Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-44, which is an amendment to clarify and codify changes to the Immigration Act.
The people of Canada will not tolerate the abuse of our generosity. Even a few abuses destroy the trust Canadians have in our immigration policies of fairness and tolerance. It also means that Canadians' acceptance of a progressive immigration policy is compromised.
Bill C-44 will further the government's commitment to control illegal immigration and control our borders. This bill also provides further evidence that we take our commitments of the trust of the Canadian people seriously.
There are four main areas where Bill C-44 will improve the Immigration Act.
This bill will assist our frontline people to intervene in situations where someone is using the system to his or her advantage. As an example, a person who can have more than one claim before the Immigration and Refugee Board means the system becomes clogged with overlapping, repetitive, frivolous claims. The IRB is spending too much time investigating the already investigated and assessing the already assessed. Under Bill C-44 the first claim will take precedence and all subsequent claims will be terminated.
This bill will help to keep serious criminals out of the refugee determination system. At any time in the refugee determination process if senior immigration officials discover a serious criminal offence either in Canada or abroad, they will be able to suspend and terminate the process before the Immigration and Refugee Board makes a final decision.
Claims for refugee status can be dismissed for a number of reasons. The amendments in Bill C-44 will prohibit people convicted of serious crimes from claiming refugee status.
Under the Geneva convention on refugees, criminality is a valid basis for refusing a refugee claim. Bill C-44 will encourage this, as well as provisions for the exclusion of war criminals. As well the IAD will no longer have the power to allow serious criminals to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The minister will assume the authority to decide humanitarian and compassionate exceptions. Of course the IAD will still have the jurisdiction to grant stays of removal for reasons of law or fact or a mix of law and fact as it does now.
Finally, immigration officers will have the authority to seize identity documents sent by international mail. There is a disturbing trend toward the distribution of genuine counterfeit visas, passports and identity documents as part of attempts to bring illegal immigrants to Canada.
To that end customs officers will have the authority to examine international packages for documents like passports, visas, health cards and other documentation. The suspect material will be referred to an immigration officer who will determine if these documents might furnish evidence relevant to attempts to get around the immigration policy.
There are other pertinent amendments contained in Bill C-44. These specifics can be found in the relevant documents you have before you, Mr. Speaker. However, the central theme of my remarks is to endorse the spirit of the changes proposed in Bill C-44. The people of Canada want to see laws applied with some consistency and fairness. Where persons have broken the law or have misinterpreted their claim as a refugee or are trying to manipulate the system and the spirit of the Immigration Act we want to have the ability to act in the best interest of Canada.
If that means throwing a person out then it means throwing that person out. If it means convicting them of fraud with jail time then it means a conviction for fraud and jail time. It also means that we are going to enforce the laws reasonably, fairly and equally. The system is going to be changed for the better with this bill.
I call on all hon. members of this House to act as Canadians want us to act, to apply the laws as Canadians want the laws applied and to continue the tradition of fair, progressive and enlightened immigration that Canadians have grown accustomed to. To that end I call on all hon. members of this House to support Bill C-44.