Mr. Speaker, I finished off by talking about the mandatory detention of bona fide refugees just because of the way they arrived here in Canada and the impact that would have on children. I want to expand on that a little bit.
I talked earlier about the emotional and the social costs, but we also have to look at the financial burden that the Canadian public would have to pay, because to keep people, legitimate refugees once they arrive and have gone through identification and security checks, in a provincial prison will be a costly matter. The last time I looked at those numbers, we were looking at anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 a year to keep somebody in a provincial jail.
Besides that, we have to look at the human cost. Here we would not only be fiscally irresponsible and break UN conventions, conventions to which we are signatories, but we would also be fiscally irresponsible at a time of restraint, and it would be a cruel way to treat some of the world's most vulnerable people when they arrive on our shores.
I have heard a lot about how the bill will punish smugglers. I look on the bill as the “punishing refugees bill”, because that is what it does. Under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, we already have $1 million in fines and life imprisonment for smugglers. If we really want to go after smugglers, we have to work with the international community and get to the source. It is my belief that all these smugglers we are supposedly going to catch will not be on the ship or boat when it arrives.
The current detention and security check system that we already have actually led to charges being laid against some of the people on the boat that arrived from Sri Lanka, but over 90% of the people who arrived on that boat were accepted by Canada as legitimate asylum seekers. However, under this legislation, we would be putting them in prison, and that just makes no sense to me.
There is another aspect we have to look at. We all know the importance of family. All of us like to have our family around us. We can imagine refugees arriving here after running away and putting their lives at risk to get to this new country where they will seek protection. Their number one goal will be to have their family members join them also . Sometimes it will be a mother who might have been able to run away with only two of her kids and might have had to leave a kid behind. Sometimes the whole family remains behind, and only one person escapes.
In those cases, under this legislation, once again we have a two-tiered system that would prohibit legitimate asylum seekers from applying to have their families join them here. They would not have any travel documents. That again goes against the UN convention.
We are not talking about going away on cruises and things like that. For example, if somebody gets here, they might have some family just over the border in the U.S. and they might be able to go there and meet them. If they have arrived here from Mexico, maybe they cannot go back to Mexico but some of their family can get into Guatemala, and they could meet with them there. In these cases, we would once again be limiting and denying some very fundamental rights to people.
This five years of forced separation, by the way, is before they can apply. We know, given the way processing goes in this country right now, two or three or four years could be added to that. We can imagine the impact that kind of separation would have on families.
Once again it would not just be the mental torture that the families would suffer in knowing that their children and other family members were in danger; it would also be the social impact.
There would also be health care costs. Just imagine the impacts it will have on health care. Not only do we keep people in prison for up to a year, but now we will keep them separated from their families.
The impacts cannot be underestimated. We had witness after witness tell us about the impacts of incarceration on children and on adults. Every one of them said that it interferes with the settlement of families and becoming productive, and we heard as well about the costs to health care that I just raised.
Also, we are concerned about biometrics. We are not concerned that biometrics will be used in two areas, fingerprinting and digital photos. Rather, what we are absolutely concerned about is that the committee has not had a chance to study the privacy impact assessment. That is very important for all of us. Obviously, these reforms are not clearly consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At this time I have an amendment.
I move, seconded by the member for Saint-Lambert:
That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: this House decline to give third reading to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, because it:
(a) gives significant powers to the Minister that could be exercised in an arbitrary manner, including the power to designate so-called “safe” countries without independent advice;
(b) violates international conventions to which Canada is signatory by providing mechanisms for the Government to indiscriminately designate and subsequently imprison bone fide refugees—including children—for up to one year;
(c) undermines best practices in refugee settlement by imposing, on some refugees, five years of forced separation from families;
(d) adopts a biometrics programme for temporary resident visas without adequate parliamentary scrutiny of the privacy risks; and
(e) is not clearly consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.