Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary reinforces why it is we have a two-tier system. We need to recognize that the people on the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady will be deemed as irregular arrivals once this legislation passes. If we had applied that same principle to what the government wants today, that would have been applied to a ship that came from India, Europe or Vietnam. The government would have classified these individuals as irregulars. The moment they are branded as irregular arrivals, they will be treated differently from other refugees, which goes against the 1951 United Nations convention. That is something that was brought to the government's attention, even in committee.
I want to pick up on the point that Bill C-31 would tarnish Canada's leadership role in the whole area of refugees. For many years, Canada has been a leader when it comes to the development of refugee policies. Countries throughout the world have looked to Canada as a model and to see how they might be able to emulate it.
What became quite apparent at the committee level after listening to presenter after presenter was that this would tarnish our reputation. One of the primary reasons for that was the establishment of the two-tier refugee, better known as the irregular arrival versus the other form of arrival, and the consequences of that. For example, as with the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady, people left their country because they were scared of being tortured or possibly killed, or whatever the reason might have been. They would be victimized once again by being put into a detention centre and then, because they would be labelled as irregulars, even if they were classified shortly thereafter as being bona fide refugees, they would not be able to sponsor their children or their spouse for at least five years, unlike other refugees. To me and everyone else except the Conservative members of the committee that is a two-tier system.
The Conservatives talked a lot about the importance of mandatory detention. I will concede that they did change their minds once we were at the committee stage, and I applaud them on doing that, but we need to look at the reality of it. The current system related to detentions works. Canada Border Services presented at the committee. We already have the ability to do what is proposed in this bill in terms of being able to keep people in detention centres. That aspect of the system is not broken. The government has made that up in order to bring in what it had originally called “the anti-smuggling bill”. That is the one for which the Prime Minister and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism stepped on the back of a ship to give the impression that we were being invaded by refugees. That aspect of the legislation does not need to be fixed. It works and yet the government is prepared to tarnish our reputation in order to have a photo op and create a false impression with Canadians.
As I said, the Conservatives did back down at the committee stage and changed their mind. Now they are saying that there will be a 14 day review, which is great. We support that idea. However, after that it is a long six months. We suggested that, at the very least, there should be some sort of review every 28 days. They call it judicial overview.
We should not have to keep people in detention if there is no need to keep them in detention. However, for some reason the Conservatives believe they should, at a huge cost. I am not just talking about the dollar figure. I am also talking about the social cost of it.
The government likes to think it is about families and yet it wants to lock up parents of children who will be put into foster care facilities. Better yet, the government is saying that people will have a choice, the choice being that they can take their eight-year-old son with them to jail so they can still be together. What kind of a dilemma is that? As a parent, my choice is that I can either take my eight-year-old child with me into a jail or a detention centre or I can have my child separated from me and living in a foster care facility. One does not need to be a psychiatrist to understand that will cause all sorts of social issues going forward after the matter has been resolved.
There is the issue of age. We moved amendment after amendment to try to deal with the recognition that there is a difference between 16 and 18 years of age.
At the end of the day, we believe the minister is now saying that he is the one to decide. Not only can he tell who is a regular or irregular arrival, he wants to be able to say what is a safe country and what is not. One had better not be on that safe country list because it will be a whole lot more difficult. People had better come with a lot of paperwork and have it filed, and know who they will be recruiting to represent them because they will not have very much time to get their case together in order to adequately represent themselves.
How many advocates, groups and individuals, whether they were lawyers or lay people who came before the committee, said that was not enough time? The government is not allowing individuals the opportunity to make and state their cases.
We in the Liberal Party want a process that will not only be fast but we want the other “f” word also: fair. That seems to have escaped the government. It does not seem to recognize the importance of fairness in the system. That has been lost on the minister.
We talked at great lengths in regard to the safe country list. We do not believe for a moment that the minister should have the responsibility of designation. We believe there are people who are much better equipped to determine which country should be deemed a safe country. That is why, in previous legislation, when there was a minority Conservative government, there was a consensus. Even the current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism acknowledged back then that it was good legislation and it made sense.
What did that legislation say? It said that there would be an advisory panel of professionals, of people who had an understanding of human rights and so forth. Those individuals would be the ones to identify those countries around the world that could be deemed as being safe.
We were hopeful that was something on which the government would have been open to amendments. When the government said that it was open to amendments, we went into the committee stage in anticipation that would, in fact, be the case. The government made some amendments that came out of its own party but there was nothing in terms of recognizing the advisory committee, even though all political parties agreed to that previously and it would have improved the legislation.
The Liberal Party put forward numerous amendments. The Green Party picked up on a number of those amendments. We had hoped to give the government a second chance by getting it to support those amendments.
We do not support the bill as a whole because we believe the government has really dropped the ball on this reform package. We recognize the importance of speeding up the process but we also believe that there needs to be fairness, judicial overview and ministerial accountability and that is missing in this bill.