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House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Question No. 420Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

With respect to Canada’s international commitments on climate change and the government’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol: (a) for each of the international commitments that the government has made concerning climate change, (i) what is that commitment, (ii) what are the government’s obligations under it, (iii) does the government plan to fulfill each obligation or not; (b) what specific actions or negotiating positions were taken in support of the government’s statements that it (i) “went to Durban in a spirit of good will,” (ii) “went [to the Durban climate change conference] committed to being constructive,” (statement by Minister Kent, Foyer of the House of Commons, December 12, 2011); (c) in detail, how does the government plan to achieve the goal of reaching a new international agreement on climate change with particular reference to (i) how the government plans to achieve legally binding commitments for all major emitters, (ii) how the government plans to find solutions to meet the agreed-upon-objective of staying below 2°C of warming; (d) what information does the Minister of the Environment possess that supports his statement that “increasingly, support is growing for Canada’s position – from the EU, to the United States, Australia, New Zealand, least developed countries and the group of 43 small island states” (statement by Minister Kent, Foyer of the House of Commons, December 12, 2011); (e) does the Minister of the Environment possess information that Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol is a positive step for Canada’s economy, in contradiction of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy’s projected costs of $21-43 billion annually by 2050 (depending on whether a low climate change--slow growth scenario or a high climate change--rapid growth scenario), and what is that information; (f) what, in detail, are the “radical and irresponsible choices” (statement by Minister Kent, Foyer of the House of Commons, December 12, 2011) that Canada was facing under the Kyoto protocol; and (g) what are the penalties to which Canada would have been subject to under the Kyoto protocol for not meeting agreed emission reductions, and what analysis does the government possess in support of the statements that these penalties would have entailed “the loss of thousands of jobs” and “the transfer of $14 billion from Canadian taxpayers to other countries--the equivalent of $1600 from every Canadian family—with no impact on emissions or the environment” (statement by Minister Kent, Foyer of the House of Commons, December 12, 2011)?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 421Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

With respect to increasing evidence for the threat of climate change and Canada’s response to it, including emission reductions and adaptation strategies: (a) do the government’s policies address the growing scientific consensus that the threat of climate change is now incontrovertible; (b) do the government’s policies acknowledge that continuing on a business-as-usual pathway could lead to (i) a potential temperature rise of 4°C by the end of the century, (ii) dangerous impacts for Canada and the world; (c) do the government’s policies acknowledge that the small number of climate change deniers who continue to contest either that climate change is real or that humans are causing it (i) are generally not climate scientists, (ii) employ arguments that have been discredited by the international scientific community; (d) do the government’s policies acknowledge that (i) while our scientific understanding of the climate system is not complete, the evidence is sufficiently strong to show that climate change poses a real threat, (ii) further delays in addressing this threat will entail greater risks and costs; (e) do the government’s policies acknowledge that if the scenario in (b)(i) becomes a reality, serious consequences, such as coastal flooding, extreme weather events, and forest fires, will intensify over the coming decades with significant costs for the economy and the environment, both in Canada and globally; (f) what research, if any, has the government undertaken or planned to undertake to assess the impact of climate change on the Canadian economy and the costs of adaptation to climate change, and what are (i) the names of these studies, (ii) the dates they were carried out, (iii) their conclusions, including projected costs and whether and under what circumstances said costs can be kept to manageable levels, (iv) their recommendations; (g) what are specific examples of how the government is taking advantage of “shorter-term opportunities to address climate change” (notes for remarks by the Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P., Announcement on Domestic Climate Change Adaptation, Toronto, Ontario, November 8, 2011); (h) what sectors are to be included in the government's sector-by-sector approach to climate change, and what are the dates for the inclusion of each sector; (i) what concrete examples demonstrate the government's climate change plan has "a strong, corresponding international component" (notes, November 8, 2011); (j) what, if any, (i) research, (ii) action, (iii) investment has the government carried out to “reduce the soot, methane, ozone and other gases” (notes, November 8, 2011) which are short-lived drivers of the climate system; (k) what research, if any, has the government undertaken to compare the costs of early mitigation of climate change with the costs of late adaptation to climate change, and what are (i) the names of these studies, (ii) the dates they were carried out, (iii) their conclusions, including projected costs and whether (and under what circumstances) said costs can be kept to manageable levels, (iv) their recommendations; (l) what, if any, (i) research, (ii) action, (iii) investment has the government carried out to develop a pan-Canadian plan for energy efficiency with targets for the years 2020, 2030, 2040, and 2050; (m) what, if any, (i) action, (ii) investment has the government undertaken to implement low-impact renewable energy solutions in Canada for the years listed in (l); (n) what, if any, (i) research, (ii) action, (iii) investment has the government undertaken to develop a strategy for sustainable transportation in Canada with targets for the years listed in (l); (o) what actions, if any, has the government carried out to develop a fund for climate-neutral pilot projects that will allow municipalities to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as much as possible, and to use carbon offsets to neutralize unavoidable emissions; (p) what, if any, (i) research, (ii) action, (iii) investment has the government undertaken to develop a plan to rationalize and phase out fossil fuel subsidies, with targets for 2015, 2020 and 2025, in order to achieve the goal of a ‘medium term’ phase-out; (q) what, if any, (i) research, (ii) action, (iii) investment has the government undertaken to develop a plan to increase research and development into and deployment of low-carbon technology in Canada; (r) what, if any (i) research (ii) consultations has the government undertaken to determine if, given various possible scenarios, an investment of $148.8 million over the next five years will be sufficient to help Canada adapt adequately to climate change by the target dates 2030, 2040, and 2050; and (s) what specific provisions has the government made to allow Environment Canada’s Adaptation and Impacts Research Section to undertake research to help Canada adapt to climate change?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 422Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

With respect to nutrition in child and adolescent populations in Canada: (a) does government policy include recognition and acceptance of the principle that Canada’s children and adolescents are entitled to nutritious food (i) regardless of where they live, (ii) regardless of their family income, (iii) particularly when economic forces undermine efforts by parents and caregivers to ensure healthy eating; (b) given that the 1992 World Declaration on Nutrition, to which Canada was a signatory, states that access to nutritionally adequate and safe food is a right of each individual, what specific actions have the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Health Canada undertaken for children and adolescents in order to fulfill this commitment; (c) what percentage of children and adolescents in Canada is food insecure, (i) do disparities exist, including, but not limited to, disability status, ethnicity, gender, geography, socio-economic status, (ii) if so, specify; (d) what percentage of children and adolescents lives below the poverty line, (i) do disparities exist, including, but not limited to, disability status, ethnicity, gender, geography, socio-economic status, (ii) if so, specify; (e) what percentage of children and adolescents has, as a result of living below the poverty line, (i) poor nutritional status, (ii) poor health outcomes due to their poor nutritional status; (f) what percentage of members of each of the following groups is food insecure, (i) child and adolescent newcomers, (ii) children and adolescents who live in poverty, (iii) children and adolescents who live in priority neighbourhoods, (iv) Aboriginal children and adolescents; (g) what percentage of children and adolescents (i) involuntarily misses meals, (ii) lacks healthy variety in its diet; (h) does the government have information, and, if so, what is that information, concerning (i) how (g)(i) and (g)(ii) impact the caloric and nutrient intake of young children, (ii) how (h)(i) affects growth and development and school readiness; (i) what percentage of child and adolescent newcomers, children and adolescents who live in poverty, children and adolescents who live in priority neighbourhoods, and Aboriginal children and adolescents (i) involuntarily misses meals, (ii) lacks healthy variety in its diet; (j) what percentage of children and adolescents has fewer than the recommended daily servings of (i) vegetables and fruit, (ii) milk products, (iii) grain products; (k) what percentage of child and adolescent newcomers, children and adolescents who live in poverty, children and adolescents who live in priority neighbourhoods, and Aboriginal children and adolescents has fewer than the recommended daily servings of (i) vegetables and fruit, (ii) milk products, (iii) grain products; (l) what percentage of children and adolescents from all income brackets is vulnerable to inadequate nutrition, (i) for what specific reasons; (m) what percentage of elementary students and secondary school students does not eat a nutritious breakfast before school, (i) do disparities exist, including, but not limited to, disability status, ethnicity, gender, geography, socio-economic status, (ii) if so, specify; (n) what percentage of children and adolescents is vulnerable to poor academic, health, and socio-emotional outcomes as a result of inadequate nutrition; (o) what percentage of overweight and obese children and adolescents does not eat a nutritious breakfast; (p) how are children’s learning capabilities (including, but not limited to, creativity testing, voluntary endurance, and working memory) affected by how recently a child has eaten; (q) how does malnutrition in early life limit long-term intellectual development; (r) what impact, if any, does an inadequate childhood diet have on the risk of adult chronic disease; (s) how is the behaviour of children and adolescents (including, but not limited to, ability to concentrate, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and irritability) affected by whether or not they have eaten breakfast; (t) what research, if any, has the CIHR or Health Canada undertaken to assess whether schools play a role in shaping the dietary behaviours of children, and, if such research has been undertaken, (i) what are the studies, (ii) what are the studies’ dates, (iii) what are the studies’ conclusions, (iv) what are the studies’ recommendations; (u) what research, if any, has the CIHR or Health Canada undertaken to assess possible links between student nutrition and academic performance, classroom behaviour, and antisocial behaviour, and, if such research has been undertaken, (i) what are the studies, (ii) what are the studies’ dates, (iii) what are the studies’ conclusions, (iv) what are the studies’ recommendations; (v) what research, if any, has the CIHR or Health Canada undertaken to assess whether nutrition programs delivered at school sites are effective in providing children with (i) more nutritious diets, (ii) better cognitive abilities, (iii) better cooperation among children, (iv) improved discipline, (v) improved interpersonal behaviours, (vi) improved emotional and physical health, (vii) reduced risk of chronic disease, and, if such research has been undertaken, (viii) what are the studies, (ix) what are the studies’ dates, (x) what are the studies’ conclusions, (xi) what are the studies’ recommendations; (w) what research, if any, has the CIHR or Health Canada undertaken to assess whether nutrition programs delivered at school sites improve (i) nutritional adequacy, (ii) nutritional education, (iii) positive socialization, (iv) school attendance, (v) community mobilization, partnerships and social support, and, if such research has been undertaken, (vi) what are all the studies, (vii) what are the studies’ dates, (viii) what are the studies’ conclusions, (ix) what are the studies’ recommendations; (x) what percentage of children and adolescents is enrolled in a school district with (i) a nutrition program, (ii) nutritional guidelines for school meals; (y) what percentage of child and adolescent newcomers, children and adolescents who live in poverty, children and adolescents who live in priority neighbourhoods, and Aboriginal children and adolescents, is enrolled in a school district with (i) a nutrition program, (ii) nutritional guidelines for school meals; (z) what information does the government possess that explains why school sites are an effective venue to deliver student nutrition and what is this information; (aa) are there specific reasons why Canada does not have a pan-Canadian nutritional initiative delivered at school sites, and, if so, (i) what are these reasons, (ii) does the government have any analysis of the obstacles that would have to be overcome to develop a pan-Canadian nutrition program and what are those obstacles; (bb) what research, if any, has been undertaken by the CIHR or the government into a pan-Canadian nutrition initiative to be delivered at school sites, including (i) the cost per student per day, (ii) the annual return on investment of a pan-Canadian nutrition initiative delivered at school sites, (iii) the annual payback on a pan-Canadian nutrition initiative if the graduation rate increased by five percent, (iv) the annual return on investment of a pan-Canadian nutrition initiative if obesity, cardiopulmonary, and diabetes rates were reduced by five percent as a result of the initiative; (cc) what research, if any, has been undertaken by the CIHR or the government into fully funding on-reserve aboriginal student meals, including (i) the cost per student per day, (ii) the annual return on investment of a student nutrition initiative, (iii) the annual payback on a student nutrition initiative if the graduation rate increased by five percent, (iv) the annual payback on a student nutrition initiative if obesity, cardiopulmonary, and diabetes rates were reduced by five percent as a result of the initiative; (dd) has the government taken any action or made any investment, and, if so, what is the nature of said action or investment, to (i) initiate discussions with the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for agriculture, education and health to develop a comprehensive pan-Canadian school nutrition initiative, (ii) fully fund on-reserve aboriginal student meals; and (ee) what research, if any, has been undertaken by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and what economic impacts on the Canadian economy have been identified in said research, into (i) a possible economic stimulus resulting from the implementation of a pan-Canadian nutrition initiative delivered at school sites, including, but not limited to, the impacts on ancillary industries, such as, distribution, refrigeration, and service, (ii) the development of local markets for farmers?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 438Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

With regard to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and, more specifically, Small Craft Harbours (SCH): (a) how many properties under the ownership of SCH have been divested each year from 2006-2011 inclusively, (i) in what community and province were each of these properties located, (ii) what was the assessed value of each of these properties at the time of divestiture, (iii) what financial transactions took place (i.e., amounts), as part of the Divestiture of Non-Core Harbours program, (iv) who received financial compensation and/or paid financial compensation for the divested properties?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I wish to inform the House that because of the statements made earlier today, government orders will be extended by seven minutes.

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

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today to speak in support of this important legislation, Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act.

Some of my hon. colleagues who have already spoken have stressed our solemn duty as legislators to help ensure the integrity of our immigration system. I could not agree more with that sentiment. Canada's immigration system is internationally renowned and we would not have a country today if it were not for the generations of newcomers we have welcomed to our shores.

In fact, our Conservative government has welcomed the highest sustained average of immigration in Canadian history, a remarkable achievement. I have no doubt that a number of my hon. colleagues who are sitting in this House right now and participating in this very debate were, at one point in their lives, newcomers to Canada or their parents and grandparents were. In my case, my parents were born in eastern Europe, so I lived the life of an immigrant family and I know full well the promise of this country.

Immigrants come to create a new life for themselves and for their descendants, and to help build our great nation. They certainly have done so. Newcomers and those family members of many others here in the House today helped contribute to the richness and diversity of our country and to make it the free and prosperous society it is today.

So it goes without saying that protecting Canada's immigration system is extremely important and it falls upon every hon. member of this House to ensure that we enact laws that protect and ensure the strength of that system. I believe that the measures in Bill C-31, once enacted, will do exactly that, so I am very happy to support the legislation.

Some of my hon. colleagues have spoken already about the measures in this legislation that would help carry out long needed reforms to the refugee system. Others have spoken about measures in Bill C-31 that would help crack down on human smugglers who may try to abuse Canada's generous immigration system.

In the time I have today, I will focus my remarks on the third important piece of the protecting Canada's immigration system act, namely, those measures in this legislation that would enable the introduction of biometric technology for screening temporary resident applicants.

Establishing the identity of foreign nationals who seek to enter Canada is a fundamental part of both visa assessment and border processing. Better identity management and the use of biometrics are crucial to keeping Canada's borders secure and strengthening the integrity of our immigration program. The bill we are debating today would provide the government with the authority to collect biometric data from visa applicants. All hon. members in this House should welcome this historic development.

Under the existing system, visa applicants only need to initially provide written documents to support their application, documents that can be easily forged or stolen. However, biometrics, photographs and fingerprints would provide greater certainty in identifying travellers than documents.

Biometrics will be an important new tool to help protect the safety and security of Canadians by reducing identity fraud and identity theft. As fraudsters and criminals become more sophisticated, biometrics will improve our ability to keep out violent criminals, terrorists and others who pose a risk to Canada.

The introduction of biometrics as an identity management tool in our immigration and border control system is both long planned and long overdue, and more and more is becoming the international norm. Many governments around the world have already introduced biometric collection in their immigration programs. These include the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Japan, the European Union, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Malaysia. Therefore, what we are proposing as a government is hardly new. Because it is becoming so common in international travel, many visa applicants to Canada will already be familiar with this process.

The legislation under consideration today and the regulations that would follow would allow government to make it mandatory for prescribed travellers, students and workers from visa required counties and territories to have their photographs and fingerprints taken as part of their temporary resident visa, study permit and work permit applications. This would be collected before the applicant arrives in Canada and it would be collected again when someone enters the country to ensure that the person the visa was issued to is the person who appears at the port of entry.

Unfortunately, there are countless examples in the media, on an almost daily basis, of serious criminals, human smugglers, suspected terrorists and war criminals, among others, who have entered Canada, sometimes multiple times. The use of biometrics will help prevent violent criminals and terrorists, among others, from using a false identity to obtain a Canadian visa.

Criminals, like Anthony Hakim Saunders, who was convicted of assault and drug trafficking, was deported but returned to Canada, incredibly, on 10 separate occasions. Kevin Michael Sawyers, who was convicted of manslaughter, managed to return to Canada on multiple occasions. There are even examples of criminals re-entering Canada using false identities and documents up to 15, 19 and 21 different occasions. These are real and specific examples. This simply must stop.

Biometrics will help our government end this fraud and abuse. It will greatly help our front line visa and border officers manage high volumes of immigration applicants and the growing sophistication in identity fraud. While it is easy to see how using biometrics will help our own officials make decisions about visa applications, it is also important to consider how their use may provide benefits to the applicants themselves.

In the long run, the use of biometrics will actually facilitate entry to Canada by providing a reliable tool to readily confirm the identity of applicants. For instance, in cases where the authenticity of documents is uncertain, biometrics could expedite decision-making at Canadian points of entry. The time spent at secondary inspections could be reduced, and sometimes dramatically. Using biometrics could also protect visa applicants by making it more difficult for others to forge, steal or use an applicant's identity to gain access to Canada.

Canada will remain a destination of choice for visitors from around the world and, in the long run, the use of biometrics will facilitate entry to Canada by providing a reliable tool to readily confirm the identities of applicants. Again, it is one of the long list of measures our government is taking to make government more streamlined, efficient and cost effective.

For me, biometrics is simply a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the opposition NDP and Liberal members are voting against Bill C-31 and the ability of the government to collect biometric data. They do not support the government having one of the most important and basic tools available to protect the safety and security of all Canadians, including their constituents. Of course, we know that many members opposite did not campaign much in the last election campaign but I would recommend that they get to know their constituents. It would be most helpful in this particular case.

A tool that would help the government prevent the entry of violent criminals and terrorists into the country, the biometrics tool, is very important. Not only do the opposition NDP and Liberal members oppose the authority for the government to use biometrics, they also voted against the funding required to implement biometrics. The use of biometrics is increasingly becoming an international norm and, by passing Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act, we will be ensuring that Canada keeps up with many other countries.

Biometrics will strengthen the integrity of Canada's immigration system and help protect the safety and security of Canadians, while helping facilitate legitimate travel. This legislation would strengthen and maintain the integrity of an immigration system that has helped make our country great and would make our country even greater.

I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this much needed legislation.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for his speech, because I know he really cares about this issue and he wants to work in the best interest of everyone. However, I wonder if he could clarify a few points about the bill that remain controversial, even among the people of my riding who have shared their concerns about this bill with me.

In a previous version of the bill, all the parties had agreed that the power to designate safe countries should lie with a group of specialists that should include human rights experts. With the new Bill C-31, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has carte blanche to designate those countries.

Why concentrate so much power in the hands of just one minister instead of relying on a group of people who have the expertise needed to make these decisions?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, my friend's premise is completely false. As the minister has stated, the old Balanced Refugee Reform Act was a good start and included much need reforms. However, our government has always been clear that refugee reform is not a static issue.

Under Bill C-31, the factors that would lead a country to be designated would be clearly outlined in both law and regulations. The most important factors are objective and quantitative and refer to the actual acceptance rates from a given country. Under Bill C-31, the decisions would be rendered by an independent immigration and refugee board, not the minister.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some interest to the comments. One of the unfortunate facets of the Conservatives' approach is they put so many different provisions that have different meanings and applications into one bill and then use that as an opportunity to say, “But you voted against it”.

There are certain aspects of this bill that clearly we agree with. We agree with the notion that the refugee system is broken, which is why we passed Bill C-11. Bill C-11 does an enormous amount to streamline the refugee system in this country and to make it less likely that people could abuse the system.

However, the amendments being proposed to Bill C-11, and the addition of Bill C-4, make it impossible for this side of the House to agree to create a system where we would be making people victims. Even if people are refugees, we do not believe that the government, or any government, should make them victims. That is what this bill would do.

I would ask for the comments of the member opposite.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, obviously since Bill C-11 was passed, things have changed and we have to update our refugee and immigration system.

I have a personal story to tell with respect to refugees from when I was a high school student in Winnipeg. I am of Czech extraction. When I was a high school student my family was part of the Czechoslovakian community in Winnipeg. I remember very well the Prague Spring of 1968 and the Warsaw Pact invasion of my father's country. It was a devastating experience for all of us when we realized what could happen in the world. As a teenager, I witnessed refugees coming to Winnipeg, some of whom even stayed in our home. I take the refugee issue seriously and personally.

The abuses that criminals and fraudsters will undertake to take advantage of Canadians' historical generosity simply must be dealt with. We are doing that with this bill.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleague is right to want to address the abuses present in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That is a fundamental role of government. It is our duty to protect Canada from abuse.

The problem with this bill is that it throws the baby out with the bathwater. Historically, Canada has always welcomed refugees. During the time of slavery in the United States, there was an organization in Canada called the underground railroad. Small Christian communities knowingly and voluntarily agreed to break the law to help people escape slavery.

People like Diefenbaker, the Canadian Prime Minister who condemned apartheid in South Africa, would have been on our side. Diefenbaker would have condemned a bill that prevents us from helping people. That is the problem. Under Bill C-31, people working to save slaves would have been considered—

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. The hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette has the floor.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I utterly reject that example of the member opposite. It is quite unfortunate that he used incendiary language like that. We have to clean up the refugee system. We will continue to admit legitimate refugees into our country, as we have always done.

However, dealing with criminals, fraudsters and those who do not belong here is the simple goal of this bill.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will get right to the point. Bill C-31 is a blot on Canada's reputation. This bill will tarnish our international image as a host country. It will be a major step backward with respect to protecting refugees in Canada. It puts tremendous power in the hands of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and fails to revamp Canada's refugee determination system. The purpose of this bill is not, as stated, to fight human smuggling or to help asylum seekers by expediting the process. Its true purpose is something else entirely. All it will do is punish refugees.

Bill C-31 is a patchwork of bits and pieces of old bills, including Bill C-4 on human trafficking, Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, and biometrics.

One of the bills introduced during this Parliament was Bill C-4. That bill received such strong opposition from lawyers and refugee rights organizations that the government dropped it. This bill would allow the minister to designate the arrival of refugees as an irregular arrival. The bill uses the phrase “a group of persons” without really specifying how many persons constitute a group. We presume that two people could indeed constitute a group. These designation criteria are far too vague and disproportionate and leave too much room for legal interpretation. A family fleeing a war-torn country would be a group of persons.

The most despicable proposal in this bill is the one whereby any person designated a “foreign national” will be detained for a maximum period of one year, without review and without any chance of appeal.

Immigration detention centres are already overcrowded. Accordingly, these designated persons will likely be transferred to provincial prisons to live with criminals. Under this bill, a person could be detained for 12 months without review.

According to the bill, a person in detention who receives permanent resident status will not be released since they are not entitled to a review of their case for a period of one year.

The government is not giving any thought to the distress felt by these people who have fled a country in the hope of having a better life. This government is not considering the desolation of these people who are fleeing persecution in their country and who now are being mixed in with the criminal population for a year without review of their case, as I was saying.

These measures go completely against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international law. The Supreme Court ruled in the Charkaoui case that detention under a security certificate is unconstitutional. That means that every person in Canada has the right to appear before a judge within 48 business hours. The Conservative government has no qualms about introducing a bill that is likely unconstitutional.

Under the Supreme Court ruling, detention has to be subject to a timely and regular review to ensure that it continues to be legal. All asylum seekers not arriving in groups, therefore arriving alone, are entitled to this review. Families would be exempt from this review because they constitute a group of two or more people.

Not only can a group be detained for a year, in addition, no exception is made for the individuals in the group, regardless of gender, age or health status. These inhumane provisions are a direct violation of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Indeed, this United Nations convention clearly indicates that no host country shall impose sanctions against refugees by reason of their illegal entry if they present themselves without delay to the authorities and give good reason for their illegal entry.

Canada is, in fact, a signatory to this convention.

The measures proposed in the bill are an attempt to discourage refugees from seeking protection in Canada. Not only are these people being detained without the right to appeal their case, but the implacable attitude of this government will end up increasing the number of removals. That goes entirely against the humanitarian values Canada espouses and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Moreover, this bill stipulates that refugees shall be banned from making an application for permanent residence for a five-year period after obtaining refugee status.

Once again, this bill violates the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees by prohibiting any person who has obtained refugee status from traveling outside Canada. The refugee will, therefore, have no travel document. That also violates the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Furthermore, refugee claimants will not be able to sponsor their families for a period of five years. That means, for example, that a 15-year-old teenager who enters the country illegally will not be able to sponsor his parents for five years. Bearing in mind these constraints alone and the average time it takes to process claims for refugee protection and applications for permanent residence, refugees will be separated from their families for seven years. These measures are discouraging for all refugee claimants.

The minister also reserves the right to designate a country as safe for foreign nationals without even benefiting from the expertise of a committee on human rights. This measure will result in the implementation of stricter deadlines to submit a claim for refugee protection. This will make it difficult to properly prepare an application, which may lead to a refusal.

Moreover, the refugee claimants from the list of countries deemed safe by the minister who have been forced to leave the country will no longer be entitled to file an appeal before the Immigration and Refugee Board. If they are determined to appeal, their only recourse is to seek a judicial review before the Federal Court. Despite this provision, there is a strong likelihood that the claimant will be deported to his country of origin before the court has had time to make a decision. Furthermore, this bill prevents the Refugee Protection Division from reopening files. This clause goes against the principles of natural justice. This bill needlessly takes away a jurisdiction that has always existed.

Another clause is being added to the long list of barriers to claims for asylum. Once again, this clause gives another discretionary power to the minister that allows him to detain any individual who is suspected of a crime. There is no guideline for the principle of suspicion. However, it does not stop there, because the bill specifies that it is possible to turn down any claim if a person has committed an offence, even if it is a trivial offence. Let us take the example of a person who, in his own country, refused to obey an order from the dictatorial government and dared to express his opinion publicly, and finds himself with a criminal record because of it. Canada would refuse his claim because of this offence, without even considering the cases of persecution for which that government is responsible.

This Conservative government is going even further in its indifference to the suffering of thousands of people who are fleeing persecution. In granting permanent resident status to refugees, Canada is offering them safety to settle in our country and quietly begin their lives over again. However, the Conservatives, with their misguided thinking, want to grant permanent resident status on a conditional basis. This bill would allow an application for permanent resident status to be suspended when the country of origin is on the list of countries considered safe and stable, countries that are put on the list by virtue of the minister's discretionary power.

That is not all. This clause is retroactive, which means that thousands of permanent residents will have to leave their new country and new life in Canada. Take the example of someone who left his country because of political persecution 30 years ago. When he arrived in Canada, he asked for asylum and we granted him permanent resident status. He began a family here, but 30 years later the government tells him that his country is safe and he can go back.

Bill C-31 is underhanded; it goes even further. The Conservatives also want to demand biometric data from applicants for a visitor visa, a student visa or a working visa. Biometrics has a reputation as a technology that gives considerable power to states for keeping an eye on people. Bill C-31 put forward by the Conservatives is a huge reversal in immigration policy and is aimed solely at refugees and asylum seekers, to their detriment. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is giving himself the right to make criminals of certain refugees and throw them in jail, without review of their files, for a period of one year.

The Conservative government is now interfering with the right of every person to defend himself. I believe that this bill is discriminatory and that it sets up a two-tier system for refugee protection.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, there were all kinds of factual errors in my colleague's speech. For instance, he criticized the system for being two-tiered. Indeed, we created a two-tiered system in Bill C-11 in the previous Parliament, and the NDP supported that bill. It simply means an expedited system for refugee claimants from a list of designated safe countries, which is a completely legitimate and normal system according to the UN High Commissioner. A similar refugee system is used by nearly all other countries in the democratic world.

His biggest mistake, however, was when he said that the government could designate a country as safe and then take away a refugee's permanent residency 30 years after he or she obtained it. There are no such provisions in Bill C-31. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Immigration and Refugee Board has always had the power to terminate someone's refugee protection and withdraw their permanent residency, for instance, when someone obtained it fraudulently.

Can the member indicate what clause in Bill C-31 gives the minister or the government new powers to withdraw refugees' permanent residency? There is no such clause.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the minister's claims, this bill does give the minister too much discretion to designate certain countries as safe countries, without really being absolutely certain that they are. In that case, he should at least rely on the advice of experts who may perhaps be somewhat more knowledgeable about what is happening in these countries, in order to be sure that these countries are safe before rejecting claims and withdrawing these people's refugee status.