House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugee.

Topics

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his remarks and evident concern for the plight of refugees. However, I am concerned with what I regard as a clear lack of balance in the way the member and his colleagues in the NDP approach this issue. They speak about asylum claimants as though they are all refugees, when in point of fact some two-thirds of the asylum claimants in Canada turn out not to be in need of our protection. According to our very fair and generous legal system, they do not have a well-founded fear of persecution. Does he not acknowledge that it represents a problem?

He just spoke about European asylum claimants. Will he not acknowledge that nearly 100% of the European asylum claimants abandon or withdraw their claims of their own volition? Since we gave visa exemptions to central European countries, 95% of those claimants have not shown up at their hearings. It is telling us through their volition that they do not need our protection.

Does he not think we need a more efficient system that is able to address large waves of unfounded claims, claims that are not necessarily being rejected by our fair legal system, but are being withdrawn by the claimants themselves? Is he not the least bit concerned about this apparent abuse of our system and its generosity?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government loves to pull the most egregious examples and then craft legislation around those examples, but that is not the way to do it. That is what we are trying to say on this side.

Many Canadians, many experts, have a lot of concern about the very fact that the minister of the day would have essentially carte blanche on some of these decisions. There is a real concern around the way these decisions would be made. It is fair and reasonable for Canadians to be concerned about the process and the lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the government through this proposed legislation.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in Bill C-31 there are three areas we need to explore and discuss and I look forward to doing that in committee.

The old bill, Bill C-4 will die because Bill C-31 replaces it. There were significant challenges brought forward by lawyers across Canada who said that Bill C-4 had some serious legal aspects. They challenged its worthiness to even pass in a court of law in Canada and said that it was unfair to refugees. That is one component of the bill.

A second component of the bill deals with legislation which this House passed but the government is trying to amend so as to no longer have an advisory committee. The minister wants to have the power to designate countries as safe countries. Rather than having an advisory board, the minister wants that power.

I would like the member to comment on the third component, which deals with biometrics. Does the NDP have a position on the use of biometrics in regard to visas?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Winnipeg North likes to keep us waiting for the question.

On issues such as biometrics and other matters where the government talks about cost savings, there are provisions in Bill C-31 that are very costly. For example, mandatory detention of irregular arrivals for a minimum of one year could cost up to $70,000 per claimant. Refugee claimants from designated countries would not be able to apply for work permits for at least six months and they would be forced on to social assistance. These are the parts of the bill where the economics absolutely do not make any sense.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this legislation. It is something that my constituents ask me about on a regular basis. I have communicated with them several times on some of the great initiatives which the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has put forward in the past. Those measures were always warmly received. Our minister is doing a great job. Not only is he a great minister, but he is a great representative of Calgary Southeast and our home province of Alberta.

Canadians are rightfully proud of Canada's long-standing humanitarian tradition and the fact that we are one of the top countries in the world to offer protection to those who sincerely and genuinely need asylum. At the same time, reasonable Canadians would not disagree that our refugee system is in some need of reform.

As we see time and time again, genuine refugee claimants wait far too long for a decision on their claim. That is because those who seek to use our asylum system as a back door to get into Canada do so at the expense of genuine refugees.

Illegitimate claimants clog our refugee system and create unnecessarily long wait times for those truly in need of Canada's protection. This leaves in limbo those who are genuinely in need. Long delays also encourage individuals who are not in need of our protection to use the refugee system as a way to remain in Canada. Essentially, delays allow those who do not really need our protection to abuse our system and our generosity.

Last year processing times for a decision on a claim before the independent Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, affectionately known as the IRB, could take more than 20 months. Because of the resources available, it could take an average of four and one-half years from the time a claim is made until a failed refugee claimant has exhausted all legal avenues and is removed from Canada. This is completely unacceptable.

This makes Canada an attractive target for illegitimate claimants since they know that they can remain in Canada for several years while their claim is processed, during which time claimants can access our generous taxpayer-funded social benefits and perhaps obtain a work permit. In other words, these individuals basically establish themselves here in Canada without knowing if they are going to be approved as a refugee or not. Illegitimate claimants come here at a huge cost to Canadian taxpayers. The average unfounded claim costs about $55,000. Last year alone bogus refugee claimants cost Canadian taxpayers $170 million.

We need to send a clear and unmistakable message to those who seek to abuse Canada's generous asylum system that if they are not in need of protection, they will be sent home quickly.

The protecting Canada's immigration system act seeks to address these problems with our refugee system by providing faster protection to those in genuine need while quickly removing those who are not.

To help reduce the attraction of coming to Canada, these new measures would further accelerate the processing of all refugee claims, particularly for nationals from designated countries that generally do not produce refugees. This policy would provide the government with an important tool to respond to spikes in claims from countries that one would not normally expect a refugee to seek or claim asylum from.

This legislation would also reduce the options for resources available to failed claimants. Currently, these options permit failed claimants to further delay their removal from Canada. Even though many failed applicants know they will be unsuccessful, they also know these avenues of appeal will help them prolong their stay here where they can continue to have access to our generous system.

Let me be very clear about one thing. Under these new measures, all eligible refugee claimants would continue to be entitled to a fair hearing before an independent decision-maker. However, there would be no automatic stay of removal for claimants from designated countries of origin once a negative decision had been rendered by the IRB and the claimant had applied for judicial review to the Federal Court. This means that failed claimants could no longer use the Federal Court process to further delay their removal.

As I said, it currently takes an average of four and one-half years before a failed claimant has exhausted all avenues of appeal and is removed from Canada. In some instances it has taken over a decade. All the while, failed claimants have access to our generous tax-supported services such as health care and other social benefits.

Canadians work hard to support these services. They do not appreciate it when their hard-earned tax dollars go toward supporting foreign nationals who should not even be here in the first place, who come here under false pretenses knowing full well what they are doing.

The success of the new system hinges on our ability to speed up the current processing times for refugee claims. This is essential because the less time claimants spend in Canada awaiting a decision, the less incentive there is for people to abuse our generous asylum system and queue-jump the regular immigration process. Also, if we can speed up the current processing times for refugee claims, genuine refugees would get our protection more quickly.

Hearings at the IRB for claimants from designated countries of origin would occur within 30 to 45 days. Claimants who are not from designated countries of origin would also have their hearing timelines accelerated. It is proposed that these hearings would be scheduled within 60 days of being referred to the IRB, compared to the current system which takes over 1,000 days. It is no wonder that Chris Selley from the National Post said that the immigration minister is:

--certainly showing more guts than we came to expect from his Liberal predecessors....

Blame whomever you want, these timelines are completely preposterous. And they are one of the two biggest reasons that so many asylum-seekers make for Canada....But if a refugee claim was processed in, say, two months, instead of a year or two or five, the incentive for people with weak claims to give it a whirl would be massively reduced, as would the overall burden on the system.

John Ibbitson from the Globe and Mail also spoke positively about the bill:

I think we need a system first of all that doesn’t cost too much. I mean if you spend four years processing a bogus refugee claim, that’s the taxpayer who pays for it and that person may also be on welfare and other forms of social assistance during that time. So I agree. And I think there is broad public support for the idea that we need to process refugee claimants fairly and swiftly.

Finally, John Ivison from the National Post stated:

I was talking to somebody today who was saying within four days of a claimant landing in Toronto, they can be claiming welfare. Now that’s an obvious magnet for refugees all over the world. We have the most generous refugee system in the world. We have an acceptance rate of something like 50 per cent. Nowhere else in the world comes close to that.

Well, how many people do you need to consult to figure out that Hungary should not be our leading source of refugees? What had happened was that the ten, the top ten countries that we receive refugees from did not figure in the UN’s top ten list of refugees.

These new measures would be accomplished without affecting the fairness of our generous refugee system and without compromising any of Canada's international and domestic obligations with respect to refugees. By improving the refugee system in these ways, this legislation would also ensure that the refugee claimants who really do need our protection would get it even faster.

These proposed measures would continue to meet our domestic and international obligations. They would also maintain the balance and fairness that are the foundation of our refugee system. I am confident that they would honour the spirit and support for refugees that Canadians value.

In supporting this legislation, my hon. colleagues in the House can help to provide a quicker, more secure beginning for victims of violence and persecution around the world and help deter abuse of our refugee system. I urge all hon. members in the House to join me in supporting Bill C-31.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's speech. I wish to thank him for his speech. However, unfortunately, the hon. member seems to believe in magical thinking, as do most of his cabinet colleagues.

It is a very serious problem, because Bill C-31 repeats some aspects of Bill C-4, for example, concerning the 12-month mandatory detention of foreign nationals who are arbitrarily designated by the minister. In the end, we all agree that we are talking about a measure that could be a deterrent, as long as the people detained are informed of it and can weigh all of the consequences.

Elsewhere in the world, experience has shown that this does not work, but that is not the most serious aspect. The worst aspect is that, if this bill passes, it could be formally contested under section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has to do with arbitrary detention. Thus, we will be back at square one.

Considering the cost of this kind of detention and the possibility that it will be abolished, how can my colleague justify this kind of spending and such a waste of time, not to mention the suffering of the people detained?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can say without any hesitation how my constituents feel about the current system. The current system completely fails them.

I do not know how many members of this House, I am assuming all members, get the same chain emails that I get, saying that pensioners would be better off if they left Canada and came back and applied as refugees. It does not matter if perhaps some of the information in the email is misinformed. It is the spirit in which it is sent. The spirit behind that is our system is currently too wide open to abuses.

We can sit here and discuss the merits and the technical merits of the bill. Detention is there. It is currently provided for if individuals are in need of detention when they come here as asylum seekers. With the legislation, they can be held in detention for a certain period of time. That would not change under the new legislation.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share something with the member. Maybe he has had the opportunity to read the press release that was issued by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers in its response to Bill C-31.

In the second point, it states that “the draconian measures of C-4 are rolled into this new bill“, obviously referring to Bill C-31 and that “C-4's proposed mandatory, unreviewable, warrantless, year-long detention is patently unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of Canada decided this issue in the clearest of terms.”

The second point being, “family separation for at least 5, and up to 8 or more years, will have a disastrous consequence for refugees.”

This is in fact what Bill C-31 is proposing to do.

This is not the Liberal Party or the New Democratic Party saying this. These are individuals who have represented refugees for many years. This is a professional organization. Would the member comment on that statement by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's question. It would be like asking the defence lawyer association of Canada about Criminal Code changes. However, the reality is some of that $170 million, I suppose, would be going to some of these lawyers in terms of fees and would be a burden to the taxpayers of Canada.

The reality of the system is if we want something sped up, the changes that the minister is proposing would take processes that take over 1,000 days now, years, and reduce them so that people who are genuine refugees would actually get the protection that they need.

I would think that anybody of moral virtue purporting to represent people who are genuine refugees would appreciate the legislation here. Somebody who would be losing the 1,000 days of endless appeals might not have that same view.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-31 on immigration because much of my campaign last year focused on the idea of having an immigration system that is as transparent as the justice system. Unfortunately, Bill C-31 does not meet these expectations of offering something fairer—not at all.

I received a lot of feedback in Quebec City after Bill C-31 was introduced. Many community agencies, citizens' groups and voters have spoken to me about this issue. They think it is completely ridiculous. It goes too far. We cannot leave everything in the hands of the minister, as the bill intends.

For the Quebec City agencies that are crying for help when it comes to this bill, there is a clear lack of resources to help immigrants in distress. People get lost in red tape and are discouraged most of the time because they do not understand. They see visas getting rejected for strictly administrative reasons—bureaucracy. It is under this government no less.

At first glance, the changes in Bill C-31 seem only to make clarifications to the existing legislation. However, this bill makes draconian changes to situations that are already precarious.

The first thing that jumps out and that I must highlight is the arbitrary power that the minister has clearly given himself. With this discretionary power, he can overturn any decision that has already been made. It is obvious that this will not resolve the issue I am being asked about: why does it take three years for one immigrant to obtain citizenship, and ten years for another? There is a lack of transparency. It is not clear.

The change that scares future immigrants the most, and which we hear about regularly, is the rejection of applications and the pure and simple cancellation of most of the economic class applications. People have been waiting for 7, 8, 9 and even 10 years for positive news about their file, and their applications are going to be returned with a refund of the initial payment—a matter I will not get into at this time—because the minister wants to eliminate the backlog of applications filed since February 2008.

Rapid changes in the demand for labour in Canada would explain this situation. However, what about the people, the human element, the people who have held out hope all these years? The minister will say that they can resubmit their applications and that, if they meet the criteria, they will be chosen quickly. However, what is not being publicized is the fact that, since these people applied, the program has undergone some fine tuning and the law of natural selection now comes into play: the cost of applying has increased. There is no guarantee that the application will be accepted. Hopes are crushed.

Another change would see refugees sent back to their country of origin if the situation there improves. This is what organizations in my riding and people who call and email are telling me. People come here and adapt to life here. They start their lives over in Canada. They make friends and find work here. Their children are raised in Quebec or Canadian culture. Yet the government would send them back to a country they no longer know, a country they fled under difficult circumstances, in most cases. They left everything behind, hoping for a better life. And Canada, which invited them in to give them that opportunity for a better life, would deport them just like that because things have improved in their country? They can live peacefully here. They will want to adapt to our customs. They certainly have the right to that opportunity.

Bill C-31 has yet more shortcomings. For example, there is no mechanism to challenge blunt refusal with respect to family reunification. Families separated by time and borders that are frequently not their own are denied the opportunity to bring their spouse and children because they did not list them when registering. Registration happens in refugee camps where people live in terrible conditions. Once they arrive, they are given a vague one-year window to declare another individual on their application. That makes no sense. Bill C-31 does not address that, but it happens.

Immigration is much more than bringing people through the nation's door, welcoming them and then letting them go.

I recently met with a group of immigrants from my riding. I invited them to my office to discuss their concerns and the problems and issues they faced when they arrived in Quebec.

It is quite simple: they waited and they hoped. They lived the dream and were happy, but even after years, their diplomas are still not recognized and they are still having a hard time finding a good job. Reality bites. There is not enough support. When we really look at it, it seems as though the government believes that it has allowed them in and filled its quota, and now they have to get by on their own. Of course, this summary does not apply to refugees, but I heard this from the mouths of qualified workers who have come here to keep our economy moving and whom we are abandoning. We are not helping them fit in to our Canadian way of life.

Canada is a dream that is often inaccessible and sometimes incomprehensible. People fill out forms, answer questions, put up with delays, and still more delays, pay money and are eventually given the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, and this is all priceless. They are asked to leave everything behind—their house, their culture, their lives—to be submerged in a foreign culture, and they are asked to act like us, to be like us and to thank us. But what tools do we give them?

Just a few hours of French lessons and everything should be perfect? What about life in our society and what about our values? What about support, follow up and a real helping hand? Bill C-31 does not address any of that. Yet that is definitely a reality that many of my hon. colleagues must face in their constituency offices—they must see people going from tears of joy to tears of despair, and get all kinds of calls from people who want to know where to turn.

We see families separated, years of waiting just to be rejected, and hopes dashed. Fortunately, some situations end well. We help people achieve the dream of reunification and staying here. However, I always wonder. I hope everything will go well for them, but we never know. We are in the process of giving the minister more and more discretionary power and that makes no sense.

I also condemn this blatant lack of provincial-federal and interdepartmental dialogue. The government is certainly not known for listening to the provinces. There is no shortage of examples of problems that are only going to get worse under this Conservative government. People have simply lost everything. The federal government requires one thing, the provincial another. One accepts things when the other refuses or vice versa. Costs keep piling up. A federal-provincial dialogue would help people.

The same goes for a dialogue between the federal departments. Is it normal for a person to have his work permit rejected because there is a delay in processing claims at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada? No, that is not normal. The person is not responsible whatsoever for any such delay. The surprising thing is that he has to pay for these delays out of his own pocket every time and usually more than once. As far as I understand, the applicant is certainly not reimbursed.

This Bill C-31 does not reflect our values. This Bill C-31 does not help refugees. This bill is putting everything into the hands of the minister. That is not really a good thing.

I will close on a more positive note because that might be what we should focus on. Recently, in my riding in Quebec City, I met a newly arrived immigrant couple. In fact, it was a spousal reunification. The wife had waited years for her husband to finally be able to join her. To see such happiness is priceless. There are human beings behind all this paperwork.

We have to think of the people.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I do not know exactly what the member was talking about, because it was really not Bill C-31. She expressed reasonable concerns about integrating newcomers. On that subject, I must inform the member that since 2006, this government has more than tripled federal investments in integration services for newcomers, in Quebec and throughout Canada, in particular for francization, language training and job searches for newcomers.

With respect to resettled refugees, we are increasing the number we accept by 20%. We are also increasing support for those refugees under the refugee assistance program. So we are doing a great deal to help newcomers.

We are also reforming immigrant selection at the federal level so they are able to arrive in Canada much faster with jobs organized before they arrive.

Is the member aware of these investments? Does she think that tripling investment in integration is important or not?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for that question because it shows very clearly how the Conservatives think. They have invested, so that is supposed to do the job. They have put money into it, so everything should be fine.

What I wanted to do was bring a human perspective to it. In fact, I am not surprised to see that the minister also failed to grasp the main point after the human element, which is the dialogue with the provinces to solve the little problems I wanted to raise when I decided to talk about immigration, because this was the opportunity to do just that.

I very sincerely hope that this government will live up to its responsibilities and that it will be able to engage in dialogue to improve things. This is not just a question of investment or of doubling the number of hours. There are human beings behind it. Everything possible must be done to make it work. They cannot always set up an F-35 secretariat, or a veterans committee, to solve things.

It is very distressing to see that the minister wants to give himself more responsibilities, because that makes us wonder whether a committee or a secretariat is going to be created. We are wondering how far it will go. So far, I really am not sure that it is going to go well.

Thus, Bill C-31 certainly does not reflect what we on this side expect, and what Canadians expect.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, at the end of her speech, the member said that she would like to leave it on a positive note and she talked about the reunification of a couple. I would like her to comment on one aspect of Bill C-31. The Minister of Immigration is putting into place a situation where refugees, after a year of detention, will need to wait an additional four or five years before being eligible to sponsor a spouse left in a country that they left because of fear for their life. Under this bill, they will wait years before being reunited with their family.

I would ask the member if she could provide comment on that aspect of the bill that would prevent people from being reunited in a more timely fashion.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to thank my hon. colleague for allowing me to expand on this point.

The power that the minister wants to give himself is indeed a matter of great concern. It is an excessive power that is going to allow him to designate countries of origin. In view of changing political situations, which can improve, there would be a decision not to take this refugee or that refugee now.

No matter which countries he chooses, it will certainly complicate things in family reunification cases for families from certain countries. It seems to me that what we have here is the very definition of discrimination.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join everyone here today to speak to Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act.

I thank the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism for not only bringing forward this much needed act, but for being here in the House while the bill is being debated to answer questions, explain what the act entails and how it would improve upon the refugee claimant system that we have here in Canada. I also thank his parliamentary secretary for the work he has done in carrying this bill and ensuring we have this fulsome debate here in a democratic process.

I often hear from constituents in my riding of Selkirk—Interlake how important it is that we fix the refugee system. We always hear stories of people who come in and abuse the refugee system. They take dollars out of Canadian taxpayers' hands and use it in ways that benefit them personally but do not broaden the economy or culture of Canada. There have been a number of emails circulating on the Internet that find their way into the offices of members of Parliament and it is about time that we address some of the concerns that constituents have had. There are emails that have been going through cyberspace and letters to editors that have been written over the years that address the situation of whether people are legitimate asylum seekers, how many dollars are attributed to those individuals as they sit in the queue waiting to have their refugee claims heard, and whether or not they gain access to Canada or are denied and have to be returned to their country of origin.

I do not think anyone in this House could disagree that Canada has the most fair and generous immigration system in the world. However, as I said, no one has tolerance for the abuse that the Canadian refugee system has undergone over recent history.

However, for people to think that our government is trying to crack down on refugees and that there would also be a crackdown on overall immigration, I can say that is absolutely false. Since we have come to power, total immigration into Canada has gone up 15% on a year over year basis. That has helped Canada in finding skilled workers, finding people to work in our health care system and bringing people into our communities to help us continue to grow and prosper as a country. There is no doubt that immigrants who have come to Canada and call it their home have contributed significantly to our economy and helped us to get through the economic downturn.

Bill C-31 is a follow-up to what we have already done under Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act. I do not think it has been said enough here that we have committed as a country to increasing the overall number of refugees we take in every year by 2,500 per year. That is almost a 10% increase of where we were last year and it is still generous. It means that we are still reaching out to help those who are in need and that we will help people who are in countries where they are being persecuted, prejudiced, possibly facing genocides and other atrocities to have the opportunity to come to Canada. We want to make it faster for refugees to come through the system and get safe asylum.

We will do that through a number of different ways. We will establish the safe countries list. By having a safe countries list we hope to reduce the backlog we have today of over 42,000 refugee claimants who are seeking asylum in Canada. Bill C-31 would reduce the overall processing time to 45 days for those people coming from the safe countries list. Right now, claimants coming from safe countries are seeing an average processing time of 1,038 days. We would dramatically reduce that time.

Second, as was mentioned earlier by the member for Barrie, we would bring in biometrics and follow suit with what so many other countries have done. We would bring in digital photographs and fingerprinting, as well as give people seeking asylum the opportunity to make their application in their own countries at Canadian consulates and embassies to get their names into the system along with data. By allowing them to make those claims in their own countries before they come to Canada would expedite the process.

The third important thing here is that we are going after the human smugglers. We do not want to see people profit from other people's disadvantage. We do not want people going out and extorting thousands of dollars from people to bring them to Canada, even though they come from countries where they can make those refugee claims. It is important that this bill addresses that.

As the minister has already said, we are not going after the actual bona fide asylum seekers. Rather, we are going after those who are out to abuse our system. We use the word “bogus” a lot and it gets thrown around but there are those who absolutely abuse the system.

All we need to do is look at the facts that we are dealing with today. The European Union, western world countries, democracies with human rights and established rules of law, account for 23% of all claims coming to Canada. In 2011, 5,800 refugee claimants came from the European Union, which is 14% over 2010, and, more important, it is more than we are getting from Africa and Asia where there are countries that have dictators, where we know people are being persecuted either because of their religious belief or race or are being disadvantaged because of their gender.

It is just amazing that we are getting so many claims from the European Union. Out of those claims, and this is where the word “bogus” comes in, when they actually need to appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board, 95% of those claimants never show up to defend their case. They are saying that they are sorry that they have wasted our time and have taken our money but that they will go back home now. What we are hearing is that they are getting off the plane or the boat, coming from countries like Hungary, the Roma in particular, saying that they are a refugee and then ask for the cheque. They are not even attempting to go through the process of proving that they are disadvantaged in the country that they reside.

The Roma coming from Hungary are essentially 18% of all the claimants that Canada faces. They are the large majority of those coming out of the European Union. That accounts for over 4,400 people, which is an increase of 50% from 2010. Last year, 4,400 people from Hungary tried to claim refugee status here in Canada.

People In the European Union have the freedom to move around without visas and without passports. They get to go back and forth and work in each other's jurisdictions. Therefore, how can these people be economic refugees or political refugees, or be persecuted under a system where they can go anywhere they want within the European Union, where we know there are some great democracies and leaders in human rights and the rule of law?

Belgium only received 188 people from Hungary in 2011. The U.S. only received 47 applicants. France and Norway only received 33 each. We are dealing with 4,400 refugee claimants from Hungary. How is that a fair system when we have people applying who are coming from legitimate countries where they want to get away from war, from government-forced famines or from being persecuted because of their religious beliefs?

This would have a huge savings cost wise for the Canadian taxpayer because we would be removing these people who are just using the system but, more important, it would speed up the system and open the door for legitimate asylum seekers. Those are the ones we want to reach out to and to see overall numbers increase by 2,500 refugees a year, so that Canada's generosity and compassion will still be second to none in the world.

Again I congratulate the minister and his department for their foresight and for going ahead and making these changes so that we can once and for all do away with a system that is broken and allow us to address the real needs of those seeking asylum around the world.