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House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe very firmly that parents have the responsibility for their children and what they can publicly view.

Today, I have a group of school children from my riding from Osler school, an elementary school, here visiting Parliament. To hear that they might be exposed in a children's museum, the science and technology museum--

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order please.

This is not a matter of debate. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has pointed out that the member for Vancouver South made a particular heckle during a question. If the member for Vancouver South wishes to address that she may, or she may leave it up to me to deal with.

Does the hon. member for Vancouver South wish to reply to the point of order?

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will leave it up to your good auspices to determine.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are limits.

First of all, it is not a children's museum, it is the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa. Second, people here have the right to ask questions. Challenging that right because someone does not have children is unacceptable. The member should apologize immediately.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to apologize for my words to the member opposite.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the hon. member for Vancouver South dealing with that.

The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, this is on a different point of order. This morning between 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., during questions and comments on the pooled pension plan debate, I started off my speech with, not a direct insult but an inferred one, to my colleague, the member forBurlington. Whether I agree with him or not is irrelevant. He did not deserve the inferred insult that I put out there.

I would like to apologize to him and to the House for that.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment on a point of order.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am just responding to previous comments made in the House. As a female member of Parliament, I think it is important for all of us to respect appropriate language when it comes to gender in the House. I think that all parliamentarians in the House share that view, and I hope that we all work together, both sides of the House, in doing that in the future.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, on another point of order, the Minister of Canadian Heritage suggested in answer to one of the questions today that I had not visited the Museum of Science and Technology and had not seen the exhibit. I just wanted to clarify that I had and invite him to withdraw his comments.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not my practice to raise these particular points. Today seems to be a particularly difficult day in the House, as you observed.

On two occasions members of Parliament, from the Conservatives and the Liberals, accused other members of being stupid and ignorant. Clearly, in our orders around this place, in order to have some sort of civility in approach to debate, using such terms to refer to another hon. member of the House, whichever direction it is guided toward, is beneath contempt for a member of Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, you heard the comments clearly. It is in your guidance to suggest that members do not use this language when referring to another member of the House. It is very difficult, near impossible, to imagine the situation improving when members accuse others of being stupid and ignorant. I hope that you will rule on this.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I firmly share my colleague's belief that we should have decorum in the House of Commons, given that we all have responsibilities as parliamentarians to take debate seriously. I also hope that my colleague opposite would encourage some of his members who use demeaning comments like Muskoka minister et cetera in their comments, and share that with caucus. We will do the same.

DecorumPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

I would agree with the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley that calling another member stupid would be unparliamentary. The phrase I heard was referring to the comments made by the member and criticizing the statements he made. That is as I heard it. I would not want to comment on not being able to find more appropriate words to make a point. Certainly, members might want to use their own judgment when it comes to the elevation of their debate. I certainly cannot find that referring to a member's comments and criticizing the comments in that way would fall into the same category as making a personal attack and making a personal characterization. That is as I heard it today.

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley may wish to pose the Thursday question, unless he has other points to make.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the government.

We have now seen the government shut down debate in this House 20 times. Secretive committees in the legislature are becoming the norm. A 425 page omnibus Trojan Horse bill gutting the environment, taking $12,000 out of the pockets of seniors and fundamentally changing how employment insurance works in this country without any consultation or mandate from Canadians is just the most recent and egregious example of their undermining of our democratic values and institution.

In addition to the schedule for the week following the constituency week, my request for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is this. Do the government members have any concerns whatsoever about how their constant and steady erosion of democratic values in this place undermines all our work, both theirs and ours?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, first, arising out of questions of decorum, I am a believer that anything we do to elevate decorum here is a positive thing. I encourage him. For example, one of his members today, in a question, referred to a minister as being responsible for the department of propaganda. That is an example of what we consider to be the inappropriate kind of thing we hear from the opposition all the time.

We are very interested in seeing this Parliament function and making decisions. We have been happy to see that happening on the budget, with the longest ever debate on a budget bill probably in Canadian history. We were happy to facilitate that through the rules. We will continue to ensure that we have broad and thorough debate here, but that we also make decisions so we avoid going down the path that others would like to go, to see us go down the path that we see Greece going down and places like the United States, where they have not had a vote in the senate on a budget bill since April 29, 2009. We do not want to have that kind of indecision and crippling of our economy. However, we are moving forward.

The government's top priority is the economy. On Monday night, as scheduled weeks ago, the House passed Bill C-38, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, at second reading, bringing us one step closer to balancing the budget and assuring the responsible development of our resources.

The bill, which implements economic action plan 2012, is now with the Standing Committee on Finance and a subcommittee for detailed study by those two bodies.

As a result of the extensive debate we ensured for this bill, even the deputy leader of the NDP described it yesterday in the House as “being studied more than any other budget bill.”

Just so my friend understood this clearly, it was his own deputy leader who described the bill in the House yesterday as having been “studied more than any other budget bill”. That demonstrates our commitment to full debate in this House.

This afternoon, we will continue report stage for Bill C-31, the protecting Canada's immigration system act. This bill needs to become law before the end of June, so we will resume debate on the immigration bill on Tuesday, May 29, after the House returns from its upcoming constituency week.

Tomorrow the House will have an opposition day when we will debate an NDP motion.

On Monday, May 28, the House will have third reading of Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act which would help our creative and digital economy. After years of thorough study and debate in this chamber, the members of the other place will finally have a chance to consider this important economic legislation.

May 30 shall be the fifth allotted day, which I believe will see a Liberal motion debated. Finally, May 31 shall be the sixth allotted day, which will go to the New Democrats.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There were three minutes remaining before question period for questions and comments following the speech by the hon. member for Saint-Lambert.

Resuming debate, the hon. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to continue the debate on Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act.

Canada and the government are proud of our tradition of being a country of openness to newcomers and a place of protection for refugees. Indeed, since the government came into office in 2006 we have maintained the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history, admitting on average over 250,000 new permanent residents each year, and maintaining the world's strongest tradition of refugee protection.

We are increasing by some 20% the number of resettled refugees that we accept, increasing the integration support that they receive, so that Canada will receive the highest per capita number of resettled refugees in the world. Of course, we also have a generous refugee asylum determination system to ensure that foreigners who come to Canada who have a well-founded fear of persecution are not returned to face danger.

However, this bill is a necessary part of our efforts to protect the openness and generosity of our immigration and refugee protection systems against those who would seek to abuse Canada's generosity, more specifically, through commercial and dangerous human smuggling operations, fake asylum claims, large numbers of which are in our asylum system, and other efforts to subvert the integrity of our immigration system and the consistent application of its fair rules.

I would like to commend the members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on their diligent work and their many hours of hearings on Bill C-31. They heard from dozens of witnesses and diligently considered amendments to the bill.

The members who were in the House in the previous Parliament will remember that we passed Bill C-11, which set out a balanced refugee system. They will also remember that, at that time, the government and the opposition agreed to make certain amendments to the bill to ensure that it was balanced or, in other words, to make sure that the system was quick, effective and fair. At that time, we were happy with the results of that legislative effort.

However, since June 2010, there has been a huge increase in bogus refugee claims in Canada, particularly by EU nationals.

Indeed, last year, we received close to 6,000 refugee claims from EU nationals, which is more than the number of claims we receive from Africa or Asia. Almost none of these European refugee claimants attend their hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board, and according to our fair and legal system, almost none of them are legitimate refugees.

That is one of the reasons why we need to strengthen the integrity of our system to really discourage bogus refugee claimants from coming to Canada and abusing our country's generosity. Processing these fake claims costs Canadian taxpayers approximately $50,000. These are the objectives of Bill C-31.

Further to the statements made by members of Parliament, including opposition members, and by some witnesses who appeared before the parliamentary committee, the government considered any reasonable amendments to create a better bill that meets its objectives of combatting human smuggling more effectively, preventing bogus refugee claims and strengthening the security of our system.

Let me review briefly some of the amendments that were adopted at committee.

First, one such amendment relates to clause 19. Clause 19 provides for the automatic loss of permanent resident status if an individual loses protected person status as a result of cessation.

Cessation means that the Immigration and Refugee Board, I emphasize the IRB, not the minister, can take away someone's refugee status if it is proven that the person no longer needs protection. It has always been in IRPA, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, since it became law in 2002.

Since we introduced Bill C-31, we have heard concerns that an improvement of the conditions in someone's country of origin could result in the automatic loss of an individual's permanent resident status by a decision of the IRB, regardless of how long they have been a permanent resident in Canada.

Some have worried that Canada was moving toward a conditional permanent residence situation for refugees, which I should point out is not unusual in other democratic countries. The United Kingdom and Germany, for example, do not grant immediate permanent residency for protected people. However, this was never the intention of the bill.

To clarify our intentions, we moved an amendment at committee that one automatic cessation ground be removed from clause 19. The cessation ground we are removing reads as follows:

the reasons for which the person sought refugee status have ceased to exist.

The effect of this amendment is that cessation for these reasons, such as a change in country conditions, would not result in automatic loss of permanent residency. This would ensure that permanent resident status is lost automatically only when the cessation decision of the IRB is the result of the individual's own actions.

For example, if people come to Canada, make an asylum claim that is accepted by the IRB, but shortly after receiving such status, they return to live in the country of origin, which they allegedly fled due to fear of persecution, we would reserve the right under IRPA to go before the IRB to say that it appears they never needed our protection because they have immediately re-availed themselves of their country of origin. Therefore we could commence proceedings of the IRB to seek an order to cease their protected person status and revoke their permanent residency, but that would only be if they have done something to demonstrate essentially that they defrauded our asylum system.

The government also moved an amendment that relates to pre-removal risk assessments, also known as PRRAs. When failed refugee claimants are given removal orders from Canada, they can under certain conditions apply for a PRRA, which would trigger a review to make certain that the failed claimants are not being removed into situations where they might face a risk of persecution, torture, cruel and unusual punishment or loss of life.

In its original form, Bill C-31 called for a one-year ban for failed refugee claimants, including those from countries that generally do not produce refugees, which I might add, is a phrase used by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

This measure was intended to simplify the refugee system, eliminate duplication and expedite the removal of failed refugee claimants. The government proposed an amendment that extended this ban to three years for failed refugee claimants from countries that generally do not produce refugees.

The extension of the bar for these claimants is aimed at addressing existing process vulnerabilities that lead to misuse by those who are not in need of protection. It would facilitate the removals of those individuals not in need of Canada's protection, without the requirement to conduct a redundant second risk assessment.

Since the extension of the bar on PRRA would apply only to failed claimants from countries known to not normally produce refugees and generally considered safe, which countries, by the way, based on our proposed guidelines, would see at least three-quarters of asylum claims being rejected, abandoned or withdrawn, there is already a minimal likelihood of returning someone to a situation of risk.

It should also be noted that each eligible claimant would have received a hearing on the merits of his or her case before an independent decision-maker at the quasi-judicial IRB, which decision-maker would have rejected the claim and found no risk in returning the claimant.

In addition, the legislation would provide the minister with the ability to exempt someone from the bar on PRRA, either the one-year bar for most failed claimants or the three-year bar on PRRA for failed claimants from designated countries. That is to say, for example, that if there were to be a major event, say, a coup d'état or civil war in a country, the minister could exempt failed claimants from that country from the PRRA bar, allowing them to in fact apply for and receive a second risk assessment. It is also important to note that this amendment does not preclude a failed refugee claimant from continuing to seek leave to the Federal Court for judicial review of a negative decision of the refugee protection division of the IRB.

Some of the measures in Bill C-31 that received the most feedback from parliamentarians and members of the public were those that concerned the mandatory detention of foreign nationals who arrive in Canada as part of a designated irregular arrival, which effectively would be a large-scale human smuggling voyage. These measures, of course, were part of the section of the bill designed to deal with human smuggling.

This amendment would allow for a detention review by the immigration division of the IRB on the detention of a smuggled migrant in a designated arrival initially at 14 days prior to the detention and then subsequently at 6 months, rather than the 12 months that had originally been proposed in the bill.

I would like to once again thank all the members for their important work in committee. I am eager for all the amendments to be accepted here in the House.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we have stated earlier, this piece of legislation actually creates in Canada, for the first time, two tiers of refugees and asylum seekers. One of the areas that still puzzles me, which is something New Democrats asked for in committee and were told it would be in regulations, is that when we vote on this legislation there are no criteria used to stipulate how an irregular arrival would be designated. That is the first part of my question.

The second part of the question is on the fact that this bill would actually deprive those who are labelled irregular arrivals from applying for permanent residence and, therefore, reunification with their families for five years. That includes children. Why is the government, time and time again, blocking family reunification?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have to point out that the official opposition, which on immigration matters is led by the member opposite, has proposed to delete every section of the bill, demonstrating, I submit, that it does not even pretend to take seriously the problems of human smuggling and the large numbers of fake asylum claims that are massively burdening our system, which must be addressed.

Canadians expect Parliament to act to deter human smugglers from targeting this country and treating it like a doormat. The single most important provision in the bill to deter human smugglers is the five-year bar on permanent residency for smuggled migrants who get a positive protection decision at the IRB.

I beg the member to understand the rationale. There is a black market for human smugglers. As long as people are willing to pay a certain price, there will be smugglers willing to bring them to Canada through this dangerous means of smuggling. We must change the business model. We must change the economics of the smuggling syndicates.

The only way we can effectively do that is to convey to potential smuggling clients that they will not be able to bring to Canada several members of their family who will help them to pay off their debt to the smuggling syndicate. That is why we proposed a five-year bar, so that those potential clients will not commit to paying $45,000 or $50,000 to these large and sophisticated syndicates.

This is the only and most effective provision to really seriously suppress the market for the clients of smuggling syndicates wanting to come to Canada.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question will be fairly specific. It is in regard to the minister's ability to indicate to a grouping of two or more that those individuals would be deemed an irregular arrival.

By that designation, they would be subjected to detention. They would have to try to prove their identity within fourteen days and, if they did not do that, then they would be in mandatory detention for at least another six months. I acknowledge that the government did give some leeway on the one-year mandatory detention, and that is a good thing. Obviously it did not go far enough.

Surely to goodness the minister realizes he is going to divide a parent from a child in some situations. In the long run that is not healthy for both parent and child. The long-term cost of doing that could be great, not only socially but economically.

How would the minister respond to that, which is a concern that was raised on numerous occasions in the committee?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the opposition misses the entire point.

The whole point is that parents should not be packing children onto a rusty boat that has been commandeered by a bunch of criminals to drag them across the Pacific Ocean at extreme risk in a smuggling operation, when we know that smuggling operations result in the death of thousands of people around the world every year.

The whole point is to send a message to such clients that they should not sign on the dotted line with the smuggling syndicate. If they want to come to Canada, they should make an application for immigration and come like everyone else. They should not come illegally. They should not come through the dangerous profiteering of a smuggling syndicate.

That is exactly the message that this bill seeks to send. I hope it is received for precisely that reason. If people are in a region of the world where they need refugee protection, they should go within their region to seek protection from the UN or another country. They should not pass through three transit countries and then bypass forty others in order to come to Canada in the most dangerous and illegal way possible.

Yes, this is designed to crack down on the clients of human smuggling, and that is the point of the bill. We have not heard a single alternative from the opposition about how to effectively do that.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on this bill really on behalf of my riding of Parkdale—High Park, an urban riding in the west end of Toronto and home to communities that have come together from many different countries. There are people who came, like my grandparents, from the U.K. There are people who have come from Asia, from Africa, from the U.S., from Europe, from all over, in waves of different immigrants.

Some, like my family, came with not much more than their ability to work hard and their desire to make a better life for themselves and their families. People who were able to immigrate to this great country have seen their families go on to make a contribution that was beyond their imagination at that time.

We see others who have come under real duress, people who have come as refugees generations ago and more recently. For example, in my riding of Parkdale—High Park we have the largest Tibetan community in Canada. These are people who sought refuge, sometimes decades ago, from the Tibetan region of China and who had been living in the refugee areas in Nepal or India. We have people who came from Africa and from all parts of the world.

Some of the stories they tell are harrowing. The stories are of people who are trying to escape from extreme conditions, from a lack of political or religious rights and sometimes from very harrowing physical conditions.

My community also happens to be home to many new refugees from the Roma community. We have a large Roma community in our area. I have met many members of the community. I have heard many stories, and I want to express the great concern that not just that community but others in our city and across the country have expressed about these changes that are being proposed and brought before the House.

Certainly there is concern that the bill takes an approach of punishing refugees rather than of looking to assist them and help them in their hour of greatest need and that the issue of human smuggling can already be adequately dealt with under existing legislation.

We have heard from many who have said that this same party, while in a minority government, just passed a balanced refugee reform bill last year. It has just been passed, it has not even been fully implemented, and now the compromise that was worked out with all parties and passed by the House is going to be thrown out in favour of the provisions in this legislation. Once again the government, as it is wont to do now that it has a majority, is ramming this legislation through in a way that is especially troubling for those who perhaps do not share the perspective of the government and really want to have a very full airing of the provisions in the bill.

I have also heard great concern about the fact that the bill would concentrate power in the hands of the minister in terms of being able to treat refugees differently based on how they come to Canada. There is concern about what that means in terms of equality before the law.

The minister and I have attended many different community events together in our area, and I know that he tries to get to know newcomer communities well. They appreciate that, but I do not know how well he knows the Roma community. I have heard him say a lot about it, but I will read a letter from one member of the community who is now a landed immigrant in Canada.

He says:

My name is Robi Botos. I'm a Roma musician and composer. I came to Canada in 1998 from Budapest, Hungary. I saw the growing persecution and racism in the 90s. With the support of the Canadian music scene, fans and friends I was able to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Hungary did not become a safer country since I left. In fact, it became much worse. Today, if you are a Roma living in Hungary, your life is clearly in danger from the growing fascist movement. There are many evidences of that. All you need to do is, just go on the internet and see for yourself.

I have done more than that. I have talked to many community members in our area.

He goes on:

I fell in love with Canada, because I saw that people don't discriminate against me, and they support me for who I am.

I won two of the biggest piano competitions in the world as a Canadian Roma artist. I got many awards as a Canadian Roma musician, including the National Jazz Award, and recent Juno nominations. They announce me as a Canadian national treasure. I shared the stage with my biggest hero, the great Canadian legend Oscar Peterson.

I say this, because just a few years back, I was at the edge of being deported, and if Bill C-31 would have been in effect, and I had to go back to Hungary, my son could've been the boy who they shot 18 times because he was a Roma.

I did not come to Canada to take advantage of the Canadian Welfare system, or be a criminal! Like most Roma refugees I sold everything I ever had to be able to buy air plane tickets, knowing I'll lose it all if I have to go back. I came here with no English skills, and no guarantees.

I'm deeply disappointed about the Canadian Immigration discriminating against Roma refugees, by referring to them as “bogus refugees” and that they're even considering calling Hungary a safe country for the Roma people. That's not the Canadian way. They should at least research first!

I dream, that the Canadian Immigration will act Canadian by protecting Roma refugees and not threaten them, by sending them back where their life is in great danger.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of my people.

I am concerned first of all that here in Canada there have been comments made about the Roma community that impugn their reputation. I have met many people face to face, know them, hear their stories and know of the contribution they make to our community. I know about the insecurity and fear they feel about losing the opportunity to be here in safety and going back to persecution.

I am concerned that our government made changes to the immigration and refugee legislation just a year ago and today is throwing those changes out and introducing changes that would create two tiers of refugees and deny people who are seeking safety here the opportunity to remain in Canada.

I have done a lot of work with organizations such as the Canadian Council for Refugees, which is calling for this bill to be completely scrapped. The Canadian Bar Association is concerned that it violates charter protections against arbitrary detention. The Civil Liberties Association has also been very critical and is calling the measures contemplated “draconian”.

I am speaking out on behalf of people I have seen face to face, families who come here with very little and who have had terrible experiences of discrimination and, in some cases, violence. They see Canada as a refuge. I would hate to think that with our reputation for human rights and for respecting international agreements around the world, we would somehow turn our backs on people in their hour of need.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for participating in the debate. I think she is misinformed in a number of respects, one of which is the suggestion that Roma asylum claimants are not being fairly considered by our refugee system. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Under the current system and the system proposed by Bill C-38, claimants from whatever country of origin, ethnicity or cultural or racial background will all have the same access to the same fair and independent quasi-judicial process on the merits of their claim before an independent decision-maker of the quasi-judicial IRB in a manner that is consistent with natural justice and due process and that exceeds the requirements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the 1951 refugee convention.

The member raises the notion that somehow there is a negative prejudice associated with asylum claims from European Roma. I have certainly done nothing to suggest such a negative prejudice. However, what I have done is comment on the objective mathematical fact that since we granted visa exemptions for several European countries in 2007 and 2008, some 95% of the European asylum claimants have not shown up for their own refugee hearing at the IRB and have abandoned or withdrawn their own claims. Of the tiny fraction that went to adjudication, only a tiny fraction of those were deemed to actually be well-founded asylum claims.

Is the member not concerned to see such a large wave of demonstrably unfounded asylum claimants in our system, not based on my opinion but on the actions of the claimants themselves?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to ask the minister this: why is it that a year ago more than 100 Roma refugees from Hungary or from the Czech Republic would have been be accepted here as refugees, and now, under this legislation, if these countries are designated as safe countries, these refugees would not be accepted? A year ago they would have been refugees, but under this safe country designation, they would no longer be refugees. What has changed?

From what I hear from the Roma community, conditions are worse, not better. Therefore, why would we allow them to be put at risk?