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

Topics

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

September 23rd, 2011 / 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.