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Evidence of meeting #37 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 refugees.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Carole Dahan  Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual
Andrew Brouwer  Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual
Imre Helyes  First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary
James Milner  Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Carleton University, As an Individual
Chantal Desloges  Senior Lawyer, Chantal Desloges Professional Corporation
Mary Crock  Professor of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, As an Individual

6:15 p.m.

Mary Crock

Yes.

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Could you please briefly expand on that?

6:15 p.m.

Mary Crock

There are international laws and the laws of the land, the charters.

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Absolutely.

6:15 p.m.

Mary Crock

Detentions are forbidden. Detaining a person has to be justified.

This is terrible.

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Very well.

You have also expressed concern about the fact that nothing was in place to ensure that children stay with their parents. Is that correct?

6:15 p.m.

Mary Crock

Yes, that's right.

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Could you comment on that and provide us with some examples of the ensuing consequences, please?

6:15 p.m.

Mary Crock

There are so many stories like that in Australia. Very young children have been damaged, permanently perhaps, because of detention and being separated from their parents. A great deal of literature has been written about that.

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Very well.

Even after the legislation was passed in Australia, the number of asylum seekers continued to increase. What are the reasons for the Australian legislation failing in that respect?

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims) NDP Jinny Sims

Madame Groguhé, your time is up.

Mrs. Crock, your French is truly amazing. The fact that I had this piece in my ear really helped. I really want to commend you for your French.

Now we're going to move on to our next—

6:15 p.m.

Prof. Mary Crock

Could I just say very quickly—

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims) NDP Jinny Sims

Unfortunately, we have very tight timelines, and I have other parliamentarians who have been very patiently awaiting their turns.

We're now going to go to Mr. Menegakis.

You have five minutes.

May 2nd, 2012 / 6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to welcome you, Ms. Crock and Mr. Ghezelbash.

I had a series of questions for you, Ms. Crock, but before I do that, I want to preface it by making a couple of comments. I was a little taken aback by some of your commentary as to the motivation our government has in introducing this legislation, particularly living so far away from our beautiful country here in Canada, and you're there in your beautiful country of Australia. Certainly, I believe you need some more information so that you can be better informed.

You commented that the reason we're proposing this bill is simply to tell the Canadian people that we are doing something. There are some realities that we're dealing with here as a government, I'm sure not dissimilar to some of those that you are experiencing in your country of Australia.

Currently, it takes 1,038 days to finalize a refugee claim. These are people who come into the country—I'm talking about the legitimate people—from their own country, where they faced persecution, torture, and possible death, and it takes 1,038 days for their refugee claim to be processed. With the measures in this legislation, that can be reduced to as low as 45 days from designated countries, or 216 days for all other claimants. Surely, you will understand, as we all do, that spending 20% of the time in the system before your application is finalized and you are welcomed into our country is a lot better than spending 1,038 days. That is a big concern of ours.

We also have a phenomenon where about 95% of the claimants come from European Union countries. We're talking about democratically elected European Union countries; there are 27 of them. If somebody has a problem in their country, you would think their first choice would be one of the other 26 around them. But they come to Canada, and yet 95% of them abandon their refugee claim after they've made it and they've received all of the very generous benefits that our country provides for them. That abandonment and clogging up the system costs our country $170 million a year.

I might add that perhaps a bigger cost than that, if we want to look at the compassionate and human side of this equation, which is really our motivation in looking at this, is that legitimate people, who have a bona fide reason to escape their country of origin, are left waiting in the system because our law says that every single one of those applicants needs to be looked at on an individual basis. It's clogging up our system.

The parliamentary secretary to the minister of immigration, Mr. Dykstra, mentioned two ships that came here illegally, the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady. After the due diligence was done, it was found that 23 people on those two ships posed security risks for our country, and another 18 people had perpetrated war crimes in their country of origin. This is from the legal authorities of our nation. They were found to be risks. That's a total of 41 people. I am sure that you, as law-abiding citizens in Australia, can surely understand that you would not want people who are security risks or had perpetrated war crimes elsewhere living in your neighbourhoods, living around your children, living around your families.

The motivation for this legislation goes a little further, and perhaps to the core of what every government's responsibility initially is, and that's to provide safety and security for its citizens. Certainly, we cannot allow people into our country without detaining them and not even having had the opportunity to ascertain the validity of their claim of refuge and whether or not they can pose a security risk to law-abiding Canadians.

These are the real motivations behind our legislation, and the legislation—

6:20 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims) NDP Jinny Sims

Sorry, Mr. Menegakis, but your time is up.

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

I'm glad I had an opportunity to tell you that, because perhaps I will change your view.

Thank you so much for being with us.

6:20 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims) NDP Jinny Sims

Thank you very much for your statement.

Now we have Mr. Opitz for five minutes.

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm going to actually carry on where Mr. Menegakis left off. I have to say, ma'am—and I do welcome you here and thank you—that I find your views to be incredibly cynical. It kind of leaves me with an apocalyptic view of Australia, because I don't think things are that bad. I certainly don't believe that we're doing this to satisfy constituents; I know I'm certainly not. This is the right way for our country to go.

I'm a product of immigrants who came here after the Second World War. I grew up in an immigrant area. I understand a lot of those issues. Many of those were refugees, in their day, at the time.

We do have a right, first of all, to defend our borders, to make sure that the people we want to come to this country come here. We are a compassionate country. We welcome refugees, especially if they're legitimate refugees. We do have a number, a huge number, who are bogus refugees. As I think Mr. Menegakis mentioned, about 95% of those claims get abandoned. And we did have an official from the Hungarian government here today talking to us about that, and he had some interesting things to say.

There are a lot of security risks—and that's a lot of my background—and on these ships we have had security risks. We have had war criminals. In a lot of those events, people of that nature tend to hide in groups and try to slip in that way. But this also lends itself to trafficking and smuggling incidents. Sometimes both sort of morph into one another. People are smuggled in, but oftentimes they are then required, once they make it to Canadian shores, to pay these guys back somehow. There are invisible chains placed on them, as there are for people who are trafficked for more nefarious things, like prostitution, drugs, and other things. We also have an obligation to those people reaching our shores to make sure they are protected if we can identify them.

The tension here is to hold people to ensure that we know who we're letting out into the Canadian public. You wouldn't let somebody into your door, into your house, in with your family, without exactly knowing who they are. That same principle applies to our countrymen. We're not going to allow people to enter Canadian public life and integrate before we are absolutely 100% sure who they are and that they pose no threat or risk to the Canadian populace. That is a responsibility that we have as a responsible government, to make sure our citizens are safe.

Eventually, once claims are proven and approved, people do get to come into this country. They do get to live within their communities. They do get to integrate and build lives. And we depend on that. We're talking a lot about refugees, but immigration is an important part of our country. We need it. We are a massive land mass and we need the people. We have jobs and areas in this country that need to be filled.

We have very important programs with our provincial partners in the provincial nominee programs and with other stakeholders that are helping us, including employers, to look at how we can better manage the immigration system to bring in people, get them to this country very quickly, get them to their jobs very quickly too, so that they're not floating and they can become productive very quickly. That is a huge satisfier to those people coming to this country.

We're improving that system all the way along, including foreign credentials recognition. We don't want doctors, engineers, and nuclear physicists driving taxi cabs. We want to make sure that when they come to this country they are contributing very heavily within their own trade. We want to make that fair, so they can get Canadian accreditation and get into those jobs and trades here.

That's largely—

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

A point of order—

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims) NDP Jinny Sims

By my Blackberry it is 6:26.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Not to take the last 34 seconds away from the member, but I do have a point of order.

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims) NDP Jinny Sims

We have stopped the clock.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Yes, on a point of order, Madam Chair, I appreciate the fact that our witnesses are from Australia. My understanding of the committee process is that when we get witnesses coming before us, we afford them the opportunity to answer questions that might be posed. It sounds like we've been getting more of a seven-minute lecture, because the government side doesn't seem to—

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims) NDP Jinny Sims

The chair is going to rule that we're going to proceed. Mr. Opitz has the floor. It's his five minutes, and he can use those five minutes as long as he's respectful toward the rest of us.

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

I am, Madam Chair. You are all my colleagues and my friends. We're all trying to do a job here.

I did want to ensure that Madam Crock understood our views on this side of the table as to what our motivations are to helping to improve this system, to make it fairer, much more humane, much kinder to people coming to this country. At the end of the day, that is what we want to do. This has been a compassionate, generous country, and we will carry on in that tradition.

I think my time's up.