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Evidence of meeting #44 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 chair.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jennifer Irish  Director, Asylum Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Matthew Oommen  Senior Counsel, Legal Services, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Scott Nesbitt  Counsel, Canada Border Services Agency, Department of Justice
Nicole Lefebvre  Acting Director, Inland Enforcement, Programs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
Allan Kagedan  Director, National Security Operations, Public Safety Canada

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

You know what? My father told me that all the time.

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

There you go.

Mr. Lamoureux.

May 10th, 2012 / 10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It's an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, the system currently in place has clearly been demonstrated to be effective. It has actually worked. We have the capability to detain individuals that government would be concerned with in regard to safety or any other issues. The system is there.

Then the minister comes up with this Bill C-31, mandatory detention. Opposition and lawyers from coast to coast, many average Canadians, and plenty of refugees start running up the red flag saying that it is not right for this government to be bringing in mandatory detention. There was a fairly significant backlash to this minister's decision to bring in mandatory detention.

Then we come to committee stage and presenter after presenter makes the case that mandatory detention is a bad thing.

The minister, in his wisdom, through the committee here, has now said that we're going to succumb to the pressure. We're going to acknowledge that, yes, we made a mistake. I acknowledge the courage it would have taken for the minister to recognize he did make a mistake here.

We're now putting in something that at least allows for judicial oversight. That is, in fact, a positive thing. The idea that it's 14 days versus seven days.... Sure, it would be great to have it at seven days. I think in the one amendment that we were looking at we had 20 days, which was based on one of the presenters. The fewer the days, the better it is. The amendment that's being put forward is something that would make the legislation better, if in fact the 14 days were to pass.

But you know, had the minister brought in legislation originally where it talked about putting in this restriction, where it said we were going to be having 14 days, and we were going to have six months after that, we in the opposition would have been voting no. The reason why we would have been voting no is because we would be arguing that the system currently works and this makes the issue worse. That's the reason why we would be voting against it.

In acknowledgement that the minister has made a substantial change, I think there is value in terms of saying yes to the amendment only because it improves the original legislation. But in no way should it be taken, Mr. Chairperson, as an endorsement of what it is the minister is actual doing, because we need to recognize that the current system is better even with the subamendment that has been proposed to the amendment itself.

That is the reason why we would support the subamendment. I anticipate, given the numbers, that it will likely not pass and then we'll go on to the amendment itself.

I did want to make it very clear that the minister, yes, has recognized he has made a mistake, but he hasn't gone far enough. That, we would argue, is most unfortunate, Mr. Chairperson, because imagine if you're that refugee and you don't quite make the 14 days. After 14 days, you haven't been cleared. You're waiting six months before you're going to get the next opportunity to be released from the detention centre.

That's the reason why we believe, at the very least, we should be looking at...one presenter said 25 days. This particular amendment suggests 30 days. The fewer the better, quite frankly. I'd feel most comfortable with 25 days. If we had 25 days, at least then it would better reflect the current system.

In that sense, then, I would have nowhere near as much reservation in terms of voting in favour of it. I just wouldn't want my vote to be misinterpreted, and that's the reason why I thought, Mr. Chairperson, I would express what my feelings are and what the Liberal Party's position is on this whole issue.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Mr. Dykstra.

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

I'm just responding to Mr. Lamoureux's comments. He doesn't do a whole lot of justice to the subamendment being moved. It puts us even in a stronger position to vote against it.

What I do want to comment on is this feeling that's there among the public. He's mentioned lawyers who have come here, he's mentioned individuals who have come here, but there are people who came here and had no difficulties at all with the one-year detention issue. They acknowledged that when questioned. There are literally, across this country, a majority of Canadians who don't have a problem with 12-month detention.

I find it interesting, this process upon which our Westminster model of Parliament is built, because there are three readings of a bill in the House of Commons, and after second reading the bill comes to a committee to be studied and reviewed to determine whether there can be improvements made to that bill. I love this process. I think it's the best process in the world because it gives us the chance to make sure that we do our best to get things right.

To say three times in your speech that you're glad the minister acknowledged a mistake—he didn't make a mistake, the ministry didn't make a mistake, and this government didn't make a mistake, because it's followed the process. It's come to this committee, Mr. Chair, we're doing a review, we're acknowledging that the bill, and particularly this part, clause 25, can be improved, and that's what we are doing. So maybe it's a question of a little bit better understanding of the process, but I do not see in any way, shape, or form why this should be considered a negative. In fact, from the perspective of how our system works, the fact that clause 25 of this bill is actually going to be amended I would see as a positive step for all of us who are in the House of Commons.

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Monsieur Giguère.

11 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I have taken note of Mr. Dykstra's comments. I would basically say to him that Bill C-11 became a good act. You passed that legislation. You even supported, approved and encouraged it. It was the legislation that could solve all problems. The shortcomings that you have raised do not exist, which means that terrorists and thugs who come here are screened out.

Those people have been detained. They have been separated from the refugees. So claiming that our national security is in danger and that we don't want those people to be our neighbours is not realistic; it is not happening and it will not happen, even with the former legislation and, especially, with C-11.

The problem with Bill C-31 is that you are going to punish those who came here as irregular arrivals. That is punishment. It is not detention because they have already been detained. It is imposing a penalty under difficult material conditions.

I am not sure whether anyone can answer the question, Mr. Chair. In terms of detention centres, will there be material changes? Will new detention centres be built? Will buildings be transferred from the Canadian prison system to the Department of Immigration? What will you do to improve the situation? Spending a year in a provincial prison is no picnic.

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

A point of order, Mr. Dykstra.

11 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

I don't have a point of order. Obviously Monsieur Giguère has a question to staff, and once that's completed, I do want to add one thing to their point.

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Ms. Irish.

11 a.m.

Director, Asylum Policy and Programs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Jennifer Irish

Mr. Chair, I would ask Nicole Lefebvre from CBSA to answer the question.

11 a.m.

Nicole Lefebvre Acting Director, Inland Enforcement, Programs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency

Thank you for your question.

I believe it would be inappropriate for me to comment on what decisions the government might make about establishments, what we're going to do with our detention facilities. I can only speak to the existing detention facilities that we have in place. I've heard numerous comments about incarceration in correctional facilities. In fact, we'll make the best use of the existing immigration holding centres we have in place, as well as using facilities that are meant to be able to take in families and individuals who have particular needs.

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Yes?

11 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

He answered my question.

11 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

The only thing I would add to that, Chair, is this. I don't know if the opposition is aware of this, but I've actually had the opportunity to tour the Rexdale detention facility. In fact, I had dinner there. That facility is actually undergoing an almost completed expansion to be able to allow for the use of the detention facility versus any other type of a facility once the detention facilities are full. So we are actually acting upon the understanding that we need to provide those facilities for those who arrive and will be detained. It's a pretty aggressive growth in terms of what that facility is going to look like upon completion, Chair.

The other thing I'll add to it is this. On the way that Public Works moved forward with respect to how this tender was offered and how it was completed, because Ms. Sims has said this on a number of occasions, about cost-effectiveness and saving money, and the rest, the fact is that this detention facility expansion was actually completed at the cost of the owner. The federal government has not paid for the capital expenditure in that facility. The tender merely went out and asked for service providers to the federal government to indicate how they would provide the service and to what degree they would provide the service. So the building of that facility has actually not cost the federal government any money.

I do think we're moving forward responsibly. I think we're actually responding to the concerns that have been put forward by the opposition that in fact we need to ensure that facilities are available. The federal government is actually currently undergoing that process itself.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We're dealing with clause 25 and we're dealing with an amendment to the amendment put forward by Ms. Sims.

All those in favour of the subamendment?

(Subamendment negatived)

We have the government amendment.

All those in favour?

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I'd like to debate on this amendment.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

I'm sorry. Go ahead, Ms. Sims.

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I cannot express my disappointment that we did not get unanimous support for that, and it would have been good. However, I do want to acknowledge the move that has been made by the government side and the fact that they did hear the concerns. It is with a great deal of reluctance that I'm going to be supporting the amendment, because I believe for people who get designated as irregular arrivals, this is an improvement on what existed originally. And our job here as the official opposition is to try to mitigate these circumstances.

At the same time, I do have to once again—and I will try to do it succinctly—express my gravest concerns about keeping people in detention. I'm not talking about people who are arriving here as terrorists carrying machine guns. I'm talking about people who are fleeing for their lives. Once they are here and they seek asylum under the Geneva Convention, and then once we know their identity and once we've done the security check, if they are not a danger to us, I think it's unconscionable to keep them detained. What I'm still finding very difficult is that, first, 14 days is still too long, and six months after that....

As I said, I made my points earlier. I won't repeat them, but I just want to express my concern. But in order to make things better for the people who arrive than the bill would have otherwise provided, I will be supporting this amendment.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Okay.

Is there further debate on the amendment?

(Amendment agreed to)

Does anyone else have anything to say on clause 25?

(Clause 25 agreed to on division)

(On clause 26)

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

We're moving on to Liberal amendment 22.

Mr. Lamoureux.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

We're going to withdraw that amendment.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Then we'll move to Liberal amendment 23.

Mr. Lamoureux.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Chair, I would move that Bill C-31 in clause 26 be amended by replacing line 6 on page 14 with the following:

designated foreign national who was 18 years

It's self-explanatory.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Mr. Dykstra.