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 refugees.

Topics

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, the member clearly misunderstands the bill and the proposed new asylum system when he says that we propose to detain asylum claimants for 12 months without due process. That is complete and utter nonsense. We propose to allow for the enhanced detention of illegal migrants who arrive in criminal smuggling operations for that period so that we can identify them, because these people typically come without documents having destroyed them. We have a responsibility to public safety to ensure that we do not admit people whose identity we cannot verify and whether they constitute a risk to Canadian health and safety.

Any of those people who arrive in a designated smuggling event who file an asylum claim would have the same access to the same asylum system as anyone else. Under the accelerated timelines, the IRB will be providing hearings to claimants, including those under detention in a smuggling operation, within about eight weeks time. If they are bona fide refugees, if they are found to have a well-founded fear of persecution, they would be granted protected status within two to three months of the reference of their application.

Would the member care to correct his mischaracterization of the bill?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I do not accept for a minute that I have mischaracterized the bill. The bill would provide broad-reaching powers to the minister to designate foreign nationals based on their mode of entry. That gives the right to the minister to have the 12 month detention without review.

It also indicates in the bill that the inability to determine the identity of the refugees within a reasonable time also provides that grounds. Therefore, not only do we have the mode of entry into the country, but if the immigration department happens to be too swamped or the officials happen to be too overloaded in order to determine the identity within a reasonable time, that, too, gives the minister that right.

I do not believe for a minute that I have mischaracterized the bill. The bill would provide overreaching powers to the minister. We have called it properly here.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague from Charlottetown to elaborate on Bill C-31.

This bill creates a new category of refugees called “designated foreign nationals”. This seems to go against the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and it gives the minister discretionary power that he did not have before. We have a problem with that. In this case, as in many other cases, we see a number of aspects that show that bills are being introduced to give ever-growing discretionary powers, which remove the possibility of judging cases in a more objective way.

I would like my colleague from Charlottetown to say a few words about the impact that creating this “designated foreign national” status will have on the refugee processing system.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that creating this third class will absolutely have an impact on refugees.

There is no doubt that there will be a dramatic impact on those seeking refuge and asylum with the creation of this third class. I should point out that a court decision determined that the holding of a refugee for 120 days under a security certificate was cruel and unusual punishment. The fact is that this class now purports to authorize the holding of a designated foreign national for 12 months without review which is four times the amount of time that has already been found to be unconstitutional with respect to security certificates. Undoubtedly, separating these people from their families for such an extended period of time will have an impact.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

April 23rd, 2012 / 12:45 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to have this opportunity to join the debate on Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act, which would further improve Canada's refugee determination system, as well as our immigration system.

I think we can all agree that Canada has one of the most generous and fair refugee systems in the world. In fact, the facts speak for themselves. Canada currently welcomes one out of every ten resettled refugees worldwide. Since World War II, Canada has provided a safe haven to more than one million refugees and our humanitarian efforts have been recognized by the United Nations.

Canadians can take great pride in the openness and welcoming nature of our refugee system. At the same time, few Canadians would disagree that the system is badly in need of reform. As we see time and time again, refugee claimants wait too long for a decision on a claim. This puts in limbo those who are genuinely in need of Canada's protection but it also allows those who are not really in need of our protection to abuse our generosity and take unfair advantage of our country.

Last year, processing times for a decision on a claim before the independent Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, the IRB, could take more than 20 months and, because of the seemingly endless recourses available, it can take an average of four and a half years from the time a claim is made until a failed refugee claimant has exhausted all legal avenues and is removed from Canada. In some cases, it has taken more than a decade.

As one can imagine, these long delays, as well as access to generous taxpayer funded health and social benefits, encourage individuals who are not in need of our protection to use the refugee system as a way to remain in Canada for years on end.

To address these problems, Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, was passed in June 2010. That legislation included a number of improvements to the refugee system to provide for faster protection and faster removals with the aim of deterring abuse.

Bill C-11 provided for faster processing timelines to quickly decide claims. It introduced a designated country of origin policy to further expedite the processing of claims from those countries. It also restricted access to post-claim recourses to allow for faster removals for claimants not found in need of protection.

However, as we proceeded with the implementation of that bill, it became clear that further reforms were needed. We are concerned, for example, that we are receiving a large number of refugee claims from countries where human and democratic rights exist and which are not typically refugee-producing, such as those in the European Union. If members can believe it, Canada actually receives more refugee claims from the democratic European Union than from Africa or Asia. What is more, in recent years, virtually all European Union claims were abandoned, withdrawn or rejected. If that trend continues, that means that the unfounded claims from the 5,800 EU nationals who sought asylum last year will cost Canadian taxpayers nearly $170 million.

When we consider that 62% of all asylum claims were either abandoned, withdrawn or rejected by the IRB last year, it becomes clear that too many tax dollars are spent on these claimants and on tax-funded social benefits.

We need to send a message to those who would abuse Canada's generous refugee system that if they are not in need of protection they will be sent home quickly. At the same time, those who truly need our protection will get it even faster, while providing an extra level of appeal to most failed claimants.

That is why the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-31, which we are debating today, which will, if passed, further strengthen the asylum system and deter abuse. I will 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.

To begin, we propose to eliminate the information-gathering interview that was developed under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and replace it with a basis of claim. This document would be submitted at the same time as the eligibility interview for those who make their claim inland or within 15 days for those who make their claim at the port of entry.

Under the proposed measures, refugee claimants, particularly those from designated countries of origin, would receive a hearing before the IRB 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.

However, to be effective, faster decisions on refugee claims must be complemented by timely removals. Quick removals would contribute to reducing overall costs associated with Canada's refugee system by deterring abuse. Under a reformed refugee status determination system, the Canada Border Services Agency would place a higher priority on apprehending and removing failed refugee claimants. In particular, the CBSA would remove failed refugee claimants within 12 months following a final negative decision by the IRB.

As we know all too well, failed refugee claimants may turn to other options to delay their removal from Canada. That is why limits on other recourse options have been proposed in this legislation.

In closing, let me reiterate, the proposed protecting Canada's immigration system act builds on reform passed in June 2010 as part of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act. These new measures further accelerate the processing of refugee claims for nationals from designated countries which are those that generally do not produce refugees. In addition, the proposals reduce the options available to failed claimants to delay their removal from Canada.

Even after these changes, Canada's refugee determination system would continue to meet our domestic and international obligations.

This is what The Globe and Mail had to say about Bill C-31.

Immigration minister's...refugee reforms, aimed at making the process more efficient and decisive, are generally good. If implemented, they will improve an unwieldy asylum program....The legislation rightly focuses on weeding out claimants who are not genuine, and stemming the flow of asylum seekers from countries...that are democracies with respect for basic rights and freedoms....Fast-tracking refugee claims from these countries, and ensuring failed claimants are promptly deported, is an excellent way to ensure Canada does not become a magnet for abuse. The bill will also implement biometric identification, such as fingerprints and photos, for people who apply for visitor's visas. This welcome change will guard against the use of false identities.

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

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Conservative member who just expanded on Bill C-31, for which the time allocated for debate has been limited, yet again.

How does he justify the fact that the detention will violate a number of rights and freedoms of asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants? This practice was condemned in Australia, since it is an arbitrary detention denounced by Amnesty International and a number of human rights groups.

Some people, including children, might be imprisoned for a year simply because they arrived by boat, like my parents did.

The government considers this mode of entry into the country to be illegal. How does the hon. member justify this?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the member would agree that those people are arriving illegally.

An interesting fact that many might not be aware of, with respect to the boats that came in the last few years, is that many of those individuals are actually detained in my riding. I am well aware of how they are treated and the process that they undergo.

The member should also know that it is already within the ability of the government to detain individuals. In this case, it is about protecting the safety of Canadians. As I said, because they are detained in my riding, I receive lots of correspondence and calls. People are primarily asking, if we do not know who these people are, should we simply let them travel throughout Canada and set up homes wherever they might go? They are encouraging the actions the government is taking in this legislation, and saying that before we do that we need to know their identities and ensure that they are not a threat to the safety and security of Canadians.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about safety in a well-known case. Mr. X worked as a police officer in Mexico and investigated drug cartels and the murders of women. Due to his work, he received death threats. Several officers in his unit were killed. He believed he was next and he fled to Canada. His refugee claim failed, as the judge believed that there was adequate protection in Mexico for those who are targeted by organized crime. However, was it safe for Mr. X?

Bill C-31 would attempt to limit the number of refugees who seek protection in Canada by designating some countries as safe. The minister would have the sole authority to designate these countries. Does the hon. member believe there is a reliable and objective means of distinguishing between safe and unsafe countries when it comes to human rights protection? If so, could he describe it, please?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the member has misunderstood the legislation if she thinks that individuals from these designated countries would not get an opportunity to make their case when, in fact, they would. It is important as part of our system that we give them the opportunity. However, Canadians would agree that the system should be a bit different in terms of the timelines for these individuals who come from countries that are not generally refugee producing. They would get to make their case, whether from one of those countries or not, before an independent individual. If the outcome were to their benefit then they would be part of our system. So we would be protecting the ones who need protection.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-31. However, I would have preferred that this bill not be introduced at all and that we not debate it. In my opinion, this is an objectionable bill. There are a number of problems with it and it is certainly going to result in legal challenges.

I would like to start by saying that Bill C-31 builds on Bill C-11, which was introduced in the previous Parliament. With a minority government, the Conservatives were unable to pass the strict and severe bills that they wanted. Now, they are taking Bill C-49, which was also from the previous Parliament, and making the necessary changes to complete their biased and discriminatory immigration policy the sole purpose of which is to close our borders for as long as possible to foreigners seeking asylum in Canada.

The change in this government's tone on immigration and citizenship is striking. Most of Bill C-31 is practically copied word for word from the former Bill C-49, the short title of which was Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act. It was promoted as the bill that would protect refugees and discourage smugglers who were endangering the lives of foreigners trying to enter Canada by boat. Bill C-31, which is pretty much the same, is entitled Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act. The image is eloquent.

The Conservatives are now showing their true colours. The intent of Bill C-31 is no longer to protect refugees, but to protect the integrity of Canada's immigration system against ill-intentioned refugees who abuse the generosity of Canadian laws and who try to take advantage of our country. These comments were made and repeated by the previous speaker.

In the previous Parliament, some immigration bills, especially, Bills C-11 and C-35, were passed after much discussion, debate and compromise by all parties. A compromise was even reached on Bill C-49, the predecessor to Bill C-31. This time, the Conservative government is no longer receptive to amendments. On the contrary, the minister himself said that there are gaps in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and that Canada needs stronger measures that are closer to the original bill we introduced in March 2010.

This time, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is not honouring the agreements reached by the various parties.

At the time, a number of groups that defend rights and freedoms condemned Bill C-49. Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Barreau du Québec and Professor Peter Showler, to name just a few, roundly condemned several key provisions of the bill, saying that they represented a serious violation of Canada's international and constitutional obligations.

In fact, this government is still using the pretext of national security to justify its lack of transparency and its desire to keep people in need out of the country, with no regard for Canada's constitutional and international obligations.

Far from having improved his bill in response to the criticisms about humanitarian considerations in previous bills, the minister instead says that he will not give in to the “immigration industry” lobby whose criticisms only reinforce the idea that the government is truly on the right track. It would be hard to be any more arrogant.

In addition to the government's arrogance, its narrow vision and demagoguery must be condemned.

With this bill, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is creating a new category of immigrants and giving himself the power to arbitrarily impose a different processing system for those immigrants than for other asylum seekers. This discretionary power is, in fact, the power to declare the entry of foreign nationals into the country as irregular by using loosely defined criteria based on national security interests, which was probably the genesis for the idea that this power cannot be delegated.

The creation of this category of refugee was specifically designed to block the entry of as many refugees as possible and it completely disregards the right to equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These asylum seekers often come from countries where fundamental rights are denied and where living conditions jeopardize their health and lives.

It is utterly ridiculous, even irresponsible, for a government to arbitrarily punish refugees who arrive by boat on the pretext of wanting to separate the good refugees from the bad as quickly as possible. That makes no sense. A refugee is not a qualified immigrant who can be selected. We cannot select refugees, simply by virtue of their refugee status. According to this government's logic, refugees who are not selected are bad refugees.

The fact that the minister would be able to create two classes of people is unacceptable and downright disturbing. Human beings are all equal, and the minister must never forget that Canada has a legal responsibility toward these people under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a moral responsibility arising from its international obligations under various human rights treaties.

According to Peter Showler, director of the Refugee Forum and former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, concerns about a deluge of illegal refugees are unfounded because both routes to obtaining refugee protection—the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, which targets international refugees as defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Canada's Inland Refugee Protection System for refugees arriving in Canada spontaneously—have historically been responsible for the same number of permanent residents in Canada, around 12,000 per year.

The difference between the two systems is control: control over the number of people coming in, the selection criteria, and the procedures and processing times. This is a legitimate concern, but it should not legitimize the crass justifications that the government is using to block access for people who need help.

For example, the minister claims that Canada is getting more and more claims from certain countries, such as Hungary and Mexico, and that these claims often come from “bad refugees” who do not really need protection. According to Mr. Showler, the Immigration and Refugee Board nevertheless accepts a significant number of claims from those two countries, 17% and 8%, respectively.

The minister also claims that this new bill will enable the board to do some “housecleaning” and shorten the waiting list for “good refugees” who have to wait patiently in refugee camps because illegitimate refugees who arrive by boat bog the system down by using fraudulent documents to get into Canada.

That, according to Mr. Showler, is not true because, on the one hand, not all refugees abroad can reach refugee camps, and on the other hand, the United Nations convention recognizes that it is difficult for refugees to be granted asylum, so it allows them to use fraudulent documents to seek refugee protection.

The Conservatives are trying to create an unhealthy climate around immigration, and specifically refugees. The executive of the Canadian Council for Refugees is very concerned about this and stated, “it is very worrisome when the government tries to create an anti-refugee sentiment among the population”. Several statements made by government MPs have promoted that very sentiment.

According to Wanda Yamamoto, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, “the bill is discriminatory and creates a two-tier system of refugee protection in Canada. It also makes it dangerously vulnerable to political considerations, rather than ensuring a fair and independent decision about who is a refugee. Our refugee system needs to give everyone a fair hearing, based on the facts of their case and regardless of their country of origin.”

Determining refugee status will henceforth be directly controlled by the minister, who now has the power to establish his own criteria. Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees said, “there is an arbitrary element in this, which the government is exploiting and abusing.”

Politicizing the immigration system is a very dangerous thing to do. The system had found a rather fair balance between security and individual liberties. All of that is now being compromised in the name of national security. From now on, any difficulty identifying refugees will be considered a threat to national security and, as a result, will justify different, more severe and punitive treatment than for all other kinds of refugees.

The Canadian Bar Association stated that Bill C-31 lacks clear qualitative thresholds and raises serious concern about excessive ministerial discretion. Furthermore, given the serious legal consequences that flow from a designation made by the minister, these amendments are overbroad and unsustainable.

Executive officers of the Canadian Bar Association went even further and recommended that implementation of the proposed changes be delayed to allow for immediate and meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.

I have only touched on some of the important aspects that support dropping this bill. We have asked the government many times to drop Bill C-31. This bill fuels an anti-refugee sentiment and exacerbates fears that are often legitimate, but that are being misguided with a bill like this one.

I think it is a shame that we are voting on this bill this evening with yet another time allocation. The NDP cannot vote in favour of Bill C-31.

We will strongly condemn this bill.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I wonder who is writing the notes and doing the research on Bill C-31 for the NDP because they are completely misinformed. For example, the hon. member just said that, under the proposed system, the minister will directly control the determination process. That is absolutely not true.

All the decisions on requests for asylum will be processed by the Immigration and Refugee Board, an independent quasi-judicial agency, in accordance with all the rules of the act and without any interference by the minister. There will be no change in how the decisions are made. This is what will change: in the refugee protection division, where the hearings will be held and where the decisions will be made, there will be permanently appointed officials instead of members appointed by the Governor in Council. That way cabinet will be less involved in determining who will make the decisions.

The hon. member said there is an anti-refugee sentiment. Is he aware of the fact that our government is increasing by 20% the number of refugees that we will accept as resettled refugees and that we are also increasing the refugee integration assistance program by 20%?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism hears only what he wants to hear. What cannot be denied is that the bill can give and has given discretionary powers to the minister. It was never a question of the minister making all the decisions. I do not believe that a minister or minister's office can make such decisions. I am quite aware that there are boards and councils.

However, on the specific issue of designated foreign nationals, the minister will have discretionary powers that previous ministers did not have. The Conservative government has a tendency to give itself discretionary powers, whereas previously the boards were free to do their job, with as little interference as possible.

As for the second question about the number of refugees, honestly, it is not the number but the type at issue here. The bill creates different titles, different categories with different rights and processes. That is disgusting. A refugee who wants to go to Canada or any other country will do whatever it takes to avoid often severe persecution. In this case, the process for legitimate refugees such as those from Mexico or Hungary, like the Roma, will be complicated by this measure. It is not about the number of refugees; it is really about the process and about justice and equality for everyone.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for his very clear and compassionate speech. As he mentioned, Bill C-31 is the incarnation of the former Bill C-49, and it also includes everything that was denounced in Bill C-4 with respect to refugees. Instead of attacking smugglers and those who abuse refugees, this bill directly attacks the refugees themselves. Furthermore, the Conservatives are trying to make the public afraid. They are fearmongering about refugees' lack of identification. These refugees flee their countries and do not have the time to take their papers with them. I would like my colleague to expand a bit on this subject.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry for her question.

When it comes to refugee protection, we have absolutely no problem with tackling human smugglers who mistreat others and take advantage of people's desperation by promising them a better life and a way out of persecution. I think that was clear from the agreements that the government and the opposition parties came to regarding the previous bill. At the time, there was a minority government that had to negotiate, so we reached a compromise. Now that compromise has been kicked to the curb.

This new bill does nothing about human smugglers. It targets refugees who arrive by a specific mode of transportation. Perhaps some of those refugees should be examined much more closely. We can have a procedure for that.

The bill as written punishes refugees who come to Canada via a specific mode of transportation even though that might have been their only option. That is why we feel that this bill is brutal. The opposition will be voting against it.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act. It is so important for us to help ensure the integrity of our immigration system, and the bill would do exactly that.

Immigrants come to Canada seeking a new life and new opportunities for their families and themselves. Our immigration system is the most fair and generous in the world. However, Canadians have no tolerance for those who abuse our generosity and take advantage of our great country. Indeed, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to protect Canada's immigration system. We are acting on that mandate through this bill.

Bill C-31 introduces many reforms that would help deter individuals and organizations that would seek to engage in illegal and dangerous human smuggling operations. It would also provide faster protection to genuine refugees, as well as faster removal for bogus claimants. With its introduction of biometrics, it would also bring Canada in line with other countries that already use biometrics in their immigration programs, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, the European Union, New Zealand, Japan and the United States, among others.

Although the bill presents many positive changes to our immigration system, the opposition NDP and Liberals continue to propagate myths regarding it. That is why I will try to explain to them today, as many of my colleagues have attempted to do in the past, exactly how these myths are incorrect.

First, the opposition states that the minister will be able to single-handedly pick and choose safe countries. This is categorically false. What the opposition does not understand is that there are laws and regulations that surround such decisions. The factors that would lead to a country's designation would be clearly outlined. It would be based on the decisions taken by the asylum claimants themselves, for example, through the decision to abandon or withdraw their claims, as well as through the independent Immigration and Refugee Board, but not single-handedly by the minister. In fact, it is clear that the criteria proposed to consider a country for designation will actually be more transparent and accountable than under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.

Another common misconception put forth by members opposite is that Bill C-31 would prevent political prisoners, such as Alexandre Soljenitsyne, from making asylum claims in Canada. It is quite clear, when one reads the bill, that this claim is absolutely false. Political prisoners are not and will not be excluded from making refugee claims.

As is the case now, the only refugee claimants who are unable to access a refugee hearing are those who have been convicted of a serious crime, suspected of being involved in terrorism, have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity or have been involved in organized crime under Canadian law. This does not include political prisoners who have not been charged or convicted of a crime punishable under Canadian law. In fact, what the opposition fails to understand is that serious criminals who have been convicted of crimes punishable under Canadian law have always been barred from making a refugee claim in Canada, and Bill C-31 does not change that.

However, under the current system, serious criminality is based on the arbitrary measure of the length of a jail term rather than the severity of the crime committed. Under this legislation, serious criminality would instead be based on the severity of the crime, as defined under the Canadian Criminal Code.

The opposition additionally claims that Bill C-31 would include the mandatory detention of everyone who arrives as part of a human smuggling event for a minimum of one year. This claim is entirely false. If the opposition members were to read the bill more thoroughly, they would find that Bill C-31 includes an exemption from automatic detention for minors under the age of 16. Furthermore, adults aged 16 and over would be released from detention as soon as they received a positive opinion on their refugee claim from the IRB. In cases of human smuggling, it would be overwhelmingly irresponsible to simply release those involved in a criminal human smuggling operation before officials were able to confirm their identities and establish whether or not they posed a risk to the safety of Canadians. Those whose identities cannot be established and who have been determined to be threats to the safety and security of Canadians or those suspected of being architects of criminal activity could be held longer under this bill. This is a provision that is entirely fair and should be entirely supported. This government has always been very serious about maintaining the security and safety of all Canadians.

The final misconception that I would like to address today pertains to biometrics. Several of my colleagues have spoken out in favour of biometrics in the past and for good reason. They would help expedite identity verification and decision making by officials and would result in shorter wait times. Biometrics would also help prevent the forgery or theft of an applicant's identity to gain access into Canada. However, some members of the opposition choose to say that the government would not adequately protect the privacy of those who provide biometric data. This is simply not true. There are privacy laws in this country and the government plans to follow them. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been continuously working with the Privacy Commissioner on the implementation of biometrics. Personal information of applicants would be used, retained, shared and disposed of in accordance with Canada's privacy laws. Biometric data would be immediately disposed of when an individual received his or her citizenship. Furthermore, biometric data would not be required of Canadian citizens.

These are but a few misconceptions and myths put forward by the NDP and Liberal opposition. What is not a myth, though, is that the opposition parties are working against a bill that would restore integrity to our asylum system, making Canada's refugee determination faster and fairer in order to quickly provide refuge to legitimate refugees and remove bogus claimants. The NDP and Liberal opposition is working against a bill that would make the asylum system less prone to abuse. The NDP and Liberal opposition is working against a bill that would save the taxpayers millions of dollars every year, would help restore public trust in the immigration system and would ensure that Canada's generosity is only extended to those who genuinely need it.

The government was given a strong mandate to improve Canada's immigration system. In response it has presented Bill C-31, a bill that would help stop those who seek to abuse our generosity.