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Evidence of meeting #40 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 c-31.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Catherine Dauvergne  Canada Research Chair in Migration Law, University of British Columbia, Faculty of Law, As an Individual
Sharryn Aiken  Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen's University, As an Individual
Kelsey Angeley  Student, B. Refuge, McGill University
Karina Fortier  Student, B. Refuge, McGill University
Alex Neve  Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada, Amnesty International
Béatrice Vaugrante  Executive Director, Amnesty International Canada Francophone, Amnesty International
Christoph Ehrentraut  Counselor, European Harmonization Unit, Federal Government of Germany
Excellency Bernhard Brinkmann  Ambassador, Delegation of the European Union to Canada
Anja Klabundt  Counsellor, of European Harmonization Unit, Ministry of the Interior, Federal Government of Germany
Roland Brumberg  Counselor of Unit Immigration Law, Federal Government of Germany
Ioana Patrascu  Legal Officer, Directorate General, Home Affairs, Asylum Unit, European Commission
Angela Martini  Policy Officer, Directorate General, Home Affairs, Border Management and Return Policy Unit, European Commission

9:30 a.m.

Prof. Sharryn Aiken

That's my point. We already have very strong penalties in Canadian law.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

You don't agree with stronger ones?

9:30 a.m.

Prof. Sharryn Aiken

No, because they're already very strong.

The issue this bill wants to deal with is the whole question of mandatory minimums, which I didn't address in my comments. I think there are problems with that.

Are the sanctions for human smuggling serious? They absolutely are. They're the most serious they can be: life imprisonment or a $1 million fine. The problem is we don't get the people who really deserve those sanctions in Canada. They're offshore. That's the biggest problem.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

That's not necessarily true. We do get them.

9:30 a.m.

Prof. Sharryn Aiken

We get some.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

We're cracking down on them, and we want to crack down on them.

Here's the real issue for us. You mentioned the two ships that came in, the Ocean Lady and the Sun Sea. Clearly, we as a government have an obligation to identify people as soon as possible. We need to know the identity of an individual before we allow them into mainstream Canada, allow them around our families, and allow them in our streets. We can't just say, let's just be super compassionate, and of course these people need assistance, so let's allow them in. On those two ships, for example, 41 people were deemed inadmissible to Canada for two reasons: one, they would pose a security risk to our country, as 23 of the 41 did; and, two, they had perpetrated war crimes in their country of origin, as the other 18 had. Certainly, one would think that we wouldn't want those types of people in our communities, around our children, in our schools, and all over the place.

How would you propose dealing with that particular issue?

9:30 a.m.

Prof. Sharryn Aiken

Thank you for the question.

My point is that our existing legal tools are more than adequate to deal with them. They've been detained, they've been subject to admissibility procedures, and they will be denied access to refugee hearings. That works. Ultimately, those who deserve it will be removed from Canada.

My point is, what about the other people on the boat? You mentioned 23 of 41. We're talking about a population of almost 600 people, many of whom are genuine claimants from a country that has an egregious human rights record, a country that tortures its citizens.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Let's speak about the other people for a moment.

They're currently waiting 1,038 days—

9:35 a.m.

Prof. Sharryn Aiken

And I agree with you that's a problem.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Sorry, let me finish what I was saying.

They're currently waiting 1,038 days. How fair is that to those folks who are being bogged down by those who are tying up the system? Clearly, it's not very fair.

Is my time up?

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have about a 15-second answer, or is that just a statement?

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

I'm done actually.

Thank you.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

Ms. Sitsabaiesan.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses as well. Going back to the motivation for this bill, we've heard some government members say it's to deter the asylum seekers from coming in large numbers, and we've heard others many times say it's not about deterrence.

In your expert opinion of the bill—and we know that Bill C-11 still hasn't been implemented and Bill C-31 is now being pushed through—what do you think is the motivation? Either one of you.

9:35 a.m.

Prof. Catherine Dauvergne

This bill is omnibus in character, so it has diverse motivations. But certainly a majority of the provisions are directed toward punishing people who come to Canada by irregular means.

A small number of the provisions are directed toward increasing penalties for smuggling, but mostly by adding to the slate of penalties—mandatory minimums, which are highly problematic. Thank goodness, we actually can't increase the penalty of life imprisonment under Canadian law. So we are already at the most extreme penalty for human smuggling that our law permits.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you.

Ms. Aiken, other countries use the prospect of detention as a strategy for deterring self-selected asylum seekers. Why should or should not Canada do this?

9:35 a.m.

Prof. Sharryn Aiken

I think Professor Dauvergne has ably outlined some of the problems, the serious cost to individual health and welfare, and the studies that have documented that.

I want to emphasize that we already have the tools to detain where it's warranted. Where warranted, refugee claimants can be detained. That's as it should be.

I don't think either one of us is suggesting that detention should never happen. It should be a last resort. The legislative tools within the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act already provide for detention where warranted.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you.

The provisions in Bill C-31 don't prohibit genuine refugees from sponsoring their family members or acquiring permanent residence; they merely impose a waiting period.

What's wrong with that? Do you think the government's attempt to strike a balance, as they say, in this regard is legitimate?

9:35 a.m.

Prof. Sharryn Aiken

No, I don't. The waiting period in question would result in very, very serious hardship to those people who are found to need our protection. Waiting five years before even being able to initiate a process of family sponsorship means that children who've been left behind, a spouse who has been left behind, won't see their family members for up to six or even eight years.

In the meantime, travel documents are also not going to be an option, so the family here in Canada who are recognized as deserving of our protection won't be able to travel outside of Canada to see their family. They risk the possibility of losing their status in Canada altogether.

We're talking about enormous personal hardship to people we've pledged to protect.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Along those lines, I want to share about one of my constituents who came here as a refugee claimant, was accepted as a refugee, and because his wife and four children are in hiding and being tortured in his home country, he has left and gone back to his home country—I don't want to say which country—because he fears for their lives more than his own life.

He's gone back to his home country even though his brother had his head beaten; the brother was killed for the work that this man did in his country.

For people to say that people who flee persecution may not want to go back to their home country.... I'm a person who fears for my life to go back to my home country. To say that people are just bogus refugee claimants because they go back to their home country is personally hurtful for me. I understand this man's story.

Thank you. I've probably run out of time.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you. You have.

Mr. Opitz.

May 7th, 2012 / 9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to be rather quick because I want to share at least the last minute or so of my time with Mr. Dykstra. If you could tell me when I'm at the three-and-a-half-minute mark, I'd appreciate it.

Can either one of you tell me the percentage of refugee claimants who are in detention in Australia? Do you know that?

9:40 a.m.

Prof. Catherine Dauvergne

It's a difficult question to answer, because Australia has a universal visa system, and anybody who enters Australia without a visa will be detained. So there are a lot of people who come into the country who are detained for a short period of time when they first arrive.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Is everybody in Australia, every refugee claimant, detained?

9:40 a.m.

Prof. Catherine Dauvergne

No, because lots of people arrive in Australia and have permission to enter the country. They have tourist visas. They have student visas. They have business visas. Just as in Canada, all sorts of people who eventually end up seeking asylum can arrive in a number of different ways. It's only people without visas who are detained.