Mr. Speaker, the American economy is stagnant. A large proportion of the small business owners I have met in the last month are facing the same problem: they have orders, but only for a month or two, when generally, at this time of year, they have orders for the next five, six, seven or eight months. Where I live, there are lumber yards with very productive sawmills that are not doing any stock rotation. This is very serious. We are on the eve of a possible recession. Local indicators like the analyses by the big banks remind us of this.
But what have we been doing in this House for two weeks? We have been piling up public safety bills. While people are about to be looking at a rising unemployment rate, we are talking to them about public safety. I do not see the logic in this, unless our Conservative friends have decided that having more inmates might make up for natural resources or opening plants. I cannot see what has prompted us to spend two weeks piling up public safety bills when we are in this kind of economic situation. None of my constituents are talking to me about public safety problems today. No one is telling me there have been more break-ins or whatever that would justify our Parliament spending weeks on public safety issues when there is a recession around the corner.
The bad news, as a result of this kind of behaviour, is that terrorism and crime may increase. If no clear action is taken to slow down or stop a potential recession, at a time when people, particularly young people, are unemployed, crime will increase. When developing countries hit an economic downturn and thousands of people earning low wages lose their jobs, more people may get involved with brutal ideologies and become potential terrorists. When the real solution, to avoid all these problems, is to find a way to stimulate the economy in the short term again, instead we are piling up public safety bills. This is absurd.
Something else is absurd. One of the reasons given by our friends in the government is that refugees arriving in groups by boat might cause a rise in terrorism in Canada. Let us think about that for a minute. Terrorist groups are well financed and unfortunately, in their own way, intelligent. Unfortunately, because they set about causing harm and destroying the democratic structures of developed countries or others that are less developed. Unfortunately, these are people who are well financed, organized and intelligent. They are going to spend months or years radicalizing young people, training them, and then they are going to put them in a boat for three months where they have a three in 10 chance of starving to death. They are going to bring them to a developing country as boat people in a container where their entire investment could literally die of starvation during transport. I would like to see a hint of a shadow of a study showing that refugees who arrive in groups by boat are more likely to be terrorists. I am convinced that a study that looked into this would show us the exact opposite. It is absurd and illogical.
Once again we are presented with a public safety bill, even though this is not what my constituents are talking to me about every day. They are talking to me about the declining numbers of jobs and orders to fill. And on top of that, we are still facing the same problem. The Canadian Bar Association, not the NDP, has reminded us that it did not support the earlier version of the bill.
According to representatives from the bar, this bill violates the provisions of the charter against arbitrary detention, it violates the guarantees in the charter for the prompt review of detentions and violates Canada's international obligations regarding the treatment of persons seeking protection.
This is not someone from the NDP saying so; it is the Canadian Bar Association. Once again, as with Bill C-10, it is clear that the government has no regard for the expertise of professionals in the field. Lawyers and judges have said that the current system is reliable and that we do not need even more public safety, as though there were cause for concern and as though we had been seeing widespread crime in Canada for years. That is untrue.
For my remaining time, I have a little exercise. Often enough, our colleagues from the party in power ask us whether we have read the bill. I have news for them: I do read the bills. Oh yes, I will sit down with the text of the bill and will ask questions that occur to me, even in the summary.
At the very beginning, it reads:
(a) authorize the Minister, in certain circumstances, to designate as an irregular arrival the arrival in Canada of a group of persons [all of a sudden they are no longer refugees, but a group of persons], the result of which is that some of the foreign nationals [a new label appears here: “foreign nationals”. Their status is no longer refugee, but “foreign national” as soon as they set foot here] in the group [specifically] become designated foreign nationals;
Basically, the government is doing away with the idea of refugees. Thirty years ago, when Southeast Asia was having problems, Laotians and others were arriving in Canada and were welcomed openly, particularly by Quebec families. These were people who needed help and now, all of a sudden, they are designated foreign nationals. Who decides whether a group is designated or not? The minister. Could it be any more arbitrary?
I noted some questions. For example, who decides who makes up a group? A little further on, we can see that a group can be more than 10 people but it can also be fewer than 10 people. If a mother who is already a Canadian citizen accompanies her son who is not and who, for humanitarian reasons, decides to stay in Canada after a trip, do they constitute a group?
I also noted this paragraph:
The officer may refuse to consider an application for permanent residence made under subsection (1) if
(a) the designated foreign national fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply...
I read the bill to see what constituted a reasonable excuse. Is there a definition? What constitutes a reasonable excuse? What does not? I looked. I turned the pages—all of the pages. I read the bill and I still did not find a definition for reasonable excuse. We are talking about human life and dignity. We are talking about people who, for the most part, are not primarily economic refugees. They are afraid that they will starve to death if they return to their country, or face an even worse situation in terms of human rights that involves a direct threat to their safety. Yet, we do not know what constitutes a reasonable excuse. An officer or minister can say whether the excuse is reasonable or whether it is not a good excuse and therefore unreasonable.
The Minister may, by order, having regard to the public interest [it is the minister who determines what the public interest is], designate as an irregular arrival the arrival in Canada of a group of persons if he or she...
A little further down it says:
...any investigations concerning persons in the group — cannot be conducted in a timely manner...
We are talking about an investigation being conducted in a timely manner for people who arrive by boat, starving to death, with only a few items of clothing. We are going to ask them to provide documentation in a timely manner? These people are starving to death and we are going to ask them to provide their documentation in, for example, two days or tell them that they did not provide it in a timely manner?
I would like to know how the government can violate human dignity in this manner.