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House of Commons Hansard #132 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition signed by women and men from western Canada predominantly who are opposed to Conservative Motion No. 312, a thinly veiled attempt to reopen the abortion debate in Canada, a debate that Canadians had decades ago. Canadians are ready to move on.

Many women in Canada are stating their clear opposition and are hoping that not just the government front benches but all benches support a woman's right to choose and that they will look beyond debates that have all ready been dealt with. Women in Canada look forward to achieving true gender equality in Canada.

Canada Broadcasting CorporationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present three petitions. The first petition is from residents of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

The petitioners call upon the government to provide stable and predictable funding for the national public broadcaster, the CBC.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition comes from residents of Vancouver Island.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to move to implement a moratorium that would be legally enforceable along the entire coast of British Columbia, building on the 1972 moratorium against the transit of supertankers bearing oil on the waters and fragile ecosystems along the B.C. coastline.

Bill C-38PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the last petition comes from residents in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

The petitioners call upon the House to completely reject Bill C-38, an omnibus bill containing measures that have no place in a budget bill. They ask that we only be asked to vote on budget measures when an omnibus budget bill is put before us.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions to the House, both of which call for action on climate change.

The petitioners call on Parliament to sign and implement an international agreement replacing the Kyoto protocol and to commit to science-based national carbon and greenhouse gas emissions targets and a national renewable energy policy. They also call on the government to play a role in the green climate fund under the United Nations.

Old Age SecurityPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, many residents of Winnipeg North have asked me to present this petition as a clear message to the Prime Minister of Canada.

The petitioners believe that people should be able to continue to have the option to retire at age 65 and that the government not in any way diminish the importance and value of Canada's three major senior programs: the old age supplement, the guaranteed income supplement and the Canada pension plan.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.

The first petition is from over 125 residents of Trail, Montrose and Fruitvale in my riding.

The petitioners state that Parliament has a solemn duty to reject any law that says some human beings are not human. They call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human by amending section 223 of our Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.

AbortionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by residents of Winnipeg and Regina.

The petitioners call on the House to reject Motion No. 312 based on the fundamental confusion between the medical and biological aspects of what is a human being in the legal and social aspects of personhood.

Meat InspectionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is in support of my Bill C-322.

The petitioners are saying that horsemeat products for human consumption are likely to contain prohibited substances, as are Canadian horsemeat products currently being sold for human consumption in domestic and international markets.

The petitioners, who live in Quebec, are encouraging the House of Commons to adopt my bill, Bill C-322.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

When the House last left this motion, the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley had five minutes for the period for questions and comments.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about the fact that the NDP was opposing this legislation. He said it was because we wanted to let in terrorists and people who would endanger citizens across Canada.

I would like to know if the member is aware of the Balanced Refugee Act, the current legislation that actually captured the people he talked about, those who came off a boat. The current legislation, the Balanced Refugee Act, does allow for irregular refugees, or people who arrive without identification, to be held until security checks and identification have been done.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the Balanced Refugee Act. I think this act would strengthen and enhance that act. It would make sure that Canadians are kept safe.

I think all of us in Parliament, particularly this week, know that there are dangerous people in this world. There are dangerous people in Canada, and we have seen that this week.

It is our job as parliamentarians, as the Government of Canada, to put legislation in place that would keep our seniors, children and all Canadians safe. That is what this legislation would do.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in part, this legislation would establish a two-tier refugee system. This goes against the UN conventions in the 1950s that indicated very clearly that we have an obligation to treat refugees equally. However, the Conservative government has decided to designate some refugees as “irregulars” and then treat them significantly differently.

My question to the member is this: why would the government go against a UN convention resolution that states we should be treating refugees equally here in Canada?

Denying these refugees the opportunity to sponsor family members until they have been in Canada for five years seems to be unfair. It is not the best way to allow for families to be together.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is quite the contrary. We have a refugee system that Canada can be proud of.

We are one of only 20 countries in the world that allow refugees to settle in them. We actually take in 10% of the worldwide refugees and settle them here. This is a refugee system we can be proud of.

We are supporting the United Nations and its tenets on refugee access. However, we want to make sure that we put practices and legislation in place that will keep dangerous criminals out of our country. We also want to ensure that we do not have refugees trying to game the system or jump the queue in our immigration system.

The legislation would protect all Canadians. It would also protect legal and legitimate immigrants coming to Canada against the people trying to game our system and jump the queue.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleague is referring to the terrorists and criminals that might enter Canada.

The only problem is that he clearly has not read former Bill C-11, which already prevents such individuals from entering. How can he justify new legislation to send away terrorists who are not even in Canada because they were already screened out at the gate?

Why pass legislation that simply oppresses people and incarcerates children, but does nothing to deal with terrorists because terrorists do not enter Canada?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canadians across the country know that this government is not going to incarcerate children, and the fact that the member stood in the House and made the accusation that this government would put children into jail is absolutely asinine. He should be ashamed of himself.

This government always stands for Canadian families, for the families of immigrants and for the families of refugees. We will stand up and protect both those children and our own children. By passing this legislation, we are going to make sure that all Canadians are protected so that we do not have illegal refugees coming here and posing a threat to the everyday Canadians in this country.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, they always say that the government does not want to incarcerate children. Unfortunately for my colleague who just spoke before me, UNICEF does not share that opinion. UNICEF has made recommendations urging the Canadian government not to incarcerate children and those recommendations have been ignored by the government. That is the problem. All the witnesses who appeared before the committee, including the government's witnesses, indicated that this was not a good bill, and that they have some reservations about it.

I will share some of the most striking testimony. The Barreau du Québec said:

Accordingly, the Barreau recommends withdrawing Bill C-31 and promoting and improving the application of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act with regard to the [problems raised].

The Barreau du Québec is calling on the government to withdraw this bill. It believes that the bill is ultra vires. Echoing the Barreau du Québec is the Canadian Bar Association, which recommends that Bill C-31 in its current form be withdrawn—not amended, but withdrawn. They say this is not a good bill. That is serious.

The Supreme Court of Canada issued two important rulings in Singh and Charkaoui. In those rulings, the court indicated that, no matter what the government wants, when it incarcerates someone, it must provide that individual with access to justice and ask a judge to rule on the legality of his or her incarceration. That is fundamental.

The Conservatives are not adhering to that; they are dismissing it. They are giving the minister discretionary powers—very significant powers, too much power.

This has been reiterated by UNICEF, an organization that cannot be accused of being made up of crypto-communists or pro-terrorist militants. UNICEF has stated:

...we are concerned that many of the provisions of Bill C-31, as currently framed, are overly broad; provide for sweeping ministerial discretion without judicial accountability or other checks and balances in the system; are unconstitutional under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and violate Canada's international obligations, as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Those comments were made by UNICEF, the organization responsible for defending children's rights around the globe. It issued a series of recommendations aimed at excluding children under the age of 18 from the application of this legislation. I would remind the House that, at present, despite what the government member who spoke before me said, under this bill, children can be incarcerated. Anyone between 16 and 18 can be sent to prison.

Furthermore, we need to understand that these are people who arrive with families. Are parents who are incarcerated going to stand for their three- or four-year-old child being sent who knows where? These people have no guarantee that any children who do not go with them to a detention centre will be treated properly elsewhere. There will be language barriers, cultural differences, and so on.

This means that, at present, children can be and will continue to be incarcerated. UNICEF condemns this. It is calling on the government to guarantee that no one under the age of 18 will be sent to an immigration detention centre. It is pretty simple, yet this government does not seem to understand.

So they really must not have listened to the testimony that was given. Everyone said it: these detention centres do not respect this at all.

People who claim to support the safety of children—and I would like to believe that the members opposite do too—say that children can find themselves in these detention centres with their parents but also with criminals that Canada rightly deports.

So, for a certain period of time, children are being detained with common criminals. They are being detained with people who engage in anti-social behaviour and who have to be deported from Canada. These are not just illegal refugees, but serious criminals. They are being deported because of their anti-social behaviour and they are being given the opportunity to interact with children. That is unacceptable. Many people testified in this regard. Everyone agreed on this point. No one who testified disagreed with this position. Yet the government did not approve this resolution.

There is also the matter of the child's age. Sometimes, when children are between the ages of 16 and 18, it is difficult to determine their exact age. UNICEF proposed a procedure that is in place in every other country. Canada has not implemented it yet.

People asked that the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, Canada's obligations with respect to the status of children, the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms be respected. They made a series of recommendations, which were all presented. Not one of them was approved by the government. Not one. None of the recommendations to protect children and the rights of all Canadians—because they are also our rights—were approved.

Detaining someone without giving him the opportunity to explain his situation before a judge does not just violate the rights of refugees, it also violates the rights of all Canadians. When the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not applied to one Canadian, it is not applied to every Canadian.

It is striking that all of the witnesses said that this is not a good bill. Yet there is a law that could come into effect in June. It is a good law that was unanimously supported by the House and by witnesses. It respects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our international obligations, and it enhances our global reputation. But no. The Conservatives are replacing it with—and I am sorry to have to say it—a bill that is complete garbage.

This legislation gives a minister powers that should never be given to a single man. These include discretionary powers to determine what constitutes a safe country, an irregular arrival and the definition of a child.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for letting me know that I have just two minutes left.

The experts have spoken. They have said that this is at odds with the charter. It is not hard to understand. Two Supreme Court rulings have made it clear that the government does not have the right to do this, yet it is going ahead. It is truly a tragedy that we are wasting our time on legislation that, as soon as it is enacted, will be dragged into court on the basis of the charter and the case law. The Supreme Court justices have already ruled on these issues, and they have said no.

Constantly ignoring good advice suggests some level of ill will. According to the experts, we have a law that protects us.

There is already a law that prevents criminal and terrorist elements from entering Canada. All of those who are unacceptable or bad for Canadian society already get weeded out. They do not get into Canada. That bears repeating. The government likes to scare people into thinking that bad guys are coming to Canada to kill and rape. The Conservatives like using those words, but their assertions have no basis in reality.

The truth is that, when irregular arrivals by boat land in British Columbia, government officials sort through them to identify common criminals and war criminals. Those people do not get into Canada.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, it is obvious that the hon. NDP member is very ill-informed about Bill C-31.

For example, he said that the bill will result in the incarceration of minors and children, which is not true. The bill includes a clear provision that exempts minors who are designated as irregular arrivals—smuggled human cargo—from detention.

I must point out that there is a huge difference between the incarceration that he spoke about and the detention of immigrants. Incarceration suggests imprisonment. However, no immigrant is imprisoned in immigration detention centres. All immigrants are free to leave Canada at any time. It is not imprisonment.

Living conditions at detention centres are like those at a two star hotel with a bit of security. What we have heard is nothing but rhetoric.

In addition, he said that the government had not accepted any amendments, which is not true. For example, the committee adopted a provision that will allow a review of the detention by the IRB after 14 days of detention, and after six months of detention in the case of immigrants who were smuggled into the country. Is he not aware of these amendments?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only am I aware of them, but I know the difference between a prison and a two star hotel.

Being incarcerated in dormitories and not having the right to go outside without one's feet and wrists in chains is not equivalent to living in a two star hotel. I feel sorry for him if that is the kind of two star hotel found in his riding.

How can I express how out of touch with reality he is? People should go and look at these prisons and speak to the people who provide services to those who are incarcerated. To be locked in a building surrounded by barbed wire, monitored by armed guards and not have the right to leave, that is tantamount to being in prison. That is a prison.

According to the minister, the people in the detention centres can leave whenever they want to. They are free to go if they want to leave Canada and be killed in their home countries. Is that the alternative? That is really very generous of the government.

I invite him to reread the Charkaoui case. That was the situation he found himself in. He was free to go when he wanted to, if he returned to Morocco. However, he did not want to return there and chose to live in safety in Canada. The Supreme Court justices sided with him.

Really, he should reread it.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will give a hypothetical example that could reflect reality. If a single mother escapes from a country like South Africa, with a child of eight or nine years old and arrives in Canada, this minister would say that the parent is an irregular arrival. That would mean she would have to go into a detention centre. Once in a detention centre, the mother would have to make a decision whether to have her child put into some form of foster care and let the government take control of the child or to have the child stay with her in the detention centre.

What type of decision does the member believe a parent has in that sort of scenario?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is the main reason why children currently end up in a detention centre or prison.

Parents are worried. They do not know where the child will go. They do not know the quality of the services that will be provided. Right now, young children end up in a detention centre because these services are not provided, and this can last for a period of several months. That is the problem.

It is even more serious than that. The minister has the exclusive authority to decide whether this person was an irregular arrival, and whether they come from a safe country. Is Israel a safe country for a Palestinian? Is South Africa a safe country for a man with black or white skin? Is Brazil a safe country for someone who lives in an aboriginal community? That is up to the minister—and the minister alone—to decide. He is not accountable to anyone.