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.