House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the rhetoric that has gone on with the bill over the last number of days is not important. What is actually in the bill and the facts are important.

In the previous bill the rules were quantified in regulations. The bill puts into legislation the definition of a safe country and the qualifications for a safe country. The applications that are turned down by a large majority, those that do not qualify, from certain countries will define what is a safe country. It is the applications that will define that, not the minister. We are putting it into legislation. We are not waiting for regulations for that to happen. We are being proactive.

That is what the minister has done on all immigration files. He has been proactive to make a difference for Canadians and to make a difference for legitimate refugees.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has been a wonderful mentor to me since I have been in this House.

I would like to thank the minister for his work on this file. I have had the honour to work with the minister for two years. His courage in demonstrating and enacting transformational change on this file is incredible. I am sure that Canadian history will show his courage and foresight in protecting our country.

Our immigration act has been one of the cornerstones of Canada's reputation abroad. My parents are immigrants. Many other people in this House are immigrants themselves.

We need to strengthen the system because Canada is a fair and generous place in the world and we want it to remain so.

The hon. member talked about several things. He talked about fairness. He talked about making sure the timelines are much shorter for genuine refugees and being able to screen out the bogus refugees, saving Canadian taxpayers $1.65 billion over five years. That is money which could be used to much better effect in this country over time.

What does the hon. member think the overall impact of this legislation would be on Canada's reputation around the world?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members have experienced, even the member for Malpeque, unless he is talking to himself as usual, refugee claimants come into our offices. Some of them have been in Canada for three, four, five years. This legislation would help to remove the backlog so their cases could be heard on a timely basis. Legitimate refugees could have their cases heard, the decisions made and their families could move forward with their lives.

That is not happening under the current system. The change proposed in Bill C-31 will speed up that process to make sure that those legitimate refugees who come into our offices on a weekly basis get their cases heard and become Canadians as soon as possible.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I was worried for a moment. I was thinking there would be a family hug over there, but not quite.

The member talked about the concerns for legitimate refugee claimants. We agree that legitimate refugee claimants have to be processed quickly. The problem with this particular piece of legislation is that it will make victims of people who are already victimized.

Does the member not see that to be the case? There will be those who have been taken advantage of by shysters, who think they will be coming to their dream world in Canada, and then they are made victims.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned when the member for Malpeque claims he is thinking.

My answer is simple. What exists now is that those shysters, as the member called them, present Canada as a place where it is easy for people to get refugee status and they can get into Canada because it is an open door. The way this legislation is structured makes sure that those criminals know that Canada is not a free ride, as they have been trying to sell to those poor people who get on their boats.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply saddened that Canadians must once again rise up to oppose a morally despicable bill. This omnibus bill quite simply stands for the opposite of a Canada that is open to the world. I would like to remind the House that the people who will be treated like criminals after this bill is passed are refugees, and thus people who are already victims. They are women and children, victims of torture, abuse and rape. They are the victims of the most abject poverty.

A few months ago in the House, I spoke out against Bill C-4, which has now been incorporated into Bill C-31. This bill uses an outdated refugee system and makes the situation much worse. There are already 450 immigrants with no status imprisoned in Canada. No charges have been laid against them, and they have no idea when they will be released or whether they will be deported. The detention centres where they are being held are prisons. These institutions are holding people captive against their will.

Canada is already guilty of imprisoning children who are seeking asylum. We are imprisoning people who have not been accused of any crime without giving them access to a lawyer. We are systematically imprisoning people who are traumatized by political conflicts, abuse and extreme poverty. The excessive use of detention centres to imprison asylum seekers is a disgrace to our country's integrity, and the bill being debated here only makes matters worse.

There are a number of problems. First, Bill C-31 indicates that anyone who is arbitrarily deemed to be a designated claimant at the whim of the minister will automatically be detained and will not have his file reviewed for a full year. I must remind the hon. members that this is unacceptable. We should not be imprisoning asylum seekers.

Bill C-31 gives the Minister of Immigration excessive and abusive power. This bill gives the minister the absolute power to designate a refugee claimant as irregular thereby taking away his liberty and mobility and even compromising his safety. The minister can destroy lives without any control mechanisms or checks and balances.

The minister alone will decide which countries refugees can come from and which ones they cannot come from. Categorizing countries like that is absurd. Knowing the state of the country is not enough. That is just one factor. A person's characteristics can make a normally safe country very dangerous for that person. A person who is lesbian, gay or transgender can be subjected to systemic discrimination and persecution even in a country that the minister considers safe.

I fear for such people from countries that the minister designates as safe. Furthermore, there is no way to ensure that a country will not be designated safe for purely political reasons. Refugees from Mexico, for example, are rarely granted refugee status in Canada because, for reasons of international relations, the government does not want to admit that Mexico can be very dangerous.

Mexico is becoming more and more dangerous for many people. Earlier this year, one of my constituents came to my office with his family. He was about to be deported after having lived and worked in Canada for eight years. He had not committed any crime. He was about to be deported and would be facing an extremely dangerous situation upon returning to his country of origin. He feared for his life. Because the process is not very transparent, we do not know if he was deported for a specific reason or simply because the minister decided that refugees from Mexico are not legitimate.

Such excessive power with no accountability should not be given to a single institution, let alone a single man. That is why an independent organization made up of non-partisan experts should be in charge of such decisions, which should never be left up to the immigration minister.

I want to close my speech by focusing on how this bill will, in particular, victimize refugee women. I have consulted with the Ending Violence Association, which along with MOSAIC and Multicultural Family Support Services, has recently completed a fulsome study on the safety of immigrant refugee and non-status women in Canada.

The Ending Violence Association is facing a major crisis. Immigrant and refugee claimant women who are experiencing abuse and violence cannot leave the situation of abuse if they are dependent on their husband who is the principal refugee claimant. They will immediately lose their status if they leave him. He could categorically withdraw his sponsorship and she would be deported. Especially if there are children involved in the situation, it is plain to see how Canada's immigration and refugee laws are currently facilitating and perpetuating violence.

We must take account of these women and children through our laws. To not address this systemic problem is in my opinion criminally negligent. When I explained to the representative from the Ending Violence Association some of the new laws that would likely be passed by the government, her face went white with fear.

In general, we can see how each and every point in this omnibus bill will make the lives of abused refugee and non-status women worse. They will have more fear and less legal protection, less access to health care and less access to services. They will have the threat of imprisonment and deportation hanging precariously over their heads and those of their children.

The bill would make it impossible to women to apply for humanitarian and compassionate appeals unless she did so upon her point of arrival. This makes no sense if she is living in a situation of domestic abuse.

I cannot see how this legislation will improve our immigration and refugee laws when every clause inspires fear in me and those who work every day protecting and advocating for refugees who are surely one of the most vulnerable populations in Canada.

I urge the House to scrap the bill entirely, since many of its provisions are entirely contrary to our Constitution and to the UN convention relating to the status of refugees.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, regrettably it is clear that the member neither understands the current refugee system, nor the bill before the House.

As the minister, I am someone who works and advocates every day for refugees. I am the minister who welcomes to Canada 1 out of every 10 resettled refugees from around the world. I am the minister who is increasing the number of convention refugees who we resettle in our country by 20%, who is increasing the support that we give them for their establishment and integration by 20% and who is creating, for the first time through this bill, the refugee appeal division to create a full fact-based appeal for the vast majority of rejected asylum claimants.

The member talked about a Mexican failed asylum claimant who would be deported because “the minister had determined that Mexico was a safe country”.

First, there is no such power under the current system. Second, what the member does not understand is that such a failed claimant would have had a full hearing before the quasi-judicial IRB on the merits of the case and been rejected. The claimant would have made an appeal to the federal court and lost, would have had a pre-removal risk assessment, an independent decision, and been rejected on the facts of the claim, would have appealed that to the federal court and lost, would have made an humanitarian and compassionate application for permanent residency, another risk assessment, and had the facts reviewed and been rejected as unfounded and would have appeal that again to the federal court.

There are typically between six and eight quasi-judicial and administrative decisions that are taken on asylum claimants in the current system before they typically face removal from Canada, yet the member says that this system is facilitating torture and violence and is criminal negligible.

The member is insulting all of the independent, judicial and quasi-judicial decision makers, our courts and our tribunals. I would ask her to apologize to all of those highly trained decision makers for the slur she has just made against the fairness of our system.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, in the case of the Mexican family, the children were in fact Canadian. The family had been here a long time. It had paid its taxes. Eventually what happened was its refugee status was revoked on the basis of the fact that the family came from Mexico. The family members then cried in the court and because of that they were sent to detention for weeks and deported after that. That is exactly what happened.

When I appealed to the Minister of Public Safety for this not to happen, as it seems out of the norm, he politely said “no” and the family was deported the next day before it had any chance to appeal, see lawyers or anything of the sort.

Therefore, the minister really needs to look at what is happening. People get deported before they have access to these systems.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for not apologizing to the minister, because the biggest problem with this bill is indeed that this government seems to always insist on playing partisan games.

When a party introduces a bill of this scope at a time when there are so many headlines in the news on this issue, that raises a red flag for me. What particularly saddens me about this legislation is that the Conservatives are still talking in terms of bogus refugees and people who abuse the system. They are trying to cast the whole idea of refugees in a negative light. However, this is a very serious matter, and some cases are just horrifying and truly appalling in certain countries. Yet, the Conservatives would have Canadians believe that all refugees are fraudsters and abusers who come here to steal their jobs, and all kinds of such nonsense.

I would like to thank the member again for not apologizing, because she definitely does not owe anyone an apology. I wonder if she could talk a bit more about the arbitrary nature of this legislation.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has only 30 seconds left for her reply.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the major problems with the bill is it would concentrate more power in the hands of the minister, who clearly does not know what is going on within his ministry, by allowing him to name safe countries and restrict refugees from those countries. Under the former Bill C-11 that was passed in the previous Parliament, which from what I understand enjoyed approval by all parties and was balanced, there was a panel of experts, including human rights experts, that was to designate these countries. This is no longer case.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I hate to stop the hon. member there, but we have to move on to statements by members.

The hon. member for Yukon.

World Water Day
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, international World Water Day, recognized annually on March 22, helps focus attention on challenges related to the world's fresh water. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on how protecting this life-sustaining fundamental resource is of paramount importance to Canadians.

Water is one of the symbols that define our country. That is why this government takes the job of protecting Canada's freshwater resources so seriously. We have a comprehensive approach to ensure clean water for all Canadians and we have taken concrete and measurable action to advance that approach.

In February, we released a plan to implement enhanced oil sands monitoring, which will provide high-quality data on a region's biodiversity. This integrated monitoring program, which is being advanced jointly with the Province of Alberta, will rank among the best in the world.

These measures show that we have a real plan to protect fresh water and that we are acting to achieve measurable results for Canadians. We will continue to work with our partners across this country and internationally so that water is clean, safe and sustainable, now and for generations to come.

Cougar Flight 491
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, three years have passed since the tragic Cougar helicopter crash took the lives of 17 workers in Newfoundland's offshore and it has been over a full year since the Transportation Safety Board released its findings and recommendations.

The report of last February called upon Transport Canada to require all class A helicopters to meet the 30-minute run-dry requirement following the loss of main gearbox lubricant. This requirement would have changed the outcome of Cougar flight 491.

The Conservative government has followed the Americans' lead and waived the 30-minute run-dry requirement on all existing helicopters, even over water.

It is time the government recognized that Canada's coastal reality is unique and that Canadian lives are sacred. Transport Canada and the Conservatives have not put a priority on safety and the government has allowed search and rescue standards to lag behind international norms.

It is time for the government to put safety and search and rescue first for our offshore, for our north, for our Great Lakes and for all of Canada.

Canadian Defence Executive of the Year Award
Statements By Members

March 16th, 2012 / 11 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to recognize one of my constituents who has received a very prestigious award. Spencer Fraser, general manager of Meggitt Training Systems Canada, has won the Canadian Defence Executive of the Year Award by the Canadian Defence Review magazine.

A former officer of the Royal Canadian Navy, Spencer proved himself to be a leader and one that commanded the respect of those who served with him. Graduating from the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Spencer would go on to serve a two-year stint with France's navy.

One of Spencer's main objectives is being honest with the customer and delivering what he has promised. Under Spencer, Meggitt Training Systems has flourished and his style has led to that business growing in Medicine Hat.

It is his desire that Canada be a world leader in the production of unmanned military vehicles. This is a major contribution to ensuring that our armed forces are kept safe.

I wish Spencer all the best and congratulate him for having won this prestigious award.