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Evidence of meeting #35 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was detention.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Andrew Wlodyka  Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual
Jennifer Egsgard  Member, Human Rights Watch Canada
Bill Frelick  Director, Refugee Program, Human Rights Watch
Meb Rashid  Medical Doctor, Crossroads Clinic, Women's College Hospital
David Matas  Lawyer, As an Individual
Christine Hyndman  Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand
Stephen Dunstan  General Manager, Settlement and Attraction Division, Immigration Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand
Fraser Richards  Acting Director, Legal Business, Legal Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have a couple of minutes.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

I have a couple of minutes left, and I would like to pass them on to my colleague, Roxanne James, if that's okay with you, Mr. Chair.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Of course.

May 1st, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to my colleague.

I have a couple of questions.

I'm not sure whether it was today or yesterday, with the time change here, but you talked about a new package of policy and legislative changes you are processing in an effort to deter human smuggling. You indicated that it's at first reading. You've indicated also that it is not necessarily the same issue in New Zealand as it is here in Canada, but we both recognize that human smugglers do what they do for various criminal reasons. It is also a threat to the safety and security of the people who use human smugglers to go to a particular country.

I'm just wondering if you could tell us a bit more about the specific changes in the policies that are at first reading. Could you speak to those specifically?

Thank you.

5:55 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

Certainly.

It is a package of legislative and policy changes. The legislative changes relate to the ability to detain people on a group warrant for up to six months. At present, for people who are detained, whether in a low-security or a high-security facility, the warrants are obtained on an individual basis and they have a maximum lifespan of 28 days. Basically, what is being asked of Parliament is the capacity to detain people on a group warrant for up to six months to enable us to deal with a group of perhaps 500 people.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Can I just—

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

No, there is no more time. You might as well let her finish.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

I have a quick question with regard to that.

With respect to the detention of someone for six months, is there any concern about international obligations?

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

No, no, don't—

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

You've indicated that there is no more time, and maybe she can't answer, but I'd just like to get that question in, because I think it is very key.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You can ask the question, but the time is up.

Thank you very much.

The next person to ask questions is the critic for the official opposition, the New Democratic Party, Ms. Sims.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Hello, and thank you for giving up some of your time to share your experiences with us.

Considering that your country has a very low level of asylum seekers or refugees trying to come to your coastline, because—I think I'm right when I capture what you said—the coastline is too treacherous and they have either died on the way or haven't got to you by the coastline, what is the motivator behind this piece of legislation, if you haven't had mass arrivals on your doorstep?

5:55 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

It's effectively to try to ensure that we don't have a mass arrival. It is very much a piece of deterrent legislation.

We have seen arrivals occur, obviously. Australia, our nearest neighbour, has a high level of boat arrivals, in much smaller vessels, and is having a lot of issues dealing with the number of people they've had arriving. The size of the boats that have arrived in Canada are the size that could have come to New Zealand. Those boats are large enough to make it to New Zealand. We very much hope that we shan't have one.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I've been reading some of the press covering your proposed legislation. One of the things your minister talks about is queue jumpers. We're hearing that here as well. There are people who are queue jumpers when they come by boat.

Are you aware of any international list of refugees with a certain order in which they must get asylum?

5:55 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

Obviously there is no list of people, and if there were, it would be anonymous.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I appreciate that because—

5:55 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

New Zealand is one of 17 countries that takes an annual quota of refugees per year. We accept about 750 people each year under a quota. I think the minister was reflecting that New Zealand does seek to meet its international obligations very largely through the quota, which is focused on people who are most in need. We tend to take people who are particularly disadvantaged.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you.

When I look at the asylum seekers who often are leaving very violent and traumatic situations, by the time they put themselves in a boat to come to a place like New Zealand, taking on the dangers of the oceans and all of that along the way...do you believe they have a legitimate reason to escape from where they're escaping from? It's certainly not a cruise ship they're getting on, right?

6 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

Well, in this case, as we haven't had an arrival, I probably can't comment. But I think we do recognize people's right to seek asylum. That is an international right that is enshrined in the convention and the protocol to which New Zealand is a signatory.

We do not want people to think that getting on a boat to come to New Zealand is a good idea, very largely because we actually think there is a high chance that they wouldn't make it.

6 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

One of the key ways to fight smuggling is to actually work with other countries on fighting human rights violations that occur in different countries—in other words, attack the root cause. On the other hand, looking at your legislation, do you feel you can justify a mass detention of people who are already fleeing for their lives? They wouldn't put their lives in danger to get to your country if they weren't scared for their lives in whichever country they were in before.

6 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

We do believe very much in working with other countries to address the issues in the countries of origin. New Zealand is a very active member of the Bali process, in which Canada is also a participant. That is very focused on preventing the root causes of asylum seeking.

6 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

It seems to me that here...and I suppose I'm a little bit puzzled by the motive behind the legislation. It's not for you to justify because I know you're part of the staff there. It seems that in a country that hasn't had boatloads arrive, even one, here you're taking a very extreme approach, an approach that actually has been demonstrated not to work.

I'm going to take Australia as an example. Australia has found, or evidence has shown—and we've had a number of witnesses testify to that—that detention actually does not act as a deterrent. It once again punishes people who are already suffering and are victims.

6 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

Obviously, our situation and our policy package is somewhat different from Australia's current situation. But yes, the detention itself is not actually the major deterrent. The detention is intended to ensure that we can safely house people whose identity we are not certain of for the period of time that it takes us to determine their identity. But Australia's situation is very different.

6 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

As soon as you have determined their identity and they have their status, will they get travel papers, and can they sponsor their family members to come?

6 p.m.

Manager, Immigration Policy, Policy and Research Group, Department of Labour, New Zealand

Christine Hyndman

No. Once people are determined to need protection under the convention or the convention against torture—and the rest of the things it's against—we will give them temporary status for three years, reassess at the end of the three years, and at that point they would be able to be granted permanent status.