House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-44.



11 a.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely, Mr. Berger, member for the electoral district of Saint-Henri-Westmount, by resignation on December 28, 1994.

Pursuant to subsection 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed on Wednesday, December 28, 1994 my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.

Point Of Order

11 a.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, prior to the Christmas recess I made some unacceptable comments on a decision that the Speaker made, which I appreciate in the traditions of Parliament were inappropriate. I suggested some motives which was also inappropriate. This morning I wish to apologize for any problems that those remarks might have caused you, Mr. Speaker, and withdraw those remarks.

Point Of Order

11 a.m.

The Speaker

I accept, of course, the explanation of the hon. member for Kamloops.

I remind all hon. colleagues that any reflection on the decisions of the Chair cause problems for us as a House of Commons. I encourage hon. members to be very careful in any remarks they make either inside the House or outside.

After all I am a servant of the House and I am a servant of each and every one of you as members of Parliament. As such, any words said that could in any way detract not so much from me but from the Chair itself, and the institution, are not acceptable to the House.

I do thank the hon. member for Kamloops for his words. I accept them and I consider the matter to be closed.

Canadian Potato Marketing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Vic Althouse NDP Mackenzie, SK

moved that Bill C-266, an act respecting the orderly marketing of potatoes, be read the second time and referred to a legislative committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am proposing a private member's bill today that would have the effect of creating a national marketing agency for potatoes.

As I go through the reasons for the bill members will see that probably there are simpler ways of dealing with this problem. However because Parliament in the past 20 years has been loath to adopt a simpler way and has forced the dealing of national agencies commodity by commodity, I am following that process.

During the course of my remarks I will point out a simpler way. First let us recall that marketing boards are a relatively new method of dealing with the bargaining power vis-à-vis sellers and buyers. It dates back to the 1930s when New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom brought in marketing board legislation. Canada followed shortly thereafter with its first major marketing board, the wheat marketing board, introduced by a Conservative government in 1935.

The wheat board still exists. It has only undergone a few minor amendments and changes in the intervening years. Numerous provincial boards and agencies exist across the country with only a handful of agencies operating on a national basis. Chicken, turkey, eggs, hatching eggs and dairy products join wheat and barley, and western wheat and barley at that, as products marketed by national marketing agencies.

I argue this is a very slow progress. Agricultural producers are being forced to adopt very ancient means as private individuals in what has become a huge international market. Buyers have control in dozens of countries, being the principal buyers, and

the bargaining power between the buyers and sellers is not even close to equal.

Even though some people might argue that the new information technology permits people on farms to link into the latest marketing information. Information alone does not provide those farmers with the ultimate marketing power that they require, namely, to be able to fill a whole shipload of a product and to provide hundreds of boxcar loads of the product to a particular purchaser in the required time, of the required volumes and grades necessary. Only an agency acting on behalf of all of the producers can hope to perform that function.

The fact that information is a little faster now than it was in the 1930s does not address the real problem of marketing, which is the ability to put together large amounts of product to fit the needs of the very large corporate buyers that are buying internationally these days.

In the 1970s Parliament had an opportunity to put a bill before the country that would permit the various provincial marketing boards. These have to be put together on a provincial basis because, as members know, agriculture production is under the aegis of the provinces in our Constitution.

It is only when the product is marketed across borders that the federal sphere is infringed on and federal rights are taken into account. Therefore provincial marketing boards that wish to market product that is handled by a marketing board in another province have to apply to the federal jurisdiction for the power to go beyond their borders.

This is usually granted relatively simply. However it does not take away the problem that exists for all commodities not already under a national plan of competing one province against the other.

I was involved in the early 1970s in putting together a marketing board for hogs in the province of Saskatchewan. It was at about the same time that similar boards were put together in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. They each followed the example of Ontario a few years previous to that.

We had worked very hard to come together as those four western provinces to offer hogs to foreign and domestic buyers over one desk. We had political agreement. We had agreement from the farmers involved. Yet when the final signatures were required on all the multitude of agreements that this required, the heads of each of the boards found it very difficult to put their signatures to paper because that would have seen the demise of at least three of the positions. We do not need four presidents in order to run one regional marketing board. It fell down at that level.

We need some federal guidelines and federal guidance if we are going to be able to achieve the coming together that is required if producers of the various commodities are going to be efficient and useful in meeting the market trends that are out there right now.

The marketing board concept is really not much different for those who are interested in history of marketing than the power the state gave four and five hundred years ago to corporations. It is a power that over time has been granted to corporations simply on application.

Even up to 30 or 40 years ago to strike a new corporation, the provisional board of directors had to come to the House of Commons and the Senate in order for that corporation to be set in motion and to be created. That has not been the case for many decades.

Yet in order for farmers to form an organization that would have similar powers in the marketplace, this ancient institution still requires that a special bill be prepared and that special requirements be made. We still have to be very cognizant of the federal-provincial powers. We have to go through the process of proposing, as I am, a shell of an agency that would be able to function nationally that the provincial agencies can link into.

Passing this legislation would not instantly create a national marketing agency. It would only be an effective national agency when the provincial marketing boards decide to avail themselves of the powers that are there in the federal act which would be passed.

This slow, cumbersome process could have been sped up if in the early 1970s when the farm products marketing councils were established, and the national farm products marketing act which brought those agencies into effect had permitted the usage of national legislation for all farm products. However, there was some agitation on the part of mainly Alberta cattlemen concerning rights to establish an agency that would include management of supply, which is only a normal thing for any marketing agency.

Ask General Motors, Ford or Beatrice Foods. Any of the big players always have a good handle on their supplies. They are manufacturing the product. They make certain they do not manufacture or process more than they have sales for. They make certain they are able to manage the product so it arrives at the customer's door on the day the customer wants it; not later, not sooner, right on time. This is the kind of service the marketing boards have performed and can perform for producers who are part of a marketing agency.

The problem with the provincial agencies is that they often are not large enough to meet the kind of bargaining conditions of the corporations they deal with. Most of the processors and handlers of potatoes are huge international conglomerates. They have access to markets all over the world. When dealing with a

little potato board from Prince Edward Island or Manitoba the farmers very quickly find that they do not have very much clout when it comes to dictating terms of price and terms and conditions of how many potatoes will be produced, how they will be produced and what price the processor will pay for them. The people who are handling fresh potatoes to supermarket also have extremely large bargaining clout in that there are very few supermarket chains across North America that the producers must face on a day to day basis.

The marketing agency can provide the management of the product to the final destination on time and at the most beneficial price to the producer rather than always at the behest of the various buyers who can very quickly take advantage of a day when individual producers through their own unco-ordinated activities may be offering-usually they are offering-far more product on any given day than the system needs. Therefore they are always accepting a much less than optimal price because they are presenting for sale far more product than they are able to sell and deliver. As far as the buyer is concerned that surplus of product is always available to them. They take advantage of that, keeping the price lower than it would otherwise be.

Management of supply is more possible under marketing boards. I would note that we have other ways of managing supply. Notable and somewhat ironic, given their long opposition to any legislation that would permit supply management for all general farm products including beef, are the official cattlemen associations based in Alberta and to a certain extent in southwestern Saskatchewan. They have always argued that they are free marketers, that they do not want to have anything to do with supply management. It is ironic and somewhat instructive to note that they are probably one industry that has been very effective at controlling supplies into North America, particularly the Canada-U.S. markets. They have managed by other means to put political pressure where it matters and have limited on a consistent basis the amount of imports, whether from Ireland and the European economic community or whether from New Zealand and Australia. By setting quotas on those imports they are indulging in supply management.

The advantages of the seller versus the buyer are being eschewed by cattle producers in most areas right now. For some time there was a very effective marketing agency in Saskatchewan that was strictly voluntary where producers could market through the beef marketing commission and that gained quite a lot of acceptance and approval. However, for political reasons that was struck down by the government of Grant Devine a few years ago. Farmers are now back in the business of negotiating their own prices each day. They find, when they compare notes, that they are not being treated equitably for the same day's market.

I found when I began drafting this legislation that the simplest answer would have been to amend the Natural Products Marketing Act so that we pull out the sections the cattlemen insisted on being in there in the early 1970s which would have had the effect of permitting all fruits, vegetables, tobacco, farm products, honey, meats, cereals and oilseeds. Every farm product would have been the simplest solution but I was told that this would somehow impinge upon the royal prerogative because a small section of that act permits the government to finance such new agencies. Private members do not have the privilege of establishing a law or adding to a law that would perhaps cost the government some money out of the consolidated revenue fund.

I have had to resort to setting up what is, I admit, a shell agency that has no funds. It would simply exist and be funded by producers as the provincial agencies decide to become part of a national agency and use this as a forum or beginning again a debate as to whether producers of potatoes would have some benefit by using a national marketing agency.

This has been a program that many producers have engaged in several times in the last couple of decades. In the early 1970s there was a determined effort to put together a national marketing agency for potatoes. The legislation was being worked upon. The plan was being worked upon. A very detailed proposal was put forward. Somehow it fell apart. Twice since that time similar efforts have gone forward, only to be stopped at the political level.

I wish the new group of parliamentarians in the House now-almost 200 people who have never been here before-would again think about the issue, look at the possibilities here and bring agricultural marketing into the 20th if not the 21st century and bring us up to date with the corporate sector which for more than 500 years has had the ability to simply go to government and get immediate acceptance for its application to allow many people to come together under one agency and take advantage of all of the benefits that such a coming together reaps.

By persisting on keeping the old National Products Marketing Act which was flawed from the beginning on the books would be something like going back in time and saying corporations can be established but only to gather and market furs, because in Canada the Hudson Bay Company was one of the first corporations to function on our soil even though the idea of a corporation had existed in Europe some time before.

It is time for us to be brought up to date to permit our farmers to use all of the tools that their competitors and their opponents in the market have. I would urge members of Parliament to

consider giving that right to farmers to form national agencies for all products, but specifically here today for potatoes.

Canadian Potato Marketing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario


Lyle Vanclief LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to make some comments on Bill C-266 before the House this morning, presented by the member for Mackenzie.

The comments I will make are as a result of a discussion with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food on the matter of this bill and also as a former potato grower myself for a few years.

Bill C-266 is a well intentioned proposal to promote the orderly marketing of potatoes in Canada. I do not believe this bill is needed or wanted by the industry. The potato industry is one that has made great strides over the last few years. It is developing workable processes to resolve major issues at a national level and to take control of its own future.

Last fall I had the opportunity to speak to the potato growers of Alberta at their annual meeting. I can assure this House that at the meeting and in a small discussion with the executive of the potato growers of Alberta there was no one in the general meeting or the executive of that very vibrant organization who even mentioned supply management as a goal of their industry.

This is not to say that the idea had never come before the industry previously. Twice in the past number of years the potato industry has examined it and the possibility of federal legislation during the 1980s and earlier in the 1970s. On both occasions it was unable to come to a workable consensus within the industry.

This bill would create a Canadian potato marketing commission that would act, quoting from the bill, as the sole agent for all imported potatoes and all potatoes produced in Canada. This commission would also have extensive powers including the buying, storing and selling potatoes.

When the potato industry was seeking national agencies in the past its major objectives were to stabilize prices and to remove surplus so that it could continue to market its product in an organized fashion; in other words, to maintain traditional markets at traditional prices. It did not want an agency that would control its marketing.

Through all the troubles in recent years the industry has strengthened its infrastructure nationally with the formation of the potato committee executive of the Canadian horticultural council in 1992. That committee has begun dealing directly with issues affecting the industry in Canada. The committee has taken on a big responsibility.

I am confident that the industry and the provincial government representatives on the potato committee executive will continue to deal successfully with future problems and they will mature even further in their decision making. This maturing process will lead to a further strenghthening of the potato industry at a national level and the development of sound, strategic directions for the industry to follow in its production and marketing endeavours.

Bill C-266 would restrict production and marketing of potatoes to producers holding permit books and would prescribe delivery points and quotas.

Potatoes are a very perishable product. They have to be marketed in a timely and efficient manner to meet good delivery standards. The responsibility for good shipping and handling conditions must remain as much as possible between the producer and the receiver.

In recent years the industry has had to deal with many issues and some of them have not been pleasant to deal with. There have been overproduction, low prices, drought, PVY-n, late blight and various other issues which have seriously affected the marketing of potatoes both within Canada and in our export markets. Despite these difficulties potato production in Canada keeps reaching new peaks with records being set in various parts of the country every year. Across Canada this industry is becoming more and more aggressive, strengthening existing markets and developing new ones with strong returns to producers. Our potato industry today is very healthy. It will continue to be healthy as it competes effectively in open markets around the world.

In addition our government is a promoter of free trade. A quota system for the marketing of potatoes would only erect more barriers to trade in Canada and with our trading partners.

I just want to remind everyone again that the potato industry in Canada is making great strides in increasing production, increasing revenues and expanding its markets worldwide. The industry has developed an infrastructure that meets its needs at the provincial and national levels and is becoming even more aggressive in finding its own solutions to its own concerns.

The industry, I repeat, has shown no visible support for the proposal contained in Bill C-266. Until the industry identifies the need for further national legislation to accomplish its goals I see no reason to proceed any further with Bill C-266.

Canadian Potato Marketing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat intrigued by Bill C-266, the bill before the House today.

This is the first time we have an opportunity to deal with the agricultural sector as it affects potato producers. The purpose of

this bill, introduced by the hon. member for Mackenzie, is to ensure the orderly marketing of potatoes, having due regard to the interests of producers as well as consumers.

At first, I thought a bill that introduced changes in the marketing system as it affects producers and consumers was entirely justified. Since I am not an expert, however, I decided to get in touch with a number of agencies and potato producers to find out what they had to say. In fact, I met a dozen potato producers in Quebec and several in New Brunswick, who were astonished that a federal member would bother to call them and even go to see them to find out what they wanted, and who thanked me for taking the trouble.

I wanted to make sure this bill faithfully reflected the needs of this particular sector. People actively involved in this agricultural sector were quick to explain that the changes proposed in Bill C-266 did not suit them at all.

Before deciding how to change existing procedures, we must understand the forces at work in the current potato marketing system. Apparently, there are no national regulations on potato prices. This means that the market is controlled by interprovincial marketing decisions. In other words, the provinces are self regulating.

At this point, perhaps I may recall that four years ago in New Brunswick, the fall harvest was exceptionally abundant. To maintain potato prices, the provincial and federal governments and the New Brunswick association of potato producers agreed to destroy several tonnes to keep prices as high as possible, since the crop was well in excess of demand.

This approach makes it difficult to set up a system under which all provinces would have to conform to the same standards.

The idea of setting up a national mechanism is not new. In the early 1980s, the provinces were consulted about the possibility of setting up a mechanism of this sort. From the consultations, it was obvious that the positions of certain regions were totally irreconcilable.

The western market, for example, is import based. It is the complete opposite of the eastern market, which is largely export driven. Furthermore, it appears that many provinces have a potato producers association of their own. Since regional objectives may vary, the roles of these associations may be diametrically opposed.

Let us take a look at the Fédération des producteurs de pommes de terre du Québec by way of example. It is a labour organization and has both a political and a marketing focus. The Manitoba association, on the other hand, is concerned strictly with marketing.

Quebec potato producers have had a dual scheme since 1979. It covers advertising campaigns as well as the control of potato quality. Moreover, as many producers have their own packing companies, they look after selling their products themselves. They have created a customized marketing system for themselves. What more could you want, Mr. Speaker?

As I see it, the provincial producers are already well organized. They develop their own markets and their own way of operating. I do not see any point in centralizing and messing up a system that works the way the people using it like it. As I said earlier, I met with several of them and they recommended that I not support Bill C-266 tabled by the hon. member for Mackenzie.

Furthermore, a working group was created in 1990-as was mentioned earlier-to evaluate the various options for implementing a potato marketing system, to evaluate, for instance, the advisability of establishing a Canadian potato board or to examine the possibility of setting up a supply management system or other options. The group had to interrupt its work in 1990 and never produced a final report. And even if they had concluded their work in some way, their findings would no doubt have been overtaken by market developments.

In view of free trade, previous studies would perhaps be less relevant today. GATT and NAFTA have changed the rules of the game. Were it indeed advisable to create a national system as proposed in the bill, one would first have to consider all the new aspects of today's market.

If my information is correct, this is not the first time a measure such as Bill C-266 has been presented in the House. The aim of the member proposing this bill, namely to assist potato producers, is most admirable. Bill C-266 shows a desire to bring together producers and consumers. Research in this area could be financed, for example, by deductions from producers, as is the case for wheat and barley under Bill C-50 regarding the Canadian Wheat Board, which the House of Commons passed before the holidays.

There is, however, a major difference between these two sectors. Grain producers themselves asked to be able to make this kind of contribution. In my opinion, there is no need to respond to needs that potato producers have not expressed. Let us look at it this way: western grain, barley and wheat producers had asked the House of Commons to pass this kind of bill; potato producers did not and have no desire to do so.

Besides, it may seem advantageous to promote a product by pooling all available resources. However, if the objectives of the parties are irreconcilable, as is the case with the provinces, pretending to cover all bases by trying to put producers and consumers into the same mold can only throw a wrench into the works.

In closing, I would simply like to inform the hon. member for MacKenzie that, unfortunately, the Bloc Quebecois will not support his bill since all the farm producers, all the potato producers from Quebec who were consulted do not see the need for it and unanimously asked us to oppose the bill, which the Bloc Quebecois will do.

Canadian Potato Marketing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak this morning on Bill C-266 sponsored by the member for Mackenzie.

I must tell the member for Mackenzie that this bill is really an untimely gesture in the history of the potato industry. Usually there is a demand for this type of legislation from producers or from the provinces. In this case I do not detect any support for a bill of this sort from producers, from provincial governments, or from departments of agriculture. It has been some time since there has been any kind of demand for an orderly marketing system for potatoes.

I remember back in the 1980s during an election campaign there was a move by the producers in Prince Edward Island and eastern Canada to set up an orderly marketing system. At that time there were some difficulties for a number of years in marketing potatoes for a fair price or for marketing potatoes for any price.

An effort was made by Parliament to initiate discussions that might lead to an orderly marketing system for potatoes. That effort died rather quickly. The demand for potatoes and the marketing problem they were experiencing in the late 1970s disappeared and the enthusiasm the producers had for an eastern potato marketing board waned pretty quickly. Basically the effort went nowhere.

In the early 1990s I am told, although I did not realize this until we looked into the background material for the bill, an effort was made nationally for an orderly marketing of potatoes. It also died because of lack of support.

Why is the bill being brought forward at this moment when the marketing of potatoes has never been better? The demand for potatoes has never been better and the prices paid to producers have rarely been higher. If we had twice as many potatoes in Prince Edward Island as we do now, we would be able to sell them all.

There is demand from Europe. We are getting calls from countries that until this year probably never knew Prince Edward Island existed. They are phoning our exporters looking for potatoes.

This is an unusual year for that kind of demand. Even without the drought or whatever affected the potato crop in Europe, the demand for the processing of potatoes is growing steadily year after year. The demand for table potatoes and for P.E.I. seed potatoes has rebounded from the PVY-n crisis.

The industry is in a very healthy position. There is no guarantee it will always be in a healthy position but if there are any free market farmers in Canada, the eastern Canadian potato producers have to be in that group. They have very rarely had to rely on government for any kind of stabilization or bailouts for their industry. They grew their own potatoes. They marketed their own potatoes. They exported their own potatoes and developed their own markets in South America and overseas in Algeria and the Middle East. They have been doing a tremendous job. They do not really see how government could assist them in any way in the selling of their crop.

In the whole situation mentioned earlier by a Bloc member with respect to free trade, GATT, NAFTA and so on, the potato industry is probably more ready for these efforts in bringing down trade barriers than any other commodity group in this country. It is that those in the potato industry have never been in favour of trade barriers. They have always had to rely on a free trade spirit in order to market their crop.

Even with that, since 1980, the last time there was a demand for this type of legislation, the number of acres of potatoes grown has come close to doubling. That is in the last 15 years. They have not only been able to market those potatoes; on a yearly basis, they have been able to increase their production and to sell everything they have had.

The only experience they have had with government has been as a result of the PVY-n crisis and it was thought they would not be be able to market their potatoes in 1991 and 1992. The government assisted the growers in destroying thousands and thousands of pounds of potatoes for a certain price in order to relieve the market of potatoes in storage.

What happened a few months later was that there was a demand for the potatoes that were destroyed. They would have received a lot more money out in the marketplace than they did out of government. Any time the government has been associated with the market it tends to distort it. It is better left to the market system, especially these days. It is a free market commodity and has been doing quite well.

I am sorry I cannot lend any support to my colleague from the NDP for this bill. Basically there is no support from either the potato producers or the governments in eastern Canada.

Canadian Potato Marketing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on this private members' Bill C-266, an act respecting the orderly marketing of potatoes.

My speech has four main points. First, I will explain what this bill is about very briefly. Second, I will explain why this bill has failed in the past and will not be supported again in this House as we have seen from the speeches so far, in particular from the governing party. Third, I will outline the Reform Party's posi-

tion on supply management and supply managed products. Finally, I will put forward some viable alternatives to government involvement through new supply managed industries.

The stated purpose of this bill is to ensure the orderly marketing of potatoes having due regard to the interests of producers as well as to consumers. It would establish a corporate body to be known as the Canadian potato marketing commission.

The commission would be composed of five to nine members who would not receive pay from government. The commission would operate in a somewhat similar fashion to that of the Canadian Wheat Board. It would act as a sole marketing agent for all imported potatoes and for potatoes produced in Canada.

The commission, using a permit book system as the wheat board does, would pay producers to sell potatoes to the board. What we would have is a single desk buyer as we have with the Canadian Wheat Board.

Payments made to the consolidated revenue fund to offset any expenses the commission may have must be approved by Parliament. I was encouraged to see at least in the proposal there was the recognition that when we come to an expenditure of taxpayers' money in order to have proper accountability it should have approval by Parliament and not just by governor in council, the cabinet or the minister. That is what this bill is about.

This bill has been attempted before and has failed. The member for Mackenzie has attempted to pass the same bill. Bill C-246, an act respecting the orderly marketing of potatoes, received first reading on May 30, 1989. Bill C-252, an act respecting the orderly marketing of potatoes, received first reading June 19, 1991. Now here we go again with Bill C-266, an act respecting the orderly marketing of potatoes. I wonder if this member is trying to make an argument in favour of term limits for politicians so that we get new ideas into this House, ideas that change with the changing market conditions.

The fact this is the third time in six years the same member has put forward the same bill certainly indicates one thing: he holds an ideology; he sticks to his ideology regardless of whether or not producers agree with that ideology. Hon. members opposite have presented an overview of the state of the potato marketing industry and the general lack of support on the part of farmers and processors for this type of a bill.

An attempt was also made in 1980 to establish a potato marketing agency for eastern Canada. Public hearings were held, reports were submitted and the idea failed. The national potato agency task force presented its report for a program for the marketing of potatoes in Canada to the minister of agriculture and the chairman of the National Farm Products Marketing Council on November 17, 1986 but nothing came of it.

In February 1988 the National Farm Products Marketing Council submitted a report on the inquiry into the merits of establishing a national marketing agency for potatoes. On April 28, 1988 Judge Teitelbaum of the Federal Court of Canada trial division at the request of a group of potato processors issued an order quashing the report. The conclusions and recommendations contained in the report were never implemented.

In the past there was never enough collective enthusiasm to implement a potato marketing agency. In the present it is not an idea whose time has come. In fact it is clearly an idea whose time has gone.

With the passage of the Uruguay round of GATT, the free trade agreement and NAFTA, the existing government co-ordinated marketing agencies have come under fire. In recent news stories we have heard some of the results of Canada putting tariff levels at the rate they are in other supply managed industries. There is a lot of pressure particularly from our largest trading partner, the United States, to have a rapid reduction in the tariff protection in the present supply managed industries. I am surprised the hon. member is proposing to put in place a new supply managed industry board under this type of situation.

On January 28 the Canadian Wheat Board was under fire because it requires end user certificates on imported American wheat. The Americans' response is to impose end user certificates on Canadian wheat entering the United States. If this threat were to become a reality the result would indeed cause a large problem for Canadian grain farmers who do ship Canadian grain into the United States. It would cause an increase in paperwork and another level of regulation which is totally unwanted and not needed by farmers.

The United States has also served notice that it plans to challenge Canada's new import duties on dairy and poultry products. I mentioned this a few minutes ago. The levels set under GATT according to the United States really go against the spirit and the terms of NAFTA. That is the argument the United States has been using. Again, the mood just is not there on the part of the United States and certainly on the part of Canadian potato farmers for a new supply managed industry, especially when that industry is potatoes.

In terms of the disputes with the United States, who ends up being hurt by these disputes? It is not the bureaucrats who are hurt; it keeps them employed. It is not the politicians who are hurt; it gives them the spotlight and keeps their names in the news for a little longer. In the end it is the farmers who lose from these disputes. We want to do nothing that will encourage trading disputes.

I believe that having this bill which is being proposed today in Hansard could be considered an anachronism, an error in time.

My wife and I went to see "Richard III" last Friday night in Edmonton and as you know, Shakespeare is famous for the anachronisms in his plays, but there is a new anachronism in this play. "Richard III" came out on stage crippled up in a wheelchair, which of course is a new anachronism that was built in by the writers of this version of "Richard III".

This piece of legislation is very much like using a wheelchair in a play that took place hundreds of years before wheelchairs existed, electric wheelchairs in particular. I believe it is totally out of place.

I want to talk a little bit about Reform's position on supply management in general. Reform believes that farmers should definitely have the right to work together collectively. They should have the right to strengthen any part of their industry or their business they feel can be strengthened by this co-operative work.

For example, I believe there is a very strong future for co-operatives in agriculture. I also believe we will see farmers with other business people in small communities in particular forming new co-operatives as a mechanism to work together for the common advantage of the farmers and the processors involved. I encourage this type of activity. I believe there is a future for various other types of joint ventures but not for new supply managed industries.

The greatest service this government can provide to producers who are in the supply managed industry right now is to be honest and open with the farmers. We know the world is moving more and more to an open and free marketplace. Knowing that, the greatest service government can provide for farmers is to say: "We are moving to a system of more competition. We know it is going to be more difficult even for present supply managed industries to compete, but at least we are acknowledging it and we want to help in any way we can without interfering in the move to an open market system".

Clearly, this bill is totally out of place and I am very pleased to see the support from the members opposite.

Canadian Potato Marketing ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the subject of Bill C-266.

As the House knows the government recently concluded a comprehensive negotiation on a new GATT agreement which will create a new trade regime under the World Trade Organization. As a member of the GATT and the World Trade Organization, as well as being a signatory to the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada has created for itself many new and expanding opportunities and with those, certain international trade obligations.

Bill C-266 as it is written suggests that a commission would, as the sole marketing agent, control all imports and all exports of potatoes. Under NAFTA and the MTN Canada has agreed not-let me stress not-to introduce any prohibitions or restrictions on the importation or exportation of goods.

If Canada were to change its current policies and thereby affect current and future access to our market, Canada would be modifying benefits that our trading partners would expect to accrue under the provisions of the trade agreements. This could be subject to challenge by our trading partners.

The Canadian potato and processing industries are major exporters and have significant interests in free trade and open markets. I realize the potato industry has been faced with many issues in recent years that have affected the marketing of potatoes both domestically and internationally. However, I do believe the issues would best be addressed in a manner that does not have negative implications on trade or violates our trade obligations.

For that reason I am not prepared to support Bill C-266 and I am sure that although the member opposite has real concern for that industry he can understand that in changing times we have to deal with the realities and that we are in a new trading pattern and these items will be dealt with in an open and free trade market.

Canadian Potato Marketing ActPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

Immigration ActGovernment Orders


York West Ontario


Sergio Marchi LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

moved that Bill C-44, an act to amend the Immigration Act and the Citizenship Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Customs Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I extend a warm word of welcome to all my colleagues as we resume this very important session of Canada's Parliament.

As we said in the immigration plan last November 1, the focus in immigration policy must be nation building and people and not criminals and their despicable deeds. It is time to get back to what we do best, building a nation that is strong and free.

However, the actions of a small criminal element that has infiltrated our immigration system have occupied our time and the public's attention for far too long. The actions of a few have

hurt the reputations of many. Logically we must respond to the few so that we may protect the many and uphold our laws. Bill C-44 accomplishes that twin goal.

There can be no equating the words criminal and immigrant. Immigrants helped build this country and are the men and women who have made history and the men and women who will help us build Canada's tomorrows. Criminals are only the riff-raff of society who are not even a footnote in the history of our proud immigration tradition.

Members on all sides of this House are to be congratulated on the speedy work in getting this legislation, Bill C-44, before the House of Commons at third reading. A special thanks to my very able parliamentary secretary, the member of Parliament for Halifax, as well to the committee members of my caucus who went well beyond the normal working days on this important piece of legislation.

The bill comes back with a number of amendments that will clarify timeframes, technical points and a transition period. This is very much a case in point of how this government first listens and then acts. Quite simply, the amendments to the immigration act that we are dealing with today in Bill C-44 will move us a significantly long way toward restoring integrity to our system.

The bill is an enforcement tool set. It allows us to fix some worn equipment without shutting down all the machinery.

I know there are those who would use criminal behaviour by a few as an excuse for draconian law. For those people, we have not gone far enough. To them I simply say, this government was not elected to shake a chainmail fist or wield a big stick.

Then there are those who say that we have gone too far, that we have reacted too strongly against the actions of just a few wrongdoers. To those Canadians let me say that although the criminal element that has intruded into the immigration process is tiny, it is at the very same time very destructive.

As a result the government has struck a middle course between those extremes. A balanced, realistic middle course is often the wisest course, for it takes us away from the rocks of extremism and reaction while steering us clear of the dead waters of those who would do nothing.

This legislation is a central component of our ten-year immigration strategy. It is not the most important part, but it is one of the two underpinnings that will make it successful. Fair access and the rule of law are the two principles embodied in our plan which was tabled on the floor of the House of Commons last November 1.

Those who abuse our nation's hospitalities and laws will not be given the privilege of access. It is simple: play by the rules or face the consequences. Canadians do not want any more queue jumping, any abusing of the system or any manipulating of the system. Most certainly we on the government side will strive to prevent criminals from taking the places of both legitimate refugees and legitimate immigrants to Canada.

The tools being provided here through Bill C-44 will allow law enforcement officials to get the job done. While I am on the subject of tools and law enforcement, let me pay tribute to the special police, RCMP and immigration task force that was recently established. It is making steady progress at removing foreign criminals from our midst. While the task force does not have any direct linkages with the legislation before us today, it is very much part and parcel of our resolve to restore integrity to the immigration and refugee process. That task force was also a response to our citizens' demands and needs and that task force is very much getting the job done. My government colleagues and I are very appreciative for those professional efforts.

I want to say in a straightforward, non-partisan way, that past governments, and that is governments in the plural, simply let too many people in the door without proper legislation in place to stop criminals.

Let me recap quickly for our colleagues in the House today the main points in this legislation.

First, serious criminals deemed to be a danger to the public will not be allowed to claim refugee status as a means to delaying their removal from Canada. For instance, we will not tolerate any longer those cases that we have read about in our newspapers or watched on our television sets in which a convicted murderer serving time in Kingston penitentiary now is able to compel the Immigration and Refugee Board to travel to that penitentiary to listen to an obviously unworthy refugee claim.

Second, appeals against removal orders by persons convicted of series crimes will be decided by the minister or the minister's designate and not by the immigration appeal division.

Third, senior immigration officers will be allowed to terminate refugee hearings because of criminality.

Another common sense application is if once the refugee process has started and subsequent to that starting information comes to the fore that the individual has committed a serious offence, we will now be able to stop that refugee hearing, move

it into an immigration inquiry hearing and proceed with the evidence provided before that tribunal.

If the information we receive is validated, that individual will be subject to deportation rather than any refugee hearing. Again, it is a practical response to some of the cases that over the last number of years have certainly caused much public attention and some public grief.

Four, this legislation will also give immigration officers the authority to seize identity documents from international mail if it is clear they are meant to be used to circumvent immigration and other Canadian requirements. As well, senior immigration officials will also be able to turn formerly deported people away from our borders if those individuals are attempting to come back to Canada without proper permission. This will now be done without having to go through the inquiry procedure that at present is mandated on those officials.

Fifth, it will ensure that persons with summary convictions, whether obtained inside Canada or abroad, would be inadmissible.

Furthermore, thanks to the co-operative spirit shown in this House by members opposite in allowing me to propose a new amendment at report stage, this legislation will prevent the release on day parole and unescorted temporary absences of inmates who face deportation following the completion of their sentences.

It is our firm belief that because these foreign criminals are not going to be reintegrated into Canadian society, there is no need to let them work slowly back into our Canadian communities. Once again, this is a common sense practical step forward. For this I would also like to thank for their co-operation Canada's Solicitor General and Canada's Minister of Justice.

Bill C-44 will also allow us to stop the processing of citizenship while that same person is undergoing an immigration inquiry. Once again, this is a practical step forward in which the right and the left hands will work in conjunction with each other as opposed to being in a vacuum apart from each other.

As I mentioned earlier, this government is prone to listen before it acts. As a result of our listening to the committee work, there are also a number of changes before the House today. Some involve the transition while others are designed to prevent costly and time consuming court challenges based on the scope of authority the bill gives to senior immigration officials.

Of a more substantive nature is the definition of what constitutes a serious crime. We propose to remove the right of appeal to the immigration refugee board on all grounds-I underline all grounds-for individuals certified to be a danger to the public. This means that those who have committed a crime involving violence, weapons, sexual assault or drug offences that are punishable with a sentence of 10 years or more will no longer be able to tie up our system.

They would retain their right to seek judicial review in the federal court. Of course humanitarian issues would be considered by the minister or the minister's designate when a decision has been rendered.

Persons not considered such a danger would retain their right of appeal on all grounds, including the humanitarian grounds, to the immigration appeal division.

This is good legislation and it will go a long way to removing the stigma that a few wrongdoers have placed on all immigrants. There is no welcome mat in this country for thugs and evildoers. They can stay right where they are.

We know that Canadians are a tolerant and compassionate people. These are some of the values that have allowed us to build the kind of society we are, distinguishing us from other countries and societies.

The public frustration and exacerbation expressed from time to time are very much aimed at those who have twisted the rules or those who have broken covenants with Canada. Accordingly Bill C-44 targets those people.

The problems we faced required the legislative action we are taking today. Let me be very clear: the porch light is on and the welcome mat is out for those who are genuine refugees, those who are escaping brutality and torture in their countries, individuals who are not only seeking out Canada as some would have us believe but seeking out other countries of the world. They are seeking no more or no less than the things we have in abundance in Canada. The porch light is on and the welcome mat is out for those who want to help us create jobs and continue to build this great nation.

Let us get on with it, for there is much nation building to be done.

Immigration ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to extend my best wishes for the New Year to all my colleagues in this House.

Today, we are going back to work after a seven-week break. Before speaking to Bill C-44, I would like to salute and congratulate my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois and Leader of

the Official Opposition in the House of Commons, Lucien Bouchard. Thanks to his courage and determination he was able to survive a terrible disease and win a very tough fight for his life. He will soon be back in this House and in the political arena. I wish to say to him how happy and proud of him we are. Quebec needs Mr. Bouchard.

I rise to participate in the debate at third reading on Bill C-44, an act to amend the Immigration Act and the Citizenship Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Customs Act. This bill was introduced and read the first time in the House of Commons on June 17, 1994. It passed second reading on September 27 and was then referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

The committee tabled its report after hearing many individuals and organizations interested in this bill. Bill C-44 was debated at report stage in this House on December 12, 1994.

According to its authors, the bill has the following objectives: prevent a person convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of 10 years of more in Canada or abroad from claiming refugee status; give immigration officers the authority to seize documents sent by international mail that could be used for fraudulent purposes; remove from the Immigration Appeal Division appeals based on grounds of equity, when the minister believes the appellant to be a danger to the public-from what I just heard, he will use this power very often-; take away from a person affected by this the right to appeal, on the grounds that they represent a security risk.

As I have said time and again, we in the Bloc Quebecois say that the state and the government have the right and the duty to protect Canada and Quebec against criminals whatever their origins.

We agree that entry should be denied to immigrants and refugee claimants who have committed major crimes against persons in their country of origin and decide to flee to Canada, given our reputation as host country. While recognizing that there are problems with the criminal activity of refugees and immigrants, we suggest that the government already has all the legal and administrative means to deal with this situation.

For example, under the present legislation, Bill C-86, the minister has the power to have war criminals and anyone who has perpetrated a crime against humanity removed. But the government is taking no action against criminals in this category. Several Nazis still live in Canada. Léon Mugesera, said to be a Rwandan criminal by his own community, has not yet been expelled, in spite of the questions I have put to the minister in this House.

The law presently states that persons convicted of an offence outside of Canada are inadmissible to the refugee claim determination system when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the offence of which they have been convicted may constitute an offence punishable under a Canadian Act of Parliament by a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more and when the Minister of Immigration is satisfied that they might be a threat to public safety in Canada.

This is good enough for me, but I must point out that the Canadian Council for Refugees wants this clause that I just read to be deleted. Needless to say, they object to it being expanded to include permanent residents.

This bill is an excessive and disproportionate response to the two murders committed in Toronto in the spring of 1994 by foreign nationals. It was produced hastily, without any prior consultations, in spite of the fact that the minister promised when he took office that national consultations on the immigration policy would be held, at a cost of over $1 million.

Even the counsels and groups who work with immigrants and refugees were surprised. This bill is this Liberal government's response to the drastic and reactionary positions endorsed by the Reform Party. This bill, and several statements made by the minister, reflect a shift to the right by the Liberal Party of Canada.

It is very unfortunate that the government rejected every amendment moved by the opposition. The Liberal majority had already rejected the Bloc Quebecois proposals during the clause by clause study of the bill. Moreover, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration took, at the report stage, the same inflexible stance as his Liberal colleagues in the legislative committee, rejecting over 20 amendments I personally moved on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois as well as those put forth by my colleague from Laval East.

One of our amendments, for example, was designed to exclude from the application of the new legislation landed immigrants who have resided in Canada for ten years or more, as is currently the case in Australia and several other countries. Some of these people have no emotional ties with their country of origin. As it stands, there are people who have been living in this country for over 40 years who could now be removed. The minister and the Liberal majority have rejected this perfectly valid amendment moved by the Bloc Quebecois.

Many organizations testified before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, including: the Canadian council for refugees, which is a very well-respected organization in that sector; the national immigration law section of the Canadian bar association; the Canada employment and immigration union; the United Nations high commissioner for refugees; the Canadian section of Amnesty International; the national action

committee on the status of women; the Canadian labour congress-incidentally, I congratulate CLC officials for the quality of their submission as well as for their very supportive position regarding immigrants and refugees; the inter-church committee for refugees; the Quebec association of immigration lawyers; the Canadian ethnocultural council; the immigration and refugee board; the customs and excise union, etc.

None of these organizations supported the bill. The overwhelming majority of them strongly opposed this legislation. Some even made suggestions to help the House ensure that this bill is better designed, and that it is fair and efficient. Some asked for the outright withdrawal of that legislation because it is unfair and it violates commitments made by Canada regarding political asylum.

To that effect, allow me, Mr. Speaker, to quote from an article written by Nantha Kumar, which appeared in a Montreal publication called Hour , on December 15, 1994. The author alludes to a war said to be fought against refugees within the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

The war is being fought on two fronts. Abroad, plain clothed immigration officers sit at major international airports, intercepting people they suspect are heading for Canada to apply for refugee status. At home, a propaganda war is being waged against claimants in order to convince Canadians that a more hard line approach is needed.

Montreal immigration lawyer, Richard Kurland, says that he has discovered "a department within the immigration department". Kurland says the communication strategy is clearly intended to sell the Canadian public on an enforcement oriented immigration policy. For example, when a government sponsored report by Professor James Hathaway criticized the fairness and legality of some practices at the Immigration and Refugee Board, it failed to make the front pages of most newspapers.

What instead made headlines the day the Hathaway report was released was the first of a series of immigration abuse stories. "The anti-immigrant and anti-refugee stories at the time were extraordinary", adds Kurland.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, says Kurland, "is not only under serious political pressure from the Reform Party. He is also under siege by the department within the department".

We, Bloc Quebecois members, deplore this regrettable swing to the right by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Such a move, which signals a dangerous shift towards intolerance, is made so as to manipulate public opinion and make Canadians forget that the vast majority of them, including myself, have come here in successive waves of immigrants, since the discovery and founding of this country.

I agree that something must be done regarding criminals in Canada, including those who are not Canadian citizens and who are seeking refugee status. However, any measure must comply with the Charter, as well as with the international conventions to which Canada is a party. I should also add that the minister and all of us agree that the overwhelming majority of immigrants are honest and law-abiding people.

The question therefore arises whether we really need legislation to deal with this very small minority. After all, the government already has a whole arsenal of laws, regulations and resources to deal with the small number of criminal immigrants.

At the very least, this bill raises some very serious constitutional questions. For instance, since its decision in the Singh case in 1985, the Supreme Court has determined that everyone in Canada, not just every citizen or every permanent resident but everyone in Canada, is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to the Supreme Court, an inquiry is necessary in situations that are not clear.

The Supreme Court also says that the potential cost of conducting an inquiry on certain refugees does not constitute reasonable grounds for restricting that right, even if the government says it would be too expensive. According to the Supreme Court, this would not justify depriving someone of the right to an inquiry.

We are very critical of Bill C-44. The powers of senior immigration officers, which are already very extensive, have been considerably expanded with respect to the exclusion of claimants of refugee status at the Canadian border or at points of entry. The bill gives these senior immigration officers the authority to issue a warrant for the arrest of a person who fails to appear. Such warrants may be issued in the case of any person with respect to whom a decision is to be made or an examination or inquiry is to be held. The warrant may be served by the police in order to force the person concerned to appear.

I am very concerned about the excessive authority vested in senior immigration officers. In any democratic society, judges, and not mere public servants, are authorized to issue arrest warrants.

Regarding the right to appeal on compassionate grounds, the original wording of the bill was amended to read that the minister must issue a statement that a person constitutes a danger to the public, before he loses his right to appeal, and the minister has said he intends to make frequent use of this authority.

The term "danger to the public" is very ambiguous. No definition is given, which opens the way to arbitrary decisions and abuse. Who will make the very crucial decision to state that someone is a danger to the public? The minister, public servants, the RCMP or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service? On what grounds? Will they go through thousands of files with a fine tooth comb to find out whether someone constitutes a

danger to the public in Canada? The decisions will be secret. This is contrary to the practice in our judiciary system, where hearings are public. Those are just a few of our concerns.

There is another aspect I would like to discuss. The bill does not weigh the seriousness of the crime and the danger to the host country, in this case Canada, as provided under the Geneva Convention on refugees. According to many authors and legal experts, if a person is threatened, on political grounds, with certain death, life imprisonment or serious abuse if he returns to his country of origin, he should be granted refugee status even if he is guilty of a serious crime.

The seizure of international mail by immigration officers just mentioned by the minister constitutes another very dangerous provision in a democratic society.

The Refugee Convention distinguishes between crimes of common law and those of a political nature, a distinction completely absent from Bill C-44.

According to the manual of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, consideration must first be given to the nature of and reason for the crime, in other words whether it was committed for truly political reasons or whether the motive was monetary or purely personal.

Neither does the bill make a distinction between prosecution and persecution. According to the manual of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, a person guilty of a common law offence who is liable to an extreme penalty may be in a situation that is tantamount to persecution as defined by the Geneva Convention. In certain countries, prosecution may be a means of persecuting someone, and the law may be applied in a discriminatory manner.

The bill refers to a person convicted of an offence that, if committed in Canada, would carry a term of imprisonment of ten years or more. It mentions the maximum sentence for the offence, not the sentence actually handed down. As you know, the circumstances of a crime may vary from one extreme to another, justifying a maximum or minimum sentence accordingly.

It should be pointed out that, in general, Canada's Criminal Code does not specify minimum sentences for offences. Thus, an individual convicted of an offence for which a term of imprisonment of ten years or more may be imposed might not be sentenced to jail or even fined. He might simply be put on probation or given a suspended sentence.

Among the most important briefs submitted to the legislative committee, I would like to cite the very comprehensive document and testimony of the Inter-Church Committee for Refugees. This organization is concerned that certain classes of refugees will be found inadmissible at a point of entry or elsewhere in Canada, and that they will be deported without an impartial examination of their need for protection. This organization, which includes about ten Canadian churches, is therefore asking that refugee claimants be allowed to present arguments against their deportation before an impartial and independent tribunal.

They object to legitimate refugees claiming refugee status at the border being turned around without even considering their need for protection. The right of asylum is entrenched not only in the Geneva Convention but also in the Charter of the Organization of American States, as well as several other international instruments.

Notwithstanding the excellent presentations from such organizations and individuals, who are very knowledgeable on the subject, the government is rigidly standing its ground, except for making a few minor changes.

On the other hand, section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that no one may be deprived of the right to liberty and security, except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Section one of the Charter says that these rights may be subject only to reasonable and demonstrably justified limits.

It should be pointed out that Bill C-44 is a very technical, difficult, complex and sensitive bill.

The Liberal government is showing a blatant lack of sensitivity towards immigrants and refugees who are victims of persecution. In so doing, the Liberal government goes back on promises made in its red book.

Today, the minister stated the same inflexible position as he did at first and second reading. He paid no attention to the opinion of the opposition.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration already had the means, as I said earlier, to deny criminals entry into Canada and to send them back to their country of origin. Several administrative measures like the ones mentioned earlier by the minister have been taken to do so. The minister created working groups made up of immigration, RCMP and local police officers in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver in order to arrest and deport criminals in the process of obtaining immigrant or refugee status.

This House is also considering Bill C-37, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act and the Criminal Code. This bill also deals

with young people who do not have Canadian citizenship and have been convicted of criminal offences.

Finally, a memorandum of agreement was signed by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and Correctional Services Canada in order to make deporting foreign criminals faster and easier. Hundreds of people have been tracked down and deported from Canada. RCMP officers and others have been posted in Canadian embassies and at major airports abroad in order to prevent criminals from entering Canada.

In November 1993, the recently appointed minister stated that he wanted to reduce political influence in refugee matters. He told La Presse that he wanted a system with as little political involvement as possible. Yet, this bill contradicts what he said in 1993. He wants to politicize even more the immigration and refugee determination process. He will issue statements to the effect that someone constitutes a danger to the public and will also stop appeals. This bill raises questions on the independence of the IRB and all administrative tribunals.

He also said that he wanted to introduce a more progressive approach and move away from Tory positions. Indeed, the minister's approach differs from that of the Conservatives. However, it is not because his refugee policies are more progressive, but because they are more reactionary and harsher than were those of the Conservatives. A Liberal minister is actually doing something the Conservatives never dared to do.

When the minister took over his portfolio, he immediately separated the immigration component from the department of public security, a measure which we welcomed at the time. However, Bill C-44 now links immigration to crime. Once again, the minister, like his government, does exactly the opposite of what he preached during the election campaign.

This bill gives the impression that all criminals in Canada are immigrants and refugees, which is utterly false and unfair. In fact, the crime rate among new Canadians is lower than that for those born in Canada. It should also be pointed out that, in recent years, the crime rate has been on the decline in Canada, which is of course a good thing.

Let me say a word on the issue of patronage at the IRB. In 1994, the government appointed, or renewed, the mandate of over 100 IRB members, including 65 new ones.

The IRB was created in 1988 by an act of Parliament. Although the board is a quasi-judicial tribunal, it has been used, since the beginning, as a patronage instrument.

The board is the largest administrative tribunal in the country; it is made up of 210 members appointed by the governor in council, as well as 40 adjudicators, who are public servants.

Since the beginning of the 35th Parliament, the Bloc Quebecois has been asking that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration fulfill its mandate and review the appointments of IRB members. It must be understood that, while the IRB is subject to the power of review of tribunals, it is also subject to the administrative control of Parliament.

Since January 1994, the committee's Liberal majority only once allowed a review of a dozen or so appointments. Although very little time was allowed for this exercise-just one morning-we could see to what extent the Liberals had reproduced the same kind of patronage system established by the former Conservative government.

Take the following appointments made by the present government. These are Liberals and friends of the party, appointed as members of the IRB with an annual salary of $75,000: Auguste Choquette, former Liberal member for Lotbinière, Quebec, from 1963 to 1968, who was even temporarily disbarred by the Barreau du Québec; Joan Kouri, former Liberal candidate in Brome-Missisquoi, Quebec, in 1993 and former president of the Liberal Women's Federation; Philomen Wright, supporter of the hon. member for York West and current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and member of the York West Liberal Riding Association in Ontario, a friend of the minister; Elke Homsi, former assistant to various Liberal MPPs in Ontario; Sherry Wiebe, director of research for the Manitoba Liberal Caucus; Inderjit Bal, appointed in 1994, who had to resign following a review and revelations before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, and who sought the Liberal nomination in the riding of Bramalae-Gore-Malton, Ontario, in 1993 and organized the campaign of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; Ravi Naqvi, who unsuccessfully sought the Liberal nomination in Mississauga West, Ontario; Patricia Davey, wife of a former aid to Pierre Elliott Trudeau; Ethel Teitelbaum, executive assistant to the former Liberal Minister of Finance, Donald MacDonald.

Some of these board members had no previous knowledge or experience of refugee problems, as we realized during meetings of the Standing Committee on Immigration and Citizenship. The case of Mr. Michael Schelew, former deputy chairperson of the board, appointed by the present minister, goes well beyond the most fundamental limits of decency.

Because of internal wrangling within the board between Liberal and Conservative factions, Mr. Schelew was suspended and a legal inquiry was ordered by the minister. Pressured to resign, he agreed to do so only the day the inquiry was to start

and after he was promised more than $100,000 of public money, although he had not completed even one year on the job.

The minister never really explained what happened in this rather embarrassing case for the government. It bought the silence of this deputy chairperson of the board with a substantial amount of money, while cutting payments to the unemployed, welfare recipients and the neediest in our society.

Worse, with this outlandish settlement, the minister prevented the judge from looking into the board's mismanagement. The Bloc Quebecois has asked for, and will continue to demand, a public inquiry into the operations of the IRB which, at the very least, is going through a serious crisis. The Bloc Quebecois will continue to denounce patronage appointments by the minister and his government. We will demand a review of all future appointments by the committee. It is high time that the minister put into practice the recommendations contained in Professor Hathaway's report, that he personally commissioned.

I ask the minister and his government, instead of blindly and stubbornly defending Bill C-44, to try to counter the rise of anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment in Canada. We must promote better understanding among Canadians, regardless of their origin.

On many occasions, in this House, I have decried the climate of hostility towards newcomers which is spreading across this country. I also reminded members that we have to meet our international humanitarian obligations and provide a safe haven for victims of political, religious or social persecution.

Unfortunately, immigrants, and especially refugees, are increasingly being used as scapegoats for the social and economic problems Canada is facing. In this context, Bill C-44 only serves to reinforce prejudices linking crime to immigration.

As an immigrant, and the official opposition critic for immigration and citizenship for over a year, I have noticed that Canada is becoming increasingly less generous and welcoming with refugees, in spite of the commitment made by the Liberal government in the red book to develop a humanitarian refugee policy and to admit a fair share of them.

I will point out that Canada is only taking in less than 0.25 per cent of persecuted and displaced people throughout the world. As you know, Mr. Speaker, there are more than 100 million of these people. Therefore, I ask the minister and his government to promote a more humane and more generous attitude toward newcomers, especially refugees, instead of defending Bill C-44 which is so full of injustices and will lead to abuses.

In this international year of tolerance, the government should organize an awareness campaign highlighting the contributions of immigrants to Canadian society and the benefits of immigration.

For these reasons, I will vote against the bill.

Immigration ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, here we are again back to debating a bill which there really need not be much debate on. Bill C-44 was a poor piece of legislation several months ago when we began debate and it remains a bad piece of legislation today.

When this bill was introduced we examined it carefully and came to the conclusion that it, not unlike the party and the minister who proposed it, was all talk and no action, big on words, short on effect.

Bill C-44 is snake oil. It is being marketed as a cure all, a fix to the national mess that we call immigration policy.

Last year people died because of poor enforcement of the immigration policy. People who did not deserve to be residents of Canada remained residents of Canada. People who should never have been allowed to enter this country were allowed to enter.

The Immigration and Refugee Board laughed in the collective face of Canadians and ignored the needs of thousands of suffering refugees around the world by jacking up inland acceptance rates, granting hearings to even the most outrageous claims, overturning the deportation orders of dangerous, violent repeat offenders and suckering taxpayers out of a billion dollars or more all in the name of their brand of compassion.

In response to these and many other outrages that were splashed across the front pages of papers across the country and which rightly angered Canadians who felt that our immigration system was out of control, the minister responded by saying: "No problem. Don't look at the planes that crash, most of them don't". He said we need to pay more attention to the planes that land, the success stories, and ignore the rest.

We and millions of Canadians did not ignore the planes that crashed. Every time one of the minister's metaphorical planes crashed, every time the Immigration and Refugee Board screwed up, every time the immigration enforcement fell down on the job and every time the court system was abused by queue jumpers it hurt Canadians, it hurt immigrants across the country and it hurt the tens of thousands of genuine refugees who are overseas and need our help but cannot get it because we have left it up to the Immigration and Refugee Board to award scarce places to those who manage to show up, get a legal aid attorney to plead their case and push the right politically correct buttons of the IRB.

Sometimes when the minister's metaphorical planes crash it costs Canadians outrageous amounts of money but sometimes it costs people their lives.

Suddenly things got a little too hot for the minister of immigration. He suddenly realized that he had to do something, anything, and he had to do it fast. He thought he needed to table something, needed to make it look as though he really made a change or had taken charge and was really cleaning up his act. He and his legislative assistants got together and hurriedly drafted Bill C-44.

Here it is, they told us, the panacea, the cure for the immigration problems. With C-44 they assured us they were getting tough and would not tolerate abuses in immigration. This would stop the tragedies that occurred last year and are just waiting, mark my words, to happen again.

Bill C-44 is an impressive looking document. It is pages and pages of thick legal text adding this to the Immigration Act. It strikes out some parts, redefines some things and reiterates others.

Bill C-44 is really a whole lot of nothing at all. Is it a cure all for immigration woes?-not even close. Does it tackle the serious problems of morale and under staffing in the immigration department, especially in the area of enforcement?-no, it does not. Does it take away the incentive or the means for lawyers and advocates to endlessly tie up the IRB and our courts with appeal after appeal?-no way.

Does it restore accountability to the immigration decision making process, a lack of accountability that has allowed the immigration minister to slither away from foul ups by saying: "What can I do, it is an independent board", or allowing the IRB to say it is accountable only to the courts?-not even close. Does it secure the front door, our ports of entry?-no.

Does it get to the root of virtually all the problems in immigration today, the problems of numbers, too many to be properly handled by the department under any circumstances with the degree of care and precision that would allow for careful and thorough screening of all applicants?-no, it does not.

Here is what C-44 does. It provides an easy out for the minister and the government who are utterly incapable of making real choices, exercising real leadership and taking action, who instead are always looking for the easy way out, the appearance of action, much ado about nothing, sound and fury signifying nothing. Bill C-44 is exactly that. It is a great deal of legislative sound and fury which signifies absolutely nothing to the average law-abiding Canadian who wants a sane immigration policy and to immigrants who just want to start a new life, obey the law and enjoy their new home.

The minister of immigration has often spoken of his lofty ideals for immigration. He has often presented to Canadians and this House his vision of what immigration should do for Canada and what Canada should do for immigrants.

The minister has tried to argue that high immigration levels, the IRB and other elements of Canada's immigration policy are good for Canada because they enhance Canada's economy. He said that immigrants put into the economy more than they take out. We do not argue that. He has argued that immigration is a Canadian legacy, that immigration built Canada, it continues to build Canada and should build Canada in the future. That is obvious. That is the Reform Party's position on these points, just as it is the Liberals' position, the Bloc's position and also the NDP's position. It is even the position of the previous government.

The minister of immigration is taking no high road when he talks about the history of immigration and the need for that continued tradition. However there is a huge difference in talking about the past, talking about broad universally shared ideals and putting those ideals and values into practice.

That is where this government and my party part company. We both agree that immigration is a vital part of the Canadian heritage. We both agree that immigrants are an asset to the economy.

It is time to get beyond the "we are for immigration but you are not" rhetoric. We are all for immigration. The Reform Party and the Liberal Party are for continued immigration. Frankly, we in the Reform Party think we speak for the Canadian people when we say that enough is enough of the name calling and mud slinging that surrounds the immigration debate. That is the sort of rhetoric the government likes to employ when discussing immigration.

As offensive as that sort of rhetoric is, the rhetoric contained in Bill C-44 is even more offensive. It is most offensive because it looks like legislation that could help. Only insiders, people who are intimately familiar with the workings of immigration in Canada, would know why this bill is of little value and why it is unnecessary.

As I said before, there is no disagreement over the value of immigration to Canada. The Reform Party says that Canada could do better when it comes to immigration policy. The Reform Party says that there are real solid immediate changes that could be made to Canada's immigration policy that would benefit not only Canadians but immigrants as well.

When the government thinks that the status quo, a status quo created by the former Conservative government, is the way to go with ultra high levels, levels that are more than twice as high as those in any other country on earth, astronomical levels in this day and age, levels that are simply too high for our immigration department to handle, is it any wonder that large numbers of

undesirables are slipping through? Is it any wonder that large numbers of deportable people are evading arrest, given these astronomical numbers?

One way we can make a huge dent immediately in stopping large numbers of undesirables from entering the country and one way we can reduce the incredible number of deportable immigrants is simply to bring the total number of immigrants down to a reasonable sustainable level.

This minister and this government-and I dare them to stand up and say differently-have not established quotas on the number of immigrants entering the country. They have not reduced the numbers. They are simply taking credit for a lower number of applicants in some categories. It is smoke and mirrors.

Bill C-44 is the same sort of smoke and mirrors, the same sort of cynical politics. Take credit for something that is not real seems to be the motto of this government and this immigration minister.

Bill C-44 is not real. It too is smoke and mirrors. It too is a shell game. It too is cynical politics. This minister has tried to fool the people of Canada into thinking that something is happening when nothing is happening.

Let us go through this piece of legislation to see what it purports to do, why it does not do what it purports to do and why all members of this Parliament, those who want to report to their constituents with good consciences, will vote against this bill.

As a side bar, I know that not all members have had a chance to read this bill. Reading all bills is simply not possible for a member of Parliament. That is why I urge members to listen carefully as I go through the major clauses of Bill C-44 so that they will know why voting for this bill serves neither the interests of their communities nor the country as a whole.

The first major thing this bill purports to do is to empower customs officers to seize identity documents that are fraudulent and sent through the mail. That is fantastic. I would love it if all fraudulent documents sent through the mail could be stopped and seized. Such a measure if implemented would take the heart out of the illegal immigrant industry and let me assure members that there is an industry out there.

The minister has included that clause to give the Canadian people the impression he intends to stop the flow of illegal documents, or at least curb it. What could be wrong with that? I will tell you. Mansel Legacy, the head of the Customs Excise Union, says that this measure is utterly unenforceable. He appeared before the standing committee.

Throughout the whole country there are only a handful of officers with the power and the job description to actually open and seize these documents. Further, law restricts officers from opening mail that is under 50 grams. Put a visa or an identity card in an envelope and weigh it and you will come up with the same thing I did. It weighs less than 50 grams. Even if someone were dumb enough to enclose a pound of fake passports in a single envelope there are only a handful of officers who would be able to seize them.

The minister wants to give the impression he is taking care of a serious problem in customs and immigration policy. In fact he is just introducing a clause that is a lot of talk but is utterly unenforceable. That is the first piece of evidence that this bill was introduced to do nothing more than pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians.

Another part of the bill that has been trumpeted by the minister as a serious get tough measure has been the limiting of immigration procedures for serious criminals. Bill C-44 promises to limit the appeals of serious criminals to the Immigration and Refugee Board. That is the board the minister so often defends which has developed a reputation for sending into the streets serious violent criminals and non-residents who have gone on to kill innocent Canadians. As he puts it, it is a great Canadian institution. I beg to differ.

On first sight it is a good move. That was certainly my first reaction until I heard from the various lawyers and others who appeared before us at the standing committee. I am no legal expert and obviously the minister is not either. It is important for both of us to turn to the advice of lawyers when a bill is discussed in the standing committee.

When the lawyers appeared before the standing committee they said that this bill would not stop criminal immigrants from making appeals, it would not even slow them down. Bill C-44 does not stop serious convicted criminals from making appeals; it only stops them from making one kind of appeal. Bill C-44 would stop the IRB from hearing appeals based on humanitarian and compassionate considerations only but it would still permit them to hear appeals on matters of fact and law.

The lawyers who handle immigration and refugee cases and have the knowledge and a vested interest here have told us that C-44 will do nothing more than make them change their paperwork a little. Instead of making an appeal on compassionate grounds, they will make an appeal on fact and law. The bottom line is that criminal immigrants stay in the country. They stay, we pay.

This measure, the second major part of the bill, will not work but it does sound good. It sounds good and it appeases the majority of Canadians who want tougher immigration laws without actually changing anything important. No vested interest will be offended. As such I have to give this government

credit for its savvy. I have to give it credit for being able to write a bill that sounds like so much while delivering so little. It is a bill that appeases the majority without offending the ever so important minority who have the ear of the minister.

The third major part of this bill would make someone inadmissible for a claim before the IRB if it is discovered they have been convicted of a major crime in or outside Canada. That is great. Superb, as a matter of fact. That is exactly what the Reform Party has been demanding all along. Let us look a little closer at what Bill C-44 would really do.

Experts appearing before the committee have told us that Bill C-44 would have the perverse effect for example of allowing people who are caught with illegal guns in the trunks of their cars to remain in Canada while those who write bad cheques will no longer be able to stay or to make that claim. If you ask me, neither of these people deserve to be heard before the Immigration and Refugee Board. Clearly this bill uses an arbitrary measure of criminality to determine who is bad and who is not.

There is something much more insidious about this section of the bill. For those who want to do their homework before voting on this bill, and I encourage all my hon. colleagues to do just that, this section of the bill is absolutely unnecessary. It is unnecessary because the minister through his representatives already has the power to stop refugee hearings for people who would constitute a danger to Canada.

I have a list of individuals or at least one individual here for whom the minister has already signed an order to remove him from the country. He has done so. He can intervene at any time. The minister would have an opportunity to intervene in any of those claims that would constitute a violation of the Immigration Act.

The minister already has the power and it has been legislated again into Bill C-44. The minister can already intervene and make ineligible for a refugee hearing people whose presence in Canada would constitute a danger to the public interest.

Bill C-44 is not necessary legally. It is only necessary politically. It is necessary because the minister of immigration does not have the political will. He does not have the guts to intervene personally to stop refugee hearings for people who do not deserve status in Canada.

He says that he cannot intervene. That is simply not true. The minister just does not want to intervene and that is a fact. He could have intervened on Mendoza or Inthavong. Rather than sticking his neck out and possibly offending the special interests, the minister is passing the buck to the IRB. Believe me, the IRB is the last group of people with whom we want to entrust the safety of Canadians. Bill C-44 is just a way for the minister to pass the buck.

As another side bar, compare Bill C-44 with the Reform Party's refugee determination proposals. In those proposals there is a recurring theme. That theme is that the minister should use the power already available to him under the Immigration Act to toughen up on refugee determination and stop dangerous and undeserving people from making claims. We have the guts to do it. I think the majority of government backbenchers would have the guts, but this minister does not. Think about that before raising your hand in favour of this bill.

The final major clause of Bill C-44 deals with people applying for citizenship who are convicted of serious crimes or who are guilty of serious crimes outside Canada. The bill would temporarily halt the processing of applications for citizenship for those who have been found to have criminal backgrounds. That ignores a very serious question, a question that we have posed to this minister again and again over the past year. When exactly are the backgrounds checked and how thoroughly? According to the minister all backgrounds are checked.

I do not need to tell you about the multiple and frequent cases of people who have been allowed into Canada. They have been given status and then because of tips or information on the side have been found to be serious criminals, even war criminals.

Our immigration department is simply not able to thoroughly and adequately check the backgrounds of the quarter of a million immigrants Canada accepts each year. It is just not possible given the numbers. In order to stop a citizenship application a background has to be discovered but we have neither the ability nor the manpower to do it. It will not work.

Even assuming the best case scenario in terms of Bill C-44 if it is implemented and is used effectively, what then? Many more deportation orders would be issued. Good news you say. Wrong. Perversely and as a direct result of the inaction of the current immigration minister and the previous immigration ministers, it is bad news. It is bad news because of the sheer number of deportation warrants that are currently on the books.

Estimates, and that is all the immigration department has been kind enough to give us, suggest that there are up to 40,000 deportation warrants outstanding and unaccountable.

We have heard that in the city of Toronto there could be as many as 25,000 people who have deportation orders against them. Are they being rounded up? No. Are those numbers being substantially reduced? No. Can they be substantially reduced? Not given the priorities of this minister. The priorities of this minister are keeping the levels at the highest ever for Canada and the world, stressing family class immigration over independent immigration, keeping our inland acceptance rate of self-proclaimed refugees up to 50 times higher than other refugee accepting nations at a cost of over a billion dollars per year to the Canadian taxpayer. These priorities have not allowed the

direction of attention and resources toward immigration enforcement.

I told the House there are up to 25,000 outstanding deportation warrants in Toronto. To round these people up and escort them out of the country is a group of only 30 people with few tools, virtually no self-protection equipment and morale that is lower than that of any other group of public servants I have ever come across.

Even if Bill C-44 adds a few more people to the deportation rolls, it will not mean more people actually leaving Canada. Even dangerous criminals will still be able to appeal their deportation orders endlessly in the courts and to the IRB, all at the taxpayers' expense and probably with some success.

Just a few weeks ago a suspected war criminal from Rwanda was apprehended in Montreal after having successfully made it through Canada's almost non-existent screening process. He was allowed permanent resident status in Canada. This is a person who is accused of playing an instrumental role in whipping up the racial hatred that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and of ethnic cleansing of a sort not seen since World War II. Has he been deported? No. Is he in a holding cell? No. Is he in prison? No. He is on the streets, released by an adjudicator on a $5,000 bond.

Had Bill C-44 already been passed would it have prevented this sort of outrage? No, it would not have. It does not address it at all.

Over the recess a foreign criminal by the name of Inthevong who had been convicted of assault, various minor crimes and playing a role in a murder, was scheduled for deportation. He was brought before one of the minister's appointees at the IRB and was set loose on Canadian streets.

Like most Canadians I take the stupidity of the Immigration and Refugee Board for granted. Adding insult to injury in this case is the fact that the minister for immigration, the representative of the people of Canada, had the power to intervene and chose not to do it. The minister openly said that he would not intervene in this case to reverse the decision of the Immigration and Refugee Board. I find that inexcusable.

Could Bill C-44 have stopped Inthevong's release? No, but the minister could have. The problem is not a lack of legislation. The Immigration Act gives the minister of immigration a broad and unique range of powers already. However all the ministerial power in the world will not do any good when the minister does not have the guts to use it.

Immigration ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. I would like to take a moment to ask members to be a little more aware of the selection of words that can be used at times on issues that are sensitive and controversial but nonetheless very important.

I return the floor to the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.

Immigration ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, legislation like Bill C-44 can even have the effect of giving the minister and the government an out, an excuse. Canadians have been asking of the minister: "Why are you not doing anything?", to which he can cynically answer if Bill C-44 passes, "I am".

Bill C-44 is an excuse. It is an out. It is a cheap substitute. This minister does not have the intestinal fortitude to do what has to be done.

The rationale behind Bill C-44 is contradictory. With Bill C-44 the minister says that the problem of criminals abusing our immigration system will be addressed. He says that Bill C-44 will allow for easier deportation. However, just a few short months ago the minister announced the creation of a task force of immigration officers and RCMP that would be charged with seeking out hundreds, if not thousands, of dangerous criminals that are in Canada illegally.

The minister has been remarkably silent about the success of the task force. He has not stood up in the House to trumpet the success of the initiative, an initiative that I said right from the start would not work.

It has not worked. Why? Because the task force is the clean-up crew for a mess that has been building for over two decades. The task force is trying to push undesirables out the back door at the same time as the front door has been left wide open, hanging by a hinge, rusting and squeaking in the wind. Also because once inside this great home that we call Canada undesirables are given the run of the place, hiding in the closets of the courts, ducking into the dark passageway of the IRB, making them untouchable, hidden by the very policy and regulation that the government has maintained from the previous government.

That is the crux of the issue. That is why the Reform Party is opposing the bill. We are not opposing it out of spite. We are not opposing it because we do not want an initiative of this minister to pass. We are opposing it because we have more than enough bills already. We have a massive series of laws on the books that were ostensibly designed to protect Canadians, to make immigration work for both Canadians and immigrants. They have not.

The House has passed a maze of laws that do nothing but allow those who have bad intentions and good legal counsel to make a mockery of Canada, to make us an international laughing stock. Every time one of the new immigration laws was passed a

minister stood before the Canadian people and said: "See, I am doing something", when in fact he or she was doing nothing but avoiding real action.

That is what is going on here. That is what the current minister of immigration is doing. That is what the government has done in so many areas. An overwhelming deficit and high taxation threaten to relegate this once great country to third world status. The response to this crisis is that the government wants to raise taxes and to make some non-offensive cuts to government spending. Then it says: "We are doing something", when in fact things are getting worse.

Crime threatens the security of our neighbourhoods and the tranquillity that Canadians have long taken for granted and considered their birthright. The government says: "Let us pass a gun control law. See, we are doing something", when in fact nothing is being done about the real problem.

We have an immigration system that is out of control. The government gives us Bill C-44 and says: "See, we are doing something", when in fact it is doing nothing at all. It is all smoke and mirrors and more of the same. It is cynical politics designed to fool the Canadian people into thinking that something is being done.

There is something that can be done. There is a way to clean up our immigration mess. The Reform Party has led the way and has put itself on the line. We have taken the high road by offering real solutions.

The IRB is a large part of the immigration problem. We have offered a solution. Disband the IRB. Subsume its functions under the minister. Take more refugees from abroad. Tighten up our inland process so that it is more in line with the determination systems of other countries and is not driven by special interests. We have offered 13 proposals which, if enacted, would make the refugee system work better for both Canadians and refugees. It is a win-win situation.

We have told the minister to exercise his powers to stop those that abuse the system by making appeal after appeal and to stop refugee hearings that are manifestly unfounded. We have told the government to cut the total number of immigrants to levels that are internally proportionate, numbers that the immigration department can handle, numbers that would still make Canada the world leader in immigration. We have told the government to increase the percentage of immigrants who come from the independent category.

C.D. Howe, as reported in the Globe and Mail , agrees with this proposal. Raising the number of independent immigrants would have the effect of making immigration a net positive for Canada. It would cut the $700 million bill for family reunification and cut the number of people who would come to Canada unchecked with questionable backgrounds.

The minister claimed to have done this but anyone able to read a column of numbers knows that he was not on the mark. The numbers of family class immigrants under the minister's most recent targets actually goes up, not down. Smoke and mirrors, more of the same.

We have offered real solutions, not bogus solutions like Bill C-44. We have said that the government and the immigration minister must be accountable. He must do more than just introduce faulty legislation that gives the impression of action without addressing any of the real problems or resulting in real benefit. We have offered solutions and they have been ignored by the government.

I urge my hon. colleagues, through you, Mr. Speaker, to vote no on this bill. Members, like the people of Canada, may have been talked into believing that the bill will solve some of the problems plaguing immigration policy today. I am here to tell them, with all sincerity and with partisanship aside, that it will not. I am here to tell them that the bill is just an excuse for inaction. It is an excuse for a minister who does not want to exercise the power already available to him, a minister who wants to pass the buck.

For those on both sides of the House who want to represent their constituents, who are truly concerned about making a difference, making government work and making government accountable, I urge members to read the bill and discuss it with people in the know from either side of the ideology fence. Once they have had their concerns validated from their own trusted resources I urge them to do the right thing and vote no on this bill.

Immigration ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Following the minister's intervention and that of the two critics, members during the next five hours will be allowed up to a maximum of 20-minute interventions subject to a 10-minute question or comment period.

Immigration ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with honour that I rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-44.

Leaving my prepared text for a minute, I want to say that many of the concerns brought forward by the Reform Party relating to enforcement and the resources in the department are also shared by the minister, all Canadians and myself. We live in difficult fiscal times and budget constraints are a reality for many departments. I know that probably the finance minister was listening with real interest when people said that we should spend more money in the immigration department. The minister of immigration would probably support that.

Let me begin by talking a little about my riding. I come from an area where immigration is an important issue but certainly not one of the main issues. My riding is on the north shore of Lake Erie. It has been settled by wave after wave of immigration, like many parts of this country have been. Originally it was settled by people from Britain, primarily by Scots. More recent-

ly it was settled by the Dutch community in the 1950s. We have recently had Portuguese immigrants.

We have a long tradition of recognizing the importance of immigration to this country and to our communities. Everybody is concerned about making sure that Canada has the right type of immigrants, that we are the ones who are doing the selecting and not others selecting us. We want to have an appropriate system in place. If a criminal comes to this country and commits a crime, we want to have certain mechanisms in place. If they are a danger to Canadians this mechanism will allow us to get them out fairly quickly, with reasonable recognition that they have legal rights. We want to kick out the right people, not the wrong people.

That is why we want to put in place a proper process. I stand in support of Bill C-44 because I believe it does that. I am sure members will think, after listening to my speech and the speech of my colleague who spoke before me, that one of us could not have been listening at the immigration committee or one of us is patently wrong. I will try to point that out as I go along.

The key aspect I like about the bill is that it will remove the right to appeal to the immigration appeal division of the refugee board when the minister has made a determination that the person is a danger to Canadian society and has committed a crime with a maximum sentence of more than 10 years.

To understand why that is important we need to understand the process now. Let us say my colleague is a landed immigrant who commits an assault or a series of assaults. He does his time in jail. Then he comes out and the department says that it wants to kick him out. He can appeal to the immigration and appeal division and ask to stay in Canada simply on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Whether or not we agree with that the system as it stands now has a three-year wait. That is inexcusable. We have a process in place that says we want him out of the country because we think he is dangerous and the criminal can say that on humanitarian and compassionate grounds he wants to stay. We should have a mechanism in place that at least decides that question fairly quickly. A three-year wait is just unacceptable.

Another thing that concerns me about the immigration and appeal division doing its work is the people on the board who determine whether someone is a refugee. We would want people that would give applicants the benefit of the doubt. They should be fairly liberal in their views and have a good understanding of circumstances in other countries. I am not sure whether the same person should be putting the mechanism in place, controlling the mechanism and deciding whether to deport somebody.

I do not think anyone wants to deport someone. It is difficult to do and one has to be fairly tough minded to do it. I am not sure we want the same sort of character making judgments about who is a refugee. We want to be more liberal in our determination of refugees and fairly tough minded in our determination of who should be deported.

The criteria determining when someone will lose their right to appeal is fairly straightforward. First there is the 10-year rule, which means if a person commits a crime he has to be sentenced up to a maximum of 10 years. That mechanism will ensure we are not using this rule or law for trivial matters. Simple things like shoplifting or writing a cheque under $1,000 will not get someone kicked out of the country. That is appropriate. More serious crimes such as rape, assault and murder will get someone kicked out of the country.

Another rule being applied is that the minister must make a determination that the person is a danger to the country. While some offences, oddly enough like writing a cheque for more than $1,000, make one eligible for up to 10 years in jail, I do not think any of us would say: "We want to deport you for that". Maybe some of my colleagues across the way would say that the person should be deported for that.

Clearly the law is saying that one has to be a dangerous criminal, a danger to Canadian society, someone who we think will perhaps assault, rape or murder again. Those are the people we want to kick out of the country.

Some very difficult questions arise. I know the minister does not have an answer and Canadians will have to determine the answer. Let us say we have someone who comes here when they are six years old. Their parents, for whatever reasons, do not apply to make them Canadian citizens; they forget or whatever. These persons go through life not realizing they are not Canadian citizens. If they commit a serious crime at 25 years of age, do we kick them out, even though other persons in the same circumstances simply because their parents went through the process of making them Canadian citizens when they were seven, eight, or nine years of age did not get kicked out? They might have committed the same crime.

Say someone comes here at six months of age. They are from an Asian country or any country dissimilar to ours. Are we going to take people who have virtually lived here all their lives, except for maybe the first six months, and deport them simply because they have not become Canadian citizens?

Many people in Canada would say that was their tough luck and if they have committed crimes they should be put out. I am not sure it is that simple. That is something we have to work out, because there is no provision in law that if people come to this country before a certain age they will be able to stay here. The definition is clearly that if one is a Canadian citizen one stays

and if one is not a Canadian citizen and is a danger to Canadian society one has to go.

We have touched on the issue of criminality. I noted the Chair asked us to use language that was sensitive. When we talk about immigrants and criminals we risk getting into the trap of taking an identifiable group, foreigners by definition, and blaming them for things they ought not to be blamed for. There are many cases in history where people in a community have whipped up resentment against an identifiable group of outsiders, oftentimes foreigners, to support a particular political ideology. When we touch on the issue of immigration and criminals we risk getting into that game.

By way of a backdrop, I want to point out that the overwhelming majority of immigrants and refugees are decent, hard working and law-abiding people. They appeal to Canada for protection because they need our help. Others come to contribute to Canada's economic progress while others seek to be reunited with their families.

However there are exceptions. In recent months there have been a few highly publicized cases of criminals claiming to be refugees, and refugee claimants and immigrants breaking our laws while in Canada. It needs to be understood that these are the exceptions.

If we look at Canadian jails and survey whether the people in our jails were born in Canada or elsewhere, we discover that the immigrant population in our jails is lower than the general population as a whole. Statistics show that immigrants who come to the country are hard working. Oftentimes they are more hard working than the general population as a whole and commit fewer crimes. That does not mean there is not the odd exception, and this bill is about dealing with the odd exception. The government takes these exceptions seriously. The government is taking a number of steps to ensure the system is not open to abuse and that Canadian society is protected.

My friend across the way indicated in his remarks that the minister could kick someone out whenever he wants. The member has his facts wrong. I know the heckles are about to start. Let us say a landed immigrant or a permanent resident-and these words can be used interchangeably-commits a crime and does a sentence. Let us say the person is a danger to society. The government can bring about a process fairly quickly to have him deported. However the person can ask to have it stayed and appeal to immigration and Refugee Board on humanitarian grounds. Such persons can say: "I am sorry. I throw myself on the mercy of the country". Maybe the person has a wife or children here; maybe he has a job and circumstances have changed. He can bring forth all sorts of arguments. Unfortunately, as I said, that is a three-year delay. In law, the minister does not have the right to interfere in that process. That right to appeal is in the Immigration Act and is in law and the minister must follow the law.

My colleague across the way has said that the rules in place now will do the trick. Unfortunately he is wrong. They will not do the trick, but Bill C-44 will take a step forward in terms of helping to deport landed immigrants who should be deported.

The government has proposed changes to the immigration law that will help prevent immigration fraud and abuse by criminals. Among the most important amendments are changes that prohibit people convicted of serious crimes from claiming refugee status. It also has to be determined that they are dangerous. This applies whether the crime took place in Canada or anywhere else.

It will remove from the immigration and refugee board the power to allow serious criminals to be in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds and to give the minister or his delegates sole authority to do so. This means we can move fairly quickly.

My colleague across the way has suggested that they will still be able to appeal. He has that part right. They will still be able to appeal to the federal court on issues of law, not on issues of fact and law. They will be able to appeal to the federal court, but if they took some time to examine the federal court process they would find they need to have leave to appeal to the federal court. It is not a right. Instead of taking three years, which is the case under the current system, that process will take about 30 days. They may say that three years or 30 days makes no difference, but most Canadians will say that a faster process is a better process.

Had they asked that question at the immigration committee they would have found that this is a much quicker process. If they do not believe me, I encourage them to check it out.

Because it is done by appeal the federal court can deal with it by leave. The federal court can deal with it very promptly. They will not be able to appeal on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Appealing on law is a very technical appeal. It is not something that is easily done. It is not something that can be done summarily or just on a whim. It has to be based on clear legal arguments.

It is different from an appeal on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. I might ask my colleagues across the way to appreciate the substance of the difference, to appreciate that it is an important difference, and to give the government credit for changing the process from three years to 30 days.

How serious is the problem? It is very serious. Right now the government estimates there is probably about 1,200 people whom it would like to deport and not give the right of appeal to the immigration and refugee board on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Six hundred of those people are in jail.

Many people in my community want to see the government get the bill through quickly and bring about a process by which these people will be deported because they are a danger to Canadian society.

What else is the act going to do? As my colleagues have mentioned, it is going to give immigration officers the power to seize identity documents from the international mail that might be used by impostors for fraudulent and improper purposes. My colleagues have made the argument that the staff is under-resourced. Yes, it is. The police department can say it is under-resourced, that it does not have enough police to do the job. Does that mean that the law itself is bad? Does that mean giving them the power to do it is bad?

If the Reform Party wants to make an argument to spend more money on our immigration department, it should make it to the finance committee. It will be part of the budget considerations, and away we go; it may actually see something happen.

The act will make sure a person can have only one refugee claim process at a time. This makes common sense. Someone wanting to abuse the system can put in a refugee claim in Vancouver and perhaps open a file in Toronto or wherever. Also the act will make sure that any application for citizenship is put on hold until all immigration investigations or proceedings are completed.

I come to another point mentioned by my colleague. A citizenship and immigration-RCMP task force has been established in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver to co-ordinate and ensure the removal of people with serious criminal convictions who have evaded removal orders. Local police will assist the task force to which 20 RCMP officers have been assigned: 12 in Toronto and 4 each in Montreal and Vancouver.

Again they can make the argument that it is not enough. They come up with a figure of 25,000 removal orders in Toronto. Let us say my friend sitting beside me is a landed immigrant whom we want to kick out and he says: "Fine, I will leave". We do not have a mechanism in place or we do not have controls at our border watching the people leave. It may well be that he leaves, but unless he tells us that he has left we do not know whether he has.

To suggest that because there are 25,000 removal orders none of these people have left simply on their own recognizance is really playing with the facts. It is trying to whip up hysteria in Toronto that there is a massive underground of illegal immigrants and dangerous criminals when the truth of it is not anywhere close to that. There is a problem. Let us deal with the problem but let us not inflame it with numbers like 25,000. It is ridiculous.

I come back to my point that 12 RCMP officers are not enough. If we give them good law to work with let us see how they do and we can come back in a year's time and take a look.

In addition, the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs is examining the question of how immigration should respond to young offenders who are not Canadians citizens convicted of a serious crime. That is a tough one. We are going to kick someone out who is 12 or 13 years old. Maybe their parents have not done anything, are permanent residents, landed and are not Canadian citizens yet. What are we going to do to a 13-year-old who commits a serious crime of assault? I do not know. I do not know that the minister knows. I do not know that any of us in this Chamber really knows. At some point we are going to have to try to exercise the wisdom of Solomon.

The government believes that immigration is a benefit to Canada and that Canada should maintain its international reputation for assisting refugees and welcoming immigrants. However, the government also believes that a good immigration program must promptly manage to protect Canadians. The government is committed to move as quickly as possible to make these changes to ensure the integrity of the Canadian immigration and refugee system.

In closing, I would point out to Canadians that I think there is real substance in this bill. Taking away the right to appeal on humanitarian and compassionate grounds in some very specific circumstances I think is the right thing to do where someone is clearly a danger to Canadian society.

When we talk to the immigrant communities they are tired of being tarnished with the brush of being what some people in the political spectrum want. They know when immigrants commit crimes that good, hard working new Canadians are often the ones who bear the penalty the most. They are the ones who want to make sure that hard working decent immigrants or new Canadians are the ones who want fairly tough criteria for deporting people and that serious criminals are actually deported promptly without much delay. If the Reform Party would actually look at the substance of the bill and do its homework it too would support the bill.

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1:45 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in the member's comments regarding the front end concerns about the Immigration Act enforcement. It appears the member never availed himself of the opportunity of going to a border crossing for instance and watching the process of refugee claimants coming in from the United States. They

come in with no documents. They have no means of identification and no support systems per se to assist immigration officers in determining who they really are.

I am wondering if the member really understands the importance of determining who these applicants really are who come through because there is no identification, because it is an unknown quantity. What does the hon. member have to say about that when it comes to this background check that he alludes to and that the minister should not have the power to remove someone if they are determined to be a danger to society?

Could the member please describe to me how he would get around this aspect once the individual is here and has gone through his claim and his appeals when there is no means of really determining who the individual is?

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1:45 p.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to my colleague's question but let me say this. The guts of what this bill is about-

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1:45 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

You cannot use that word here.

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Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Norfolk, ON

The pith and substance. I do not want to be too high falutin because as my colleagues have said they are not legal experts. I use the vernacular instead of using a term that might have been used in the Supreme Court of Canada.

The pith and substance of what this bill is about is really taking an appeal process that has been dragged out to three years to non-lawyers, non-judges, the Immigration and Refugee Board, an appeal process on humanitarian and compassionate grounds and saying in some very narrow circumstances where someone has committed a serious crime that will get them more than 10 years in jail maximum sentence and they are considered a danger to society, taking that appeal process and reducing it to virtually 30 days, narrowing the terms where they can only appeal to the federal court. That is the pith and substance of this bill and that is what the Reform Party should be supporting.

My colleague is absolutely right. I have never been to a border crossing and looked at the refugee determining process and what happens when someone shows up without documents. My view is that we should hold them in detention and should not let them go until we know who they are. I would certainly be happy to sit down with my colleague and look at the Immigration Act and look at the system that is in place and try to work something out that is reasonable. I agree, we should not be letting just anyone in. If they do not have documentation or cannot prove who they are then we should be concerned about that.

However, to re-emphasize my point, that is not what this bill is about. This bill is about people who apply on humanitarian and compassionate grounds to the refugee board and Canadians do not want to give them the right to do that. They have said:"You are a danger to Canadian society and we want you gone from our land".

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1:50 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have an outline here from an individual who was removed from the country after the minister issued a security certificate to have him removed. The power is already there for the minister to do something about it.

In Calgary alone six foreign criminals have been deported. Their backgrounds include cocaine dealers, pimps, weapons charges, assault, you name it. The power is there to remove already. The minister is not exercising his powers to remove.

I would like the hon. member's comments with regard to section 46 of the act where it states we can remove. Why are we going through this?

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1:50 p.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, we disagree on that one fact. The member is saying that the appeal to the refugee board does not stay that proceeding and I say it does. However, I will get a reference and send it to him.

Clearly this act takes power away from the refugee board and puts it in the minister's office. If he was not responsible before, Canadians can now look to him and say that he is the one they are relying on to deport dangerous criminals who are not Canadian citizens. That law will narrowly focus it on the minister and on the government and they can take responsibility for that.

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1:50 p.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask the hon. member why the current law is not being implemented in its entirety. Why does the minister not use all the legal and administrative means at his disposal? Does the current law not allow us to deport war criminals, Nazis or people who have violated human rights elsewhere?

Why is the minister not taking such action now and why does he need a new law? Why does he not make more effective use of the officials, local police and RCMP officers on the working groups he has created in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver? Why does he not make more of an effort to motivate officials who are very disappointed?

As a result of the cutbacks and office closures at the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, morale is very low. People are likely to face even more staff cuts in the upcoming budget. It has been said that 100 jobs will be cut at the IRB alone, where there are not many jobs to start with. Why not motivate staff, why not use all the available means and eliminate the need for a piece of legislation as drastic as Bill C-44?

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1:50 p.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, in another form that is the same question the Reform Party is asking. It is saying the minister has the power and that he should just use the current act.

I would like to point out that under the current act, under the current law, if somebody is convicted of a crime after they have served their time in jail they can apply to the Immigration and Refugee Board on humanitarian, compassionate grounds to defeat their deportation from this country. That process now takes three years. There is a three-year delay. Under this new law the process will probably be reduced to about thirty days. There are about 1,200 people the ministry or the department has, at least on first glance, determined could be dangerous criminals we want removed. This bill will do it.

With regard to the issue of the immigration department being understaffed and needing more resources, I will not dispute that with anyone. I will not dispute it with my colleague. I will not dispute it with the Reform Party. I am not responsible for that decision. I would suggest that you make your argument to the finance department or to the finance minister. I am sure the minister of immigration, if he were here, would be quite happy to be getting extra resources for his department.

The last issue is that he used the word draconian. I do not think the measures are draconian at all. First of all, the person has to commit a crime that will get them a maximum of ten years in jail. That raises one threshold. The second threshold or test that they have to meet is they have to be considered a danger to society. Clearly we are not going to be throwing out the person who simply steals a television that is worth more than $1,000. Clearly we want to go after the people who are committing assaults or murders or rapes or a whole bunch of other types of crimes for which Canadians have no appetite to have these people kept in our country.