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House of Commons Hansard #33 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

Question No. 115Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

With regard to chrysotile asbestos: (a) what measures does the government take to ensure that countries to which Canada exports chrysotile asbestos understand the dangers associated with working with this carcinogenic product; (b) what measures, if any, does the government take to verify that countries to which chrysotile asbestos is exported are working in a safe manner with it; and (c) what are the procedures approved or recognized by the government for safely working with chrysotile asbestos?

Question No. 115Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, with regard to part a) and with regard to chrysotile asbestos, the Government of Canada has promoted the safe and controlled use of chrysotile on the national and international scene since 1979.

Canada, through its support of the Chrysotile Institute makes efforts to promote the controlled use of chrysotile asbestos by providing information on how to manage the risks associated with its use. The Chrysotile Institute promotes safety in the use of chrysotile asbestos internationally. The Chrysotile Institute’s activities have strengthened the capacity of importing countries to implement controlled use and are leading to the adoption of policies and work practices similar to those applied in Canada. Countries are encouraged to implement measures in compliance with the International Labour Organization, ILO, Convention 162 on Safety in the use of Asbestos.

In addition, each bag of chrysotile asbestos carries standard warning labels and risk phrases in English and French. Similar labels are affixed to stretch-wrapped pallets prior to shipment. The containers holding the stretch-wrapped pallets during shipping carry two labels consistent with the Canadian Maritime Code and U.N. Code for chrysotile asbestos. In most cases, upon arrival in the importing country, the containers are taken from the dock directly to the factory which uses the chrysotile asbestos.

With regard to part b) Although the implementation of domestic measures ensuring the safety and health of workers in the workplace is the sovereign responsibility of importing countries, Canada is contributing to the promotion of the safe use of chrysotile asbestos. The Chrysotile Institute, a not-for-profit organization is mandated by the federal government and the government of Québec, as well as by industry and the unions representing chrysotile asbestos workers, to support the promotion of the controlled use of chrysotile asbestos nationally and internationally.

Since its founding in 1984 the Chrysotile Institute has provided technical and financial aid for the creation of a dozen national industry associations in as many countries. These associations distribute health and safety information to their members, organize training seminars, coordinate dust-monitoring activities with the International Chrysotile Association, coordinate government-industry relations and monitor developments.

In 1986, the ILO unanimously approved Convention 162, “Safety in the Use of Asbestos”. This Convention advocates the strict regulation of chrysotile. This convention, along with recommendations by the World Health Organization are still the international point of view favoring the controlled-use approach for chrysotile asbestos.

For further information concerning the Institutes activities please see the following website: http://www.chrysotile.com/en/about.aspx.

With regard to part c) Responsibilities for occupational health issues are shared with the provinces.

Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, COHSR, Part X, Hazardous Substances, made under part II of the Canada Labour Code address the use and handling of hazardous substances in workplaces under federal jurisdiction. Under COHSR, all forms of asbestos are regulated via set exposure limits namely: 0.1 f/cc, fiber per cubic centimeter, for all forms of asbestos other than chrysotile, and 1 f/cc for airborne chrysotile asbestos. Please see the following website: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/SOR-86-304/page-5.html#anchorbo-ga:l_X

In addition, the elimination and the reduction of the hazards are two preliminary preventive measures regulated by the COHSR, part XIX, Hazard Prevention Program. Please see the following website: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/SOR-86-304/page-10.html

For projects involving the renovation or rehabilitation of federal real properties, the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada, PWGSC, follows part II of the Canada Labour Code for all construction/renovation of Federal Buildings. In addition, PWGSC adheres to Departmental Policy #57 ``Asbestos Management in Federal Projects and Buildings'' which provides direction in how to manage Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) within the context of construction / renovation of Federal buildings as well as the safe operation and maintenance of federal facilities.

Additional information about chrysotile asbestos can be found at the following Health Canada website: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/environ/asbestos-amiante-eng.php#ro

Question No. 121Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

With regard to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's operations in British Columbia: (a) what is the total value of grants and contracts awarded to Dayton and Knight Ltd.; and (b) what is the value of contracts and grants awarded to Dayton and Knight Ltd. as a percentage of all engineering awarded in the province?

Question No. 121Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, insofar as the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Development is concerned, no contracts or grants were awarded to Dayton and Knight Ltd.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 119, 120, 122, 124 and 126 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 119Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

With regard to individuals working at the Canadian International Development Agency earning in excess of $80,000 per annum, for the fiscal years 2006-2007 to 2008-2009: (a) what percentage of these individuals received at-risk pay and what was the average annual amount of this at-risk pay; and (b) what percentage of the same class of individuals received annual bonuses, and what was the average amount of these bonuses?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 120Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

With regard to contributions for the Atlantic Innovation Fund in the fiscal year 2008-2009: (a) what is the fiscal breakdown of the program objectives; (b) what is the explanation of the program objectives; (c) what are the results of the program objectives; and (d) what are the performance indicators and targets used to audit the performance of the program objectives?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 122Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

What is the total government investment in Atomic Energy of Canada Limited since its creation in 1952 for each year of operation, expressed in both as-spent and in constant 2009 dollars?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 124Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

With regard to Afghan detainees: (a) how many Afghans or other foreign nationals were detained by regular Canadian Forces or Military Police each year since Canada began its operations in Kandahar province; (b) how many Afghans or other foreign nationals were detained by Canadian special forces since Canada began its operations in Kandahar province; (c) were the processes for the handling of detainees different depending on whether they were captured by regular or special forces and, if so, how; (d) do Canadian special forces participate in joint operations with U.S. special forces and, if so, what happens to detainees captured during the course of those operations; (e) since Canada began its operations in Kandahar province, how many Canadian-captured detainees were questioned (i) by agents of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), (ii) in the presence of a CSIS agent; (f) did CSIS provide input on which detainees should be transferred to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS); and (g) was any information from the NDS interrogations of detainees passed on to Canadian authorities?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 126Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

With respect to the evacuation of Lebanese-Canadians from Lebanon during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War: (a) what security checks were applied before evacuation to ensure none were members of Hezbollah; (b) how many of the evacuees returned to Lebanon within six months; and (c) what was the final cost of the evacuation itemized by specific category?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Federal Courts Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Balanced Refugee Reform ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

First, Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie.

As the member for Laval—Les Îles, I rise today in Parliament to speak on a very difficult piece of legislation, Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Federal Courts Act. These proposed amendments deal with the fundamental right of individuals to seek protection in other countries, and specifically in Canada, when their government wilfully refuses to protect its citizens.

Instead, many of these individuals live in terror, afraid for their lives and for those of their families. In some instances, they are subjected to decades of civil war. They are subjected to cruel and unusual torture, in most instances at the hands of their own government, the same government that had pledged to serve and protect their human rights.

I also speak today in the House for the voices of the many women and children who have been subjected to force and violent rape by armies given the authority to ethnically cleanse a country. All this is done while the government stands silent. It not only does not protect its citizens but it does not even bring the perpetrators to justice. Many of the more than 50 wars that are going on in the world today have been going on for decades. The number of victims runs in the millions. Today, if the amendments that we will be asking for are not allowed to be incorporated into Bill C-11, then Canada's Conservative government will take away those rights to protection.

In the few minutes I have before me, I will speak to three areas of this bill: first, the eight-day rule, second, the right to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds and, third, the notion of safe country of origin or, as described in clause 12, proposed section 109.1, designated countries of origin, where parts of a country within a country would be considered safe by the Canadian refugee authorities.

Implementing an eight-day information-gathering rule goes against everything Parliament has put in place to allow claimants a fair and impartial refugee hearing with the support of competent legal counsel. Eight days is not enough to give counsel time to gain the trust of the claimants.

I am talking about people who go through many countries before they get to Canada, who have lived illegally and who have slept just about anywhere before they came here. We are asking them to sit down with a lawyer, explain their problem and try to give all the details within the very short time of eight days. How can we expect a poor man, women or child, because often children come all by themselves without the help and support of their parents, to trust that person who is in front of them within eight days?

Eight days is definitely not sufficient. Eight days is not enough time to secure adequate cultural interpretation. We know, for the majority of the time, that counsel would be working with a third language. Very few of the refugee claimants who we receive in this country speak one of the two official languages.

On the issue of humanitarian and compassionate grounds, the bill before us would require a claimant to wait a full year before reapplying after his or her claim for refugee status has been rejected. These people will be in complete limbo during that one year period. What would happen if, after discussions with a lawyer, a claimant realized that his or her claim was made on the wrong grounds, given the situation he or she experienced? What if the claimant wants to withdraw a claim and make a new one on humanitarian and compassionate grounds this time?

Claimants who withdraw their claims before the hearing date should be entitled to apply for permanent residency. Under this bill, however, claimants who withdraw their claims before their IRB hearing date have nowhere else to turn. All doors and windows are then closed to them. They currently have no other choice than to face removal.

I would like to speak about a case I heard about last night, that of a young woman from Guinea, in Africa, who was a victim of spousal abuse and who will now be deported from Canada. Her abuse by her partner was so severe that she is permanently branded on her left breast, and even underneath, from the mark of a hot iron. When she tried to get the authorities in her country to protect her, she was not able to get the authorities to do so. That is exactly what a refugee is, somebody who goes to the authorities in her own country and does not get the protection of the police and of the judicial system.

According to her Montreal counsel, our system denied her refugee status. She told us and friends of hers told us that if she were to go back to her country of Guinea, then she would be again under the control of this man who so cruelly abused her.

Not only has Canada's humanitarian and compassionate system failed to allow this woman to remain, but we are sending her back on Tuesday, although she is now married to a Canadian citizen and is now in a high-risk pregnancy. Tuesday is tomorrow.

Here are some of the details. One, if she is forced to go back to her country, the chances are very, very high that she will run into the man who was her first husband, who will very likely never understand or accept that she has now remarried. Two, she is now in a high-risk pregnancy. She cannot really be put into an airplane.

Where is the clemency? Where is the justice? Where is the compassion? Where are the humanitarian grounds on which the minister could allow this woman and her unborn child to stay here, because it is up to the minister and his department?

Her counsel, who has sent me a copy of a letter that was recently written to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, said that her Canadian physicians, right here in Canada, in Montreal, have confirmed that travelling would be extremely dangerous.

This is one case among many. Before I became a member of Parliament, I was a member of the IRB, the Immigration and Refugee Board.

As an IRB member, I reviewed hundreds and hundreds of cases. It is true that, in some cases, there are individuals who try to push through our system, but it is also true that the vast majority of people whose cases we see are like this woman from Guinea who needs our help.

My colleague, the MP for Vaughan, has declared that on this side of the House, the refugee appeals division was happy that at last it will be implemented. I am certainly happy personally, but it is clear that claimants will not be in Canada long enough to allow them to be present for those appeals. How can a refugee claimant appear before the appeals division to make her case heard if the new law implements a short eight-day period to gather information?

Other MPs have talked about the most controversial aspect of Bill C-11: the Immigration and Refugee Board will hear the case but the applicant will not be able to appeal to the IRB. Furthermore, this is all tied to the decision that will be made by the department or the minister—we are not exactly sure which one—regarding the designation of safe countries.

When I was a member of the IRB, we received refugee claims from Sri Lanka. People were told that if they went to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, they would find refuge and would not need to come to Canada. It was not recognized that, in Sri Lanka, it was perhaps harder to travel to the capital than it is in Canada because of the dangers faced by the refugee claimant.

The bill does not say which authority will be responsible for designating safe countries or the criteria to be used. I would like to share some anecdotes based on my experience as a former member of the board.

There are some countries in Europe where homosexuality is recognized and is not illegal. They are democratic countries, as the minister rightly stated earlier. However, from my experience on the Board, I know that when some homosexuals arrive in Canada, they say that they were beaten and persecuted in their country of origin and that they went to the police but did not receive any protection. The laws of their country also did not afford them protection.

Although there may be a law on the books, that does not mean they have protection. Although a country is democratic, that does not mean that these people will be protected in the outlying, rural, mountainous areas of that country. Protection on paper is one thing, and it is important; however, it is not the same as real protection. People are persecuted and are unable to obtain help from their country and its justice system.

We must ensure that our Canadian law can distinguish between people who wish to take advantage of our system and those who do are not protected by their country's justice system.

Just because a country is democratic does not mean that it will protect its citizens when necessary.

My comments are based on discussions I have also had with NGOs that have worked with refugee claimants for years and know the system very well.

Balanced Refugee Reform ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments. Her compassion for refugees is quite evident.

I have just a couple of comments.

First, the member raises the question of the eight-day triage. I should point out that currently, when refugee asylum claimants arrive they have an initial interview with somebody from the CBSA. Counsel is almost never present. The proposition is for a triage interview that would not be a legal hearing. It would simply be an opportunity for someone from the independent IRB, far better trained than officials at the CBSA, to get the essential outline of the claim, identify whether or not someone has a manifestly well-founded claim and to recommend them for priority treatment so they can get faster protection.

However as to her point with respect to Sri Lanka, one of the criteria we propose for the designation of safe countries is that, of their principle source of claims, the vast majority are unfounded. In the case of Sri Lanka, 91% of claimants are people who have a well-founded fear of persecution. Therefore a country with such an acceptance rate would not be even remotely considered for inclusion in the designated safe country list.

Finally, I have a question for her.

The Leader of the Opposition, her leader, said on August 13 of last year, “I want a legitimate, lawful refugee system that welcomes genuine Convention refugees but then says, look, there are a number of countries in the world in which we cannot accept a bona fide refugee claim because you don't have cause, you don't have just cause coming from those countries. It's rough and ready but otherwise we'll have refugee fraud and nobody wants that”.

That is what the hon. Leader of the Opposition said last August 13 in Saint John, New Brunswick, and I would like to know whether the member for Laval—Les Îles agrees with her leader in that respect.

Balanced Refugee Reform ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to what the minister said about Sri Lanka.

I have represented the riding of Laval—Les Îles in this House for 13 years. The example I gave dates back to the time when I was a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board, many years ago. At the time, Sri Lanka was not a safe country. Colombo was designated as a safe city in Sri Lanka. I think the minister was mistaken about what period I was referring to.

Balanced Refugee Reform ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her very cogent and thoughtful comments on the bill. I also thank the government for bringing forward these changes and for bringing forth an appeal process.

However, a number of very experienced people in this area have raised a number of concerns and I am hopeful that we genuinely will allow for significant amendments.

The member raised important concerns that I have heard from a number of members in the House about the safe countries of origin list. I would like her to comment on the fact that a number of people, including Amnesty International, have raised serious concerns about this and questions whether it is appropriate to designate a country of origin as a safe place and that in fact the process should be based on the claimant, not on the country of origin.

We know that it could be women at risk, there could be sexual orientation at risk, there could be a number of factors, even though generally the country is deemed safe, democratic and according to the rule of law. I wonder if the member could elaborate a bit more on the number of concerns that she has raised and the concerns raised by Amnesty International, particularly on the issue of the safe country of origin.