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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

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

What can you tell me about, in comparison, which you just alluded to...? Why are the social benefits more attractive here in Canada, and applying for refugee status here, having to wait up to 12 months for a hearing...? Why are our social benefits, do you believe, that much better here than in Hungary? Is there an aspect here that we're missing, something that we should be paying attention to that Hungary isn't doing in terms of social services?

4:15 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

Imre Helyes

I do not think that when it comes to providing social services as such there would be a big difference. The difference, there is no doubt about it, is in the general scope of the services or the level of the possibilities to provide those services. There is no doubt that the economic development of Hungary is not that of Canada; therefore, the Hungarian social welfare system cannot be as generous with anyone, including, obviously, and first of all, with its own citizens. Unfortunately, it's not in a situation and a position to provide that scope and that level of social services.

For example—it's very interesting—when it comes to the refugee system, Hungary is part, obviously, of the Geneva Convention and as such is providing refugee protection to those who are coming to Hungary seeking protection and who are entitled to it. We have noticed a similar phenomenon in relation to those countries that have a much lower level of general development in comparison with Hungary. Yes, there are persons from certain countries who are coming to Hungary seeking refugee protection, more or less on the same basis as sometimes Hungarians are coming here to do it in Canada.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

One of the issues we keep coming back to is the Roma population, and that seems to be a group that is coming to Canada. I wanted to give you the rest of the time you have to address that issue.

What are you doing for the Roma community in Hungary?

4:15 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

Imre Helyes

As I have already begun to explain, the government is considering this situation in general terms when it comes to a certain layer of the population that is in difficult social and economic conditions. But within that, there is a specific unit or a specific component, which is the Roma population, which would definitely be in a more difficult situation. Part of the program is specifically directed toward the Roma population, not just in general but specifically targeting those specific problems that the Roma population are encountering in Hungary.

We must be very much aware of the fact that these are complex problems, and therefore that program, which the Hungarian government has proposed not so recently, needs time to be developed and to bring fruit. The approach is complex and concerns all layers of the problem. Therefore, it is very possible and we expect that in the medium term it will bring the fruit that we would like to have.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

Madame Groguhé, it's your turn.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for joining us.

Mr. Brouwer, could you share your comments and concerns with us regarding the process described in this bill as to the designation of safe countries?

4:20 p.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual

Andrew Brouwer

Thank you you for that question.

We have a range of concerns relating to the designation of countries of safety. It's our first position that it's never appropriate to designate a particular country as safe. Refugees may come from any country in the world, and the reality is that conditions change quickly in countries around the world, so a country that was safe may overnight become very unsafe. The result of the designation is that those people will be denied access to the kinds of protection that Canada should be providing.

In terms of some of the changes that have been proposed in Bill C-31, even as compared to Bill C-11 the last time around...at least the last time around there was to be an advisory committee that included outside advice on which countries were or weren't safe and should or shouldn't be designated. The minister has taken out any access for external advice and turned it into a completely insulated government decision, and we have huge concerns about that.

Beyond that, UNHCR has commented about the designation of countries. My understanding about their position is that they have said that in certain circumstances it may not be inappropriate to accelerate claims from some countries, but even the UNHCR has consistently said that an appeal has to be there even if you're going to designate a country. Bill C-31 takes that appeal away, and, as I mentioned earlier, not only does it take that appeal away, but there is also no real access to Federal Court for people from designated countries.

We're also concerned about the changes at the IRB, about the fact that decision-makers at the Refugee Protection Division now will be civil servants, not people who are put there for a fixed term with some degree of independence. They are now going to be the only people hearing claims from people from countries that their boss has designated as safe. We have concerns about how that is going to be impacting their ability to make impartial decisions on refugee claims before them.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you.

Ms. Dahan, what do your clients say about their permanent resident status being potentially revoked?

4:20 p.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual

Carole Dahan

That's a good question. I know there has been, or will be, other groups speaking specifically about clause 19 and the changes to clause 19, but as it stands right now, I think it would put fear in almost every single refugee and immigrant community throughout Canada.

Mr. Opitz, you referred to having served in Bosnia earlier in your life, so we'll take the example of a Bosnian refugee who comes to Canada, was found to be a convention refugee, and who now, under the provisions, because of the change of circumstances in Bosnia, could be stripped of both refugee protection and her permanent residence simultaneously and sent back there, because it's safe there now.

Many people, for a variety of reasons, don't take out citizenship when they are eligible for citizenship. They would suffer under these provisions and they would be at risk under these provisions. I think it sends a wrong message to immigrants and refugees throughout the country.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Quickly.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Could you quickly describe the impact of a five-year wait for a family to be reunited after settling in Canada?

4:25 p.m.

Barrister and Solicitor, As an Individual

Carole Dahan

I apologize to the interpreters for speaking so fast.

On the impact, we've heard already on the study that Ms. Cleveland and Cécile Rousseau spoke about earlier today about the separation of children. I can tell you personally, if I were faced with the idea that I could be separated from my child for five years, potentially even eight years—because it's a year to get the refugee status, five years afterwards...after that I have to apply for permanent residence and then apply to sponsor my child. It's going to lead people to make very foolish decisions and to bring their children with them on very dangerous voyages.

If the idea is to stop human smuggling and to get people not to use the smugglers, I think the smugglers are going to be the ones who win. Rather than getting one client who thinks, “I'm going to go to make a claim and then I will sponsor my child and reunite with my child”, if faced with the possibility of being separated for five to seven years—10 years—I'm going to bring my child with me. The smuggler has just won because now they have two clients.

I don't think this targeting of families and the separation is going to assist us in any way.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Some of you are looking at the clock back there. It has stopped, so the immigration committee is stuck in time.

4:25 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Mr. Opitz, you have time for one quick question.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you, everybody, for appearing.

Szervusz, Mr. Helyes. It's nice to have you here.

Sir, you were talking about some of the issues around the Roma in particular. Just to put it on the record, does Hungary discriminate against the Roma?

4:25 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

What protections are in place for them under your system?

4:25 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

Imre Helyes

I'm sorry. You mean protection in what sense?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

You described that there are complex and multiple problems with this group and some others in your country. That's a nice global statement, but I'm trying to get some specifics. In dealing with those problems, how does your country protect them internally?

4:25 p.m.

First Counsellor, Head of Consular Section, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

Imre Helyes

Concerning discrimination, the law does not allow any kind of discrimination. In case there is discrimination, the law provides remedies in different forms.

Second, there is an institution for the protection of minority rights, or the institution of an ombudsman for minority rights, which follows the general flow of events in society. It has the opportunity to have a close look at the activity of any particular state agent or institution concerning the particular question of discrimination.

The government has been following very closely the development of different kinds of situations, and in accordance with the needs, it has been amending, for example, the criminal code, where new institutions of crimes are established, addressing particular phenomena. For example, it comes to the monopoly of the state to implement coercion, which in certain forms would have been challenged by certain formations. We now have not only the general disposition but a particular legal disposition to fight that kind of phenomena, and that definitely has disappeared during the last one and a half years. It would have been present during a certain period of time when the law would not have provided that particularly clear instrument for the state to go forward and fight that kind of phenomena.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Are you satisfied—

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

I'm sorry, we're way over on everything today.

Mr. Helyes, as I said earlier, it's been an honour that you would come representing Hungary and giving your views on immigration. Thank you very much.

Ms. Dahan, I always admire someone from legal aid. I don't know how you make a living at it, but thank you for coming. And, Mr. Brouwer, it's good to see you again.

We thank the three of you very much for coming.

We will suspend.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We will start panel two. We're a little bit behind.

We have two witnesses. Professor James Milner is with the Department of Political Science at Carleton University. Good afternoon to you, sir.

May 2nd, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Professor James Milner Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Carleton University, As an Individual

Thank you.