House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to Standing Order 98 the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 16, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, on February 8, 2012, I rose in the House to ask the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism about the very worrisome situation at the Laval immigration holding centre, which is in my riding of Alfred-Pellan.

I was not satisfied with the answer and therefore I thank you for giving me the opportunity to again speak about this matter in the House today.

Things have happened since the last time we discussed this matter. In fact, Bill C-4, the subject of my question, has now been replaced by Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act.

There are three immigration holding centres in Canada: one in Toronto, one in Vancouver and one in Laval, in my riding. Refugees who cannot prove their identity are incarcerated in this facility, which looks like a prison. In fact, in Laval, the centre is located in a former penitentiary. Detainees are put in chains when they are moved and they are separated from their families.

The centre tells the refugees that the process for verifying their identity will take just a few days, but some will spend weeks, even months, at a place that operates as a medium security prison. It is terrible because, contrary to what the government believes, newcomers and refugees are not criminals and should not be treated as such.

Studies show that such prison stays will have adverse psychological effects on these individuals. Newcomers in these refugee centres are not entitled to access to psychotherapists or consultations with social workers. In fact, individuals with behavioural problems or suicidal individuals are transferred to a maximum security prison or are simply separated from the others.

This brings me to a number of questions. Is this the federal government's roundabout way of limiting immigration and the number of refugees in Canada?

We are talking about individuals who have left everything behind in their country of origin, in order to find refuge and to emigrate to Canada, a welcoming and developed country. I would like the government to put itself in their shoes for a minute. It must be awful to leave one's country for safety reasons and arrive at a place thinking it will be a welcoming land, only to quickly realize that you are given the same status as a criminal.

Some people prefer to suffer and put up with the pain rather than go to a hospital in chains.

Allow me to ask you a question: is there an emotion that hurts more than physical pain? The answer, Mr. Speaker, is humiliation. No one should be humiliated. However, that is what happens to new immigrants in these immigration detention centres. That is simply unacceptable.

We have learned that the government plans to make cuts of $84.3 million, or 5.3%, by 2015, and that includes a 13.1% cut to the Immigration and Refugee Board. We wonder how the government plans to remedy this situation. Passing bills such as Bill C-31 and making these types of cuts will stretch immigration processing from a few months to several years.

Why is the government doing nothing to remedy this situation, which is unbearable for newcomers? When will the government get down to work and suggest some real solutions?

7:15 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for giving me the opportunity to speak on this important issue.

Let me be clear in outlining the circumstances that would lead to someone being detained when the person arrives in Canada. First, if officials suspect that someone is a criminal, has committed crimes against humanity, is a war criminal, or otherwise poses a threat to the safety and security of Canadians, that person will be detained.

Second, under Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act, anyone who arrives as part of a human smuggling event will be detained once that person arrives in Canada, except for anyone under the age of 16, who is exempt from detention. The reason is that they often do not have correct documentation.

It is important to also point out that the architects of the human smuggling events are also on the boats, among everyone else. Accordingly, it is important to detain these individuals until their identity is discovered and verified and their risk to the safety and security of Canadians is verified.

I think detaining foreign nationals for these reasons is what any responsible government would do. I know my constituents sleep better at night knowing that these people are detained and that our Conservative government takes the safety of their families seriously.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the NDP. Surely the NDP is not saying that it wants these people to be let free into our communities, among our constituents and theirs, before we know if they pose a threat. The NDP claims it wants people to be released more quickly, but yet again the NDP has shown that it says one thing and does another.

Under Bill C-31, the refugee determination process will be streamlined, resulting in genuine refugees receiving Canada's protection more quickly while criminals and refugee claimants will be removed faster.

The current refugee determination process takes almost two years for the first hearing. Under Bill C-31, it will take only two to three months for a first hearing. This means that anyone who is detained as part of a human smuggling event and found not to be a risk will not have to wait two years to have their claim heard and be released. Instead, anyone who arrives and is found not to be risk and found to be a bona fide refugee will be released in a few short months.

In addition, in response to the concerns raised by this NDP member's colleagues and experts, our government has acted in good faith and agreed to provisions to add additional detention reviews to Bill C-31. This means even more opportunity for those who have come as part of a human smuggling event.

Unfortunately, the NDP has criticized these important amendments. Instead of working collaboratively and being practical, the NDP has decided to oppose and be ideological. This is very unfortunate, but it is not surprising, because the NDP has a habit of complaining; then, when the government acts to work with the NDP to fix a problem, the NDP does not support it.

I urge the member for take her own advice, work with our government to improve the detention provisions in Bill C-31 and support this very important piece of legislation.

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is surprising is seeing the parliamentary secretary confusing “criminals” and “refugees”. We are talking about refugees who are incarcerated, families who arrive with young children. The men and women are separated. They are treated like real criminals and are imprisoned. They sleep in dormitories. It is appalling.

I do not know if the parliamentary secretary has ever gone to visit one of these immigration detention centres. I pass by one of these centres every day when I am in my riding, for it is not far from my house. Armed security guards from the Canada Border Services Agency patrol the roof. People come out of there with their wrists and ankles shackled.

These situations are completely unacceptable considering what these people have been through in their own countries. It is absolutely appalling to think that, as a G8 country, Canada would treat people who come here seeking refuge as common criminals.

I therefore ask the parliamentary secretary why she is confusing refugee families, people who arrive here in good faith, with criminals. Does she not understand the difference between the two?

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP's position that those who have been found to be a risk to the safety and security of Canadians or whose risk has not yet been determined be released from detention or onto the street is incredibly irresponsible.

I know my constituents do not agree with that position, and I hope the member's constituents are listening closely, because I doubt they support this position either.

Our government has taken reasonable measures to ensure that people are detained when there is a justifiable reason, and we do not apologize for that. What is more, when the NDP has a chance to vote for reasonable measures that will streamline processes and result in people who have been determined to not be a risk being released from detention more quickly, the NDP members vote against them, proof yet again that the NDP says one thing but does another, and proof again that the NDP is not fit to govern.

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to hear the parliamentary secretary talk about saying one thing and doing the other. If members remember, the Conservatives said nothing about changing OAS and the age of retirement, yet they did just that.

On February 13, I rose in the House and asked when the government would introduce a jobs plan for Canadian families. We are talking about families who have a hard time making ends meet and who struggle to pay the rent and buy groceries.

I asked specifically about when the government would help the people of Toronto. I asked the question in light of a study showing that Toronto is a place of skyrocketing costs. The study also showed that Toronto has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and described how many of the unemployed simply lose hope and give up. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Many Canadians are hurting, but by way of a response to my questions, I got a bunch of Conservative double-talk, faulty numbers and an absence of hope. However, I, as well as many Canadians, knew at that time that the Conservatives' budget had yet to be introduced, and we were hopeful that there would be something for struggling families in Toronto.

We are hopeful that the government will do what a government is supposed to do: help those it is supposed to serve. We were all hopeful that the government would introduce real initiatives to help Canadian families by providing such things as a jobs plan, a national housing strategy and a national transit strategy; instead the government introduced a 425-page Trojan Horse, a political tool used to change laws out of sight of the public and accountability.

While the Conservatives were focusing on their so-called budget and on cynical parliamentary tricks, they failed to take the time to introduce one measure to help Canadian families make ends meet.

Where is the jobs plan that would help Canadians gain some measure of security and help many more re-enter and maintain their participation in the economy?

7:25 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the member for Scarborough Southwest on the state of Canadian families.

Child poverty rates have been cut by almost half since 1996. That represents solid, incremental change for the better. This success does not come about by accident. No, it comes from the strong leadership of our Prime Minister and his unwavering, intentional support of families. Our government has been quite clear that we firmly believe that families are the building blocks of Canadian society. Since 2006, the many actions our Conservative government has taken to support Canadian families have meant that the average family of four will save over $3,000 per year in taxes.

Let me provide a few examples of how our government has provided support for Canadian families.

First and foremost, our government provided choice for parents in child care when we implemented our 2006 campaign promise and brought in the universal child care benefit. This direct payment to Canadian parents provides about $2.6 billion each year to 1.5 million families and has lifted an estimated 55,000 children and 24,000 families out of low income.

Budget 2007 introduced the child tax credit, which provides tax relief to families with children under the age of 18. Budget 2009 and budget 2010 included additional investments for Canadian families, including improvements to child benefits.

Budget 2010 improved the taxation of the universal child care benefit to ensure that single-parent families received tax treatment comparable to two-parent families. It also allowed parents with joint custody to split child benefits equally throughout the year when a child lives in both households.

In 2011-12, the federal government is providing over $6 billion in support for early childhood development and child care through transfers to the provinces and territories. This is the largest single investment of its kind in the history of Canada.

In 2011, about 1.5 million working Canadian families are expected to benefit from the working income tax benefit. Our government is working on behalf of Canadian families.

Every action that is taken to improve the strength of families is in the interest of building a better Canada for our next generation of Canadians. No government in Canadian history has been as focused on the well-being of families and on ensuring that they are not unduly burdened by job-killing taxes or social programs that are inflexible and do not provide choice to parents.

Sadly, we have seen the opposition vote against these measures time and time again. Why will the opposition not support our efforts to support Canadian families?

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, while the parliamentary secretary gave an answer, if she would bother to have enough respect for the people of Toronto to actually listen to the question instead of speaking to her neighbour, she would have heard that I was asking about a jobs plan, not about early childhood education.

However, while we are talking about it, the child tax credit certainly does not—