Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to rise and speak yet again at report stage of Bill C-31.
I want to make it clear that the minister, I and this government from day one have stated that we would consider any reasonable amendments put forward that would be consistent with the goals and the principles of the bill.
I would remind the House that Bill C-31 aims to make Canada's refugee system fairer and faster. It also aims to provide protection to genuine refugees who need to be qualified for assistance much more quickly, while we remove those asylum seekers who are bogus, of criminal background or who come here from a human smuggling perspective.We are after hose human smugglers, and the bill makes it very clear.
To no surprise, the minister, I and my colleagues on committee, who did an amazing job, and this government had a chance to keep our word. After lengthy and in-depth study at committee and after hearing from literally dozens of witnesses, the government did agree to several amendments that would strengthen the bill.
There are two further amendments that we have presented at report stage. As the minister will also explain, as will those who will follow me, both amendments are technical in nature. The first amendment affects clause 26 and simply corrects a French word in one of the amendments passed at committee to ensure it is consistent with the English word used and the French wording used throughout the rest of the legislation.
Clause 26 of Bill C-31 includes the detention of anyone who arrives on Canada's shores as part of a human smuggling event, and for good reason. It is the responsibility of any government to protect the safety and security of its citizens. Smuggled migrants often arrive in Canada with no documentation. At first, it is literally impossible to tell who is who.
Just a couple of days ago, and these are the second charges that have been laid with respect to the irregular arrival of the Ocean Lady and the Sun Sea, the RCMP laid charges against two of the alleged organizers of the MV Sun Sea human smuggling operation who arrived on the boat along with other smuggling migrants. I want to congratulate the RCMP for its hard work on these cases and on the previous charges it laid in relation to the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady.
These vessels included on them criminal human smugglers, the organizers of these dangerous and too often deadly voyages, terrorists and other criminals among others. It is important that all of the individuals who arrived as a party to a human smuggling event are detained until their identities are established and it is determined whether they pose a risk to the safety and security of Canadians.
I am a little shocked that the NDP and the Liberals would vote against these provisions and this amendment. My constituents in the riding of St. Catharines, almost without exception, support the intent and the movement of the bill in terms of what it will do for refugees, what it will do to those who would not be qualified refugees and the whole component of human smuggling. I am certain that if went into the ridings of my colleagues on the other side of the House, we would determine that most of their constituents support the legislation.
It behooves me to say that it would seem to me that when it comes to Bill C-31, the position taken by both the NDP and the Liberal Party is about ideology rather than the safety and security of Canadians.
At committee we put forward amendments that would add reviews when we came to the whole aspect of detention. Those individuals who arrived on these irregular arrivals, as we saw with the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady, would in fact be detained for the purposes of identification, for the purposes of determining whether they are in fact true refugees and for the purposes of determining whether they were criminals in their own country or were the individuals who organized the event of the smuggling.
We have said, and we have made changes within the content of the bill through amendment at committee, that after 14 days, these individuals will have an opportunity for a review of their file. If their file has not been completed within a period of six months after the first initial review, they will have an opportunity for a further review.
We have to keep in mind that under Bill C-31, decisions on refugee claims will take place within a few short months, compared to the current system where the origin application is heard, on average, within a one to two year period of time.
The fact is this legislation does exactly what it is supposed to do. It moves the process up much quicker so a determination is made at a much sooner stage in the process, as soon as 45 days in most circumstances. If that is not the case, within the context of the irregular arrival, the individuals will still have an opportunity to have their hearing after six months. We have solved what many on the other side of the House say we should do.
I want to thank the NDP immigration critic who, as she stated at committee and in the House, which I appreciated, welcomed the move by the government to add detention reviews. She in fact praised the government for its willingness to listen to the witnesses and feedback we received and the fact that we were open to accepting amendments that actually did improve the legislation.
For the record, she was not the only one. Rob Shropshire, interim executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, stated that the amendment to clause 26 and other clauses to add detention reviews was certainly “a good thing.”
It is important to give credit where credit is due. The one thing I have experienced at the citizenship and immigration committee since I have been there is that there is, within the walls of Parliament Hill, the ability to work with each, not necessarily agree but certainly do our best to work together.
Credit where credit is due, the NDP did support every amendment that the government put forward to improve the detention provisions related human smuggling in this bill. I want to thank each of the members of the committee for doing that. Unfortunately, despite supporting the amendments at committee, the NDP will vote against this amendment to improve this new provision and it will still vote against the improved bill.
I find that rather telling about the NDP's position on this bill. The NDP members will vote against this technical amendment to ensure that the wording is consistent through the bill even though they voted for the original amendment at committee.
I suppose after having complimented the NDP members of the committee who supported the amendment, it is rather unfortunate and a reminder that the NDP says one thing to Canadians in front of the news cameras and does another thing in Ottawa. If they want to make Parliament work, then they should be consistent in terms of where they support what has been proposed by the government and acknowledge that throughout the process versus what I believe to be a good start and then a very quick completion.
The second amendment the government has put forward at report stage is also technical. It is needed as a result of an amendment that was adopted at committee stage. The committee adopted an amendment that added a subsection to clause 83, and that amendment was simply not numbered. The amendment adds 83(1). Clause 83(1) pertains to the one-year ban on the pre-removal risk assessment for failed asylum claimants.
These are two technical amendments that the government will support to move the bill forward.