Mr. Speaker, as said previously by my colleagues, the government objects to Bill C-440 and urges all members of the House to vote against it.
I will continue the government's response to the bill by addressing the effect it could have on military lives and relations.
Canadians love and value their freedom. We have a proud military tradition that proves we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to protect it. Some 600,000 Canadians served in the first and second world wars. Over 100,000 Canadians gave their lives for our freedom and the freedom of others. We remember these sacrifices each year on Remembrance Day, November 11, one of the most important days on the Canadian calendar.
In Afghanistan the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces are carrying on this tradition. Over 140 members have made the supreme sacrifice to bring freedom and security to Afghanistan and prevent the country from serving again as a base for global terrorism.
When the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism speaks to new citizens, he sometimes talks about the need to meet obligations to family and community. He often cites Canada's military tradition as an example of how citizens have met these very obligations. However, to properly honour this past we must oppose the bill because it could pose challenges for some of the principles that apply to our military.
The bill would let military deserters from any country participating in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It proposes to allow those individuals to remain in Canada based on a moral, political or religious objection. It would allow those subject to compulsory military service to refuse to return to service in their country of nationality. It proposes that the government would stay the removal for these applications until a decision on permanent residence for the individuals could be made.
As drafted, Bill C-440 is incompatible with Canada's Code of Service Discipline, as set out in the National Defence Act. The code is the basis of the Canadian Forces military justice system and is designed to assist military commanders in ensuring that the forces remain disciplined, efficient and motivated.
The Code of Service Discipline provides that desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces or failure to obey a lawful command of a superior officer are both punishable offences in Canada. These offences would apply in a situation where a Canadian Forces member refused a lawful order to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations.
This is, however, the very same conduct that Bill C-440 seeks to use as grounds for granting foreign nationals permanent residence. As a result, Canada could become a haven for military personnel who commit acts for which members of the Canadian Forces would be subject to punishment. The Liberal Party wants to treat Canadian deserters as criminals, but American, Israeli and Iranian deserters as heroes.
The provisions in Bill C-440 also extend beyond those persons refusing to participate in an unsanctioned armed conflict.
The bill seeks to grant permanent residence to individuals who, upon return to their country of origin, may be compelled to serve in the military. This provision is overly broad as obligatory military service is practised in many countries, including Israel, Germany and Denmark, countries which are both democracies and close allies of Canada. If Bill C-440 were made law in Canada, it could apply to all former military personnel from such countries.
Passage of the bill will 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. This, when dozens of countries around the world have either obligatory military service, a combination of obligatory and voluntary military service or voluntary systems that rely on obligatory service in emergency situations.
Bill C-440 proposes that refusing to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations should be grounds for granting permanent resident status. It has, however, not been common practice for the Security Council to sanction international armed conflicts. The UN is more commonly silent on the status of a conflict. As such, the bill would cover a large range of conflicts worldwide.
Thus, by allowing all military deserters who are seeking to avoid participation in armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations to be provided special treatment, the provision could apply to conflicts that the international community, the Canadian government and/or Canadians deem to be legitimate.
Furthermore, a decision by the Government of Canada to resort to force is reserved to the executive and not subject to review by Canadian courts. Scrutiny by a Canadian court of a foreign government's decision to resort to force would therefore be unwarranted.
Given the scope of Bill C-440, the number of foreign nationals eligible to apply under these provisions could be enormous. In theory, military personnel from any country with armed forces could qualify for permanent residence in Canada. Has anyone on the opposition benches given any thought to that at all?
As I noted, the proposed amendments could also establish Canada as a haven for military personnel who commit acts such as desertion, for which the Canadian Forces would be subject to punishment. The bill as drafted contains no clear amendments to address these concerns. I would argue that our current immigration system is more balanced and provides sufficient protection to individuals facing persecution or undue hardship.
Bill C-440 risks undermining the very principles upon which Canadian soldiers take to battle, principles that are fundamental to our military's code of service discipline and to our country's military relations with other countries around the world. Given that, as has been noted earlier, the bill could undermine the government's security and enforcement agenda and the security and safety of Canadians.
Bill C-440 could pose substantial challenges for Canada. It would present risks to our immigration system, conflict with our military laws and could put at risk the general safety and security of Canadians. Based on these factors, I strongly encourage all hon. colleagues in the House to vote against Bill C-440.
I will address some additional issues that have been raised by the hon. member across the way.
The hon. member seeks to impugn the motivation of other countries that have in fact sought to defend their people who live under tyrannical regimes, dictatorships and from those who do not respect the liberty or freedoms of their own citizens. We have a great tradition in our country of standing up for those who cannot stand for themselves. Sometimes that means the government has a responsibility to make decisions that are not easy. The member seeks to impugn governments that make those decisions to take out a dictator who punishes his or her own people.
He spoke of some people that are particularly offensive. I do not want to put words in the hon. member's mouth, but he indicated that the U.S. government took out a family that was not friendly to it on oil and put in a group that was friendly to it on oil. He did not speak at all about that family, about the former President Saddam Hussein's record on human rights and the travesties that dictator imposed upon his people. He can stand in judgment of the motivations, but I really take offence to the indication that the only motivation to take this man out was to gain control of oil. Those comments are highly offensive to one of our strongest allies and friends, our U.S. neighbours.
I would also argue that there have been other cases and points in time where the United Nations has not seen fit, as I noted in my speech, to endorse a military action, but where nations of conscience have sought to go in and defend the people. We have seen many instances where the right to protect clause was not enacted by the United Nations, but where I think a lot of people on the outside looked at it and thought maybe it was an instance where it should have been. I do not think we should rely on that as our moral compass for whether or not we should go in and defend a people under a tyrannical regime where they are under threat.
As I said, the bill is very poorly drafted. The government cannot support it and I urge all opposition members to join us in our opposition to it.