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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

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Winnipeg North is seeking unanimous consent of the House to hold an emergency debate tonight. Is there unanimous consent?

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There is no consent.

There is another point of order. The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a clarification pursuant to your decision.

In my presentation, I said that Aveos' creditor protection will be lifted on April 3. Mr. Speaker, you said that there will be four days of debate on the budget to be presented on Thursday. The budget debate will end after the bankruptcy protection is lifted. Thus, the company could liquidate its assets in the meantime.

I believe this is an important factor to be taken into consideration in making your decision. If we wait until the budget debate is over, it could be too late for the House to take action. I was wondering if you could reconsider your decision after consultation.

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I do appreciate the point raised. There are other factors for the Speaker to take into account as to whether or not it meets the test. I mentioned one, that the debate tonight would just be a debate in and of itself. In that respect, I do find that the opportunity to debate during the budget would satisfy the need for members to address the issues that have been raised.

Therefore, the Chair considers the matter closed in that regard.

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

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There are still two minutes left for questions and comments for the hon. member for Windsor West.

The hon. member for Nickel Belt.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Windsor West for his intervention on this very important bill. Given the fact his riding borders on the U.S. border, as he said in his speech, he has had one staff member dedicated to immigration for the past 10 years. I would like to ask the hon. member how bill C-31 would affect not only him and his staff but also the people in his riding?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is of great concern because we have a number of different immigration files from countries with lots of troubling issues. If we had further complications with people being detained and held, there would certainly be repercussions for their wellbeing once they have run through the immigration system.

We all know that being detained for a long period of time or separated from family creates trauma. Right now, we actually have few psychological services available in the Windsor region area, especially for youth and children. Therefore, I would be worried about the imprisonment and locking up of people who would later become Canadian citizens and their not having the support services to deal with those tragedies and complications.

It ultimately affects our economy. The health and welfare of people is necessary for them to be productive. That is one of the concerns I have with the bill, that is, not having the services to be able to point people in the right direction.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act.

All Canadians should be concerned about the increase in refugee claims in recent years from countries that are generally considered to be safe and democratic. That is because the numbers clearly demonstrate that an increasing number of refugee claimants in Canada simply do not need our protection. This has been a concern for some time. Allow me to provide an overview of the statistics that demonstrate this from the last year alone.

In 2011 a significant portion of refugee claims came from the European Union. Claims from this region alone accounted for 23% of all claims last year, up from 14% in 2010, more than from Africa or Asia. On average, EU claims were abandoned in 14.5 months or withdrawn in 10 months. In recent years virtually all EU claims were withdrawn, abandoned or rejected. The bogus claims from among the 5,800 EU nationals who sought asylum last year cost Canadian taxpayers $170 million. Hungary, an EU member state, has become Canada's top source country for such refugee claims. Hungarians made over 2,400 refugee claims around the world in 2010. Of those, 2,300 were in Canada. That is 23 times more claims made in Canada than in the rest of the world put together. By comparison, the United States received only 32 Hungarian refugee claims in 2010. I think these numbers speak volumes.

Our refugee system was designed to provide protection to those who genuinely need it, people who have escaped brutal regimes, violence, oppression and persecution in these countries. These people need to come to Canada for protection or they risk losing their lives. However, the majority of claims are coming from safe and democratic countries that respect human rights. The fact that Canada receives more refugee claims from the democratic European Union than from Africa or Asia should be a clear wake-up call. Clearly, there is something wrong with our refugee system and it needs to be fixed.

This is how immigration lawyer Julie Taube summed up the situation under the current immigration system. She said:

I’m an immigration and refugee lawyer in Ottawa, and a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. I can tell you from theory and practice that the current refugee system is very flawed, and cumbersome, and definitely needs an overhaul. It takes up to two years to have a claimant have his hearing. And there are far too many bogus claims that clog up the system, and use very expensive resources at a cost to Canadian taxpayers.

....I have clients who’ve been waiting since 2009, early 2010 to have their hearing, and I represent many claimants from, let’s say Africa, the Mid East countries, who base their claim on gender violence or Christian persecution in certain Middle East countries, and they have to wait, because the system is so clogged up with what I consider to be unfounded claims from citizens of safe country of origin.

The reality is that instead of waiting patiently to come to Canada through the immigration process, too many people are trying to use our asylum system as a back door to gain entry into Canada. These bogus claimants do not want to play by the rules. Instead, they use our immigration system to get to the front of the line. All the while these claimants clog our refugee system and make those who legitimately need it to wait far too long before their claim can be dealt with. Let us not forget the huge expense to taxpayers and the enormous waste of taxpayer dollars. On average, a failed refugee claimant costs approximately $55,000. The simple fact is that the generosity of Canada's social benefits, including taxpayer-funded welfare benefits and our general health care system, which is a source of immense pride for Canadians, is the draw factor for many European claimants.

The designated country of origin policy would provide the minister with a more flexible tool to respond to spikes in unfounded refugee claims. To help reduce the pull factors for unfounded claimants, the designated country of origin policy would allow for expedited processing of refugee claims from countries that do not typically produce refugees. It is important to note, however, that whether or not a country is designated, every eligible refugee claimant would continue to receive a hearing before the independent Immigration and Refugee Board. Claimants from those countries would be processed in about 45 days compared to 1,038 days under the current system.

All claimants, regardless of country of origin, would continue to have the ability to seek judicial review of their claim by the Federal Court. Claimants from countries of origin that have not been designated would get access to an additional level of appeal for the first time, as they would have access to the new refugee appeal division.

Bill C-31 is necessary since the many days it takes to process refugee claims is what attracts unfounded claimants to Canada in the first place. On average, it can take up to four and a half years from the initial time a claim is made until the failed claimant is removed from Canada. In the most extreme cases, the entire process has taken up to 10 years. As a result of the improvements in Bill C-31, those who truly need our protection would get it even faster and those who do not would be sent home more quickly. Moreover, Bill C-31 would save Canadian taxpayers at least $1.65 billion over five years.

It is no surprise that Bill C-31 has received widespread praise from across the country. This is what the Globe and Mail had to say about the bill:

[The immigration minister's] refugee reforms, aimed at making the process more efficient and decisive, are generally good. If implemented, they will improve an unwieldy asylum program....

The legislation rightly focuses on weeding out claimants who are not genuine, and stemming the flow of asylum seekers from countries such as Mexico and Hungary that are democracies with respect for basic human rights and freedoms....

Fast-tracking the refugee claims from these countries, and ensuring failed claimants are properly deported, is an excellent way to ensure Canada does not become a magnet for abuse.

Canadians are proud to have the most generous immigration system in the world. However, Canadians have no tolerance for those who abuse our generosity and take unfair advantage of our country. We must take action to crack down on this abuse and strengthen the integrity of Canada's immigration system. The protecting Canada's immigration system act does just that. It would make our refugee system faster and fairer. It would 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, this bill would provide protection more quickly to those who are truly in need.

Canadians have given our government a strong mandate to protect Canada's immigration system. We are acting on that mandate. If we want our refugee system to work more efficiently and to provide protection to those who genuinely need it in a reasonable amount of time, then I encourage all members of this House to vote in support of this legislation.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, a number of lawyers gathered at a news conference and pointed out a number of flaws with this bill. I will just ask the member about one in particular, the mandatory detention for up to a year without review of those designated by the minister as irregular arrivals. We know that in the security certificate cases, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a virtually identical provision to that clause as being unconstitutional. We simply cannot have laws made by Parliament that lock people up without review.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would care to comment on what he thinks about that part of this bill, particularly in light of the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that very clearly says that that is unconstitutional, and which these lawyers say will absolutely be challenged as soon as this bill becomes law, if it does.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, we believe that the act meets the scrutiny of the constitutional requirements and, obviously, knowing that some people may be detained when they are irregular or illegal immigrants, we are certainly mindful of their human rights and their needs. No system is perfect, but first and foremost we must protect Canadian society by ensuring that we have an immigration system that is fair to all.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to a change the government did make between Bill C-4 and Bill C-31. It acknowledged, as the opposition at the time had clearly indicated, that it would be wrong to put eight-year-olds or youth in detention centres because the minister deems them to be irregular arrivals. Under the new legislation, the government has now said it will not detain youth under the age of 16.

However, there are some really fundamental problems with Bill C-31. In this member's opinion, is the government prepared to accept amendments that would make this legislation better? One in particular is in regard to establishing an advisory committee that would allow for appointments to a board that would recommend to the minister which country should be considered a safe country.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has raised a valuable point. Obviously the bill will be the subject of further debate. No one has the market cornered on good ideas. Certainly, we will welcome any improvements to the bill that may make the bill more effective and fair to Canadians and immigrants coming here.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary, and I have asked this before, about the cost of mandatory detention of people deemed to have arrived by irregular entry.

If Australia's example is any indication, we will not be saving money. We will be spending more money than we ever spent before on the mandatory housing and internment of families and people who come here and are deemed irregular entries. Australia expects to spend $668 million on its 19 immigration detention facilities in the next fiscal year.

Could the hon. member tell us if the government has costed this? Will there be savings or will there be significantly more tax dollars required?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, certainly no one measure comes without costs. What is particularly important in this case is making sure that refugees and immigrants who come to Canada do so in a legitimate fashion without abusing the system.

Those who do not come here in the fashion that is anticipated by the law will be detained. Of course, there is a cost to that. Obviously there is an offset to this cost of keeping these people here. By getting them out more quickly moneys are saved. There is a trade-off. Certainly we have to put first and foremost the fairness of the system before the costs associated.

We are all immigrants to Canada and we welcome those who come here legitimately.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, although I was not an MP in the previous Parliament, I know that this bill is the logical successor to Bill C-11, which was passed in the 40th parliament. I know enough about this file to say that the bill was negotiated by all parties, including the NDP.

A number of my colleagues, such as the member for Trinity—Spadina, worked very hard to ensure that the bill—which contained some of the measures included in this new bill—would be acceptable to everyone and would bring people together.

What I find fascinating is that none of the negotiated measures are found in this bill, even though they were quite acceptable to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the member for Calgary Southeast, who said:

However, many concerns were raised in good faith by parliamentarians and others concerned about Canada's asylum system. We have, in good faith, agreed to significant amendments that reflect their input, resulting in a stronger piece of legislation that is a monumental achievement for all involved.

Am I dreaming? What has become of the “stronger piece of legislation” that the Minister spoke about? But more importantly, what has become of the good faith?

This bill is the latest manifestation of a new Conservative tradition. Ever since I have been in the House, the Conservatives have gone about things the same way. With every bill, we get the same performance. The government proposes measures and refuses to listen to anyone who does not like them or who suggests changes, as though it were sacrilegious to consider any bill to be less than perfect as of the first reading.

That kind of attitude is deplorable. It is bad for our country and for Canadians because, instead of coming up with the best possible solution for them, we have to settle for things like this.

There are ideological differences between the NDP and the government. That much is clear. The government needs to talk about something other than its “strong mandate”. The fact is that most Canadians did not choose the Conservatives. Not even a majority of voters chose them.

This government has to open its eyes and start working with the opposition parties to improve bills in ways that will benefit Canadians.

Many groups oppose this particular bill. Among those expressing their opposition are groups that the members opposite would call friends of criminals: the Barreau du Québec, the Canadian Bar Association, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. However, these groups speak with considerable authority, and I trust their opinions.

All of these groups raised the following points. First, the minister's discretionary power to designate so-called safe countries is too great. This is not about whether I trust the current minister or not. I would rather leave him in the dark about that. This is about knowing who decides which countries are on the list and about considering how the minister—the current one or his successors—will be subject to economic and diplomatic pressure to that end.

Second, a two-tier refugee system is also a problem. Some will have rights, and others will be assumed to be abusing the system. There will be no consideration for personal history.

What also bothers me about this bill are the potential violations of the international convention. I am sure my colleagues across the floor also received the letter from Human Rights Watch. I urge those who have not yet read it to do so.

The letter raises four points that the organization is really concerned about. First of all, the year-long mandatory detention of asylum seekers violates the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, specifically article 31, which prohibits imposing penalties on refugees simply because they had to enter a country without authorization.

Second, the five-year ban on applying for permanent resident status violates article 34 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Under that article, states must, as far as possible, facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees. Human Rights Watch is also concerned about the right of separated refugee families to reunite, since obtaining permanent resident status usually takes at least six or seven years.

Third, detaining 16 and 17-year old children violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Lastly, Human Rights Watch is concerned about the power vested in the minister to designate which countries are considered safe. In short, once again, all of this will tarnish Canada's reputation on the international stage.

Canada has a reputation as a welcoming country. I have seen this first-hand as an immigrant myself. My experience as a landed immigrant was quite different from what a refugee might experience, but I simply cannot accept that people would systematically be detained because they had to flee an untenable humanitarian situation in their own country. I refuse to let Canada become a country where refugee claimants are treated so poorly that legitimate refugees could be deported before they even have a chance to learn about their rights and the system.

I do not want my country to become a place where refugee claimants will not be considered simply because the government does not want to offend some countries with which it wants to do business. And I certainly do not want to see two classes of refugees.

I strongly oppose this bill because it is harmful to refugees—people who are already vulnerable—instead of offering them a fair, balanced system that does not attack legitimate refugees.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her very eloquent speech. In my riding, Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, 14% of the population is made up of immigrants and children of immigrants. Some of these people came to Canada as refugees, others as landed immigrants. The bill, as written, seems to create a two-tier system, meaning that some refugee claims will be processed more quickly than others.

What will happen to 16- to 18-year-olds, young people who have not yet reached the age of majority? The government says that mothers and their children under 16 will be kept together in these famous centres, but what will we do with the fathers? Will they be separated from their families? How much will these famous refugee detention centres cost? There is talk of $170 million for health insurance and other services.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Clearly, this bill will cost taxpayers quite a lot of money. Yet we have a very valid system, and there are many regulations to prevent bogus refugees from entering the country, as the members across the way claim.

Certainly, this bill will impose one year of arbitrary detention without habeas corpus. Parents will be separated from their children. Spouses will be separated for years, and some people will see their permanent resident status revoked when it is deemed that they can safely return to their country of origin.

I have no answer for my colleague. She should instead ask the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism why he is again turning his back on Canadians.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague about this bill, which will mean that everyone seeking asylum in Canada will be placed in detention for nearly a year.

My concern is that we are now saying that people who arrive by irregular entry would be placed in some form of detention. We are also saying that if they do not come from a country that we recognize as potentially legitimate in terms of their seeking refuge, they would not be allowed in at all.

In the case of Hungary, the Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that “the evidence is overwhelming that Hungary is presently unable to provide adequate protection to its Roma citizens”.

Does my colleague believe that creating a blanket rule that certain countries are safe and certain countries are not would create a threshold that actually would keep people who need our help from being allowed to come to Canada.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that relevant question. I have here a document I got from the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. I would like to read what it says about the bill:

Bill C-31 gives the Minister broad and vague powers over the lives of refugees. The Minister says he will exercise those powers prudently and fairly. But the Bill also minimizes the Minister’s accountability for how he uses those powers. The Bill contains few remedies if there is an abuse of power by the Minister or his agents.

The minister tells us to trust him but that is not good enough in democracy.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House today and join the debate on Bill C-31.

There has been a lot of discussion over the last few hours and, frankly, over the last few days and weeks on this particular bill. There has also been a variance of opinion, so I am glad to add my voice to those who are seeking support for Bill C-31.

As, I think, everyone in this place knows, there are three distinct elements contained in Bill C-31. The first deals with the asylum system and how we can make it more responsive to refugees who make application to come to Canada. The second deals with the human smuggling aspect. The third deals with bringing in future legislation to make it mandatory for biometric data to be used when temporary resident visas are being applied for.

In the few moments I have I want to address only one element of Bill C-31, the asylum system and why we need to make that system fairer and more responsive to all those seeking to come to Canada.

I do not think there is any question that everyone in this place, with the possible exception of those independent members formerly known as the Bloc Québécois, would agree that Canada is the greatest country in the world in which to live, and there are many reasons for that.

We have an incredibly high standard of living, which is a direct result of the economic situation in which we find ourselves. We are now the envy of the industrialized world when it comes to economic performance and economic potential. We also have a system of justice that empowers law and order that respects, preserves and promotes human rights. We have a system of government that has set up publicly funded and accessible health care for all Canadians. We have wonderful educational systems. We have systems that allow Canadians to speak without fear of persecution on any issues, whether they be political or legislative. We also have a fine system that provides social assistance to those people who genuinely need it. Besides health care, we have welfare systems and pension systems that are viable and completely sustainable. There is no question as to why citizens from across the world would want to come to Canada.

However, there are those who, rather than trying to go through the normal immigration route, are trying to cheat the system by attempting to get into Canada claiming that they are refugees or asylum seekers, that they are being persecuted by the governments in the countries from which they originated.

We have found over the last number of years that an inordinately high amount of those claims for asylum are bogus. Time after time, we have seen, particularly in cases where asylum claims have been made from people in the European Union, that those claims are without merit whatsoever.

However, they come at a cost. Under the current system, if one makes a claim for refugee status and wants to come to Canada under the asylum system that we currently have, it takes up to five and sometimes even ten years to go through the lengthy appeal process to revoke one's claim and actually remove those bogus claimants from our country. At what cost? It is estimated that bogus claims last year alone cost the Canadian taxpayer over $170 million. Furthermore, it is anticipated that the costs associated with providing services to those bogus claimants over a five year period would cost over $1.65 billion.

The way the system is now, if one comes to Canada claiming to be a refugee, that individual can start receiving some of those many benefits, which we offer to all of our citizens, within days. If the Immigration and Refugee Board feels that the claim for refugee status is false, the appeal system is so convoluted and so long that it may take up to 10 years to have that claimant's appeal process exhausted. Yet, all during the time that lengthy appeal process continues, those individuals are still able to receive services and benefits from the Canadian government at a cost to the Canadian taxpayer.

What Bill C-31 purports to do is speed up the process so that those who are making false claims get removed from Canada quicker and those who have legitimate claims to refugee status are dealt with quicker and in a more fair fashion.

The type of approach that we are taking in Bill C-31 has been applauded by members of the opposite parties, pundits and those who are involved in the immigration system because they say that it absolutely would do what it intends to do, which is to make our system of asylum and refugee claimants quicker, more responsive and fairer.

We have a system right now where people who claim to be a refugee are dealt with in a similar fashion. In other words, they need to go through an appeal process if they are initially rejected. What we are suggesting in Bill C-31 is that there would be a designation of safe countries. By that we mean that if history has proven that the majority of claimants coming from certain countries are in fact bogus then those appeal processes would be short-tracked to a 45-day period rather than the 5, 6 or 8 year period that we currently have.

That is a major change in the way we deal with refugee and asylum claimants in this country. It also would not only help save Canadian taxpayers' money but assist legitimate refugee claimants. While the appeals courts are now clogged with bogus claimants, there are legitimate refugees waiting to come to Canada who cannot be processed and accepted into our country because the system is jammed.

I think it stands to reason that all members in this place would come on side with Bill C-31. I have heard many contrary views during debate but, quite frankly, I think they are coming from a position of having misinformation, mistruths or are deliberate attempts to try to misconstrue what Bill C-31 purports to do.

Far be it from me to make accusations of any member opposite but I would suggest to all members that they carefully examine Bill C-31 because I believe it would reform the refugee system in a way that would actually benefits those who really need the protection of a government in Canada.

We know throughout the world there are many who are being persecuted right now in their home countries because of either their religious beliefs or political beliefs. Those are the types of individuals who should be allowed to make a claim to come to Canada under refugee status. Unfortunately, however, they are not the only ones who are attempting to get into our country.

Frankly, in the last number of years, over 95% of claimants who came from the European Union have either voluntarily withdrawn their claims or have returned to their country of origin. Why? They were not legitimate claims.

For example, if a country in the European Union is designated as a safe country and someone from the European Union makes an application to come to Canada as a refugee but is rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board, he or she can appeal but the appeal process will take place within 45 days rather than 5 years or 10 years.

That is the type of system Canadian taxpayers want to see enacted here in Canada. We are the first government to come to grips with a problem we currently see on the refugee and asylum system that we inherited from previous governments. We are taking the proper steps to ensure that legitimate refugees will still have opportunities to come to our great country and do so quicker than before but also to ensure that those who are making bogus claims of refugee status are dealt with expeditiously. That is what Canadians want.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat ironic, even ridiculous, that the member opposite is asking us to agree on a bill, when there was a general consensus among all members of the House on Bill C-11. Everyone made compromises and agreed on the matter. Now, the Conservatives have come back with an amalgamation of bills that are condemned by defenders of rights and freedoms in Canada. Canada's international obligations are being violated in this bill.

Among other things, in this senseless amalgamation of bills, Bill C-4 infringes on the rights of refugees, instead of helping them and dealing with smugglers. There is a lot of inconsistency in all this. I do not see where the government's good faith is with regard to amendments that might be presented. It is also turning a deaf ear to expert advice.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, the previous bill, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, was passed unanimously by the House, but as the minister clearly stated at the time, it was a good first step. Refugee reform is not static. It needs to be enhanced and updated at all times.

I would ask the member opposite who said that she feels our government is being unfair, if 95% of claimants from the European Union voluntarily withdrew their claims, what does she say about that? Are those legitimate claimants? Of course not.

It has been well documented for years and years, if not decades, that there have been bogus claimants coming to this country under our generous immigration system. Some of them not only have been bogus, but they have been criminals attempting to get into our country because we have such a generous and, quite frankly, lax immigration system.

This will tighten up the system with the reforms needed. It is not being unfair; it is just the opposite. It is a fair way to deal with immigration systems, and refugee reform is desperately needed.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member is a little off base here. For example, there was a consensus, and even the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism recognized the value of having an advisory committee make recommendations as to what country should be deemed a safe country. Even the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism went out after that legislation passed and said that this is good, that it is better than what we had before.

Now this legislation reinstates what the minister originally had, which he was critical of, saying that the consensus was better than having this advisory committee recommend to the minister what is a safe country.

Does the member not see the value in going back to where there was all-party consensus, and one of the strongest advocates for that consensus was the immigration minister at that time, and reinstate that in Bill C-31? That would go a long way in showing that the government is being open-minded before the bill goes to committee.