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House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was detention.

Topics

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a little bit last minute but I will try to put a couple of thoughts together. I do not think I will take too much time but I will try to resume what has been spoken about.

We have been talking about two classes of refugees, basically the type of bill this is, and we are obviously hearing rhetoric from both sides of the House. However, when members listen to what we have to say, it is normal that we are the ones who are right in this area because the Liberal Party brought in the charter and believe in giving people the rights to which they are entitled.

It is astounding what we hear from the Conservative government. I have a piece of paper with the background of what brought all this to light.

In August, 2010, a total of 492 Tamils arrived on a boat. The time before that, in 2009, 76 Tamils arrived here on a boat. In the last couple of years, we have had about a thousand people who have come on a boat claiming refugee status. Now, all of a sudden it requires a new bill. Every person who has ever come in a boat, any person who has come from Sri Lanka, any person of Tamil background is considered a terrorist. Anybody who has ever been an immigrant, anybody who has ever made a refugee request is considered a criminal. Where is the end in all this?

All this does is create controversy and division, which is typical of what the government does, but most of all, it is supposed to be a cost-conscious type of government and this costs money. All this amount of paper for what? Because the government is saying that criminals are in the boats? Those are not the criminals.

The bill does not address the criminals, the smugglers. So, what are we looking at? There are criminals on the boat, criminals arriving on the boat and criminals sending the boat. The criminals who are sending the boat from wherever the place of departure is, are not being addressed. However, all of a sudden, anybody who has ever set foot in a boat now becomes a criminal, according to the other side, and anybody associated with wanting to help those people is considered a criminal.

What does that mean? That means that we will need to pay consultants, lawyers and all kinds of people to ensure those supposed criminals, however many there are, will be put in a detention centre and supervised. They will go be uneducated, not being fully utilized for any of the services, and then again it will cost money.

I have examples in my office, representing a riding in an urban centre rampant with immigrants and refugees, of people who come for help. The majority of the refugees who come to my constituency office, and sometimes do pass by my house, come with some of the best family values we could ever imagine. Their kids go to school. They are not out of line. They get great grades. The parents are working at not one job, but two jobs and sometimes three. They are working around the clock because they have come here to make a better life. The life that they have left behind is not the life they wanted, not only for themselves, but for their families. The people across the chamber should realize that those are the people we are talking about.

Canada brings in 300,000 people every year and 40,000 or 50,000 of those are refugees. Is the bill, by trying to penalize the people on the boats, like we said, creating a separate class, worth the cost?

There would be additional cost involved afterward when we consider the logistics of trying to accommodate these people. We would be putting them in a detention centre for up to a year, and some people are saying up to five years. I am not the expert so I would not be able to say how much that would cost, but we have had numbers up to a couple of billion dollars, which is a thousand million, in case somebody is wondering how much that is.

Hearing the rhetoric from all sides of the House, eventually someone will dispute the bill in a court of law, which will cost money. The Conservative lawyers will get rich and probably pay independent contractors $90,000 a day. Again, this will create controversy and division and for what? We still have not arrested or incarcerated a single smuggler.

There are different ways to address this. I am told that the immigration minister has nothing to do with the bill, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is defending it. The government is tossing the bill around, saying it is a question of security, but the parliamentary secretary is defending the bill. I feel sorry for him because he is a good guy and a good parliamentarian too. It is very difficult to address the validity of the bill.

I am a big promoter of sending a bill to committee to try to make it better, but there does not seem to be a willingness to make the bill better because it is a failure from the start. As my leader and our critic have said in previous discussions, the bill is totally against the Charter of Freedoms and Rights. As an accountant, that tells me it will cost dollars, so again the Conservative government does nothing better than to spend money on professionals, contractors and independent people.

My assessment is that the bill is flawed from the outset. I know there was an attempt to amend it. I know the bill fails to achieve its stated principle of cracking down on human smugglers and I am not sure if the government has made any attempts to make that amendment before it goes to committee. It targets legitimate refugee claimants and does not give a chance to the poor people who arrive on a boat to apply for temporary or permanent residency or acquire any benefits. It is a total make-work type of project. It is exploratory to try to see how much we can abuse the people coming here.

I am not sure how we can fix the bill before it is sent to committee, but I would like to stop it in its tracks so it does not go to committee. Again, I am apprehensive as to the costs. In my constituency the number of refugee board judges who have not been named and Conservatives can use that money to appoint more refugee board judges and maybe speed up the process of refugee claimants, so if there are illegal or illegitimate refugees we could process them quite quickly.

We see examples across the world where countries have tried to use a system where they are not open to welcoming refugees. Instead, they will go get their own refugees. We saw that in some of the Nordic countries where it did not worked. Again, I do not see how that will help. Canada has always been a welcoming country. Looking around the chamber, we are people from different backgrounds and different nationalities.

I do not see how the bill will change or better Canada in the future. If we are scared of a couple of people who will come here by boat as opposed to illegal refugees who cannot come by plane, train, or walk through the border, I am not so sure that via the boat is much more of a threat than any other mode of transportation.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

2:25 p.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada has a wonderful reputation internationally for welcoming refugees. My parents are immigrants. In fact, my father was a refugee in 1956 during the revolution when he stood against Soviet tanks.

The hon. members on the opposite side do not want to understand that perhaps smugglers are what we are trying to target, not refugees. We continue to welcome refugees and we continue to have a wonderful international reputation doing so.

Perhaps the hon. member might be aware that the folks who come here with smugglers are working two, three or four jobs in order to pay off their smuggling fees and the only people benefiting or profiting are the smugglers. They are the ones who are demeaning people who are trying to come to our country. They are the ones who are robbing them of their dignity.

I would encourage members opposite to join with us to help folks who are coming to Canada and genuinely seeking refugee status. Does the hon. member have some comments on that?

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the member stated that it was her father who came across. Had he come on a boat, he would not be a refugee, based on the legislation. He would not be able to make a refugee claim, based on the fact that he arrived by boat.

With respect to smuggling, all we are introducing is minimum sentencing and passing a bill to increase the legal sanctions against smuggling immigrants. That is all we need.

Do we need a separate piece of legislation? I am not so sure we need that.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague was here when Jean Chrétien took the Clarity Act to the Supreme Court to get clarification that it was constitutional. NDP members are saying quite clearly to the government that if it firmly believes that the bill is appropriate and constitutionally valid, it should take the bill to the Supreme Court before the bill comes to committee and get the Supreme Court decision.

I can only assume it does not want to do that because it may not like the answer.

In fairness to the government, this is rather sweeping legislation. I remember quite clearly that just prior to the war we turned away an entire shipload of Jewish people fleeing Nazism because they did not have the proper documents. There was anti-Semitism in the world, and we turned them away.

I am an immigrant myself. I was born in Holland, and my parents were welcomed by the Canadian family. Many people in this House, in this Senate and in this country who work for the government come from other countries, and we want to make sure that people who are legitimate have the opportunity.

I understand the government's concerns, when a ship does arrives, about the costs and the burdens it places on many of the provinces. In Halifax we get a fair number of immigrants smuggling in on the container ships and so forth.

However, my two quick questions are these: does the member support the bill going to the Supreme Court, and why is the government targeting the most innocent in the world of today?

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not as old as the member is, so I was not here for the Clarity Act, but I want to thank the member for having thought that I was here for such a long time.

Basically I do not understand why the government would not refer the bill to the Supreme Court. It would cost less, but we are trying to make other people rich, I suppose, and that is the only way the government does business.

Second, in terms of why the government is targeting the most vulnerable, it is because they are not the people who vote for the Conservatives. That is the only thing I can think of.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to pack five little points into my brief question.

First, my colleague asked where it will end. I think it will end if he reads the bill, because he misstates significant provisions of it. Yes, the captains of the boats would be penalized. Yes, those who launch the boats would be penalized.

Second, he misses the point completely. We are trying to protect the reputation of Canada as a safe haven for refugees. It is only when we take these steps can we continue to do so.

I have met with people in Iraq and Pakistan and Afghan refugees who laud our reputation. Viktor Frankl said freedom without responsibility is dangerous to the Auschwitz survivor. We need to take these measures to protect our country as a safe haven.

I ask my friend to please read the bill.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if there is a question in there. I will read the bill again on the weekend, and I will get back to the member.

However, I want to make one thing very clear: just the fact that the bill exists would not prevent this country from having any criminals. This is not about criminals. It is about making new criminals out of people who are not criminals. That is the point.

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 2:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)