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House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was drugs.

Topics

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier, I asked the minister a question and he did not really give me an answer.

I am wondering what will happen to refugees who arrive at our borders in some very specific cases. In general, I find that Canada's international reputation has suffered greatly. We have always been regarded as a progressive country that is open to people from all over the world who need our help. Our reputation is being greatly compromised. We have become a host country for the brothers-in-law of dictators who come and buy luxury mansions in our posh neighbourhoods, in Montreal, for instance. Construction companies are going to build prisons in Libya and others will provide electricity to a corrupt regime in Syria. We are losing ground all along the line.

What are we going to say to Kurdish refugees who come from Syria without papers? Are we going to invite them to stay, saying that we have safe housing with bars on the windows and that they can stay there for at least a year, and maybe up to five years? I did not really like the minister's response.

These are the questions that are raised by such a shoddy bill. This bill affects so many aspects of our international reputation that we have to wonder if we will ever re-establish it. And, of course, there are also the Canadian security firms, or security firms operated by Canadians, who help fleeing dictators by taking care of logistics for them.

We are wondering where the government is going with our international policy in general. Bill C-31 sends a very bad message. Soon we will be the laughingstock of the world.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Conservative

Chungsen Leung ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, I wish to share my time with my colleague the member for Richmond Hill.

It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak today in support of Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act. Bill C-31 would restore integrity to our asylum system by making Canada's refugee determination process faster and fairer, resulting in faster protection for legitimate refugees and faster removal of bogus claimants.

Canada has a well-deserved international reputation for having the most generous and fair immigration system in the world. Canada provides protection to more than one in ten refugees resettled each year worldwide, more than any other developed country in the world. However, the fact is that Canada's asylum system is vulnerable to abuse.

There are countless stories in the media on almost a daily basis about bogus refugees, serious criminals, and those who have committed crimes against humanity who are trying to take advantage of Canada's generous asylum system. This abuse wastes limited resources on bogus claims while legitimate refugees have to wait in a queue behind them. It also undermines public confidence in our immigration system.

Canadians are generous and welcoming but we have no tolerance for those who refuse to play by the rules and abuse our generosity. The current flawed refugee system has made Canada a target for those who are all too happy to take unfair advantage of us. As a result, too many taxpayer dollars are being spent on people who are not fleeing genuine persecution, but seek to exploit Canada's generous asylum system to receive lucrative taxpayer-funded health care, welfare and other social benefits.

The facts speak for themselves. For example, in 2011 Canada received more refugee claims from the democratic and human rights-respecting countries of the European Union than from Africa or Asia. Last year alone, a quarter of all refugee claims were made by European Union nationals.

Once these bogus claimants land in Canada most of them are eligible for a generous range of taxpayer-funded social services and benefits within days of arrival. They can then receive benefits for years as they wait for their refugee claims to be heard under the current slow system.

Virtually all of the refugee claims by Europeans are eventually withdrawn, abandoned or rejected. In fact, in many cases, the refugee claimants themselves eventually decide to return to their country of alleged persecution. These claims are, by any definition, bogus. These bogus refugee claims from Europe cost Canadian taxpayers more than $170 million per year.

Bill C-31 includes three sections, all of which are aimed at improving the integrity of Canada's immigration system.

First, the bill includes further refugee reform. While the Balanced Refugee Reform Act that was passed in 2010 was a much needed improvement, it did not go far enough to ensure that our refugee system was working as effectively as possible. For example, Bill C-31 would allow the government to designate countries that are not generally refugee producing, such as those in the European Union. Claims from these countries would be processed on average in 45 days compared to more than a thousand days under the current system. It is baffling to most people that the current system takes on average more than a thousand days to hear a claim, but it is the unfortunate truth.

Second, the bill includes provisions from Bill C-4, the preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act. These provisions include an increase in penalties for those who organize human smuggling events and the provisions aim to discourage anyone from using the services of human smugglers to come to Canada. It is important to note that there is one important difference: Bill C-31 includes an exemption from detention of minors under the age of 16.

I want to be clear, because there is a lot of intentional misinformation being spread about the detention aspects of the human smuggling provisions. Once the identity of a claimant has been established and a refugee claim is approved, which would be within a few months under the bill in many cases, individuals will be released.

Through the human smuggling provisions, our government is sending a clear message that our doors are open to those who play by the rules, including legitimate refugees, but we will crack down on those who endanger human lives and threaten the integrity of our borders. Human smuggling is a despicable crime and Canadians think it is unacceptable for criminals to abuse Canada's immigration system for financial gain.

Finally, Bill C-31 would provide the government with the authority to collect biometric data, in this case fingerprints and photographs, from visa applicants who want to enter Canada. Biometric data are much more reliable and less prone to forgery or theft. Implementing biometrics will strengthen immigration screening, enhance security, and help reduce identity fraud. It will prevent known criminals, failed refugee claimants and previous deportees from using a false identity to obtain a Canadian visa. It will also bring Canada's system in line with many other industrialized countries such as the U.K., the European Union, Australia, the United States and Japan.

Canadians have given our Conservative government a strong mandate to improve Canada's immigration system. Taken together, the measures included in Bill C-31 will help our government to put a stop to those who seek to abuse our generosity. The bill will save Canadian taxpayers $1.65 billion over five years. It will provide protect to genuine refugees in a more timely manner while allowing us to remove more quickly the bogus claimants who cheat the system and abuse our generosity. That is in the best interests of Canada and of genuine refugees.

The NDP is against this bill and has now made that much clearer. Unfortunately, its members even tried to kill this bill before any substantive debate was allowed to happen or it be studied at committee. That is more proof that they are more interested in playing games than working with the government to move forward with important pieces of legislation reflecting the priorities of Canadians.

Yet interestingly enough, when asked about Bill C-31, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, the opposition critic, had this to say:

Well, I think what we need to do is build a system that has a fast and fair determination process. And that’s something that I’ll give [the] Minister...credit for. I do think that’s what his intention has been all along. And we all want to work towards that. We don’t want endless dragging on of this stuff because refugees, when they come here, you know, they do qualify for basic sustenance...it is at the cost of the Canadian taxpayer.

So we do have an interest in making sure there’s a quick determination that’s correct and fair and get these people into our communities, working and being productive taxpaying members of our society if they’re bona fide refugees.

We want a fast, fair system where we can give a sanctuary to people who need it quickly and we can weed out the people who don’t have valid claims, get them through a fair process. And if they’re not valid at the end of the day, deport them out of Canada swiftly.

I agree with that statement by the NDP immigration critic, which is exactly what Bill C-31 aims to do. This is why I call on all members of the House to work with our government in the best interests of Canadians and support Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act, and ensure its speedy passage through the House.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, the member said that the current asylum system was open to abuse. While that statement may be true, the bill leaves a different kind of opening for abuse available to the government. I refer specifically to the ability of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to actually determine which countries are safe or not, without reference to any third party, without reference whatsoever to a panel of experts, which was the agreement between all parties in the last Parliament. They had agreed that this would be an appropriate way to avoid abuse of the system.

The types of abuse we can name are the following. Countries could be placed on a safe list for foreign policy considerations, even though they are not safe. If a different minister or the Prime Minister decided that he wanted to put a country on a safe list for foreign policy considerations, we may end up being able to turn down refugees.

I would like the member to say how we can avoid this kind of possible abuse under this new legislation.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely false. There is no such unilateral power on the part of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. The minister will take advice in consultation with Foreign Affairs and from our posts overseas, and he will certainly consult with experts in this area before making those decisions.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, let us be perfectly clear on this: The minister under this legislation is taking the responsibility upon himself to say that he as minister will determine henceforth who is going to be on the safe country list. Before that, it was going to be an advisory group that would provide the recommendation. The advisory group would be made up of professionals, individuals and different stakeholders, to ensure that the right countries would be on the safe country list.

Why does the government need to have the sole discretion to determine who should be going on the safe country list and who should not when the advisory panel, which at one time the minister favoured, has now been thrown out the window?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, we all know the common saying that a decision made by committee is like camel designed from a horse with a hump on it. I think if we go through that process it would take a long time to make these decisions.

In the regulations the minister has a very transparent process whereby he consults with professionals and other departments related to our overall foreign affairs relationships to determine where these safe countries are.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this bill has a number of aspects that are likely to be found in violation of the Charter of Rights, particularly the section allowing detention without access to counsel for up to one year for any group of people coming to Canada designated by the minister, without criteria, as an irregular entry. I find that the most egregious section, but there is much in this very complex bill that is worrying.

There are very tight timelines for people arriving here to make a decision and to file within 15 days their appeal and to find a lawyer. There is unrealistic pressure on people coming to our shores, including the requirement that people be put in detention up to one full year without access to counsel.

Would the hon. parliamentary secretary explain how this would pass a charter challenge?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not agree with the premise of that question. Anyone who comes to this country and is landed would be given the full treatment under the charter in recognition of their refugee claim. Whether they are detained or not, I think it is grossly unfair to have them wait over thousand days before we process their refugee claims. I think 35 days is much more humane and fair. It would certainly be a swift removal so that they would know exactly where they stood with respect to their refugee claim.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act. It is legislation that will improve this country's immigration system in a number of very important ways. Immigration is central in our country's history to our prosperity, our international reputation, our generosity and humanitarianism, and our great success as a nation.

In so many ways Canada is a country that was built by immigrants. Since Canada's earliest days, we have opened our doors to millions of newcomers from everywhere in the world. They have helped to make Canada the peaceful, free and diverse country that it is today.

My family is one of those families that came here as immigrants. My mother, Panagiota Bissas, and my father, John Menegakis, came in the mid-1950s, 1956 and 1957 to be specific. My parents were given every opportunity and are excellent examples of how people from all over the world have come here and have built families and certainly have contributed to our beautiful nation.

Whether those newcomers are pursuing economic opportunities, seeking to unite with family members, or looking for security and stability or asylum, Canada has long been a destination of choice for people around the world.

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of immigration. That is evident in all of its actions and policies. Since 2006 the government has had the highest sustained level of immigration in nearly a century. In fact, since 2006, the Conservative government has welcomed an average of 254,000 people per year. This is a 13% increase over the level of immigration under the previous Liberal government.

We have also continued to strengthen and support our generous refugee system, which is an important expression of Canada's compassion and humanitarian convictions and of our international commitments. Canada remains one of the top countries in the world to welcome refugees. In fact, we welcome more refugees per capita than any other G20 country. Because our government understands the importance of the immigration system to Canada's future, we also understand the importance of remaining vigilant about keeping that system functioning in our national interest. To do so, we must always be prepared to make improvements to the system according to changing circumstances and identified shortcomings. Indeed, a dynamic country such as Canada requires dynamic and flexible immigration policies that adapt to the times.

It is the government's responsibility to ensure that we have a strong, effective and efficient immigration system. That is why I am very pleased to be speaking today about legislation that is designed to fulfill exactly that responsibility.

Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act, aims to strengthen Canada's immigration system in three very specific ways. It will further build on the long-needed reforms to the asylum system that were passed in Parliament in June 2010 as part of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act. It will also allow Canadian authorities to better crack down on the lucrative business of human smuggling by integrating measures which the government previously introduced in the preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act. It will enable the introduction of biometric technology for screening visa applicants which will strengthen our immigration program in a number of ways.

I mentioned earlier the fact that our refugee system is among the most generous in the world and that Canada admits more refugees on a per capita basis than almost any other country. That is certainly true, but when there is a system in place as generous as Canada's, it is particularly important to guard against the abuse of that system and our generosity.

Indeed, for too many years our refugee system has been abused by too many people making unfounded claims. Our system has become overwhelmed by a significant backlog of cases. More recently we have grown more and more concerned about a notable upsurge in refugee claims originating in countries that we would not normally expect to produce refugees. This is adding to the backlog.

I was certainly surprised to learn that Canada receives more asylum claims from countries in Europe than from either Africa or Asia. Last year alone, almost one-quarter of all refugee claims to Canada were from European Union nationals. Let us think about that. European Union countries have strong human rights and democratic systems similar to those in Canada, yet they produced one-quarter of all the refugee claims to this country in 2011. That is up 14% from the previous year.

It can take up to four and one-half years from an initial claim to remove a failed refugee claimant from our country. Some cases have taken more than 10 years. The result is an overburdened system and a waste of taxpayers' money. For too long we have spent precious time and taxpayers' money on people who are not in need of protection at the expense of legitimate asylum seekers.

In recent years virtually all EU claims were withdrawn, abandoned or rejected. That means the unfounded claims from the 5,800 European Union nationals who sought asylum last year to Canada cost Canadian taxpayers an astounding $170 million.

Many members of the House will remember that back in June 2010 we passed the Balanced Refugee Reform Act. The act contains long-needed improvements that will result in faster decisions and quicker removal of those failed claimants who do not need our protection. However, it has become clear that gaps remain and that further reforms are certainly needed. We need stronger measures that are closer to the original bill we introduced in March 2010.

The measures of Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act, will build upon the reforms passed in 2010. These new measures will further accelerate the processing of refugee claims for nationals from designated countries that generally do not produce refugees. It will reduce the options available to failed claimants to delay their removal from Canada. As well, with this new legislation we expect that taxpayers will save about $1.65 billion in just five years.

An Edmonton Journal editorial stated:

Given the financial stress placed on our system by those numbers, there has to be a more efficient, cost-effective means of weeding out the bogus claimants from Europe and elsewhere. Simply put, we cannot continue to give everyone the benefit of the doubt when it costs that much money and taxes our social systems unduly to do so.

[Bill C-31] is a tough, no-nonsense document that speeds up the review process and takes much of the financial burden off the Canadian taxpayer...Bill C-31 is worth supporting.

Martin Regg Cohn of the Toronto Star said:

I do think our refugee system is, if not quite broken, under a tremendous amount of stress. The acceptance rates for some of these countries—Hungary, Czechoslovakia before a visa restriction was imposed—are one, or two, or three per cent. So it's a tremendous burden on a system that really I don't think we have that much to apologize for.

So I think there is a lot of public policy behind this....I think this might put the system more or less on a better, stronger footing for genuine refugees.

In conclusion, these measures will help prevent abuse of the system and will ensure that our refugee determination process works more effectively. This will definitely be accomplished while maintaining the fairness of the system and without compromising any of Canada's international and domestic obligations with respect to refugees.

I urge all members of the House to support this important bill which will make important reforms to strengthen Canada's asylum system, something which is desperately needed and on which the previous Liberal government refused to act.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe you will find support from all parties for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, during the debate tonight pursuant to Standing Order 52, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, my office has been consulted by the Conservative Party on this motion. I do not wish to block the motion. I see that all the other parties are in favour. I gather this is more or less a routine procedure with respect to emergency debates to have a motion that says all parties consent that we really do not have to be here. I find it unfortunate, but I certainly will not block it.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The Chair appreciates the point raised by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Does the hon. member for Peace River have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague serves with me on the citizenship and immigration committee.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration has been tasked with studying biometrics as an option for immigration, monitoring entry into and exit from the country, and yet before the committee has even finished the study and produced a report, the government is saying that this is going to become legislation. Does the government not respect the standing committees that are established in this Parliament?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not necessarily accept the conclusion which the hon. member has come to, that the government does not respect the wish of the committee.

Certainly this legislation is the framework which gives the minister and the ministry the opportunity to pursue the good work they do to ensure that our borders are secure at all times. I know that the minister is waiting with much anticipation for the results of our very important study. We are studying the issue of security and biometrics, which will give an additional tool to officials to ensure that those who are seeking to come to Canada are indeed the people they claim to be, and that they are good, law-abiding citizens in the countries from which they come.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could comment on the component where the minister can say that someone is an irregular arrival. He is referring more to arrivals by boat, but it also applies to individuals who would land at any of our airports.

Someone who is labelled as an irregular arrival could be detained for up to a year. After that detention there would be a five-year waiting period before the person would be able to sponsor someone. A 26-year-old man who has left a country where his life was threatened and has managed to escape that country would be waiting years. It would be five or six years before he could even put in an application to sponsor someone, his child, for example, which could then take another five or six years. His six-year-old child would be 17 or 18 years old by the time the child arrived here.

I wonder if the member could comment in terms of the fairness of that aspect of the legislation.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about fairness. Without question, Canada has the most fair and generous immigration system in the world. However, Canadians, and we are hearing this every day in our ridings, have no tolerance for those who would abuse our generosity and would take unfair advantage of our country.

At some point we have to have a balance. We must take action to crack down on the abuse. Our government is committed to strengthening the integrity of Canada's immigration system.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, one of the changes that has been made to the bill from the previous human smuggling bill is the detaining of children under the age of 16.

Could the member comment on that specific change and how it strengthens the bill?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the protecting Canada's immigration system act will make our refugee system faster and fairer for everyone. It will put a stop to foreign criminals, human smugglers and bogus refugees abusing our generous immigration system and receiving lucrative taxpayer-funded health and social benefits.

At the same time, the bill will provide protection more quickly to those who are truly in need.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

March 12th, 2012 / 1:10 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beaches—East York.

I rise today to add my strongest objection to Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration System act. I find it ironic that the bill would be given this title. It would do anything but protect our immigration system. In fact, the bill would set out to dismantle our immigration system, damaging it legally, socially, morally and internationally. I find the omnibus nature of the bill very disturbing.

This particular bill groups together two major pieces of legislation, Bill C-4, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System act, and C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform act from the last Parliament. Then it introduces the mandatory collection of biometrics for temporary residents. These are three major issues that deserve adequate attention and debate.

I have already stood in the House and expressed my strong objection to C-4, yet components of the bill reappear here in C-31. The bill would attack refugees rather than human smugglers. By placing an overwhelming amount of power in the hands of the minister, the bill would allow the minister to designate a group of refugees as an irregular arrival. If the minister believed, for example, that examination for establishing identity could not be conducted in a timely manner, or if it were suspected that the people were being smuggled for profit, or a criminal organization or terrorist group was involved in the smuggling, designated claimants would then be subjected to a number of rules. They would be mandatorily detained on arrival, or on designation by the minister, with no review by the Immigration and Refugee Board for their detention for a year. Release would only be possible if they were found to be true refugees. If the Immigration and Refugee Board ordered their release within a year, even then the Immigration and Refugee Board could not release people if the government said their identities had not been established, or if the minister decided that there were exceptional circumstances.

Decisions on claims by designated persons could not be appealed to the Refugee Appeal Division. A designated person could not make humanitarian and compassionate applications. A designated claimant could not apply for permanent residency for five years. If the person failed to comply with the conditions or reporting requirements, that five year suspension could be extended to six years.

This raises a number of concerns. First, this is extremely discriminatory as it would create two classes of refugee claimants: real refugees and designated claimants. This is possibly a violation of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms' equality rights, as well as the refugee convention, which prohibits states from imposing penalties on refugees for illegal entry or presence.

Second, detention without review is a clear violation of the charter rights. The Supreme Court already struck down mandatory detention without review on security certificates. This legislation would imply indefinite detention on the basis of identity with no possibility of release until the minister decided that identity had been established. Arbitrary detention is also a violation of a number of international treaties.

Third, designated persons would have no access to the Refugee Appeal Division. This means that these claimants would not have the right to an appeal, thereby removing any system of checks and balances.

Additionally, the mandatory five year delay in applying for permanent residency would further delay the family reunification process, forcing claimants to wait eight to ten years to be reunited with their spouse or child living overseas. Last, this legislation would create an undue barrier for humanitarian and compassionate claims. I am extremely concerned with the idea that the minister could name someone a designated claimant based on irregular arrival with no explanation of what constitutes an irregular arrival.

If we look at the history of the legislation of this nature, introduced by this government, we can see that it has glaring resemblances to Bill C-49 in the last Parliament.

Bill C-49 was hastily drafted by the government when Canadians witnessed the spectre of boats coming to the shores of British Columbia, carrying some of the most damaged and wounded people on earth. These were people fleeing, as the minister has rightly pointed out, one of the worst civil wars in the world, in Sri Lanka. Never ones to pass off a good photo op, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and the Minister of Public Safety were in British Columbia, holding news conferences where they publicly accused the people on these boats of being bogus refugees, harbouring terrorists and trying to jump the immigration queues. They called these people “queue jumpers”.

I find this extremely confusing. The government seems to be speaking out of both sides of its mouth. On one hand, we have the Minister of Foreign Affairs referring to the Sri Lankan civil war as a great atrocity where numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed. On the other hand, we have the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and the Minister of Public Safety accusing people fleeing this very violence of being bogus. This is completely absurd. Which one is it?

Some of the refugee claimants and the refugees who arrived on the MV Sun Sea now live in my riding of Scarborough—Rouge River. Many of them have told me stories of their trip to Canada and their arrival in British Columbia. Many of them had UNHCR refugee cards. Upon their arrival, the people who greeted them gathered all of their refugee cards. When there was not the same number of cards as people, all the people aboard were told that they had not presented adequate identification and documentation when they came. Regardless of whether they had refugee cards, they were all detained. Thankfully, many of these people have now been released, but some are still in detention. Some of these people who had refugee cards are still being detained.

I am going to go back to the idea of an irregular arrival. This concept is not defined in this legislation. Based on the history of this bill, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that irregular arrival means arrival by boat. This bill is essentially saying that people who arrive in an irregular fashion, or by boat, are not refugees but rather are criminals. This bill is saying that people who wish to flee war, conflict or persecution but do not have the means to pay for a plane ticket so instead risk their lives by throwing themselves onto a rickety cargo boat and spending months crossing an ocean are not real refugees. No, the government is saying they are criminals. They are not real asylum seekers. They are not really fleeing a horrible situation, leaving behind their homes, livelihood and families with hopes of creating a better life here in Canada. No, these people are criminals. This is what this bill and the government are telling us.

Furthermore, if they fail to provide adequate identification, they can be detained without review. Most refugees who come to Canada do not have documentation, regardless of which process is used to enter the country. When people flee their home nation, they leave everything behind. How can we expect people who have left a war-torn country to carry valid identification? This concept of queue jumping, as the minister likes to say, is completely bogus. These people still must go through the same immigration process as any other immigrant to Canada. When people are fleeing persecution or war, they cannot be called queue jumpers. For refugees, there is no queue to jump. There is no lineup for people who are in serious danger; people living through a civil war; or people being persecuted because of their gender, religion, sexual orientation, et cetera. When people's lives or the lives of their families are called into question, there is no line. These people must leave their country immediately. Once they are safely here in Canada, they must joint the same queue as everyone else who wants to gain some sort of status in our country.

The second part of this bill comprises of Bill C-11, from the last Parliament, and the calling of safe countries. In the 40th Parliament, after a lot of work and compromises, Bill C-11 passed this House with all-party support. It was scheduled to come into effect this spring. However, before the legislation that was passed by this House could even have a chance to come into effect, the members opposite have including the original legislation, Bill C-11, excluding any part of the amendments that were accepted by all parties, in this current omnibus bill. The government has not even given the original Bill C-11 from the last Parliament a chance to work.

The Conservatives are using fear-mongering and fear tactics to scare the current immigrants in Canada and current Canadians. They are pitting Canadians against immigrants and new immigrants against other newer immigrants. This type of fear tactics is absolutely wrong.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her informed and enlightening speech.

When I was a teacher, I often told my students that it is impossible to find a simple solution to a complex problem. However, I get the impression that this has become the Conservatives' speciality. They present everything to us in black and white as though it were possible to cut right down the middle and say that there is a good side and a bad, black and white, when, in reality, life is full of grey areas to which we need to learn to adapt.

Is this bill not just another example of a black and white view of a problem? I would like the hon. member to provide some clarification in this regard.