An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.


Thierry St-Cyr  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Defeated, as of Dec. 10, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Dec. 10, 2009 Failed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
April 22, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Balanced Refugee Reform ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, it was in March that the federal government introduced the bill we are discussing today, Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Federal Courts Act and called it part of its balanced refugee reform. The minister said that its objective is to preserve the system's integrity by reducing wait times for refugee claims to be processed and, he said, to give people the protection they need more quickly. The bill proposes spending an additional $540.7 million over five years.

The Bloc Québécois will support this bill so that it is referred to committee and an in-depth study can be undertaken of the refugee system, its flaws and the proposed amendments. The Bloc Québécois will work hard to see that all the necessary amendments are passed so that this reform is effective and so that claims are processed quickly and processed fairly, in the case of refugees. Many of the measures in this bill are interesting. And even though they are being proposed as part of the reform of Canada's asylum system, we believe that they are hiding other, more worrying proposals. In our opinion, the bill we are discussing today, Bill C-11, contains fundamental flaws.

What we noticed as we were going through this bill initially was the typically Conservative ideology that seeks to differentiate between genuine and false claimants. We are concerned about that because we believe that reforms based on that kind of discriminatory principle could be deeply prejudicial toward refugees. The bill also gives the minister significant latitude in designing the asylum-granting system. We also noticed that several of the measures announced as part of this reform do not appear in the bill. For example, the minister can designate countries of origin according to criteria set out in regulations published in the Canada Gazette, but the criteria used in creating the list of safe countries cannot be debated in the House. We believe that lacks transparency. The minister is really giving himself a lot of powers.

Several other measures also make us worry about the politicization of the system. First, the minister may designate, by order, a country whose classes of nationals, in the Minister’s opinion, meet the criteria established by the regulations. Second, the minister can designate countries whose nationals are precluded from appealing decisions to the refugee appeal division. Third, the minister can prohibit nationals of certain countries from applying for protection. Fourth, the minister can grant an exemption from any obligations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act on humanitarian and compassionate grounds or on public policy grounds.

Once again, the minister really would be assuming a lot of powers.

The Bloc Québécois believes that an appeal process for refugee claimants should have been instituted when the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came into force in June 2002. In fact, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration unanimously passed a Bloc Québécois motion requiring the federal government to set up a refugee appeal division immediately.

We also introduced Bill C-280 in 2006, which became BIll C-291 in 2009, with the aim of establishing a real refugee appeal division. Unfortunately, the House's two official parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, joined forces to defeat that bill. Members on both sides either abstained or were absent.

Some members hid behind the curtains, so they would not have to vote.

The Bloc Québécois is delighted that the bill before us could finally establish a refugee appeal division and allow new measures to be added to the system, even though the refugee appeal division will not be up and running until two years after the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act comes into force.

Also, unsuccessful claimants from countries that are deemed safe will have no right to appeal the initial decision rendered by public servants. We believe this measure is far too strict. It is unfair that claimants from a safe country whose first application is denied cannot appeal their cases before the refugee appeal division, and instead must take their cases to Federal Court.

Earlier I spoke about designated countries of origin. I spoke about designated countries and other countries. The United Kingdom uses a fast tracking process to examine refugee claims from designated countries. Canada, on the other hand, would assess all claims from all countries the same way. The only reason the process would be any faster is that unsuccessful claimants from countries that are deemed safe will have no right to appeal their case before the new refugee appeal division. We think this measure is discriminatory.

The principle of safe countries raises a number of other concerns. First, the fact that a refugee can be classified as a false claimant even before his or her case is analyzed can be extremely prejudicial. Even though the government assures us that all claims will be analyzed on their own merits, it cannot guarantee that no mistakes will be made in first-level decisions. For this reason in particular, the committee must look at this issue and consider how such a designation by the minister could affect refugee claimants.

The Bloc Québécois had made it known that it wanted all failed refugee claimants to have access to the refugee appeal division, regardless of their country of origin. Our critic on the committee is willing to look at any measures that would correct this flaw, such as including criteria for designating safe countries in the bill. As things now stand, these criteria would be established by regulation.

Canada's asylum system has always been based on reliable, solid resources that make for sound decisions. The proposal to submit all the necessary documents within eight days and hold hearings within 60 days after the claim is made could mean a change in this procedure and could have serious consequences for refugees. With such short deadlines, decision-makers could make decisions too quickly, and the quality of the decisions would suffer as a result.

Refugees have the right to find a lawyer and assemble all the documents they need for their testimony. This is a fundamental rule of justice.

I want to make one last point. The fact that IRB officials make the first-level decisions is problematic. These officials are probably long-standing employees, but it is essential that they demonstrate a certain level of independence.

Lastly, Bill C-11 must be studied in committee, because it has major flaws. That is why it will be sent to committee. I am sure that our critic on the committee will clearly state the Bloc's position.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

March 4th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before we proceed with routine proceedings, I have an important statement I would like to make to the House about the result of a vote taken on December 10, 2009, on the motion for third reading of Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171).

As hon. members will recall, the announced result was a tie, with 143 members recorded as having voted in favour and 143 members recorded as having voted against. On hearing that the votes were equally divided on the motion, I gave the casting vote in the negative on the procedural grounds that the existing act should be maintained in its current form in order to uphold the status quo.

Since then, it was brought to the attention of the Table that a member had been erroneously counted as having voted yea. Further verifications were made to confirm that an error had in fact been made, namely that the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence had remained seated throughout the vote.

As hon. members will realize, if this yea vote had not been counted in error, events would have unfolded differently. No tie vote would have occurred. No casting vote would have been required. However, and most significantly, the outcome of the vote remains the same. The motion for third reading of Bill C-291 remains defeated, but on a vote of 142 yeas and 143 nays.

Accordingly, in keeping with precedents for when such errors are discovered, I am informing the House that a corrigendum was published on December 30 to correct the Journals of December 10, 2009, so that the true result of the vote may be properly reflected in our official records.

I thank hon. members for their attention to this detail. It is an important one from the point of view of the number of casting votes the Chair has to cast in the House.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 10th, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to order made on Tuesday, December 8, 2009, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-291 under private members' business.

The House resumed from December 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171), be read the third time and passed.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2009 / 6:45 p.m.
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Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-291 today. I think that if the viewing public had been with us for the last hour, they must be shaking their heads by now, having listened to the speeches that have enumerated and outlined the history of this particular piece of legislation.

This is an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with regard to the coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171. Those three sections deal with the refugee appeal division. Clearly, Parliaments past have debated this legislation, have passed this legislation, have sent it off to the Senate, and it is only the multiple elections that we have had that have thrown us back to where we have to deal with it again.

Contrary to what the Conservative member just said, the fact of the matter is that there was good thought put into these provisions. They went through various committees. They were deemed to be proper, intelligent measures. So the issue then is why, since 2001, 2002, do we still not have this appeal division? Why is it not there?

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act approved by Parliament in 2001 created the refugee appeal division. In 2002 the government implemented the act but not the sections that give the refugee claimants the right to appeal.

As a result, refugee claimants in Canada have been denied the appeal that Parliament granted them in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Instead, their fate is determined by a single decision maker. I will deal with that issue in a couple of minutes.

To correct this injustice, the last Parliament voted to force the implementation of the refugee appeal division; however, the bill did not become law because the House was not able to approve the Senate's amendments before the 2008 election was called. It has been through the entire process.

When we talk about the fate of refugees being decided by a single decision maker, that is a big part of the problem. One of the previous speakers talked about how 15 years ago there were actually three people involved, and then it was changed in 2001 to two people, and subsequently down to one.

If we look at the speeches of some of the other members who have spoken on this bill, we will see why and how having one person making the decision is not a good idea, particularly because the people appointed to the refugee board are political appointments.

The Conservatives are now sitting comfortably over on the government benches, but when the Liberals were in power and making political appointments to refugee boards, they were regaling themselves, exposing some of the activities of some of the Liberal appointees. The Liberals were appointing totally unqualified people, defeated candidates, friends of friends, and putting them on the refugee appeal board. It became a big joke, showing favouritism. The Conservatives, who were then in opposition, were raising a storm over this, and well they should have.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot and they are now the government, well, rather than change that system, what have they done? They have simply fallen into the same old trap, as did the same old Liberal government for the 13 years before that, and more or less the major part of 100 years before that. They appointment hacks and flaks to the board, and then they wonder why they get very bad results. We are saying that having one person making the decision is not a very good idea.

As a matter of fact, the mover of the motion, the member for Jeanne-Le Ber from the Bloc, points out a couple of very interesting examples where there was a board member appointed by the minister who had a very questionable past. This gentleman was chief of staff to the former prime minister of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. We all remember him as the former president of Haiti and that regime committed many atrocities, and was complicit in major crimes. Here this man was in charge of deciding on refugee appeals for the government. In some cases he was judging people from Haiti.

Certainly, if there were a two-person board, or more than one at least, and then the right of an appeal, it would be added protection so that Conservatives would not get the stories that they were raising a fuss about when the Liberals were in power doing the same thing. It is not fair to Conservatives to put themselves in that situation, making political appointments who then make decisions that in many cases do not make any sense at all.

The sponsor of the bill talks about another case of two people on the refugee appeal board. In one case, Laurier Thibault, in terms of his cases, 98% of them were rejections. If we were to study the people on the refugee appeal board and one member has a 98% rejection rate and then another member has a rejection rate of 98% the other way, it would make us wonder whether that system is operating properly.

I want to refer to the comments made by the member for Trinity—Spadina. I would go over some of the comments made by government members, but they are all just negative. They have made up their minds on the bill and just say they are not interested in making any changes.

However, the member for Trinity--Spadina talked about the Canadian Council for Refugees having documented different examples of how decisions were made in a very inconsistent manner. In one case there were two Palestinian brothers who had the same basis for their refugee claim. One was accepted and the other was refused. The refused brother was deported and these were identical cases.

In another example a person was arrested and detained for two months in Iran. Canada's refugee board concluded that this person was not credible because of inconsistencies and gaps in her evidence. When she told the board she had scars on her body from torture, her testimony was rejected because she had not provided a medical report and it went on to come up with a different conclusion.

The point is that we should not rely on a single person making a judgment when that person is not qualified. I am not going to disqualify individuals because they were defeated Conservative candidates. I am sure there are enough of them out there that a good choice could have been made, but that is not what happens.

In the great Liberal days, the Liberals managed to somehow always find the worst one they could from all their defeated candidates. I am sure there were some Liberal candidates who would have made fine board members and why the Liberals could not pick one of the good ones is beyond me. But they always managed to pick the one that got them into the most trouble. That is certainly a sad history of this particular board. I would hope that we would eventually make the right decision in the House and make this correction that is long overdue.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.
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Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill C-291.

Hon. members of this House are well aware that this government is a strong advocate and supporter of the humanitarian dimension of our immigration program. I think every member of this Parliament meets with constituents or advocates for refugees who are working to assist people with a legitimate need for asylum on our shores, and we hear some very sad stories. I regularly give thanks that I was born in Canada.

Every year we welcome almost a quarter of a million permanent new residents, who embrace our values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This government has welcomed the highest number of people to Canada ever in our history, including refugees and students. Among them are thousands of refugees attracted by our values and a chance to start a new life. Most of these refugees will become citizens and enjoy, for the first time, freedom of speech, the freedom to vote and run for public office, the right to criticize governments, the right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining, the freedom to move anywhere they want in Canada, the right to equal treatment before the law in a fair trial, and a freedom that we often forget about, the right to have a family with more than one child if they so choose, a right not available everywhere in the world today.

Since this government came to office in 2006, we have accepted more than 51,000 refugees from around the world. In fact, Canada is one of the top three countries in the western world in terms of the number of refugees it accepts for resettlement. The welcome we extend has given us an international reputation as a champion of human dignity. As a member of Parliament, I am proud of that and we all should be, but we are growing increasingly concerned about the abuse of our asylum system.

As my hon. colleagues have heard, between 2006 and 2008, there was a 60% increase in the number of refugee claims filed in Canada. The growing backlog in claims reached 61,000 at the end of June. It is only responsible to manage that backlog to ensure that those who are in true need of asylum go to the front of the line.

The government inherited about one-third of that backlog when it took office. Roughly another third is a result of the transition to a merit-based appointment system, which resulted in delays of appointments of members to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, but which now stands at 98% capacity in terms of the number of board members. Another one-third of the backlog is the result of the growth in claims. Even at full capacity, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada can only handle 25,000 asylum claims a year. Last year we had 37,000 asylum claims. Clearly at this rate the backlog will just continue to grow, and so will wait times.

Almost one in four asylum claims Canada received last year were from Mexico, yet the Immigration and Refugee Board, with its high standards of fairness, accepted only 11% of those claims. It is not fair to make legitimate refugees wait due to systematic problems that we should be fixing. In fact, in some cases it is downright dangerous for those asylum-seekers to make them wait, while others are trying to immigrate with dubious claims.

A large number of the current asylum claimants are not in need of Canada's protection. Yet as it currently stands, an individual who is determined to play the system can stay in Canada for years while he or she works through the multiple recourses available to a failed refugee claimant and while our acceptance rate is one of the highest in the world. Some do so while working in Canada, while others rely on social assistance. This delay fundamentally undermines the fairness of our immigration system by allowing failed refugee claimants to remain in Canada for many years, in some cases for over six years, and often at taxpayers' expense.

I am pleased to report that since we began requiring visitors from Mexico and the Czech Republic to first obtain a visa, the number of refugee claims from those two countries has slowed to a trickle. In the almost three months since the visa requirement took effect, there have been only 16 refugee claims at ports of entry from Czech nationals, compared with 831 claims in the same period leading up to the visa imposition. Similarly, in that period, claims at ports of entry from Mexican nationals have fallen significantly from 1,287 in the nearly three months before the announcement down to 35.

Prior to the imposition of visas, Mexican and Czech refugee claims accounted for almost 50% of the total number of claims made at Canadian ports of entry. What does that tell parliamentarians? It tells us that the vast majority of these people from the Czech Republic and Mexico were probably so-called economic refugees, people who should be applying to immigrate to Canada in the normal way.

We have managed to stem the tide of refugee claims with visas on Mexico and the Czech Republic. However, I think we can all agree that visas are a blunt instrument and not the ideal solution.

We need to reform the asylum system. Too much of our time is spent on processing applications from people who are not in need of protection and whose claims are ultimately refused.

I think most MPs have constituents in their riding offices, as I do, some in tears, who simply want family members to visit for a wedding or an anniversary, but who are experiencing delays in getting visas. They suffer because others have abused the system.

We have repeatedly articulated why we do not support private member's Bill C-291, which would establish a refugee appeals division, as outlined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Asylum claimants already benefit from multiple avenues of recourse, including seeking leave from the Federal Court, and pre-removal risk assessments and applications for permanent residence based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

I wish to remind my hon. colleagues that since 2002, no government, Liberal or Conservative, has agreed to implement the refugee appeal division, and for very good reasons. Refugee claimants in Canada are already treated with the utmost procedural fairness. Our current asylum system is already too slow and complex. Adding yet another level of appeal would not only make the process even longer, but it would also result in tens of millions of dollars in ongoing annual costs to the federal and provincial governments.

An appeals division would cause further delays, with no different outcome in most cases, I strongly suspect, as immigration consultants and lawyers would stay busy grasping at an additional paper review for the chance, however slim, of a different outcome. It is unfair to their clients, unfair to those waiting to be heard, and unfair to Canadians.

While I appreciate the member's motivation behind this bill, the latter is unworkable. What we have been advocating instead is reform of the asylum system. With a streamlined system, we could include a full appeal that would allow for the introduction of new evidence, not simply a paper review of a decision made at the refugee protection division, as suggested in the private member's bill.

The refugee appeals division, as envisioned in this private member's bill, would not improve the refugee determination system. In fact, it would make the system worse. If adopted, the proposed legislation would weaken, if not cripple, our current system. The implementation of an appeal would only be possible in a streamlined and simplified system.

My colleagues opposite are well aware of the government's position on Bill C-291 and know that our position has not changed. I strongly urge the opposition to consider the comments already made by the government during this debate. We support strong and effective protection for refugees, but this is not it.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2009 / 6:30 p.m.
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Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak today to Bill C-291, which was introduced by my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber, whom I thank. Essentially, this bill would ensure that a real refugee appeal procedure is put in place.

Those of us who represent urban ridings are aware of the injustice created by the refugee system. When we meet with people in our ridings, we realize that more and more people are seeking asylum. The Canadian system creates real human dramas, and that is why my colleague introduced this bill, in order to restore some justice to the processing of claims to the Immigration and Refugee Board.

It is a bit paradoxical that we are having to debate my colleague's bill today, because the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which came into effect in 2002, included a number of sections that provided for the implementation of the refugee appeal division. Sections 110, 111 and 171 of the 2002 act provided that, if a person was not recognized by the Immigration and Refugee Board as a refugee under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, he or she should have an opportunity to appeal.

Today, the paradox is that these sections of the 2002 act have not yet come into force. It is time to honour the spirit of the legislation this Parliament passed in 2002 and implement these sections.

Restoring justice is fundamental. We must remember that as a result of certain decisions, the number of members on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada has gone from two to one. The implementation of the refugee appeal division was to restore justice and to compensate, to a certain extent, for the reduction of the number of board members. Today, there is only one member who sits on the Immigration and Refugee Board and the appeal division has yet to be established. It is the worst possible situation for a refugee claimant.

In the past, this government as well as the previous Liberal government indicated that there were a number of safety nets. In 2006, the government claimed that people could apply for refugee status when they crossed the Canadian border. Of course they could not be returned to their country of origin provided that a proper application had been made to the commission. We agree that they should have been protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The minister told us that there were safety nets, including pre-removal risk assessment, known as PRRA. People can also apply for permanent residency under certain conditions and on compassionate grounds, known at the time as the 114.(2). The government said that everything needed was in place in order for claimants to appeal. The government considered these two mechanisms to be appeals. In reality, that is not the case.

I will take a few minutes to remind the House of what the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said in 2006.

People already have endless possibilities when it comes to a judicial review before the Federal Court or applying for permanent residency on compassionate grounds. We must look at the (immigration) system as a whole before deciding whether or not to establish an appeal division.

Let us go further and examine this immigration system to see whether, indeed, these two provisions, these two chances people have to appeal, according to the minister, actually work. What is the reality? The reality is that as far as the pre-removal risk assessment reviews are concerned, claimants can ask the Federal Court to review their file. What is the reality? Just because a claimant asks the Federal Court to review their file does not necessarily mean that their file will be reviewed. The Federal Court has agreed to review a file in only 4% of cases. Let us be clear: the Federal Court does not examine the merits of the case. Some new evidence may be added, but the court will never examine the merits of the case.

What does that mean? It means that the vast majority of claims are denied. In very few cases have decisions been changed. Rarely has a decision of the Immigration and Refugee Board been overturned. In about 30% of cases, claims have changed, but in the vast majority of cases, the decision has been maintained.

The minister should have realized back in 2006 that his appeal system, which he claims offers unlimited opportunities to request a review, does not work in this case.

Let us look at the second option for refugees, permanent residency for humanitarian reasons. Once again, when it comes to what the minister called his second safety net, the numbers tell us that 28% of cases are approved. Consequently, 28% of those whose claims have been denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board have then submitted applications for permanent residency within Canada for humanitarian reasons, and in about 28% of cases, these people have been admitted for humanitarian reasons under section 114.2.

Clearly, the system is not working. That is why, in 2004, the House Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration passed a motion calling on the Liberal government of the day to change the system and ensure that these three sections on the appeal division would be implemented. Parliament took the initial step of passing a motion in committee, but the Liberals did not listen and refused to follow through on the motion.

The second important element is a bill that was introduced by the Bloc and passed in October 2007. It went through the whole parliamentary process, but unfortunately, did not receive royal assent because of the 2008 election.

What I am trying to say is that, basically, the purpose of my colleague's bill is to restore justice and ensure that a bill passed in 2002 is implemented in full. International organizations, such as Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, have all told us that we have to implement the appeal division

That is why I urge all parliamentarians to vote for the bill introduced by my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to join the debate on Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171).

I want to thank the member for Jeanne-Le Ber for bringing forward this piece of legislation. It is similar to legislation that was brought forward in the last Parliament by the member for Laval, with the support of the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges. It is something that I and the member for Trinity—Spadina, the NDP's citizenship and immigration critic, have strongly supported over many years.

The irony is that this is a bill that calls on Parliament and the government to implement legislation that is already in place. It is a bill to implement an act. Could anything be more ridiculous? Why should that be necessary in our system? It is absolutely ridiculous. It is absolutely unfortunate.

It is absolutely disrespectful of the current Conservative government and the previous Liberal government which refused to enact provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, legislation that was fully debated in this chamber and in the other place back in 2001. It was passed by this chamber and the other place back in 2001. It has been largely implemented by governments in the meantime, except for the provisions in the sections I mentioned earlier. Those sections are the ones that pertain to the refugee appeal division.

There is a history behind the bill we are debating today and the failure by governments to implement the refugee appeal division. I want to go back to that debate that happened before the adoption of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, IRPA, back in 2001.

There was an extensive debate. a long debate about that legislation, because it is very important legislation to Canadians, to our place in the world, to what happens on the issues of immigration and refugee policy in Canada. That new legislation was very thoroughly debated.

Over the course of that debate, the government put forward a recommendation to reduce the IRB panels that hear refugee determination claims from two people to one person, and there was a lot of concern about that proposal. There was concern that a one-person panel that sits in judgment of these very important refugee claims could make mistakes. There was no one else to counter the decision and the process of decision that the one-person board would go through, and there was no appeal in the process as it was standing.

Over the course of the development and the debate on that legislation, a compromise was reached. Opposition members and government members agreed to go forward with the proposal that there be a one-person board if there was an appeal process implemented, and that was the refugee appeal division.

This compromise meant that a one-person board could go ahead. Hopefully that would make the process more efficient, but there would be a backup appeal, an appeal on the merits of the case where any errors that were made by that one-person board could be corrected. That was made part of the legislation in the sections that we are talking about in the bill today.

It is perfectly reasonable work, good work by parliamentarians to discuss the process thoroughly, and the benefits and the problems of that process, to reach a compromise and to suggest a new process that would be workable and that would protect people in that system. It would protect refugees from an arbitrary decision by a one-person board and give them a significant opportunity for an appeal on the merits of their case. That passed the House of Commons and the other place and it became law.

However, the Liberal government of the day and the current Conservative government have always refused to implement the sections regarding the refugee appeal division, so in fact we do not have that appeal. We have the one-person board, but we do not have the effective appeal of that decision.

If we ask anyone who has an association with the refugee determination process in Canada, he or she will tell us that it is very important. If we ask international observers of Canada's refugee process, they will tell us that appeal is an absolute necessity. Yet we still have not implemented it. It is in the law, but it has not been implemented. That is an absolutely despicable situation. It means that we have a bill, like the one we have today, which is legislation to call on the government to implement legislation that is already in place. It is an absolutely ridiculous situation.

Lest one thinks that the refugee appeal division is some cumbersome mechanism that will further delay the immigration process, which is what we often hear, it is not. It is a paper appeal. It is not one that would involve a lengthy court proceeding. It is a paper appeal of the merits of the case, an essential paper appeal, but a paper appeal.

Other people have said that it is too expensive and that the immigration and refugee system already takes up too much money. That is not the case either. I remember when I was on the standing committee in the 37th Parliament. The government at the time estimated that it would cost $8 million to set it up and $2 million a year to run the system. That is not a significant amount of money by any stretch of the imagination when one considers the importance of having a just and fair immigration and refugee system in Canada.

This was a very concise and precise appeal. It was not a costly appeal and yet governments have refused to move on it. As I say, it is a very simple and necessary step that could be taken tomorrow if there was the political will to ensure fairness in our system.

As I mentioned earlier, there are many organizations in Canada. The Canadian Council for Refugees, which is the coalition of almost every refugee and immigrant serving group in Canada, has strongly supported the implementation of the refugee appeal division, the RAD, and they have been strong supporters of Bill C-291. They know and appreciate the value of this kind of appeal to people who have made refugee claims in Canada. They know it is a measure of fairness to the system, where there is only one person sitting in judgment of the life and death situation of a refugee claimant in Canada. They also point out that international organizations have criticized Canada for not having this kind of appeal in our refugee system.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said:

Given that even the best decision-makers may err in passing judgment, and given the potential risk to life which may result from such an error, an appeal on the merits of a negative determination constitutes a necessary element of international protection.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees wrote to the Canadian government to express its concern about non-implementation of the refugee appeal division. It considers an appeal procedure to be a fundamental, necessary part of any refugee status determination process.

The UN Committee Against Torture, hearing a complaint from a rejected refugee claimant, found that the Canadian refugee determination system had been unable to correct a wrong decision in his case. What an outrageous condemnation of our system, that a refugee claimant could not correct an error in his case that went against him and the United Nations Committee Against Torture had to point that out to the Canadian government.

In fact, despite our incredible record on refugee matters and despite the fact that we won the Nansen medal from the United Nations in the 1980s for our refugee policies, there is this huge gap in our refugee process. It is a gap that our law anticipates but that our governments refuse to correct. That is an absolutely outrageous situation. In fact, Canada is one of the few countries in the world that fails to give refugee claimants an appeal on the merits of their case. We need to change that immediately.

This is not rocket science. This is not a huge process. This is the result of good work and political compromise here in the House of Commons. All the parties who were looking at the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came together and decided on a direction we could take that accomplishes the goals of everybody in this place.

What has happened? The previous Liberal government and the current Conservative government have turned their backs on that process. They have shown disrespect to Parliament and to the many committees that debated this legislation at other times by not moving to implement these provisions which already exist in the immigration and refugee protection law.

It is about time we got on with this. Needless to say, New Democrats will strongly be supporting this legislation. We believe it is high time that this measure of fairness was implemented in Canada. Refugees who make a claim here in Canada deserve an appeal on a negative decision on the merits of their case.

The refugee appeal division provides that appeal. It should be implemented tomorrow. We should not have to wait for this bill to proceed all the way through the House and the other place to have that measure of fairness in our immigration and refugee determination law.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
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Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, other than our indigenous peoples, our first nations, all the rest of us in Canada are recent arrivals. We either arrived ourselves or are the descendants, the sons and daughters of wave after wave of arrivals to Canada's shores over the last few centuries.

The assumption is that all of these arrivals to Canada were immigrants, when in fact, especially during the latter part of the 20th century, a large proportion of those who arrived on Canada's shores were refugees, those who were seeking sanctuary.

I am the son and grandson of refugees. In the years after World War II, my father and my grandparents on my father's side were in a displaced persons camp in Italy. On my mother's side, they were in a displaced persons camp in Germany. In the years after the war, Canadian government officials arrived in those camps, they took notes, reviewed documents and my parents and grandparents were among the lucky few who received travel documents to come to Canada.

They came across the Atlantic and arrived on freedom's shores, Canada, where they could live in freedom and democracy, work hard and build a new life.

Unfortunately not everyone was so lucky. Many of those who found themselves in those displaced persons camps, the refugee camps, were sent back to the Soviet Union, except they never arrived home. They ended up mostly in Siberia and most ended up dead.

Canada has a tremendous legacy of welcoming and accepting refugees, whether it was post-World War II in 1956 from Hungary or more recently Vietnamese refugees from the Philippines and Burmese refugees from camps in Thailand.

However, over the past half century it has become a little more difficult to figure out who in fact are bona fide refugees. It is no longer the case that we have officials who go to refugee camps and those are the sole source of refugees to Canada. Today, anyone, anywhere on the planet from any country can buy a plane ticket, arrive at a Canadian airport and claim refugee status or they can arrive in Canada, stay here for a while, check things out and then decide to make a refugee claim.

The system is not working, especially over the past couple of years where our backlog has increased by some 18 months and we have ended up with a backlog of approximately 8 years and over 60,000 refugee claimants.

There is a huge cost to this dysfunction in the system of approximately $30,000 for every refugee claimant. At the same time, statistics show that about half of those claims are bogus. That is a cost to the Canadian taxpayer of some $900 million, $100 million per year over the next eight years. That is a huge cost.

There is another cost to the current dysfunction. Real claimants, those who are seeking refuge from totalitarian regimes, dictatorships, those individuals and their families have to wait years in anguish not knowing whether they will be sent back to a country where they could be tortured or worse. The system has to be fixed. That is why I will be supporting Bill C-291.

The bill would provide greater efficiency in our refugee system. The refugee appeals division would be a specialized appeal division as opposed to the federal court. It would increase the efficiency of the system, while still ensuring the humane treatment of those in need of protection. It would enhance the reputation of our system. The implementation of an appeal division would improve public perception of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

As well, the federal court, where appeals go today, does not specialize in refugee matters. Advocates for the RAD system would have expertise in refugee determination. There would be greater consistency in decision-making. The creation of a specialized RAD would allow for consistency when reviewing the facts of decisions.

The judicial review of an IRB decision is more limited in scope than an appeal contemplated in the RAD. The court cannot replace a decision by the IRB with its own judgment.

We cannot continue with the system that we have in place today, up to eight years to finalize a claim. We are in a cycle. People note that it takes this tremendous length of time, so frivolous claims are made so they can extend their stays in Canada year after year.

The bill envisions reforms that would provide three new pillars to our refugee system. First, it would start with a good first decision. Second, it would allow for a reliable appeal. Third, it would allow for the prompt removal of failed claimants. As well, tribunal members would be appointed solely on merit.

By creating a strong system, the pre-removal risk assessment and back end humanitarian compassionate applications we see so often today and their associated judicial reviews could be removed from the system. Under the proposal, refugee claims would be decided in approximately six months, reviewed most likely in the subsequent four months and removals, should they be necessary, within three months after a negative appeal decision.

We are dealing with an immigration system in Canada that currently is broken. Canadians want us to enact a fulsome package of reforms. Unfortunately, the government has not come forward with such a fulsome package.

However, in the lack of the aforementioned, we have an opportunity to address one aspect of this broken immigration system, the broken refugee system. We must have a system that is just, that respects and meets Canada's international obligations to protect refugees and that re-establishes the confidence of Canadians in our system.

Canadians are a people who above all believe in fairness. They would like to see a refugee system that is fair. We deserve to have a refugee system that works, a system that respects due process, ensures avenues of equal opportunity and provides safety for individuals who are in need of protection.

That is why, as a son and as a grandson of refugees, I will be supporting Bill C-291.

The House resumed from November 19 consideration of the motion that C-291, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171), be read the third time and passed.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
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Richmond B.C.


Alice Wong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Madam Speaker, this country has a long history of offering protection to those most in need. There are an estimated 10.5 million refugees in the world today who live in desperate conditions, many in refugee camps, often forgotten by the world at large. Their plight is real and their stories are moving.

Every year Canada welcomes nearly 30,000 refugees for asylum and resettlement programs. In fact, we are one of the top three countries in the western world in terms of the numbers of refugees we accept for resettlement, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has called this country a model for other nations.

I am proud to say that Canada is living up to its reputation when it comes to providing refuge and protection to those in need. I am proud that there is a consensus in this country to help provide refuge for the persecuted.

However, there is no doubt that refugee status determining process, as it exists now, faces substantial challenges. Most significantly, the large and growing number of bogus refugee claims is putting a real strain on the system and, as a result, wait times are getting longer.

We have a system where even the decisions on the most straightforward refugee claims take too long. It takes too long to determine the status of obvious refugees in need of protection. Unsuccessful claimants regularly wait years before they work through the various levels of appeal available to them. Consequently, they remain in Canada while making those appeals and have every reason to drag out the process regardless of the merits of their case.

This government strongly supports an effective asylum system, one that is efficient and consistent in its application of the rules. We oppose Bill C-291 because it is neither necessary in the current system nor efficient as it would—

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
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Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I am going to deliver a well-prepared, well-thought-out speech on Bill C-291 to indicate that the Bloc Québécois is in favour, as you may have guessed, of a refugee appeal division.

We are in favour of this because we have to make sure that when someone is initially refused refugee status or if a ruling can put the refugee in danger, the refugee can have the right to further expand on the facts regarding why they need an appeal, a right that currently does not exist.

The bill is quite simple. The purpose of it is to implement a refugee appeal division. After Bill C-291 has been passed and has received royal assent, three sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, sections 110, 111 and 171, will come into force. They would come into force one year after royal assent.

A proper appeal process for refugee claimants ought to have been put in place as soon as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act took effect in June 2002. This is one of the significant changes required to ensure that asylum seekers are treated fairly and equitably.

Implementing a refugee appeal division is a matter of justice. By stubbornly refusing to do so, two successive governments have perpetrated injustice on asylum seekers.

For several years now, many voices have been calling for a refugee appeal division. The Bloc Québécois has called for it many times, of course, and it is not alone. I would like to list the organizations that support a refugee appeal division. They have many good reasons for their support, including humanitarian ones, of course.

Even before the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came into force in February 2000, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was calling for an appeal division. It said:

Where the facts of an individual situation are in dispute, the effective procedural framework should provide for their review. Given that even the best decision makers may err in passing judgment and given the potential risk to life which may result from such an error, an appeal on the merits of a negative determination constitutes a necessary element of international protection.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has always felt it was necessary to have a mechanism for appeal on the merits of a ruling. In a letter dated May 9, 2002, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees expressed its concerns to the former minister, who is now the member for Bourassa. It said:

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees considers an appeal procedure to be a fundamental, necessary part of any refugee status determination process. It allows errors to be corrected and can also help to ensure consistency in decision making. Canada, Italy and Portugal are the only industrialized countries which do not allow rejected asylum seekers the possibility to have first instance decisions reviewed on points of fact as well as points of law.

I would like to point out, and members will be pleased to hear this, that since 2002, Italy and Portugal have created procedures for appeals on merit. According to the letter from the UN High Commission for Refugees, Canada is the only remaining industrialized nation that has not yet accepted its responsibility in this regard.

The UNHCR representative appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. Although he initially acknowledged “Canada's procedure for the determination of refugee status to be of a very high quality”, he reiterated the need for an appeal mechanism.

I will quote him once again for those interested in refugee law, namely all Quebeckers and Canadians:

...implementation of an appeal on the merits to review negative first instance decisions would strengthen even further the Canadian refugee status determination system. For UNHCR, an appeal on the merits would correct first instance errors and help to ensure consistency and fairness in decision-making.

He also said, “The Federal Court judicial review is not an appeal on the merits.”


The pre-removal risk assessment, PRRA, is an important safety net, especially when there's a long passage of time between a negative decision and removal. Like the humanitarian and compassionate application, the PRRA is a circumscribed process that does not correct a first instance negative decision.

In December 2004, in its Falcon Ríos v. Canada ruling, the UN Committee Against Torture criticized the Canadian system as follows:

It [the committee] expressed particular concern at the apparent lack of independence of the civil servants deciding on such appeals, and at the possibility that a person could be expelled while an application for review was under way. It concluded that those considerations could detract from effective protection of the rights covered by article 3, paragraph 1, of the Convention [meaning a return to torture].

In its July 2005 report, the UN Committee Against Torture made several recommendations to Canada. Among the areas of concern, it mentioned the fact that unsuccessful applicants cannot benefit from a review on the merits of their application. In fact, the committee recommends that:

The State party should provide for judicial review of the merits, rather than merely of the reasonableness, of decisions to expel an individual where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person faces a risk of torture.

For all these reasons, we must ensure that a refugee appeal division exists.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2009 / 6 p.m.
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Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to the mover as well as the parliamentary secretary, and want to express my gratitude to the member for presenting Bill C-291, but I do want to give it some context.

There is no question in Canadians' minds that they deserve a refugee system that works, one that respects due process, creates avenues of equal opportunity, and provides safety for individuals who are in need of protection.

Unfortunately, today we have a broken refugee system with the following problems: a staggering 61,000 backlog of refugee claims; an increase of 17.7 months for the processing of claims, in other words, a wait of almost two years; a drastic decrease of 50% for the number of finalized claims; an almost 50% increase in the cost to finalize a claim, an estimated cost to Canadian taxpayers of approximately $29,000 for the processing of each claimant; and a 50% increase in the number of deportations from Canada over the last decade.

One of the first questions I asked when I was appointed opposition critic for citizenship and immigration was precisely on this issue and I want to cite the response given by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. In response to the question he said:

Mr. Speaker, I am really delighted to hear the interest of the member in hopefully working together to create a more efficient refugee determination system...However, the member is quite right, it is not efficient and the reality is that last year we received 38,000 inland refugee claimants, about 60% of whose applications were rejected by the IRB.

I would like to work with the member to find ways that we can dissuade people from making false refugee claims, seeking to jump the queue and to come to this country illegally under the cover of being refugees.

There is no question that the minister understands that the system is broken and that question was asked on March 11, 2009. This is a question that still of course requires an answer.

The Auditor General has stated some major concerns as well and so has the minister's departmental plan. To cite from what the minister said in committee on October 6: “As I indicated, that growing backlog reached 61,000 this summer”. He also said: “Mr. Chairman, under the current system, it's taking over 18 months for a claimant to get a hearing at the IRB”. He also said: “This is a broken system, and it needs to be streamlined”.

Where the minister stands is obvious. I have a suspicion that the minister is not getting the support he requires in cabinet to make the necessary investments to fix the system that we on both sides of the House all agree is indeed broken. So here comes this bill, Bill C-291. Of course, it is a bill that compels the government to bring certain provisions of IRPA into force for the purpose of creating the refugee appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. Section 110 deals with the appeal, section 111 with the refugee appeal division decision, and section 171, the proceedings of the refugee appeal division.

On both sides are those who oppose and talk obviously about duplication. The CIC officials argue that the RAD is unnecessary given other avenues of appeal and recourse prior to deportation. They also say that we have a need for wider reform. I agree with that. We have to look at the entire system. It is arguable that the implementation of RAD must be accompanied by reform of the refugee determination system in order to enhance efficiency overall. There are concerns about costs. There are concerns that the RAD would only provide a review on the record. It would burden the system even further. We have heard all that.

We have heard all the points. I am very happy about the fact that I pushed for the bill to go to committee because both sides have raised important issues that required careful analysis and thought.

Those in support speak to fundamental issues of justice. For example, the administration of justice itself, that the RAD provides a way to balance the rights of refugees with the integrity of the immigration system.

On the issue of efficiency, the RAD would be a specialized appeal division as opposed to the federal court. It would increase the efficiency of the system, while still ensuring the humane treatment of those in need of protection. The implementation of an appeal division would improve public perception of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Consistency in decision-making was also mentioned as one of the rationale for the original proposal. The creation of the RAD would allow for greater consistencies when reviewing the facts of a decision.

The other issue that was raised was procedural safeguard. The RAD would serve as a procedural safeguard and would enhance the IRB credibility to ensure justice is done so that no decision to deny refugee status would lead to serious consequences, such as detention, torture or death.

On the final point under judicial review, the judicial review of an IRB decision is more limited in scope than the appeal contemplated in the RAD. The court cannot replace a decision by the IRB with its own judgment. The federal court does not specialize in refugee matters, whereas advocates for the RAD would have an expertise in refugee determinations.

That is what we heard. This is an important bill to analyze because this is an important issue. I want members in the House to remember the context I presented today, that we are dealing with a broken system.

As a member of Parliament who likes to hear both sides of the debate, I want to put the government on notice. I am waiting for a reform package. I am 100% behind the concept of co-operating with the government and parties on all sides of the House to ensure we address the key concerns I cited earlier in my speech in reference to the broken refugee system. It has to be a system that is fair, a system that is just, a system that respects and meets Canada's international obligations to protect refugees and maintain confidence in the system. We have heard that inland refugee systems can take up to eight years to finalize a claim. That leaves thousands of people living in limbo, and that is not fair. A decision needs to be made within a responsible and acceptable timeframe. We need an appeal decision process that is fair and accessible.

The reality is when claimants fail, they unfortunately need to leave. The entire process should take closer to 12 to 18 months rather than 8 years. It has to be efficient, it has to be fair and it has to also maintain the integrity of the system itself.

It is for this reason that I put the government on notice. I support the bill. I will give the government time to present a reform package that also includes an appeals division.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
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St. Catharines Ontario


Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, I will get to my notes, but I wanted to say that we were going to be working through this private member's bill a couple of weeks ago. We came all prepared one morning to debate and give our speeches; however, the member for Jeanne-Le Ber was not here. We were trying to figure out what had happened.

At first, we worried a little. He has a couple of young children back home. We thought that maybe something was up. Then I thought that perhaps he had seen the light and that he was not actually going to present his bill because he saw that it was not the right thing to do. However, the reason that he decided to not be here was because he was a little bit concerned about a vote that was going to happen and the potential of this working into that vote. It was a little bit of strategy. He did not quite see the light, but there was a short time period when I thought he just might have.

Canada's asylum system has one of the highest acceptance rates among Western countries, accepting 42% of claimants in 2008. Last year, we granted protection to more refugees per capita than either the United States or Australia. Unfortunately, a large and growing number of unfounded refugee claims are putting a real strain on our system and, as we have repeatedly argued, are making wait times longer for legitimate refugees. Longer delays put more stress on real refugees who have already suffered enough in their homelands.

I do not see how Bill C-291 would even begin to solve this problem. That is why I rise with my colleagues in the government to oppose this bill. Clear, straightforward refugee claims are taking far too long to reach a decision and unsuccessful claimants are typically allowed to stay in Canada for years, taking advantage of the various levels of recourse that are available to them.

This bill would add an additional recourse to the already large menu of recourses available to failed claimants. Expanding the already complicated process would make Canada more attractive to economic migrants seeking to game the system and stay in Canada by filing a false refugee claim. We continue to oppose Bill C-291 because it is not necessary in the current system. As we have said, it is not efficient, since it would add considerable delays and further costs to the refugee determination system.

For the past several years, we have been advocating for a fair and balanced asylum system that provides timely protection to people in need and removes those who would try to circumvent the immigration process by claiming refugee status when they simply should not. As we have told hon. members of the House, since 2006, the number of asylum claims Canada receives has increased by 60%. The increase in refugee claims, many of them unfounded, places stress on decision makers and on refugees.

With at least 60,000 refugee claims in the system backlog, we now have a two-tier system in which some immigration applicants wait patiently in line, often for years, while others use the asylum system to jump the queue. Our system is simply not able to handle this many claims. With every incentive for bogus refugees to come here and with every delay, we add to this system. We make Canada more attractive, not to the refugees who need our country but to those who want to process under false claims.

Too much time and too many resources are being spent to review claims of those who are simply not genuine refugees and who stay in Canada for years, often at taxpayers' expense. Canadians support a refugee system that is generous to those truly in need, but the current system of unending recourse and the cases of unfounded claimants exploiting our generosity undermines Canadian confidence and our system itself.

Bill C-291 would not address the pressure related to rising asylum claims. It would not fix the lengthy and complex system related to various recourses available to failed claimants. In fact, it would simply make the situation worse. All it would do is add another layer. It would do very little to provide additional safeguards for claimants. As we have long argued, under the proposed legislation, the refugee appeal division would provide only a paper review of decisions made at the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

As we have said, a paper review would not provide the opportunity for an in-person hearing. That means no oral appeal. This review would be based on the same information and evidence on record that was used by the board in assessing individual refugee cases. This review would only determine if errors in fact and/or law had been made.

The current system, and no one is arguing this, is slow and complex, and it already includes multiple recourse mechanisms, so a further level of review is simply redundant and unnecessary. Not only would it make the current process even longer but ministry officials came and presented to the committee that it would result in tens of millions of dollars in ongoing annual costs not just to the federal government but to the provincial governments as well.

We need to fix the system. No one argues that, but we need to fix it so that real victims of persecution quickly receive protection in Canada and those whose claims are unfounded or bogus are sent home quickly.

With no fewer than three separate opportunities for recourse: judicial review by the Federal Court of Canada, pre-removal risk assessment, and application on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, there is no reason whatsoever to add another. That is all that Bill C-291 would do. It would just be adding another layer of review, another layer of process.

We are here to fix government, not to burden government, and not to add more and unnecessary processes, which actually helps no one.

Make no mistake. This is not an “instead of” any of these provisions. This is in addition to them. Bill C-291 would not streamline anything, nor would it do anything to reduce the months or even years it can take to make a final determination on a refugee claim. In fact, the opposite would be true.

This is just simply not fair. By adding yet another layer of review, we would be putting at risk the fairness Canadians have come to expect and that has allowed our global reputation to take shape. It is certainly not fair to ask the provincial and the territorial governments to continue to provide social and financial supports to someone whose claim has already been unsuccessful four times.

We already have a process that allows an individual to appeal three times, and around the world, we have met with presenters who have said our system is by far if not the best, one of the best in the world as we stand.

We are aware, the government is aware, and the minister is aware of the problems with our refugee system. I want to make it clear that we intend to work toward building a better system for refugees and for Canadians. However, this bill would not lead to positive change. It does not take us in the direction that we need to go with respect to revamping the system. In fact, it would further complicate our system.

Therefore, I simply conclude by indicating that the government will not be supporting Bill C-291 and I urge my colleagues on the other side of the House to support that position.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
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Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Madam Speaker, that is especially true because the refugee appeal division process is much less complicated than the Federal Court process. The Federal Court gets more bogged down in procedure and is not specialized in these cases, and can therefore not rule as effectively as a specialized tribunal like the refugee appeal division could.

This means that an appeal to the division would be much less costly than an appeal to a higher court. I truly believe that there would be savings there. It is the same thing for pre-removal risk assessments, or PRRAs. Lawyers who testified before the committee told us that nowhere in the legislation does it state that public servants must examine these appeals. The government could very well assign this responsibility to the refugee appeal division.

It is possible that more changes would have to be made. Members will understand that we are rather limited in what we can do with a private member's bill. If the government has some better suggestions, we will listen. In the meantime, I think that the least we can do, as self-respecting parliamentarians, is to enforce and respect the wishes of Parliament.

Once the bill is passed in this House, there will still be a few weeks in the Senate, royal assent and then a full year. If, by chance, the government decided in the meantime that it had a real, more effective solution than what is proposed in the bill, we would still have a year to examine it and put it into effect. In any case, we are better off not taking any chances, and supporting Bill C-291.