Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act.
Before I get into the bill, I want to give a little background about the riding I represent and the people who make up the wonderful riding of Richmond Hill in Ontario. Richmond Hill is nestled in the heart of the GTA. It is one of the most diverse communities in the country consisting of Canadian citizenships, landed immigrants and people aspiring to become citizenships who come from virtually every nation in the world. In fact, in the greater Toronto area in which I reside, over 150 dialects are spoken on a daily basis. I am very much in touch with the needs of the multicultural community and what it means to come to Canada for a better life for themselves and their families and to take advantage of the opportunities that are available in this wonderful nation in which we live.
I feel compelled to voice in the House what I hear from the people who reside in the great riding of Richmond Hill with respect to Bill C-31. I am hoping that, in the short time that I have, I will be able to properly articulate their views on this legislation since a large percentage of the people who reside in my riding were immigrants to this country at one time or another.
We have heard opposition members state their position. There are a few things that need to be again highlighted to bring the subject into proper focus. I think we all agree in the House and certainly Canadians agree across this nation that Canada has the most fair and generous immigration system in the world. However, Canadians have no tolerance for people who abuse our generosity. It is a responsibility of parliamentarians and certainly the government to take the proper measures to crack down on those who abuse that generosity. Protecting Canada's immigration system act would make our refugee system faster and fairer.
I will provide a plain statistic. Processing an application today of a refugee claimant in our country takes an average of 1,038 days. That would be reduced to 45 days for those who are claiming refuge in Canada from designated countries and 216 days for those from other countries around the world. Imagine someone who is persecuted, whose life is threatened and has been tortured, comes to Canada for a better life and is tied up in a system for 1,038 days while bogus claimants are clogging up the system? Imagine people coming here for a better life and waiting the better part of three years for their application to be decided on before they can start contributing to Canada as a viable new immigrant to this country. The measures in Bill C-31 would ensure that the people who need it the most get into the country a lot faster. That, I submit, is a very compassionate approach to refugee reform.
I applaud the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism for the courage he has shown in spearheading this through. That is what members are hearing in their ridings and it is certainly what I am hearing in my riding, that we need to be compassionate and look after those in need. If we clog them up in the system after they have come to this country and they do not know what is happening or what will happen for the next two and a half to three years, that is not showing compassion.
Unfortunately, human smuggling is a very lucrative business and there are those who engage in that disgraceful act of preying on those in need for financial profit. We need to crack down on those people because, in my opinion, and I believe in the opinion of every member in this House, there is no place in Canada for human smugglers to prosper. We should close every possible loophole we have to eliminate that possibility from happening.
We have a responsibility as a government and that responsibility is predicated upon the fact that Canadians expect us to ensure that those people who are welcomed into our country are properly identified so that we know who is going to walk the streets beside our families, live in our communities and work with us in our place of employment.
This bill would provide for a significant investment in the identification of people and that is the concept of biometrics. Biometrics is a 21st century identification tool that we have heard is very much a positive step for us take. We have heard it from law enforcement agencies across this country, including the RCMP, the CBSA and CSIS.
It makes sense to Canadians and it should make sense to all of us that we know the identity of individuals before we allow them to walk on our soil in, before they walk beside our families, before they work in our communities and before they shop where we shop. We need to know their identity. Biometrics is a method that will help us to more quickly identify people who want to come into our country. It is something that should be applauded by all members in this House. I do not think anyone would want people here who have perpetrated a war crime, who are a security risk in their own country, who have done prison time or who are criminals who came over here on a ship and have thrown their records into the water so they cannot be identified when they arrive.
I cannot imagine any Canadian saying that we should let people into our country without identifying them, that they have said that they are refugees and we should believe them.
It is a responsibility of our government to ensure that we look after the safety and security of Canadians first. It is also our responsibility to ensure that our good nature is not taken advantage of by those who come here claiming they are refugees, take the benefits and then shortly thereafter leave. It is does not make sense. It boggles the mind that 95%, if not more, of applicants from the European Union either abandon, withdraw their claim or the refugee board deems them inappropriate or inadmissible to Canada.
Those people tie up the system and that is at a cost of about $170 million per year to the Canadian taxpayer. I think it is critically important for us to ensure that people who claim to be a refugee or claim that they being persecuted in a European Union country is a legitimate refugee. It is important for all of us to realize that the European Union is a union of 27 democratically elected nations. The first choice that someone who feels they are being persecuted would have would be one of the other 26 countries before they would come to Canada. That would only makes sense. They are democratically elected nations.
In closing, I will t quote what some others have said. In an article in the Edmonton Journal dated February 17, 2012, it states:
Good moves on refugees.
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.
A Toronto Star editorial from February 21, 2012, reads:
...[the Minister of Immigration]'s latest reform plan would reduce the current backlog of 42,000 refugee claims; cut the processing time for asylum seekers from "safe countries" to 45 days...and save money.
Ian Capstick, MediaStyle NDP commentator on CBC's Power and Politics, as early as February 16, 2012, stated, “Obviously there are certain countries like the United States of America, for instance, in which...we should accept no refugees from”.
I would ask all of the members of the House to consider the importance of this legislation and vote for it as quickly as possible for the betterment of Canada.