House of Commons Hansard #21 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-10.

Topics

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly these issues go hand in hand. Our mandate is to make our streets and communities safer for our families. As the member experienced, in my riding we had three serious shooting events that clearly described the severity of gang violence and drug violence in communities today.

I understand her question on the mental health issue clearly. We have a responsibility to ensure that those questions are addressed as well, but our mandate is to deliver this bill. I would ask her to get on board with us and vote in favour of this bill so that we could take it to committee and deal with these issues directly.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member across the way for eloquently stating his ground. However, there was a point that I missed, and I would ask for clarification.

My colleague stated that the bill would help temporary foreign workers in Canada. He said that it would give the minister the right to extend their work permits. Then he went on to say that if there is an exotic dancer who applies and does not quality, then that person could apply for something else.

I wonder if the member is recommending to the people who want to come to Canada that they can shop around in how they could apply to come to Canada. That is what I understood from his wording. I am sure that if he looked through his speech, I think he might find that he made a mistake and might want to rephrase what he said.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will review my speech in due course, but clearly we want to protect the victims of abuse and take steps to ensure that newcomers to this country are not exploited or taken advantage of.

In the case of that one example, we know that those who come here are in a vulnerable state and could be placed in a position of untenable stress.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada is outranked among western democracies only by the United States in terms of its high incarceration rate. Barring interventions, prison populations are expected to grow in the next decade by over 50%. I wonder if the member--

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

We will get back to the member for Davenport. I am sure that members, and certainly the member for Don Valley West, will need to hear the question and comment.

The hon. member for Davenport.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association has a long list of reasons describing why overcrowding is detrimental to the rates of prisoners being able to be reintegrated into Canadian society. Overcrowding impairs reintegration efforts of offenders and contributes to rates of recidivism. It spends vast quantities of resources to warehouse inmates, with negative rather than positive impacts, diverts resources from treatment and cripples the ability of the system to deliver programs and treatments in a timely and appropriate manner.

What we are going to have is more overcrowding. What is there in the bill that solves these problems? Could the member answer that question?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly the hon. member's question is outside the area I was speaking to today, but if we are going to provide safer streets and create crime bills that create deterrence, yes, there is going to be additional demand on our system. We are going to have to find resolution to living with that.

However, the mandate we have been given by the people of Canada is to provide safer streets for our communities and our families.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous respect for the member for Mount Royal, but he spent his entire opportunity to speak to the bill, which he said he did not have enough time to speak to, in explaining why he needed more time to speak to the bill. I am looking forward to having my opportunity to speak to Bill C-10, which I think does much for the people across this country.

Canada is a land of opportunity and freedoms, and we should not practise anything different. Many come to Canada to seek a better life but instead find themselves vulnerable to exploitation by employers. Found in vulnerable situations, they have no one to turn to. We should not let the vulnerable be exploited. We need to stand up for those who are being exploited by others.

I am speaking about one part of Bill C-10, which deals with preventing the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants. It is former Bill C-56. Our government is making good on the commitment we made to Canadians. It is our duty to hold criminals accountable for their actions and to do everything we can to make our communities safe for law-abiding citizens who work hard and play by the rules. It is our duty not to let people take advantage of our generous immigration system.

People in St. Catharines have said that cracking down on criminals and making their community safer is one of their top priorities. People in Niagara and across the country want and deserve to be able to feel safe in their homes and communities, and that means criminals need to be kept off the street. I have heard my constituents loud and clear, and I will stand up and support the bill because they have asked me to do so.

The bill will not only keep our communities safe but will also ensure that vulnerable foreign workers who contribute to many of our communities are not exploited. As my hon. colleagues know, some temporary foreign workers may have weak language skills and very little money. They may have no family or friends in Canada and they may also fear the police and any level of government. This often puts them in a vulnerable position. With no one to turn to, their situation can place them at the mercy of those who wish to abuse them or exploit them.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I have conducted consultations with employers who rely on the temporary foreign worker program. Almost all of them treat their employees with the respect and dignity they deserve, but some of them do not. When we talk to employers who use the temporary foreign worker program and entreat individuals to come from another country to work in this country to help provide for their families back home and earn a living, it is clear that there are those in this country who do take advantage of temporary foreign workers who come to Canada.

Whether it is New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario or Quebec, employers who love and use and understand this program have developed it into something that is respected around the world. In my view and in many employers' views, the program is actually the best foreign support program we could offer workers because of what it allows them to do in terms of bringing home the revenue they are able to make here. It helps their families, it helps their children go to school, it improves their lives with respect to their homes, and it ensures that their children get a college or university education.

It is the same employers who support this program who want us to crack down on the employers who take advantage of those individuals.

That is exactly what the bill would do. It is what this portion of the bill would allow us to move forward on. The bill would help us protect vulnerable foreign workers by giving immigration officers the authority to deny work permits to those who are at risk of humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. The ability to deny work permits to vulnerable workers would enable the government to protect applicants by keeping them out of these types of situations.

Bill C-10 would actually alter the current objective in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, section 3. Instead of referring to protecting “the health and safety of Canadians”, it would refer to protecting “public health and safety”.

We are not just defining the bill anymore to Canadians. We are extending that obligation of employers and of our government to those who are here on a temporary basis to seek and find employment and work here on behalf of their families at home. We are doing this because the government believes that it is our responsibility to protect the health and safety of individuals who not only apply for Canadian citizenship and permanent residence, but apply to work here in our country legally.

We are committed to ensuring that Canada's immigration system continues to have a positive impact on our economy in society and that everyone who enters Canada has a fair chance to find what they are looking for, which is hope, safety and a new start. It does not make sense for the government to knowingly authorize vulnerable foreign nationals to enter into a potentially abusive situation. As the government, we will work to ensure that people who come to Canada can pursue their new lives without fear for their own safety.

Bill C-10 is an important step forward to that goal. If members share this goal, I ask them to support this legislation.

Preventing the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants act would authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits to vulnerable foreign nationals when it is determined that they are at risk of humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation or human trafficking. This is but one of ten, but a step in the right direction to accomplishing that.

I would also submit that we have seen the success of the program. Many employers across the country call this the best foreign aid program this country has to offer. We have temporary foreign workers who come here and are able to fulfill an obligation that they have to themselves and to their family to provide for a stronger future for their families in the countries they come from. Many of those temporary foreign workers who come here have told me about how successful this program has been and what it means to them. All of them feel that their employers treat them in a way that makes them feel they are part of the organization, part of the company, part of the extended family.

By putting this bill forward, we are not only suggesting to Canadians and to employers across this country that fair, humane and equal treatment is an obligation that we have, both under our Constitution and obviously under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it is an obligation that we are now extending not just to Canadian citizens, not just to permanent residents, but to those who come here to work under the conditions of a permit that they have met the obligations of, and have a chance to work for their families and for themselves, to put their children through school and to build a better life.

With this bill, we would be putting in place a system that would actually improve a program upon which, since the 1960s, we have built on in this country, that has been successful and that has proven to be successful. In fact, with the enhancements in a small part of this bill, we would be preparing and providing for them in a much stronger and better way than we already are.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for elaborating on one part of the bill that is before us.

I would like to ask two questions pertaining to two parts of the bill. First, what concrete measures will ensure that temporary foreign workers will not be exploited? And how will the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration verify the working conditions of foreign workers to ensure that they are not being exploited?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the second part of the question first.

Basically, our department, along with Human Resources and Development Canada, spends a great deal of time ensuring that those employers who seek to have temporary foreign workers assist them in their companies have it done in a manner that is clear and effective. Every employer must meet specific standards with respect to this issue. The department and the government, along with our provincial counterparts, ensure that is put into place.

In terms of the first part of the member's question, very specifically, Bill C-10 would alter the current objective within the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Section 3(1)(h) would be changed from protecting the health and safety of Canadians to protecting public health and safety. This extends, specifically, the right to fair treatment and the right to the type of protection to which I spoke, not just to Canadians and permanent resident but to temporary foreign workers as well.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the problem with this particular bill is that the government has made a decision in its wisdom to say that it wants this, this and this. Those are all pieces that should have been separate pieces of legislation so that when the government brings forward individual pieces of legislation there is more legitimacy to the debate on the issue and the law that it is attempting to change.

There are many things that we could be doing in terms of amendments to the refugee and immigration laws.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration recognize that there is so much more that could have been done had this been a stand-alone bill, which would have enabled all members to have a better engagement on what is a critically important issue across this country? In fact, there needs to be dialogue with provinces? Some provinces have actually made significant advancements on protecting the workers. Would the hon. member not agree with that?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand the point the member is making. I compliment him on his appointment as critic for the third party at our citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism committee. I look forward to working with him on that committee.

The member understands. He was here for part of the 40th Parliament when we introduced and passed Bill C-11, Balanced Refugee Reform Act and Bill C-35, the crooked consultants act, two pieces of significant legislation. In fact, I would argue that, aside from our budget, Bill C-11 was the most significant piece of legislation that this Parliament passed in the 40th Parliament. That legislation arrived in this House after second reading, went to committee, came back for third reading and was passed unanimously by the House.

I can let the member know that we have lots in this bill that we want to pass. We have passed quite a bit with respect to citizenship and immigration. There is a lot more to come.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is very much a rural riding. In that riding, from one end to the other, we have the great use of the temporary foreign workers programs. It is so significant and so important to our farming community, whether it is apple orchards or greenhouses. I have been to a number of those farm operations. The care that these operations provide for their temporary workers is just immeasurable, quite honestly, and they are the ones I want to compliment.

However, these operators are also concerned about those who do not have protection. They want to ensure that, when a bill goes through, it will actually offer protection so that no foreign worker is being exploited. Would this bill fulfill that need?

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to this issue, time and again the member has come to speak to me about the good work that the employers in his riding are doing and about the importance the put on the treatment of foreign workers in his community.

I want to assure the member that from a department perspective we will continue to work at that. As a government, we show support to those employers who want to follow the rules and ensure that this program works but for those who do not they will pay substantially for it.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House today to participate in the debate on Bill C-10, the Conservative government's omnibus crime bill. Sadly, I only have 10 minutes to make my remarks, which is wholly inadequate for offering an in-depth analysis of each section of the 110 page bill.

However, since this is second reading, the stage in a bill's passage during which all members are charged with providing feedback to the government on the principles of the legislation before us, I am confident that I can at least do that within the allotted timeframe.

I will begin by stating what ought to be obvious. All members in the House, regardless of political party, agree that serious crime requires a serious response. There is absolutely no debate here. However, we also need to remember that the iconic statue of justice holds a scale in her hand for a reason: justice requires balance. It is that balance that is lost in the bill that is before us today.

My NDP colleagues from Windsor—Tecumseh and Vancouver Kingsway have already articulated the fact that the bill puts wedge politics and ideology ahead of facts and evidence. It is a point that bears repeating.

It is absolutely true that we have three years of evidence now to prove that the violent crime rate in Canada is falling dramatically. We also know that there is not a single empirical study in Canada, or any other democracy for that matter, which proves that incarceration is an effective deterrent.

On the contrary, by imposing mandatory minimums on young offenders and therefore sending them to jail for longer periods of time, we will be creating more recidivists, not less. A government policy that turns young offenders into hardened criminals surely must be seen as completely undermining the goals of any criminal justice reform.

Equally absurd is the part of the bill that mandates less jail time for a child rapist than someone being charged with growing pot. The omnibus legislation would impose a one year mandatory minimum for sexually assaulting a child, luring a child via the Internet or involving a child in bestiality. All three of those offences carry lighter automatic sentences than those for people running medium sized grow-ops in rental property or on someone else's land. A pedophile who gets a child to watch pornography with him or someone who exposes himself to kids at a playground would receive a minimum 90 day sentence, half the term of a man convicted of growing six pot plants in his own home.

I do not think there is a single constituent in my riding of Hamilton Mountain who would agree with either that approach or that outcome. However, that is what we get when, instead of looking at the Criminal Code as a whole, exploring reforms systematically and ensuring that the same sentencing principles are applied in all sections of the code, we have a government that simply lumps a whole bunch of pre-election promises together in an act of political expediency. Ideologically, the government may want to be seen as being tough on crime but effective criminal law reform requires us to be smart on crime. Bill C-10 fails that test completely.

The Canadian Bar Association would concur with my assessment. The association made a specific comment on the minimum sentencing provisions of the bill by pointing out that they fail the mentally ill, aboriginal people, visible minorities and the poor. Mandatory minimum legislation will simply clog the courts and fill Canadian prisons with vulnerable segments of the population. As a result, the Bar Association is calling on the government to reverse course and to allow judges leeway in applying mandatory minimums so that they are not imposed when it would be cruel or inappropriate.

The CBA is spot on. It leads me to ask my Conservative colleagues why they are so intent on imposing a straitjacket on Canadian judges by so aggressively pursing mandatory minimum sentencing. Justice requires the ability to differentiate between similar offences when they are committed under completely different circumstances. I am not saying that judges are perfect. They are human and might on occasion make mistakes. However, they enjoy the confidence of the vast majority of Canadians. They are highly educated and highly trained and, therefore, are much better equipped to determine appropriate sentences than any of us here in the House. I suggest that we allow them to do their jobs.

There is a particular irony in the timing of the proposals contained in the bill with respect to mandatory minimums. While I appreciate that their genesis lies in the tough on crime and drugs approach adopted decades ago by the United States, the Conservatives are choosing to emulate that agenda at precisely the time that it is being discredited south of the border, even by Republicans, as an exorbitantly expensive failure.

I will begin with the obvious. I want to reiterate the succinct statement made by my colleague the member for Kings—Hants:

If putting more people in prison for longer periods of time created safer communities, American cities would be the safest in the world, because nobody incarcerates more people than the Americans.

U.S. conservatives are now recognizing their folly. Even Newt Gingrich, the right-wing Republican former speaker, is on the record now acknowledging that longer prison terms have not been effective deterrents. In an editorial to The Washington Post he wrote:

Our prisons might be worth the current cost if the recidivism rate were not so high, but, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, half of the prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison within three years. If our prison policies are failing half of the time, and we know that there are more humane, effective alternatives, it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.

He then went on to praise Texas as a state that has reduced its prison population while keeping the public safe. He wrote:

Several states have shown that it is possible to cut costs while keeping the public safe. Consider events in Texas, which is known to be tough on crime. Conservative Republicans joined with Democrats in adopting incentive-based funding to strengthen the state's probation system in 2005. Then in 2007, they decided against building more prisons and instead opted to enhance proven community corrections approaches such as drug courts. The reforms are forecast to save $2 billion in prison costs over five years.

The Lone Star State has already redirected much of the money saved into community treatment for the mentally ill and low-level drug addicts. Not only have these reforms reduced Texas's prison population - helping to close the state budget gap - but for the first time there is no waiting list for drug treatment in the state. And crime has dropped 10 percent from 2004, the year before the reforms, through 2009, according to the latest figures available, reaching its lowest annual rate since 1973.

Canada should heed the experience south of the border and it should heed the advice of Gingrich, who himself entered into this debate primarily because of the exigencies of rising budget deficits.

Here in Canada, we appear to be on the brink of another recession and instead of investing in people and jobs, the Conservatives announced that they are seeking $4 billion in annual savings. Clearly, the government is not seeing the forest for the trees.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer is estimating that this new crime bill could double the annual prison costs from $4.4 billion to $9.5 billion in five years. That is an increase of $5.1 billion, while they are looking for savings of $4 billion in program costs elsewhere.

I would urge the government to put this question to Canadians: Do they support the doubling of prison costs at the cost of reduced benefits in other programs? Or would they rather see that money continue to be spent on health care, job creation, employment insurance, adequate pensions, and education for their kids?

I think the Prime Minister knows the answer and that is why he is not going to the Canadian people to offer them that choice. Instead, he is paying a private consultant $90,000 a day to find savings in other programs just so he can pay for his ideological priority of building more jails. It is absolutely absurd.

Let me end where I started. I talked about the scales of justice and their symbolic call to all of us to strive for balance. I would therefore be remiss if I did not acknowledge that there are parts of this bill that I do support.

I do support the initiatives to protect children from exploitation including sexual assault. In fact, two of the new offences that this bill targets came from NDP private members' bills relating specifically to communicating for the purposes of luring a child. As I said before, we part ways when the government's solution focuses simplistically on creating additional mandatory minimums.

I also agree with putting victims rights into law. I would argue that this is long overdue.

I supported legislation in the last Parliament that blocked Karla Homolka from getting a pardon.

However, the additional changes proposed to the pardon system in this bill are neither rational nor evidence-based and they fail to put public safety first. That, to me, must be the basis for evaluating the entire omnibus bill. Failing that test, I cannot possibly vote in favour of the current bill.