House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think people are trying to fear-monger by citing the one year. It is up to one year. Those who are under 16, as we have already said, will obviously be allowed to immediately vacate the area. Then as individuals are cleared and we are quite convinced that there is no security threat to our general public, they are allowed to vacate at that point.

The area I represent is just next to the Toronto international airport. It is to my area that many of these individuals are coming in and settling. I want to ensure that my residents are protected and safe and that we know the identify of the people who are coming to our country. That is a very reasonable thing to require.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-31, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act.

Before I get to that, we have heard in the House that in the previous Parliament, Bill C-11 was passed. I want to quote what a member of the government was saying at that time. He said:

I am pleased to report that the proposed reforms in the original version of Bill C-11 received widespread support. However, many concerns were raised in good faith by parliamentarians and others concerned about Canada's asylum system. We have, in good faith, agreed to significant amendments that reflect their input, resulting in a stronger piece of legislation that is a monumental achievement for all involved.

Who said that? The current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I quote him further. He said, “I am happy to say, create a reform package that is both faster and fairer than the bill as it was originally tabled”. He even praised how parties worked together to reach consensus and come up with that bill that worked for all parties. He went on to say, “Miracles happen”.

He further went on to say that the government took constructive criticism into account and recognized the need to work together. That was just a year ago. That was Bill C-11. All of the parties worked together to come to a consensus that would deal with some of the issues such as backlogs, having a fairer system for refugees, and so forth. He went on further to say, “The reforms we are proposing should have been implemented a long time ago”.

What has changed since June 2010 until now? Is it because the Conservatives got their slim majority and they are bringing out their hidden agenda? Instead of catching the smugglers, now they want to punish the refugees.

I will outline my concerns in regards to Bill C-31.

Bill C-31 is basically an omnibus refugee reform bill that combines the worst parts of the former Bill C-11, Balanced Refugee Reform Act, from the last Parliament, with Bill C-4, , preventing human smuggling, from this Parliament. It has basically three main purposes: a repeal of most of the compromises from former Bill C-11. It reintroduces Bill C-4, preventing human smuggling, which targets refugees instead of the smugglers. It introduces the collection of biometrics for temporary residents.

Bill C-31 would concentrate more power in the hands of the minister by allowing him to name safe countries and restrict refugees from those countries. Under the former bill, Bill C-11, this was to be done by a panel of experts, including human rights experts. Refugee claimants from safe countries would face extremely short timelines before hearings, 15 days. They would have no access to the Refugee Appeal Division in the event of a bad judgment. They would have no automatic stay of removal when filing for a judicial review and could not apply for a work permit for 180 days. It would also limit access and shorten timelines to file and submit a pre-removal risk assessment application and evidence.

Not only would the minister have the discretion to designate countries of origin, safe countries, the minister would also have the power to designate a group as an irregular arrival and determine what condition would be placed on those designated as refugee claimants.

Let us take a look at the designated countries of origin, DCOs. Designated countries of origin would be countries which the minister believes do not produce legitimate refugees, usually because they are developed democracies. The designated countries of origin would be decided by the minister, not by experts as was previously agreed to with the consensus of all parties.

Refugee claimants from the designated countries of origin would face a much faster determination process and a faster deportation for failed claims. Furthermore, an initial form would be filed in within 15 days.

Failed designated countries of origin claimants could be removed from Canada almost immediately, even if they asked for a judicial review. In other words, a person could be removed before his or her review was heard. DCO claimants would have no access to the new refugee appeal division.

There are a number of concerns with this. The accelerated timeline of 15 days would make it difficult for people to get proper legal representation. This could lead to mistakes and subsequently a negative decision. Legal experts have warned that these accelerated timeframes and restricted access to the refugee appeal division would create an unfair system.

Furthermore, the effect of the accelerated deportation would mean that people would be removed from the country before the legal process had run its course. The refugee appeal division should be available to all claimants.

There are also concerns in regard to changes to the humanitarian and compassionate consideration. The humanitarian and compassionate consideration is a tool whereby a person can stay in Canada despite not being eligible on other grounds. Under Bill C-31, claimants waiting for an IRB decision could not apply for humanitarian and compassionate consideration at the same time. A person would have to choose at the beginning whether he or she wanted to file for refugee status or for humanitarian or compassionate consideration.

Failed refugee claimants could not apply for humanitarian and compassionate consideration for one year following a negative decision, by which time they would likely be deported.

There are a number of concerns with this aspect of the bill. This strips much of the usefulness from the humanitarian and compassionate consideration. Humanitarian and compassionate consideration is a very important tool in our immigration system. Many people whose refugee was claim denied could nonetheless have a legitimate claim on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Therefore, a failed refugee claim should not get in the way of humanitarian and compassionate consideration.

Another part of this bill that concerns me is clause 19(1) which adds new language into the loss of status section for permanent residents. It adds that existing criteria for ceasing refugee protection can be a reason to lose permanent residency status. Included in the list is if the reasons for which the person sought refugee protection have ceased to exist.

In summary, there are many concerns with this bill. The new bill does not address some of the needs of our current system. The Conservatives are playing politics with refugees, and concentrating excessive and arbitrary powers in the hands of the minister. The Conservatives continually frame their draconian legislation in terms of bogus refugees and those abusing the system, but what they are really doing is punishing refugees with ineffective measures that will not stop human smuggling.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

March 12th, 2012 / 2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I categorically reject the notion that the bill would punish refugees. That is absurd. The bill would reinforce, in fact strengthen, Canada's commitment to protect people who flee a country because of a well-founded fear of persecution.

I need to point out one thing to the member. He and his colleagues in the NDP need to understand just how extraordinarily far from the mainstream they are in terms of international policy and practice in this respect. The labour social democratic government of Australia detains as a matter of policy and law all asylum claimants, not just smuggled asylum claimants. The labour social democratic party of the United Kingdom brought in a policy to detain all asylum claimants from designated safe countries. Most social democratic parties and governments of western Europe have pre-emptory assessment of claims coming from safe countries usually done in 24 or 48 hours, sometimes no longer than a week.

I would simply point out to my colleague that the measures we have proposed, limited detention until someone gets a positive asylum decision if the person comes in on an identified smuggling event, are far more modest than those in virtually any other western democracy that I am aware of.

Why is the NDP not more tuned to the mainstream of social democratic parties around the western world when it comes to refugee protection and protecting the integrity of our immigration system?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats recognize and respect our responsibilities to refugees, unlike the Conservatives who have taken an approach that would damage Canada's reputation internationally.

It is good that the minister is in the House. It was interesting for me to go over some of the notes on Bill C-11. The minister not only praised, but called it a miracle, that all parties had worked together to develop Bill C-11. That bill was passed in the last Parliament.

Why is the minister moving away from that? Where is he going? Bill C-11 was passed with the consensus of the House.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I would remind hon. members that it is not appropriate to allude to the presence or absence of members in the House.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the point which the member has referenced.

Bill C-11 passed with the unanimous support of the parties in this chamber. One of the reasons for that support was that there was agreement that an advisory committee was needed which would ultimately provide recommendations to the minister for determining which countries around the world would be listed as safe countries.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

An hon. member

That was then.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

My colleague is right, Mr. Speaker. That was then. Now the minister says that he himself will make that determination.

We in the Liberal Party look forward to providing an amendment so that we can bring the provision back to what it was. Does the member think the way to go is to amend the legislation to reinstate what at one time the minister agreed to?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is troubling for me to see power being consolidated in the minister's office. We have a very capable Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, but it still troubles me that the decisions would be made solely by the minister, not by an expert panel as agreed upon by all parties in the House.

It is really puzzling to me why the minister would want to have all the power in his own office, why he would make arbitrary decisions that should be made after receiving advice from experts.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, I must inform her that I will have to interrupt her at 6:30 p.m., at the end of the time provided for the consideration of government business.

The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to rise in the House today and speak to Bill C-31 on behalf of the people of LaSalle—Émard. It is a privilege that is becoming increasingly rare, given that 18 time allocation motions have been moved in this 41st Parliament.

Bill C-31, entitled Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, is in fact a recasting of several bills previously introduced in the House of Commons. The bill amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act. Furthermore, these amendments give greater discretionary powers to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

Before I outline some serious concerns I have about this bill, I would like to say a few words about my riding. According to the 2006 census, the riding of LaSalle—Émard has 27,000 constituents who were born in other countries. Just over 25% of my riding's population consists of immigrants. Almost 6,000 of them have arrived within the past seven years. Just like our ancestors, some of these newcomers have fled economic destitution, religious persecution or the ravages of war and revolution. LaSalle—Émard is a mosaic of French, English, Italian, Greek, Indian, African, Chinese and Lebanese communities. We live side by side with respect and admiration for one another, as well as tolerance for our differences.

Having moved to a foreign land where they have few allies, new Canadians face phenomenal challenges. They must learn a new language, new customs and a new collective history. Without exception, they must master a new way of life in a world where the guideposts can be completely different. They work in order to earn a living with dignity. They study and pay for courses in order to obtain recognition of degrees they earned elsewhere.

The new Canadians living in LaSalle—Émard send their children to school, CEGEP and university. They pass on to their children what their journey has taught them: the discipline of work, applying themselves and perseverance. At the same time, they have a sense of community and co-operation, which reminds me every time that there is strength in numbers, that prosperity is shared, and that if an individual can face a thousand challenges, a united community can face an unlimited number of challenges.

I see this in my very diverse contacts with members of the Italian community, the worshippers at the Sikh temple and the young married couples in the Pakistani and Nigerian communities, or when celebrating the Chinese new year. Despite our different backgrounds, we all share the impulse of wanting to distinguish ourselves through our efforts, our talents and our desire to excel. We all know that Canada is a land of immigrants and second chances. For these reasons, southwestern Montreal is a mosaic that reflects Canada's reality. Those are our values.

Bill C-31 threatens this common vision of hope and our collective desire to build a nation where compassion is the rule.

The House resumed from March 8 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

Opposition Motion—Canada Elections Act
Business of Supply
Government Orders

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 6:30 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, March 8, 2012, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to the motion relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #153

Business of Supply
Government Orders

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the main motion as amended.

Is the House ready for the question?