House of Commons Hansard #199 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was criminal.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 29, 2012, by the member for Charlottetown regarding the relevance of the government's response to written question Q-465.

I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this matter and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his comments.

In raising his point of order, the member for Charlottetown contended that the response provided to his written question Q-465 had no link to the question asked. Specifically, he had requested certain information related to all websites accessed by the Minister of Justice and the Minister for Public Safety on government-issued computers and devices within a specific two-week period. The answer received explained, by way of reference to Bill C-30, that the information requested would not be provided. Asserting his right as a member of Parliament to ask questions to hold the government accountable, the hon. member argued that the government does not have the right to decide which questions to answer and which ones to ignore.

In response, the parliamentary secretary reminded the House of the ruling that the chair gave on November 27, 2012, which can be found at pages 12536-7 of Debates, on the appropriateness of answers to written questions.

As to the appropriateness of the answer provided, members are well aware that it is a well-established practice that Speakers do not judge the quality of government responses to questions, whether written or oral. In fact, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 522, states:

There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions.

That being said, I did state in the November 27 ruling to which the parliamentary secretary referred, at page 12536 of Debates, that “As always, however, the Chair remains attentive to these matters and is ready to assist in any way it can in ensuring that written questions continue to serve members as an important channel of genuine information exchange”.

I think all members would agree that members of the House have the right to expect that reasonable answers be given to reasonable questions, particularly given the critical role of written questions in our parliamentary system.

In a ruling on June 14, 1989, at page 3026 of Debates, Speaker Fraser provided an interesting comment on government responses to questions, stating:

It should be understood that there is no obligation on the Government to provide a perfect answer, only a fair one. A Member in framing his or her question would accept part of the responsibility for the quality of the answer.

As I reminded the House on November 27, 2012, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 522, states that “It is acceptable for the government, in responding to a written question, to indicate to the House that it cannot supply an answer”. At the same time, it is expected under our practice that the integrity of the written question process be maintained by avoiding questions or answers that stray from the underlying principle of information exchange.

As is stated in O’Brien and Bosc, again at page 522, “no argument or opinion is to be given and only the information needed to respond to the question is to be provided in an effort to maintain the process of written questions as an exchange of information rather than an opportunity for debate.”

For reasons already given, the Chair is not in a position to delve into the content of answers to written questions. However, as Speaker, I have a duty to remind the House that our written question process is intended to be free of argument and debate. To protect its integrity, I enjoin those submitting questions and those preparing answers to bear that principle in mind, remembering that it remains acceptable for the government to say in response to a question, simply, “We cannot answer”.

The Chair hopes that all those involved in the written question process will bear this ruling and my ruling of November 27, 2012 in mind so that every effort is made to ensure that information is exchanged in such as way as to serve the needs of members while protecting the integrity of the written question practices that have served us so well for many, many years.

I thank all members for their attention.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of Motions Nos. 1 to 27.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to debate Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals act.

Since 2006, our Conservative government has welcomed the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history. On average around 250,000 immigrants have come to Canada every year, and the vast majority of these newcomers are honest, hard-working and law-abiding. They expect their fellow newcomers and all Canadians to be the same.

While Canadians are open and welcoming toward immigration, we also insist on vigilance against people who seek to abuse our generosity and openness. One of the basic requirements for newcomers to stay in Canada is that they respect our laws. This is the very least we can expect from Canadian citizens, and the vast majority of us do so. Therefore, when we ask newcomers to respect our laws, we are not asking too much of them. It was in this spirit that we introduced Bill C-43, which would prevent foreign criminals from abusing our generosity.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act clearly states that should foreign nationals fail to respect our laws, they will be sent home. What prevents the timely removal of foreign criminals is the fact that they have access to the Immigration Appeal Division as long as their sentence is less than two years. Should their appeal fail, they then file an application for leave and judicial review with the Federal Court, and the process can go on for years and years. Many foreign criminals deliberately use these multiple avenues to delay their removal, even though they know they have no chance of staying here permanently. While they prolong their stay in Canada, many foreign criminals go on to commit more crimes.

Over the course of this debate, the House has become aware of the case of Clinton Gayle. He delayed his deportation for several years by using the appeal mechanism, which Bill C-43 would shut down for foreign criminals. The fact that he was able to delay his deportation for so long should disturb all Canadians. What is most distressing of course is that during that time, the Jamaican national murdered a Toronto police constable. While there were differences between the immigration legislation in force at the time and the situation now, we want to prevent a similar situation from happening again in the future by preventing foreign criminals from roaming our streets before being removed. If Mr. Gayle had been deported to Jamaica when he should have been, this horrible crime could not have happened in the first place. What is more, Canadian taxpayers are also on the hook for his crime, paying for him to subsist in a Canadian prison while he serves a life sentence. Foreign criminals have too many opportunities to stay in Canada and we must put a stop to this.

Another example is the case of Geo Wei Wu. He came to Canada from China as a student and gained permanent residency as a spouse in 1990. Over the next two decades he was convicted of a series of crimes, including attempted theft, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, criminal harassment, assault causing bodily harm, break and enter, fraud and the list goes on. He served time for each of these convictions and by 2008 was found inadmissible and a removal order was issued. Under the current rules, he was entitled to appeal this order. The appeal process took almost two and a half years and ultimately failed. Wu's appeal was dismissed. Wu then disappeared. After failing to show up for his pre-removal interview, the CBSA posted his information on its wanted website last summer. This past summer, the media reported that he is now wanted by Peel Regional Police in connection with the kidnapping last year of two men in Mississauga. He is still at large.

The cases of Geo Wei Wu and Clinton Gayle underscore the need for Parliament to support Bill C-43, which would streamline and accelerate the removal process for serious foreign criminals.

By limiting access to the Immigration Appeal Division, the government estimates that the amount of time certain criminals might remain in Canada would be reduced by up to 14 months. If the bill's measures are implemented, there would then be no chance for convicted criminals like Clinton Gayle or Geo Wei Wu to remain in Canada for years beyond their welcome while they gum up the justice system with appeals and, potentially, commit more crimes.

Canadians do not want our doors to be open to people who endanger our national security and the safety of our communities. That is why the government is unwavering in its determination to safeguard national security and protect the safety and security of the Canadian public.

Also, in order to maintain Canadian support for immigration we must ensure that our immigration system is characterized by the consistent application of fair rules. This means that we must protect our system from those who would seek to abuse Canada's generosity by violating our laws. In other words, we must stop placing the rights of foreign criminals before those of Canadian citizens, meaning that we must be able to deal with cases of this nature more efficiently.

I ask my fellow members to think of the victims. Think if it were one of their own family members victimized by a serious foreign criminal allowed to stay in Canada for several years through endless abuse of the process. Imagine if Todd Baylis, the Toronto police constable who was murdered by a convicted foreign criminal appealing his own deportation order, was a member of one's own family. We would then think it were a serious problem needing to be fixed.

The passage of Bill C-43 would send a strong message to all newcomers in Canada that if they commit a serious crime they will be sent home.

Bill C-43 would reinforce the integrity of our immigration system and public confidence in it, and ultimately help maintain public support for immigration in Canada.

I support Bill C-43 because it is fair, necessary and a long overdue piece of legislation. For these reasons, I urge my fellow members of the House to do the same. I urge them to listen to the police associations, the victims associations, the immigration lawyers and experts who support the bill. I urge them, for once, to stop putting the interests of criminals first and instead put the rights of victims and law-abiding Canadians and the safety and security of Canadian families at the forefront.

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

The Conservative government has not kept its 2006 promise to put more police officers on the streets in cities and communities.

Why is the government demonizing newcomers instead of focusing on protecting our communities?

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3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the last election our party campaigned on this promise. It was very clear that our government was committed to keeping our streets and communities safe. Our platform promised to expedite the deportation of foreign criminals. Our government has followed up on that promise by introducing Bill C-43.

Canadians are a very generous and welcoming people, but they have no tolerance for criminals and fraudsters who are abusing our generosity. Bill C-43 clearly addresses this issue, which is what Canadians expect of us.

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3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could provide his opinion on an example, which hopefully will simplify things. Imagine two 19-year-olds who attend a movie. They are a little mischievous and they record what they are watching at the movie theatre. If they were to publish it or use it, that would be a violation and would ultimately see, if one of the 19-year-olds was not a Canadian citizen but came here when he was one year old, that he would be deported. On the other hand, the other 19-year-old might get a conditional sentence, not have to spend any time whatsoever in jail.

Would the member say to his constituents and Canadians that is fair, Conservative justice?

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3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, instead of going into hypothetical questions and answers, I would be happy to provide the hon. member with real cases. For example, Jackie Tran committed a series of crimes including assault with a weapon, drug trafficking, drug possession and failure to comply with court orders. His removal was ordered in April 2004. It took nearly six years for the government to get him out of the country. There are many other examples, such as Patrick de Florimonte, who was charged and convicted of multiple assaults with weapons, assault causing bodily harm, uttering threats, multiple counts of theft, drug possession, drug trafficking and failure to comply with court orders. For that it took about four and a half years to get him out of the country.

These are the sort of cases for which Canadians have no patience or tolerance. They expect results.

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3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. friend and also listened during question period to some of the responses that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism made to questions posed to him. One of the most important things we do in this place is to bring the opinions and desires of our constituents and to live up to our commitments.

The hon. member mentioned this bill was part of our platform. In his community has he gone out and talked to his constituents? Perhaps he could explain to us how his constituents feel about this proposed legislation and perhaps share the comments he received during the campaign and recently. I know he comes from a community where this is a very important piece of legislation, and the opinions of his constituents are very important. Could he elaborate and answer that for the House?

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3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was an immigrant to this country at a very young age. There are many new immigrants and new Canadians living in my riding. They migrate to this country for an opportunity. They have seen struggles and the undemocratic process in certain countries, and they want peace in Canada. They are the ones who have absolutely no tolerance when they see a very small percentage of their fellow newcomers who commit these crimes.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are talking about Bill C-43. We completely agree with the underlying principle of this bill. Non-citizen criminals must be deported. I want to be very clear about that because the Conservatives are so quick to say that the NDP supports criminals. That is not true. It is our responsibility to spot flaws in bills and fix them. That is what all parliamentarians should do as part of their job in the House.

Bill C-43 does many things, which I will summarize briefly. It gives more powers to the minister by giving him the authority to rule on the admissibility of temporary residence applicants. This means that the minister will have the power to declare a foreign national inadmissible for up to 36 months if he is of the opinion that it is justified by public policy considerations.

Furthermore, Bill C-43 will remove the minister's responsibility to examine humanitarian grounds. I would like to emphasize this point, because this is quite serious. Currently, the minister has the obligation, at the request of a foreign national or on his own initiative, to review any humanitarian considerations related to the case of a foreign national who is deemed inadmissible on grounds related to security. As a country that is recognized for its humanitarian standards, we cannot send someone back to a country where we know what will happen to him or one that could be dangerous.

Furthermore, the bill grants the minister a new discretionary power to issue an exemption for a member of the family of a foreign national who is deemed inadmissible and amends the definition of “serious criminality” to restrict access to the appeal process following an inadmissibility ruling. By doing so, it removes the right to appeal if the prison sentence imposed is six months or more. This aspect really needs to be considered.

The bill increases the penalty for misrepresentation and clarifies the fact that entering the country by resorting to criminal activities does not automatically lead to inadmissibility.

We see some shortcomings. This bill gives the minister considerable discretionary power, which is very troubling. Australia, whose legislative system is quite similar to ours, did the same thing. The Australian Migration Act gave the minister enormous powers. The minister could summarily dismiss the claims of someone who has appealed a decision. That is also being proposed here. However, in many cases, Australian immigration ministers have reversed decisions handed down by tribunals and deported individuals without a trial. That is not exactly my idea of democracy.

The Australians are in the process of correcting their mistakes. So, as a country and as parliamentarians, we must move forward, learn from others' mistakes and ensure that we have suitable laws and systems in place. We should not do what other countries have tried only to find that it did not work. I realize that the context may be different depending on the country and the legislative framework; however, with this bill, we are heading in the wrong direction.

We want to work with the government and the other parties to make this a good bill. I repeat: we completely agree with the principle of removing foreign perpetrators of major crimes from Canada. It is not a good idea to keep them in Canada. However, the things I have outlined cause problems and often generate concerns. My colleagues, who work very hard on the immigration file, presented nine amendments.

These nine amendments would have fixed the flaws in this bill, so that it would represent a positive for Canada. Unfortunately, as we all know, the Conservatives reject anything that comes from another party. They say that we always vote against their bills, but they also vote against our suggestions, even when they are good.

I want to point out that the minister said that one of the amendments we had proposed was something that should be considered. So it does not make sense that he would reject the amendment.

These amendments would limit the powers granted and would restore a fair process for trials and possibilities for appeal.

First, I would like to give an example and speak about the negative picture that the government is painting in Canada. The government always talks about extreme cases. Yes, there are extremely tragic cases. I hope these types of things never happen in our country, in my community or in any other community. These extreme cases are not a fair representation of the immigrant community here in Canada, in my community and in communities throughout the country.

Immigrants come to Canada and make a tremendous contribution to our society and our communities. They enrich our country, the province of Quebec and my community. At a luncheon that was held on Saturday in my riding, I had the honour of congratulating new Canadian citizens who had just received their citizenship. It was really wonderful. I was able to meet new citizens who are fitting into the community very well. They have good jobs. They care a lot about their community and are very dedicated to it. They are truly outstanding citizens.

It is truly misguided to portray all refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants as criminals who are not good for Canada. We should really be making it known that immigrants enrich our communities and are very positive.

Another point should be made. In the last budget, the Conservatives made $143 million in cuts to the Canada Border Services Agency. They want to prevent criminals from coming to Canada and committing crimes. Logic dictates that these people should be prevented from entering the country. However, such deep cuts to services obviously limit the ability of border services officers to prevent these foreign criminals from entering Canada.

I see that I am almost out of time. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the NDP agrees 100% that serious criminals who are not Canadian citizens must be deported. However, we disagree with some of this bill's measures. We would like to work with the other parties to create a bill without flaws and shortcomings that is positive for Canada.

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3:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her very informative speech.

I know that many people are openly opposed to this bill. I would like to quote an op-ed piece from Embassy magazine. It is titled

“Bill could mean barring of innocent human rights heroes”.

This piece says that if Bill C-43 is passed as is, it will have an immediate and serious effect on many refugees and immigrants and their families. It also talks about the vast scope of the inadmissibility provisions.

It also says that if this bill were to pass, certain individuals—who should be considered human rights heroes and advocates—would be removed from Canada. Nelson Mandela is one of those people.

What are your thoughts on the extreme measures set out in the bill? What are the implications for people who are convicted under unfair laws in their own country?

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3:35 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question, which is very relevant.

Laws differ from one country to another. It is true that Mr. Mandela was considered a criminal at the time and was imprisoned. But he is admired by society. He built a nation and fought long and hard against a grave injustice in his country. He should not be someone who could be deported from Canada. That is just one of many examples we could give.

Some people may be considered criminals because it is against the law in their country to be a homosexual. Would we also consider them criminals and deport them from our country? That is a question we need to ask ourselves before we pass this bill.

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has surely noticed, as I have, that since arriving here, the majority government opposite often introduces bills that are negative. This bill is punitive and detrimental for a small fraction of the population.

Does my colleague also ever wonder why the Conservatives do not introduce humanitarian bills and bills that would benefit a greater number of people?

For example, could this bill focus on family reunification instead of punishing just a few immigrants?

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, every week if not every day, many people come to my office to tell me that they have been waiting for two years for a decision on their application for reunification with their wives. We are talking about their wives; these people are married. Their wives cannot come to Canada because the Department of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has not gotten around to reviewing their case.

The Conservatives do not see that it would be a positive step for Canada. They are making cuts instead of concentrating on a major problem at the department. People waiting for family reunification—and I am talking about immediate family—are facing completely unreasonable delays.

At the same time, the government has cut aid to Haiti just because it felt there was too much garbage there. That is truly what the minister said.

First, we have to wonder about Canada's role on the international scene. Next, we have to wonder about our role as a country that welcomes these immigrants. We should be promoting reasonable waiting periods for family reunification so that people can be with their loved ones. I realize that it takes time to study a file. However, a two-year waiting period shows that the government does not have its priorities straight.

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3:40 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be part of this debate on Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals act.

The legislation would go a long way toward rectifying a situation that should cause Canadians great concern. There are far too many foreign criminals in Canada who manage to remain in this country long after they have been ordered deported. This highlights the need to reform our immigration appeals system, and that is exactly what Bill C-43 would do. That is why I am speaking today in favour of the bill and against the opposition amendments that have been put forward to try to prevent the bill from becoming law.

As long as they receive sentences of less than two years, permanent residents and certain foreign nationals who have committed crimes in Canada can appeal their removal orders from this country to the immigration appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. I am talking about criminals convicted of serious crimes, including drug trafficking, weapons violations, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and more. As long as they have received a sentence of not longer than two years less a day, they can use the immigration appeals system to remain in Canada for what often turns out to be years.

Dealing with appeals from people who should not even be in the country squanders a vast amount of time, effort and public resources through our legal system. Worse than that, too many of these cases are tinged with tragedy. My colleagues have listed several examples of dangerous foreign criminals using the current system to delay their deportations, many of whom committed more crimes while they were allowed to remain in Canada. They have made strong arguments for why the provisions to deport foreign criminals are necessary and long overdue, so I will not use my time to duplicate these.

Instead I want to speak about portions of the bill that have not received much, if any, attention from the opposition. While the bill does make it easier to remove dangerous foreign criminals, it also includes other important provisions.

It makes it harder for those who pose a risk to enter Canada in the first place. Most members of the House will think I am only referring to the discretion provided to the minister in the bill to prevent those who seek to incite hate and violence but are currently admissible to Canada. In fact, I am referring to another part of the bill. I think Canadians would be shocked to learn that under our current system, if someone is found to be inadmissible on the most serious grounds of security, international or human rights violations or organized criminality, they can apply for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Yes, that is right. War criminals, terrorists and gangsters involved in organized crime can apply to permanently immigrate to Canada under compassionate grounds. Under Bill C-43, the government is putting an end to these despicable criminals having this avenue to apply to come and remain in Canada. This important change is consistent with the government's no safe haven policy and is more than overdue.

I am shocked to hear that the Liberals and NDP oppose this change and have called for the worst sorts of criminals to continue to have access to an avenue of appeal meant for people who have compelling cases but who are not otherwise eligible under our immigration laws. Furthermore, the opposition members' claim that the bill takes away the appeal and makes it harder to enter Canada shows they do not fully understand the bill. They have not once spoken to the portion of the bill that actually removes barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.

Let me explain that. Currently, if a family travels to Canada and it is discovered that one of the family members is inadmissible to Canada on non-serious grounds, for example medical reasons, the entire family is found inadmissible and denied entry into the country, even if the other members of the family are admissible. One can imagine that this causes a lot of frustration and can cost a lot of money and time for the families affected.

Under Bill C-43, the government is improving the current system. If and when the bill becomes law, if one member of a family is found inadmissible on non-serious grounds, the rest of the family will no longer be found inadmissible along with that inadmissible individual. Furthermore, the admissible family members would be allowed to enter Canada. Surely the opposition agrees with this change to facilitate the travel of low-risk genuine visitors to Canada. Yet they conveniently ignored this portion of the bill in the committee and in the debate today.

In fact, our Conservative government has taken several steps to facilitate the entry of low-risk genuine visitors to Canada. We introduced a multiple-entry visa, lifted visas from several countries and are introducing biometrics, which will help facilitate the identification and entry of legitimate visitors. In the first half of 2012 we have let in a record number of visitors to Canada.

The faster removal of foreign criminals act will indeed do just that. It will allow us to deport criminals faster. This is a very laudable and worthwhile change. However, it does a lot more than that. It will also ensure that war criminals, terrorists and organized gangsters are no longer able to apply to live in Canada permanently under humanitarian considerations. It ensures that Canada will no longer be a safe haven for those despicable criminals.

What has been almost completely ignored by the opposition is that the bill will help remove barriers to legitimate visitors to Canada.

Bill C-43 is part of our Conservative government's plan to transform Canada's immigration system. As a whole, our changes would move Canada away from the Liberal system, which was a slow, rigid system, riddled with long processing times and massive backlogs in which immigrants were facing unemployment and underemployment and criminals were using our country as a doormat to abuse our generosity. It will move to a system that is just-in-time, that processes applications quickly and attracts the immigrants our economy needs today and into the future, a system in which immigrants are working in their fields as soon as they arrive in Canada, a system in which those who pose a risk are prevented from entering Canada in the first place and in which foreign nationals who commit crimes are taken off the streets and swiftly deported.

Canadians have a long tradition of being welcoming. Our country is one of immigrants. I myself am one. However, in order to maintain that generosity, Canadians must have confidence and integrity in our system. They want to know that we are letting in honest, law-abiding visitors and immigrants while keeping out dangerous foreign criminals and others who pose a risk to the country. This is not too much for them to ask, and it is exactly what Bill C-43 strives to do.

I urge my Liberal and NDP colleagues to stop trying to prevent the bill from becoming law and instead to support our government in ensuring its speedy passage.