Mr. Speaker, I was asked to speak this morning regarding Bill C-4, which would prevent human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system. I am pleased to rise this morning to say how much I strongly oppose this bill.
I will start by saying that this bill makes it even more clear that we have a repressive, backwards and irresponsible government that is severely lacking in humanity. I must say that this is not very surprising to me, as this bill is simply one more example, among many others. Once again, the government wants to make a disadvantaged segment of the population suffer, for unknown reasons, instead of lending these people a hand at a time when they need it most.
I am strongly opposed to this bill because every day, in my riding, refugees and immigrants come to us for help. They ask for only one thing: to live in this country with dignity; to have a second chance. With this bill, they will not get that second chance. This bill authorizes an officer or the minister to refuse to consider applications for permanent residence. How can we grant this power to an individual when the applicant may be in danger? What criteria will the officer or the minister use? Will they refuse applications based on how they are feeling that day? This bill would give them the power to do so.
I do not think that the government understands that being in power means making decisions for the well-being of the entire population, by consulting the people and listening to their needs and by avoiding randomly and unfairly punishing people who are simply seeking refuge. Being in power does not mean authorizing oneself to single-handedly make a decision that could have a huge impact on the lives of several people or even several families. This bill would require some individuals to report to an immigration officer and to respond to all of his questions for no real reason. That is discrimination, pure and simple.
How can we convince people to establish themselves here if we treat them as detainees as soon as they arrive, without knowing the full story, and without even knowing why they chose Canada? Under this bill, claimants, including children, will automatically be detained when they arrive or at the moment they are designated. How can the government violate international rules that were created for the well-being of all communities? This would leave the door open for indefinite or arbitrary detentions. Where are we headed? Where is our country headed? It is a great place to live, a place where immigrants are welcome and where we extend a helping hand to refugees so that they can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
Under this bill, a designated person cannot apply for permanent residency for five years. Five years. Then, if the person breaches any of the conditions imposed, this period can be extended by five or six years. A person could wait more than five years to see their family members who remained overseas. In addition, designated persons are prohibited from leaving the country until they receive permanent resident status. Not only are they kept from bringing their families to Canada, but they are also prohibited from going to visit them. What has happened to the family values that we have always defended here? Can someone tell me? Does the government have this little respect for the family unit, the first community where a human being grows and flourishes? The minister must not know what it is like to be separated from loved ones for five years; otherwise, he would not be trying to impose such rules.
This bill would punish refugees or those trying to help them instead of punishing the criminals—the smugglers and traffickers. This proposed refugee process is arbitrary and completely discriminatory.
A few months ago, Parliament passed balanced legislation concerning refugees. It would make a lot more sense to simply enforce that legislation better, instead of treating these people like criminals, when they simply need a helping hand. Furthermore, in Australia, similar laws met with opposition from Amnesty International, which started a campaign to condemn the misinformation surrounding refugees who arrive by boat. This government is alienating the international community and severely damaging our reputation. We have a responsibility towards refugees. We do not have the right to treat them this way.
We in the NDP recognize this responsibility, unlike the Conservatives, who want to evade it. This approach flies in the face of our country's commitments under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is not the right legislation to put an end to human trafficking.
Do we want to be recognized as the country where refugees are discriminated against? Where no one wants to go and settle for fear of being detained and treated like a criminal? Where people, if they choose to live here, risk having to go without seeing their loved ones for over five years?
We are losing our values of openness, tolerance, giving, social justice and equality. Many groups strongly oppose this bill. The Canadian Council for Refugees completely rejects this bill. Amnesty International Canada said the bill would lead to serious violations of the rights of refugees. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says these measures are simply not necessary. Why would we apply measures that are not necessary? The Canadian Bar Association says that this bill violates Canada's international obligations regarding the treatment of persons seeking protection. As I was saying earlier, we have a responsibility to refugees and the government is refusing to treat refugees fairly.
A group of experts from the Centre for Refugee Studies has described this bill as draconian. I think these groups know what they are talking about. Earlier I was saying that we need to listen to the concerns of the people. Here we have flagrant examples of a government doing exactly the opposite. This bill could violate a number of legal provisions, including those pertaining to equality before the law and arbitrary detention. Bill C-4 is contrary to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
As I was saying earlier, we are tarnishing our international reputation and that is serious.
I will say again: I am strongly opposed to this bill because we have a responsibility to refugees. The government does not have all the rights. No. It would be a serious mistake to ignore these responsibilities in the name of security, especially when we consider that this bill will not in any way—not in any way—stop human trafficking.
I welcome any questions my colleagues might have.