House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.


Immigration ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I reassure the hon. critic for the Bloc, the member for Bourassa, that we will not be deporting people who do not break the law.

We agree with him very strongly that the crime rate for immigrants and refugees in this country is indeed lower than the national average, absolutely and no question. He could look it up as I am sure he has.

I would like to correct a couple of things. It may have been a difficulty in the translation but with regard to the offences it is one indictable offence under the law and two summary conviction offences.

Perhaps I did not get the question on that. If the hon. member wants to rephrase it or ask me again, I will try to get it. It is fairly straightforward. If there is a problem there I would be happy to address it.

On the question of right of appeal, the right of appeal to the appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board is still there on questions of law and questions of fact. There is now a humane and compassionate right of appeal to the minister. As I said in my speech, the reason for it is that the minister deals with the consequences. It is a question of accountability, as the member knows. We as elected members of Parliament are accountable to our electorate in four to five years.

In consequence, because the minister bears the responsibility in the House but the Immigration and Refugee Board is as it should be on questions of fact and law at arm's length from the minister, the minister now has a place to make decisions based on humane and compassionate grounds.

As I said in my speech as well, we do not expect the number of appeals granted to go up in leaps and bounds, but this is yet another safeguard of the humane and compassionate grounds rooted in political accountability.

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11:45 a.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, to give the member for Halifax a chance to redeem herself, I would like to ask her essentially the same question that my colleague from the Reform Party just asked her, which she did not answer. Would she be so kind as to tell me how this bill will deal with a case like the one I mentioned before?

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11:45 a.m.


Mary Clancy Liberal Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with some trepidation that I get into these waters again. The hon. member did bring up a specific case in his remarks. I am sorry but I did not hear the full details of the specific case.

It would not be wise, as I am sure Mr. Speaker would agree with me, to comment on the specifics of a case. I would be happy, as I frequently do for other members of the House, to look at the file the hon. member is talking about. If he would like to see me either in my office or in the lobby to deal with the specific case I would be happy to look at it. However I think it would be unwise to deal with specifics in the matter of general debate.

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11:45 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to some of the debate that just went on with the hon. member for Québec-Est. He cited examples of abuse of the system. Even the answers of the parliamentary secretary made reference to some concerns that are purportedly in the legislation. Perhaps we will establish in what I am about to say that they are not in the legislation.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak on the amendments to the Immigration Act contained in Bill C-44, dealing with deportation and the strengthening of the enforcement system to deal with the threat of criminals entering into Canada. This is an area which has been in need of a serious overhaul for a long time. It is an area which my party has brought to the attention of the House and the minister on numerous occasions. Reform members have been forceful in their desire to see serious and strong amendments brought forward in the area of immigration.

While I am glad to see our efforts finally being acknowledged by the government, the bill is only a partial step forward. I believe Bill C-44 may do more harm than good by luring us into a false sense of security.

Canadians will be told that immigration has been amended and that criminals will now be kept out of the country, but this is not the case nor will it be. Canadians need to know the facts. The issue must not be glossed over by the efforts of the government to pretend that its stop gap measure will actually stop anything at all.

The bill amending the Immigration Act falls short of its desired goal because the system has not been redesigned to accommodate the changes. It is the system itself that is at fault. As we have seen in countless legislative examples past and present, without a willingness to make core systemic change tinkering with legislation will not work. There must not only appear to be a willingness to address criminality in our immigration process, but real will must produce some of the results we see are lacking in the system.

Bill C-44 is a step in the right direction in that it will help ensure that criminals are kept out of the immigration system once they are identified. And once they are identified it does limit the appeals they will have.

However the bill is impotent in that persons with a serious criminal past can arrive and stay in Canada free to move about as they wish with no restraints. Persons entering into Canada will still not have a security check done on them until just prior to a refugee hearing or when they fill out an application for permanent residence. Yes, immediate steps will then be taken to

ensure that a criminal is removed and that is good, but that is very similar to someone drawing up a plan to get a fox out of the hen house after the fox has had his run through the place. The goal is not to set up a strategy to get the fox once he is in the hen house. The goal should be to set up a system whereby we can prevent him from entering the hen house at all.

We have the people on the frontline who are there to interview those who make a claim for refugee status at the port of entry. Why do we not empower them to make an inquiry as to whether or not the applicant is a wanted criminal or someone with a serious criminal past? We do not even equip them with the necessary tools to make such an inquiry. We even go as far as to leave the door on the hen house unlocked and open with a sign that reads: "If you are found to be a fox you may be asked to leave".

This summer I had the honour of meeting with a group of police officers in the 12th Division B Platoon in Westside, Toronto, the friends and co-workers of Todd Baylis. This 25-year old constable was brutally murdered in the line of duty by a deportee designate on June 16, 1994.

What I saw and felt as I met with them was the grief of men and women betrayed by the system they try to uphold. They told of harassment, lack of information, lack of immigration enforcement, manpower and training, continual imminent danger and plummeting morale as they cope with life and death, drugs and violence in a once peaceful community.

I read the new legislation and I paused to reflect on their grief and anger on the one side and the response from the government. The new rules would do nothing to prevent the very same event from happening again.

I am amazed, as should all Canadians be, that after a senseless death-and a full inquiry by the way placed no blame-and the consequential drafting of the legislation that Todd Baylis would be in the same danger today as he was on that fateful night. Shame on those that have been part of this so-called solution. It is too late simply to say this tragedy should never have occurred, but for the friends of Todd Baylis it is a reality.

It is therefore imperative that we as legislators take seriously the obligation to tighten up a system that needs a major overhaul so that the memory of Constable Baylis will serve as a catalyst to ensure that such mistakes do not happen again.

The minister has said that the immigration system was not solely at fault in this particular case and the murder was as much a product of our society as deserving deportation as an immigrant. Unfortunately some truth may be here. This young man's pattern of criminality was well established over many years. Much of it was under the Young Offenders Act, another government system of rules and excuses that destroys accountability and creates a mockery of respect for the laws of the land.

The government's tinkering in both systems-the Immigration Act and the Young Offenders Act-does not reflect the will of Canadians or the real need toward the security of our streets and homes.

Bureaucrats and politicians must wake up and listen to Canadians. I have met with shop owners on Queen Street in Toronto who watch 100 crack deals a day in front of their empty stores. I have talked with struggling immigrant restaurant owners whose livelihood investment is being sucked dry by a decaying criminal neighbourhood. I receive overwhelming community feedback for changes to the age identification and record keeping for young offenders. If the government wants safe streets and homes, it should make those changes happen and make them happen soon.

The legislation before us today leaves us with some very serious unanswered questions which must be addressed. To begin with, there are serious administrative questions. The budget for the removals division for fiscal year 1991-92 was $13 million. This increased to $23 million in 1993-94. This 77 per cent increase begs this first question: How was the money spent in light of the fact that an administrative nightmare still exists in the issuance and tracking of deportation orders?

Second, what has happened to the thousands of inactive cases we heard about in the inquiry that were kept in boxes in immigration offices because there were not enough officers or administrative support staff to deal with them? Have they been dealt with now?

What about the request for a shared database between police and immigration agents to help track down those who have effectively avoided deportation? Have the department's computer systems been brought up to date with regard to determining exact numbers of refugees and immigrants that are out there facing deportation orders? Has a better system been put into place to keep track of those who were supposedly ready to leave voluntarily on their deportation orders?

Let me expand on the importance of getting answers to these questions. This summer there were approximately 26,000 warrants outstanding on deportation orders. Of these, there were approximately 11,000 immigration warrants in the Canadian Police Information Centre system which alerts police across the country to persons who are arrestable for immigration reasons.

There is a great discrepancy in these numbers. The main problem is the poor administration in this crucial area. Police are often not aware of whether or not the person they are dealing with is under a deportation order. Those people in the system and operating it are not even fully aware of the number of

deportation orders that are still active because of all the unknowns currently existing in the system.

For example, there is no way of currently knowing if a person has indeed left the country, or even if they were requested to do so, unless they were escorted out or informed the immigration authorities that they were leaving. This must change. There exists a serious flaw within the present deportation system where great emphasis is placed upon personal compliance with the order to leave.

In response to a request by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Mr. Hallam Johnston from the department agreed to provide members of the committee with a list of impediments to removal. I quote from his reply:

The most significant impediment to removal is the failure of persons to effect their open removal from Canada. Some examples of this include (1) failure to comply with the deportation order; (2) failure to show up for removal arrangements (approximately a 40 per cent no-show rate experienced), and (3) failure to appear at port of entry to effect the removal after arrangements have been completed (approximately a 10 per cent no-show rate experienced).

The lack of travel documents is also an impediment in effecting removals. Foreign governments require returning citizens to be in possession of a valid passport or other re-entry document. The difficulty is to secure a document and satisfy the foreign government that the person being returned is a citizen.

Nowhere within this amendment is there reason to believe that this serious problem in supervising the deportation of those requested to leave Canada has been addressed. It is ridiculous to continue in this pattern. For the department to even admit that its biggest obstacle in carrying out deportations is the failure of people to remove themselves is incredulous. How can Canadians feel their confidence in this government is well founded when they hear reports like that? How can Canadians feel reassured that they are safe and secure that criminals will be deported when this government has been relying on the criminals checking themselves out of the country?

It should also not be of any surprise to us that foreign governments are reluctant to take their citizens back when they discover they are being deported for criminal activity.

The ironies of deportation of professional criminals was pointed out this weekend in a national news report. It was reported that Canada returned 227 deportees to Jamaica from January to July of this year, one-quarter of the total from all sources. It also pointed out that wealthy countries such as Canada are viewed by some countries as dumping our problems on them.

Does this government have a plan to assure Canadians that proper and sufficient paper work will be available for needed deportations even in the face of resistance or lack of co-operation from receiving nations?

Once those criminals are deported, can this government assure us through the integrity of our own system that those same individuals will be made to stay out?

In most cases the problems should have been averted by denying access of the criminals to Canada in the first place. This could be accomplished by having the proper computer system set up that is linked into the CPIC and Interpol systems and able to do a criminal record check on anyone applying for refugee status at the port of entry. This must be a priority.

There is also a problem with too few investigators doing the job with very little training and lack of proper backup and protection. Is it any surprise that a large number of deportations being carried out each year are served against those who are charged with overstaying their visitors' visas? These are grandmothers and grandfathers visiting kids, not dangerous criminals. Why should this change? Has the need for more investigators, better administrative support and working computer systems been established yet? Are police constables like Todd Baylis walking the beat on our city streets better informed now than they were in June?

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has stated there are three main objectives to his removal strategy: getting foreign criminals out of Canada, ensuring compliance with removal orders, and ensuring that failed refugee claimants are removed properly.

On July 7 the minister stated: "This government has adopted clear priorities for removals. Our top priority is to remove criminals. Those who present a danger to Canadian society and those who wilfully abuse the immigration system will be clearly identified and we will take whatever action is necessary to see that these people are removed from Canada. The legislation and other measures I have introduced related to criminality will allow immigration officials to take prompt, decisive action in these cases".

These are tough words. The minister must have a great deal of confidence in his present system to believe that it can accomplish these objectives without very major overhauls to the system of which to date there has been no sign.

Is this minister willing to back up these words by putting his job on the line? Will he resign his position as minister if his new task force and deportation plan are ineffective in preventing any more tragedies like those we heard about this morning and that have occurred even in this last year?

The commitment made by the minister is not new. It has been made in the past by other administrations but this minister has

promised immediate action. How has his promise been translated into action? This week there was a report in the Globe and Mail suggesting that Pearson International Airport authorities and facilities were unable to cope with new arrivals. Criminals were slipping through desperately overcrowded immigration facilities and given free access to our communities.

How can this minister believe we can have confidence in task forces and deportation plans when the system he claims to be adequate continues to justify the deep concern that Canadians have about an immigration system that is not working?

Since the immigration-RCMP task force came into effect in July it has identified 1,888 deportation cases involving criminality. How effective has his prompt decisive action been?

Out of all the cases identified a total of 14 have been removed from Canada. That is less than .7 per cent of the total number identified. As a matter of fact the task force has discovered that another 14 of the individuals being sought have been found to be deceased. At least the task force is keeping even in its efforts in this particular statistic.

Another thing for us to remember is that a task force is a temporary measure, not a permanent one. How can Bill C-44 be properly implemented when the task force and its personnel are no longer working on these cases? Where will the personnel come from? Who will be serving the deportation notices? Who will be monitoring the outcome and ensuring that those required to leave are doing so? What permanent steps are being taken to deal with the shortcomings in the system and the great need to implement the changes being proposed.

When one looks at the numbers released by the task force in August, it is interesting to note that 414 of these cases are presently in the judicial system. Another 779 are currently awaiting decisions on their claims for review of their cases. Another 532 are under investigation. Does this mean they are currently being looked for?

A major flaw in this legislation is that it presumes that someone with a serious criminal past will come to Canada and then appear at a refugee determination hearing where a security check will finally be done. It presumes upon the criminal mind that they will wait to be discovered instead of immediately going underground to prevent themselves from facing automatic deportation. There is nothing in the system or the amendments to prevent them from doing so.

In conclusion, we must ask ourselves whether or not these steps are a real solution to the problem or simply a reaction to a crisis. For example, we have yet to see how the system will deal with those who have criminal records for a string of offences including assault for which a 10-year maximum sentence does not apply. These are people who may be powder kegs ready to blow and yet the immigration system will take no action against them because they have not yet committed the ultimate crime. This particular amendment, like the Young Offenders Act, completely ignores repeat criminal activity to the peril of all Canadians.

The fact that we need tough legislation in this area is apparent enough to the people of my riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam. Just mention the name of Michael Drake there to someone and you can see the anger flare up as they realize the system is still trying to deport this convicted child molester back to the United States. Not only has Drake been successful in deferring his deportation orders time and time again but he has been successful in ensuring that he is free to roam the streets while he awaits his hearing.

It is our responsibility to see that the laws are in effect that will end these kinds of travesties. Bill C-44 in itself will not make the necessary changes needed to right the wrongs created by a system that suffers so greatly from neglect. But we as legislators need to ensure that any changes we propose to the system are aimed at the heart of the problem and not simply at the needs of the moment.

We need to equip those in the trenches not just with a book of rules but with the tools to do the job. We need to assure the shopkeepers, the businessmen, the parents and the police, Canadians by birth or by choice that they do not need to fear the system that should protect them.

Bill C-44 regarding the amendments to the Immigration Act is a step in the right direction. However this legislation alone cannot make the system succeed. The government must go further to demonstrate its commitment to the safety of all Canadians in their homes and on their streets.

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12:05 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Jesse Flis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Port Moody-Coquitlam for a very clear presentation. I would remind her to look at the minister's remarks when he introduced the bill when he said: "Throughout the years immigrants have helped build our country. The contributions of recent immigrants are also widely recognized. But Canadians will not tolerate and I will not tolerate those who abuse our generosity and violate our laws". That is what this bill is attempting to do, to remove any immigrant or refugee who violates our laws.

We have heard from the Reform Party how we must reduce our annual deficit and public debt. I agree with the Reform Party on that. To do what the Reform Party wants in immigration will require additional resources, additional personnel resources, additional financial resources.

I would like to ask the member for Port Moody-Coquitlam where her party suggests we get the additional funds to implement what the Reform Party would like to see in Bill C-44.

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12:10 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I would like to comment on what he said aside from his question.

Certainly in my comments I sought to address the needs of all Canadians by birth or by choice. All immigrants are not criminals. In fact very few are. It is the same as with all Canadians. Very few are involved in criminal activity. It is the immigrants as much as Canadians who suffer from the abuse of our immigration system. I want to make that very clear. That is my purpose. The people whom I met in Toronto were immigrants who were victims of what was happening by the abuse of this system. I speak for them as I speak for all Canadians.

What the hon. member says is true. We feel that for the sake of the integrity of the immigration system for Canadians and new immigrants the present system is not working. It is not working in the criminal element. It is not working in the way that immigrants are welcomed into Canadian society.

We need people who can come here who have jobs available to them. We need to provide a future for people who come to this country.

True, we need to get our fiscal house in order. We need to make our economy work. We also need to provide those opportunities for the people who come here. We have to select the people so that they have the opportunity when they get here. If we bring people here with no future for them, is that fair to them or is that fair to the fellow Canadians that they join?

Yes, the immigration numbers need to be addressed so that we have an economic mix that works for all Canadians new and old. By doing that we will in fact be more than able to afford it because it will work for all Canadians.

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12:10 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the greatest respect for my colleague from Port Moody-Coquitlam. We serve on the same committee together. She is well known for her carefully reasoned remarks on all issues.

I must say that I was surprised that in her speech she suggested this bill does not provide sufficient precautions for keeping deported criminals from re-entering the country. I was surprised at that remark because coming from a western province she will know that Canada has one of the longest undefended borders in the world and that it is traditionally and always has been impossible to keep illegals of all sorts from crossing the border at one point or another.

I would suggest to her that this bill addresses that fact by its provisions for the seizure of false documents. The way our security authorities keep track of illegals, be they criminals or otherwise, is by the fact that their documentation eventually comes under scrutiny and thus raises a red flag for the proper authorities to take action.

I point out that we are talking here about criminals who as a means of getting back into this country and staying in this country falsify passports, drivers' licences, health cards, birth certificates and so on.

I would request that my colleague opposite comment on this. Surely she would agree that this is a fine and progressive measure in this bill to close this loophole of false documentation to get these illegals out of this country.

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12:10 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments and his question. I do commend this legislation for the fact that it does close that loophole of allowing illegal documents into the country. The fact that that was previously allowed astounds me. It seems most appropriate that now there is legislation in place which says no, these will not be allowed in the country.

However I do not know if I have quite addressed the hon. member's question.

That legislation is toward the boxes of illegal documents that would come through our postal service and then be available within this country for people to use here. The thing you were referring to though was people coming across our borders from outside with illegal documents. That part of the legislation would in no way affect someone presenting themselves at our border from outside with documents that were illegal or falsified. It could not affect that particular case.

It is at that point where our present system has no check point. We take a person's word for it. They come into our country and then are not actually processed by a security system until they then present themselves for a refugee hearing or some other kind of a hearing.

I go back to the comment I made earlier. We let the foxes into the hen house and then expect them to show up for a process that will then check their validity. There is the problem and that is not addressed by this legislation.

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12:15 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, hon. members of this House, I am proud to rise to support Bill C-44, an act to amend the Immigration Act.

Canada is a great and generous country. Its doors have always been open to welcome all people who dreamed of a better future,

people who came for a better life in a country free of civil violence or war in order to raise a family in one of the best countries in the world, as the UN so honoured us not once but twice.

These immigrants, people like my parents, became Canadian citizens and participate actively in all facets of our society. Canada's history is full of stories of immigrants who through their hard work and perseverance have made this country what it is today.

Throughout our history, immigrants have come to Canada. These immigrants included some individuals guilty of serious offences. Amendments must be made in order to put a stop to this problem and to correct some flaws in the Immigration Act. I want to discuss these changes, because Canadians rely on us to protect them and their children. They rely on the department of immigration as well as on Canadian police forces at the municipal, provincial, territorial and national levels. But first and foremost, they rely on the government to pass legislation that will protect their interests.

In its present form, the Immigration Act contains complex provisions as well as loopholes which allow criminals to abuse the system.

Every day, you meet people who were not born in Canada. These persons overcame various difficulties to come here with more or less money, and they adapted to our society. I am one of them.

If you ask these persons what they think of criminals and individuals who abuse the system you will see that, like the rest of us, they are frustrated, shocked and resentful. They also fear that all immigrants will be assimilated to these offenders.

Bill C-44 is an essential piece of legislation if we are to meet the expectations of all Canadians. It brings solutions to specific problems. We must send back those who are not deserving of our institutions and who only want to take advantage of our generosity, while hurting the reputation of honest immigrants and genuine refugees.

Canada's immigration policy plays a key role in our country's future. We believe strongly that Canada must conserve this policy and the changes which we are proposing today will help to alleviate the abuses in the system and the problems that exist.

The minister of immigration said, on August 24, at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police: "I will not tolerate those who take advantage of our generosity and violate our laws. No Canadian should put up with such an insult. A good immigration policy is one that ensures a balance between equity and tolerance, on one hand, and law enforcement, on the other hand.

I do not want to have to go looking for these people; I want them out of the country".

Remember that Canada has an immigration program that is the envy of the whole world. We cannot let a handful of individuals discredit it and take advantage of us. We have a good program, but it needs to be changed and fast.

The problems in this area are long-standing. It would be pointless to search for their causes. We need to act now and to take whatever action is necessary.

I would like to take a few moments to go over the four-point strategy announced by the minister of Immigration last June.

First, we want to amend the Immigration Act in order to reduce fraudulent claims and improve law enforcement measures, which should help us stop criminals from cheating the system.

Second, we want to make some changes to the management of the immigration appeal division of the IRB and improve the decision-making process.

Next, we need to exchange information with the Correctional Service of Canada on parolees facing deportation, if necessary.

Finally, guidelines are being developed to ensure that immigration officers are better prepared when they appear before the Board to discuss the files of war criminals or people who systematically use an assumed identity.

Let us review the proposed changes to the act. Right now, the immigration appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board can allow serious criminals to enter Canada and to stay in our country for humanitarian reasons. The immigration appeal division will lose that authority and only the minister will be entitled to allow a permanent resident, someone for example who has lived in Canada all his life, to stay in Canada for humanitarian reasons or to deport him.

We need to prohibit people convicted of serious crimes, crimes punishable by a sentence of 10 years or more, from claiming refugee status. This should apply whether the crime took place in Canada or anywhere else.

Dangerous criminals will no longer be able to seek refugee status in their goal to postpone removal from this country. We need to ensure that criminals are not allowed to ask for refugee status.

We also need to regulate the problem of multiple applications. Last year over 800 people presented more than one claim for refugee status. Under the proposed legislation only the first claim will be studied by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

We need to stop the flow of illegal documents used in claims. That is why we are proposing to give immigration officers the power to seize identity documents from the international mail that might be used by impostors for fraudulent or improper purposes.

The minister instead of the cabinet will be authorized to make the decision in all cases of rehabilitation of former offenders. Once the Federal Court has determined that a security certificate is justified or not, it will no longer be possible to file an appeal with the immigration appeal division of the IRB. Let us take these measures seriously. Would we not all agree that we need to have all the necessary information before we grant these people Canadian citizenship? That is exactly what another of these changes will ensure.

The proposed provisions are reasonable and fair. Contrary to what our colleagues opposite have said, these provisions are in keeping with the Geneva Convention relating to the refugee status where crime is concerned. This is a question of justice, a question of democracy.

That is why our government is committed to maintaining an immigration policy which would truly put a stop to illegal immigration and ensure effective control of our borders.

In order to do that, we must establish a close co-operation between the various agencies involved in dealing with frauds and crimes, for example immigration officers and members of the RCMP and of the various police forces.

We need all the men and women of local, regional and provincial police forces if we are to better enforce the law. Only with their co-operation shall we improve our effectiveness in getting rid of undesirable elements. We created a partnership with the Correctional Service of Canada for that matter and foreign offenders will not be allowed to remain in this country once they have served their sentences.

In addition, the minister of immigration will be working closely with the Solicitor General and the Minister of Justice. We are all partners when it comes to maintaining the security and prosperity of our country and in preserving our quality of life. These measures we are introducing will ensure the integrity of Canada's immigration and refugee system.

I will say it again, not all immigrants are criminals. Immigrants have been a part of the development of this country since the beginning of our history. Today, in this changing world, there is a constant movement of populations and the high number of immigrant applications poses crucial problems.

I am sure you will be surprised to learn that our officers have interviewed more than three million persons last year. Clearer legislation would make their work much more efficient. We all know that among the immigrants who come to Canada, some set up small businesses and contribute to job creation. We would be wrong to think they come here to steal our jobs. This is not my own saying; it has been demonstrated by statistics. Immigration is good for Canada and it must continue to be so.

Our intention in proposing this legislation is to eliminate the small percentage of abusers in our system who profit from the loopholes in our law. All immigrants should not have to be made to pay for the few individuals who take advantage of our country's generosity. Unfortunately this small group of immigrants is drawing the attention of the media and of course of the opposition which in turn sensationalizes these events and causes Canadians to question the integrity of our programs.

My experience of 15 years in dealing with immigrants has shown me that the large majority of immigrants want to live a peaceful and productive life. Just look around this Chamber and see how many hon. members are of ethnic origin. Many on this side of the House are children of immigrants, including the minister of immigration himself, who are now giving back to this country what this country gave to them.

Bill C-44 that we are bringing in today fulfils our requirements. It does not penalize those who wish to make an honest living in our country, but it will prevent abuse of our system. It will not have any impact on those individuals who, in good faith, make application to the Immigration and Refugee Board. As I said at the beginning of my speech, Canada is a generous country. Help us maintain that image of generosity and keep our reputation in the eyes of the world and help us prevent abuse.

Therefore, I trust that you, as members of the opposition parties, the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party, will support us. Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that you will give your general support to this important bill.

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12:25 p.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, you can count on the Bloc Quebecois as far as the

principles of the bill are concerned. Canada must protect itself against immigrant criminals. There is a very real problem, but this bill is not the appropriate way to deal with it. I think many of your constituents will be astonished by this legislation.

In St-Denis there are a lot of immigrants, a lot of Latin Americans whom I know personally and who will be astonished by your speech today, which does nothing to help the cause of immigrants or refugees. You said that Canada is generous, but its generosity is waning, unfortunately, like that of all industrialized countries, and I was surprised the other day when I heard the minister of immigration say that he would favour European immigration.

There are a lot of people who do not come from Europe, and they feel a little insulted and hurt by the minister's words. The other day I said there were a lot of socio-economic problems, which are often the reason why Canadians and a number of immigrants commit crimes. There are enormous problems in Canadian society as a result of a lingering economic recession, unemployment and problems experienced by young people. I do not think the bill provides a solution to these problems.

You say that the bill does not violate the provisions of the Geneva Convention relating to refugees. I have here a document that has just been released by the Canadian Council for Refugees, and it says the exact opposite. The Council is a respected organization in this country, and I would appreciate your comments.

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12:30 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that my riding includes constituents who belong to various cultural communities. These are the people who voted for me, and I want to thank them again for doing so.

I have had the privilege of working with these people for fifteen years. The hon. member for Bourassa knows that I have been working with immigrants for 15 years. In fact, these very same people agree that we must do something to deal with the abuse in the system.

I will repeat what the minister said, which is that we are not trying to penalize immigrants who have not committed serious crimes. We are only trying to eliminate the abuse that exists in the system and ensure that criminals are deported from this country.

You said something I thought was very interesting. You said that we favour European immigrants. I do not think the minister of immigration ever said that this government only favours European immigrants. It is not this government's policy, and it should not be, as far as I am concerned.

I repeat what I said in my speech: We are a generous society and we want to keep it that way. Genuine immigrants who are not criminals are aware of this. Canada will continue to keep its doors open.

What we want to do is close the loopholes in the law.

I find it rather unusual that we have one opposition party saying we are going too far and the other one saying we are not going far enough. This indicates to me that we are doing the right thing somewhere along the line.

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12:30 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says that the vast majority of immigrants are law abiding and contribute to Canadian society. Of course that is true. I am an immigrant myself and am making a contribution.

However when my wife and I immigrated to Canada in 1979 it was a pretty tough process. We had to apply three times from outside the country, even though we had money to buy a house here and we had jobs to come to in Canada. On entry we had to sign away our rights to UI and welfare for five years and we did not think that was a hardship. We felt proud that we had earned the right to come here. I do not personally see anything wrong with setting high standards.

When the hon. member accuses us in the Reform Party of sensationalizing some of the absolutely dreadful situations that are occurring with the immigration system, it would not be necessary if there were some sort of strict control like there was at the time when I immigrated in 1979.

I would like the hon. member to address that and answer the question as to what is wrong with establishing some reasonable standards once again.

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12:30 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we are trying to do. We are trying to establish reasonable measures in which to make sure that the few-and I want to repeat that constantly, because the image the opposition party gives to the general public is that these few people are in fact vast numbers.

I do not want to say that all Reform members stand up and speak about immigrants in a negative way. I really do not want my words to be misinterpreted in that way. All I want to say is that there are a few examples which are exaggerated by the media and some opposition members. Unfortunately, because members of the general public may not have the same opportunity to be in contact with members of our cultural communities across Canada, they may be left with that tainted image of someone having abused our system.

The reason I support Bill C-44 is that we are trying to do away with the loopholes and close the doors that lead to the abuse of our system and to also get rid of those criminals who take advantage of our system.

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12:35 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly share some of the comments the member just related. However, the growing concern for many Canadians as they learn more about our immigration policy is that certain matters should be addressed.

There is the Immigration and Refugee Board which spends over a billion dollars of taxpayers' money every year. We have a system that does not adequately screen individuals who come

into the country. There is the expedited process in the Immigration and Refugee Board which allows people with very questionable backgrounds to enter and a system of sponsorship where immigrants are self-selected. I know that is being tightened up now. However this is a system that has been in place and certainly one that the people in this country question. The integrity of the government's program has to be questioned. I believe it has failed the test.

I would like the member to speak to those particular issues. The taxpayers are here. The taxpayers are paying the shot and I think they have a right to know. Would she not agree?

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12:35 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House are just as concerned as the hon. member about the costs of our system. The minister has stated publicly that he is reviewing the whole process. We are taking measures to make sure the public purse is not being overly burdened by the system.

I would also like to say that no system is perfect. There will always be people who will find a way to abuse the system, any system. That is exactly why Bill C-44 is an important piece of legislation. We are trying to do our utmost as a government to plug those loopholes that do exist. However, no law is perfect and there are always people who will get around the law. However we are doing our best as a government to make sure there are fewer ways of getting around the law.

As far as sponsorship is concerned, I think the hon. member answered the question himself. The minister has tightened up those rules and will continue to do so.

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12:35 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, this bill has serious, serious problems. Reform Party members elevated this issue of crime and immigration. We focused the public's attention and anger. We forced the minister who began his term as minister by stating there was no problem with crime and immigrants to introduce these measures. It may seem a bit ironic that after doing that, we are now opposing this bill.

I can assure this House and all Canadians that the Reform Party does not oppose getting tough on newcomers to Canada who break our laws. We do not oppose many of the specific measures in this bill. What we do oppose is the minister's attempt to sell this package of minor reforms as a package that will significantly address the problems of undesirable immigrants in Canada. We oppose the notion that this bill will somehow fix any of the major problems that are plaguing immigration to Canada.

We need to look no further than a few very recent high profile instances of criminal immigrants to see what effect this legislation would have. I will give away the surprise by telling members that Bill C-44 would have done nothing to prevent these tragedies.

First is the much publicized case of Clinton Gayle who is suspected of the murder of Constable Todd Baylis. Mr. Gayle came to the country legally. Mr. Gayle had a removal order issued against him. Mr. Gayle evaded that deportation order not by running and not by tying up the system with appeals. Rather, Mr. Gayle avoided removal because his file was lost. Mr. Gayle avoided capture and removal because the system was overworked, because priorities for removal were confused. It is more likely than not, although we will never know, because someone dropped the ball.

Bill C-44 does nothing to change the priorities of immigration enforcement. It does nothing to ensure that the system is less overworked than it is now. It does not address the problem and this problem is just as fundamental and troublesome as the actual issuance of removal orders, namely, the capture and physical removal of those who are issued removal orders.

The second case that has outraged Canadians and has illustrated the deficiencies both in immigration and in the priorities of this government was the very recent case of one Mr. Forbes. He is currently being sought for the senseless shooting of several people in Toronto over the weekend.

Tragically two of those people died at the hands of this individual. Mr. Forbes who is also from Jamaica came to Canada on a visitor's visa, as so many illegal entrants do. He overstayed that visa and a deportation order was issued. Rather surprisingly, he was removed from Canada.

I say surprisingly because the numbers of people who are removed because of an overstay on a visa are very small indeed. These cases while important tend not to receive a high priority from an overworked immigration enforcement bureau.

One must keep in mind that this took place in the mid-1980s, during a time when the number of immigrants to Canada was roughly one-third of what it currently is. Those reasonable numbers actually permitted the immigration department to do its job.

Nonetheless Mr. Forbes returned to Canada. He was again ordered deported and he again left the country. To no one's surprise he came back again and the results of his return have been tragic.

I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of all Canadians to publicly offer my sincerest condolences to the families of those two people who were struck down by this madman and also to the other victims who were shot. I am sure all members of this House join me in offering our sincerest hopes for a speedy and full recovery.

Too often in the heat of political debate we forget about the victims and concentrate only on the perpetrator. However there

are victims here and they highlight the urgency that we must feel as we look for solutions to the problem of violent non-citizens.

The Forbes case illustrates several things. First, it illustrates the importance of enforcement in the immigration system. We can issue removal orders until we are blue in the face. We can try to stop the system from being abused. We can adopt a one strike and you are out policy for those immigrants and visitors who violate Canada's laws.

However what good does that do when we do not have any officers to carry out those removals, and I can assure you we do not. In the region of Toronto where a vast majority of deportable criminals reside, there are a total of 30 investigation and enforcement officers. That used to be 36. Before he decided to get tough, the minister cut that number. He also cut overtime staff in the Vancouver region. There simply is not the staff to find deportables.

Currently there is a backlog of deportations that best estimates put at around 40,000. Bill C-44 would do nothing at all to ensure the speedy removal of those people. Bill C-44 will probably just add to the backlog.

Second, Bill C-44 shows the laxity with which visas and immigration permits are granted.

It is my understanding Mr. Forbes came into the country for the last time, sponsored by his wife, despite the fact that he had been removed from the country twice before. I asked the minister yesterday, and did not receive an answer, why would someone who has been removed with a deportation order twice for whatever reason be allowed back into the country. The spokesperson for the department was reported as saying that Mr. Forbes had been removed for reasons other than criminality in the past.

Mr. Forbes had intentionally violated Canada's law by overstaying a visa. He had intentionally violated and flouted Canada's immigration laws. These violations do not carry a sentence of more than 10 years. Thus, according to the terms of Bill C-44 Mr. Forbes would not be found in violation of the act to a degree that would warrant his permanent removal from Canada. That simply does not make sense.

There are other very serious problems that the bill does not address that undermine the very integrity of the immigration policy in Canada.

Over the summer I released a document that came from the department of immigration which outlined guidelines for fast tracking through the refugee system various categories of people who in the minds of some senior bureaucrats and refugee advocates were self-evidently refugees. This included armed insurgents, former and present guerrillas, former and present members of such anti-democratic and even genocidal regimes like the Mengistu regime and the former communist government of Afghanistan, very choice members of Canadian society indeed.

These people, I have to reiterate, are not only being allowed to make refugee claims, they are being fast tracked after they admit to participation in these regimes.

I know that these folks might face persecution in their home countries and that is a good enough reason for some people in Canada's immigration industry to invite them in. In the words of one spokesperson for the Canadian Council for Refugees, it does not matter if people are torturers or terrorists, if they face persecution, they deserve refugee status in Canada. Those are his words.

I am willing to wager that most of my fellow Canadians would call that silly logic and certainly not agree with the idea that these are the sorts of people who deserve to be at the top of our list for refugee status, but currently they are.

Despite what some misinformed voices have said there are no background checks for criminality, for war crimes or for crimes against humanity done at the refugee hearing stage. Very recently the Immigration and Refugee Board told its refugee hearing officers that they were not even allowed to conduct checks through Interpol or other such recognized sources. No background checks can be performed on a refugee claimant until after they have been accepted as refugees. Often that is when the information comes forward, after they are in the system and making an application for permanent residence.

Bill C-44 will allow a refugee hearing to be halted if a criminal record is found but the bill does not give adequate power to the refugee hearing officers to undertake a thorough background check of all applicants for refugee status. It does not override the orders of the Immigration and Refugee Board to refrain from conducting background searches.

As with enforcement and as with the granting of permanent residency, this bill proves itself to be on the right track. It even displays good intentions but it does not have teeth.

If Bill C-44 is implemented I am willing to predict the following. The effect will not have an increase in the amount of deportations. It will not have an effect of clearing the system of appeals and bogus refugee claims. It will not significantly increase the onus on the refugees to prove that they have clean histories before being allowed into Canada.

I know as a former police officer that laws are a good first step but they only work when there are individuals who have the means and the authority to carry them out, to make sure that they are enforced. I have shown with only two examples of serious

immigrant offenders that Bill C-44 would not have the effect of getting rid of the people we most need to get rid of.

Further, I have shown that Bill C-44 does not address the fundamental problem of an Immigration and Refugee Board that is stacked with members of the immigration industry, political appointees not working in the best interests of Canadians and who, it would appear, have an agenda to accept as many refugees without question as possible.

Bill C-44 does not do the job. If the minister had announced a bill that tackled only one area of the Immigration Act, let us say criminal refugees, and then revamped the working of the Immigration and Refugee Board to add teeth to the act then it would have my full support. The minister has taken a shotgun approach and has hit in Bill C-44 a number of different areas of immigration law, all of which are troublesome, but left huge gaping holes in our system and has not backed up any of his proposed changes with staff that have real power to make the measures work.

I applaud the minister for listening to the people and to the Reform Party. I only wish it had not taken so long. I truly wish it had not taken tragedies to make him stop listening to those out there who insist that there can never be problems in immigration.

Further, I applaud the minister for taking the initiative to act and to table legislation that at least takes a crack at toughening up the system. I applaud him for stripping the power of the IAD to overturn deportation orders on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. I only wish he had not gone half way. The minister knows how to toughen up the system. Starting with cutting the numbers down to a level that our immigration department can handle would be a good beginning, then revamping the IRB, taking power away from the irresponsible and unaccountable appointed members, giving refugee hearing officers the ability to do full and thorough background checks before refugee status is determined.

There are so many measures, not simple measures but obvious ones, that could have gone into this bill if there had been the political will to do so. There was not. I am not talking about minor technicalities. The Reform Party would not oppose this legislation if the problems were minor, but this bill has such gaping holes it fails to address the most important issues that we simply cannot give it support. We simply cannot allow the Canadian people to be lulled into a false sense of security.

The minister's task force was a small step but he heralded it as though the problems in enforcement had been solved. They have not. The success or lack of success of the task force speaks volumes to the insignificance of the measure.

With Bill C-44 the minister is trying to tell the Canadian people that Canada is cracking down on those who violate our laws and abuse our system. We are doing no such thing until we address the real issues. We cannot support any immigration bill that makes itself out to be the be all and end all of a strategy to take care of the problems of criminal immigration.

I would urge all members of this House to send a clear message to the minister. Vote against this bill, not because you oppose specific measures in it, not because you oppose the broad intent, but because you want real change in immigration law, because you want to answer responsibly to your constituents who have been demanding change, radical change, because you want immigration to work once more, to be a boon to the country and not a cause of grief.

I urge you to send a message to this minister that things really need to change. This bill simply does not offer enough.

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12:50 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have waited all morning in patient expectation to hear the speech on this subject from the member from Calgary who is well known for his knowledge on immigration matters, and I have an almost subservient respect for his views on the subject.

I found myself disappointed in that his speech addressed many examples of the failures of immigration and refugee policy in the past. It never at any time-I think Hansard will show this-offered a constructive criticism of any aspect of Bill C-44.

I do appreciate that there have been abuses in the past. Indeed, some of the horror stories he mentioned will be addressed in other legislation and belong in other legislation. I was hoping to hear specific criticism.

To help him in this regard, I would like to suggest that he give us his views as a former police officer on the question of identity, the use of false identity, false documents, as a mechanism by which criminals get through the immigration process, getting into this country.

Would he not agree that in Bill C-44 we are making a giant step toward enforcement and for keeping out these undesirables? Would he not agree as a former police officer that this is an excellent step and this is an excellent bill?

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12:55 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I would like to make a comment in reference to the preamble that the member presented before his question. As far as the bill is concerned and what the Reform Party is stating here, it does not go far enough.

It still does not address the concerns that many Canadians have when it comes to actual removals of individuals once a deportation order has been issued. We have 40,000 individuals right now under deportation orders. Why are they not being removed? They are not being removed for problems within the policy, the law. They are not being removed because there is an

insufficient number of individuals assigned for removal to take care of that specific problem.

The immigration department in so many areas is overworked and understaffed in many respects. The question of finances came up when reviewing staffing problems so that increased staffing needs could be achieved to meet this demand.

There are not sufficient resources on the front end of enforcement and too much for the administrative aspects of immigration. There is increased cost to the taxpayers for having to assign individuals to try to pick up the pieces afterward through the courts as they prosecute individuals violating our laws.

Those are the problems with the immigration department. They go far beyond what this bill will ever offer or address. When it comes to the point of documents, certainly I am not arguing with the specifics that this will address part of the problem. It does not address it all, as was pointed out by my colleague. This deals only with those documents that may be in the mail.

There is a major problem at the point of entry when it comes to evaluating documents or to even questioning individuals who enter at whatever the port of entry may be. No immigration officer on the frontline questions those who pass through the points of entry.

The immigration officers are pushed to the back of the offices. When the customs officer addresses an individual who may come into the country, he may refer him to the immigration officer if there is reason to do so. You really have no frontline protection there when it comes to immigration. That has to change.

The borders are not secure. I can point to several other areas as well. Specifically, to address the member's question on documents, certainly C-44 is a start but it does not address the whole problem.

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12:55 p.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I come from different backgrounds. You are a former police officer, while I am a former refugee. We do not share the same experiences, the same situations. You want to have more stringent measures, while I find that the bill will not solve the real problems. There are already three working groups made up of the RCMP, the immigration officers and the local police in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Do you think this is enough?

You also know that there are Canadian criminals abroad. There are Canadians in prison in a number of countries. They too need our protection and I have received several calls. Canadian consulates are there to offer some protection to these Canadians, who have usually been sentenced for drug trafficking. What are you going to do? Are you going to ask these countries to deport them to Canada?

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1 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the member's second question first.

As far as I am concerned if an individual enters another country and violates its laws he should pay the price, and if he is not a citizen of that country he should be expelled immediately. I would venture to say that the majority of people agree with that position, including the member across the way who asked the question.

The problem is that in this country that does not happen. First, it is lucky if they pay the price for the crime that they commit. Second, who is going to remove them and why are they not being removed? That is the problem and Bill C-44 does not address it.

Are there enough policing agencies or enforcement agencies to deal with enforcement of the Immigration Act and the Criminal Code? I would venture to say there are not. I am not looking for Draconian measures. All we are doing is seeking the best for the Canadian people to protect them in the best way we can. There is an undesirable element slipping into the country. There is no question about that. That undesirable element should be removed. Bill C-44 does not go far enough to remove it.

My only suggestion is that the bill be voted down and that a complete review be done of the immigration policy in the country. The voice crying for a moratorium is getting louder. We are not suggesting that but some people in society are. I suggest we start to clean up what we have now before that voice gets louder.

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1 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question and I would like to make a comment.

Bill C-44 is a law that thinks about the victims in our society. Despite what the hon. member said, we as a government are concerned about the victims. That is why we want to introduce the legislation.

I also want to bring to the member's attention that the minister has said he will collaborate both with the Solicitor General and the Minister of Justice to make sure that the law is enforced. If the problem of enforcement is there the three will work together to make sure there will be enforcement of the law.

I understood the hon. member to say that there were no deportations last year, if I understood him. Perhaps I am wrong; perhaps he could correct me. Does he have knowledge of how many deportations were issued last year and how many individuals were deported last year?

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1 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.

There were 8,200 orders carried out; 1,200 of those orders were criminals and a minimum of 3,000 orders were against criminals who still remain in the country and cannot be located.

The member spoke of the collaboration between the Minister of Justice and the minister of immigration to deal with the matter of removal. I agree that is what has to happen. Under the terms of Bill C-44, however, removal will not occur at any faster rate than it is right now.

The minister recognizes that in the fourth paragraph of page 5794 of his legislation. It will be a lengthy process and we will be faced with the same problem that has been addressed by one member of the official opposition.

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1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time has expired for questions and comments. Actually the five hours of debate expired at 12.38 so we are now into 10-minute speeches from all members and no questions.

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1:05 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the subject of Bill C-44 now before the House.

The bill marks advancement in the approach of the government toward enforcing the Immigration Act. It marks an advancement in our respect for people from around the world who come to this country. It also marks progress in the way we see Canada's role as a protector of individuals who are refugees from oppression.

Canada has been and continues to be built on the efforts and ingenuity of immigrants. They came, saw opportunity and settled. New Canadians became second generation, third generation or tenth generation Canadians. At some point in time they stopped being new Canadians and simply became Canadians.

The House has 295 members of Parliament. I submit 293 of them are new Canadians. Some are newer than I am. Some are older than I am. However new Canadians enjoy the prosperity and happiness the country provides to all.

Today at every port of entry, at Canadian embassies and consulates the world over, people ask to become the next group of new Canadians. They hope to join the rest of Canadians on our unique journey. They want to grow from who they are to whom they could become, if given the opportunities that Canada provides in abundance and that Canadians enjoy.

I believe that most people who have asked to become Canadians want to share the same feeling of pride many of our ancestors experienced when a judge, an immigration officer or a postman delivered the news of their new citizenship. They want to stand as Canadians and sing O Canada whether it is for the first time or the thousandth time. They want to be one of us, to contribute, to make a life, to create their future.

At this point I want to remind the House that every year April 17 to April 24 is Citizenship Week. This year for the first time members of Parliament in the House and the Senate and their staff gathered in the Hall of Honour to reaffirm their citizenship. When O Canada was sung I was amazed and happy to see tears in the eyes of many of the singers, including some members of Parliament, who were born here. They really enjoyed the atmosphere; there were tears in their eyes. That is the way Canada wants to have it. That is the way Canada wants to keep it.

Being a Canadian means having an open mind and an open heart. It means accepting each other's differences, celebrating them and not condemning their differences. Being a Canadian means sharing generously. Canada has much to offer those who come here. Canada offers a potential for self-development that exists in few other countries in the world. Tolerance, generosity and potential bind Canadians together, attract newcomers to our shores and brought our forebears to the country many centuries ago.

The first step on the road to obtaining Canadian citizenship is to become a landed immigrant or to be found to be a convention refugee. If we do not protect our immigration and refugee system from abuse we endanger the citizenship system, which demeans the concept of Canadian citizenship.

Bill C-44 is a manifestation of our government's responsibility to protect new, old and potential Canadians from hoodlums that would like Canadian citizenship under false pretences. A Canadian passport is a very precious possession. Inside the cover of every Canadian passport issued we can read these words:

The Secretary of State for External Affairs Canada requires that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer of this pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance as may be necessary.

And at the bottom of the facing page it reads: "The bearer of this passport is a Canadian citizen". There are people for whom these words mean nothing. The promise and protection they offer means nothing to them. They seem to come to this country to make deals, and they would abuse the system if they had the chance to do so.

Fortunately these people are few and far between. The overwhelming majority of newcomers to Canada see these words as a source of protection, pride and hope. They see these words as a chance to better themselves in a country that welcomes new Canadians. They see these words as a promise of freedom, both in Canada and abroad.

However for a tiny group of people who do not share this vision and who would abuse their status as immigrants the country has laws. We want to prohibit any serious and dangerous criminals from becoming fellow Canadians or from being able to stay here. We want to give enforcement officers the power to seize documents from international mail that might be used by people who do not deserve to have citizenship here.

We want to change some of the responsibilities of the Immigration and Refugee Board. We want to make sure that if there must be exceptions to the rule it is the minister who shall judge those exceptions and be accountable for them in the House. We want to close the loopholes that have been exploited by those who would pervert the process of becoming a Canadian citizen.

The tools to accomplish these things are in Bill C-44. It is as simple as that. By letting hoods and thugs into the country we tarnish what it means to be Canadian. We must never let that happen.

Canadians will not tolerate an abuse of our generosity. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said to Canada's chiefs of police last month: "No Canadian should have to accept such a slap in the face". Even a few abuses, and there are very few, destroy the trust of Canadians in our immigration system. Abuse erodes the acceptance of Canadians of a progressive immigration policy.

I call on hon. members of the House to act as Canadians want us to act, to apply the laws of Canada as Canadians want the laws applied and to continue Canada's long tradition of a tolerant, generous, progressive and enlightened immigration policy. I ask that we move swiftly to protect the integrity of the Canadian passport and give meaning to the words found inside.

To that end, I call on all members of the House to support Bill C-44. We owe it to the people of Canada who have placed their confidence in us as leaders and legislators. We owe it to our neighbourhoods, our families and our friends.

The safer Canada of tomorrow is in our hands today.

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1:10 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to talk this afternoon on Bill C-44, an act to amend the Immigration Act. As members have heard, the member for Calgary Northeast says that while the bill has made some small beginnings, it does not go far enough to warrant our support and to vote in favour of the bill.

The government seems to be sending out mixed messages. I quote from page 5792 of Hansard dated September 19, 1994 when the minister was giving his speech on the introduction of this bill:

The actions of a small group of people are causing Canadians to question the very limits and the very merits of a system that has done much to build our nation as we know it. In short, the deeds of a few have cast a shadow over the reputations of many.

On the subsequent page it reads:

Abuse of the system by a few has been cause for alarm. While the numbers of those causing the problem are small, the damage they have done is large.

We have read the reports, heard the stories, seen the pictures or maybe even attended a funeral. A criminal minority has used the immigration system to its own advantage. There has been slow enforcement and some of us have watched with growing anger while a justice and immigration appeals system was used as a stalling tactic to delay departure orders.

The minister says he is concerned about the criminal element that has tainted and tarnished the reputation of our immigration and refugee policy.

Earlier this morning the Reform Party presented a motion to amend the bill that the minister introduced. We introduced a motion to decline to give second reading to this bill and "to make a consequential amendment to the Customs Act because of its failure to bar, prior to a refugee hearing and an application for permanent residence, those who have been convicted of a crime that would carry a sentence in Canada of 10 years or more and those individuals who fall under the category of persons listed in section 19(1) and (2) of the Immigration Act".

That motion was defeated by the Liberal Party. The Bloc Quebecois of course joined the Liberals and defeated any attempt by the Reform Party to put some real teeth into the minister's bill. That is why I say we have mixed messages coming from the government where it talks tough. When the Reform Party says that we want to really talk tough, the government backs down and nothing really gets going.

The fundamental philosophy of the Canadian refugee policy needs to be altered. The current philosophy seems to say that a refugee is into this country unless we can prove at a later date that he or she should not be in, at which point in time deportation hearings begin.

That philosophy needs to be reversed to say that a person cannot come into this country unless there are good reasons why he or she should be allowed in. I know and I endorse a policy of opening our doors to millions of refugees, the hundreds of thousands of refugees who seek and have obtained a safe haven in this country. Of the millions around the world there are few who are brave enough, lucky enough or enterprising enough to make it to our shores. However far too many times those who were brave enough, lucky enough or enterprising enough were actually the perpetrators of the prosecution.

The first thing we must be aware of when a refugee applies for refugee status is that they need not necessarily be the helpless and hapless victim of persecution. Refugees should not be

allowed automatic entry into this country and move around freely until three specific checks have been performed.

Number one, we should verify they are indeed helpless and hapless innocent victims of persecution and not the perpetrators of the persecution themselves. In the last couple of years all of us have seen situations in the newspapers where we have definitely found that refugee applicants are not refugees but the cause of the refugee problem.

Two, we should also check that they are not criminals who have a record of violent crime in the countries where they come from.

Number three is that we have not barred them entry for failing to meet the first two criteria or for abusing the privilege of being in Canada and carrying out criminal activities. This is basically saying that if we have deported once, why go through the hassle of even thinking about it again. Let us call the situation as it is.

Only after they meet those three checks should we consider that Canada would be available as a safe haven for them.

This bill has some positive features such as stripping the Immigration and Refugee Board of its ability to overturn deportation orders. It is long overdue. We have had appeal after appeal after appeal, when it is absolutely obvious there is no way we should even be considering the application. The minister himself referred to the embarrassment of the appeal board having to go to a Kingston prison to hold hearings with convicted murderers to find out whether or not they should be allowed entry.

The bureaucratic process grinds on spending money, when I know and everybody else in this country knows that the answer is to let us get them out and get them out now.

The bill also ensures that someone convicted of a crime in Canada which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or more will automatically be subject to a deportation order that can only be appealed to the minister. That is one of the better parts of the bill, but as I say it does not go very far in our point of view.

One thing we are concerned about is that the bill does not identify criminals before they are allowed into the country. No criminal checks are performed on the claimant until his refugee status has been determined. I had to scratch my head to understand the logic here.

Ordinary Canadians are telling me that surely this is putting the cart before the horse. Why would we allow a refugee in if we are going to find out subsequent to granting him refugee status that he is a serious criminal from wherever he came and does not deserve refugee status? Then we have to turn around and get the process in order to ship him back out, when we could have stopped him long, long before. This seems to be an example of the refugee and immigration industry cranking through the mill just to keep the system going and keep them all employed.

We say the criminal checks should be front and centre of the review process, not after the fact. When it comes to deportation, it seems that this bill is a tiger without teeth. There is a major difference between a deportation order and a deportation itself. Last year 25,000 deportation orders resulted in only 8,200 deportations. So we have a law that is being laughed at, ignored and ridiculed by people who we find undesirable in the first place and who we want out of the country.

Canadians I have spoken to also want the assurance that once an individual has been deported he will not be allowed into Canada again. That seems a fairly simple and straightforward thing. Once someone has been deported immigration officials should be able to say no at the border, long before the individual sets one foot on Canadian soil. If we have been through the deportation order once, why would we even think about doing it again? Millions of dollars are wasted as the whole industry churns on to arrive at a decision that should be obvious and already concluded. Once someone has been deported they are out to stay out. Out should mean out.

I think I can congratulate the minister for his about turn. He is halfway around the U-turn from his position this spring when Parliament first sat. At that time he was quite satisfied in many ways with the immigration department and the levels of immigration in this country.

However this bill demonstrates he has been listening to Reform members and this House and to Canadians across this land and he has discovered there are many more Reformers in Canada on the immigration policy than there are Liberals. It is, however, unfortunate that he did not listen more closely and complete the entire U-turn. If he had paid closer attention some of the problems and the deficiencies that are still present in this bill would have been cleared up.

It is also unfortunate the minister did not act more like the ordinary Canadian. It makes perfect sense to everyone I have spoken to, although I have to admit I have not spoken to the minister, that we should ensure that individuals are not criminals before we allow them into our country. Something that simple seems to be beyond the minister's comprehension.

In conclusion this bill represents a small first step, but such a small first step that we cannot support it. The minister should listen more attentively to the wishes of Canadians and to Reform members in this House.

While the bill deals with some of the issues, it does not tackle the fundamental problem of criminals entering into Canada. It does not resolve the process that allows refugees to be in limbo

for years while they build a social case for staying in Canada that has nothing to do with why they left in the first place.

If the minister wants my support he has to go all the way around the U-turn and make a serious attempt at solving Canada's definitely serious immigration problems.