractors and independent people.

My assessment is that the bill is flawed from the outset. I know there was an attempt to amend it. I know the bill fails to achieve its stated principle of cracking down on human smugglers and I am not sure if the government has made any attempts to make that amendment before it goes to committee. It targets legitimate refugee claimants and does not give a chance to the poor people who arrive on a boat to apply for temporary or permanent residency or acquire any benefits. It is a total make-work type of project. It is exploratory to try to see how much we can abuse the people coming here.

I am not sure how we can fix the bill before it is sent to committee, but I would like to stop it in its tracks so it does not go to committee. Again, I am apprehensive as to the costs. In my constituency the number of refugee board judges who have not been named and Conservatives can use that money to appoint more refugee board judges and maybe speed up the process of refugee claimants, so if there are illegal or illegitimate refugees we could process them quite quickly.

We see examples across the world where countries have tried to use a system where they are not open to welcoming refugees. Instead, they will go get their own refugees. We saw that in some of the Nordic countries where it did not worked. Again, I do not see how that will help. Canada has always been a welcoming country. Looking around the chamber, we are people from different backgrounds and different nationalities.

I do not see how the bill will change or better Canada in the future. If we are scared of a couple of people who will come here by boat as opposed to illegal refugees who cannot come by plane, train, or walk through the border, I am not so sure that via the boat is much more of a threat than any other mode of transportation.

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2:25 p.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South
Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada has a wonderful reputation internationally for welcoming refugees. My parents are immigrants. In fact, my father was a refugee in 1956 during the revolution when he stood against Soviet tanks.

The hon. members on the opposite side do not want to understand that perhaps smugglers are what we are trying to target, not refugees. We continue to welcome refugees and we continue to have a wonderful international reputation doing so.

Perhaps the hon. member might be aware that the folks who come here with smugglers are working two, three or four jobs in order to pay off their smuggling fees and the only people benefiting or profiting are the smugglers. They are the ones who are demeaning people who are trying to come to our country. They are the ones who are robbing them of their dignity.

I would encourage members opposite to join with us to help folks who are coming to Canada and genuinely seeking refugee status. Does the hon. member have some comments on that?

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2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the member stated that it was her father who came across. Had he come on a boat, he would not be a refugee, based on the legislation. He would not be able to make a refugee claim, based on the fact that he arrived by boat.

With respect to smuggling, all we are introducing is minimum sentencing and passing a bill to increase the legal sanctions against smuggling immigrants. That is all we need.

Do we need a separate piece of legislation? I am not so sure we need that.

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2:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague was here when Jean Chrétien took the Clarity Act to the Supreme Court to get clarification that it was constitutional. NDP members are saying quite clearly to the government that if it firmly believes that the bill is appropriate and constitutionally valid, it should take the bill to the Supreme Court before the bill comes to committee and get the Supreme Court decision.

I can only assume it does not want to do that because it may not like the answer.

In fairness to the government, this is rather sweeping legislation. I remember quite clearly that just prior to the war we turned away an entire shipload of Jewish people fleeing Nazism because they did not have the proper documents. There was anti-Semitism in the world, and we turned them away.

I am an immigrant myself. I was born in Holland, and my parents were welcomed by the Canadian family. Many people in this House, in this Senate and in this country who work for the government come from other countries, and we want to make sure that people who are legitimate have the opportunity.

I understand the government's concerns, when a ship does arrives, about the costs and the burdens it places on many of the provinces. In Halifax we get a fair number of immigrants smuggling in on the container ships and so forth.

However, my two quick questions are these: does the member support the bill going to the Supreme Court, and why is the government targeting the most innocent in the world of today?

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2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not as old as the member is, so I was not here for the Clarity Act, but I want to thank the member for having thought that I was here for such a long time.

Basically I do not understand why the government would not refer the bill to the Supreme Court. It would cost less, but we are trying to make other people rich, I suppose, and that is the only way the government does business.

Second, in terms of why the government is targeting the most vulnerable, it is because they are not the people who vote for the Conservatives. That is the only thing I can think of.

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2:25 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am going to pack five little points into my brief question.

First, my colleague asked where it will end. I think it will end if he reads the bill, because he misstates significant provisions of it. Yes, the captains of the boats would be penalized. Yes, those who launch the boats would be penalized.

Second, he misses the point completely. We are trying to protect the reputation of Canada as a safe haven for refugees. It is only when we take these steps can we continue to do so.

I have met with people in Iraq and Pakistan and Afghan refugees who laud our reputation. Viktor Frankl said freedom without responsibility is dangerous to the Auschwitz survivor. We need to take these measures to protect our country as a safe haven.

I ask my friend to please read the bill.

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2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if there is a question in there. I will read the bill again on the weekend, and I will get back to the member.

However, I want to make one thing very clear: just the fact that the bill exists would not prevent this country from having any criminals. This is not about criminals. It is about making new criminals out of people who are not criminals. That is the point.

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2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 2:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)