House of Commons Hansard #132 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rights.

Topics

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, my understanding of this bill is that children under the age of 16 would often be treated the same way as adults. The physician whose comment I was reading was targeting how many of these young people are traumatized in their countries of origin and here we will add to that trauma. We would argue that it violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We would urge the government to review that section of the bill.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour, obviously, to speak to this bill.

I come from a community which, as I have said many times in the House, is the largest riding in the country. Some 250,000 people call my riding home. It is a community that has been built on immigration. Specifically, over the last 30 years, my community has grown dramatically in leaps and bounds. The entire York region has grown by leaps and bounds because of immigration to our community. Markham is one of the most diverse municipalities, if not the most diverse city, in all of Canada. We are proud of that because in Markham, Stouffville, King City and Richmond Hill, the communities that I represent, we understand that immigration is important to our communities. Immigration is what helps build and boost our economy. We understand that diversity is a strength, not a weakness.

I have to take a moment to congratulate the minister and the parliamentary secretary. What has been most impressive with this legislation, and in the last Parliament as well, is the ability of the minister and the parliamentary secretary to sit down with individuals to bring bills forward and to come to a consensus that is not only good for Canadians, but is good for those who would seek to come to Canada.

I had the pleasure of being on the immigration committee in the last Parliament when we studied a previous bill. We heard continually that the bill we brought forward then, which received the unanimous support of Parliament, was the first step in addressing what were many problems within the immigration system. It is absolutely no secret that when we took office, we were left with a system which had a backlog of a million people waiting to come to Canada. In the past, the first experience for people who wanted to come to this country was applying through the immigration system and being told that they would have to wait some seven to ten years before they would actually gain entrance into Canada. Many of them had moved on to other places. Some had fallen off the list for other reasons. We were not keeping track of things.

The minister, the parliamentary secretary and this government decided that we had to do something about that. If Canada was to continue to remain a prosperous country, we had to do better to encourage the right type of people to come to Canada so that we could continue the strong economic growth that we have had. The minister set out to make some changes. We worked with our provincial partners to make sure the people we were attracting to Canada were the type of people our economy required. We sat down with our provincial partners to find out the job categories they were looking to fill. They helped us create categories where we could encourage people with the needed skills to come to Canada .

We also told people that when they come to Canada, we want to get them employed faster. This government has moved very quickly to recognize foreign credentials so that when people come to Canada, they can actually be productive members of our society as soon as possible.

These are the types of changes we have started to make. Under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act we went even further.

We always said that we needed to do more to make sure that our immigration system reflected Canada's values and to put Canada first. What we are doing now is making some additional changes to our refugee system to ensure that Canada remains the best destination in the world for people to come to, but to also remove the disincentive for those people who would seek to take advantage of our generosity.

Recently, there were two ships that came to Canada. My community was the final destination for many of the people who were aboard those two ships. I recall the diverse opinions from people across my community. There was an immediate sense of wondering who the individuals coming to Canada were and what it was that they were fleeing. People wanted to know more about them.

This government had to put in place mechanisms. Through this legislation we are putting in place mechanisms that will make sure that people who seek to come to Canada actually require the assistance and protection of the Government of Canada, and our continued generosity. Unfortunately, in the past we have seen that there are individuals who would seek to take advantage of Canada's immigration policies. That is not how this country was built.

My parents came to this country in the late 1950s, early 1960s from Italy. They came in at Pier 21, as many immigrants did. Like millions of other hard-working immigrants, they came to this country, worked hard, loved this country, and were very proud to be Canadians. They contributed not only to the community but to the province and to the country until the day they died. That is the type of immigrant this country is seeking.

This country also does its part in making sure that those who are in need of protection get Canada's protection, but we will not stand for people seeking to take advantage of this generosity. Canadians do not expect us to stand for that.

We made it clear in the last election and in the throne speech that we intended to seek further changes to our immigration policies to make sure we put Canadians first, to make sure we put the protection of vulnerable individuals first. That is what we are doing.

When there are more refugee claimants from Europe than there are from other places in the world where there is an absolute need, then we have a problem that needs to be addressed. That is what we are doing.

My community is one of the most diverse communities in the entire country. I am proud to say that my riding of Oak Ridges—Markham is home to Canada's newest national park, the Rouge National Park. My riding is the largest in the entire country. It is also the breadbasket of southern Ontario. Some of the most fertile lands in all of southern Ontario are located in my riding, through Whitchurch, Stouffville, northern Markham, King City. This is the time of year when our farmers seek the assistance of people from all over the world to help them plant and bring in their crops, and to make sure that their fields remain some of the most productive.

We are making changes to the immigration system that will allow us to continue that, but will also allow us to seek the people this country needs to continue what has been the best global economic recovery of any nation in the world.

We are doing very well in this country not only because of policies that have been brought in by the Minister of Finance, but because of policies that the Minister of Immigration has brought in, the policies which have encouraged people to come to Canada.

I have the honour of representing the Department of Canadian Heritage. During the global economic downturn, we increased funding in culture and heritage because we understood that was important to the Canadian economy. No other G8 country did that. During the global economic downturn, while other G8 countries were reducing immigration, we were doing just the opposite. We were increasing immigration, because we understand how important immigration is to Canada and to our communities. We understand how important immigrants have been in helping to make this the best country in the world in which to live.

Canadians and people who seek to come to this country expect our immigration system to reflect what they need. We want to protect people faster. We want to make sure that those who need the support of this country get it. We want to make sure that those who seek to take advantage of our system, the human smugglers, are punished and that they are not given any incentives. We work with our international partners to make sure that we do our best to stop people before they actually get on the ships and pay the ransom they are asked to pay.

The member for Kildonan—St. Paul has been a tireless worker on human smuggling and protecting vulnerable women.

We on this side of the House understand a number of things. We understand that immigrants and the immigration system help to make this country a great place to live. We also understand that if we are going to continue to be the best country in the world, we have to do better to make sure that Canadians have confidence in the systems that support their government. That includes the immigration system.

We have tackled workers' credentials. We are tackling the backlog. Now we are reforming the refugee system to make sure that those who seek our protection actually get the protection that they deserve.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to sit across the aisle here and listen to some of the things that are being said about how much the government supports immigration and how much it supports refugees, when in fact, in this particular bill, two tiers of refugees are being created.

People are going to be recognized as refugees, but even after our recognition of them with all the criteria we use, we are still going to treat the refugees who arrive as so-called irregulars very differently. We will not be giving them any travel documents or permanent residency for five years after they have been recognized as refugees. They will not have any travel documents and they will not be able to bring their family members here to join them.

For a government that speaks so much about the family being central in Canadian society, why is the government attacking the families of the most vulnerable refugees who will land on our shores?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. This government has done everything in its power to encourage people to come to this country, as my family did. This government will continue to support legitimate refugees and those immigrants who want to come to this country and help build a better Canadian society.

The member is specifically referencing people who come in as irregular arrivals. We need to find out who they are. Canadians expect their immigration system to make sure that we know exactly who they are.

In many cases, people have paid a ransom to human smugglers, whom the opposition seems to want to support. We do not want people coming here and bringing their families, also as slaves, to try and pay off a ransom they have been forced to pay to criminal elements who have put them on ships. Criminal elements are forcing people to pay $25,000 to $50,000 a year to come to Canada, when they could have come legitimately.

This government has made changes to the immigration system that actually encourage some of the highest levels of immigration in this country's history. We will not create new slaves, people who are beholden to criminal elements at home and abroad. This government will always put the rights of hard-working Canadians, hard-working immigrants and real refugees ahead of the criminal elements.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, Brooks, Alberta, is a city in my riding that has a huge population of immigrants and refugees. On average, per capita, it is probably far greater than most other communities across this country. I have talked to those individuals, those immigrants and those refugees. They tell me that they are extremely upset with people who are jumping the queue.

How would this bill help us to protect the opportunity for people to come to this country as immigrants and refugees?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Medicine Hat comes from a region of the country that is in an economic boom. His community requires hard-working skilled immigrants to help our Canadian economy continue to prosper.

The member is quite right. Canadians expect that those legitimate people who want to come to this country and be a productive part of our society should get priority. They should be able to get here as soon as they possibly can so that we can meet some of the labour shortages across the country to help the extraordinary economic recovery that we have had in this country.

Canadians also expect us to deal with those who would seek to take advantage of this Canadian generosity, those who would seek to circumvent the rules, and those criminal elements who would seek to take advantage of people in need, criminal elements who seek ransoms of $25,000 to $50,000 per person. We are going to put them out of business. That is what Canadians expect this government to do and we will do it.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today on Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act, and to voice my strong opposition to the irresponsible NDP and Liberal amendments that will gut this necessary and important piece of legislation, which will improve the country's immigration system in a number of important ways.

Immigration is central to our country's history, to our prosperity, to our international reputation for generosity and humanitarianism and our great success as a nation. That is why I am pleased to speak today in support of a bill that is designed to ensure that our country has a strong, effective and efficient immigration system.

Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act, aims to strengthen Canada's immigration system in three very specific ways.

First, it would further build on the long-needed reforms to the asylum system that were passed in Parliament in June 2010 as part of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.

Second, it would allow Canadian authorities to better crack down on the lucrative business of human smuggling by integrating measures that the government previously introduced in the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act.

Third, it would enable the introduction of biometric technology for screening visa applicants which would strengthen our immigration program in a number of important ways.

All these measures are important for many reasons and I would like to spell out how and why.

On refugee reform, Canada has the fairest and most generous asylum system in the world. In fact, we resettle more refugees than almost any country on the planet, and we are increasing that number by 20%, a record of which all Canadians can be proud. However, it is not a secret that our system is open to abuse. The facts paint a clear picture.

Last year asylum claims for democratic and rights respecting European Union countries made up a quarter of all claims in Canada. Shockingly, that is more than the claims we received from Africa and Asia. What is more, virtually all these asylum claims from the EU were either abandoned or withdrawn by the claimants or rejected by the independent IRB.

In other words, these people were not in need of Canada's protection when they applied to come to Canada as refugees, but they came anyway. They came to soak up our generous benefits and to try to jump the queue because they did not want to wait in line and follow the rules like everyone else. While here, these bogus claimants have access to our generous taxpayer-funded health care system and our welfare benefits. Indeed, the average bogus asylum seeker costs the taxpayers $55,000 each.

The opposition can argue against this bill, but they cannot argue with those facts.

The measures in Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act, would accelerate the processing of refugee claims, especially for nationals from designated countries that generally would not produce refugees. They would also reduce the options available to failed claimants to delay their removal from Canada.

In short, these measures will help to prevent abuse of the system and will ensure that all our refugees determination processes are streamlined as much as possible. This will be accomplished without affecting the fairness of the system and without compromising any of Canada's international or domestic obligations with respect to refugees. Most important, by growing the refugee system in these ways, the legislation would also ensure that the refugee claimants who really needed our protection would get it even faster. For those who deserve to come to Canada, for those who are truly refugees, the system will become fairer and it will become faster.

As well with this new legislation, taxpayers are expected to save $1.65 billion over the next five years. This is money that can go to health care, to education, to roads, to all the other things that we hold dear in our country.

As I mentioned at the top of my remarks, the second piece of the protecting Canada's immigration system act incorporates measures that address human smuggling.

Several months ago in the House the Minister of Public Safety introduced Bill C-4, preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act.

As my hon. colleagues are well aware, we debated that bill extensively throughout the fall sitting of Parliament. The anti-human smuggling measures contained the bill would help maintain the integrity of our generous immigration system, while curtailing the abuse of that system by human smugglers whose activities would undermine the security and safety of Canadians.

Cracking down on human smugglers is an important element of protecting the integrity of our immigration system. After listening to expert witnesses, Canadians and parliamentarians, the government has proposed amendments to the detention portion of that bill.

The amendments would allow for a first detention review within 14 days and subsequent reviews every 180 days. As before, a person would be released before this time upon being found to be a genuine refugee. As an additional safeguard, the government will also propose an amendment which allow the Minister of Public Safety, on his own initiative and at any time, to release a detained individual when grounds for that detention no longer exist. We are putting great protections in the system for true refugees.

Detaining individuals until their identity has been established is what any responsible government would and should do. The human smuggling groups include architects of these criminal operations, war criminals and serious criminals. These are not just perceived threats; these are real threats, threats to Canadians, threats to our seniors, threats to our children.

For example, on the Sun Sea, to date, four people have been found inadmissible to Canada for security reasons. One has been found inadmissible because of being guilty of war crimes.

In the Ocean Lady, to date, 19 people have been found inadmissible to Canada for security reasons, while 17 have been found inadmissible due to war crimes.

These are significant numbers. Unlike the NDP and the Liberals, our government wants to keep these people off the streets and out of our country. By opposing these provisions, the NDP and the Liberals are saying to their constituents that they want these inadmissible people, war criminals, these security threats, to be let into our communities where they will go underground immediately and be difficult to track and left to threatened the safety and security of all Canadians, our seniors, our children, our single moms. These people are true threats and it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure they do not have access to Canada.

The first component of Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act, would create a legislative framework for the long-planned implementation of biometric technology as an identity management tool in our immigration and border control systems.

This component of the legislation and its corresponding regulations that would follow would allow the government to make it mandatory for certain visa applicants to Canada to have their photographs and fingerprints taken as part of their temporary resident visa applications. Because biometric data is more reliable and less prone to forgery or theft than other documents, these measures would strengthen immigration screening and enhance our security and help reduce fraud.

Biometrics form an effective tool to manage high volumes of applications and growing sophistication in identity fraud measures. Using biometrics will help prevent known criminals, failed refugee claimants and previous deportees from using false identities to obtain a Canadian visa. It will help prevent innocent Canadians from being victimized by foreign criminals who should not be in the country in the first place.

Implementing biometrics will bring Canada in line with a growing list of countries that already use biometrics in their immigration and border control programs.

I stand in strong support of Bill C-31, and congratulate the minister and the parliamentary secretary for bringing in needed amendments. I will support the bill and I ask the opposition parties to do the same.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The non. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley will have five minutes remaining for questions and comments when the House next returns to the motion.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

Foreign Affairs
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, last Sunday marked the amazing return of two children, Abby and Dominic Maryk, to their mother, Emily Cablek, after being abducted by their father to Mexico four years ago. The happy ending to this heart-wrenching case was the result of a joint effort of a number of partners.

I want to thank the incredible and relentless work of Winnipeg Police Inspector Gord Perrier, Detective Sergeant Shaunna Neufeld and the Winnipeg Police missing persons unit to find and rescue these children. That is amazing police work.

I also want to thank and highlight the invaluable assistance of Mexican congresswoman Rosi Orozco and the Mexican ambassador to Canada, Ambassador Francisco Barrio-Terrazas, as well as consular officials and our very own Minister of State for Consular Affairs, as well as the RCMP and the CBSA.

It is a wonderful day when we can wish Emily all the best in growing and helping her children to adjust in Canada.

Housing
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Sunday in Montreal, thousands of Quebeckers marched along with FRAPRU to call on the federal government to maintain social housing subsidies. An end to the agreements between the federal government and housing co-operatives is fast approaching.

Yesterday we met with the director of a group of non-profit housing organizations who confirmed that within just a few months, a number of organizations will no longer have financial support and will be on their own to maintain their already aging building inventory. Dozens of social housing units Will soon be in dangerous condition, when there is already a huge lack of available affordable housing. In the region of Roussillon alone, more than 1,500 families spend from 50% to 80% of their income on housing.

Three city councils in my riding, Delson, Saint-Constant and Sainte-Catherine, are aware of this problem and have supported a resolution calling on the Government of Canada to reinvest continuously and to maintain affordable housing subsidies.

The government stubbornly refuses to assume its responsibilities with respect to this issue, so I am taking this opportunity to strongly denounce this government that has, once again, turned its back on the poorest Canadians.

Canada-Indonesia Relations
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, as co-chair of the Canada-Indonesia Parliamentary Friendship Group, I was delighted to welcome to Ottawa this week a delegation from the Indonesian house of representatives. Seven parliamentarians representing the Indonesia-Canada friendship group are in Canada this week meeting with Canadian lawmakers and administrators, seeking ways to better understand each other and to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.

Our members of Parliament and senators had a fruitful dialogue with the visiting MPs and we had the opportunity to exchange ideas on furthering our relationship. Topics raised included human rights, co-operation on fighting terrorism and Indonesia's role as a key player within ASEAN.

As they conclude their visit, I wish them a safe journey back to Indonesia.

Immigration
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, according to a recent countrywide vote conducted by canadianimmigrant.ca, it is my pleasure to announce that a good friend and former parliamentarian has just been chosen as one of Canada's top 25 immigrants.

This individual is a retired lung specialist for children and a pediatric professor. He is an author of several papers and chapters for medical journals and books and is the first ever Filipino Canadian elected to Canada's Parliament and appointed senior cabinet minister in the Government of Canada.

His achievements and contributions to our nation since he arrived in Canada over 40 years ago is what I believe makes him truly a deserving recipient of this award. He has indeed inspired and motivated many other Canadian immigrants by serving as a role model, showing that hard work and determination are the key to success.

Today, it is my honour to congratulate Dr. Rey Pagtakhan.

Town of Cobourg
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize and celebrate the 175th anniversary of the town of Cobourg. Founded in 1837, Cobourg has served as an economic hub for the surrounding region and will continue to be a leading community in eastern Ontario. Cobourg has a rich historical heritage. In fact, the town was home to the first post-Confederation life-saving marine rescue centre, established by the Government of Canada in 1882.

This year also marks the 200th anniversary of a battle fought near the town during the war of 1812. Furthermore, Cobourg is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the appointment of Canada's first judge advocate general, Major-General Henry Smith, whose burial site was recently discovered in Cobourg.

I ask all members of the House join me in saluting and paying tribute to the hard-working people of Cobourg as they celebrate this historical and significant year.

Happy anniversary Cobourg.

Foreign Affairs
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to bring an issue of great urgency to the attention of the House and Canadians.

Over the past two days, an estimated 600 Tibetans have been detained in Lhasa after two more young Tibetans joined those who have self-immolated in protest of religious and cultural oppression by the Chinese authorities. This Wednesday, a mother of three self-immolated in protest.

After years of repression, Tibetans have reached a breaking point. Young monks and nuns are acting out of sheer frustration. Canada must act to end the suffering and work to improve the lives of the Tibetan people.

During his visit to China, the Prime Minister promised a good and frank dialogue on fundamental principles. The Government of Canada must now reach out to the Chinese government and urge a peaceful and quick resolution to the current situation. We can and must save innocent lives.

Violet Nelson
Statements by Members

June 1st, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, on May 23, I was in Winnipeg for the grand opening of the Kihiw Iskewock Lodge, a new housing facility for women exiting correctional facilities, championed by the Native Women's Transition Centre. When the well-known chairwoman of the board did not arrive, it was very unusual. We later learned that Violet Nelson, the chairwoman, was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident en route to the grand opening.

Violet was passionate about services for aboriginal women and children. That is why this new lodge was so important to her. It would give women who had made some mistakes hope and opportunity to be self-sufficient and to secure stable housing as they transitioned away from a life of crime.

She also donated countless hours to the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre and aboriginal Girl Guides among others. Violet's family and her children are devastated and her death is a big blow to our community.

Canada has lost a strong, proud and extremely caring aboriginal woman who at age 35 leaves us far too soon.

For all that Violet gave and all that she did, meegwetch. She will be deeply missed.