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

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that on a per capita basis Canada's resettlement of refugees is on a larger scale.

I want to address the member's earlier question to the member opposite. It was a valid question with respect to the amount Canada is paying toward the UN. My understanding is that it is in the neighbourhood of $70 million, which is the highest it has ever been in Canada's history and this continues.

She referenced a couple of other examples of which obviously Canada, in our nation's history, should not be proud. However, we should be very proud of our tradition. The minister is very much in keeping with this tradition. In my statement earlier today, I referenced the example of Grosse Île. Hundreds and thousands of French Canadians welcomed Irish to that island, treated them with dignity and respect, and cared for them. Unfortunately many of them gave their lives in doing so. This is an excellent example of what this country has done. It is a tradition that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who is of Irish heritage, is continuing today.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, Conservatives like to talk about their support for families. In this bill, the section allowing designated people as irregular arrivals would have some very severe impacts on families. The first is the question of detention. If the parents were detained, what would happen to the children? The second impact is cascading results from those who would be barred from applying for permanent residency for five years and then for an additional five years they could not sponsor their families. This would create a 10 year gap in family reunification. Is the member concerned about the impact on families of these provisions for those who are designated as irregular arrivals?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, this legislation would use the age of 16 in terms of not detaining children. However, the principle behind detention and behind the five year example that he gave is there have to be consequences for those who seek to jump the queue and those who seek to unfairly use our refugee system for their own benefit who are not genuine refugees. That is the issue.

We want to speed up the process for genuine claimants so they can have Canada's protection faster and can be resettled more quickly in Canada. The way to do that is to deal with the bogus claims that are currently clogging up the system. The point of this bill and of the last bill is to ensure that we can settle genuine refugees at a much quicker pace in the very generous fashion that we have, continuing to lead the world in this way. To do that, we need to unclog the current system and deal with the bogus refugee claimants.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for Sudbury, I will let him know that we will need to interrupt him at 1:37 p.m.. He has almost enough time for the full 10 minutes but we will need to pace it on that basis.

The hon. member for Sudbury.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I truly am very disappointed that I will not have my full 10 minutes, but I appreciate the fact that you have given me six to seven minutes to talk about how I oppose the bill.

While I say that I oppose the bill, like my colleague from Edmonton—Leduc, I would like to tip my hat to the minister for being here throughout the entire debate. When we are looking at the importance of discussing ideas and trying to come up with the best legislation for the country, it is great that we can have this type of debate.

With that said, now that the hugs are over, I will move forward with my opinions on Bill C-31. New Democrats see this as an omnibus refugee reform bill that combines, in our opinion, the worst parts of the former Bill C-11 in the 40th Parliament and the current Bill C-4.

We see the main purpose is to repeal most of the compromises from the former Bill C-11, Balanced Refugee Reform Act, that received all-party support and royal assent in June 2010. It reintroduces Bill C-4, the human smuggling bill and introduces the collection of biometrics for temporary residents.

The naming of safe countries and the restriction of refugee rights, concentrating the power to determine safe countries in the hands of the minister, under the former Bill C-11, was to be done by a panel of experts including human rights experts. While we all can agree with the minister, we want to ensure that there would be a panel and human rights experts involved in this process, because no one is perfect. We want to ensure that immigrants could see that we do not leave it in the power of one person.

Refugee claimants from safe countries would face extremely short timelines before hearings, 15 days I believe. They would have no access to the new appeal division and no automatic stay of removal when filing for a judicial review. They would not be allowed to apply for a work permit for 180 days. The bill would also limit access and shorten timelines to file and submit a pre-removal risk assessment application and evidence.

In terms of restricting access to humanitarian and compassionate considerations, I do not think anyone would agree with that. Unfortunately, we are seeing this being pushed through by the government. A refugee claimant could not apply for H and C while the claim was pending for one year after a failed claim, in which time he or she would likely be deported. The bill would make it easier to terminate refugee protection if circumstances changed. This could apply to any legitimate refugee who had not yet become a citizen, potentially affecting tens of thousands of permanent residents. This would contravene international norms on the treatment of refugees and add uncertainty to individuals for years after their arrival. We have talked about how we have always been a progressive country in terms of immigration. I do not think that the bill, even though it may have been well-intended on the government side, does that.

Arbitrary designation of irregular arrivals and their mandatory incarceration is something that we on this side of the House definitely do not agree with. Bill C-31 reintroduces most of the provisions of Bill C-4, which are widely condemned by refugee advocates and likely unconstitutional. It would allow the minister to designate any refugee arrival of a group of two or more as irregular. We can use the examples of the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady. These irregular arrivals would face mandatory detention for up to one year if they were age 16 and over, or until a positive refugee decision was made, whichever came first.

Irregular arrivals could not apply for permanent residency for five years or sponsor their family for five years. They would have no access to the new refugee appeal division. This designation would create an unfair two-tier refugee system, one for regular refugees and one for irregular arrivals.

Looking at the background of this, the former Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, was supported by all parties in the last Parliament. Several compromises were made to the original bill, largely through the work of the member for Trinity—Spadina and the NDP. It made it acceptable to us and other opposition parties.

These compromises included establishing a panel of experts to determine safe countries, allowing access to appeal for designated nationals and those from designated safe countries, and greater timeliness for the start of the appeal process. Bill C-31, unfortunately, repeals almost all of these compromises.

What would we like to see from an immigration bill, something like C-31 specifically? We do not think the Conservatives have been effective at gaining support for this legislation by promoting fear and talking about the threat of refugees. I do not think anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric, such as “bogus claimants”, “queue jumpers” and “criminal elements”, does anything to help any of the immigrants coming to Canada. However, I think civil society is solidly against these changes to refugee reform. Experience in other countries, such as Australia for example, show that measures such as these do not have a deterrent effect.

These measures target and punish legitimate refugees. Refugees should not be subject to political manoeuvring, but should be given fair and compassionate treatment. All of those who seek protection should be given equal rights, with equal rights to appeal. No country is free from persecution. This is especially true of women and gays and lesbians fleeing violence and persecution.

To summarize, refugees have the right to a fair hearing. The right to appeal is critical for vulnerable claimants at the mercy of an inconsistent and often arbitrary Immigration and Refugee Board. We do not believe that the bill will accomplish that.

I am sure I will have a few minutes on another day to continue, but with that I do wish everyone a very Happy St. Patrick's Day tomorrow and a great constituency week.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for St. Paul's is rising on a point of order.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, looking at the blues today, it appears that my time ran out before I was able to correct the number in the ask. I would like to get it on the record that the national chief has asked for $500 million for education on reserve and that we, as the Liberal party, are asking for no less than $500 million in the budget.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I do not think that is really a point of order. It is a matter of debate concerning discussions and debate earlier today perhaps.

I will let the hon. member for Sudbury know that he will have three minutes remaining for his speech, and also the requisite five minutes for questions and comments when the House next returns to debate on the motion.

The House resumed from February 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-350, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, as the Liberal critic, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, has already indicated, we will vote to send this bill to committee to ensure that it makes sense and to hear from experts as to whether it is even constitutional. I have serious concerns as to its constitutionality.

I am really troubled by what has transpired in Parliament since the Conservatives obtained their majority government. As I have said many times in this House, I am amazed by the obsession of the Conservatives with crime. Against all evidence, members of the Conservative government continue to propagate the myth that Canada is a hotbed of criminal activity.

This obsession and fixation with creating and then communicating this erroneous notion of rampant crime is really offensive to many Canadians. I will tell you why it is so offensive: Crime is on the decline in Canada and has been for some time. These facts matter. In any real democracy, laws are based on reality and evidence.

However, that is not the case in the Conservative world. Facts do not matter. Scaring Canadians seems to be their goal, and it is a goal without merit or honour.

However, facts do matter. The truth matters. Evidence matters.

Canadians expect their government to be honest. Canadians expect their elected members of Parliament and senators to enact laws based on facts and evidence. Canadians do not want law founded on feelings or ideology. Canadians do not want their laws to be reduced to a tool to fundraise from a small, narrow right-wing base.

I do find it very troubling that we have a government that essentially says to Canadians, “Facts are just facts and are really a nuisance, because they get in the way of our feeling that deep down, crime is rampant. So let us just proceed on that basis”.

That is the foundation on which the government operates, and by extension, it is how the members of its backbench operate. It is offensive to those of us who value facts and evidence. Yet what we have witnessed since last fall when Parliament got into full swing is a government and its members practically climbing over themselves, looking for any opportunity to look tough on crime.

Since Parliament has returned, over 90% of all private members' bills presented by the Conservative Party have contained some crime initiative or amendment to the Criminal Code. Again, this absurd obsession with manufacturing a crisis is very troubling.

Crime is not rampant in Canada. People are not roaming the streets in large gangs, causing widespread unrest. Police are not, as we speak, in riot gear throughout the country. However, to listen to the Conservatives, one would think there is an armed insurrection in Canada. These notions are false.

I understand that from time to time Parliament does need to make adjustments to our Criminal Code. However, the actions of the government and its members in tinkering with the Criminal Code through private members' bills will have long-term effects on the coherence of our criminal law.

The Conservatives, though, find themselves in a majority. This majority provides them with the opportunity to legislate their ideology, to do as they please, and facts be damned.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding relevance. I think the member is speaking to the wrong bill.

He has been talking about the Criminal Code. This is an amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. He has not mentioned that the bill would require that convicted criminals give the proceeds of civil judgments to victims of crime.

I wonder when he intends to address the bill. Perhaps the member is mistaken and thinks he is debating a different bill.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I appreciate the consideration of all members. In respect to points of order pertaining to relevance, it is true that members, while they do have great liberties to explore different ideas around the subject before the House, eventually need to bring those ideas back around so they are pertinent and relevant to the issue before the House.

The hon. member for Charlottetown.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am a lawyer by training and have practised law for most of my adult life. I served as managing partner in a successful law firm back home in Prince Edward Island. I have some experience as a prosecutor with respect to narcotics offences and election offences. That is something that will probably come in handy before too long in this country. Therefore, I understand the harm that crime can have on individuals. I know it hurts families. I know it hurts communities. I value a tough justice system, but not a vindictive one. I value proportionality and balance. I value the courts and their judgment. I value the Charter of Rights.

However, one gets a very strong impression that the Conservatives have a view of justice that is arbitrary, vindictive and disproportionate. We have certainly seen this manifested in Bill C-10, a bill that would most certainly be found to be, in whole or in part, unconstitutional. In effect, we also saw it last night in the debate on Bill C-316.

The bill before us today proposes to do something that in all my years of practising law I have yet to confront.

What widespread epidemic problem does the bill seek to fix? Are there thousands of incarcerated people in receipt of a judgment from Her Majesty where we have to divvy up the proceeds? Is this an epidemic in our country?

We know the answer to that. The answer is: very, very few.

I am not a cynic by nature, but the actions and the behaviour of the Conservatives really do cause one to question their motives. I am sure there are many members who like it when we oppose the myth-based crime bills. They perhaps want to be able to write fund-raising letters to their right-wing base, collecting untold amounts of money by suggesting that the opposition is soft on crime and that we do not care about victims. That is the type of divisive government we have in Canada.

The bill has already had a rough ride, primarily because it was initially ill-conceived and not well thought out. It was originally proposed and rejected because of jurisdictional problems. A non-partisan researcher and lawyer associated with the non-partisan Library of Parliament, Michel Bédard, said:

—I have doubts as to the federal government's power to pass provisions of this kind. It's important to understand that, according to the division of powers in Canada, property and civil rights fall within provincial jurisdiction. Under that head of power, the provinces have jurisdiction over contracts and all private law, including debt priority ranking. That includes debts owed to creditors, in particular.... It's important to realize that federal jurisdiction regarding debt priority ranking is limited to certain well-defined areas, such as bankruptcy, tax collection and banks.

This is obviously something that will have to be discussed at committee.

I would close by saying this. The Criminal Code is not some pet project to be tinkered and played with by Conservative backbenchers looking for reasons to appear tough. The Criminal Code is not supposed to be used and amended by backbenchers in order to send out a press release, or to be used as an opportunity to put something in a householder or newsletter. That is not how we make laws in Canada. In fact, I should say, that is not how we used to make laws in Canada. That is the sad part of what is happening in Canada under this fact-free Conservative government.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to the same private member's bill, Bill C-350, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accountability of offenders). The bill would require that any monetary amount awarded to an offender pursuant to a legal action or proceeding be paid to victims and other designated beneficiaries.

I believe my colleague, the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, proposes this measure in good faith and attempts to tackle—

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. There is too much noise in the chamber. With due respect to members who have the floor, in this case the member for Hamilton Mountain, if members wish to carry on conversations, I ask that they take those to their respective lobbies and we will continue.

The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.