Mr. Speaker, first, it seems like the Conservative members are extremely confused about the difference between immigrants and refugees. This morning, we heard the hon. member for Burlington refer to his Italian in-laws. By no means do I wish to say anything negative about in-laws—I have wonderful in-laws, one of whom is from the Philippines and also immigrated here—but I am convinced that, in their home country, the member for Burlington's in-laws were not subject to persecution, violation of their human rights, danger of torture or risk to their lives. There is a big difference.
We are talking here about refugees who face grave danger and flee their country to escape these threats to their safety and their integrity. I also heard the government side say that we are facing an invasion of refugees and that we must put a stop to it immediately. The Conservatives are referring to a particular case that occurred in 2010, where Sri Lankan refugees, who had indeed done business with traffickers and smugglers, were arriving by boat and requesting asylum. However, it is important to realize that there were approximately 500 people on that boat requesting asylum. Were these requests to be processed, they would represent 2% of all cases processed by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
In response to another Conservative member who stated that we do not want them to conduct any investigations at all, I would like to say that we simply want all refugee claimants, whoever they may be, to have access to the same system, which would not be the case if Bill C-10 were to be passed.
Bill C-10 also shows the government's contempt for the international conventions and treaties that Canada has signed, for example, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the 1989 International Convention on the Rights of the Child, not to mention the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which I will come back to later.
Bill C-4 has four problems and should therefore be defeated or at least heavily revised. The first problem has been mentioned several times. The bill separates refugees into two separate categories: refugees whose claims are processed in the regular manner and refugee claimants who could be deemed to be designated foreign nationals. If one person arrives by plane or by boat, he or she is considered a refugee claimant who can request the regular process. If a group of people arrives by boat, under the bill, they must be deemed to be designated foreign nationals.
There are two separate processes for two separate classes, which was a completely arbitrary decision on the immigration minister's part. This particular provision contravenes article 31 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which specifically says that the Contracting States shall not impose penalties on account of their illegal entry or presence in Canada. But that is exactly what the government wants to do. It wants to be able to detain them for a year. That is a violation of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. And it is definitely a violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which deals with the rights of every individual, whether Canadian or a refugee, to equality before and under the law. But we are going to have two separate classes that will be subject to two separate processes.
The second problem is the mandatory detention of designated foreign nationals for 12 months. For one thing, that is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, under which every individual has a right to legal counsel and the guarantee of habeas corpus. So it is also a violation of article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires the same thing.
The third problem is that refugee claimants cannot apply for permanent residence for at least five years. That is specifically a violation of article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child because the best interests of the child are not looked after in that decision. It seems the government is looking more after the best interests, the political ones in particular, of the Minister of Immigration. This also poses a problem when it comes to a very current issue, family reunification. After all the nice things the Conservatives had to say about it, now that the time has come to put something on paper to make the reunification process easier, they are putting up barriers blocking it.
That is the case with Bill C-4.
The fourth problem, and I mentioned it a number of times this morning, is the fact that the government is preventing refugees from appealing to the Refugee Appeal Division. For refugees who arrive via airplane, their case will be examined by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. These people have the right to appeal a decision that they deem to be unfair. For refugees who arrive via boat and who are declared “designated foreign nationals,” they do not have that opportunity. That clearly violates article 16 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Article 16 specifically states that a refugee shall have free access to the courts of law on the territory of all contracting states. In addition, it states that a refugee shall enjoy in the contracting state in which he has his habitual residence the same treatment as a national in matters pertaining to access to the courts, including legal assistance and exemption from cautio judicatum solvi.
It is clear that this bill creates two classes of asylum seekers, which completely goes against the principle of equality that should guide the legislators in this House.
I would like to raise one last point regarding the issue of appeals. Yesterday, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism held Australia as an example to follow.
The immigration minister failed to mention that in November 2010, the Australian supreme court issued a ruling in the case of a Sri Lankan refugee, in which it was deemed unconstitutional, under the Australian Constitution, that he did not have access to the appeal courts. Thus, the Australian supreme court invalidated these provisions. The same thing will happen in Canada, for the same reasons.
I think it is clear that the government has no respect for its international obligations—obligations that Canada agreed to and signed off on. It is clear that the government is trying to politicize the issue of refugees for its own purposes by using sheer populism to attack victims of persecution who are trying to seek asylum in Canada. By refusing equal treatment to all asylum seekers, it is clear that the government has no respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
For all of these reasons, I am unable to support Bill C-4, a bill that I believe is unfair, that punishes people who are already victims and that will certainly have very few consequences for human traffickers.
I would remind the House that under current Canadian legislation, human traffickers, or smugglers, already face the maximum sentence they can be subjected to, that is, life imprisonment. This bill includes a few additional factors that would have absolutely no deterrent effect.
This bill's intention is clear. Taking a closer look, we can see that nearly half of the bill simply discriminates more and creates different classes of asylum seekers. Thus, the bill is misnamed. This bill does not address human trafficking. This bill does not tackle the main problem, that is, smugglers who abuse the situation and take advantage of the desperation of people facing persecution, human rights violations, or even torture or death. The bill simply aims to discriminate against various groups of asylum seekers and allow the Canadian government to treat people differently in a very serious situation. This will reflect poorly on us internationally.