House of Commons Hansard #158 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was languages.


Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

11:05 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege, specifically to claim that a contempt of the House may have occurred in the form of a document being crafted by the government that tells committee chairs to tamper with witnesses coming before committees.

I will now put some of the background on the record. On the day of the existence of this document becoming known, on our last sitting day in the House, I asked the leader of the government in the House to table the document so that all members could understand what exactly was given to chairs of committees. In fact, I laid out in my letter to you earlier today the exchange that took place in question period on the last sitting day around this issue.

The minister failed to table the document and even went so far as to suggest that the document was somehow produced by the opposition.

I am raising the question today as my attempt to have the document tabled on our last sitting day, which would have allowed outstanding questions raised by Mr. Martin's article to be transparently examined by all members, failed. This is my earliest opportunity to raise this as a question of privilege.

The article to which I am referring was written by Don Martin with the National Post. It appeared on the front page of the National Post on Friday, May 18 and was entitled “Tories have the book on political wrangling”. In this article, Mr. Martin claims to have come into possession of a manual prepared by the government for Conservative chairs of House of Commons committees.

Mr. Martin describes the contents of the manual as follows:

Running some 200 pages including background material, the document--given only to Conservative chairmen--tells them how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, set in motion debate-obstructing delays and, if necessary, storm out of meetings to grind parliamentary business to a halt.

Toward the end of the article it states:

The manual offers up speeches for a chairman under attack and suggests committee leaders have been whipped into partisan instruments of policy control and agents of the Prime Minister's Office. Among the more heavy-handed recommendations in the document:

That the Conservative party helps pick committee witnesses. The chairman “should ensure that witnesses suggested by the Conservative Party of Canada are favourable to the government and ministry,” the document warns.

The chairmen should also seek to “include witnesses from Conservative ridings across Canada” and make sure their local MPs take the place of a member at the committee when a constituent appears, to show they listen and care.

The article goes on to say:

The chairmen should “meet with witnesses so as to review testimony and assist in question preparation.

Those revelations call into question the possibility that the government has been deliberately telling committee chairs to tamper with witnesses appearing before committees of the House and I believe that constitutes a contempt of this Parliament.

On page 50 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice by Marleau and Montpetit it quotes “Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament” as providing the classic definition of:

“Parliamentary privilege” refers more appropriately to the rights and immunities that are deemed necessary for the House of Commons, as an institution, and its Members, as representatives of the electorate, to fulfil their functions.

Further, at page 51, Marleau and Montpetit lists the individual and collective privileges of the House, including the specific collective privileges of the right to institute inquiries and to call witnesses and demand papers and the right to administer oaths to witnesses.

However, throughout the whole chapter in this much quoted authority, privilege is actually seen as an ancient and specific right that we receive through section 18 of the British North America Act or within sections 4 and 5 of the Parliament of Canada Act from our British parliamentary roots. In fact, there is no doubt that these privileges come down to us from 400 years of parliamentary experience from the Parliament of Westminster in the United Kingdom.

In looking up the origin of privilege of witness in the 21st edition of Erskine May, I wanted to see what privileges exist in England and how they compare to ours in this situation. Under the “Contempt of Parliament” sections on page 131 of Erskine May, which deals with the contempt of obstructing witnesses, it states:

On 8 March 1866 the Commons resolved, 'That it is the undoubted right of this House that all witnesses summoned to attend this House, or any committee appointed by it, have the privilege in this House in coming, staying and returning'.

I mentioned that because it was the common ancestor to our practice which still offers our witnesses before committees the protection of our privileges, most notably, the right of freedom of speech. Since those rights are offered to witnesses in both parliaments, I also looked to see what further protection was offered under British privilege to witnesses before committees.

On page 131 of Erskine May's 21st edition it further states:

Any conduct calculated to deter prospective witnesses from giving evidence before either House or a committee is a contempt

While this refers mostly to protection from physical molestation and intimidation, page 132 of Erskine May's 21st edition, under the heading of “Tampering with witnesses”, states:

A resolution setting out that to tamper with a witness in regard to the evidence to be given before either House or any committee of either House or to endeavour, directly or indirectly, to deter or hinder any person from appearing or giving evidence is a breach of privilege has been agreed by the Commons at the beginning of every session since 1900, and there have been numerous instances of punishment for offences of this kind.

Corruption or intimidation, though a usual, is not an essential ingredient in this offence. It is equally a breach of privilege to attempt by persuasion or solicitations of any kind to induce a witness not to attend, or to withhold evidence or to give false evidence.

This matter was considered in 1935 by a committee of the Commons which reported that, in its opinion, it was a breach of privilege to give any advice to a witness which took the form of pressure or of interference with his freedom to form and express his own opinions honestly in the light of all the facts known to him; and the House resolved that it agreed with the committee in its report.

I wish to submit that the British parliament has clearly seen the need for impartiality of witnesses and has actually made it a breach of privilege to interfere with witnesses in any way that would affect or coach their testimony. The question that arises is whether those rules apply here. I believe they do and that they should.

In the sixth edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, citation 32 on pages 13 and 14, it explains that the privileges of the United Kingdom parliament were effectively transferred to this House:

The right of the Canadian Parliament to establish its privileges is guaranteed by the Constitution Act and the privileges thus claimed may, at present, not exceed those of the United Kingdom House of Commons.

(2) Parliament, in 1868, laid claim to all of the privileges of the United Kingdom House of Commons without specifying their exact extent.

Citation 32(4) states:

As Parliament has never delimited the extent of privilege, considerable confusion surrounds the area. Recourse must therefore be taken, not only to the practice of the Canadian House, but also to the vast tradition of the United Kingdom House of Commons.

Therefore, witnesses before committees share the same privilege of freedom of speech as members in the U.K. and here. Committee privileges are covered in basically the same way in Ottawa in our House of Commons and in Westminster in terms of the powers of committees to decide questions of privilege and in the ways that members' privileges apply as well. Even the procedure for reporting a breach of privilege is almost identical here in Canada to what it is in Westminster.

Mr. Speaker, you may question whether the applicability of the British rules against molestation, intimidation or tampering with witnesses applies here but I would contend that they do apply, as laid out in Erskine May.

Since it is alleged that the government has published a committee manual that instructs committee chairs to behave in a way that would alter the testimony of a witness before a committee, I submit that a breach of privilege and a contempt of Parliament may have taken place and, therefore, we must look into this matter immediately.

Mr. Speaker, I look favourably on your submission and I am prepared to move the appropriate motion, submitted to you earlier today in writing, should you find a favourable ruling to this question of privilege.

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

11:10 a.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.


Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to state unequivocally that it is my belief that this does not, in any way, shape or form, constitute a question of privilege.

I have remarked publicly and have been quoted in a number of media publications over the last few days that I had hoped, and certainly the government had hoped, after the break week--it is always called a break week but it is really not a break for members of Parliament from any of the four parties because it does allow us one week to get back in touch with our constituents on issues that are important to them and sometimes it allows us to refocus away from the day to day machinations of what goes on in the chamber and in Parliament--we would have started out what is the final session before the longer summer break in a better light than with this.

However, the point is that this so-called manual is an internal document that we produced for--

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

11:15 a.m.


Garth Turner Conservative Halton, ON

Table it. Let's see it.

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

11:15 a.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think this is a question of privilege--

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

11:15 a.m.


Garth Turner Conservative Halton, ON

Why don't you table it?

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

11:15 a.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member for Halton wants to continue to heckle, perhaps he can add to the debate after I am done instead of just shouting out his nonsense.

The reality is that this is a similar document that all parties produce to help train their individual members. I note that this internal document, as I say, is not a government document. It is something that was produced by the Conservative Party to assist our chairs.

Since the NDP members are so concerned about this, perhaps they could reveal to us their playbook or explain their tactics when they were delaying and continue to delay Bill C-45, the Fisheries Act; or Bill C-44, the amendments to the Human Rights Act; or their earlier extensive delay in filibustering Bill C-24, the softwood lumber act. In all of those things they employed tactics to delay passage of government legislation.

What about a chapter from their playbook dealing with moving concurrence motions to obstruct government legislation from following the due process and the procedure that we have become accustomed to in passing through the chamber? Instead, they resort, almost daily, to moving concurrence motions to delay that legislation.

I have remarked that the further training of our chairs, our committee members and, indeed, all of our caucus is to ensure that we are well aware of any procedural tools that we might have as a government, recognizing that we are a minority government and that we are outnumbered, not only in the chamber but at each and every standing committee. When we are confronted, as we have been by the opposition parties, which have become increasingly obstructionist, with a lot of legislation, we need to ensure we use every possible tool at our disposal to get our legislation passed through the committees, passed through the chamber and ultimately passed through a Liberal dominated Senate to become law in order that we can keep the promises that we made to the Canadian people in the last election campaign.

I have been noting that the people of Canada did not elect a coalition government of opposition parties. They elected a minority Conservative government and we have been trying to govern as such.

It is certainly my contention that this is an internal party document and that all parties have similar types of documents. It is beyond the pale that we would start out this final week with this bogus question of privilege.

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

11:15 a.m.


Garth Turner Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important for the chief government whip to remember that the standing committees of the House were put together not simply to be a reflection and extension of the partisan nature of the debate that takes place in this chamber.

Committees were always designed to be all-party working groups, where members of Parliament from all parties could get together, discuss and modify legislation, hear expert testimony, and come to conclusions. They can bring forward to committees topics of interest that their constituents want them to raise that may not necessarily make it into the chamber due to the overly formal structure that has evolved over the past number of years. Committees have always been extremely important elements where individual members can express the representations of their own constituencies.

I well remember when I was here last time. The chief government whip was not here and perhaps has not acquired the same perspective over a longer period of time that some of us have. However, committees in the past have certainly represented members' aspirations and allowed individual members to bring to that forum issues important to their constituents. It also allowed a very important thing to happen and that is compromise. That is the nature of all party politics: to find compromise and move issues ahead in the interests of all Canadians.

When the government party requires its members to caucus before committee meetings, it certainly is an extension of the block voting mentality we see in the chamber. I would certainly support a motion if it were on the table. That would be very valid because we need to be reminded constantly of the nature and importance of committees.

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

11:20 a.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to appear to be telling you what to do because I am certain that you will do your work as conscientiously as always.

The matter raised by my colleague, the House leader of the New Democratic Party, is a very serious one. If the committees are considered to be a legal or parliamentary extension of the House of Commons, we must examine how the privilege of members of this House has been breached, altered or modified by the document in question.

I would also like to refer to page 50 of Marleau and Montpetit. The authors, who cite Erskine May, provide a classic definition of what is known as parliamentary privilege. If I may, I would like to quote the author:

Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively...and by members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.

We have to figure out whether the government deliberately set out to paralyze the committees. I think that is the key. When I spoke up to criticize what was going on in the Standing Committee on Official Languages, I said that the chief government whip wanted to turn this into a battle of public opinion. Now that he has lost the battle, the chief government whip appears to be trying another strategy to bog things down in various committees. He says that the Standing Committee on Official Languages is not working and that the three opposition parties ganged up on the government-appointed chair and demanded that he be removed. Instead of doing that, the chief government whip should have taken note of what the opposition parties wanted and what they were saying, which was that this minority government cannot make unilateral decisions. Even though it is in power, it must take the opposition parties into account.

The chief government whip, who is usually a sensible man who listens to reason, should have recognized the democratic will of the members of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, who no longer want this member as their chair. But no, instead of putting out the fire, he is adding fuel to it. The chief government whip is acting like a pyromaniac who happens to be the fire chief. That is exactly how he is acting. He is using this manual to disrupt the work of several committees. Then, he will say that the government cannot get bills passed or govern reasonably.

Before the break week, he even accused us of forming a coalition government. He should define that for us. What is a coalition government? We do not even know. We are not allied with the Liberals or the NDP. We take a common sense approach. There is absolutely no coalition. There is absolutely no perceived or planned coup against this government.

I do not know what the Conservatives want. Are they looking for a reason to call an election? They say that they were elected democratically and that the three opposition parties are preventing them from moving forward.

Mr. Speaker, you are indicating that you are beginning to be concerned about the rule of relevance. I will impose the rule of relevance on myself.

In closing, on page 51 of Marleau and Montpetit, the rights and immunities accorded to members are categorized under the following headings: as individuals, freedom of speech; the regulation of our own internal affairs; the authority to maintain the attendance and service of members; the right to institute inquiries and to call witnesses and demand papers; the right to administer oaths to witnesses; the right to publish papers; and so on.

What is happening at present shows that we have gone off the rails. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, it is part of your duties and responsibilities to acknowledge the question of privilege raised by the NDP House leader. It is a way of saying that the parties would benefit from talking to and understanding each other, because the situation we are in is deteriorating hour by hour, day by day.

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

11:25 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has heard enough on this issue. We have had four presentations and I believe that should complete the matter. I am prepared to make a decision at once.

This matter was sent to me by the hon. member for Vancouver East this morning and she forwarded with her letter a publication of an article by Don Martin in The Saskatoon StarPhoenix with a headline: “Secret book whips Tories into line”.

The only paragraph in the entire article that could give rise to a question of privilege, as the hon. member for Vancouver East pointed out in her remarks although she did not state it quite this way, was that:

The chairmen should "meet with witnesses so as to review testimony and assist in question preparation”.

The Chair has some concern that it is possible there could be a breach of members' privileges, or at least the members of the committee, if there had been tampering with witnesses, but because somebody writes that there should be a meeting between witnesses and chairs, to suggest that it somehow constitutes tampering, I believe is simply beyond reason.

I think this discussion here in the House is about the duties of committees. The Chief Government Whip and the Bloc Québécois whip really made speeches about the work of the House committees in order to continue a debate that was started a few weeks ago. But this is not a question of privilege in this House.

The business of the committees is their own affair.

Had there been some evidence of tampering with a witness, I might have found there was a question of privilege. But there is no evidence whatsoever. What we have is a suggestion that some internal memo, manual or book, contains some suggestion that chairs should meet with witnesses. That is the most we have.

If some hon. member prepared a memo urging members to come into the House and raise phony questions of privilege, are we to take that as some kind of breach of the privileges of members of the House? I do not think so and I suspect such a thing might have happened before. I do not know but I suspect it might have.

I am not prepared to find a question of privilege on the basis of an article in a paper that suggests there may have been a phrase in a document or manual that says that chairs should meet with witnesses to discuss their testimony.

Until there is evidence of tampering with witnesses, I do not believe that the Chair can find that there has been a breach of members' privileges. There is no such evidence before me and accordingly, I do not believe there is a question of privilege here.

It being 11:30 a.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

moved that Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171) be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, this is the third reading of this bill, which I was proud to introduce on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. Originally, the bill was sponsored by my colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges, the Bloc's immigration critic. The reason we have had to introduce this bill, and this is true for a number of bills and motions introduced by the Bloc Québécois, is because things are truly absurd in this House, and the Refugee Appeal Division—which is part of legislation that has already been passed—has not yet been implemented. So, passing this bill will make it possible for sections 110, 111 and 171 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the three sections that have to do with the Refugee Appeal Division, to take effect.

While it is absurd to have to pass legislation to ask that specific sections of another piece of legislation come into force, this should not come as a surprise. From day one, the Bloc Québécois has stood up for the most vulnerable in society and made a point of vigorously defending the interests of all those citizens who do not have a voice and are unable to defend their interests themselves.

We have come to the conclusion that we should introduce a bill to implement the refugee appeal division after many people, individuals, groups or representatives asked us repeatedly to put a bill together to put an end to this absurd situation. We have done so very thoroughly and with great pleasure.

As I indicated, we have sought the assistance of many. My colleague, the whip of the Bloc Québécois, alluded earlier to relevancy. We are always very careful to be relevant in making requests. I could point out today that the Canadian Council for Refugees has been of great assistance to us in explaining the many ways in which the refugee appeal division is essential. I will mention a few.

Why is an appeal division necessary? The stakes are high. Refugee determination is one of the few decision making processes in Canada where a wrong decision can mean death for the applicant. Even though the stakes are so high, there are fewer safeguards in the system than for other decision making processes where the stakes are much lower—for example, a minor criminal offence. As a result, wrong decisions go uncorrected.

Decision making is inherently difficult. Refugee determination is extremely difficult because it involves deciding what may happen in the future in another country, about which the decision maker may have limited knowledge, based often on testimony that must pass through an interpreter and that may be confusing because of the traumatic experiences that the claimant has lived through. Often decision makers have little documentary evidence that can help decide the case one way or the other, and the credibility of the claimant is a decisive factor. However, credibility assessments can easily be wrong.

Another reason is that not all decision-makers are equally competent. For many years, appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board have been made in part on the basis of political connections, rather than purely on the basis of competence. As a result, while many board members are highly qualified and capable, some are not. The problem was recognized by the former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who announced a reform of the appointment process in spring 2004. While this is a positive development and may mean future improvements, in the meantime board members appointed under the old political patronage system continue to decide on the fate of refugee claimants.

Another reason to support this bill is that decision-making is inconsistent. Refugee determination involves a complex process of applying a legal definition to facts about country situations that can be interpreted in different ways.

Different decision-makers do not necessarily come up with the same answer, leading to serious inconsistencies. Two claimants fleeing the same situation may not get the same determination, depending on which board member they appear before. This was the case with two Palestinian brothers who had the same basis for their refugee claim, yet one was accepted and the other refused.

I had the privilege, together with my colleague from Vaudreuil-Soulanges, of meeting a refugee claimant who experienced that very situation. Someone he knew had gone through the same experience he had. The person he knew was accepted as a refugee, but he, himself, has sought sanctuary in a church for almost two years now. That is not right.

Poor representation is another reason. Refugee determination is made more difficult because refugee claimants sometimes have no legal representative, or are represented by incompetent and unscrupulous lawyers and consultants. How many times have we had to deal with people who have been wronged and deceived by others who claimed to be competent lawyers and who claimed to be able to help when nothing could be further from the truth? They did not help; in fact, they made things worse in order to make their money at the expense of very vulnerable people.

This problem is quite common because refugee claimants rarely have much money to pay for a lawyer. In some provinces, legal aid is unavailable to claimants, and in others, the aid is so meagre that few competent lawyers are willing to represent claimants on legal aid.

Any decision-making process will involve mistakes. As human beings, we are all bound to make mistakes from time to time, however hard we try. An effective system recognizes this and provides a mechanism to correct errors. We do this in the criminal justice system, which allows anyone who feels they have been wrongly convicted to appeal the decision. We try to avoid people being wrongly sent to jail here in Canada by providing appeals. Why would we not similarly try to avoid refugees being wrongly removed, which could result not only in their being jailed, but tortured and even killed?

There is one more reason. Non-implementation shows disrespect for the rule of law. Parliament approved a law that included a right to an appeal on the merits for refugee claimants. This right was balanced by a reduction in the number of board members hearing a case from two to one. During debate, there was never any suggestion that the implementation of the appeal would be indefinitely delayed and there is no indication that Parliament would have passed the law if the government had proposed it as it is now being implemented.

For these very obvious and valid reasons, I would ask all my colleagues to reflect very carefully when deciding how they will vote on this matter. We feel this bill should be passed and adopted by all the members of this House, and we are not the only ones to think so. Amnesty International recently released a report that criticizes the Canadian government's failure to respect these agreements and the decisions of Parliament.

It would be a disgrace to not be able to meet the needs of these men, women and children, of all these vulnerable people. Some of these families have been here long enough to integrate very well. Some individuals are working or in school, some are involved and engaged in their communities and civil society. There is every indication that they are exemplary citizens. If we do not adopt this bill, in the near future these individuals may be forced to return to a system of terror and to a country where they may be beaten, silenced, imprisoned or even killed.

I am convinced that most of the members of this House would not wish this on anyone. I am convinced that if someone in our family had to suffer what most refugees are subjected to in their countries, we would realize the importance of this bill and we would vote in favour of it.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for introducing this important, if not strange, piece of legislation. I know she thinks it is strange too. It is important that the House debate and adopt this measure so we can finally get back on track with regard to a refugee appeal system.

There is a crisis at the Immigration and Refugee Board right now. One-third of the board is vacant and this is driving up the backlog.

I wonder if the member could comment on the lack of a formal appeal process like the refugee appeal division and the lack of appointees and reappointments at the IRB. What kind of a problem is that creating for the refugee determination process in Canada?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

The refugee board is indeed experiencing a lot of problems. These problems have existed for a very long time. Earlier, we referred to political appointments. Now, we can also talk about people who are not appointed, and perhaps this is also for political reasons. Some may argue that the refugee appeal division should not be established, because there would be too many cases to hear and this would slow down the whole process. But there are no excuses. An individual who used to sit on the board explained to us the importance of this appeal division and told us that the department had already taken action, that everything was in place, and that the only thing left to do is to implement this process. According to this person, if the refugee appeal division is not already established, it is for reasons of bad faith and lack of political will.

Yes, we have to appoint more members to the board. We must ensure that these individuals are competent, that they have a clear understanding of the issues and that they can solve them. We must also ensure that we have a refugee appeal division, in case a mistake is made or something is misunderstood. A second level must be in place to hear refugee claims.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like members and people watching to imagine for a second that there was a knock on their door and someone told them that they had to leave the country. That would be pretty shocking. One person would have made that decision. How could anything like that happen in Canada? I certainly support the need for a second look. Most processes have another type of review.

There is an equally serious problem with respect to the huge backlog of refugee cases. People are often here for years and their lives are on hold while they wait for a decision. I wonder if the member could comment on that problem.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that, at some point, there was a snowball effect. They took a lot of time to decide how this process should work. They took a lot of time to implement various measures to change the way this process was working. There is no question that, during that period, the number of claims increased. In my opinion, there is also the fact that, since 2001, we have acted differently with refugee claimants. A kind of fear began to assail governments, including all North American governments, with the result that we started to act differently. Moreover, it may be that we acted in a harmful fashion, that we were too slow to respond to needs. When there is only one person who can process refugee claims, it creates a backlog. If we cannot deal with one claim, then it is two, three and ten. Now, we are finding out that tens of thousands of claims are waiting to be processed.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Chambly—Borduas has the floor for a brief question.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would quickly like to congratulate my colleague from Lavalon her speech.

In a matter having such a humanitarian dimension, and given that Canada often defends human rights in other countries or in other parts of the world, how is it that this appeal division—that would be an effective mechanism for reviewing decisions that have life and death consequences— has yet to be established?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Laval should know that the time allocated to her has expired, but I will allow her a moment to reply.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to thank my colleague for expressing his concerns and reassure him that we will do what it takes for this bill to be accepted by the House.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to participate in third reading debate on Bill C-280.

I would first like to say for my hon. colleagues and all Canadians that as a country we should take pride in our humanitarian and compassionate nature. Canada has welcomed thousands of refugees over the years and has helped them to settle so they could contribute to the economic, social and cultural enrichment of our great country.

Indeed, the government welcomed over 32,000 refugees last year, including, recently, over 750 Karen refugees from Myanmar, with hundreds more to come in the next two years. We also raised by 500 people the target for privately sponsored refugees, bringing it up to 4,500 for 2007.

I am proud to say that we are living up to our reputation when it comes to providing refugee protection to those in need. There can be no doubt that Canada meets and has surpassed its international commitments.

Canadians have a right to be proud of our humanitarian tradition, but we also recognize that we must have in place a refugee determination system that is fair and consistent in its application of the rules. That is why I rise today to repeat that the government is opposed to the private member's bill tabled by the hon. member for Laval.

Once again I ask my hon. colleagues to question the need for an appeal in the context of all the recourses offered by the refugee determination system as a whole. Implementing this legislation would be unfair to refugees as it would add months to the process.

While our in-Canada refugee determination process is fair and even generous, many have said that it is already complex, slow and costly. As we deal with these realities, we must also ensure that we are able to help individuals who really need protection.

I will outline the steps once again. First, applicants have access to the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board or IRB. If their claim is refused by the IRB, they can apply for a pre-removal risk assessment. Should the pre-removal risk assessment be unsuccessful, failed refugee claimants can apply to stay for humanitarian and compassionate reasons, including for reasons of risk.

We do not see any practical reason to make this process any longer by adding a fourth layer of review.

There are currently three members of the official opposition who at one time served as ministers of citizenship and immigration. How about if we ask them for their views on this matter? The former Liberal minister of immigration, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, said:

--the Refugee Appeal Division, which was proposed by the committee and accepted in Parliament, was an additional impediment to streamlining the process...we hardly needed that mechanism.

That is quite the statement, but there is more. The former Liberal immigration minister went on to say:

I might remind the House that all failed claimants can make an appeal to the federal court. They are also subject to a pre-removal risk assessment and have applications for [humanitarian and compassionate] in the process.

I refer to a specific case just this last year: a country from Central America, 2,000 applicants and 99% of them were refused. Would she have those 99% clogging up the system that she abhors?

Not only are former Liberal ministers making these comments, but the current official opposition critic for citizenship and immigration, the member for Mississauga—Erindale, said recently in the Toronto Star that the current refugee process takes too long and allows “bogus stay longer, with potential implications for Canadian security”.

So we have former ministers saying the refugee process takes too long and the current Liberal immigration critic saying the refugee process takes too long, yet here we are with the Liberal Party supporting a bill that would increase the length of the process by adding an unnecessary layer to the system. If that is not a prime example of someone trying to suck and blow at the same time, I am not sure what is.

The opposition cannot have it both ways. Either the system takes too long or it does not. If it does, then the Liberal leader and caucus should take the advice of the former immigration ministers and refuse to support Bill C-280. If the Liberal opposition believes that the current refugee process is taking too long, it does not make any sense that it would extend the process by voting in favour of Bill C-280.

The hypocrisy from the opposition on this issue is breathtaking. Implementing sections of the RAD would add more time to a process that many consider long enough. It would also presume that the current safeguards intended to ensure that no one at risk is removed, including the judicial review process at the Federal Court and the pre-removal risk assessment, were not functioning as they should.

Let us consider the individuals who have been in the system for years. How do we make the system fairer and more just by adding yet another layer to the review process?

In addition to questioning the addition of a fourth recourse to the refugee system, we must also consider the lack of transition provisions in Bill C-280, which raises questions. For example, we must ask ourselves, who would be eligible for this new level of appeal? Would it apply to individuals whose cases were heard since the IRPA came into force in 2002? Or would only new cases be eligible? What would be the rule for cases currently before the Federal Court?

Who would hear cases sent back by the court? Would it be the refugee protection division or the refugee appeal division? This is not to mention that creating a backlog of cases for the inexperienced RAD would cause further delays.

As members of the government have said, the current refugee system includes many steps for both accepted and failed refugee claimants.

Assuming that the RAD would be given a new start without any backlog from day one and that fully trained decision makers with the necessary qualifications would be appointed, implementing the RAD would add at least another five months to an already long refugee process.

As for the alternative, we must ask ourselves, what are the risks of saddling the new appeal division with a large backlog which would cause a further increase in processing delays in the refugee system?

As I have said, currently those who are successful go through a minimum of three steps: an eligibility decision by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration or the Canada Border Services Agency; a merits decision on the claim by the IRB; and an application for permanent residence by CIC. It often takes upward of three years from the time of the claim to being accepted as a refugee and obtaining permanent residence.

Current research suggests that most failed claimants go through at least four separate processes: an eligibility decision; a merits decision; an application for leave to seek judicial review at the Federal Court; and a pre-removal risk assessment. As I have said, many failed refugee claimants also make an application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Ultimately, it takes years before failed refugee claimants can be removed from Canada. Canadians would have every right to question whether yet another layer of appeal would make the system any fairer and more just, especially when they see that many people have been in the system for years and years.

Will creating more layers enhance what is already regarded as one of the most generous refugee systems in the world? No.

Is there a legitimate reason to implement the RAD at this time? As the former Liberal ministers of citizenship and immigration would say, no.

Canada's refugee determination system meets all legal requirements, provides protection to all who need it and provides a number of opportunities for decisions to be reviewed. Adding yet another layer and delaying the process even further is not fair to refugees and their families, who count on an efficient and timely determination process so they can get on with building their lives.

I am happy to see that the former Liberal ministers of immigration agree with our government's position on this issue. My only hope is that the leader of the Liberal Party and the Liberal immigration critic, the member for Mississauga—Erindale, will actually consult with them before the next vote on this important issue.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak, for the second time, to private member's Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Bill C-280 is an act that is intended to reaffirm some of the clauses that already exist in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act by calling for the establishment of an appeal mechanism for failed refugee claimants. This is the final debate on the bill before its third and final vote in the House. I continue to support it and hope that it becomes law.

As I mentioned before, Canada has a long tradition and a compassionate history of receiving refugees from around the world. These people are escaping unfair persecution and severe injustices and are seeking a peaceful new life and a promising future for themselves and their families. Canadians recognize that welcoming legitimate refugees is not a feel good exercise, but the right and moral thing to do for a country that believes in the principles of equality, fairness, opportunity and justice.

Also, a privileged country such as ours has obligations under international treaties to contribute to providing relief in the global refugee crisis. Canada is one of the very few countries in the world that has made a conscious decision to take every refugee claimant very seriously. Claimant applications are first reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Board, IRB, a quasi-judicial refugee board, where each case is examined based on its own merit and circumstances.

Prior to 2001, the backlog of refugee claimants was rising considerably and there were many calls to reform the system. The previous Liberal government recognized the magnitude of this challenge and confronted those needs head-on. Steps to reduce political interference were taken and measures to improve efficiencies were adopted.

One component of those reforms was to reduce the number of board members who adjudicated each claim from two to one. In exchange, an appeal division was proposed to ensure that a second opinion would not be lost by reducing the number of adjudicators to one. This measure was reached after conducting extensive consultations with experts, stakeholders and refugee organizations.

The new appeal is only a paper appeal and would not allow for new evidence to be submitted. It is intended to ensure that any failed refugee claimant is given a second look before a final decision is made. Though the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was passed in 2001, the refugee appeal division has not yet been put into practice.

Understandably, there are some administrative challenges to implement it, but that is not unusual when reforms are to be adopted. The decision to accept or reject a refugee applications is extremely seriously. It must examine the reality and the merit of the application in an objective and thoughtful way.

These procedures could have life or death consequences and we as a country have accepted our responsibility in affording fairness and justice to all applicants. By proceeding with this appeal mechanism, we can ensure that our responsibility as a government and a country has been fulfilled in a just and verifiable way to the people who seek our help.

Instead of building on improvements that the previous Liberal government and the IRB have made over the last few years, the Conservatives have unfortunately chosen to set the clock back and weaken the system.

After years of progress, the backlog of refugee claimants has more than tripled in less than a year and a half under the watch of the Conservatives. The process to select the IRB is being politicized and the chair of the IRB, Mr. Jean-Guy Fleury, who is known for his honourable 40 years of public service, has resigned in protest.

The attempt by the Conservatives to inject their ideology and political agenda into the IRB has caused so much paralysis that we now have a crisis. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration prepared an extensive report that was the culmination of a comprehensive study on the status of refugee matters in Canada. The report, entitled “Safeguarding Asylum—Sustaining Canada's Commitment to Refugees”, contains informative findings and thoughtful recommendations. I urge everyone to take a look at it when it is tabled.

One of the many constructive recommendations included in this report is to urge the government to act quickly to implement the appeal division. This matter requires urgent action.

I support conducting a comprehensive overhaul of the refugee processing system that must include an accessible and fair appeal process. Currently the system is convoluted and multi-layered. The lack of appeal and efficiency compels failed claimants to seek out legitimate and sometimes illegitimate methods in order to remain in Canada.

By strengthening and streamlining our application process, we can ensure that fewer people opt to appeal to Federal Court, which costs taxpayer money and clogs up our courts.

It is worth noting that the Conservative Party has been exhibiting very little compassion and understanding with regard to the real humanitarian issues of immigrants and refugees. While the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act can benefit from a comprehensive review and modernization, the Conservatives are busy flexing their muscles at vulnerable undocumented workers.

While the Citizenship Act is in need of fundamental re-examination and it appears that thousands of Canadians are at risk of losing their citizenship because of old flaws, the Conservatives are busy reviewing the issue of dual citizenship, attempting to make Canadians feel guilty if they hold dual citizenship.

Not surprisingly, just like we see them behave on most files, the Conservatives appear to be at odds with what is needed and what Canadians expect of them.

I will be voting in favour of Bill C-280. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration examined the legislation and approved its objectives. This bill is not asking us to introduce anything new or change our procedures drastically. It is only reaffirming what is already in our legislative books. There are probably many reasons why these clauses have not yet been applied, but it is hard to deny the intent and the objective of this bill.

Stakeholders and human rights advocates have been calling for the need to strengthen and reform our refugee application examination process. This step will further enhance the transparency and credibility of our system.

I call upon my colleagues across all party lines to vote in favour of the bill. In a country where we pride ourselves in championing justice and equality we must turn our back on implementing a process that would ensure the application of justice.

Not only do we want to pursue the application of justice, but we also must be seen to do everything we can in that pursuit.

I want to remind my colleagues that a strong, efficient, transparent and fair refugee claims process is not only the right thing to do, but it is good for the safety of our country, good for the well-being of our citizens and is prudent when it comes to spending our tax dollars. It is the least we can do for people who are escaping persecution or tragic conditions and are seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to participate today in the debate on Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act . I want to again thank the member for Laval and the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges for their efforts in bringing this legislation forward.

Earlier the member for Laval called this a strange a strange bill. It is indeed a strange bill, a bill to implement legislation that has already been fully debated and passed in the House and in the other place, but the government has failed to implement it. This bill should not be necessary. This action should have been taken years ago when the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was passed in 2001 and the legislation was implemented. The fact that it has not is a very serious problem.

I agree with the former chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board, Peter Showler, who called it “profoundly undemocratic” that this place could debate and develop a compromise on the refugee appeal process that saw a two-member board reduced to a one member board, but that a refugee appeal division was added to ensure that mistakes, caused because only one person was hearing a refugee claim, could be addressed. The fact that the refugee appeal division has not been implemented is undemocratic. It is also a real blow to justice and fairness in Canada.

Regarding the UNHCR, we have heard a number of times this morning that Canada has an excellent reputation when it comes to refugee resettlement work, and that is true. In 1986 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees awarded Canada the Nansen Medal for our refugee work, and we are the only country to have been recognized as a country. Usually that award goes to individuals for their work with refugees.

We have been recognized in the past for our outstanding contribution, and that continues.

I should also point out that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees also criticized Canada when it came to the failure to implement an appeal process for refugees, the refugee appeal division. I want to quote from the UN High Commissioner who said:

UNHCR considers an appeal procedure to be a fundamental, necessary part of any refugee status determination process. It allows errors to be corrected, and can also help to ensure consistency in decision-making. Canada, Italy and Portugal are the only industrialized countries which do not allow rejected asylum seekers the possibility to have first instance decisions reviewed on points of fact as well as points of law. In the past, a measure of safeguard was provided by the fact that determinations could be made by a two-member panel, with the benefit of the doubt going to the applicant in case of a split decision. With the implementation of IRPA on June 28th, this important safeguard will be lost.

That is a direct criticism of the failure of the Canadian government to implement the refugee appeal division. She pointed out how necessary this division was given the changes made in the process under IRPA in 2001.

There have been many criticisms of this legislation. One of them has been the cost of doing this. I submit that the cost is relatively small given the overall immigration and refugee budget in Canada. The former Liberal government estimated a $2 million start-up cost and $8 million a year to operate the refugee appeal division, which is a paper appeal process. More recently, officials from the IRB and the Conservative government have said that the start-up cost would be more like $8 million and a $6 million to $8 million a year operating cost. That is fairly negligible in terms of the process.

Another criticism has been that the process is already too complicated. We heard that again from the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells. She said that there were too many stages in the refugee determination process and that the refugee appeal division was an impediment to streamlining. The lack of a refugee appeal division is an impediment to justice and fairness in our refugee process. The huge impediment to streamlining is the behaviour of the current government, especially around appointments and reappointments to the IRB itself, and I will have more to say about that in a few minutes.

Coming back to what the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells said this morning, I found her speech distressing in one important way. She was quick to criticize the official opposition for the position of former Liberal ministers of citizenship and immigration who did not support the implementation of the RAD. That is a valid criticism of the position that they took, but I want to criticize the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells because when she was a member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in the last Parliament, she was part of a unanimous decision to call for an immediate implementation of the refugee appeal division.

Suddenly, now that her party has become government, it seems she has picked up the speaking notes of the former Liberal ministers and is now reading them almost verbatim into the record. At least that is what it sounds like. She is saying that somehow it would be a problem to implement the RAD, whereas not so long ago she was part of a unanimous committee decision, as were a number of other Conservative members, calling for the implementation of the RAD. I think that some of the criticism that she was levelling at the official opposition and the former minister should land right back in her own lap.

There are very valid reasons for implementing the refugee appeal division just on its own. François Crépeau, Professor of International Law at the Université de Montréal and Canada Research Chair in International Migration Law, has made four points about why the refugee appeal division is indispensable for the smooth functioning of the Canadian refugee determination system.

His first point is:

In the interests of efficiency: a specialized appeal division is a much better use of scarce resources than recourse to the Federal Court, which is not at all specialized in refugee matters. It would be much better placed to correct errors of law and fact and to discipline hearing room participants for unacceptable behaviour.

His second point is:

In the interests of consistency of law: an Appeal Division deciding on the merits of the case is the only body able to ensure consistency of jurisprudence in both the analysis of specific facts and in the interpretation of legal concepts in the largest administrative tribunal in Canada.

His third point is:

In the interests of justice: a decision to deny refugee status is generally based on an analysis of the facts, often relies on evidence that is uncertain and leads to a risk of serious consequences (death, torture, detention, etc.) As in matters of criminal law, a right to appeal to a higher tribunal is essential for the proper administration of justice.

His last point is:

In the interests of reputation: as a procedural safeguard, the Refugee Appeal Division will enhance the credibility of the IRB in the eyes of the general public, just as the provincial Courts of Appeal reinforce the entire justice system. The IRB's detractors--both those who call it too lax, and those who call it too strict--will have far fewer opportunities to back up their criticisms and the Canadian refugee determination system will be better able to defend its reputation for high quality.

Those points that Professor Crépeau has made are very important ones that show how the RAD is important to improving the refugee determination system and improving the reputation of the refugee determination process in Canada.

I think it is fair to say that the Immigration and Refugee Board is currently in a crisis and I want to talk a little about that crisis. We know that over one-third of the places on the board are vacant. Those positions have not been filled. The members of the Conservative government have not taken recommendations for appointments to those boards and have not made reappointments of people who have served on the board.

The former chair said that this has caused 300 years of experience to be lost from the board. The backlog is going up by 1,000 cases a month at the IRB. The backlog was down to 19,000. The chair figured that 15,000 was a good working level for the board. It is now up to 24,000 or 25,000. That is completely unacceptable.

That crisis has been entirely created by the government. It is the government's own creation because it has refused to make appointments and reappointments. This cannot be tolerated. Our refugee determination system is in crisis. This situation has to come to an end. Those appointments need to be made. We must also get on with implementing the RAD. It is the right thing to do.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.


Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to conclude this hour of debate on third reading. This is not the first time I have spoken about the Refugee Appeal Division. It is necessary, and it is the cornerstone of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, or IRPA.

It took a bill introduced by my colleague from Laval to finally get the appeal division implemented. Around us here, among our colleagues in this House, there are many who have openly supported the creation of the appeal division, and I want to thank them warmly.

Since I came to Parliament in 2004, I have worked constantly with refugees and immigrants in Quebec and Canada. The Refugee Appeal Division is an important piece that was missing from the legislation, and that absence is currently hurting people who are among the most disadvantaged among us. We know the consequences of the decisions that are made, and that, when mistakes are made, they are not necessarily corrected. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague from Laval for joining me in standing up for the rights of refugees, with conviction and without wavering.

Over the five years that have followed the passage of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Bloc Québécois has called attention to the injustices and inconsistencies in the area of immigration and refugee protection. The Bloc Québécois has also stood up for the interests of Quebec in this area. By failing to implement the appeal division, the government has made a mockery of refugee law. The Bloc Québécois has done everything possible to put an end to this injustice and used every means at its disposal to do that.

Canada is recognized as having one of the most generous systems in the world. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR, in fact points to Canada's reputation as a leader in the humanitarian cause. On the other hand, the High Commissioner for Refugees believes, and has long been saying, that to add credibility to our system we need to have an appeal division in the refugee determination process. We need to be sure, once and for all, that the legislation that has done so much harm to so many refugees will be fixed and we need to be able to have an appeal on the merits. This procedure would allow for inconsistencies to be remedied as early as possible in the decision-making process.

It is not always possible to understand the intentions of the government, which has obstinately refused to set up the Refugee Appeal Division. We have numerous international organizations behind us. Amnesty International is urging Canada to set up the Refugee Appeal Division. The UN Committee against Torture has criticized the fact that there is no appeal division and has called for major changes. After the esteemed international organizations, we have organizations such as Rights and Democracy and the provincial governments, including the Quebec government. We can also include refugee advocacy groups like the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Centre for Faith and Justice, KAIROS, the Canadian and Quebec bar associations, immigrant service agencies like OCASI and TCRI, and the thousands of people who have signed the petitions presented in this House for more than five years. What is the Conservative government waiting for? The list goes on; it includes numerous professors and experts in international law and justice, including François Crépeau, the professor to whom my colleague in the NDP referred.

The Bloc Québécois had to introduce a bill asking for the implementation of the sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act dealing with the Refugee Appeal Division. This is ironical. I am proud that the Bloc Québécois took this initiative. We asked and demanded several times that this appeal division be implemented and, given the unwillingness and stubbornness of successive governments, we had no other choice than to introduce this bill so the debate would take place once and for all.

We believe that the in-depth changes concerning protection are urgent and necessary. These changes will not happen easily or quickly, but they must happen. Concrete and immediate action must be taken. We must start right now, especially since this will be a lengthy process.

Members will agree that a long trip can only start with a first step. The Refugee Appeal Division is this first step that we are seeking.

I take this opportunity to thank all the organizations that appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and which provided us with the information and some wise advice. Their expertise and know-how are now duly recognized and they provided us with precious input. Thanks to them, we managed to convince several colleagues from other political parties in the House of Commons. All these people came here to remind us on many occasions that Canada's humanitarian tradition has long been a model for many countries, and they asked us to maintain it.

Consequently, I take this opportunity to salute them and to pay tribute to them today. The Conservatives, who now form a minority government, have done everything in their power to obstruct the passing of this bill. They flipped-flopped on this file and this is unacceptable. In the past, they supported the implementation of the appeal division when they were in opposition and also took part in an unanimous motion by the committee. This, among other things, was part of their platform.

In getting at the issue, I think that we must remember that deciding whether an individual is or is not a refugee is probably one of the most difficult decisions there is and everybody recognizes this. It is also a terrible decision to have to make since a serious mistake in the determination could cause an individual to be deported back to their country of origin, where they could suffer unfortunate consequences, be threatened or even killed. That is why we have been demanding for so long that Canada, like all other countries, adopt a determination mechanism that would allow the review of decisions, and that is the Refugee Appeal Division.

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, the IRB, has been going through the worst crisis of its existence since the Conservatives have come to power. Besides advocating a return to a partisan board members selection process, they voluntarily put up roadblocks and created the present crisis because more than one third of IRB commissioner positions are now vacant. These people are necessary to make important and crucial decisions for people.

The backlog increases by 1,000 cases every month because the government is improvising on such an important issue. The government must correct the situation. The Conservatives have a moral responsibility to do so. I ask the hon. members to support Bill C-280. The rights of the refugees are at stake.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

12:25 p.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues who spoke before me, with the exception of the government member, aptly demonstrated how relevant this bill is and how important and fundamentally essential it is to the successful integration and acceptance of refugees who come here to have a better quality of life and be free at last.

Before the government and members make a decision, they should think about a few things. To gain the confidence of the people we represent, it is essential to show our commitment to a few things like transparency, consistency, relevance and fairness.

Earlier, my colleague from Fleetwood—Port Kells proved that this government is not transparent, fair, relevant or consistent. This member voted in favour of the refugee appeal division in 2004. Now she is speaking against the refugee appeal division. I think this shows a lack of consistency. Resorting to obstruction tactics to prevent a bill from going through, from being voted on, and to prevent us from doing what we came here to do shows a lack of transparency.

Doing everything possible to say that this bill will paralyze the refugee process instead of accelerating it shows a lack of relevance. Denying people access to freedom, to a better life, to a life that will allow them to work at last, to be happy and to take care of their family and their children shows a lack of fairness.

I am asking government members not to forget that this bill is seeking fairness for all refugees who are counting on our goodwill.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

12:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members