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House of Commons Hansard #21 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-10.

Topics

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In the course of question period today, you made a point of saying that someone could not do indirectly what he or she is not allowed to do directly.

In that context, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you would take the time to have a look at Standing Order 31 in the name of the member for Vancouver South, which must have been approved by her whip, which must have been approved by the leadership of her caucus and which was a direct personal attack on the member for Scarborough—Agincourt and seemed to have gone unobserved by those who were listening to it.

I wonder if you would have a look at the record, Mr. Speaker.

Statements by MembersPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will examine the transcript and get back to the House if necessary.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will go back to the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert, who has six minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, in my previous comments, I was talking about Bill C-10 and specifically the portion affecting the amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

On the old Bill C-4 from the last Parliament, the justice committee heard concerns from many of the provincial attorneys general concerning the issue of pretrial detention. I would remind the House that the primary concern of provinces with the approach of Bill C-4 was that pretrial detention would not be available to a youth charged with an offence that was not “a serious offence”.

The provisions in the current Bill C-10 address this concern. Under the proposed amendments, pretrial detention of a youth charged with a non-serious offence is possible if the youth has a history that indicates a pattern of either outstanding charges or findings of guilt and if the court finds that detention is necessary for the protection and safety of the public.

This change would allow for detention of so-called out-of-control youth who would pose a danger to society even if that youth were not presently before the court on a serious offence charge.

Moreover, the test for pretrial detention will be self-contained in the Youth Criminal Justice Act, without requiring reference to the Criminal Code provisions as is currently the case.

The second modification to the former Bill C-4 deals with the availability of the deferred custody and supervision order, which is a Youth Criminal Justice Act sentencing option that allows a young person who would otherwise be sentenced to custody to serve his or her sentence in the community under conditions. If those conditions are violated, the young person can be sent to custody.

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, this order is not available as a sentencing option if the young person has been found guilty of a serious violent offence, currently defined in the act as an offence in the commission of which a young person causes or attempts to cause serious bodily harm.

The new narrower definition of a “serious violent offence” proposed in Bill C-4 would have expanded the scope of offences for which deferred custody and supervision orders would be available.

However, the provisions in the current bill include the new definition of “serious violent offence” and would also include a change to the amendments proposed in the former Bill C-4 in order to retain the current law on eligibility for these orders, meaning that a deferred custody and supervision order will not be available if the youth is found guilty of an offence involving either serious bodily harm or an attempt to cause serious bodily harm. I think members could agree with me that these modifications are an improvement over the former Bill C-4.

The third modification since Bill C-4 concerns the adult sentencing provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The amendments to the former Bill C-4 and contained in this new bill would require a prosecutor to consider seeking an adult sentence for young offenders 14 and older who committed serious violent offences. Prosecutors would also have to inform the court if they decided not to apply for an adult sentence for individual 14 or older who were convicted of a serious violent offence. When the Crown would apply for an adult sentence, the onus would have been on the Crown to convince the judge that an adult sentence was justified.

In part these amendments respond to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the case of R. v. D.B. that certain provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act violated section 7 of the charter. These presumptive offence provisions placed an onus on a young person found guilty of certain serious violent offences to justify receiving a youth rather than an adult sentence and to justify the continued protection of their privacy.

The proposed amendments remove the presumptive offence provisions from the Youth Criminal Justice Act as well as other inoperative provisions to clarify the test for the imposition of an adult sentence and ensure that the onus is on the Crown to satisfy the court as to the appropriateness of an adult sentence.

In the former Bill C-4 the proposed test for an adult sentence would have required that a judge be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that an adult sentence was necessary. When we were consulting, a number of the provinces expressed the view that “beyond a reasonable doubt” was too high a standard to meet, was not required by the current case law and would make it significantly more difficult to obtain adult sentences in appropriate circumstances.

The current proposals remove reference to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that had been in the former Bill C-4, thus leaving it up to the courts to determine the appropriate standard of proof, as is the case under the current law.

I think all members of the House will agree that the amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act included in Bill C-10 are the result of the widespread consultations and respond to the concerns of Canadians. Our government listened to our provincial and territorial counterparts, to provincial attorneys general, Canadians and victims and have made the necessary changes to this part of Bill C-10.

I think all members can agree that the changes I have described and outlined for the House are reasonable and responsive. I encourage all hon. members to support all parts of Bill C-10.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, one of the fundamental elements of this omnibus bill obviously deals with the issue of mandatory minimums as a deterrent. Would my hon. colleague justify how this is to be a deterrent when it comes to mandatory minimums?

We have examples where in certain jurisdictions around North America the death penalty exists, yet their capital offence rates are much higher than jurisdictions that do not have the death penalty in place. When we see situations like that, we have to wonder whether mandatory minimums do serve as that deterrent? Perhaps my colleague can convince me that this is the case.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had been listening to my speech, he would have know that I was talking specifically about changing amendments and provisions to the Youth Criminal Justice Act not to the minimum mandatory sentence provisions, which I suspect he might be referring to those who traffic in cannabis and other controlled substances.

However, notwithstanding the lack of relevance of the question toward my speech, I will attempt to answer it. Certainly, there are no provisions anywhere in Bill C-10 dealing with death sentences, nor ought there to be in my view.

Minimum mandatory sentences in appropriate circumstances do deter crime for one very simple proposition that appears to be lost on most members of the opposition, and that is an individual when incarcerated cannot commit further crimes.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has introduced the safe streets and communities act as if the very title alone validates the legislation. It is presented to us as it is called res ipsa loquitur. The very title speaks for itself. If there is any doubt, the government repeats the mantra, as it is done over and over today, that it has “a mandate” for enacting the safe streets and communities act.

Every government not only has a mandate but an obligation to protect its citizens. As a government, we too spoke of safe streets and safe communities in our speech from the throne. Five years ago, in debate in this very House, I spoke as follows:

Safe streets and safe communities are the shared aspiration of all Canadians and the common objective of all parliamentarians and parties. No political party can claim that it alone speaks or cares for the safety of all Canadians or that it alone is legislating for that purpose.

The question then becomes this. What are the means that are chosen to bring about what we have defined as a shared objective of all governments and all parties, namely safe streets and safe communities? For example, we cannot enact unconstitutional legislation and say “These measures are necessary to protect safe streets and safe communities”. Nor can we justify bad policy through the repetition of the mantra about a mandate. Legislation has to be examined on the merits.

Accordingly this omnibus legislation, taken as a whole, because there are certain bills within that I would support if the good and the bad were not bundled together, reminds me of Gresham's law, that the bad drives out the good. This type of omnibus legislation will result in more crime and less justice at exorbitant and still undisclosed costs.

I will summarize some of the principal defects of the legislation.

First, even before this legislation was tabled, and this appears to be overlooked by the government sometimes, there was a serious problem of prison overcrowding, with some provinces already reporting 200% capacity. We know overcrowding leads to more crime within prisons and more crime outside prisons. The U.S. supreme court has found that overcrowding of 137% can even constitute cruel and unusual punishment. This legislation will only exacerbate the problem in Canada, both as a matter of policy and arguably even as a matter of the constitution.

Second, we need to talk about cost. Not only do we not know how much all these measures will cost, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that just one part of this bill will cost $5 billion. Canadians and Parliament have the right to all of the figures.

Third, we need to consult the provinces and territories, which will be assuming these costs, to the detriment of services, and ensure that the focus is also on crime prevention and not just on crime and punishment.

Fourth, bundling nine major pieces of legislation in one omnibus bill would not allow for sufficient and differentiated parliamentary discussion and debate let alone oversight of the legislation. This is a constitutional responsibility of parliamentarians particularly with the spending this bill has though the costs remain undisclosed. In effect, it would serve to undermine the parliamentary process.

If we ask the Canadian people if they are in favour of protecting victims and of safe streets, of course the answer will be yes. The question is how to achieve that. This bill would not achieve that. Rather, it would make things worse.

Fifth, the omnibus bill is about principles and priorities. At its core it is about values. If we spend billions of dollars on building unnecessary prisons while crime is receding and putting more people in prison for longer periods of time, that money cannot be used to invest in: a social justice agenda, child care, health care, crime prevention, seniors or social housing. At the end of the day, we would probably have more crime and less justice as a result of this bill.

The evidence demonstrates that the use of mandatory minimum sentences such as would be expanded by this legislation would not deter crime and would have a differential discriminatory impact on vulnerable groups. I particularly highlight the differential and discriminatory impact it would have on aboriginal people, where 34% of all women inmates are aboriginal, and unduly circumscribes judicial and prosecutorial discretion.

As has been mentioned in this debate, even U.S. conservatives now regard it as a failed policy that has caused the prison population to skyrocket while creating expensive megajails that have effectively become factories of crime.

Finally, the manner in which debate is being limited is an abuse of the parliamentary process if not an abuse of the democratic process. In effect, we are being asked to inhibit discussion with our constituents and almost silence or shut them out of the debate. This prejudices members of Parliament from all parties.

The Minister of Justice said that this bill and the bills contained within it were before us in the previous Parliament. There are many current members of the House who were not members of the House in previous Parliaments. Why should they not have a right to discuss this legislation? Why should we not solicit their input? Why should they not be able to consult their constituents? In effect, that is an abuse of the democratic and parliamentary processes and prejudices the very objective this legislation seeks.

I would call upon the government to rethink and revisit its approach with respect to procedure, principle and policy. This sets a disturbing precedent regarding parliamentary procedure as well as a disturbing principle regarding a matter wherein it seeks to enact criminal justice policy.

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3:20 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I strongly disagree with the member for Mount Royal's substantive critique of the bill before the House. In my question I would ask him to address his complaints with respect to process.

I would emphasize that not only were the bills collectively given dozens of hours of debate in the previous Parliament, they were a central element in the electoral platform of the Conservative Party, which committed to passing these bills within 100 days of the resumption of a new Parliament.

For him to characterize the government maintaining its democratic commitment and executing its democratic mandate as somehow undemocratic denudes the term “democracy” of any meaning.

He said that all members should have an opportunity to debate. Of course we will have a debate. We will continue to have a debate on these matters. Every party and many dozens of members have spoken to the bill.

Let us be clear. The opposition will do everything it can to prevent the bill from passing. It is not interested in debate. It is interested in using dilatory tactics to prevent the adoption of the legislation, which is a core part of the government's democratic mandate.

He said that this is without precedent. I was in the opposition when his party invoked a time limit on debate dozens of times, so I think he is being a bit--

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I will stop the member there to allow the member for Mount Royal a chance to respond.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the architects of prorogation do not have any lessons to give us about the protection of parliamentary procedure and protection of parliamentary debate.

The notion as the minister has put it that these bills were all public through their introduction in the previous Parliament is no less problematic than it is demagogy. Not all of these bills made it through full deliberation and debate in the House let alone in clause-by-clause consideration in committee.

More important, there are new MPs on his side of the House as well as on this side of the House who deserve to have the right to participate in a debate on these bills, which they will not have a chance to do, to discuss it with their constituents and not have the mantra thrown at them: we have a mandate.

We all have a mandate for safe streets and safe communities. The question is how to achieve that mandate. It will not be achieved through this procedure.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, in his speech the hon. member said that there are parts of the omnibus bill that the opposition agrees with. Would he tell us what the government could do with this omnibus bill if it were really interested in the security of victims and helping victims, if it were really interested in enforcing the laws of this country?

What could the government do to help speed up this omnibus bill?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the first things it could do is to unbundle this legislation and allow for a differentiated consideration of each bill on its merit.

For example, let us take the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and related amendments to the State Immunity Act, former Bill S-7. I myself introduced a private member's bill on this issue. I support this legislation in principle, though it could be refined by way of amendment with respect to the issues in my private member's bill. This will not even get to the floor for discussion and debate.

At the end of the day, we will have a bill that provides civil remedies for victims of terror. I support that and many members in the House would support that. However, it would not be as good or as effective a bill as it could be without a differentiated study of it.

Similarly, with respect to the Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act, we could discuss and even approve that kind of bill in a very short period of time.

I can go through all of this legislation. However, in a word I am saying "unbundle" the bill. Allow every piece of legislation to be considered on its merits. Some bills can be fast-tracked because we will find consensus in the House with respect to the principles and the policies of the bills. Others will be properly amended and improved for the sake of the public and criminal justice, generally speaking.

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3:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with much interest to the hon. members' contributions on Bill C-10. I am grateful to have the opportunity to join the debate.

As members know, in the spring of this year our government made a commitment that should Canadians give us their trust and return us to office we would swiftly reintroduce our legislation to make our families, streets and communities safer.

This bill includes a broad range of measures. It includes measures that crack down on drug dealers who target our children. It also includes measures to ensure that those convicted of a sexual offence against children will never be eligible to have their record suspended. It includes measures to get tough on violent young offenders. As well, it includes measures to increase offender accountability and provide stronger justice for victims.

There are several portfolios under which this legislation, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, falls. In addition to justice and public safety there is legislation in the bill that is part of strengthening Canada's immigration system. It is to those proposed changes that I would like to speak today.

Canada's immigration system is an important part of our identity, economy and society. I see these impacts every day in my great riding of Don Valley West. For those people who are applying to enter our country, Canada represents hope, safety and a new beginning. Unfortunately, some arrive here only to have their hopes and dreams shattered. For example, some temporary foreign workers are more vulnerable than others. We cannot turn our backs on them. That is why the Safe Streets and Communities Act includes measures that would prevent the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants.

According to the provisions of Bill C-10, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism would have the authority to provide immigration officers with instructions for refusing a work permit. Instructions would be based on clear public policy considerations and would be supported by evidence that shows the risk of humiliating or degrading treatment. The instructions would not target specific work permit applicants directly. Rather they would apply to applicants of a particular occupation or a group of applicants who could be identified as vulnerable to abuse or exploitation.

The instructions would describe situations that could represent risks to an applicant and would set out the risk factors for officers to consider. They would also help define who would be considered vulnerable depending on the situation or context. For example, an individual applying to come to Canada as an exotic dancer might be refused a work permit because he or she may be vulnerable to abuse. However, the same individual might be granted a work permit if he or she applied to come to Canada to work in another occupation or a different situation that did not pose the same risk.

It is also important to note that this legislation only creates the legal authority to issue instructions. It does not establish any actual instructions. We anticipate that input from all members of the House will be forthcoming as these ministerial instructions are drafted. Their input is certainly welcome.

Without these amendments, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has no discretionary authority to deny a work permit to someone who meets all the requirements to enter Canada even if immigration officers believe there is a strong possibility of exploitation or abuse. The amendments we propose also include strong measures to ensure that the government is accountable for its use of the new authority. There will be accountability. Each time the minister issues instructions under the authority they must be published in the Canada Gazette. In addition, they must be published in Citizenship and Immigration Canada's annual report to Parliament.

Assessments by immigration officers would be made on a case-by-case basis and would take into account the public policy considerations set out in the ministerial instructions.

As I have already stated, these would need to be supported by evidence showing the risk of humiliating or degrading treatment. Furthermore, any decision by an immigration officer to refuse a work permit would need to be reviewed by a second immigration officer.

Canadians do not want an immigration system that can be used to victimize or exploit people. With this authority we can help protect vulnerable people from being brought into our country to face abuse and exploitation. Bill C-10 will protect the vulnerable from abuse.

Again, this action that would prevent the exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers is only one part of our comprehensive crime legislation that makes up the safe streets and communities act.

To recap, the legislation before the House would better protect children and youth from sexual predators; increase penalties for organized drug crime; end house arrest for serious crime, and thus prevent serious criminals from serving out their sentences from the comfort of their living rooms; protect the public from violent young offenders; eliminate pardons for serious crimes, such as sexual abuse against children; enshrine in law a number of additional key factors in deciding whether an offender would be granted a transfer back to Canada; support victims of terrorism; increase offender accountability and support victims of crime; and, as I have discussed here today, protect vulnerable foreign nationals against abuse and exploitation.

Parliament has already seen and debated a great deal of this legislation. None of it is a surprise. All of it is part of our important action to make Canada's streets and communities safer for law-abiding Canadians and their families.

We made a commitment to Canadians. Canadians gave us a strong mandate to follow through on that commitment, and that is what the safe streets and communities act is about.

I close by asking that the hon. members across the floor join our government as we work to keep Canadians safe by helping us to pass this important legislation.

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3:35 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are two aspects of the crime bill that the hon. member did not appear to address in speaking about the bill.

One is that in the last Parliament, public prosecutors came to testify on the previous proposed provisions for mandatory minimum sentences for juvenile offenders. They testified that only 5% of all youth offenders are actually involved in violent crime and that it did not make sense to have a blanket approach to all youth offenders.

Second, there was a very sad incident in my riding this past summer. The alleged actions of someone who was mentally suffering caused the death of an elderly woman.

I would ask the member for his comments on the apparent rise in numbers of people with mental problems who are being sentenced for crimes instead of being re-routed before the crimes are committed, thus preventing the crimes. What is the response to that? Should we not be taking action to prevent people with mental problems from committing serious crimes, rather than jailing them?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly these issues go hand in hand. Our mandate is to make our streets and communities safer for our families. As the member experienced, in my riding we had three serious shooting events that clearly described the severity of gang violence and drug violence in communities today.

I understand her question on the mental health issue clearly. We have a responsibility to ensure that those questions are addressed as well, but our mandate is to deliver this bill. I would ask her to get on board with us and vote in favour of this bill so that we could take it to committee and deal with these issues directly.

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3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member across the way for eloquently stating his ground. However, there was a point that I missed, and I would ask for clarification.

My colleague stated that the bill would help temporary foreign workers in Canada. He said that it would give the minister the right to extend their work permits. Then he went on to say that if there is an exotic dancer who applies and does not quality, then that person could apply for something else.

I wonder if the member is recommending to the people who want to come to Canada that they can shop around in how they could apply to come to Canada. That is what I understood from his wording. I am sure that if he looked through his speech, I think he might find that he made a mistake and might want to rephrase what he said.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will review my speech in due course, but clearly we want to protect the victims of abuse and take steps to ensure that newcomers to this country are not exploited or taken advantage of.

In the case of that one example, we know that those who come here are in a vulnerable state and could be placed in a position of untenable stress.

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3:35 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada is outranked among western democracies only by the United States in terms of its high incarceration rate. Barring interventions, prison populations are expected to grow in the next decade by over 50%. I wonder if the member--

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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

We will get back to the member for Davenport. I am sure that members, and certainly the member for Don Valley West, will need to hear the question and comment.

The hon. member for Davenport.

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association has a long list of reasons describing why overcrowding is detrimental to the rates of prisoners being able to be reintegrated into Canadian society. Overcrowding impairs reintegration efforts of offenders and contributes to rates of recidivism. It spends vast quantities of resources to warehouse inmates, with negative rather than positive impacts, diverts resources from treatment and cripples the ability of the system to deliver programs and treatments in a timely and appropriate manner.

What we are going to have is more overcrowding. What is there in the bill that solves these problems? Could the member answer that question?

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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly the hon. member's question is outside the area I was speaking to today, but if we are going to provide safer streets and create crime bills that create deterrence, yes, there is going to be additional demand on our system. We are going to have to find resolution to living with that.

However, the mandate we have been given by the people of Canada is to provide safer streets for our communities and our families.

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous respect for the member for Mount Royal, but he spent his entire opportunity to speak to the bill, which he said he did not have enough time to speak to, in explaining why he needed more time to speak to the bill. I am looking forward to having my opportunity to speak to Bill C-10, which I think does much for the people across this country.

Canada is a land of opportunity and freedoms, and we should not practise anything different. Many come to Canada to seek a better life but instead find themselves vulnerable to exploitation by employers. Found in vulnerable situations, they have no one to turn to. We should not let the vulnerable be exploited. We need to stand up for those who are being exploited by others.

I am speaking about one part of Bill C-10, which deals with preventing the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants. It is former Bill C-56. Our government is making good on the commitment we made to Canadians. It is our duty to hold criminals accountable for their actions and to do everything we can to make our communities safe for law-abiding citizens who work hard and play by the rules. It is our duty not to let people take advantage of our generous immigration system.

People in St. Catharines have said that cracking down on criminals and making their community safer is one of their top priorities. People in Niagara and across the country want and deserve to be able to feel safe in their homes and communities, and that means criminals need to be kept off the street. I have heard my constituents loud and clear, and I will stand up and support the bill because they have asked me to do so.

The bill will not only keep our communities safe but will also ensure that vulnerable foreign workers who contribute to many of our communities are not exploited. As my hon. colleagues know, some temporary foreign workers may have weak language skills and very little money. They may have no family or friends in Canada and they may also fear the police and any level of government. This often puts them in a vulnerable position. With no one to turn to, their situation can place them at the mercy of those who wish to abuse them or exploit them.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I have conducted consultations with employers who rely on the temporary foreign worker program. Almost all of them treat their employees with the respect and dignity they deserve, but some of them do not. When we talk to employers who use the temporary foreign worker program and entreat individuals to come from another country to work in this country to help provide for their families back home and earn a living, it is clear that there are those in this country who do take advantage of temporary foreign workers who come to Canada.

Whether it is New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario or Quebec, employers who love and use and understand this program have developed it into something that is respected around the world. In my view and in many employers' views, the program is actually the best foreign support program we could offer workers because of what it allows them to do in terms of bringing home the revenue they are able to make here. It helps their families, it helps their children go to school, it improves their lives with respect to their homes, and it ensures that their children get a college or university education.

It is the same employers who support this program who want us to crack down on the employers who take advantage of those individuals.

That is exactly what the bill would do. It is what this portion of the bill would allow us to move forward on. The bill would help us protect vulnerable foreign workers by giving immigration officers the authority to deny work permits to those who are at risk of humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. The ability to deny work permits to vulnerable workers would enable the government to protect applicants by keeping them out of these types of situations.

Bill C-10 would actually alter the current objective in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, section 3. Instead of referring to protecting “the health and safety of Canadians”, it would refer to protecting “public health and safety”.

We are not just defining the bill anymore to Canadians. We are extending that obligation of employers and of our government to those who are here on a temporary basis to seek and find employment and work here on behalf of their families at home. We are doing this because the government believes that it is our responsibility to protect the health and safety of individuals who not only apply for Canadian citizenship and permanent residence, but apply to work here in our country legally.

We are committed to ensuring that Canada's immigration system continues to have a positive impact on our economy in society and that everyone who enters Canada has a fair chance to find what they are looking for, which is hope, safety and a new start. It does not make sense for the government to knowingly authorize vulnerable foreign nationals to enter into a potentially abusive situation. As the government, we will work to ensure that people who come to Canada can pursue their new lives without fear for their own safety.

Bill C-10 is an important step forward to that goal. If members share this goal, I ask them to support this legislation.

Preventing the trafficking, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable immigrants act would authorize immigration officers to refuse work permits to vulnerable foreign nationals when it is determined that they are at risk of humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation or human trafficking. This is but one of ten, but a step in the right direction to accomplishing that.

I would also submit that we have seen the success of the program. Many employers across the country call this the best foreign aid program this country has to offer. We have temporary foreign workers who come here and are able to fulfill an obligation that they have to themselves and to their family to provide for a stronger future for their families in the countries they come from. Many of those temporary foreign workers who come here have told me about how successful this program has been and what it means to them. All of them feel that their employers treat them in a way that makes them feel they are part of the organization, part of the company, part of the extended family.

By putting this bill forward, we are not only suggesting to Canadians and to employers across this country that fair, humane and equal treatment is an obligation that we have, both under our Constitution and obviously under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it is an obligation that we are now extending not just to Canadian citizens, not just to permanent residents, but to those who come here to work under the conditions of a permit that they have met the obligations of, and have a chance to work for their families and for themselves, to put their children through school and to build a better life.

With this bill, we would be putting in place a system that would actually improve a program upon which, since the 1960s, we have built on in this country, that has been successful and that has proven to be successful. In fact, with the enhancements in a small part of this bill, we would be preparing and providing for them in a much stronger and better way than we already are.

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3:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for elaborating on one part of the bill that is before us.

I would like to ask two questions pertaining to two parts of the bill. First, what concrete measures will ensure that temporary foreign workers will not be exploited? And how will the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration verify the working conditions of foreign workers to ensure that they are not being exploited?

Safe Streets and Communities ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the second part of the question first.

Basically, our department, along with Human Resources and Development Canada, spends a great deal of time ensuring that those employers who seek to have temporary foreign workers assist them in their companies have it done in a manner that is clear and effective. Every employer must meet specific standards with respect to this issue. The department and the government, along with our provincial counterparts, ensure that is put into place.

In terms of the first part of the member's question, very specifically, Bill C-10 would alter the current objective within the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Section 3(1)(h) would be changed from protecting the health and safety of Canadians to protecting public health and safety. This extends, specifically, the right to fair treatment and the right to the type of protection to which I spoke, not just to Canadians and permanent resident but to temporary foreign workers as well.