That, as part of a continental perimeter initiative to secure Canada's borders and protect the security of Canadians and our neighbours, and to protect our trading relationships, this House calls on the government to:
(a) provide both Immigration officers and Customs officers enhanced training and full peace officer status to allow them to detain and arrest suspected criminals or terrorists at the border;
(b) move Customs border officers out of the tax collection agency and into a law enforcement agency;
(c) detain all spontaneous refugee claimants appearing without proper documentation until their identities are confirmed and they have cleared proper health and security checks; and
(d) create a list of safe third countries, including the United States and member states of the European Union, from which Canada will no longer accept refugee claimants.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present the official opposition's motion on some of the steps necessary to create a continental security perimeter.
The Canadian Alliance supports the concept of a security perimeter. We have talked about it at length. It has also been proposed by others and by the U.S. ambassador to Canada, Mr. Paul Cellucci. Those of us who have proposed this have done so for several reasons.
First and foremost, we believe the perimeter concept is the best way to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.
Second, it would help ensure the safety and security of our friends and neighbours in the United States.
Third, it would help ensure that the vital flow of trade between Canada and the United States, which is some $1.3 billion per day every day of the year, continues.
Fourth, by enhancing our ability to protect ourselves and our economic arrangements we enhance our own sovereignty. We become less subject to those who would abuse our openness and generosity and we increasingly become masters of our own destiny, truly maîtres chez nous.
In recent weeks we have proposed that a federal-provincial summit be held to study the feasibility of this security perimeter. The Liberal government in its arrogance has, of course, reminded us that in its vision of Canada, which is out of touch with reality, the provinces have no place in decision making on this.
Yet, as far as public safety and security are concerned, Quebec and Ontario have their own police services. As far as immigration is concerned, Quebec and Alberta have a say. Rather than always perceiving provincial involvement as a threat, the Liberal government would be better off seeing it for what it is: an essential input from which everyone stands to benefit.
A North American security perimeter would mean harmonizing our borders and immigration policies with our neighbours, sharing common standards.
The perimeter involves harmonizing customs and immigration policies among Canada, the United States and perhaps Mexico to ensure that there are common and regular standards on our external frontier so that we do not have to slow down internal trade and we do not have to excessively infringe upon the rights of our own citizens domestically. Harmonizing does not mean giving up our controls. As a matter of fact, it would mean increasing control of our own territory and entering into an arrangement where we would be certain that our neighbours at the same time would be monitoring their borders with proper controls also.
This may involve certain things, for example, creating a common list of countries that we regard as safe countries. I will talk further about that in a moment. It may involve joint customs inspections at airports, both in North America and abroad. It may involve border stations where the United States and Canadian agents work more closely together. At a very minimum, any effective security perimeter will have to involve measures like the ones we propose in our motion.
Canada customs officers and immigration officers will have to be designated as full peace officers with the power to detain and arrest suspected criminals and terrorists. This will require that they have enhanced training and enhanced equipment.
Second, customs officers in particular have requested that they be removed from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. That agency is at root a tax collection agency. These customs officers should be placed in a designated law enforcement agency, perhaps an enhanced border control, that would fall under a law enforcement oriented department, such as the solicitor general.
Next we will need to have a firmer policy at the border so that surprise arrivals, who spontaneously claim refugee status at airports or at border crossings without proper documents such as passports or identity cards, should be detained, and not as the minister says “for a while” or “while certain checks are done” but until their identity is established and it can be determined that they do not present a health or security risk to Canadians.
Finally, there are a number of countries, including the United States and the member countries of the European Union, which are in compliance with article 33 of the Geneva convention on refugees. That means that these countries, like Canada, which are free and democratic and which are civilized and have an established history of protecting the human rights and interests of all people in their countries, are called safe countries according to that Geneva convention because they do not persecute, threaten or torture people for religious, political or other reasons. No persons in these countries deemed safe, such as Canada, could legitimately claim that they would be tortured or persecuted because of religious, political or other reasons.
People arriving from countries deemed as safe should not be accepted as refugee claimants. Persons arriving from these countries, countries like Canada, Sweden and Holland, who try to claim refugee status saying that they would be tortured back in the country from which they came should be put on the next plane or bus and sent back to the safe country from which they came.
In short, the motion presented by the Canadian Alliance today particularly addresses providing our customs officers with enhanced training, ensuring that those who turn up at our airports without identity papers are detained until they are identified and we are sure that they do not represent a threat to our security, no longer accepting refugees from the United States or member states of the European Union, and if such people turn up at our borders claiming refugee status, deporting them immediately.
To most members of the general public, these would sound like basic and common sense proposals.
Our customs and immigration officers should have the tools and training they need to do their job. Canada should not accept refugees from first world safe nations or those who are trying to identify themselves as such.
I am sure in the debate today we will hear members of the government claim that these are radical policies, Draconian or un-Canadian. This is the inevitable Liberal reaction to any ideas which originate from the Canadian Alliance.
It was the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, who once said that all truth goes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; then it is violently opposed; and then if it is truth, it is accepted as self-evident.
That has been the pattern of so many of the policies presented by Canadian Alliance members and members before us on this side over the years. When we talked about reducing and getting rid of deficit and debt, we were called extreme; it was violently opposed; and then it was accepted by the Liberals. So many of our policies followed this pattern.
I have no doubt that some speakers on the government side today will express a mixture of ridicule and violent opposition to our proposals. However, I have no doubt that in a few months, the Prime Minister will agree to a very similar list of the proposals that we are presenting today. He will do that in a press conference, probably with President Bush, likely claiming that these were obvious ideas which he had supported all along. Watch for that to happen. This has been the pattern of the federal Liberal government since the beginning of the response to the terrorist attacks of September 11.
As early as September 15, I and others spoke to the House about two great imperatives in the response to these terrorist attacks. I said that Canada would need, as our British and American allies already had, comprehensive anti-terrorism legislation. I said that Canada should not hesitate to fulfill our obligation under article 5 of the NATO treaty to provide military assistance to our friend and ally, the United States.
At first, the government response was that these steps were an unnecessary overreaction and that there was no need to adopt such extreme measures. However, barely five weeks later, the government has now tabled anti-terrorism legislation that has many of the very suggestions of the Canadian Alliance in a motion that the Canadian Alliance tabled and the government voted against on September 18. Thankfully, the government has finally committed to military support in the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan; it was deemed not to be an overreaction.
I have no doubt that whatever the government talking points tell members to say today, and however the whip tells Liberal MPs to vote this evening, in a short period of time, in either the second round of anti-terrorism legislation or at a Canada-U.S. or Canada-U.S.-Mexico summit, we will see the government proudly introducing measures along the lines we are suggesting today.
I would ask the government members who will reply to the opposition supply day motion today to be very careful in what they say about our proposals and to remember the words that Prime Minister Trudeau wrote on his question period briefing book: “May my words today be soft and tender for I may have to eat them tomorrow.”
The focus of the motion is on providing a safe and secure border for Canada.
The government has gone to extreme and far reaching attempts in proposing to reach into the lives of Canadians with criminal justice legislation. Bill C-36 will provide for new and unprecedented powers, like the right to make preventive arrests, the ability to shut down websites for content that it may deem to be hateful and the ability to permanently lock access to information on national security or diplomatic grounds without even offering the possibility of review to the information commissioner.
Some of these new powers may well be necessary, and the government will argue for that. We will listen, we will take part and we will support where we feel that is necessary. Some may, indeed, be overdue additions to the new law enforcement arsenal that is required. However, there are some matters in Bill C-36 which will raise valid concerns about civil liberties.
The one question that keeps coming back to my mind is: Why has the government been so hasty to introduce legislation which will infringe, perhaps justifiably, on the rights of Canadian citizens domestically, but it has done almost nothing to prevent the arrival of potential terrorists here from abroad? I do not understand this contradiction.
If Canada presented a solid frontier at the border and terrorists and criminals knew they had little chance of making it in, then there would be no need for some of the powers the government is bringing in under Bill C-36. We need wiretap powers because over 50 international terrorist groups are known to operate in Canada. With very few exceptions, almost every one of the suspected terrorists originated from another country. If these groups had been prevented from establishing themselves here in the first place, we would have no need to provide new sweeping wiretap powers.
Sergeant Philippe Lapierre of the RCMP's national security and intelligence section, the counterterrorism unit, spoke at the international conference on money laundering in Montreal last week. He pointed out that terrorist groups operating in Canada follow a common modus operandi. I am being careful to say that he was talking about terrorist groups and potential terrorists. That is who we are talking about, not all refugee claimants. We will be very upset if we get accused of that again today. We are talking about suspected terrorists.
This is what the distinguished member of the RCMP said:
Some people are sent here with a mission and some people come here on their own and are recruited. But once here, they all have the same MO (modus operandi).
He said that first they would claim refugee status, allowing the claimant to remain in Canada while their case worked its way through the system, which as we all know can take years. Then they would apply for benefits in Canada, welfare and health cards that provided an income stream while they got established. Next they would link with other criminals and terrorists to commit petty theft, economic fraud and other supposedly invisible crime. Then they would launder the money through legitimate businesses which then could be used to finance terrorist operations in Canada or abroad.
The pattern is common and the RCMP have seen it at work in different cities with different terrorist groups across Canada. Again I repeat it is not all refugee claimants. It is different terrorist groups across Canada. If we can break the cycle, we can do much to break the influence of terrorist groups in Canada. That is why I believe we can win this war if we fight it properly. The place we have to start is with tougher enforcement at the Canadian border.
In reference to Bill C-36, the Minister of Justice has said that its sweeping powers are necessary because we have to stop terrorists before they get on planes in Canada. She went on to say that when they got on planes intending to commit hijackings and killings, it was too late. We agree with that. The best way to ensure that terrorists do not get on our planes on our soil is not to allow them off the planes arriving in Canada in the first place.
Let me focus on one area of this debate which I believe will prove to be contentious. I have said in the House on several occasions that I believe people who arrive in Canada and spontaneously claim refugee status without proper identification or under suspicious circumstances, and I am not talking about all refugees, should be detained until their identities can be confirmed and until they have passed security clearance to ensure that they do not pose a danger to Canadians.
The minister of immigration, who is not known for using words which are soft and tender, said that this proposal of ours, which most Canadians would call common sense, was in fact “one of the dark moments in Canadian history”. She also said that it was nothing less than a proposal for penal colonies in Canada. We have never suggested such a thing and that is a departure from rational debate for her to even suggest that. Unfortunately, this reaction is only too typical of this minister who resorts to fearmongering and name calling in too many situations only to hide the weakness of her own logic and inaction.
When children are in schoolyards and their schoolmates call them names, they react with the chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. Unfortunately, in politics name calling can hurt. The Canadian Alliance knows only too well that a common and underhanded strategy of the government is to name call when it is losing the debate or when its reason is lacking. We also know that name calling can hurt because unfortunately it is easier to report than the substantive argument that triggered the irrational insult.
Even though we know that names can hurt us, we also know that the sticks and stones of an exploding building or a falling skyscraper can do more than break bones. It can cause death and destruction. We will run the risk of being politically hurt, through this reported but irrational name calling, and press on to propose the things that we know will make our nation a stronger and more peaceful land than it is already today.
The minister assures us that Canada can and does detain any people that immigration officers deem to be a security risk. Therefore, there is no need to detain the thousands per year who show up here without proper documentation. In saying this she contradicts her own department's admonitions about the very limited conditions under which they can resort to detention.
The government's detention policies state clearly that detention is considered only as a last resort and that even people with criminal records are not necessarily to be detained unless there is substantial reason to believe that they will reoffend while in Canada. I am sorry but when it comes to predicting criminal behaviour or who might reoffend the government has a hopeless record. It needs to have laws which detain those who might be a menace to our security.
Imagine a 25 year old man arriving in Canada from a country in the Middle East or North Africa where there are active terrorist groups, which have been named by CSIS, the United States and British governments and which are not declared to be safe under article 33 of the Geneva convention. The person says he wants to claim refugee status, that he does not have a passport because he used false documents to get to Canada and that he destroyed the documents on the plane. If there is no evidence to tie such a person to specific criminal activities, it would be hard under the current refugee detention guidelines for this person to be detained. It is unacceptable. We must have the power in place to detain such individuals.
Between now and the time in which legislation will finally come in, how many people with terrorist or criminal intent will walk away from our border points when they could have and should have been detained?
I respect the Liberal MPs who in 1998 recommended in a committee the very same things we talked about today. I ask them to consider the integrity of their loyalties. I understand the politics of following what a cabinet minister wants, but this is about more than the aspirations of a future cabinet minister or the fear of the whip. It is about doing the right thing. It is about something that could be a matter of life and death. It is about the only too real possibilities of what shameless and evil terrorists might do.
In 1998, when Liberals recommended the very things that we are asking for today, there was not much North American evidence of just how evil terrorists could be. Today, in a devastated crater in New York City, there are at least 6,000 reasons to motivate us all. I encourage all MPs to vote tonight on the side of what is right and just; on the side of peace, protection and freedom.