House of Commons Hansard #24 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

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

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, I see the government lacking vision and even effort.

Being a father myself, I do not understand what I am supposed to tell my son when I see this happen. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is supposed to be for everybody in this land. Yet, again, with a lack of effort, the legislation that is being brought forward is very broad and does not attach itself to specifics. There is exclusion.

The roots of this country have touched the soil of every nation on the planet and everyone should be welcome here. We should not be resorting to repression. The charter is far-reaching, and we send our military around the world to say that this charter must exist. We encourage democracy and yet, here at home, we are starting to exclude people.

Perhaps the hon. member has a comment to add about this.

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

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member.

The rights bestowed on us by the Canadian charter are clearly rights that we value. They are upheld by the Supreme Court and they belong to us all. We cannot deny the rights of refugees just because we think that we will control smugglers by targeting refugees. That is backwards. It is the opposite of what we should be doing.

To get to the root of Canada's smuggling problem, we need to target smugglers. The bill before us does not seem to do that. Instead, it targets refugees who already bear a heavy burden. Constitutional rights exist in Canada. I have a hard time seeing how the bill before us today could do anything to help control smuggling, which is a real problem. If the government wants to table a bill that actually deals with smugglers, I am completely open to discussing it. However, the fact that we are talking about targeting refugees is something quite surprising and, I feel, something that goes against our international law agreements.

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

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel compelled to rise and speak to Bill C-4 because we need evidence-based solutions to address human smuggling. Unfortunately, this backward legislation targets legitimate refugee claimants and not the real criminals: human smugglers.

It was 60 years ago that the government expressed its solidarity with refugees by signing the 1951 refugee convention, and 2011 is a special commemorative year. The UN refugee agency is calling on the public to reaffirm its support for refugees. It is calling on governments to show humanity and respect for human rights and refugee rights.

The UN has developed the “1 is too many” campaign to strengthen global protection in this anniversary year. The “1 is too many” campaign concentrates on the central tag line: one refugee without hope is too many.

There is a portfolio of other tag lines such as: one family forced to flee is too many; one refugee without hope is too many; one refugee returned to danger is too many; one refugee longing for home is too many; one child without a nationality is too many; one family without shelter is too many; one refugee denied a safe haven is too many; one child growing up in a camp is too many; one family torn apart by war is too many; one girl raped at gun point is too many; and it goes on.

As legislators we must all ask ourselves, if our family was in danger, our lives threatened by the government that is supposed to protect us, what would we do and how would we want the world to respond?

Each one of us should remember how many of us are children or descendants of immigrants. Each one of us should consider the economic, cultural and social benefits Canada has gained by accepting immigrants and refugees to our country. We must all remember our long-standing dedication to humanitarian values and human rights.

Instead of the government reaffirming Canada's commitment to protect refugees in this anniversary year, the government is fearmongering, demonizing, and punishing refugees through its treatment of asylum seekers and through its proposed legislation.

I have the honour of representing Etobicoke North, which is one of the most diverse ridings in the country. Each week we hear from desperate families, such as: a sister trying to bring family from Africa because her brother is hiding in a bush afraid of political persecution; an uncle giving up his job and leaving family in Toronto to rescue three orphan nieces in India.

During the humanitarian disaster in Sri Lanka, I heard daily from my Tamil community. One man came into my constituency office and wrote down the names of 100 family members who were missing and he did not know whether they were alive or dead. Each weekend during the humanitarian crisis I met with my Tamil community for four months.

Bill C-4 was originally introduced in Parliament by the government in October 2010 as Bill C-49 and it was reintroduced in June 2011 in the new parliamentary session. If the bill is approved by Parliament, it will make significant changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, affecting the way refugee claimants are treated in Canada.

The government claims that the bill is about stopping smugglers who are bringing people illegally into Canada. However, the bill focuses on punishing the people they are smuggling, including refugees who need to get to Canada to save their lives.

All of Canada's laws must respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees basic rights. Several aspects of Bill C-4 likely do not respect the charter. For example, Bill C-4 says that designated persons are detained for one year without review.

The Supreme Court of Canada has recently clearly stated that detention without review for long periods is contrary to the charter. If Bill C-4 is approved by Parliament, it could be challenged in the courts and the courts would probably decide that some parts of the bill are illegal because they do not respect the charter. Unfortunately, while the courts are deciding the case, refugees would suffer in detention.

Canadian laws must also respect international human rights conventions that Canada has signed. These include the convention relating to the status of refugees and the convention on the rights of the child. Many parts of Bill C-4 do not respect one or more international conventions. If Bill C-4 is passed, Canada would therefore be failing in some of its international obligations.

The following are examples of the ways in which Bill C-4 violates human rights protected by international law.

Punishing refugees for illegal entry. The refugees convention says in article 31 that governments must not impose penalties on refugees for illegal entry. However, Bill C-4 does exactly this by punishing designated persons in various ways, including by detaining them.

With regard to arbitrary detention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says that governments must not detain anyone arbitrarily. Arbitrary detention is detention without the proper legal protections; for example, detaining people without giving them the possibility of having a review of their detention by an independent judge. Bill C-4 does exactly this by saying that designated persons must be detained without possibility of review for one year.

With regard to separation of families, various international conventions say that governments must protect the rights of families to be united but Bill C-4 does the opposite by denying designated refugees the right, for five years, to apply to reunite with their children overseas.

With regard to the best interests of the child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child says in article 3 that governments must take into consideration the best interests of any child affected by a decision. However, under Bill C-4, some children could be deported from Canada without any consideration of their best interests and application on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Bill C-4 is deeply unfair to refugees. It fails to honour obligations under Canadian and international law. It deprives individual cases from the independent review that justice requires. It would involve huge costs in unnecessary detention. Australia tried punishing refugees to deter them. It did not work.

At the same time, Bill C-4 would do nothing to prevent human smuggling. More laws would not catch the smugglers who are overseas. Mandatory minimum sentences have been shown not to work as deterrents. Smuggling, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, is already punishable. The reality is that under Bill C-4 refugees would be victimized three times: first by their persecutors; second by the smugglers; and finally by Canada.

The reality is that most refugees want to go home but simply cannot return safely. We should admire and honour their courage and determination as they strive to pick up the pieces and start over, and we should recognize the richness and diversity they bring to Canada.

I would like to close by reminding us all that many refugees have made a difference and distinguished themselves on the world stage: actress and singer Marlene Dietrich; physicist Albert Einstein; and our own Michaëlle Jean. Finally, one refugee without schooling is too many. One refugee child behind bars is too many.

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

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her presentation. I have a couple of questions.

Basically, the bill says it is preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act. We have a member of the government saying that this will make streets safer. What is the member's opinion regarding whether the bill will make streets safer and who will be affected by it? Is it the smugglers or the refugees?

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

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, It is important for people to understand that the bill has been harshly criticized because of what it would do to refugees. Refugee advocates denounce the bill as an attack on refugee rights. In particular, critics say that the bill contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada's obligation under the UN Convention on Refugees.

Janet Dench, the executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, says:

It is difficult to understand why the government would be proposing to bring this legislation back without change when it has been so widely condemned by legal experts, is clearly a violation of our charter and clearly in violation of international standards of human rights. There is no ambiguity about this. It does not conform to our international legal obligations.

She goes on to say:

—refugees...would be detained for up to a year, and even those accepted as refugees would be held in suspended animation for five years without any right to travel, to reunify with family or get on with their lives.

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

10:55 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member agree that one of the prime responsibilities of any government is to ensure that its borders are protected and when its sovereignty is challenged, that its various agencies have the ability to protect its sovereignty?

However, for those who seek asylum in Canada, when they arrive in the fashion that the bill would seek to address, our authorities need the ability to not only take care of the health and welfare of those people on the boats, but they also need the ability to ensure they are who they say they are, that we can check on who they are and can use our international partners to ensure that nobody who should not be in Canada does not arrive here. Surely the hon. member can appreciate the need to do that.

I keep hearing the Liberals and the members of the NDP say how the bill would seek to jail asylum seekers. They seem to want it both ways. Often they talk about how great our forces are. Many of the people who came to Canada on the boat in the last round now live in my riding. They are living in hiding, in fear of the people to whom they owe money.

Is that the type of system that member wants to continue to support, or would she support a system that goes after the people who illegally bring these people to Canada and force them into a life of hiding in Canada?

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

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that our sovereignty is not under attack.

It is important for people to understand that refugees are often classified unfairly. Refugees flee their country, not for economic gain but to escape persecution, the threat of imprisonment and even threats to their lives. They need a safe haven where they can recover from mental and physical trauma and rebuild their hopes for a better future.

Intolerance is often at the root of internal displacement and it is also present in some of the countries to which refugees flee.

It is also important to point out that the minister can designate a group as an irregular arrival, which happened , for example, with the MV Sun Sea that arrived in British Columbia.

However, the bill does not say that the refugee claimants must have arrived by boat in order to be designated. A group could be designated even if there were no smuggling involved. Once a group is designated, everyone in the group is punished. The bill creates two classes of refugees, with one class treated worse than the other.

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

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join so many voices in opposition to Bill C-4.

It is a bit of a déjà vu, having been part of the team in the last parliamentary session that stood against Bill C-49. It is interesting to note that, while all opposition parties joined to oppose that bill, we are in the new Parliament assuming, yet again, that Canadians want this kind of legislation.

As we have heard, Bill C-4 is deeply flawed. Not only is it deeply flawed, but it also goes against the very image of Canada that we have built over decades, an image that Canada is welcoming, that it is inclusive, that it is open to not only the diversity of people from around the world, but also to the diversity of people who must often escape difficult situations, whether they come from backgrounds of poverty, or racial persecution or discrimination in their countries.

Many of these trends are ones that we, as Canadians, have responded to over the years.

I see my time is up. I look forward to standing once again in opposition to Bill C-4 at a later time.

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

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have eight and a half minutes left to conclude her remarks when the bill is next debated, but right now we will move on to statements by members.

Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurs
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, the St. Thomas Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurs, or ICE, is a cool example of a mixed use business incubator. ICE offers clients just the right mix of counselling, mentoring, administrative support and professional location to help businesses grow and succeed.

Visiting the centre, I discussed progress with some of the business start-ups, including computer specialists, a fastener company, people with home health care expertise and a great customer service entrepreneur in the home maintenance field, sharing great ideas with me and with each other. This type of business start-up and growth interaction can only take place when under one roof.

The collaboration of local economic development agencies, the Elgin Business Resource Centre and the generous help of local sponsors have made jobs happen.

Yes, it starts with passionate people with an idea. When we add some expertise and mentorship and include a great location like ICE, a perfect concoction is created: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Courage Canada
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to tell members about a remarkable and courageous young man, a constituent of mine, named Mark DeMontis.

Mark lost his eyesight at the age of 17 and his dream of playing professional hockey was darkened. Mark is currently rollerblading across Canada to raise awareness of the ability of blind kids to play hockey.

I am proud and honoured to welcome Mark and his family to Ottawa today. I invite all members to join me on the steps of Parliament Hill next Tuesday, October 4, after question period, to help send him on his remarkable journey.

This courageous young man has founded a not-for-profit organization called Courage Canada to further his goal of funding learn-to-skate programs and skills development sessions for blind youth across Canada. His ultimate goal is that blind hockey become a sport.

As long as we have young people in Canada like Mark, who are determined to succeed no matter what obstacles they face, we can all continue to have hope for the future of our country.

Take the Pledge
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, one week ago today, on September 23, the employees of Labatt Canada shared their company's responsible drinking philosophy with customers and consumers across the country.

This year's Be(er) Responsible Day was tied into Labatt's new program called “Take the Pledge”. This program, aimed primarily at young people, appealed to all Canadians to sign a pledge that they would not drink and drive. In appreciation for taking the pledge, Labatt donated $1 to the True Patriot Love Foundation for each pledge signed by a Canadian.

There have been far too many tragedies involving drinking and driving. I commend the thousands of employees of Labatt Canada, particularly those working in the Labatt brewery located in my riding of London—North Centre, for this initiative.

On behalf of all members of the House, I would encourage all Canadians to take the pledge to put an end to drinking and driving.

People's Republic of China
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Liberal parliamentarians, I extend my warmest wishes to the people of China and to all Chinese Canadians as they celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Since former prime minister Pierre Trudeau initiated diplomatic relations with China 41 years ago, the Liberal Party has proudly cultivated the friendship between our two great countries. China is Canada's second largest trading partner and the business relationship between our countries continues to flourish.

In my riding of Vancouver Quadra I am pleased to host and attend many events where I can foster shared prosperity and stronger cultural ties between our two countries.

I send my sincerest thanks to China's ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Zhang Junsai, and Madam Yin Guomei for hosting me at their embassy celebration this week.

Liberals look forward to another successful year, working with our Chinese communities and further strengthening the warm relationship between the peoples of China and Canada.

Mississauga Youth Games
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, I will be attending the sixth annual Mississauga Youth Games, a not-for-profit organization in the city of Mississauga, which increases access to sport and fitness programs by offering youth free access to activities like baseball, cricket, dance and soccer, among many others.

Through the children's fitness tax credit, our government has proven our commitment and appreciation toward the role of sport and fitness in a child's development. With this being a priority for our government, I would like to applaud the organizing committee and volunteers of the Mississauga Youth Games.

Programs like these teach youth to become effective and engaged citizens through the promotion of sport, volunteerism and civic action, and by placing an emphasis on physical well-being.

Organizations like the Mississauga Youth Games continue to complement our government's efforts to ensure that Canada's youth have access to sport and fitness programs.

I would like to thank the organizing committee of the Mississauga Youth Games for its dedication to sport and fitness in Mississauga.

Michel Bernier
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to one of my constituents in Vaudreuil—Soulanges, Michel Bernier, who retired in July after dedicating 51 years of service to fire safety, a distinction that is unmatched in all of Quebec.

This man is very passionate about the safety of his fellow citizens. In over five decades of service, Mr. Bernier fought fires and saved many belongings and lives, and he often risked his own life in doing so.

In 1984, he was the recipient of the Governor General's Medal of Bravery. He is deeply dedicated to the fire department and to the public, and he is involved in a wide variety of activities within his community.

Mr. Bernier is seated in the public gallery today. His 51-year career within the community and the fire department is unparalleled and is worthy of the recognition of this House.