Mr. Speaker, Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials have determined and proven that, as a result of this provision, immigration officials would be powerless to refuse military deserters or a family member, even if they would otherwise be inadmissible for a war crimes, crimes against humanity or serious criminality.
To put it frankly, the bill would leave Canada unable to stop foreign criminals from remaining in Canada even if they happen to be military deserters or if they are required to serve in their country's armed forces.
Bill C-440 also goes against some other laws and principles that govern Canada's own military. The bill is also incompatible with Canada's code of service discipline as set out in the National Defence Act. This code is the basis for Canadian Forces military justice and is designed to assist military commanders in maintaining discipline, efficiency and morale within the force. The code deems that desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces is punishable as an offence in Canada. This would apply even if forces members refused a lawful order to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations.
As a result, if the bill were implemented, Canadian soldiers would be punished for desertion while foreign nationals would be welcomed to Canada even after they had committed the same offence.
Under the logic of the bill, Canadians who abandon their comrades in arms would continue to be treated like criminals and Americans who do the same would be welcomed by the Liberal Party as heroes.
In fact, the member across the way has singled out the Iraq war. I would simply ask that he rise on the first occasion and explain why he has singled out only that conflict. There are conscientious Americans who believe, through conviction, that the American involvement in Afghanistan is unjust and wrong.
I happen to disagree with that particular perspective, but it is a legitimate point of view. If the hon. member were to take the logic that he has applied to the Iraq war, he would then also allow deserters from the U.S. forces who are escaping their service in Afghanistan and allow them to come here, desert their comrades in arms, and leave behind the duties that they joined the forces to undertake. They would be able to come to Canada as deserters and be given an opportunity to jump ahead of the queue and have a status as permanent residents in this country.
Would it not be ironic then if we would have members of the American forces allowed to desert from the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, but at the same time Canadian soldiers, who if they did exactly the same thing, would be treated as criminals? That would be an incredible double standard.
I would also like to point out that this bill does a great disservice to the thousands of would be immigrants from around the world who follow the rules, who obey the law, and who come to this country, going through all of the normal steps in order to become citizens of Canada. It would be a disservice to have them pushed back in the line-up so that we could give preferential treatment, as the bill would give, to deserters of the U.S. armed forces. It would not only be an insult to our own soldiers but also be an insult to the legitimate would be immigrants from around the world who are following the rules.
The bill also seeks to grant permanent resident status to individuals who upon their return to their country of origin may be compelled to return to military service. This means that former military personnel from countries with conscription could be captured under this provision.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada researchers have found that some three dozen countries have some type of mandatory military service. This bill would throw the door wide open to anyone from those countries who could in theory eventually be forced into military service. This list includes countries such as Israel, Germany and Denmark, countries which are both democracies and close allies of Canada. If Bill C-440 were made law, it could apply to all former military personnel from these countries.
It should be noted that in the American context the United States armed forces do not have conscription, so those who sign on to join the forces do so knowing that at some point they could be called to duty and, as a result, have already made their conscientious decision to sign on for that duty at the time they join the American armed forces.
We are also concerned with the impact this bill would have on Canada's foreign relations if Canada is compelled to grant permanent residence to citizens of our allies trying to avoid obligatory military service. Passage of this bill would send an implicit signal that Canada condemns the practices of our allies and could establish Canada as a safe haven for individuals seeking to circumvent those practices.
We also object to the fact that Bill C-440 distinguishes conflicts sanctioned by the United Nations from conflicts that are not. It would be presumptuous and unprecedented to require Canadian immigration officials to pronounce on the so-called illegality of a given conflict. Furthermore, Canada and its NATO allies have in the past and reserve the right in the future to participate in military action that the United Nations may or may not have already sanctioned.
I should note that a decision by the Canadian government to resort to force is not subject to review by Canadian courts. It is a matter of high policy reserved to the executive. Scrutiny by a Canadian court or a Canadian immigration official of a foreign government's decision to resort to force would, therefore, be unwarranted and could have a negative impact on foreign relations.
Finally, Bill C-440 proposes that the government stay the removal of applicants until a decision on permanent residence for individuals could be made. This undermines the security and enforcement agenda that this government is undertaking and could be open to abuse.
I will simply point out that this government will be voting against this bill as it causes serious problems for the security of this country, and the integrity of our immigration and foreign relations systems.