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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

Public Accounts of CanadaRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Public Accounts of Canada, 2010.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

October 28th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2009-10 annual report on the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

As recorded here, people will find that 248 disclosures came forward from public servants with areas of concern that they wanted looked at. There were 218 acted on, 36 led to corrective measures and 7 led to findings of wrong-doing. All of that is documented in the report.

Individual Member's ExpendituresRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table a document entitled, “Individual Member's Expenditures for the Fiscal Year Ending March 31, 2010”.

The Board of Internal Economy has implemented a new style of report to make it easier to understand members' activities and expenses. The information is presented in columns and rows that are easier to understand, and each expense category is more detailed.

The report is available online on the parliamentary Internet site. It will be available soon.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Health in relation to Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in relation to Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials).

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

BullyingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of constituents who note that bullying has become a very significant problem in Canada. With the Internet and other modern communication systems, it has become an even more prevalent and damaging problem.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to consider introducing legislation that would target the problem of bullying.

Passport FeesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition calls upon the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees. The number of American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest levels since 1972. It has fallen by five million visits in the last seven years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.

Passport fees for an American family of four can be over $500 U.S. While 50% of Canadians have passports, only 25% of Americans do.

At the recent Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council and State Governments, attended by myself and over 500 elected representatives from 11 border states and three provinces, the following resolution was passed unanimously, which reads:

RESOLVED, that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further

RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited two-for-one passport renewal or new application;

To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and finally promote a limited time two-for-one passport renewal for renewed application fees on a mutual basis with the United States.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present three petitions today. The first petition is with regard to medical benefits.

The petitioners point out that there are a number of severe, potentially life-threatening conditions that do not qualify for disability programs because they are not necessarily permanent or because the waiting list for surgeries could lengthen recovery time.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to adopt legislation to provide additional medical EI benefits to at least equal to maternity benefits.

Skin CancerPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with regard to skin cancer, particularly melanoma.

The petitioners point out that one in seven Canadians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in Canada and the second most common cancer in young adults.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to support a national skin cancer and melanoma initiative to provide much needed access to newer drug treatments and funding for research and educational programs.

Firearms RegistryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the last petition is with regard to the long gun registry.

The petitioners point out that the long gun registry was originally budgeted to cost Canadians $2 million but that the price tag spiralled out of control to an estimated $2 billion a decade later and that the registry has not saved one life since it was introduced.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to support any legislation that would cancel the Canadian long gun registry and streamline the Firearms Act.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to submit to the House this morning. The first petition relates to child care.

As members of the House know, for decades Canadian Parliaments have been promising to end child poverty and provide, in a complementary fashion, excellent child care. The petitioners want to ensure that all children living in Canada have access to excellent child care. In particular, they support the passage of Bill C-373.

Oil and Gas IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is about gas gouging and it has been signed by people in my riding of Thunder Bay--Superior who are definitely getting hosed, gouged or whatever metaphor one wants to us, more than most of Canada, certainly more than Ottawa or southern Ontario. Most of these people are from Terrace Bay and Schreiber and they pay the highest prices of all.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to give speedy passage to Bill C-286, which would deal with gas gouging in Canada.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 27 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

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina had the floor for questions and comments consequent upon her speech. I therefore call for questions and comments. The hon. member for Mississauga South.

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

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could refresh the House on the concerns that she expressed on Wednesday in her questioning of the other hon. member and the shared concerns that she has about this bill.

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

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I left off yesterday I was talking about the plight of refugees and how difficult it would be for them if they were detained for at least a year, especially children.

Once individuals have been determined to be genuine refugees, it would take them another five years before they could apply for permanent residence and another three or more years for them to bring their sons, daughters or spouse to Canada. These people could be separated from their children for at least eight years. If a child is left to languish in a refugee camp for over eight years, who knows what will happen to that child.

We do want to punish smugglers but this bill really attacks refugees rather than punishing smugglers.

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

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her impassioned speech regarding this very problematic bill. I would like to hear about something she referenced.

What does the government's approach mean in terms of perhaps contributing to that dark history of immigration and the way we have treated refugees and immigrants in the past? Is this not part of a very dark series of encounters and actions that we have had toward refugees and immigrants? Will we come to regret this later on?

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

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, in Canada we have had two approaches. One approach is a welcoming and caring approach to refugees. If we look at the Vietnamese boat people, their arrival to Canada was very much celebrated by church groups, by the government and by Canadians. They settled well in Canada and have made tremendous contributions to the well-being of Canada.

Another approach has been that we did not want them and we would detain them. If we look at the Somali refugees, for example, we detained them for an extensive period of time. Further back in history, we have turned boats away, whether they were from India or from Europe. As a result, we have caused deaths and suffering, whether they were Jews or Sikhs.

We have also interned Italians and Japanese because of their ethnic origins. The internments, for peace especially, is what I really am concerned about.

If this bill passes the way it is written, we will see children being interned in jail and detained for at least a year, if not a year and a half. The psychological impact that would have on these children would be devastating. Let us give serious thought to this because detaining a child for more than even a few weeks is very problematic. I doubt that many of them would even recover after being detained for more than a year.

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

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I just wonder if the member would comment on what appears to be a deferential sort of treatment.

I remember that before the fall of the Berlin wall, there were thousands of individuals who would just simply get off a plane in Gander, Newfoundland, on a trip from eastern Europe to Cuba, and would be automatically granted refugee status and looked after. There was no talk of refugee detention centres.

One of the most horrific images in our world today is refugee camps where thousands of people sometimes spend many years in the same place without any recourse. With these detention centres, are we potentially looking at being in the same kind of boat? What does the member think the government thinks about that?

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

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, we already know that the government is spending $9 billion to build prisons. It will probably need to spend quite a bit to build more detention centres also.

I also recall when 50,000 Irish refugees arrived in Toronto at the turn of century and they were welcomed by 30,000 Torontonians. It was called the city of York at that time and they created Toronto. A lot of them were sick and starving after their long journey from Ireland. They were leaving the famine at that time and Torontonians opened their arms to help them and cure them. That part of the creation of Toronto is a proud history. I wish all of us would remember that our history in Canada is very much opening our arms to refugees, most of the time.

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

10:15 a.m.

Oxford Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House in support of Bill C-49, the preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act.

From the day our Conservative government was first elected, we have made strengthening the criminal justice system a consistent priority. We have told Canadians that we would take action to crack down on the activities of organized crime groups and others whose activities undermine public safety and destabilize our communities. We told them that we would help build safer neighbourhoods for everyone and ensure that our streets and homes would be places where families could feel secure.

Ours is a government of action. We have consistently delivered on these promises time and time again. We have passed legislation to stiffen penalties for crime, and violent gun crimes in particular. We have provided law enforcement agencies with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. We have taken steps to ensure that violent offenders are kept behind bars, not in their living rooms.

We are here today to take decisive action again.

In August, Canadians were reminded that this country is not immune to the global activities of organized crime groups intent on making a profit from the smuggling of hundreds of foreign nationals. The arrival of 492 Sri Lankan Tamils aboard the MV Sun Sea came less than one year after the arrival of 76 Sri Lankan Tamils aboard the Ocean Lady. The fact that two such vessels have reached Canadian shores in less than 12 months clearly demonstrates that large and growing human smuggling ventures are extending their reach and expanding their logistical capabilities and that these human smuggling networks are increasingly targeting Canada.

Human smuggling is a despicable crime, and abusing Canada's generosity for financial gain is utterly unacceptable.

Canada has an obligation to crack down on dangerous criminal enterprises that benefit only those who organize such large-scale ventures and do so little with regard to the human cargo which they transport.

We also know that human smuggling routes can be used to traffic narcotics and firearms. This poses a threat to public safety and erodes our communities.

The profits from human smuggling may also be used to fund other illicit criminal activities.

Our government is committed to protecting the safety and security of Canadians. We are committed to maintaining the integrity of our borders and our immigration and refugee programs. We are committed to ensuring that Canada's immigration system remains fair. That is what the legislation before us today is about.

Bill C-49 is focused on giving officials additional tools to better respond to human smuggling.

First, we are proposing targeted amendments to the smuggling offence to ensure that it captures the various ways in which smuggling can occur.

Under the current regime, prosecutions for human smuggling require proof that the accused knew the individuals being smuggled did not have the documents required by law to enter Canada. Today's amendments would expand this to include any violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, including for example bringing people into Canada in a way that avoids their presenting themselves for examination as required by the act.

Currently, only situations where the smuggler knew that the smuggled persons did not posses the documents necessary to enter Canada are captured as an offence under the act.

What does this mean in the context of smuggling? It means that a prosecutor could prove this offence by showing that the accused was aware of the substantial risks if the smuggled person was or would be entering Canada in contravention to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act but simply did not care.

We believe these changes would improve our ability to investigate and prosecute those who contribute to human smuggling ventures.

Second, we are proposing an escalating mandatory minimum penalty scheme for persons convicted of smuggling, reflecting our government's intention to more effectively deter and denounce this criminal activity.

Under the proposed legislation, the number of people smuggled and the presence of aggravating facts would determine which mandatory minimum penalty would be imposed upon conviction. The two aggravating facts are: the offence was committed for profit or for the benefit of, at the discretion of, or in association with a criminal organization or terrorist group; and the person, in committing the offence, endangered the life or safety or caused bodily harm or death to any of the persons smuggled.

The mandatory penalties would be, where less than 50 persons are smuggled, three years' imprisonment if one of the above aggravating facts was present, or five years' imprisonment if two of the above aggravating facts were present. The mandatory minimum penalties would be, where 50 or more persons are smuggled, five years' imprisonment if one of the above aggravating facts was present, and ten years' imprisonment if two of the above aggravating facts were present.

These amendments send a clear message. We will not tolerate smuggling operations in Canada and such conduct will be met with strong sanctions.

We are also proposing amendments to the Marine Transportation Security Act. For example, this bill would increase the penalties for anyone who fails to comply with the ministerial direction to not enter or leave or to proceed to another area in Canadian waters. Increased penalties will also apply to anyone who fails to submit required vessel pre-arrival information or who provides Canadian officials with false or misleading information.

The irregular arrival of a large number of irregular migrants all making refugee claims can pose significant challenges for border officials who are tasked with identifying each applicant in determining whether the individual is inadmissible to Canada and whether the individual poses a risk, due to the individual's association with organized criminal or terrorist organizations.

The sheer number of applicants combined with the increased complexity of examinations and investigations can and does overwhelm existing resources. This is why we need a new approach to the processing of irregular migrants, or one that will ensure Canada remains fair but also vigilant.

Bill C-49 accomplishes this by allowing the Minister of Public Safety to designate those who land on our shores in a way similar to those aboard the MV Sun Sea or the Ocean Lady as an irregular arrival. The minister will be able to make such a designation when he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that establishing the identity or admissibility of individuals who come to Canada as part of the arrival or other investigations cannot be carried out in a timely manner, or if he or she has reasonable grounds to suspect that the arrival of the group involved organized human smuggling activity.

Under the current rules, any foreign national or permanent resident may be detained on entry into Canada. People can be detained if an immigration officer considers such an examination necessary in order to continue an examination. They can also be detained if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they are inadmissible to Canada, are a danger to the public or are unlikely to appear for an immigration proceeding.

The reasons for such detention however, must be reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Board within 48 hours, and subsequently reviewed within seven days, and then each 30-day period that follows. In many cases this provides a reasonable system of checks and balances to help prevent unreasonably long detentions.

In the case of irregular arrivals however, the current system of detention review does not provide officers from Canada Border Services Agency with sufficient time to properly interview and identify each individual, or to determine whether the individual may be inadmissible to Canada or pose a risk to Canadians.

Too many resources are expended in meeting the demands of the detention review schedule rather than focusing on the required investigations and verifications needed to ensure the integrity of Canada's immigration and refugee program as well as the safety and security of Canadians.

Bill C-49 addresses this by providing for the mandatory detention of persons who arrive in Canada as part of a designated arrival until such time as they are found to be refugees by the Immigration and Refugee Board, or until 12 months have passed since they were first detained. Those persons still detained after 12 months will have a detention review hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board to determine whether there is a basis for their continued detention. If the Immigration and Refugee Board continues detention, there will be subsequent reviews every six months. The minister will be able to order early release where exceptional circumstances exist.

Under our proposed amendments, individuals who come to Canada as part of a designated arrival will, for a period of five years, be prevented from applying for permanent resident status and sponsoring family members. Restrictions on travelling outside Canada will also apply during this period. They will also be prevented from accessing a more generous health care plan than the average Canadian currently receives, something they can do at the present time through the interim federal health plan.

These are practical and sensible provisions. They address the need to properly identify individuals who come to Canada as part of an irregular arrival. They will help to keep Canadians safe by helping to ensure that dangerous criminals and terrorists are not released into Canadian society. They will also help deter human smuggling operations from targeting Canada.

We also need to deter other kinds of abuse of Canada's immigration and refugee protection program. Refugee status can be revoked when it is proven before the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board that an individual had lied to support his or her claim for protection and that the remaining credible evidence is not sufficient to support the individual's need for refugee protection. This is referred to in the act as the vacation of refugee status.

Bill C-49 amends the Balanced Refugee Reform Act to prevent such persons from appealing decisions of the refugee protection division with regard to the vacation of refugee protection to the refugee appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The bill also eliminates appeals to the refugee appeal division with respect to the decisions the division has made that a person's need for refugee protection has ceased.

All these measures substantially enhance our ability to crack down on those who engage in human smuggling. They strengthen our ability to protect the safety and security of Canadians from criminal or terrorist threats, and they respect our international obligations and commitments to provide assistance and sanctuary for genuine refugees.

Before I end my speech, I want to address the comments made by the NDP's public safety critic last week. He compared the selfless act of those who helped slaves escape persecution to the criminal human smugglers who prey on vulnerable individuals and who only care about profit. That member should be ashamed and he should apologize to this House.

Human smugglers are clearly targeting Canada and are treating our country like a doormat. The problem is growing and must be stopped.

Canadians expect appropriate measures to respond to the challenges associated with such large-scale arrivals, such as those we have recently witnessed. They want to help those in need and those who need our protection, but Canadians are not naive. They know that threats exist and that we must remain vigilant.

That is why our government is committed to taking action on many fronts, both domestically and internationally. That is what we have done, and that is what we are going to continue to do in the future.

We are proud of this bill. I encourage the member for Vancouver Kingsway and all members to recognize that the serious problem posed by human smuggling is growing and must be stopped.

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

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety referenced two vessels, the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady. I would like to take him back in time and reference two other ships that arrived in Canadian waters.

Back in 1939 the SS St. Louis arrived in Canadian waters with 937 European Jews on board. Unfortunately, that ship was turned away. Those unfortunate Jews were returned to Europe, and in the subsequent years virtually all of them lost their lives in the Holocaust.

There was a similar incident in 1914 with the SSKomagata Maru. There was 354 people on board. They were turned back. Many of them lost their lives when they returned to India.

I ask the parliamentary secretary, under this legislation, what sort of sanctions would the ship's captain and owners of the SS St. Louis have faced?