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House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was yea.

Topics

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the speech of the member opposite.

Certainly, everyone is against the exploitation of foreign workers; however, the problem with the bill as it stands is that many of its provisions are too vague and leave a lot of things to the discretion of officers. This is what experts from both the Canadian Bar Association and the Barreau du Québec have said. A review of the officer's decision is then conducted by another officer. We, on this side of the House, in our great wisdom, proposed that the review be conducted by an arbitrator or someone who is more independent than a person working in the same unit. And I am not even mentioning the broad discretionary authority given to the minister.

I would like the hon. member to try to reassure us because, given that the Conservatives have rejected all the amendments, we are left with a bit of a bad taste in our mouths; it seems that the provisions, as they now stand, will not resolve the problem.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, rest assured Bill C-10 and the foreign worker piece would address an issue that is really hitting our country hard. At the present time, workers at the border, the border people, when they know someone is vulnerable, have no tools to use to prevent these people from coming in and being exploited. They are highly trained. It is not done very quickly. It is done very carefully, with two of the officers in consultation to make this happen. Therefore, this will protect our vulnerable workers.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the Conservative member for her speech.

I am particularly touched by the fact that she is concerned about the exploitation of workers. Since I have over 10 years of experience working in human rights and the union movement, the topics of abuse and harsh treatment by employers worry me and worry the entire NDP caucus. We are very sensitive to these issues.

This also highlights one of the problems with the omnibus Bill C-10. This omnibus bill has become a sort of an indigestible mess, because it tries to address too many issues and topics that are not at all related. We are forced to take it all and swallow it whole. That is one of our problems with this bill.

I would like my colleague to explain why the Conservatives are saying that we need more prisons, when it has no studies to support this claim and when serious crime is on the decline.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, in actual fact the legislation has been debated but not passed in previous sessions of Parliament. To reassure the member opposite, this piece was first introduced on May 16, 2007. It was tabled a second time on November 1, 2007, a third time on June 17, 2009, and a fourth time on November 19, 2010.

It is time that these bills are put together to get them through Parliament to protect not only vulnerable workers, but to ensure our Canadian citizens are safe.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, we have heard the opposition complain about us using time allocation for this argument. My colleague mentioned the urgency with which this needs to happen to help those people about whom she is concerned.

Could she explain why we want to get the bill through as soon as possible?

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, the pieces of Bill C-10 have been debated over and over again in the House. The difference is everything has been put together in one bill. It is very urgent. Why? Because our Canadian citizens need to be protected. Not only that, but we have a responsibility for those coming across our borders from other countries. It is our responsibility to ensure people coming through our borders are safe. That is why the piece for our vulnerable workers is in the bill.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, once again it is a privilege to rise to speak to this critical legislation before the House. I would say it is a pleasure, but considering the contents of the bill and what I think it will do not only to our country but to our community safety in Canada, I cannot, in all conscience, say that.

I will start by addressing the procedure by which the bill is being introduced in the House.

I have heard members on the opposite side continually try to justify ramming through the legislation. For Canadians watching, they should know that this is an omnibus bill. The government has packaged together nine separate pieces of legislation and thrown it into one bill before the House. As if that is not enough, the government has imposed limits on the ability of Parliament to examine the bills in detail by bringing in closure, which limits debate.

The members of the government have tried to justify this by saying that this has been debated in previous Parliaments. I will pause for a moment to say how fundamentally undemocratic that position is.

Each election Canadians go to the polls to elect a different Parliament. Many members in the House were not present in the previous Parliament. Citizens in their ridings elected members to come to the House because they were trusted to come here and examine the legislation, debate it, understand it and propose amendments.

For the government to deny those members that right, and by extension, to reject the choice of those Canadians who democratically chose those people to come here on their behalf is a fundamental rejection of the rights of Canadians to send a representative of their choice to Parliament. Those Canadians do not care what someone in a previous Parliament has said. Many of those members were defeated. Canadians care what current members in the House have to say about the legislation. The position of the government is fundamentally undemocratic.

I also want to point out what a turnaround this is from the old approach of the Conservatives on the invocation of closure. Through our research, we found dozens of references by the Prime Minister when he was in opposition on the use of closure by government, which he opposed.

This is what the former minister of public safety, Stockwell Day, said in the House:

A columnist wrote something interesting today. He wrote that in his view the decision to invoke closure on the bill represented in some ways the death of the true meaning of parliament. Parliament is the ability to gather together as elected representatives to talk, discuss, debate and hopefully do things that can enrich the lives and in this case the safety and security of Canadians. The federal Liberal government has failed Canadians.

Yet today the Conservatives stand in the House and say, “That's okay, we can ram through a bill that's going to fundamentally change our country and we don't need to debate it”. That is fundamentally wrong.

On the bill itself, our Parliament is poised to reshape Canada's criminal justice system in significant ways and, I would submit, Canada itself. With the omnibus so-called tough on criminals bill, we have a representation of the biggest change to our justice system in recent memory about to be undertaken and, once again, with very little debate.

I think we are all anticipating and participating in a watershed moment in Canadian history, and this matters. It matters for our safety and it matters for the kind of country we want Canada to be.

Surely one key test of a society is how we treat the most vulnerable and, even more important, sometimes how we treat the most despised. Justice policies offer a glimpse into the soul of a nation.

Without exception, I believe those of us who are charged with policy and practice care deeply about victims and their families. We want to prevent crime when we can, but we want to reduce the economic and human costs when we cannot.

I submit that policies and practices should be guided by the following three imperatives.

The first is public safety. In other words, what does the evidence tell us about what works to make our homes and streets safe?

The second is freedom. How do we ensure a measured response that protects our civil liberties, constrains the state and holds it accountable when our freedom is at stake?

Last is justice. What is a just, proportionate and humane punishment when a citizen is found guilty of a crime? Of course the system must adapt to changing times and new knowledge, but rates of crime and violence have been falling for about three decades. That does not permit complacency, nor does it suggest the need for a fundamental change of direction.

I want to put some facts before the House. The police reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime in this country, continued its long-term downward trend in 2010, declining 5% from 2009. At the same time, the crime severity index, which measures the severity of crime, fell 6%. The national crime rate has been falling steadily for the past 20 years and it is now at its lowest level since 1973.

In 2010 police reported 7,200 fewer violent incidents than in the previous year. Theft under $5,000, mischief and break-ins, relatively minor crimes, accounted for close to two-thirds of the almost $1.7 million non-violent offences.

Alberta and British Columbia, the province that I hail from, reported the largest declines in crime in 2010. It fell 6% in both provinces. The crime severity index decreased by 8% in Alberta and 7% in British Columbia.

Police reported that nearly 153,000 youth 12 to 17 years of age were accused of a crime in 2010. That is 15,000 fewer than in the previous year. The youth crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime committed by youth, declined by 7%.

We know that aboriginals are historically and disproportionately represented in our federal prisons, particularly aboriginal women. We know that 80% of offenders in our federal system right now suffer from an addiction. We know that mental illness is at alarming proportions in our federal prisons. People who are brain damaged, suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, low cognition, poorly educated, the addicted, the mentally ill of every single type, are populating our prisons.

I said this in my last speech and I will say it here today. I have done something that I dare say 95% of members in the House have not done. I have walked through the doors of 25 federal institutions in this country. I have talked to correctional officers, to wardens, to prison psychologists and to inmates. I have sat across the table from people doing life sentences. I have canvassed a cross-section of people who actually know what they are talking about in the prison system in this country. I have seen what kind of services are, and most importantly, what kind of services are not offered in our federal system.

I can tell members that this bill puts together an approach to crime that not only is expensive, that not only will cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars, but it will not make a single iota of difference in terms of making our communities safer. The reason I say that is that it misses the mark.

Of course there are people who commit crimes and have to be locked away to protect the public. Of course there are some people in federal institutions who have to be locked up for their natural lives. However, the vast majority of people in our federal institutions are people who will be coming out. Over 90% of people in federal prisons today are going to come out.

What we need to do if we are truly interested in making sound policy in this country instead of playing to what I will call in a few minutes, junk politics, is to be making sure that we have adequate alcohol and drug treatment programs in prison, and we do not now. We need to make sure that we have vocational and occupational programs in our prisons, and we do not now. We need to make sure that we have adequate psychological, nursing and occupational therapy services in our prisons to deal with the real problems that our offenders are facing in prison, and we do not now.

The sum total of the bill is based on a concept that if we lock up more Canadians for longer periods of time in harsher conditions, it would make our country safer. I have stood in the House three times and challenged Conservative members opposite. I told them they have the resources of the Department of Justice and Public Safety Canada, that surely they have studied this issue.

Every society in the world suffers from crime. We have hundreds of examples to choose from. If we asked the Conservatives to name one country where this approach to crime has achieved a noticeable drop in crime, they would not be able to come up with one example.

Before we embark on a policy of spending billions of dollars, let us make sure that we can spend taxpayer dollars wisely and make sure it will actually make us safer. The bill does not do that.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you seek it you will find there is unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, at the conclusion of the debate at report stage, Bill C-10, An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts, Motions Nos. 1, 5, 35, 41, 51, 53, 62, 64 and 78 be deemed put and recorded divisions be deemed requested and deferred pursuant to Standing Order 76.1(8).

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is there unanimous consent of the House for the chief government whip to move the motion?

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

(Motion agreed to)

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2011 / 5:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's remarks. He is from British Columbia, as I am.

He remarked about crime steadily falling and he mentioned statistics to show how crime is steadily falling. I would like to draw to his attention the remarks from the Vancouver Board of Trade which, just a couple of years ago, said that crime was out of control in Vancouver. In fact just a couple of years ago Vancouver had more murders than Toronto did in the first quarter of the year.

When we are talking about the statistics, going back to a 2004 survey by Statistics Canada involving 24,000 Canadians, which is quite a pile, only 8% of sexual assaults, 29% of thefts and 54% of break-ins were reported. Overall, only a third of victims reported to police. Let us update that. In September 2010, there were 20,000 grow ops in homes just in the Lower Mainland of B.C., and thousands more in the countryside. Only 31% of victims overall said they reported the crimes. Overall, 71% of property crimes were not reported.

We have made it so difficult for police to report on these things and the consequences have been so minimal in the past that people have not bothered to report the crimes. What is with that?

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, that brings up an oft-repeated theme I hear from the government side that yes, the statistics have been dropping for 25 years, but what about unreported crimes. The statistics on unreported crimes would say the same thing. There is no evidence to suggest that unreported crime has gone up in any significant manner.

My friend raised the issue of grow ops. Is there anything in the legislation before us that would actually do anything positive in terms of drug policy in this country? I would argue that it does not.

California has its ”three strikes and you are out” policy. Mandatory minimum sentences have been used in California. The jails in California are stuffed mainly with people who have been convicted of drug offences. Has it made Californians safer? Has it decreased drug use in California? If my friend actually used an evidence-based system, he would look at those statistics and find out that it has not.

Adopting that same policy of having mandatory minimum sentences and locking up people for drug offences longer simply will not have any beneficial effect on the problem that he says he cares about.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns that we in the Liberal Party have expressed is that we want as much as possible to prevent crimes from taking place.

I appreciate the member's comments. I would be interested in hearing what he might have to say in regard to issues such as community policing and investing in resources at local community clubs.

Does he believe that will have more of an impact, as I believe and the Liberal Party believes, on preventing crime from taking place if we put our investments in that as opposed to the mega-jails proposed by the government?

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague is right. Ironically, increasing incarceration costs lots of money. Imprisonment is expensive. That means there would be less money for those things that might make us truly safer, such as prevention, education and rehabilitation.

In many respects the dollars we spend on social policy are non-discretionary. The question is in what proportion are we going to allocate those dollars. There is nothing in this bill, the nine bills that are wrapped together, that would add one drug treatment counsellor, one nurse, or one occupational trainer to our prisons. I would argue that it is investing in those issues or investing in police. There is nothing in this bill that would put a single police officer on the street. I agree with my friend that they are very effectively employed in our communities. I have heard the Minister of Public Safety say, “If we put on more police and they arrest people, where are we going to put them?”

Having police on the beat in our communities is effective. It has a deterrent effect. When people see a police presence in their communities, it becomes less likely that kids or someone hanging around who might be considering breaking into a garage would do so. Actually delivering on the promise to add more police officers, as the NDP has called for in two successive elections and on which the government has not delivered, is a far more prudent and effective way to make our communities safer.

I am sorry to say that Bill C-10 would not add a single police officer in our country. Instead, we would spend billions of dollars on prisons. I would rather spend more money on prosecutors, judges and police and actually prevent the crime from happening in the first place.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the member for Scarborough Centre, I need to tell her that I will need to interrupt her at 15 minutes to the hour as this is the time allocated under government orders for the day.

The hon. member for Scarborough Centre.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to support Bill C-10.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, I will focus my remarks on the section of the bill that amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in order to prevent human trafficking and to curtail the abuse and exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers.

These measures will improve upon an immigration system that is already the envy of the world and one that is vital to Canada's future. Before I speak about the particular measures in Bill C-10, it is important to specify exactly what I mean by that.

The benefits of immigration are undeniable and immense. This country was built by immigrants. Indeed, a great many of us serving this House are either immigrants ourselves or the children or grandchildren of immigrants.

For people the world over, Canada represents a great beacon of hope. Last year, Ipsos conducted a global poll of OECD countries and found that about two billion people in those countries alone said they would like to come to our country, Canada.

Those who come to Canada from other places, either permanently as immigrants or for a set period of time as temporary workers, bring their unique skills and talents to our shores. They enrich and strengthen our local communities, our social fabric and the economic development of our great country.

Because an effective and strong immigration system is central to a strong economy, the government has taken measures in recent years to ensure that our immigration system responds to Canada's labour market needs. Those measures have been undeniably quite successful.

In the last five years, Canada has seen the highest sustained level of immigration in nearly a century. Most of that increase has come from skilled economic immigrants and their families.

Canadians understand how important it is for our economic well-being to continue to bring newcomers into this country. They also understand that another great economic benefit to Canada comes from bringing in temporary foreign workers with skills that fill important requirements in our labour market. To manage this, Canadians want an immigration system that conforms to our shared democratic values, an open and generous system, governed by the rule of law, that treats all potential immigrants and temporary foreign workers with equality and fairness.

Of course, along with the benefits to Canada of such an open system comes a responsibility to protect against the abuse and exploitation of that system. Each additional day that the opposition delays this bill is yet another day in which people may be smuggled to Canada and exploited and abused, and there is nothing that we as Canadians can do about it. Canada's immigration officials, from front-line visa officers to those tasked with making high-level decisions about potential newcomers to the country, need to have the proper tools both to safeguard the system from misuse and to protect vulnerable persons from exploitation.

In some cases the existing laws give officials the tools they need to carry out these specific duties. For example, we already have the legal ability to stop people with a prior criminal conviction from entering Canada. In other cases, loopholes still exist, allowing those with nefarious aims to exploit both the immigration system itself and also vulnerable people from other countries who wish to work in Canada.

Bill C-10 will supplement current legislative provisions by plugging that existing hole in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a hole that currently puts vulnerable people at risk.

This was a campaign commitment in the most recent election, and our government is following through with our commitments. Canadians gave us a strong mandate to keep our streets and communities safe by getting tough on crime; this includes preventing crime and exploitation of vulnerable people both in Canada and abroad.

Measures in this bill will give the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism the discretionary authority to use ministerial instructions to deny work permits to those temporary workers who are most susceptible to abuse or exploitation once they arrive in Canada.

What kinds of abuse and exploitation would these measures address? They include a great variety, ranging from the sexual exploitation of individuals trying to enter Canada to work in the adult entertainment business as exotic dancers through temporary workers at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking to low-skilled labourers vulnerable to humiliating and degrading treatment by their abusive employers.

There are many potential scenarios in which the measures included in this particular section of Bill C-10 would protect individuals who might otherwise face abuse and exploitation upon their arrival here in Canada.

What current provisions do not allow for is the refusal of work permits to people who may not face any obstacles under the current immigration laws but whose situation would make them more vulnerable to future abuse or exploitation. Bill C-10 would rectify this problem.

The amendments proposed in the bill would allow for a systematic process based on dispassionate evidence, transparent regulations and clear public policy objectives in making any decision about who would be refused entry to Canada because of potential abuse and exploitation.

Additionally, it is important to underline that Canada's immigration officers are among the most capable, professional and highly trained in the world. They are very skilled at recognizing applicants who are at risk. It does not make any sense to curb their ability to protect vulnerable applicants from potentially abusive situations, but unless we pass the measures proposed in Bill C-10 into law, we are doing just that.

By introducing the safe streets and communities act, which includes these important provisions, we are keeping yet another one of our campaign commitments. Canadians know that our Conservative government keeps its commitments. By delaying the bill, the opposition is proving yet again that it is totally out of touch with the priorities of regular Canadians.

It is my sincere hope that having contemplated all of the benefits that I have outlined--benefits both to our internationally acclaimed immigration system and also to vulnerable individuals from around the world--hon. members on both sides of the House will see fit to support Bill C-10.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 5:45 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the report stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on Motion No. 2. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Report StageSafe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.