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House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is another point of order. It would appear that the Bloc Québécois members are asking you to apply a double standard. During her cut-and-dried statement moments ago, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville provided an excellent example of that double standard.

About 15 minutes ago, the opposition members criticized the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism for not being at his seat when he spoke in the House. He was a few feet away from his seat. There was a point of order, and he was obliged to return to his seat.

Then, when she made her statement, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville was about 10 seats away from her assigned seat, but that was okay. The Bloc members are always trying to get away with a double standard in the House. They are always so self-righteous. Just now, we even heard threats of a witch hunt to find people in the party whose views are not politically correct.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to get involved in their debate, but I have an important request to make of the government House leader.

I understand that debates can get heated, but on behalf of Pierre Laporte's family members, who do not appreciate the incident being used as a diversionary political tactic or for any other purpose, I would ask members of the House not to play politics with the memory of Pierre Laporte. His family and his children have suffered enough.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to apologize for losing my temper a few moments ago. However, I would also like to add that I will never, ever allow a member opposite to point his or her finger at me because I asked a question that the member did not like. I call that intimidation and making a threat.

No, I was not in my seat. However, I will not be intimidated and threatened in that way just because I am a woman. Earlier, the member, whose riding I do not know and who was seated beside the parliamentary leader, wagged his finger at me and said that I would not be asking any more such questions. I will not tolerate that.

Mr. Speaker, henceforth, I am asking you to provide some protection for female members of Parliament here in this House.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am not quite sure. The problem is that such things happen from time to time in the House. I have seen it often over the years that I have spent here and other members have also witnessed it. This must not happen all the time, but it does happen from time to time.

I believe we had a discussion this afternoon. I suggested some things that can be done to somewhat resolve these problems and I encourage discussions about this matter at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. All members are certainly entitled to attend these meetings and to make suggestions to the committee members.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Papineau had the floor before question period, and he has about seven minutes left for questions and comments.

Since there are no questions, we will resume debate. The hon. member for Abbotsford.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is great to get back to matters of substance.

It is an honour to have the opportunity to rise today in support of Bill C-49, an act to prevent human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system.

Canada has a history and a tradition of welcoming immigrants who wish to start a new life here. On a per capita basis, we now welcome more newcomers than any other country, nearly a quarter of a million last year alone.

Through the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, introduced by our Conservative government, we have committed to resettle 2,500 more refugees living in refugee camps and urban slums. This is a source of pride for our country and a reflection of the generosity of our nation. It is part of our national character.

Unfortunately, Canada's immigration system and our generosity have become a target for human smuggling operations. The arrival of the MV Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady in a period of less than 12 months clearly demonstrated that human smuggling networks are extending their reach to our borders. Our intelligence indicates that these voyages, organized by criminal syndicates, will continue.

This form of illegal commercial migration is dangerous and exploitive by nature. The journey of these migrants is treacherous, and every year people around the world die in human smuggling operations.

The ringleaders of these smuggling operations are ruthless profiteers. They are vile, despicable criminals who consider their passengers to be little more than cargo. Those profiteers cause misery and suffering, and risk the lives of those they purport to be helping. Human smugglers and those on board their vessels also provide financial support to dangerous international criminal networks.

Many who use these types of smuggling networks are economic migrants. When they use this unlawful behaviour to arrive on our shores and then claim to be asylum seekers, they abuse our country's generosity.

These operations are unfair to those seeking to come to Canada by legal means. Millions of people around the world aspire to come to our great country, and it is gross unfairness to allow others to jump the queue through illegal means and co-opt those who use legal means to come to Canada.

Those who use illegal means take up space and resources in our immigration system, which should be focused on those who have applied to immigrate legally. They deprive true refugees of the opportunity to be granted protection in this great country of ours. When genuine refugees use these illicit networks to get to Canada, they put themselves and their families at risk.

If we do not take strong action now, more vessels will arrive in Canada and more lives will be put at risk. We cannot just stand by and allow these exploitive operations to continue. We must act now.

We must act to avoid a two-tiered immigration system: one tier for legal immigrants who wait patiently in the queue for the privilege of coming to Canada; and a second tier for illegal migrants and queue-jumpers who pay human smugglers to get them to the front of the line.

Canadians have reacted strongly to these unwelcome arrivals. More than 50% of Canadians polled agreed that this type of migration is unacceptable. These events have put at risk public support for immigration in general and refugees in particular.

We are a generous country. We welcome immigrants and refugees from around the world. I would hate to see our national support for that program decline because illegal migrants and smugglers are abusing the system.

We need to maintain public confidence in our immigration and refugee system, since immigration will soon become the source of all our labour-force growth and a critical part of our economic growth.

The legislation before us will help prevent abuse of Canada's immigration system and goodwill. It will help us prevent human smuggling operations. It will provide disincentives to would-be migrants, so that they do not place themselves at the mercy of human smugglers on these treacherous ocean journeys.

I would like to outline how this legislation will do just that. First, the law before us proposes to introduce mandatory detention for up to one year. This will allow for determination of identity, admissibility, and illegal activity. As I am sure most members of this House are aware, people who arrive on these vessels often do not have proper documentation, whether by design or not.

We do not know who they are or whether they might have been involved in criminal or terrorist activities. We as a government need to have time to confirm their identities. This becomes particularly difficult in the case of mass arrivals, as we have recently experienced, when hundreds of people arrive at the same time without the proper paperwork.

As we are now learning, some of the migrants onboard the Sun Sea have already claimed refugee status in other countries such as the United Kingdom, and have already been found not to be in need of protection.

Detention will allow us to verify and confirm the identities of these individuals. This way we can determine whether they are admissible to Canada, or whether they are, or have ever been, involved in illegal activity.

That is fair and reasonable, and Canadians agree with us. Our main priority is to protect the safety and security of Canadians. We need to know who these people are before they are released into our Canadian communities. This is the least that Canadians can expect of their government, and we are delivering on that expectation.

Second, this legislation aims to introduce several disincentives to stop those who are tempted to use this perilous form of migration. A key disincentive is that those who arrive as a result of a designated smuggling event will not be able to apply for permanent residency for a period of at least five years. This applies whether they are found to be in need of protection or not.

During that five-year period, persons found to be in need of protection would be restricted from travelling outside Canada and would be unable to apply for permanent residence to Canada through other means. As a result, they would not be eligible to sponsor family members into Canada or to become Canadian citizens during that time.

For those who received protected-person status, reporting requirements would be put in place. This will allow our government to be able to initiate proceedings before the Immigration and Refugee Board to remove their protected-person status if there is evidence that the individual no longer needs protection. This would apply, for example, if the individual returns to his country of origin or if conditions in that country change.

If someone is able to return safely from a holiday to his country of origin, the country that he claims to be fleeing, then he is clearly not in genuine need of Canada's protection. In such cases, the existing legislation would allow the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to make an application to the Refugee Protection Division for a cessation of the individual's protected-person status.

These legislative amendments would ensure that while an individual is subject to a cessation application, his application for permanent residence would be suspended and would not be processed until a decision is made on the minister's application. If the Refugee Protection Division upholds the minister's decision and the application for cessation, the individual would be removed from Canada.

An individual would be allowed to apply for permanent residence only after five years, if he is determined to be in further need of protection. This means that people in this category could apply for permanent residence only if no cessation proceedings had been initiated as a result of changed country conditions, or if they had not returned to their country of origin, or if the minister's application for cessation was not positively decided by the IRB.

If there is evidence that the protected-person status was obtained fraudulently, if, for example, an individual has directly or indirectly misrepresented or withheld material facts relevant to his situation, then the Minister of Public Safety would be able to apply to the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB to revoke the individual's refugee protection status. If the original decision is cancelled and no other grounds for protection remain, the individual would be removed from Canada.

Once in force, the bill would also eliminate access to the Refugee Appeal Division for people who want to review a negative decision on their claim. While they would still be able to ask the Federal Court to review a decision, they would not benefit from an automatic stay of removal from Canada while their application was being considered.

These measures that our government has proposed are firm but reasonable. They are exactly what Canadians have been calling for. They would maintain our Conservative government's goal of faster protection for those who truly need it and faster removal of those who do not. This will be achieved through the balanced refugee reform act, the bill before us today.

To further discourage individuals from coming to Canada as part of a smuggling operation, we are also taking measures to ensure that these individuals have access to fewer Canadian benefits. Canadians enjoy health services that are among the best and most generous in the world.

Currently, asylum seekers, resettled refugees, failed asylum seekers awaiting removal, detained individuals, and victims of trafficking are all provided with temporary health care coverage through the interim federal health program.

Under the changes we are proposing, the scope of services provided under the IFH program would be reduced for those who arrive in Canada illegally by way of human smuggling. They would receive only basic coverage, including medically necessary care and the immigration medical exams that refugee claimants must take upon their arrival in order to ensure that they do not pose a risk to public health or safety.

We need to ensure that illegal migrants are not receiving health coverage that is more generous than that offered to hard-working Canadians.

Canada is a fair, generous and welcoming country for those who want to work for a better life, but our generosity should not make us a target for criminal activities such as smuggling operations. In order to avoid becoming a target, we must remove the incentives for people seeking to come here by way of human smuggling.

These measures before us today are right. They are fair. And they are necessary. We know that Canadians agree with us. Poll after poll shows that Canadians want firm action taken on human smuggling, on cheating the system.

Cultural groups across the country have endorsed our measures. The Peel Tamil Community Centre stated that it was “pleased to see the government taking action to deter human smugglers who charge victims enormous sums of money”. The Taiwanese Canadian Association of Toronto said, “We need to know the identities of these individuals before they are released into Canadian society. That's why we also support the mandatory detention of illegal migrants who use human smugglers”.

Our government is committed to protecting the integrity of our immigration and refugee system. We are committed to upholding our laws. We are committed to protecting the safety and security of Canadians.

Taken together, the changes we have proposed will help safeguard our fair and generous immigration system. Moreover, they will help ensure that Canada is not an easy target for criminal organizations involved in human smuggling.

As I mentioned before, this legislation has won the support of virtually all key stakeholders. The legislation has resonated with Canadians at large. In fact, recent polls show that 60% of Canadians want to send ships back without allowing them to land on our shores. Yet we know that as a compassionate country we have to leave room for legitimate refugees. It is the abuse of the system that we object to.

Canada is a compassionate country, but because we are compassionate and generous, there are people around the world who will abuse that generosity, and Canadians do not tolerate abuse. In fact, I am shocked to hear the opposition parties in this House actually criticizing and opposing this bill. It is very clear that they are still not listening to Canadians.

We have consulted broadly with Canadians on this bill and we know that Canadians support it. My invitation to the opposition parties is to join us in doing the right thing for Canada.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that I come from a riding that is one of the most ethnically diverse ridings in all of Canada.

One of the things I heard loud and clear this past summer was that people wanted us to stand up for Canada once and for all. People wanted to ensure that our immigration system and our refugee protection system put Canadian interests first. They wanted to ensure that the people who needed help were getting help but they did not want us to see our system and our generosity abused.

I wonder if the hon. member received the same type of reaction in his riding that I received in my riding, not just from Canadians who have been in this country for many years, but also from new Canadians who came to me and said that we needed to do something about this, that we needed to ensure that people are not abused and people are not taken advantage of by human smugglers.

I wonder what reaction the people in his riding had over the summer. I wonder if he could, in some way, explain to me and to this House how any of the members of the opposition could possibly, at this point in time, be contemplating going against what I think are the wishes of most Canadians, certainly the wishes of the people in my riding, to finally, once and for all, put Canada first when we are talking about immigration and refugee protection.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I, like my colleague, come from a riding that is very diverse. In fact, I believe the city of Abbotsford is the fifth most diverse community in Canada on a per capita basis.

Do members know where the support for this legislation is the strongest? It is in the immigrant communities. They understand because got to Canada by following the law. They are law-abiding citizens. They do it right.

What they object to are the human smugglers around the world who see Canada as a soft touch and then have people pay them, in some cases, $50,000 per person to smuggle them into the country and essentially, by extension, jump the queue that many other immigrants are prepared to legally immigrate to Canada through.

It is disgraceful that we would have opposition parties in this House actually opposing these kinds of reforms. It is so puzzling to me that the opposition parties, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc, still are not listening to what Canadians are saying.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

It confuses me when I hear certain things from the opposition on occasion. This bill deals with both sides of the equation: the smugglers and those who are taking advantage of the situation. I relate it to those who are thieves. A thief will steal something and sell it to somebody else. Those persons who have those stolen goods are still breaking the law by having stolen goods.

Why is it important that this bill deals with both the smugglers and those who are being smuggled? If he could possibly answer that question, I would really appreciate it.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague from Burlington is a great MP who gets the issue, unlike members of the opposition parties who continue to whine, criticize and oppose what Canadians are demanding we do.

He is right. It is a matter of balance. First, we are going after the smugglers themselves because they are part of international criminal organizations. They earn millions upon millions of dollars every year on the backs of the human suffering of others. We are targeting them and imposing much tougher penalties on them if they do arrive in Canada. We are also working with international authorities to interdict them before they ever leave their countries of origin. We are working very hard with our domestic and international authorities to ensure we go after human smugglers before they ever get here.

Second, we are also going after the customers because many of the customers are actually illegal migrants. They are coming to Canada for purposes other than true refugee reasons. They are coming here because they may be economic migrants or they may be escaping criminal or terrorist activity elsewhere.

This is a balanced bill because it goes after the human smugglers and their customers.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, given my colleague's experience in law, his extensive international experience and the different cultures that he interacts with on a regular basis, would having a law that appears to clamp down on human smuggling enforced increase or decrease the interest of qualified people who would like to immigrate to our great country?

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has touched on the key element of this bill, and that has to do with the integrity and credibility of our refugee system in Canada.

If legitimate immigrants and refugees from around the world think that if they use legal means to get to Canada to make a new life here that they will be in a long lineup and others will be jumping the queue by cheating, then they will be discouraged. Those very people who are prepared to be law-abiding will not come to Canada and we will be stuck with those who abuse the system.

In Canada we want immigrants and refugees who are in need of genuine protection. We want them to be here in Canada, build new lives for themselves and become law-abiding citizens. This bill would ensure that the credibility and integrity of our refugee system is maintained.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, unlike my colleagues from Oak Ridges—Markham and Abbotsford, the riding I represent is not known for the number of immigrants it welcomes, or for being ethnically diverse. On the contrary, Lévis—Bellechasse is a typical region in Quebec. The people are proud and happy to welcome immigrants, but they are against organized crime groups that smuggle migrants in ahead of everyone else and, even worse, exploit them.

I have a quote from Antoine Malek, the president of the Association of the Coptic Orthodox Community:

It is time for Canada to send a clear signal to the world to discourage and fight human smuggling. That is why the Coptic community supports new federal legislation to protect human life, Canada's security and the integrity of Canada's immigration policy as a whole.

My question for the member is clear: will this bill allow us to preserve the integrity of our immigration system by preventing the entry of illegal immigrants, and by ensuring that organized crime groups do not bring people to Canada illegally?

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am actually the son of an immigrant. My mother came to Canada through legal means after the second world war and, boy, was she grateful for the opportunity to come to this country. My mother and father are law-abiding citizens who worked hard to build a life for themselves and to provide us children with an education knowing that Canada was a country that gave their children so much opportunity.

However, that opportunity is dependent upon the rule of law and the assumption that every Canadian citizen and permanent resident will follow the law and be a law-abiding citizen.

This legislation is absolutely critical to ensuring that tradition carries on in Canada, that the refugee system has credibility and integrity.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is much simpler than the tough questions put to him by his own caucus colleagues.

Could the hon. member tell me how many refugee claimants he has met with, how long has he talked to them, how many sponsored refugees has he called as friends and how well does he know them?

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it would take me hours to regale the Liberal member with all the individuals I have met with over the years who have been refugees and who have been immigrants There are some 30,000 immigrants in my riding alone.

What we need to focus in on is collaborating within the House.

I have a question for that member. Why will he not support this legislation that is demanded by Canadians? Polls show that over 60% of Canadians want our government to get tough on human smuggling. We are doing that. Why is that member not on side?

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-49 today.

During question period today, the member for Winnipeg South Centre asked a question about the nominee program in Manitoba. This has been a very successful program, developed under the auspices of the NDP under former premier Gary Doer's leadership in 1999. In fact, the program became so successful that the province of Nova Scotia approached Manitoba to study how to replicate it. I hope and believe Nova Scotia has a similarly successful program at this time.

In answering the question, the minister made the point that Manitoba's population represented 10% of the population of Canada and that Manitoba received 30% of the nominees under the program. He pointed out that while the Liberals were in power, Manitoba only received 2,000 nominees per year. Under the Conservatives, it gets 10,000 per year. We like to think that the 10,000 we get in Manitoba each year is a result of the initiatives of the Gary Doer NDP government, which proved to be so successful.

I also want to point out that the Minister of Immigration has provided some of the only true leadership we have seen from his government in the last five years. In June he brought all parties in Parliament onside with an agreement on Bill C-11 to take care of the mess in the immigration system, which had developed over the years.

The argument rages still in the House as to whether the mess was in fact left by the Liberals or created by the Conservatives. The NDP has stayed out of that fight. They can continue to fight it out as to who is ultimately responsible, but the fact is it is a mess. As I said, the minister was able to get all party agreement in June to make big improvements to the immigration system.

What the minister did is something the government should replicate. There is a schizophrenia in the government. It seems to be incapable of going back to the last long period of minority government, the Lester B. Pearson years in the sixties, when we got a new flag, we amalgamated the armed forces, we brought in medicare and a lot of other things. The Conservatives have literally wasted five full years trying to fight its way through Parliament with no real effect.

However, there is one good example with the minister getting all parties together and getting a new immigration act in place. The government should be doing more of that. Instead, what has it done? The Conservatives have done some polling, and we are very clear about that. They keep mentioning the 65% public support for Bill C-49.

The bill is not being promoted by the Minister of Immigration. It is being promoted by the Minister of Public Safety. Once again, the Minister of Public Safety trumps the Minister of Immigration and the polling of the Conservative Party. The appeal to public sentiment is the overriding concern behind this bill.

We feel we should give some time for Bill C-11 to be implemented in the country. It was only passed in June. It has not had time to do what it has been designed to do. Now the government is trying to amend the bill before it even has its current legislation in place.

It is interesting to note that Bill C-49 has 12 clauses that deal with refugees. Only five clauses actually deal with smugglers. I think all parties in the House agree that human smuggling is a very bad thing and that it is a criminal enterprise. In fact, the government points out that it is a criminal enterprise that spans the globe, that human smugglers facilitate for a profit individuals entering Canada illegally. The figure of $50,000 is being mentioned.

Our party is totally opposed to this. We think the government should take measures to root out these smugglers. We know the smugglers are not here. The smugglers are in foreign jurisdictions. Therefore, the government has to bring in legislation to deal directly with an effort to get at these people in other countries. It has indicated it is dealing with that issue through diplomatic means and policing means. It is going to have to deal with the police in Thailand, in Southeast Asia and other countries around the world.

It has also been pointed out that there already is a life sentence under the immigration laws of the country for smugglers. Therefore, what is this all about? Why is the government bringing in a new bill with a graduated penalty system and minimum sentences when we already have a life sentence for people involved in this kind of activity, if they are caught.

By charging large sums of money for transportation, human smugglers have been making a lucrative business out of facilitating illegal migration around the world, often counselling smuggled persons to claim asylum in the country in which they are smuggled. Human smuggling can take place in many forms, including by boat.

Once again, as has been pointed out by many members, the government is making a separation as to how people arrive in Canada. It will deal with people who arrive by boat differently than people who arrive by airplane.

In terms of human smuggling undermining Canada's security, large scale arrivals make it difficult to properly investigate whether those who arrive, including the smugglers themselves, could pose a risk to Canada on the basis of either criminality or national security. The public security minister made pronouncements about criminals and terrorists, speaking about the recent arrival of the boat, stirring up public sentiment against them. The people who are brought in will be investigated. That is the whole idea behind what we are doing right now.

In addition, the government wants to give the Minister of Public Safety more powers. I do not know if that is such a good idea. In the short term perhaps with the current situation it might seem like the popular thing to do, because 65% of the people are against acceptance of the people on these boats. However, if we were to take it two or three years down the line and a boat load of people from another country showed up, perhaps the polling then would show that 65% were in favour of the people staying. What is the minister going to do? What is the point of having an immigration department in the first place if the minister is going to be overriding it and making decisions along the way? That measure may be wise in the short run, but may not be wise in the long run.

The government also wants to make it easier to prosecute human smugglers, but it has to catch them in the first place and they have to be caught overseas. Foreign governments have to be involved in the process as well.

I believe the government already knows who these smugglers are. The minister has indicated there are three or four groups at least in Sri Lanka that were previously involved in other criminal activities. These groups have now transferred their activities over to human smuggling. Half the battle is knowing who the enemy is.

The bottom line is we should be enforcing our existing laws as opposed to dreaming up new laws to become more popular with the public.

The government also wants to introduce mandatory minimum prison sentences on convicted smugglers. It wants to hold the owners and operators of the ships to account for the use of their ships in human smuggling operations.

The government is ensuring the safety and security of our streets and communities by establishing, and this is a good one, the mandatory detention of participants for up to a year or until a positive decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board, whichever comes sooner, in order to allow for the determination of the identity, admissibility and illegal activity of a participant.

We have some experience with Australia. My colleague from B.C. indicated earlier that he thought there were probably 20,000 refugees in the Australian system. I recognize it is a little warmer in Australia than here, but where will Australia put these people?

The government has announced that it will spend $9 billion on new prisons in the country. Will the government use these prisons as detention centres? Is it the government's intention to put people into detention centres? That is one of the initiatives in the bill.

The government hopes to reduce the attraction of coming to Canada by way of illegal human smuggling by doing several other things. It is going to prevent those who come to Canada from applying for permanent resident status for a period of five years.

I may be running out of time quicker than I anticipated so I do not know if I will have time to get to all the studies that have been done.

Studies done in England show that most immigrants do not have a clue of the rules of the country to which they go. They go to that country regardless of the rules. Are we expecting smugglers to start reading the new rules? What is the government going to do? Is it going to send the smugglers a list of the new rules and all the regulations that are promulgated through the bill?

The government is going to hold a refugee back from permanent resident status for a period of five years should that individual successfully obtain refugee status. The individual will be prevented from sponsoring family members for five years. I will have a lot to say about that at a later point.

The government is trying to reduce the attraction of coming to Canada by way of illegal human smuggling operations by ensuring the health benefits participants receive are not more generous than those received by the Canadian public.

The government is enhancing the ability to terminate the protected person status of those who return to their country of origin for a vacation or demonstrate in other ways that they are not in legitimate need of Canadian protection.

Another point raised by other speakers was whether the bill would survive a charter challenge.

The government is planning to detect and deter human smuggling overseas through the appointment of a special adviser on human smuggling and illegal migration. That may be a good idea. I do not know who that will be and what he or she might do, but hopefully there will be a way of monitoring or getting some sort of report from this individual as to progress being made. We would not want to add onto a bureaucracy that produces very little results.

In terms of increasing the presence overseas through operational activities, diplomatic outreach, partnership with other affected nations and engagement with multilateral bodies, anything that can track down the smugglers and put them in jail is probably a good idea. I indicated that we already have life sentences for smugglers. If we apply life sentences and put them in jail, the House will have our full agreement on that, but the preponderance of the bill actually deals with the migrants themselves and that is what the government is looking at.

Bill C-49 is called the “preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act”, but it is really basically an act to attack and punish refugees. As I indicated before, we would rather attack the criminals, the traffickers, the smugglers, and not the victims. The bill will concentrate absolute power in the hands of the minister to decide which refugees will be subject to these measures, with no clear definition of irregular arrival. It can apply to any group of refugees, immigrants or visitors.

Also, as I have indicated, Parliament already approved a strong and balanced refugee law a few months ago. The Conservatives should basically concentrate on enforcing Bill C-11, the law we have right now, and allow genuine refugees to stay and deport the bogus ones as quickly as possible. We are fully in agreement with that. Once again, we were part of the development group behind Bill C-11 in the first place.

We have also long called for the refugee determination process to be sped up, because it has taken too long in the past, and increased RCMP resources and secure immigration status of trafficked and smuggled victims so that they can testify against the real criminals. That was a concern that was indicated as well, that even if we do catch the smugglers, what are the realistic chances that witnesses would be willing to testify against them? We need to make sure that we have RCMP resources and proper safeguards to make sure that when we do catch these people, the witnesses are able to testify against them to put them away for those long sentences.

Our members have indicated that the bill will hurt legitimate refugees and those people who help them. It will prevent refugees from bringing their spouses and children to Canada for at least seven years, and women and children will be detained for at least one year, repeating the previous sad history of punishing and interning refugees and their children.

Bill C-49 is basically very deeply unfair to refugees because it fails to honour obligations under Canadian and international law, and other speakers have mentioned that. It deprives individual cases from the independent review that justice requires. It will involve huge costs and unnecessary detention. We talked about the $9 billion in prisons that the government will have sprouting up across the country over the next little while. It will do nothing to prevent human smuggling. More laws will not catch the smugglers who are overseas. Mandatory minimum sentences will not deter them.

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, smuggling is already punishable by life imprisonment and mandatory minimums have been shown not to work as deterrents. If we already have the possibility of life imprisonment, then how much further do we want to go in this area?

I recognize that my time is up and I would be willing to answer questions from members.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member from the NDP's speech, but it is completely naive to think that smugglers would not read the new rules. Does he think that smugglers and thieves, criminals, do not understand why they come to Canada, that they just pick Canada because it is on the map? They know what our present rules and regulations are regarding refugee status and how they can get away with smuggling human beings here. They know what the rules are. They know what is available to them.

It is important for us to send the message through this bill, to make changes that would make the mass immigration of refugees much more difficult so that we are not a solution for the customers they are smuggling here.

The member is upset about the potential one-year detention when they arrive here. We deport 14,000 people a year. We have about another 10,000 or 15,000 people who we do not even know where they are. They were refused refugee status and they are out on the lam. Why would we allow people coming to Canada in boatloads to be on the lam for a year until they get approval? We need to stop this now.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member is very excited about his bill. The fact of the matter is that we are certainly determined to track down the smugglers. That is the real problem here. However, we do not believe that we should be punishing the migrants in the process. Let us put whatever efforts we can into tracking down these smugglers.

I already indicated several times that we have the availability of life sentences under the current legislation. Let us put some effort into finding the smugglers.

I have given the government credit. It has made some initiatives to deal with foreign governments and it has appointed a special adviser on human smuggling and illegal migration. Let us give this system some time. The problem did not just develop yesterday.

Australia has been dealing with this problem for several years. It has had detention systems and they do not work. The migrants keep coming.

The government, once again, wants to do something that does not work.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, somewhat in response to the last question and answer, I wonder if the hon. member knows whether these smugglers actually ever come on these boats. Do they come and have a sign on them that says, “I'm the smuggler”? Or is it more likely that they are actually somewhere in a third country, operating an odious business that takes advantage of vulnerable people?

I am questioning whether this act could actually help track down those smugglers or do anything with them, really.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I invite the member to read the minister's speech on this subject. I thought I heard him say that they knew where the smugglers were or who the smugglers were, that there were three or four organized criminal gangs from Sri Lanka that had been involved in the drug trade and in arms deals and whatnot in the past, and now that the war has more or less come to and end they have decided to embark on human smuggling. So if they know who the people are, it should be a simple matter of having our police forces, and so on, talk to the foreign governments and try to do something about it from that end.

Clearly, the problem is over there. That is where the boats are being bought. That is where the boats are. They are recruiting the people over there. The money is being flushed through bank accounts in these foreign countries. So it is incumbent upon these countries to help us catch these smugglers. The government itself has indicated that it is going to appoint a special adviser on human smuggling and it is going to increase the presence overseas through operational activities, diplomatic outreach, partnership with other affected nations, and all those other great things that would catch these smugglers. So I invite them to get out there and catch them.

In the meantime, we have Bill C-11, which we put together through a co-operation of all of the parties in this House. Let us get it implemented and let us deal with the backlog in the immigration system.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona touched on a point that I would like him to address.

In the recent Auditor General's report, the Department of Immigration came under serious criticism from her. A couple of points she specifically raised was that in many cases the department itself had no standards for service delivery, it had no comprehensive way to monitor performance, and out of 35 different service areas, only four had service targets. In addition, they provided no consistent way to communicate with clients who were waiting.

On the one hand, we have this bill that is before the House, but on the other hand we know that there are serious problems within the department itself. Again, this is not about the employees in that department. I would argue that they do not have the tools and resources they need to adequately do the job.

I wonder if the member could comment specifically on the problems within the department itself in terms of quality and service standards.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, clearly the Auditor General has a unique way of investigating and determining what is or is not going on in government departments. None of those observations would surprise me in the least.

We had a system that was broken under the Liberals and was not appreciably improved under the Conservatives until the last little while when the current minister was able to get all the parties in this Parliament together and come up with a big success. Trying to get four parties in this House to agree on anything is almost impossible, but he did the impossible. He got everybody together. Everybody here was reasonably happy.

I listened to all the self-congratulatory messages here in June and I was really impressed. I thought it was too bad that we could not do this again. This is what we did collectively in this House through the auspices of Bill C-11.

I do not know why we do not just leave it there and work on this smuggling issue separately through law enforcement and the procedures currently in place. Again, we have life sentences for smugglers.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is, why do they not listen to Canadians? Why are they blindly going ahead and not listening to Canadians?

Canadians do want to have this problem solved. It was one of the major things I heard this summer. Canadians were not happy.

Canadians also said to the NDP, Bloc, and Liberal coalition, “no” to a carbon tax. Now they are trying to sneak through the carbon tax, through a litigation bill also known as Bill C-469, a Trojan Horse that wants to bring a carbon tax on every Canadian. It is a job-killing tax.

I would like to know from the member why they do not listen to Canadians. Why do they try to do things sneakingly? The message from Canadians is clear. Why are they not listening to Canadians?