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 Echoing the Barreau du Québec is the Canadian Bar Association, which recommends that Bill C-31 in its current form be withdrawn—not amended, but withdrawn.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.