Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have this brief opportunity to discuss Bill C-31 and how it proposes much needed reforms to secure our immigration system.
A number of my colleagues have spoken on this matter and illustrated a number of safeguards Bill C-31 contains to ensure that Canada will take a prudent and balanced approach to protecting the immigration system from abuse. Both the government and opposition parties have noted with pride that Canada has a long tradition of providing protection to those who are in need of it. With Canada accepting 1 out of every 10 refugee claims made in the world, it is very clear that the Canadian system is the most compassionate and generous in the world today. As a government, members on this side of the House have every intention of continuing to build on that great tradition.
Refugees who make honest claims and come to Canada because they truly need protection have nothing to fear. There will always be a place in Canada for them for as long as they need it. Canadians have given us a strong mandate to protect Canada's immigration system. We are acting on that mandate. We are creating a faster and fairer immigration system.
The Globe and Mail editorial board has applauded Bill C-31. Listen to what it had to say:
[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 rights and freedoms....
Fast-tracking refugee claims from these countries, and ensuring failed claimants are promptly deported, is an excellent way to ensure Canada does not become a magnet for abuse. The bill will also implement biometric identification, such as fingerprints and photos, for people who apply for visitor's visas. This welcome change will guard against the use of false identities.
What I would like to see acknowledged by the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party is the fact that the system should have a mechanism in place that allows Canada to deal with refugee claimants who were not honest in their claims and gained permanent residency in our country through fraudulent means. The opposition MPs keep rising in the House and exclaiming that this rule is taking away people's rights. We are committed to preserving the place of people who are legitimately persecuted and make honest refugee claims. Canada will continue to protect these people. Their rights are not in question now and never will be.
The so-called rights in question, the rights that the NDP is trying to defend, must then belong to those who made fraudulent claims. This is patently absurd. It is not a right to defraud the Government of Canada. It is not a right to defraud Canadian taxpayers. It is not a right for refugee claimants to provide false information to the government to gain permanent residency in Canada and with it gain access to Canada's generous system of health and social benefits. The total savings to taxpayers as a result of this bill would be $1.65 billion over five years. If we do not pass this bill, then we will continue to pay up to $170 million per year for bogus EU claimants.
The NDP does not understand this approach and how it will save taxpayers money. Instead, the NDP approach to dealing with someone who manages to sneak by the system, who is able to swindle the system and Canadian taxpayers, is to do nothing. If it is found out that refugee claimants have cheated the system, the NDP wants to reward them by letting them stay in Canada and letting them claim social benefits at the expense of working families for even longer. This is wrong.
We are making sure that fraudulent refugee claimants do not get to benefit from their deception. The comments from NDP members suggest that they are intent on protecting people who cheat the system. The government is trying to close this loophole. Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland has even called the minister a loophole closer. He went on to say:
Finally someone recognized that the open wallet approach of the past, offering free education, free medicare, and a welfare cheque to anyone who touched Canadian soil making a refugee claim was not the right thing to do. So I'm glad to see today that finally, after several years, someone has the political courage to take the political risk of saying, if you're from a European country and you can land in London or Paris or Berlin, fill out paperwork, and legally live there, work there, pay taxes there, you shouldn’t be allowed to make a refugee claim in Canada. Buttress that with this reality check. Over 90 per cent, and in some years 95 per cent, of the target group, the Roma claimants, didn't even show up for their oral hearings. They rode on the taxpayer.
The government has said all along that Bill C-31 would make the immigration system faster and fairer. If members read the bill, they would know that is exactly what we are doing. Just as we are making the immigration system faster and fairer for legitimate refugee claimants who are truly in need of our protection because of persecution in their homeland, we are also making it more efficient to remove those refugee claimants who face no such persecution and those who have managed to cheat the refugee process.
Canadians do not want what the NDP wants, which is to let fraudulent refugee claimants stay in Canada. We must take action to crack down on the abuse of our generous immigration system. Our government is committed to strengthening the integrity of Canada's immigration system.
The protecting Canada's immigration system act would make our refugee system faster and fairer. This bill would put an end 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 for those who are truly in need. Canada has always made a place for those who have needed our protection. I encourage everyone in this House to support this bill.