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Evidence of meeting #48 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 justice.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jayne Stoyles  Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice
Loly Rico  Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees

4 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, 41 Sun Sea and Ocean Lady were inadmissible to Canada, so I'm not necessarily buying that statement.

Thank you.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

Ms. Sims.

June 12th, 2012 / 4 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

I want to thank both our presenters for coming and presenting to us.

My first question is for you, Jayne. You have expressed concerns regarding the refusal of the government to make any additional funding contributions to the war crimes program since its inception. The most recent report from the government on this program, which spans the entirety of the period between 2008 and 2011, states that turning war criminals away at our borders is the most cost-effective means of dealing with war criminals who come to Canada.

Can you explain how other aspects of the program such as the criminal investigation and prosecution of war criminals are important, if the program is to succeed as a doorstop to impunity for war criminals?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Jayne Stoyles

To give you and perhaps others some details about the program, it was created in 1998 and had a budget of $15.6 million and that has never been increased. After September 11, a fourth department was added, which was the Canada Border Services Agency, as it was created. That same amount of money, $15.6 million, went from three departments to four departments. Now CBSA has its own funding and has taken some of that funding as permanent funding. So it's actually down to $8.4 million, I understand, for the three departments that are left.

It's absolutely right in terms of cost effectiveness, working at the border. It means you can have many more cases where people are then excluded from entering Canada. What we feel is very important, at least in a few cases at a time, is that we do have the resources in Canada to have the RCMP investigate allegations of war crimes and genocide, and to bring some of the cases to trial. We believe strongly that this actually is what sends a message.

The things we do at the border are cost effective, but what do they achieve? They might contribute to the prevention of atrocities by sending a message that you can't go to another country very easily, but if people know they might face a life sentence for the commission of atrocities, that's something we start to see globally. We are seeing that globally. We're seeing many countries throughout Europe and countries in other parts of the world addressing their own history. Then we've sent a message that there will be accountability, and I think, it's very intuitive that we will start to see a lessening of these situations occurring. That's a wise investment.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

You've also talked about the important role that prosecutions for war crimes at a national level play in creating a deterrent for such atrocities.

Can you expand on this for us? Why are national prosecutions important? Can you talk about the message prosecutions send to perpetrators? And what kind of message do national level prosecutions send to victims of war crimes?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Jayne Stoyles

We are creating in the world a system of international justice. Canada has been very much a leader in that process. It's been under previous governments, but this is really not a partisan issue and should not be a partisan issue. We have the new International Criminal Court. It's widely touted as such a great achievement in providing justice when these crimes occur, when we had nothing in place throughout history, and in giving hope that we will send this message and deter atrocities. But it doesn't have the jurisdiction or the funding to take on more than a handful of cases in any situation that occurs. Its jurisdiction also started only in 2002.

Part of the vision was that we would bring cases forward. Ideally, that would be in the affected countries, but there are many reasons why that is not practical, unless there's been a change of government or unless the legislation exists, etc. Investing in those affected countries and in justice there makes sense, but it's also always been envisioned that countries that don't have a direct connection would also make this kind of contribution. It's only through those kinds of web of accountability mechanisms that we can send this message.

From a victim's perspective, we have people who come forward to us, people who are in Canada who are survivors. There is such a consistent message from people that seeing justice in response to the abuses is so important as a healing tool, to really see that we in Canada take seriously what occurred. It's not about revenge. It's very much about people having a sense that there's justice, just as we feel if we've ever been a victim of any kind of wrong or crime. People express that even if it's not about their own case. It's about other cases related to their home country and others as well.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you.

As you said, it is about closure and about truth and reconciliation, and it is one major step to allow human beings to move on. We recognize that when things happen to us, and I think it's a wider recognition of that. I want to thank you for articulating it so clearly.

I have another question, and I'm hoping I still have time.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have about a minute.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Okay, that's great.

Can you talk about how a national program like Canada's war crimes program complements and reinforces the work of the International Criminal Court?

You touched on that a bit, but if you could expand on that, it would be great.

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Jayne Stoyles

Yes. I think it is because there are these limits. The ICC's stated policy is to look at the highest level of perpetrators in any situation. If we have an alleged 2,000 war criminals in Canada, and they could be brought to justice elsewhere or one of the people who would be considered the highest-level perpetrator could go to the ICC, that makes sense.

If they are not, and if there isn't an option for justice elsewhere, that's where Canada can really make a contribution by bringing some of those cases.... For example, we've had one completed case, and there is another under way right now related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The Rwandan-Canadian community has been very involved in building those cases and very vocal about how important those cases have been.

If we could do more related to some of the other, many, situations of mass atrocities around the world, then we would really be contributing to the success of the ICC and the justice system as a whole.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

We'll go to Mr. Opitz and then to Mr. Lamoureux.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, both witnesses, for being here today. Both of your comments are very interesting.

I will start with you, Ms. Stoyles. I've been around a little bit and have served in the past, and I have seen some really bad guys out in the world—war criminals and so forth.

I think we're in agreement that war criminals need to be prosecuted because of the atrocities they inflict on people around the world and the things that they do and the things they represent. It is reprehensible. We do need to have controls on our borders, and it's things like biometrics that will help us to identify and catch these guys. It's important to do that.

However, I do believe, where possible, we have to extradite these guys to the right places. It's wonderful to say we should do more and we should try more guys, but it's not so simple when the atrocities have happened in another country to get witnesses and that information.

I'm delighted that the Rwandan genocide is being examined in a couple of cases here, but that obviously took some time to do and it is very hard to put together. It's exceedingly difficult to get those witnesses, who may be frightened or scared or in some cases may be criminals themselves. We don't know. That makes it very difficult at the end of the day to be able to do this.

Though the Hague may not always be the fastest solution, it may oftentimes be the best solution. It is better equipped than most places in the world because that's where the subject matter experts and the tools to do the job reside. That's something we have to maintain.

We also have to maintain our information sharing with our allies to be able to get these guys at the borders. It's one thing to send somebody away, but it's quite another to be able to identify somebody and even hold them for extradition if they are sought in other countries.

I would say that is something Canada can do. If we do catch somebody at the border, we can hold them. We can extradite them through the appropriate processes. That person can face justice in the place where he perpetrated those crimes. That is probably most important, because the witnesses and the victims should be able to see justice happen before their own eyes, not necessarily a half a world away. In some respects when you allow that to happen, you then deny justice to victims because they don't actually see the carriage of justice. I'm very concerned about that.

Do you know, by the way, how many persons who have been ordered removed have been removed for criminality or war crimes?

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Jayne Stoyles

I only know what I've been reading in the media. I've seen maybe 13 or 14 from this most wanted list who have been removed.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, you'd know that in 2008 the Auditor General reported that 42,000 people in this country went missing and 15% of those were criminals. This is the premise of our study on security. We understand very clearly that it is a very disturbing statistic. In this country, we also have to make sure that criminals don't get in.

Ms. Rico, with all due respect, you're a very generous, kind-hearted woman, and I can see that, but you don't let somebody into your own home without knowing exactly who they are. You have to be able to determine who these folks are. When it comes to detention, some of these people are held simply because they're not compliant and don't release their identities and don't cooperate. They could be war criminals, and that could be one of the reasons they are withholding their identities.

It is in Canada's interest to ensure we don't allow anybody into society who could hurt our society. Out of these 42,000 people, the fact that 15% of them have active criminal records is significant. The problem in our country has been that because our immigration system has been so loose at times, repeat criminal offenders and potentially repeat war criminals have re-entered Canada on numerous occasions because we haven't been able to properly identify them, isolate them, hold them, return them, or whatever we needed to do in terms of processing those individuals.

It's very critical to us that we understand who is coming into this country. If it requires we hold them till they either identify themselves or we can properly identify them, I think that's the right thing to do on the basis of the safety of all Canadians.

How much time do I have?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

You have a couple of minutes.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Okay, cool.

Back to you, Ms. Stoyles. In your opinion, what are some of the specific deficiencies you see that still exist in the measures used to identify foreign nationals who may be inadmissible for, of course, war crimes, health, safety, or security concerns? Do you have any recommendations for CIC or CBSA? Can you provide any assurances that these processes are properly managed?

4:15 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Jayne Stoyles

Thank you. You obviously know quite a lot about this issue.

About two or three years ago, I think, there was an evaluation of the war crimes program in particular. One of the key findings was that the RCMP is extremely underfunded, under-resourced, so the RCMP's investigations could potentially feed all these parts of the program, in particular the investigation piece.

One of the points you made was about the importance of extradition, ideally being able to have some trials in the affected countries. If the RCMP had more resources to be able to identify some of the evidence against them, or even without that, the point I was trying to make earlier was that if we have discussions among members of Parliament and their staff, with their counterparts—and at the bureaucratic level as well—in looking at the justice options and negotiating at times for an extradition request, I think that's where the opportunity lies. My concern is that's not what we're seeing. We're just seeing deportations.

The media reports about the cases we've looked at indicate that when they are returned home simply on the basis of a deportation, these people are not being brought to justice. They are just being returned home. There are perhaps some challenges with the way that's happening. If they are implicated in atrocities, we are missing the opportunity to ensure justice is served. That's where I would like to see some more focus and emphasis and resources.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

Mr. Lamoureux.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I thank members of the committee for assisting me in being able to ask my questions. I realize I came a little late to today's committee.

I look to Ms. Rico to provide some responses to concerns I've had with regard to the whole detention process.

Detention is a fairly costly way of keeping someone who might not necessarily need to be kept in detention. One of the things we as a committee want to look at, I believe, is whether there is a better way to accommodate individuals in Canada who might not necessarily have to be held in detention centres?

Ms. Rico, my apologies if you've already provided specific comments on this particular issue. Is there something very specific that you would recommend to the committee as an alternative for some of those refugees?

The other issue I would appreciate if you could comment on, because I think it often gets overlooked, is that there's usually some sort of social cost to many individuals who are held in detention centres for any period of time. Other related issues come because quite often these refugees come from fairly ugly environments, and then they're held in a detention centre. I think some sort of mental or social development issues might come out of that.

I wonder if you could comment on those two points.

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees

Loly Rico

Thank you very much.

One of the alternatives that we were talking about as an example was what's happening in Toronto with the immigration holding centre, whereby what we call the vulnerable communities—women and children—can be released in the community, in the refugee houses or the shelters. Sometimes they don't need to pay big bonds or any bail. They make sure, working together with the shelters and the refugee houses, that the person goes and reports themselves, and they provide them with the ID documents because the reason that they are detained is that they didn't provide ID documents when they claimed refugee status. This is one of the alternatives that we are putting forward.

The other is the relationship between the immigration holding centre in Toronto and the bail program. The bail program helps with the release, and what happens is that they are not free in society, as mentioned by Ms. James, they have to report themselves to the bail program every week, and in that way they have to continue with all the procedures of the refugee process. We believe that's a way. It's less costly because the person can be in the community, and at the same time they go and report. Also, they go and report to CBSA every month, or every two months, and that's how they are not totally without any reporting as an alternative.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Before you go on to the second question, are you aware of any pilot project, or anything of that nature that would have incorporated modern technology like ankle bracelets as a way to monitor individuals who might be required to be in a certain location? Are you aware of anything of that nature?

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Council for Refugees

Loly Rico

No, I'm not aware but I know that there is a pilot project. There is a project that is working with the immigration holding centre and the Toronto bail program, so that they release the person who has to present themselves and report. That's one way that they don't need to be in detention.

One thing related to the second point, I was presenting in my opening remarks about all the mental health and all the human cost that the victims suffer, especially if it is a woman and children who are fleeing persecution because of their gender. Sometimes they are women who are pregnant. They are seven or eight months into their pregnancy, and at the moment they arrive and they are detained, they suffer so much emotionally that it causes flashbacks so that they even go into labour. And when they start with that, this is when sometimes they call the refugee council and they release the person with us.

The other is with the children. We have been seeing this with the children, and I believe you have seen the report from Janet Cleveland and Delphine Nakache that the children have behavioural problems when they are released, they've lost their appetite, and I see it with the women when they arrive at the refugee house where I work.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Tilson

Thank you.

Madam Groguhé.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My thanks to our two witnesses for being here.

My question goes to Ms. Stoyles. You mentioned the possibility of conducting investigations overseas, in the countries these criminals come from, or to administer justice here in Canada.

Which of those two possibilities should we prioritize, in your opinion? How can we make sure justice is done when people are extradited, for example?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for International Justice

Jayne Stoyles

Thank you. I will answer in English so that I can be a little clearer.

On the question about which situations we focus on for cases here in Canada, something that is very important is not just looking at justice in individual cases and negotiating for an extradition request but also investing in the justice processes that are happening in the affected countries. It's really interesting how the existence of the International Criminal Court is really spurring countries around the world to create this legislation to be able to try war crimes and crimes against humanity. Also, for example, as happened in Uganda, there were some cases before the International Criminal Court against the Lord's Resistance Army and others, and those spurred Uganda to really look at putting in place some effective war crimes legislation and to start to train judges and prosecutors to be able to use it.

Some Canadian officials, representatives of the Department of Justice and some other external experts, were involved in that training in Uganda, and some resources were made available for that. So I think we have to look at it holistically, look at building that capacity nationally. Then when specific cases come up, it's just very much on a case-by-case basis being able to know that our RCMP has enough resources to have some sense of the evidence and then there are discussions with national counterparts. We do this with our centre. We talk to our counterparts at the non-governmental level, the victims groups, and the NGOs in those countries about what they know about, what evidence they have, and we actually discuss and negotiate around what's the best justice option, and we have very few resources to do that. Certainly that could happen at the governmental level.

Then when there are no justice options elsewhere, we would look at the possibility of a case here in Canada.