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House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make it very clear that we supported a couple of amendments that were brought forward by the government side because they mitigated the extensive damage that we see in the bill.

One of them was an unintended consequence, as the minister said. I felt good that once he realized there was an unintended consequence whereby people could be deported after many years of living in Canada because the country they had fled from would become considered safe, the government side actually addressed that unintended consequence. I acknowledge that there was some movement.

However, I want to get back to the detention issue. I absolutely cannot, as a mother, a parliamentarian and a teacher, stand here and say that being kept in detention would be okay and would not have a devastating impact on young children, no matter whether they were 3 or 9 or 16 or 17 years old.

Once again, these are the reasons we are so adamant that the bill goes way beyond. It is not only we who see the bill as draconian; expert witnesses agree. It is actually a “punishing refugees bill”, because there is nothing more in it that would punish smugglers than there already is in Bill C-11.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech.

We were obviously together on the same committee and we heard the testimonies regarding similar legislation that was passed in Australia and regarding its proven ineffectiveness.

Furthermore, in November 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of two Sri Lankan refugees, who said that the laws prohibiting them from appealing to the Australian courts were unfair. The same thing could happen in Canada if this bill is passed.

Could my colleague speak to that?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint-Lambert for working tirelessly on this bill. Since we finished the committee stage, she has been doing stellar work in her community and in other areas because this is a topic she feels very passionate about and is very concerned that the compassionate face of Canada is being changed so dramatically.

As I said earlier, arbitrary detention is a violation and I am absolutely convinced that there will be legal challenges.

I also want to talk about learning from the mistakes made by others. When we looked at the omnibus crime bill motion, the United States was telling us over and over again that mandatory detentions did not work in the United States but we still passed a bill that is basically a prison building agenda.

Now we are dealing with the world's most vulnerable people. When they land on our shores, they could be identified as legitimate asylum seekers but they will be incarcerated in provincial jails.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her response.

I would also like her to expand a bit on an issue she touched on in her speech, the psychological impact of detention, both on adults and children.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my previous life I often had the privilege of working with children who had come from camps in which there were terrible circumstances and I saw the kind of psychologically damage that has on young people. What we are talking about here are families or parts of families arriving on our shores from some very devastating situations. What we will be telling them is that we will keep them in prison for up to a year. We need to think about the psychological impact that will have on people who are looking for a place to provide them with a safe haven and the first thing they will face is prison. Even after their identity has been made and Canadian authorities know they are not terrorist threats, they and their children will still be kept in prison.

We need to look at the social impact of this, the health care costs and the long-term social costs that we will pay well into the future. The cost of incarceration, as we all know, is going up every year. The last time I looked there was a shortage of prison cells in some provinces.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the designated safe country issue. The member continues to say that the only place in the world that a designated safe country will exist in its refugee legislation is Canada. The United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, just to state a few, are countries that have implemented designated safe country status. We have moved it from outside of the bill, in terms of where it was before in regulation, into legislation. It is a two-step process, one that will require additional departmental officials to determine the outcomes as to how and when a country will be designated.

Why in the world would she and her party not support legislation that designates safe countries? They are happening and have happened all over the world. We are simply catching up.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP did support the designation of safe countries in Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, because at that time there was an independent panel of experts making the decision.

I want to put it on the record that there are countries the government could designate as safe, Hungary being one, and yet the government accepted over 160 refugees from there and we know that both the Jews and the Roma communities are being targeted in Hungary right now.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

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

The latest version of this bill is a slight improvement over the original thanks to some amendments. I would like to thank the government for that, but the fact is that many experts strongly criticized the bill, leaving the Conservatives little choice but to make amendments. Even though the amendments improved the bill, it is still problematic in many respects.

One of the many problems with Bill C-31 is that it will create two classes of refugees: those arriving through regular channels and those arriving through irregular channels. This classification will have serious consequences because individuals will not be treated the same way. According to the Barreau du Québec, this measure is “possibly discriminatory, illegal and contrary to Canada's international commitments”.

There is a real danger that people will be deported to countries where their lives are in danger. This two-tier system will actually increase the risk of error. Yet Canada is bound to protect the right to life, liberty and security of every person in this country, including so-called illegal refugees.

For example, if one person comes from another country by sea and another person comes by air, they can be treated differently. We feel that such a situation is not really acceptable.

Another major shortcoming of this bill that was not amended is the fact that it gives the Minister of Immigration additional powers for no good reason. Under Bill C-31, the Minister of Immigration will decide which individuals qualify as regular arrivals and which as irregular. That puts too much power in the minister's hands. Not only does this bill create a two-tier system, it also politicizes it. This part of the bill has been strongly criticized by many experts, including the Barreau du Québec.

The system was working fairly well, but now the Conservatives are trying to exert even more control over it. We must not oppose the politicization of the immigration system just because the Conservatives are the ones in power. No party or politician should have such powers. There is no reason for it, and the Liberal Party has been clear on that.

If for example, a group of individuals arrive from a country that we have good relations with, but the circumstances are such that the safety of the group is indeed compromised, what will the minister do? He might base his decision on the current state of relations with that country instead of basing it on an objective opinion, as some have pointed out in the past and in committee. Will the minister declare these people as irregular arrivals in order to preserve good relations with their country of origin? If we do not have good relations, a different decision might be made that might not suit the people involved. Will the minister acknowledge the threats against them and declare the arrival regular? Why politicize the matter? It is a bad decision regardless of the minister's intentions.

What is more, the initial bill prevented illegal refugees from being heard before the end of a 12-month mandatory detention. The bill has since been amended to allow refugees to be heard within 14 days, then heard again after six months. Why wait six months? The Liberal Party is wondering why the government would not allow refugees to be heard again every month. We proposed 28 days. I think the government should implement an even more flexible system because, once the identity of the people is known and we know that they are good people and true refugees, why should they have to stay in detention and incur costs for the system and the government?

There is still a two-tiered system at play. The Conservatives should at least withdraw the unreasonable, arbitrary six-month review period.

The safe countries designation also poses a problem since, once again, the minister has the power to decide which countries are safe and which are not. Again, by politicizing the immigration process, we will have to choose between our relations with other countries and protection for refugees. The unfortunate refugees from so-called safe countries will have to go through a much more complicated process and might be sent back to their country of origin for political reasons. That is unacceptable and certainly unjustifiable.

The Conservatives must leave it to the experts to decide which countries are safe and which are not, while reviewing the files case by case. It is not up to the minister to decide. The parliamentary secretary will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the bill does not contain a list. We do not know which countries will be safe and we do not know the criteria for designating them.

Mandatory detention for so-called irregular arrivals is highly problematic, especially when it comes to children. Once again, a number of experts opposed this measure and challenged the legality of this bill. Indeed, Bill C-31 will subject 16- and 17-year-old children to mandatory detention if they are considered irregular arrivals. We know the Conservatives like to beleaguer our children, but why not exclude children from mandatory detention? They are too young to have decided to immigrate to Canada; it would have been their parents' choice. Why punish these particular children? This measure smacks of Conservative ideology, which makes no distinction between adults and children. The Conservatives would always rather punish than prevent.

The question of children aged 15 and under also poses a problem. Two choices are being proposed regarding their fate: either they are separated from their parents and sent to another institution while their parents are detained, or they are detained with their parents. Neither option is acceptable, in my view. If the arrivals present no danger to Canada or Canadians, there should be no mandatory detention, and this is especially true when children are involved. Several experts confirmed that the psychological effect on children in both cases would be devastating. This measure will likely be challenged before the courts, and I doubt it is even constitutional. In short, this bill represents another step backward for Canada.

Furthermore, the people who are deported after their application is rejected will not be able to apply for permanent resident status in the following five years. When that is added to mandatory detention, a person might have to wait more than six years to immigrate, sometimes just because of a purely political—crassly political—decision. This measure is not necessary and, I repeat, it is arbitrary. Are there studies that prove this approach should be adopted? Our immigration system is working rather well, so why change all of it?

We have spoken at length about this bill, but one question remains: what is its true objective? The government says that it wants to give priority to regular refugees. And yet irregular refugees will be subject to mandatory detention whether or not they pose a risk to Canada. These two categories of refugees are dealt with in the same manner.

Of course, Canadian taxpayers will foot the bill for detention, even though it is pointless. We have become used to the Conservatives wasting public money on incarcerating people while cutting services to the public. What is most contradictory about this bill is that the government wants to incarcerate more people in order to prevent delays in processing so-called regular refugees.

However, we all know that detaining these people will cost Canadian taxpayers a lot of money. Why not just spend the money on hiring more staff to process the applications? It would be a little more efficient and perhaps would allow these refugees, who have probably filed legitimate applications, to start anew. The Conservatives' logic does not stand up. In the interest of fairness and cost savings, detention should not be mandatory.

The Conservative government says that it also wants this bill to serve as a deterrent to illegal immigration. Yet, the Conservatives are targeting the refugees and not the smugglers. Why have the conservatives chosen to attack such an easy target—the refugees? They should be targeting those who make money by exploiting human misery and breaking our laws. Illegal immigrants already take huge risks to escape misery. The threat of penalties will not dissuade them from entering Canada illegally.

As I have said in the past, most of these immigrants do not look up Canadian laws on the Internet before coming here. If they are exploited, if they are in a precarious situation and are forced to come here, they do not come because they want to be detained or because they are familiar with Canadian laws. They come because they are fleeing poverty in their country of origin. They know nothing about our laws. They are prepared to risk their lives to escape poverty. In other words, this bill will only create more problems for refugees and will have little impact on smugglers.

Must I remind the Conservatives that these same smugglers will usually turn illegal immigrants into slaves once they arrive in the country? The bill should target the people who profit from the crime and not victims and desperate people. As I have already said, with this bill, we will just add to the stress these victims are already suffering.

For all these reasons, my Liberal colleagues and I will vote against this bill. The amendments made by the minister are not enough and only partially fixed the many shortcomings in the original bill. As many experts and officials stated when the bill was studied in committee, the law works as it is. This bill will only create more problems for immigrants, before it is contested and likely declared unconstitutional in court.

I repeat: this bill will not achieve its goal, simply because its focus is not in the right place.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his speech. On a number of occasions, I do not even mind saying I agree with him on some of his issues that he brings forward. Obviously, today, he is in the wrong. He and his party's non-support for the bill will in fact do nothing to change the system we have. It is a system that is abused around the world by individuals, especially human smugglers who traffic in getting individuals to pay huge amounts of money to get onto an unsafe vessel to come here to Canada. That is the way it still is under the current legislation. He and his party believe it is okay to have that happen. We on this side of the House do not believe that. That is why we are moving to ensure that human smugglers pay a significant price. We are seeing them being charged already.

My question is, why on earth would they not want to pass a piece of legislation that is going to go after and detain human smugglers under the Criminal Code and just keep it as it is now? It just makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I have worked together on other issues. Sometimes he is reasonable on certain things. I think on this that it is just a matter of interpretation.

I, and the Liberal Party, in no way support human smugglers. My whole speech was based on the fact that this particular bill should probably have more emphasis on damages against human smugglers, penalizing them and finding more ways to make sure this does not happen.

The problem we have with this particular bill is the fact that the refugees become the victims, as I said in my speech. They are the ones who leave a place where they are not happy. I do not think anybody who is living a good life is going to put themselves on a boat or in a container for days on end, paying a smuggler thousands of dollars to get here.

Most of the people who decide to come here are in a desperate situation. I do not think those people, before getting into that container or onto that boat, are going to go on the Internet to look up the laws of Canada and then realize that they will be detained for a year if they do not have the paperwork.

I am not sure how this is going to deter refugees from coming to Canada. It is the human smugglers we should be going after.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand my colleague's concerns about this bill.

I would like to know what the primary source of his doubts is. Is it the 25th gag order, ministers' constant interference in routine business, the government's culture of secrecy or the many ethics-related issues that have him doubting the appropriateness of giving discretionary powers to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, usually Liberal Party of Canada MPs are the ones who ask the best questions. The member asked a very good question, but I do not know how to answer, so I will say yes to all of it.

The member counted 25 closure motions, but personally, I think there have been more than that. But we will not get hung up on the number of closure motions. We have been through two wars. We would need two or three calculators just to count the number of closure motions we have had this week.

The Liberals' biggest problem with this bill is the fact that the minister will have too much discretionary power.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, last week when I had an opportunity to speak to this bill, I spoke extensively about the part of the bill that talks about biometrics. Many other countries around the world are already using biometrics as a means of identification, so that is included in this bill.

I wonder if the member could tell us why it is that he wants to put in jeopardy the safety and security of Canadians?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not recall ever saying that. Maybe it is in the translation, but they do a good job in this place so I do not see how she thinks I said that Canadians were going to be put in jeopardy.

If anything, I said that when these supposed refugees come in, they should be given a chance to prove who they are. If we can use biometrics, that is better. It would probably be a quicker method of getting these people out of detention.

The Conservative government has said that if people cannot identify themselves, giving us proof within 14 days, then they are going to be stuck in detention for 6 months. After that, they will never have a chance to become a permanent resident, no matter who they are or how valid the reason is that came here, even if they had been forced to come here.

I am not sure how this member decided that we were against Canadians.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the member and I usually have pretty close views on a number of issues in this country. I am a little surprised. He is saying that the bill is, from his perspective, going to hurt refugees. I am not quite sure why. In the current system, it takes an average of over 1,000 days, over three years, for a refugee fleeing persecution from his or country to achieve refugee status here in Canada. This piece of legislation would mean that some will receive that application and approval within 45 days, others within no more than 246 days.

While he says he is on the side of refugees, by not supporting the legislation, the member is actually telling all legitimate refugees in the world who have been approved to come to Canada that they are going to have to continue to wait upwards of three years to achieve the status of refugee here.

I am asking him, I am imploring him, to support the bill. Help refugees in this country who are trying to stay here in Canada and achieve that status. Vote in favour of the bill. It is much better than keeping the current status. I would like the member to try to explain how on earth he could imagine that the system we have now is better than the one we would have under Bill C-31.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member across is a parliamentary secretary. He was at the committee meetings, I just read some of the minutes, and heard from experts. I am not sure what he actually listened to. Sometimes he is a pretty good listener so I give him the benefit of the doubt.

I never said that a thousand days, on average, for refugees to get processed was acceptable. I think a refugee is actually lucky if he or she is able to get his or her papers in order in 1,000 days and get acknowledged. My office is seeing people who have been here five, six, even seven years, and there is still no progress.

There is no question that the system needs to be improved. However, the problem is this bill, in particular, would give too much power to the minister and putting these refugees in detention for years on end is going to cost Canadian taxpayers thousands and millions and billions of dollars, as the Conservatives would say.

The parliamentary secretary just said some of these refugees would be processed within 45 days. If some of them do get processed in 45 days, more power to them. That is exactly what we want. That is how we want this system--

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

Questions and comments.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am hearing from the member--

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

We're almost there, Rick. Come on.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Yes, we're getting there.

Mr. Speaker, he does, I think, in his heart of hearts, want to stand up to support the legislation. His leader may be telling him he has to vote against, but I am hearing from him that there is room to say that this bill would be better for Canadians, it would be better for refugees.

I want to give him one more opportunity to stand in his place to say he is going to do the right thing: support the bill and help refugees from around the world when they come here to this country.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remind the member that I am a member of the Liberal Party. We do not need our leader to tell us what to do. We are free to do what we like. In these cases, it is normally our critic who has a big voice. I think there is general consensus that we feel the bill is just not acceptable. We have presented our amendments. If the member is willing to put forward amendments, it is not too late. It has been done before. The government can send them to our Liberal senators. We can amend it in the other place. It is not too late. We are almost there. The parliamentary secretary has been reasonable on other bills. We still have a chance in the other place, because I know that at this third reading stage, we are not going to be able to amend the bill.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with the hon. member for Crowfoot.

I am pleased to rise in the House today and offer my full support for Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act, which would strengthen Canada's immigration and refugee system and better enable Canada to maintain its significant humanitarian legacy while also ensuring the public safety of Canadians.

Until recently most Canadians believed that large-scale human smuggling was something that just did not happen here, that it happened somewhere else, maybe in countries like Australia, or they read about it in the paper. That all changed in 2009 when Canadians witnessed the arrival on the west coast of the MV Ocean Lady carrying 76 migrants. Less than one year later, close to 500 migrants arrived on a second vessel, the MV Sun Sea. Shortly after that, a sea container was uncovered at the port of Montreal concealing yet more individuals who had tried to enter Canada illegally.

In response, Canadians told us they wanted our government to act decisively to crack down on criminal human smuggling.

We must act before another tragedy strikes, like the one that occurred off the coast of Indonesia just last December when close to 200 irregular migrants destined for Australia perished when their vessel capsized in rough waters.

Even more recent events remind Canadians that human smugglers continue to target Canada to this very day and we must remain vigilant.

Many Canadians may not know about this, but very recently a human smuggling operation was dismantled in Togo. A large number of people were in Togo waiting to board a ship to come to Canada. With the hard work of authorities there and other countries, including Canada, this trip never took place.

Just a few weeks ago a human smuggling operation in Ghana was dismantled thanks to intelligence provided by Canadian officials. Our officials are working incredibly hard and are to be commended for their work to crack down on these despicable criminal organizations.

The recent capsizing of a small boat off the coast of Nova Scotia reminds us that these dangerous voyages too often end in tragedy. Every year countless people die before they reach their destination.

Bill C-31 includes mandatory minimums for criminal human smugglers and would hold shipowners and operators to account for the use of their ships in human smuggling operations. The bill also includes the mandatory detention of anyone who arrives as a participant in an irregular arrival.

I would note that in response to experts and opposition colleagues, our government has amended Bill C-31 to include detention reviews at 14 days and 6 months. These amendments were supported by the NDP at committee, but despite our government's efforts to work in good faith to amend the bill to ensure it is as effective as possible, the NDP has chosen, as it often does, to be blindly partisan and continues to oppose and delay the bill.

Detaining individuals who arrive as part of a criminal human smuggling event and whose identities are not known is what any responsible government would and should do. Oftentimes the boats that arrive on our shores carry the criminal smugglers themselves and who knows who else. These are not just people who are perceived threats. For example, to date, of those who arrived on the MV Sun Sea, four have been found to be inadmissible due to security concerns, and one has been found to be inadmissible due to war crimes. Even more striking, in regard to the Ocean Lady, to date, 19 have been found to be inadmissible due to security concerns, while 17 have been found to be inadmissible due to war crimes.

I would like to take a moment to congratulate the RCMP for its hard work in its human smuggling investigations and for laying charges on six of the alleged criminal smugglers to date.

To be frank, I am shocked that the NDP and the Liberals believe that unidentified individuals, who could be terrorists, violent criminals or criminal human smugglers, among others who could victimize innocent Canadians, should be allowed to roam the streets before their identity has been established. Our government will not allow this to happen. Unlike the NDP and the Liberals, Canadians can always rely on our Conservative government to protect their safety and security and that of their families.

Experience around the world has taught us that only dealing with the push factors of criminal human smuggling is not effective. The pull factors must also be addressed.

That is why Bill C-31 includes provisions and disincentives to prevent those who come to Canada as part of a designated irregular arrival from applying for permanent residence status for a period of five years and prevents individuals from sponsoring family members for five years.

Again, we acknowledge that these measures are tough, but we believe they are necessary and fair. Unless both push and pull factors to criminal human smuggling are addressed, this despicable and dangerous activity will continue.

By not supporting Bill C-31, the NDP and Liberals are sending a clear and, to be frank, shameful message that if people can afford tens of thousands of dollars to pay a criminal smuggler to bring them to Canada, they can jump the line, but if they are poor, they can languish in a refugee camp. They are telling criminal human smugglers that Canada will continue to be a doormat.

Unlike the opposition, our Conservative government is sending a clear message that our doors are open to those who play by the rules, including legitimate refugees. However, we will crack down on those who endanger human lives and threaten the integrity of our borders.

Human smuggling is a despicable crime. Canadians think it is unacceptable for criminals to abuse Canada's immigration system for financial gain.

Recently, the Government of New Zealand introduced legislation to enhance its ability to deter human smuggling by making it as unattractive as possible to human smugglers and the people to whom they sell their services. Its proposed measures include the use of mandatory detention and streamlined refugee and protection claims processes. This is sounding fairly familiar. Other policy changes include reassessing a refugee claim three years after it is first determined, with permanent residence not granted unless this reassessment is approved. Family reunifications have also been restricted so that those who do gain residence after three years can sponsor their immediate family members to join them in New Zealand, but not their extended family members.

The fact that other governments, such as New Zealand's, are proposing similar measures shows that this is truly an international concern that needs to be addressed.

Indeed, human smuggling networks in Southeast Asia have proven their reach and determination. We know that they continue to actively target Canada as a destination. This is why the Government of Canada is pushing forward with reforms to strengthen the immigration and refugee program in this country.

We must be tough in order to prevent human smugglers from taking advantage of our generosity and from putting vulnerable people's lives at risk. We must be fair to those who follow the rules and come to Canada through legitimate channels seeking peace and prosperity.

However, the system must also be fair for all Canadians, who expect that our borders and shores to be safe and secure, and who expect this government to protect our generous systems from abuse. That is why the Government of Canada introduced this piece of legislation, which I am supporting today.

We will continue to take all necessary action in the future to deter the ugly practice of human smuggling while continuing to meet our humanitarian obligations.

I strongly urge all of my colleagues in the House to support Bill C-31 and ensure its swift passage.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am puzzled by some of the comments made by my colleague, so I have a couple of questions which I hope he can answer.

Is he aware of Bill C-11? Not only was it passed by this House but it was actually praised by the minister. Its actually known as the Balanced Refugee Reform Act. That act actually has all of the needed elements for the safety and security of Canadians. All of the features that would be required are in there.

Also, the member talked about people jumping the line. We are not talking about people arriving here on a holiday. We are talking about people who are escaping life and death situations. They are asylum seekers under the UN conventions. They are coming here in a legitimate way to escape persecution.

Is the member aware of Bill C-11 and what is in it, a bill that has not even been acted upon yet?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course I am aware of that bill. I think it was a good start. Given the situation, it addressed some of the issues in terms of streamlining the processing of refugees, but it did not go far enough.

As I said in my comments, the pull factor was not addressed adequately in that bill. We need to put in place some disincentives so that people on the other side of the world, in Southeast Asia for example, do not think Canada is the place to come in an irregular fashion. When we allow that to happen and put our resources into processing them, there are legitimate refugees in refugee camps around the world where those resources should be going. That is what we are doing in this legislation.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary hosted a town hall meeting in his riding on this very issue. Being from British Columbia, he can speak with great knowledge, because that is where the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady arrived. In his community there was quite a reaction when both of those ships arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia.

With respect to the work that he did in terms of the town hall meeting and the input he sought from his constituents, have we listened and included that within the context of the bill and addressing the issue of human smuggling?