Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to the bill. I have been listening to the debate and I am trying to work out what it is we are trying to fix.
Obviously, after the refugee incident that happened off the B.C. coast, it is my understanding, and I have seen the legislation, that there was an all party agreement that addressed a lot of the issues.
When I look at this legislation, even though it is called protecting Canada's immigration system act, it really talks about punishing smugglers and it is against human smuggling. I keep wondering how the punishments for human smugglers are any different under this bill than they were in the previous bill, in which there was life imprisonment. This is the greatest sentencing that can be given by a Canadian court.
I am also hearing a lot about what a wonderful country Canada is, and I absolutely agree. I chose Canada to be my home. I am an immigrant who arrived from England because Canada went over there to look for teachers who could come to teach in this beautiful country, and my husband and I moved here. We came with a profession to a teaching job.
However, the immigrants we are talking about in the bill are refugees. They are not immigrants in the normal sense. These are people who are fleeing what are for most of us unimaginable challenges in their home communities and some of them are not even fleeing from their homelands. They have been sitting in refugee camps or they have escaped from one country to another.
With respect to the stress in the Middle East right now, I heard this morning that over a thousand refugees had crossed over into Turkey from Syria. Those people are not leaving for Turkey because they are just looking for a new place to live. They are leaving because they are living in an environment where bombings are going on and their lives are at risk.
In those circumstances, parents take their kids with them. That is normal. I remember doing this exercise when I was a teacher. If individuals were going on a boat, who would they take with them? If I had my kids with me, they would go on the boat first and I would ensure they were on the boat when I got on. Yet I heard a very respected colleague from across the aisle say that it was their choice whether they brought their young kids with them or not.
I want to get back to the refugees who are escaping these unexplainable and unimaginable situations, and let us say they are now in Turkey. From Turkey they are looking to go somewhere, because even in those camps it is not safe for them.
These people are desperate. They are not going on a cruise ship. They do not have the money to buy first-class tickets or even safe tickets. When a gun is pointed to the backs of individuals, when hunger surrounds them, when they are not sure whether they will wake up the next morning and know their children are with them, or whether they have been shot or whether they will even have enough food for them, they become desperate.
We have different types of refugees. We have those who come here for humanitarian reasons, because of hunger, and those who are fleeing very violent conditions in their country. As a counsellor, I have had the privilege of working with many youths from those refugee camps who have come to Canada and are now contributing members in our society.
When all of these families are looking for a way out, it is because they feel their lives are in danger. At that time, surely we are not saying to them that over in Canada we have a law, so really they should leave their children behind. That is just not how things work.
Absolutely punish those who are engaged in human smuggling. Absolutely punish those who are engaged in fraudulent cases, and we can prove it. However, in that process, let us not lose our humanity and punish the innocent because a few people are fraudulent or are using means unacceptable to us or anyone else.
Once these children arrive with their families on our shores, will we now tell them that their parents will go to prison because they have been designated? We can call them detention centres or whatever we would like, but basically that is what they are. Then we tell their parents that their children do not have to remain in the detention camps because we are humanitarian in Canada and care about children, that they have a choice. They can be farmed out to the provincial governments that can find orphanages, foster homes or some place to look after them. Imagine how those parents and children would feel.
As a mother, I cannot imagine that. As an immigrant who arrived in England willingly at the age of 10, I cannot imagine somebody saying to me, when I arrived in a brand new country and did not speak the language, that I could not stay with my parents because they would be put in a detention centre, that I would be put with a strange family and if did not want to go with that family, I could go back to the detention centre prison and be with my parents. Where is the humanity in that?
I want to make it absolutely clear. We want a fair and transparent process, but humane processes. I do not see why we would punish refugees who were brought in boats to our country. They came based on a promise that they would go to a safe place. If that is what they have to face when they get here, I would bow my head in shame for treating those who had come from very fragile and violent surroundings, whether that be the war fields or refugee camps where they had lived for ages. The impact is not pleasant on children who have lived in those refugee conditions overseas before they escaped.
I had cold shivers earlier when I heard an esteemed colleague on the other side being asked the question with respect to what would happen to the children, whether they could remain in detention with their families or be fostered. I wondered where that fitted into the Canadian way.
Some members might stand to say that we want to support smugglers or that I say this because I want these illegal activities to continue. That is not correct. All my life I have been an advocate for fair, open and transparent processes. I absolutely believe that those who engage in human smuggling or any other kind of illegal activities or use fraudulent means to get here should be punished. Surely, we should not punish everybody in order to punish those few people.
As a teacher, I often like to use an example. I will use the example of drinking and driving. We all know that drinking and driving is absolutely wrong and the consequences can be terrible on people. Because people drink and drive, we do not say that all cars are banned in Canada and that nobody can drive. Rather we get involved in education. I believe we need to provide education with respect to our refugee processes, as well as punish those who do wrong.
I urge my colleagues on the other side to ensure they amend this bill so only people who do wrong are punished and we do not put innocent people in prison with their children or take their children away from them.