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.

Sponsor

Thierry St-Cyr  Bloc

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

Status

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

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

The purpose of this enactment is to fix the date on which sections 110, 111 and 171 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act come into force.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

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.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

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.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 2nd, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

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 / 6:30 p.m.
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Bloc

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 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

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

November 19th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be here to debate my bill, Bill C-291, now at third reading.

I would like to start by pointing out that we have discussed this bill very intensely in committee. I know that the governing party did not support the bill, but I must nevertheless point out that all of these debates were respectful. Other subjects create more acrimony and tension in the House. During the vote at report stage just a few minutes ago, we saw an example of how the process was not abused as a diversionary tactic. I give the Conservatives credit.

This bill is very simple. It would establish the refugee appeal division provided for in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act passed by this Parliament in 2002. Before this reform, two board members would examine the refugee claims together, and if one of the two members accepted the claim, refugee status was granted to the individual.

At the time, the government determined that it would be too costly, particularly given that in 95% of cases, the board members' decisions were the same. That was not surprising, considering that they sat side by side. They had plenty of opportunity to discuss the case and to influence one another. The government said that having two board members was too expensive and pointless, so it decided to cut down to one. To prevent arbitrary rulings, the government decided to set up an appeal division to allow people to appeal a number of possible errors. After consulting the population, immigration lawyers, experts in the protection of refugee rights and all kinds of other groups, Parliament concluded that this was a good compromise. It cut the number of board members by half in exchange for an appeal division.

The problem is that the Liberal government of the day and the Conservative government that followed never implemented that part of the legislation. Those listening at home may well wonder how the government can get away with ignoring the law.

When the House passes a law, it presumes that the government is acting in good faith and intends to respect the will of Parliament. When the time comes to implement legislation, the House generally gives the government plenty of flexibility in terms of when to implement particular provisions. Laws usually contain subsections stating that sections x, y and z are to be implemented when the government issues the order. That way, the government does not have to say whether it needs six months, eight months, 12 months or 14 months to implement a particular provision—in this case, the refugee appeal division. Parliament believes that the government will eventually implement the provisions. In this particular case, that should be all the more true because the government had a majority at the time. So members have every reason to wonder why a provision was included in the legislation if the government had no intention of acting on it.

Unfortunately, that is what happened. This happens rarely—never, as far as I know, until now. This provision has been languishing for eight years. It is part of the legislation, but it is meaningless because the government has refused to issue the necessary order.

The bill before us amends the original provision that gave the government the authority to determine when the division would be created and replaces it with a fixed deadline of one year after it receives royal assent.

I mention this because basically I think, with this bill, before even touching on the content and wisdom of the provision itself, we must see this as a matter of respecting the will of Parliament, and by extension, democracy.

Every time there is an election, millions of voters take the time to go to the polling stations and vote to elect the 308 members who sit in this House so we may pass legislation, and keep an eye on the government and keep it in check. When a government—or two in this case, since it was first the Liberals and then the Conservatives—shows complete scorn for the will of this House for eight years and gets away with it—and we are not talking here about a motion that will have no impact, but rather a duly passed law that was given royal assent—when Parliament is ignored by the government for eight years, I think the minimum act of respect that we owe each other as members of this House is to send a message to the government, regardless of its political stripe, to the effect that when this House and the Senate pass a law, it becomes law and the government must implement it. There is an important aspect to this bill. I think that if it were not passed, that would send a very odd message to the government. We would basically be telling it that it can do whatever it wants with the laws we pass here.

That being said, let us look at the crux of the issue. Why is the refugee appeal division necessary? I would say that the answer has to do with natural justice. Regardless of their political systems, western nations and modern countries have relatively sophisticated justice systems that are designed to prevent arbitrariness and abuses. These government legal systems came out of the middle ages. They are not a recent invention, but began when it was decided that a single individual would no longer have the power of life and death over people and that rules and mechanisms to enforce them would be created. That is what really came out of the middle ages. All around the world and throughout our own legal system, there is the fundamental principle of the chance to appeal, the chance to say that there was clearly an error in a decision and to request that it be reviewed by a second independent party. The appeal process exists everywhere. In Canada, there is just one time when there is no chance to appeal a decision on its merits, and that is when it comes to determining refugee status.

Yet refugee determination decisions are far more serious than decisions handed down by many other tribunals where there are opportunities to appeal. You can have a fight with your neighbour over a fence, and if you are not happy with the decision, in many cases you will have the chance to appeal.

Here, we are talking about decisions that, in some cases, could mean removing someone to a country where he or she will be tortured or even killed, yet there is no chance to appeal. A decision will be made based on the judgment of a single person. It is simply irresponsible.

Human nature being what it is, every person who acts as a board member can make mistakes. In addition, some board members have serious competency problems. Some accept nearly all the claims they hear, while others reject nearly all of them.

I have a case in my riding where a person's claim was rejected by a board member, Laurier Thibault, who at the time was rejecting 98% of the claims he heard.

If a person appeared before a judge—which could happen to anyone here—and before entering the court room they were told that the judge hearing the case convicts 98% of people who appear before him, the person would say this is a parody of justice and they would be right.

Such things can continue to happen because the board's rulings are currently not subject to any control. They can do what they want and there will never be an appeal or any way to know whether their rulings are appropriate. If a judge's rulings in regular court were systematically overturned on appeal, at some point the chief justice would tell him there is a problem.

No such thing exists when it comes to determining refugee status, with the perverse effect that immigration lawyers cannot answer their clients when they ask what their chances are of being accepted. The lawyers are forced to tell their client that it is like a lottery: if they appear before a generous board member, they will be accepted, but if they are heard by a racist board member, they will be turned down.

As a result, people end up making an application when they otherwise would not. If there were a system equipped with an appeal mechanism and real case law, people would know that even if they are heard by a rather generous board member who grants them refugee status, the minister could appeal that decision in order to avoid setting a precedent. After a few months, there would be clear case law: we would know who will be accepted and who will not. The same rules would apply to everyone and this would greatly decrease the number of not so legitimate applications made at the beginning of the process.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague the parliamentary secretary will probably tell us in a few minutes that there are many avenues of appeal. I must admit that there are avenues to appeal the process but there can be no appeal of the merits of a case. Every lawyer who appeared before the committee told us so. Many lawyers, disappointed with the decision on the merits of a decision, use the procedures of the Federal Court to overturn the decision when they cannot appeal the merits of a decision.

The Federal Court itself ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on the merits of a decision. For example, if a board member says that he finds the statements of an applicant to be false and rejects his application, the Federal Court cannot overturn the decision. In some cases, the judge has even said that, had he been the commissioner, he would probably have made a different decision, but that he can only rule on the process and that it was followed correctly.

There is also the pre-removal risk assessment, the PRRA. Once again, it is not a true appeal. It only makes it possible, and in very rare cases, to avoid removal when, for example, the political situation has changed in the country of origin or when new evidence is submitted. However, evidence submitted in the initial hearing to the commissioner cannot be submitted once again, and therefore it is impossible to appeal on the merit of the decision.

Everyone agrees that, at present, those applying for refugee status must wait too long. We need a more efficient system, and case law and rules that are clear for everyone. There would be no point in filing an application unless you met the criteria because you would know in advance what the decision would be. There would no longer be a board member lottery. It would shorten the process and decrease the number of people who make pointless or unfounded applications. In addition, it would be less costly and would allow lawful applicants to obtain a decision more quickly.

For all these reasons, and out of respect for our democracy and this Parliament, I encourage all members to support this bill.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
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Bloc

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.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

November 19th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

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 / 6 p.m.
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Liberal

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 / 6:15 p.m.
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Bloc

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.”

Also:

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 / 6:25 p.m.
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Richmond B.C.

Conservative

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

April 20th, 2009 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-291, moved by the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber. It is an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171.

As I read the statements made by the hon. member, I just want to bring to the attention of the House the type of work that is required to address Canada's refugee system and the challenges it faces. What became very evident during the debate, here in this chamber and outside the chamber, was that there are many challenges faced by the refugee system in this country. I want to quickly read some sections from the speech delivered by the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber. He said:

Let us start at the beginning, with the issue of arbitrary decisions. There are quite a few board members at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), many of whom are undoubtedly competent. However, the problem is that many of these people are not well-suited to this work.

He went on to say:

There is an obvious problem here: some commissioners do not have what it takes to do the job. We need an appeals division to overturn these decisions. Even if they were all very competent, we would still have a natural justice issue on our hands. Even though we have very competent judges in our other courts, we still have an appeals division. Why do citizens and permanent residents have access to appeals in the regular system, but refugees do not?

The second reason he gave was the lack of consistency in the decisions:

When there is no appeal division, each IRB member can decide one way or the other. As all immigration lawyers will agree, this makes it impossible to tell someone whether they are eligible or not by simply looking at their file.

Lastly, I think we could even save money in our justice system, since the appeal division, as it is defined in the legislation, is an administrative tribunal. But since this administrative tribunal does not yet exist, claimants who have been refused by the board tend to avail themselves of all kinds of procedures before superior courts to try to obtain justice. In the end, this is more expensive for the system, since those proceedings tend to be much more costly.

The view on the other side, of course, is the government response through the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. He has a different view on this issue. He said:

The government opposes this legislation because it is neither necessary in the current system nor is it efficient. It would add considerable delays and costs, both in the start-up and operating costs as well as the prolonged costs for services provided to failed refugees waiting for their fourth level of appeal, which would be this appeal division.

The cost of implementing the refugee appeal division would be in the range of $15 million to $25 million annually in new operating costs, about the same amount in social services costs paid by both the provincial and federal governments for refugees, not to mention start-up costs of approximately $10 million.

He also said he believed there were individuals taking advantage of our compassionate nature in seeking refugee status on dishonest grounds, and on and on.

I thought it was my responsibility, when there are divergent opinions coming from both sides of the House, to promote debate in the House. I listed some of the supporting arguments to implement the refugee appeal division, which means passage of the bill would ensure that the entire design in IRPA would be realized.

Implementation of RAD would increase the efficiency of the system, while still ensuring the humane treatment of those in need of protection. The creation of RAD would allow for greater consistency when reviewing the facts of a decision. RAD would serve as a procedural safeguard to enhance the IRB's credibility and ensure justice is done so that no decision to deny refugee status leads to serious consequences, such as detention, torture or death.

A human decision-making process is subject to potential errors, especially when information is limited, and testimony is usually heard through an interpreter. 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 and the Federal Court does not specialize in refugee matters whereas advocates for the RAD would have an expertise in refugee determination. That is one side.

The other side says:

--implementing the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) at this time would provide very limited benefit at a very high cost...the RAD would only provide a review on the record similar to a federal court review, without the calling of additional evidence or the provision of new or additional facts...an appeal to the RAD...would allow only a paper review of a RPD decision, and that no new evidence would be allowed to be presented at a proceeding before the RAD. To add another layer of appeals and process would simply make an already extremely lengthy refugee determination process even longer. Failed refugee claimants can apply for a Federal Court review of their decision. They can also apply for a pre-removal risk assessment and for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, including consideration of possible risk if returned to their home country. As things stand, it can take years to conclude the adjudication of a case. To add additional months and even possibly years to the delays is unfair to refugees and their families who expect a timely resolution and decision with respect to their application for refugee status...Resources would be better directed at seeking ways to improve and streamline the existing refugee determination process as a whole.

I do this research. I meet with people. I talk about the refugee system with those people affected. I speak to the people on the government side. I speak to the hon. member who proposed this private member's bill and I am left with a decision. I think this particular bill requires further study. I want to draw the member's attention to a question that I asked of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism where I quoted the departmental performance report. Under the Conservatives, the backlog of refugee claims has more than doubled. The number of finalized claims has decreased by 50%. The average processing time has increased to 14 months. The average cost per claim has increased by almost $2,000 to nearly $5,000. My question was: Why has the government failed to provide a timely and efficient refugee system to people who desperately need it?

One may think I am being unnecessarily critical. However, in response to my question in question period, the minister basically came back to me and said:

I am really delighted to hear the interest of the member in hopefully working together to create a more efficient refugee determination system.

I do this with a great deal of sincerity. I see that there are divergent views that exist on this particular issue. When there is a minister who in many ways admits that there are problems in the refugee system and that we need to collectively work together to improve the system, I think it is time to provide this member and members of our immigration committee with further study. There has also been a very critical report by the Auditor General on this particular issue. We need to take the time to study this bill. While we are studying this bill in committee, we should also be looking at all the issues I have raised. Working together to improve Canada's refugee and immigration systems is a commitment that I have made to the House.

I think it would be wise of all members in the House to support the bill so that we can study this particular issue. There are divergent opinions that require time and reflection, so that we may have a more efficient and effective refugee system and protect those individuals who require protection.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2009 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

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

This is not the first time that I have discussed this type of legislation, and I want to thank the member for Jeanne-Le Ber for reintroducing the bill. This legislation was introduced in the last Parliament by another member and the House passed it in the last Parliament. It then went on to the Senate where, with a few amendments, it was also passed. Unfortunately, it did not have an opportunity before the last election to come back to the House to have those amendments approved, and therefore, the bill died without having completed the full parliamentary process. The fact is we are now debating that bill as amended by the Senate in the last Parliament. We are talking about it yet again.

The bill calls for the implementation of legislation that in fact was passed by Parliament back in 2001. It calls for the implementation of the refugee appeal division, which is a feature of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that was passed here in the House after a lengthy process back in 2001. When the Liberal government of the day implemented that legislation, it refused to implement the provisions dealing with the refugee appeal division. Those sections that are named in the current bill we are discussing today were never implemented. The Conservative government has also refused to implement the provisions regarding the refugee appeal division.

We are now in this bizarre situation where we are debating a bill to implement legislation that has already been passed by the House of Commons and the Senate. The bill has been largely implemented, except for one part. One of the strange features of my time here in Parliament is that we actually would need to debate legislation to implement legislation that we had already fully debated and passed in this place a number of years ago, but that, in fact, is what this is about, because of the government's refusal to abide by the will of Parliament, by the decisions of parliamentarians, on the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act back in 2001. This is disturbing because the refugee appeal division emerged out of the debate and discourse and the committee hearings in 2001 on the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

It emerged as a compromise because the government of the day wanted to reduce Immigration and Refugee Board panels from two members to one member. It was thought that to serve the needs of fairness and justice, a one member panel only represented the interpretation of one person and that increased the likelihood of mistakes, errors and inconsistencies. It was thought that some other appeal process was necessary to balance that reduction in the panel from two members to one member. A compromise was struck. Members of Parliament agreed to the reduction of the panels from two members to one but also insisted that the refugee appeal division, the RAD, be a part of the legislation in order to give people a recourse to appeal a decision made by a panel in a refugee determination case.

That was a very important piece of the process. It showed Parliament perhaps at its best by reviewing legislation, finding the problems, responding to the needs that the government of the day addressed, and finding a compromise and implementing that compromise. Yet after the fact, the government went ahead and reduced the panels from two members to one, but refused to implement the other procedure that would have ensured some fairness and some justice. The government refused to implement the refugee appeal division. That speaks rather badly of the government of the day and its respect for the parliamentary process that we engage in here daily.

If the Conservative government had respect for the kind of process we go through in this place, it would move immediately to implement the refugee appeal division. New Democrats would certainly proceed that way. We have been strong supporters of the implementation of the RAD.

I remember speaking to people at the Canadian Council for Refugees a number of years ago when I was acting as citizenship and immigration critic for the NDP and indulging a fantasy that some day I would be the minister of citizenship and immigration. I gave notice then, and I will do it again, that should I ever become minister of citizenship and immigration, I would expect the folks working in that department and the minister's office to blow the dust off the pile of paper in the corner of the office that is the refugee appeal division file and put it on my desk. One of the first things I would do would be to implement the provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act without delay because it would bring a measure of fairness that is required. It would also respect the parliamentary process.

This is not an extra piece of process; it is an essential piece of the refugee determination process. There are many concerns about that process. I have mentioned already that in Canada when a person goes before the IRB, that person goes before a one member panel, which means that his or her future is in the hands of a single person.

Many of the folks who serve on the IRB do great diligence in that job and are very concerned about the process and the work they do. However, the reality is that one person can make mistakes. One person can have a blind spot. When there were two members on the panel, through the discourse they engaged in at a hearing, those blind spots could be exposed and could see the light of day, but with a one member panel that is not as possible.

When a single person determines the fate of a refugee claimant, a bad decision can mean that the person is removed from Canada ultimately and sent back to a situation where the person faces danger and threats to his or her life. The basis of the whole refugee process is to protect people from that kind of threat. Therefore, a one person panel is a very serious problem with our current refugee determination process.

We have seen over the years that the IRB process can be very inconsistent. Different panel members make different decisions based on the same facts. There is a huge inconsistency in IRB decisions. This is another reason that a separate refugee appeal division is so important to that process. It would strive for more consistency in the process.

Everyone knows that mistakes are made in any decision-making process. That is why appeals in the refugee appeal division are very important. We also know there are often difficulties finding, and being able to afford, appropriate representation. There are difficulties dealing with a legal process that people may not be familiar with because of cultural and language differences and their newness in Canada. There are often difficulties with the hearing process itself. There are times when not every bit of information is examined and due process does not take place in the course of hearings. That is another reason that a separate appeal in the refugee appeal division is very necessary.

There have been calls from international organizations for Canada to implement an appeal. While Canada is known around the world for having a positive refugee policy, it is also known that the lack of an appeal is one of the significant shortcomings in the refugee process in Canada. We have been criticized by a number of international organizations for the lack of an appeal on the merits of a case.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights commented:

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.

That was its reflection on the lack of an appeal before a refugee appeal division in Canada.

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

This is not frivolous. It is not an expensive proposition. The previous government and the current government have indicated the expenses related to it. It is a necessary provision. I hope that I never have to stand in this House again to call upon the government to implement legislation that was in fact passed here in 2001 and is already part of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. We need the refugee appeal division and we need it to be implemented now.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2009 / 11:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to talk about Bill C-291, which seeks to implement an appeal division for refugee claims, introduced by my Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Jeanne-Le Ber.

It goes without saying that I wholeheartedly support this Bloc Québécois bill. It is a fairly simple bill, but it is important because it would implement the refugee appeal division. Once 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. These three sections would come into force one year after this bill receives royal assent.

The Bloc Québécois has decided to introduce a bill to ensure full enforcement of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

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

The creation of the refugee appeal division is a matter of justice. To persist in not making this change, as the two most recent governments have done, is to allow a situation that is unfair to asylum seekers to continue.

When the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was drafted, the refugee appeal division was seen as a fair compromise to satisfy the desire to move from two board members responsible for examining asylum claims to just one. Yet now we have the worst of both worlds. There is only one board member, not two, to examine the files, and there is no refugee appeal division.

The arbitrary aspect of the system is being magnified by the government's inaction and the piecemeal approach to implementing the new legislation. For four years now, the federal government has been stubbornly postponing the establishment of the refugee appeal division, as called for in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It is time for the Conservative government to comply with the legislation and implement the refugee appeal division.

The federal government claims that a safety net already exists, consisting of the opportunity to request a pre-removal risk assessment—also known as a PRRA—a judicial review by the Federal Court, or permanent resident status on humanitarian grounds. However, unlike a refugee appeal division, they do not offer any protection for refugees. The Federal Court provides only for a judicial review and does not provide for a review of the facts of a case.

There is also a flagrant lack of political will to establish the refugee appeal division, or RAD, which, I would remind the House, is already enshrined in the legislation. After their own legislation came into effect, the Liberals avoided establishing the RAD. Now that the Conservatives are in power, the former immigration minister still has not established the RAD, despite the positions his party took in the past.

In 2004, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration adopted a motion calling on the then Liberal government to establish the refugee appeal division or rapidly come up with a solution. Yet the government has consistently refused to comply with the committee's motion.

The Bloc Québécois tabled an almost identical bill in the 39th Parliament. Our bill was passed by the House on October 16, 2007 and sent to the Senate to be studied. The bill passed third reading stage in the other chamber. However, because of the elections in the fall of 2008, our bill did not receive royal assent and died on the order paper.

Many groups in civil society in Quebec, Canada and the international community are demanding that a refugee appeal division be established. These include the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Committee against Torture, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Bar Association, Amnesty international, the Civil Liberties Union, and the KAIROS group.

There are four reasons why the refugee appeal division should be established: efficiency, consistency of the law, justice, and political reasons that I will explain.

A specialized refugee appeal division is a much more efficient means of dealing with unsuccessful claimants than the Federal Court, an application for pre-removal risk assessment or requests on humanitarian grounds. The refugee appeals division can do a better job of correcting errors of law or fact.

The second reason is consistency of the law. An appeal division deciding on the merits of the case is the only body able to ensure consistency of jurisprudence both in the analysis of facts and in the interpretations of legal concepts in the largest administrative tribunal in Canada.

In other words, an appeal mechanism helps the system to make decisions by establishing precedents that will be applied to lower court rulings when the facts are exactly the same.

The third reason has to do with justice. The decision to refuse refugee status has extremely serious consequences, including death, torture and detention. As in matters of criminal law, the right to appeal to a higher court is essential for the proper administration of justice. Because human error occurs in any decision-making process, it should be standard practice to have an appeal process, especially to offset the fact that decisions are now made by a single board member.

As I said earlier, the fourth reason is political. By not establishing the refugee appeal division, the federal government is going against the will of Parliament—which is a serious matter—and of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which has called for such an appeal division. As I said, this is a serious matter.

The Bloc Québécois is dismayed by the lack of justice shown by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration when dealing with refugees since the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came into force in 2001.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to place this bill in context.

In 2001, during the first session of the 37th Parliament, the Minister of Immigration introduced Bill C-11 in this House, concerning persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger who apply to enter Canada and receive refugee protection.

Bill C-11 was designed to update the former Immigration Act, which had been passed in 1976 and amended more than 30 times.

Unlike Bill C-11, which was passed in 2002, the Immigration Act, 1976, did not provide for a refugee appeal division. To make up for the fact that there was no refugee appeal division, two board members examined refugee claims.

Claims were granted if one of the two board members ruled in favour of the claimant. However, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act cut the number of board members from two to one.

The refugee appeal division makes up for the absence of one board member and offsets the arbitrary power the remaining board member has in ruling on refugee claims. The Bloc Québécois considered this an acceptable compromise under the new act.

Why was the number of board members reduced from two to one? It would seem it was for the sake of efficiency.

On March 20, 2001, the former chair of the IRB, the Immigration and Refugee Board, Peter Showler, told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that:

In contrast to the present model, where claims are normally heard by two-member panels, the vast majority of protection decisions will be made by a single member. Single-member panels are a far more efficient means of determining claims. It is true that claimants will no longer enjoy the benefit of the doubt currently accorded them with two-member panels, and I think that should be noted. However, any perceived disadvantage is more than offset by the creation of the refugee appeal division, the RAD, where all refused claimants and the minister have a right of appeal on RPD decisions.

According to the former chair of the IRB, the presence of the refugee appeal division justified moving from two members to one for asylum claims. However, we still do not have an appeal division.

The act contains three sections to create an IRB-administered refugee appeal division. Citizenship and Immigration Canada briefly defines the refugee appeal division as follows:

The refugee appeal division will provide failed refugee claimants and the minister with the right to a paper appeal of a decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board. Unsuccessful refugee claimants have the right to apply for judicial review in the Federal Court.

More specifically, the three sections that create the refugee appeal division are as follows:

110. (1) A person or the Minister may appeal, in accordance with the rules of the Board, on a question of law, of fact or of mixed law and fact, to the Refugee Appeal Division against a decision of the Refugee Protection Division to allow or reject the person’s claim for refugee protection, or a decision of the Refugee Protection Division rejecting an application by the Minister for a determination that refugee protection has ceased or an application by the Minister to vacate a decision to allow a claim for refugee protection.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that these arguments have persuaded members of other parties, particularly the governing party, to vote in favour of Bill C-291.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2009 / 11:30 a.m.
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Richmond B.C.

Conservative

Alice Wong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to state the government's opposition to Bill C-291, the bill that seeks to establish the refugee appeal division.

Hon. members of the House know very well that this government is a strong advocate and supporter of the humanitarian division of our immigration program. Every year we welcome almost a quarter of a million new permanent residents who embrace our values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As an immigrant myself, I was one of them. Among these newcomers are thousands of refugees attracted by our values and the chance to start a new life.

Since the 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 numbers of refugees we accept for resettlement. The welcome we extend has given us an international reputation as a champion of human dignity. For example, we have made major commitments for the protection of Karen and Bhutanese refugees in Asia. We have also offered protection to refugees from Africa and Latin America.

We have a very generous asylum program as well. Asylum seekers from all over the world have found a durable solution to their refugee plight in Canada. Canada's asylum system has one of the highest acceptance rates among western countries, accepting 42% of claimants last year. No less than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has called us a model for other nations.

Those are facts in which we can take great pride. I think we can all agree that Canada's refugee system is acknowledged as one of the strongest and fairest in the world today.

However, as everyone in this House knows, we also face significant challenges. It has long been the view of this government that the implementation of a refugee appeal division is not the way to address these challenges.

I would like to talk about the large and growing number of unfounded claims that are putting an incredible strain on our system. These unfounded claims are using up resources that should be used to help people with legitimate refugee claims. As a result, the wait times are getting longer. The most straightforward, successful refugee applications can take an average of two and a half years to reach permanent residency because of a backlog that has continued to grow, despite the current 90% occupancy of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

As the Prime Minister and others in this government have said many times before, Canadians expect our refugee system to help and protect legitimate refugees. The refugee appeal division proposed in Bill C-291 would not help us meet these objectives. It would provide only a paper-based review on issues of fact and law. It would not provide an opportunity to introduce evidence, nor would it provide for an in-person hearing. It would, however, add unnecessary delays and costs to an overburdened system. It is not just the cost of the appeal division which, as my colleagues previously have pointed out, would be in the tens of millions of dollars, but there would also be other costs to the provinces and the federal government for health care and social assistance. This is why it is surprising that the Bloc would be pushing the bill at a time of economic uncertainty that would increase the costs of services to the province of Quebec.

Moving to another point, I want to acknowledge the steps this government has taken to assure the quality of decisions at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Based on the recommendations of the Public Appointments Commission Secretariat, we implemented a new process for the appointment of members of the IRB in July 2007. This new process strengthens the merit-based focus of governor in council appointments to the board and increases transparency and fairness at the same time. This was an important step forward that was endorsed by the Auditor General when she released her latest report this spring.

It is essential that refugee claimants and Canadians have the utmost confidence in the decisions of the Immigration and Refugee Board. This selection process helps to ensure that confidence. Since this government took office, there have been 111 appointments and 59 re-appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board. The board now stands at 90% of its full complement. As a result, more genuine refugee claims can be process and finalized, while more frivolous asylum applications are dismissed more quickly.

However, even with a full complement, the rate of applications has increased beyond the capacity of the board, increasing the backlog. This is why the refugee system needs to be reformed instead of creating another useless appeal process that will only make the problem worse.

We have repeatedly urged the opposition to consider the comments already made by the government during this debate. We have a system where even the most straightforward successful refugee claims are currently taking too long to reach a decision. Unsuccessful refugee claimants regularly take over five years before they finish the various levels of appeals available to them. This is five years of federally funded health care and provincially funded social programs, on top of court costs and IRB costs.

Our goal should be to focus more of our time and resources on the people who genuinely need our help and protection, and deal more quickly with those who are trying to take advantage of our generosity.

While Canadians are proud of our support for refugees, less than one in four think we do a good job of removing people who not legitimate refugees. Not only do they read stories about how long people are here before we can deport them, they also notice increases in the number of asylum seekers from countries they do not consider unsafe. Hon. members know, for example, that there has been a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers from Mexico and only 11% of those claims are accepted.

These failed refugee claimants now have assets to seek leave for judicial review of the IRB decision. After that, they may apply for pre-removal assessment and, if they are still unsuccessful, they may apply for permanent residence status via a humanitarian and compassionate application. This process will take years and all the while these failed refugee claimants have access to social benefits paid for by taxpayers.

Canada will continue to show strong leadership in providing protection to those in need. We will continue to work closely with the United Nations and our partners to do this. However, to do this we require some changes to ensure that people who are not legitimate refugees cannot take advantage of the system through a multi-year system of appeals that will only be increased by this bill.

We support strong and effective protection for genuine refugees but the implementation of the refugee appeal division, as described in Bill C-291, is not the answer. Again, I urge all hon. members not to support Bill C-291.