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House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, parliamentarians on this side of the House will never support a bill that would jail children. The government thought that was a good idea, to bring forth a bill that would jail refugees, men, women and children, for up to a year.

The government has made one change and will now only jail children who are 16 or 17 years old. However, what happens if a refugee family arrives with an eight-year-old child? Do we really think that those parents are going to stay in detention for a year and allow the state to separate them from their eight-year-old child? Absolutely not. We all know what will happen: The eight-year-old child will stay with the parents. Hence, we are still looking at children being jailed with their parents, and the government knows it.

The minister has said that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees approves of his designation of certain countries as safe. New Democrats have checked and what the high commissioner has really said is that if Canada is going to have a system designating countries as safe, there must be an appeal on the merits from an initial decision. Bill C-31 denies refugee claimants from designated safe countries an appeal before the refugee appeal division. I know the minister is not a lawyer, but he should know that an appeal to the Federal Court is not an appeal on the merits; it is an appeal only on natural justice.

My question for the member is this. How can she justify a bill that deprives people of access to the refugee appeal division depending on the country they come from, in violation of what the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has required?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, when I was at home in my riding over December and January, I had an opportunity to meet with many of my constituents, who absolutely understand that our system is being abused.

To be clear, Canada has the most fair and generous system in the world. Canadians know this. Whether addressing refugee reforms, human smuggling or implementing the use of biometric data, Canadians are very aware that all of these things need to be addressed. That is what we are doing through Bill C-31.

This bill would provide more protection more quickly to those who are truly in need. It would weed out the bogus claimants who are abusing our generosity. It would save Canadian taxpayers at least, as we have said many times, $1.6 billion over a five year period.

To underscore my comments on these facts, I would like to quote from The Edmonton Journal editorial, “Good moves on refugees”, from February 17:

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.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the importance of science to the fishery.

As a result of the intervention by the government with respect to the Fisheries Act and what it refers to as a modernization of the fishery, we are seeing little respect being given to science and to the scientists who play such an important role in ensuring the sustainability of our natural resource. Whether it is dealing with the cod stocks, or any species or fishery for that matter, science is so important to ensuring that when we put quotas in place we know exactly what we are doing. Any decision that we make with respect to the fishery should be based on science, as well as input from those who engage in the fishery, whether it is those in the fish processing side or in the harvesting side.

However, we are finding from the government little appreciation for science and the influence of science, in terms of the health of the fish stocks. When we look at the fish habitats and what is being said today by former Conservative fisheries ministers with the changes to fish habitats, it just does not make sense.

More than 600 Canadian scientists, including some of the country's leading experts in environmental protection and animal research, are asking the Prime Minister to abandon plans to remove habitat protections from the federal Fisheries Act.

It is serious when we have scientists, who know only too well how important this is, go to this extreme to plead with the Prime Minister not to go down this path. These people have the knowledge and the expertise. Those of us who serve in these positions, including the Prime Minister, ministers of the Crown and bureaucrats, are not on the front lines in terms of what happens in the fishery. It is the scientists we rely upon. They spend years researching these topics. The fishers and those who process and harvest the fishery have the knowledge necessary to ensure a sustainable fishery and to ensure that we do what is right in terms of fish habitats.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, these scientists say changing the law would be a most unwise action. It would jeopardize many important fish stocks and the lakes, estuaries and rivers that support them. They are encouraging, in fact, they are imploring, the Prime Minister to abandon this initiative, as it is currently drafted.

This is not coming from me. This is not coming from an MP for Random—Burin—St. George's, where my communities are primarily rural communities that depend very heavily upon the fishery to ensure that the people have a livelihood and can provide for their families. This is coming from scientists who have devoted their lives, as this is their area of expertise, to looking into these subject areas. They are looking at what the government is proposing here with respect to the Fisheries Act and they are saying it is wrong.

I am asking the government to listen to those scientists, to recognize how important it is that we listen to people with the expertise, the knowledge based on their experience and their research, that this is the wrong thing to do.

People have answers. The government does not have all the answers. The opposition does not have all the answers. However, I can say that people who spend their lives researching these topics do so seriously and they know that this is wrong. We are asking, on their behalf, for the government to take their request seriously.

6:35 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her interest in this matter. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to some of the comments she made.

Particularly, I want to address the issue of science and how the future of the fishing industry depends on science. I think we agree on this question.

Our department is a science-based organization. In fact, at Fisheries and Oceans Canada excellence in science is the cornerstone of all our operations. That does not mean, however, that we should simply rely on the ways of the past. As a department we cannot stand still in how we approach our scientific mandate. Therefore, over the past year we have implemented changes in how we organize and manage our scientific resources. As a result, there are more opportunities than ever for our scientists to work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams to address complex multi-faceted challenges.

More to the point, we are using our science assets more strategically. This allows us to strengthen our regulatory capacity and explore new approaches for meeting our crucial oceans management and marine and fish habitat conservation and protection mandates.

The Canadian government is consistently working with our partners domestically and internationally to ensure that future generations inherit healthy oceans and ocean resources. We are protecting our ocean resources on a number of fronts and we are achieving real results.

Scientific knowledge and consultation with our stakeholders will continue to be the basis of our policies. This knowledge and experience will be vital as we continue our work to protect Canada's diverse marine and aquatic resources.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is committed to the conservation and sustainable use of our ocean resources using the best science possible. To do that we depend on our scientific institutes, laboratories and centres of expertise for vital information to make fisheries conservation decisions that are both environmentally sound and economically productive. We will continue to use the knowledge gained from our scientific research to inform decisions and policies that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Given the current financial environment globally, within Canada and within government, it makes good sense to step back, re-calibrate and set a new direction. Therefore, over the past year we have reviewed all of our policies, programs and services. That will ensure they are consistent with our core mandate, relevant to Canadians and effective and efficient in meeting our objectives. In short, we have been moving forward, not backward. Even better, we have been moving forward as a department, together with our partners and stakeholders. That is something in which we can all take pride.

What I am saying is this. Deficit reduction is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity for renewal and transformation. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to take a hard look at ourselves to find better ways to do things. We need to ask ourselves what our core business should be, what the right capacities are, and whether there are better systems and ways of delivering services that will help us keep delivering excellence to Canadians and meet the many demands of the 21st century.

I can assure the House that our future investments in science will be designed to augment our research capacity and assure sustainable fisheries and trade into the future.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, from listening to my colleague read his text, it appears to me, and I am sure to those listening, that he genuinely believes in what he is saying and that he thinks it is accurate.

The problem is that he said that the government is prepared to listen to scientists, but let me repeat that more than 600 Canadian scientists, including some of the country's leading experts in environmental protection and animal research, have said that it is wrong to go down this path.

In fact, David Schindler, who is a professor of ecology at the University of Alberta, the lead author of the letter, has said in a news release, “It is the explicit role of government to find the balance between protecting this habitat and encouraging sustainable economic growth, not to pit them against one another”.

How can the member genuinely say that the government is listening to scientists when 600 scientists, leading experts, are saying that what the government is planning to do is wrong? They are saying to please not go down that path. They broke it open and we know this is happening. They are asking the government to listen. They have been doing the research. They know what is important.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. The time has expired.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, although the member has raised concerns and some scientists have raised concerns, they are commenting on something they have not been informed about and they need to wait for that.

The fact is in 2009 the Auditor General made several recommendations regarding implementation of the policy for management of fish habitat. She raised some concerns in those years. We have also heard from parliamentarians. Perhaps she herself has raised some issues on this. We have heard from provinces and stakeholders that the policy is in need of renewal. We are serious about making changes that streamline the process and place efforts where they are most needed. We remain committed to the protection of fish habitat and to carrying it out in the most efficient and effective way possible.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso not being present to raise the matter for which adjournment notice has been given, the notice is deemed withdrawn.

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:43 p.m.)