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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

Bill C-38Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with respect to the point of order that was raised by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands a number of days ago. We have heard from the Liberal Party and the government. New Democrats want to add our voice to the conversation in, hopefully, a timely and brief manner.

I rise in support of the motion by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands with respect to her concerns and the concerns shared by many of us in this place about the manner in which the government has moved Bill C-38, the omnibus budget implementation act. My friend made a number of points. Some of them, we would suggest, are stronger than others for your purview, Mr. Speaker, but on the central theme we find ourselves in agreement.

On many of the concerns that were raised, you have heard from the official opposition New Democrats throughout question period, public commentary and in conversations in the House with you, Mr. Speaker, on the nature and form of the bill and the concerns we share with Canadians of its effect on members of Parliament to do our jobs. This is why I appeal to you directly, Mr. Speaker, in the decision that you have to make because, ultimately, it is your choice in the way we conduct ourselves as members of Parliament and the House conducts itself.

Let me take care of one point right away that the government has raised as a measure of defence of the process that we are engaged in with this more than 400-page budget implementation act, extending over more than 700 clauses, affecting as many as 70 acts of Parliament, either revoking them entirely or modifying them significantly. We have never seen the scale and scope of a bill like this before in parliamentary history, from our purview and the purview of experts who have watched this place over many years. Therefore, let us do away with the idea that the government believes that having a number of hours of debate either here or in committee has somehow satisfied the test that Canadians and parliamentarians understand what is in this act. That is, frankly, not the case. It is almost impossible to understand all of the implications that have been brought in with this act because the government is withholding certain pieces of information, which we will bring to your attention in days to come.

The first point that the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands raised was around the fact that there is no central theme to the bill, thereby making it inadmissible or detrimental to Parliament and parliamentary democracy.

The second point raised was that there was little or no link between the budget itself and what the government has called the budget implementation act. In passing conversation with somebody not as familiar with this place as members are, a Canadian would assume that a budget implementation act would be explicitly linked to the budget by its name and form. Yet we find within the budget implementation act many pieces of government policy that are never mentioned at all in the budget. One example is the removal of Canada from the Kyoto protocol. There is no mention of this in the budget whatsoever, no mention of any aspect of climate change policy or anything to do with that particular act of Parliament, and yet in the budget implementation act there are a couple of lines that remove Canada from that international treaty.

Aside from concerns about whether one agrees or disagrees with the government's intentions with respect to climate change and its lack of actions, the point has to be made that if a government is introducing a budget implementation act with all sorts of measures that have nothing to do with the budget itself, it becomes a budget act in name only. In the actual function, the government is piling in a number of initiatives, policies and new directions for the government that should stand alone and independent for discussion by MPs and the Canadian public.

The intervention by my friend in the corner suggests that for members of Parliament to be able to do our jobs, we need to be able, in good conscience, to hold government to account. Her third point was that the bill is not ready and imperfect and she made a number of interventions on that, which I will not touch on too much.

To your role in this, Mr. Speaker. Ultimately you are the arbitrator of this place and the defender of our privileges and efforts as members of Parliament to do what Canadians send us to Parliament to do, which is to hold government to account. That is not simply the role of opposition members. So too is it the role of government members in this place. They too are encumbered with the effort to hold government to account at all times.

If we remember parliamentary history, there was a time in this country that, when MPs were elected and then needed to be placed in cabinet, they actually had to run in a byelection because their role had fundamentally changed to one in which they were defending the government's policy, that is in cabinet, as opposed to sitting as a member of Parliament regardless of party affiliation. That role is fundamentally different.

The concern that we have is twofold. We have seen a trend of increasing cynicism from Canadians towards politics in general and towards this—

Bill C-38Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

NDP not Conservatives.

Bill C-38Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

—place in particular. I thank my friend from Prince George—Peace River for his intervention, but it was most unhelpful.

In the growing cynicism that Canadians feel towards our politics, it is—

Bill C-38Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

You are welcome. You are welcome.

Bill C-38Points of Order

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I will just ask the member for Prince George—Peace River to let the opposition House leader make his point, and then we can move on to orders of the day.

Bill C-38Points of Order

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, confirming my concerns about the growing cynicism about politics is that when attempting to make a point in Parliament that is sound and reasoned, it is difficult to do it without being heckled from the government side.

My point is this, that all members of Parliament have a duty to the people we seek to represent as well as we can to hold the government of the day to account. This bill encumbers that ability. It makes it difficult, if not outright impossible, for members to do our job. This, Mr. Speaker, is your role. I do not suggest that this is an easy role for you to perform on a daily basis, not just in question period as we attempt to have some sort of civility and decorum, but also throughout Parliament's deliberations over important pieces of legislation.

It cannot be understated how critical this legislation is, how wide-sweeping and profoundly impactful this bill will be on the lives of Canadians, from taking $12,000 away from seniors as they attempt to retire after long service to this country and building our economy, to removing and fundamentally altering environmental legislation and gutting the protections, taking environmental assessments of major industrial projects from between 4,000 and 6,000 assessments a year to perhaps as few as 20 or 30 a year.

The role of MPs is to hold the government to account. The role of the Speaker is to defend this place and defend this institution.

If there is no, or little, link between the budget and the budget implementation act, we continue and actually aid that cynical trend Canadians feel towards their politics and their politicians. The break between who we represent and their hopes and visions for the future is more profound when governments enact bills like this.

What signal do we send to them if we say that an omnibus bill of this wide a scope and scale is permissible, acceptable and even favoured? Can we not imagine a day, and I think of Speaker Lamoureux's point in 1971, where there is no point of return, when governments seek, through omnibus bills, through Trojan horse bills, to move one, two acts of Parliament a year and put absolutely everything into those acts, that Parliament can sit for 20 days, get through 2 bills and that is it? Accountability is impossible under such a scenario, reforms to immigration, reforms to the oversight of the Auditor General, transparency and accountability.

For a Parliament to sit through two omnibus bills a year is perhaps what the government may be seeking, but is fundamentally against the spirit and nature of this place where we come together to discuss bills before the House and try to seek to improve them, amend them.

Know this, the government is suggesting that in those 400-plus pages the bill is perfect incarnate and not a comma, not a period needs to be altered. At three various times, just in this Parliament, the government has had to modify or completely scrap its own legislation when it faced evidence and pressure from Canadians. So three times on separate stand-alone bills, the government has had to fundamentally alter itself.

Last night we had our 25th vote on closure in this place since the government was elected to its majority. We now have the largest and most complex omnibus bill in Canadian history, and the lack of accountability is breathtaking. We believe that there is a very dangerous pattern of language in this. From the beginning of this process, the official opposition has attempted to work with the government to break this bill into its component parts to allow Canadians to see the aspects of the bill and understand what the implications would be, because that is our job.

From the beginning we have reached out to government and said, “Do the right thing. Split this into bills.” We have quoted, and you have heard me, Mr. Speaker, quote back to the Conservative Party their own principles with respect to omnibus bills, to closure motions, to Trojan horse legislation. When they held the seats of opposition, they strongly stood for the principle that this place should be accountable to Canadians, that governments should be accountable to Canadians.

We have used their own arguments and words, not our own. We do not expect the government to be swayed by what I say here today. However, we thought that the words and principles of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages would mean something powerful enough to them that they would pause and be swayed by their own arguments and principles.

What happened to those principles? There is a certain seeking of convenience from the government, that it finds this whole process difficult or annoying.

This process that we engage in as parliamentarians is critical and essential, not an inconvenience.

We feel no remorse for the government, that it will now face as many as 500 to 1,000 amendments on this piece of legislation in the days to come. It built a piece of legislation that allows this to take place. We warned the government of this from day one and gave it an alternative.

The motion from the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands says this bill has serious flaws and contentions and undermines what this place is about. We find that she has sound reasoning in this and that as Speaker and in your role as an impartial observer and arbitrator of this place that we must have pause. We must send signals to the government from time to time that, yes, while it has the votes to do this, it does not have the moral superiority and the grounds on which to stand because Canadians did not give the current government, or any government, a mandate to do this kind of thing. Canadians never vote a government in and say that, “You will govern by fiat. You will disregard the democratic process and the open and transparent need for conversation.” Because, ultimately, that is what Canadians are about: seeking consensus; seeking the middle ground; seeking some sort of way to live together as we have, harmoniously, for so many years.

Mr. Speaker, let us do the right thing. Let us make this thing a proper piece of legislation.

Bill C-38Points of Order

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his contributions to this point. I will get back to House in due course.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the bill.

Having listened closely to the previous speaker's presentation on your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I will speak to one point on the issue that relates to Bill C-31 and to Bill C-38.

There are a number of issues in Bill C-38, our budget bill, that have a lot to do with immigration. I appreciate the member's description of what the opposition's role is in terms of keeping the government to account and accountable. However, what he failed to mention was the amount of time allocated in committee for both Bill C-31 and Bill C-38. Bill C-38 was given an unprecedented amount of time for debate, more than for any other bill in recent history. The fact is that the member would not and did not acknowledge the hours and hours spent debating each and every one of these clauses at committee, which is part of the parliamentary process. He did not even want to acknowledge the time given by the government, in agreement with the opposition, to have that debate.

I have said that because we took exactly the same approach with Bill C-31. We opened the doors at committee and said that we should bring in all witnesses. The opposition members believed that this was a big, fundamental bill that would change the refugee system in our country so they wanted to hear from all the experts in the country. Even though we had gone through the entire process once already, we went through it again. I did not hear an acknowledgement from the member opposite for the efforts made in terms of our parliamentary process and listening to what people had to say, and not just witnesses but all members of the opposition who had the opportunity to present their changes, thoughts and beliefs on what the bill should look like. With respect to Bill C-31, there were two significant amendments that were made at committee. These were not amendments that had to be made. As everyone knows, there are enough votes at each of our committees here on the Hill for us to win without having to make changes, without having to do anything other than that this is what will be moved forward for third reading and this is the bill that will receive royal assent.

In our case, we heard from witnesses and we made two significant changes. One had to do with cessation. The way the clause could have been interpreted, an unintended consequence could have been the potential for that individual to lose permanent residency if the country of origin had changed status. We made adjustments to that piece of the legislation. We also made a significant change to the detention issue for irregular arrivals. The original clause included a detention period of up to 12 months. Upon hearing from experts and witnesses who presented their case, the minister and the government listened and made a significant decision. We said that individuals who arrive in what is deemed an irregular arrival, as we saw with the Sun Sea or the Ocean Lady in British Columbia, they would have a hearing after 14 days. Subsequently, if they have been determined to have or not have success with respect to their refugee application, they would be given another hearing after six months.

Therefore, contrary to what the opposition members have been saying over the last week about this government's position with respect to listening, it does listen and it has listened. Bill C-31 is a stronger bill today at third reading than when it was introduced at first reading. Contrary to what the opposition members are saying, this government does spend a lot of time listening, understanding and moving toward the best piece of legislation that we can put forward.

In fact, it speaks to our refugee system here in the country. We welcome more resettled refugees than almost any country in the world. Based on the continued implementation of Bill C-31, which encapsulates a number of pieces of Bill C-11, which was our original refugee reform act, we will have an additional 2,500 refugees per year settle into our country, which is a 20% increase.

It again shows that Canadians have always been known to be fair and compassionate. Our country has a long and proud humanitarian tradition. This bill only strengthens that tradition all the more.

However, it is safe to say that our system, and it is no secret, is also open to abuse. We see that abuse on a daily basis. We are a generous and welcoming people but we do not have tolerance for those who take unfair advantage of our country. Canadians have told us loud and clear again and again that they want a stop put to the abuse which exists within our immigration system. By introducing Bill C-31, and where we are today at third reading, we will see and have shown to those people in this country who have asked us to, that we will protect the integrity of immigration and our refugee system.

There are three main areas covered by the bill which are all interrelated.

First, Bill C-31 includes further and much needed reforms to our asylum system. While the Balanced Refugee Reform Act went a long way to reforming Canada's refugee system, further reform is absolutely necessary. The opposition likes to ask why. The answer is very simple but it cannot be found by using political rhetoric. This is all based on a very factual, necessary and purposeful argument.

We need to look at the cold, hard and indisputable facts. In 2011, Canada received a total of 5,800 refugee claims from democratic, rights respecting member countries of the European Union. That is an increase of 14% from 2010. That number is actually more than the number of claims that we receive from Africa or Asia. There is a simple problem here. The top source country for refugee claims is Hungary, which is an EU member state. Of all refugee claims in 2011, 4,400, or 18%, came from Hungary. That is up almost 50% from 2010.

What is even more telling is that in 2010, of the 2,400 claims made by Hungarian nationals, only 100 of them were actually made in countries other than Canada. They all came to Canada to make a refugee claim from one country, except 100. There is a problem here. There is an obvious issue that needs to be dealt with. It means that Canada received 2,300 claims from Hungary, which is 23 times more than any other country has received from Hungary. The fact that most gets to the core of why further refugee reform is needed is that virtually every one of these claims was abandoned, withdrawn or rejected. Refugee claimants themselves are choosing not to see their claims to completion, meaning they are not in genuine need of Canada's protection. In other words, their claims are bogus.

The reason these claims are bogus is that people are choosing to come all the way to Canada. They have a choice. There are 26 other countries right next door and most, if not all, are part of the EU. These bogus claimants come here to exploit Canada's generous asylum system because of the lucrative and expensive taxpayer funded health care, welfare and other social benefits that are allowed under the current system we have in place. In fact, these bogus claims y cost Canadian taxpayers in excess of $170 million, and that was just last year alone.

Bill C-31, protecting Canada's immigration system act, is part of our plan to restore integrity to our asylum system and restore Canadian's confidence in our immigration system. The bill would make Canada's refugee determination process faster and fairer and would result in faster protection for those who legitimately need refugee protection. It would also, and this is the important aspect of it, ensure faster removal of those whose claims are withdrawn, those claims that are bogus and those claims that have been rejected.

We will speed up the refugee claims process in a number of ways. For example, one major component of Bill C-31 is the improvements to the designated country of origin provision. This will enable the government to respond more quickly to increases in refugee claims from countries that generally do not produce refugees, such as most of those that are in the European Union. Claimants from those countries will still have the opportunity to be heard in terms of their application and to be deemed refugees in Canada.

Contrary to what the opposition has said, there is, for every person who claims refugee status in this country, an opportunity to be heard and an opportunity to have their case determined by the Immigration and Refugee Board. We will change that process so that it will take close to 45 days versus close to 1,100 days that exists now, more than on average three years to process a refugee application in this country.

If 97% or 98% of claims from particular countries are abandoned or withdrawn, we can just imagine how many months and how many years an individual can take advantage of the Canadian system just because of the number of days it takes to get through this process. This will happen no more. We will turn the system around. We will ensure that everyone gets a hearing and we will ensure it is completed within and about as close to 45 days as possible.

The designated country of origin provisions, which I mentioned and are included in Bill C-31, would bring Canada in line with its peers. Countries, like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, all recognize that some countries are simply safer than others and we can presume them to be so based on criteria, both quantitative and qualitative, that are included within the bill itself. Therefore, refugee claimants from those designated safe countries may be reasonably considered under the expedited process, the 45 day process that I mentioned.

We have had some discussion about the UN lately. I am encouraged, or at least listening, when the opposition stands to speak in favour of pretty much anything that the UN does. I thought it would be important this morning to show that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has acknowledged that by saying:

...there are indeed safe countries of origin. There are indeed countries in which there is a presumption that refugee claims will probably be not as strong as in other countries

Mr. Guterres also agreed that as long as all refugee claimants have access to some process it is completely legitimate to accelerate claims from safe countries.

I will take that one step further. Abraham Abraham, who is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also is not opposed to the process upon which we have designated safe countries. He indicated:

...as long as this is used as a procedural tool to prioritize or accelerate examination of applications in carefully circumscribed situations, and not as an absolute bar.

We are not just implementing a process that is being used everywhere in a number of countries in the world. We are using a process that is endorsed and understood to be a correct one. It does not exist in our Canadian system as it is right now.

I want to underscore, despite what the opposition has said, that every refugee claimant will continue to receive a hearing before the independent quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board regardless of where he or she came from. Furthermore, every refugee claimant in Canada will have access to at least one level of appeal. These procedures exceed the requirements of both our domestic law and our international obligations.

I will add this is not the purpose nor the reason for passing the bill, but there is a financial benefit to the process in which we will now receive and determine refugee applications. We will save not just federal taxpayers, but provincial and territorial taxpayers, $1.65 billion over a five year period.

How will we use that money? The premiers, finance ministers and ministers of immigration across this country will tell us exactly how they could use that money, whether it be for settlement services, or whether it be for enhancing health care delivery. What we are offering is an opportunity for savings, an opportunity for that money to be used not to fund bogus claims, not to finance those who want to take advantage of our system, but to actually assist Canadians here in our country.

Unfortunately, what is lost in debate over the bill is what it will mean for genuine refugees who are fleeing persecution and who fear for their lives. Under Bill C-31, genuine refugees will receive Canada's much needed protection much more quickly. They will not be waiting three years in the determination process, but will be waiting as little as 45 days to know that they indeed have a home here in Canada. I cannot for the life of me understand how the NDP and the Liberals could be against that process.

Bill C-31 includes tough but fair and necessary measures to combat, deter and crack down on the criminal act of human smuggling. On this side of the House, we are not scared to face the issues of human trafficking and human smuggling. We will face them like no government in this country has before, and we will continue to do that.

Until recently, most Canadians believed that large-scale human smuggling was something that did not happen here, that it was something they just read about in the paper. They thought it only happened in other countries, for example, Australia.

That all changed in 2009 when Canada witnessed the arrival on the west coast of the MV Ocean Lady, which carried 76 migrants. It was almost as if it were a test case to see what would happen when the ship arrived, because less than one year later, the MV Sun Sea came, which held close to 500 migrants. This was not a cruise ship. This was not a ship designed to hold individuals. This was a ship designed specifically by human smugglers who take advantage of these individuals and extract as much money as they can, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, from individuals, who end up spending most of their lives paying that money back. The smugglers would put these individuals on not much more than a freighter to come across the ocean and land here in Canada.

Just as we have new members who are seeing individuals who are not true refugee claimants come to Canada to take advantage of our system, so we have human smugglers who understand the business of smuggling and the lowest common denominator in terms of which country will accept the individuals and how to take advantage of that. Not only are they taking advantage of our country, but they are taking advantage of the individuals.

We all know the stories. On board many of these ships are criminals and terrorists from a country and the human smugglers themselves who, unbeknownst to others, are dressed as if they are also in a position to claim refugee status in our country.

That is going to change. We are going to let the world know that human smuggling is not only unacceptable in this country, but that there will be a very significant price to pay for those who want to get into this business.

We do not have to look too far back to the past number of short weeks and months to know that we are catching these individuals. They are being sought out. They are being charged and they will be convicted. That is how we will stop this business.

There are so many more parts of Bill C-31 that are critically important, whether it be human smuggling, whether it be the issue of irregular arrivals, or whether it be the system itself in terms of how long it takes. We are moving from a system that takes 1,000 days on average to answer a refugee application submitted to the minister to one in which it will take anywhere from 45 days for those who are coming from designated safe countries, versus those who are coming from non-designated safe countries. There is an appeal process in place for each one of these individuals.

There is a process in place where we are now responding to those who truly deserve to be in our country. The best part of all of this is it sets in place a process that is fair to Canadians.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. I would remind him that we heard from various witnesses in committee. They all pointed out that this bill is discriminatory because it unfairly creates two classes of refugees. The witnesses also pointed out that the measures in this bill do not target human smugglers; they target refugees, taking them hostage.

This bill will also deny some refugees the right to apply for permanent residence and be reunited with their family members, including their children, for five years. Why is the government preventing family reunification?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, it behooves me to suggest that the opposition take one step back into the past instead of taking one step into the future. They should take one step into the past and recognized that there are individuals around the world who are fleeing for their lives. Those people can seek and obtain refugee status in our country to protect themselves, when they flee for their lives from a country that offers them nothing other than torture or death. They come here and within a very short period of time they receive an answer to the question as to whether or not they are true refugees. Under the bill, somewhere in the future, all of them would have an opportunity to have their families come to our country. Their families, if they are fleeing persecution, would also have the opportunity to seek refugee status in our country.

We are going to set in place, with the bill, a process and laws that say to human smugglers, “Not here. Not in this country”.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, every legal expert has pointed out that the minister's discretionary power is problematic and should be removed from the bill. That is one of the reasons they say this bill should be withdrawn entirely. The minister will have the discretionary power to define what constitutes a safe country and to determine which countries are safe, as well as to define what constitutes an illegal arrival.

Basically, this means that, based on their country of origin, people coming here will be granted or denied status, will be found to be from safe or unsafe countries, and will be found to have arrived legally or illegally.

Is this discretionary power not the reintroduction and legalization of something much like racial profiling? When these people come here, the ones the minister finds ideologically acceptable will be okayed, while those he does not like will be declared illegal arrivals.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his contribution at committee. We spent hours and hours, days and days, listening to witnesses and working through the bill. He was probably a little surprised that two very significant amendments were proposed by the government and were accepted. In fact, I have to thank the member. Both of the amendments put forward by the government were supported unanimously by the government, NDP and Liberal members at committee.

What we have in the bill, and it has been through the legal process in terms of understanding the designated safe country origin, is a quantitative and a qualitative analysis of how the designated safe country process would work. As good as Bill C-11 was, it lacked the accountability of how that designated safe country process was going to work. It was actually going to be in regulation. We are much more transparent in our approach to designated safe countries with Bill C-31 because the process is actually in the legislation itself.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2012 / 10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has explained in layman's terms exactly what this change in immigration policy is, but one of the concerns out there is the situation surrounding detention. There has been a lot of misinformation, most of it emanating from the other side of this chamber, but there is some misinterpretation from members of the public because of that. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could expand on some of the issues surrounding the detention part of the bill.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. The detention issue has been the one which has been most significantly torqued by the opposition in terms of what it exactly means.

In our country over the last 8 to 10 years, approximately 100,000 refugees have sought and obtained refugee status. I mentioned in my speech that we have had two irregular arrivals. Arrivals such as those will be deemed to be irregular arrivals if they happen in the future. In those situations, because individuals come over in mass quantities, literally hundreds of individuals and families, we have no method to determine the identity of those individuals or whether they deserve to seek refugee status in our country.

It is important to know that when individuals are detained, they will be treated fairly. They are going to be well taken care of, but they are going to be detained until we can identify them and determine that they are not going to be a harm to Canadian society and until it is determined whether they truly deserve refugee status in our country. The opposition has failed to acknowledge that less than half of one per cent of all of the refugees who have come to this country in the last 10 years would be deemed to be irregular arrivals. Significant as it is, we can see that this is a very special process that will be used very little, but human smugglers will know it will be used once Bill C-31 is passed.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech closely.

Once again, the government wants to create two classes of refugees. It wants to divide refugees into two groups.

The other message I got from my colleague's speech is that some countries of origin will be considered good and others will be considered bad. Here again, the government is categorizing things in a way that I find troubling and somewhat arbitrary.

What does my colleague have to say about this approach based on dividing people into two groups?

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

To the contrary, Mr. Speaker, and I wish the member had listened to the speech. It indicates how we treat those who come to this country is going to be enhanced. Refugees will actually have a better opportunity under this process to be determined whether they are true refugees and become permanent residents and Canadian citizens much quicker than under the current system.

I will add that the only class of importance that we have in this country is the class of becoming or being a Canadian citizen. That is what this bill is all about, the importance of acknowledging fairness in a process. Whether it be immigration or anything else that we are responsible for in this country, fairness is what Canadians expect and anticipate. It is why most Canadians support this piece of legislation. They understand it is fair to the refugees coming to our country who, if in fact they are true refugees, will be able to seek and be granted asylum here. Canadians understand that this process upon which one achieves refugee status is going to be fair for them as well.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we worked long hours at committee, but we appreciated the couple of amendments that did mitigate the possible damage we saw within the bill. However, as I look at the legislation we already have in place, I wonder why need the proposed legislation.

In 2011, legislation that was praised by the minister of education, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, actually addressed the issues that the government says it is trying to address. In fact, Professor Audrey Macklin had this to say:

I think that the Balanced Refugee Reform Act seemed to address many of the legitimate policy objectives that the government seeks to attain under Bill C-31. What Bill C-31 adds to it are provisions that are unconstitutional, and from a policy perspective, I think, problematic and unlikely to achieve what they claim.

There are some significant concerns that the opposition has with the legislation, and not just in relation to this bill. One of the key areas of concern is where the Conservative government seems to be moving, and it is not toward parliamentary democracy. It is becoming very difficult for parliamentarians to debate key issues because more and more power is rested in the hands of ministers, and in this case, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. That is a very dangerous precedent. It is not a road we should go down.

We, as parliamentarians, get elected and the opposition has a critical role to play. The role of the opposition is to hold the government accountable and all members of parliament should be able debate legislation. However, in this legislation, more power is given to the minister. It is more power than the minister already has, which, by the way, is far more than any minister should have, regardless of political party. I am not speaking against the minister, but against the power that would be vested in any minister.

This power used to belong to an independent panel of experts, and the opposition agreed with that. We were in full agreement with that in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which had an independent panel of experts. It was a panel, independent of government, that would make the designations of so-called “safe countries”.

Here we are once again with the arrogance of the Conservative government. It is trying to put more and more power into the hands of its ministers to escape the scrutiny that any legislation or any changes to areas such as immigration deserve. We have considerable concern with this.

I think we have agreement, and even with members on the government side at committee stage, that none of us can guarantee that there is one country that is absolutely safe for all citizens. Even democratic countries have human rights violations and sometimes incidents that would fall under the legitimate UN resolutions to protect people from persecution.

For example, Mexico is a democratic country. However, we know that the LGBT community in Mexico comes under considerable persecution and that has been recognized with the number of asylum seekers accepted from Mexico.

Chantal Desloges, an immigration lawyer, had this to say:

I have major concerns that concentrating the power of the DCO list only within the ministry and not consulting a panel of experts is wrong, because it opens the system to major political influence.

In the previous incarnation of this bill, the DCO list was decided by a panel of experts, and as a professional, I would be comfortable with that. However, leaving that decision to the sole discretion of the ministry is not a good idea.

We are not making this stuff up. We have heard witness after witness say that the concentration of power in the hands of the minister was absolutely the wrong way to go.

When we look at the legislation, it also violates international conventions, to which Canada is signatory, by providing mechanisms for the government to indiscriminately designate and subsequently imprison bona fide refugees, including children, for up to one year.

Liberty is something we value. We will cases in Canada where asylum seekers who, as my colleague pointed out, do not come here on a cruise ship. They endanger their own lives because it is more dangerous for them to stay where they are. They come to our country to seek refuge. By the way, under a UN convention, to which we are a signatory, they are doing something that is perfectly legitimate. They are coming to our country to seek asylum.

Once those asylum seekers, if they should arrive by ship, are in our country in numbers of two or more, what will we do to them? Remember, these people are not escaping from affluent lifestyles. We are talking about people who might have been on the run for a long time and are willing to risk their lives and leave their loved ones behind to escape to find a safe haven.

What does a safe haven do for them? As soon as they land, we tell them that we will imprison them. I will use that word because we do not have enough detention centres. We heard witnesses testify that even, today, on any given day, some people end up in provincial jails. For example, British Columbia has no detention centres, so irregular refugees would be placed in a regular jail. Guess what? If they are 16 years of age or older, they will be placed in jail as well. I do not know about other members, but I know that when my son, who is now close to 30, was 16, I certainly did not think he was an adult. Sometimes I wonder about even now, but that is beside the point.

For children under the age of 16, we were absolutely pleased when we first heard the minister say that accommodations would be made for them. However, when I heard what that accommodation was, I thought, what kind of choice was that. The accommodation is that the parents will have a choice. They can give their child up to provincial agencies or they can keep them with them in prison.

If they are escaping from the kind of life-and-death situations that we have heard about, stories of rape and other horrible situations, then we are telling them that they can give their children to absolute strangers or they can keep them in prison with them. That is absolutely not a choice. It is a shameful way for us to treat arrivals into our country.

I want to expand on this a bit. The NDP, the official opposition, was absolutely clear. We know that when people arrive, we need to have identification. We also tried to move amendments that once the checks had been done and they were not considered a threat to the country, they would be released. We did not get that. For up to a year, these people will be kept in a prison, and once again we have to trust the minister may do this.

If we have learned anything, we should learn from the experiences of others. In testimony from Australia, we heard the kind of emotional and financial costs and also the long-term costs to society to which this kind of a detainment could lead. We cannot ignore the experiences of other countries.

Being a teacher, I am always very hopeful that we will learn from mistakes made by others. I am pleading that we do not make the same mistakes and then end up with social costs to our communities. It is very difficult to feel welcomed and then to get engaged in nation-building and to really be productive in their community when the first thing people face is prison for up to a year. It is not a way to treat children. Also, as members know, there are other costs to the health care system as well.

Protecting Canada's Immigration System ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have eight and a half minutes to conclude her speech after question period.

Ride to Conquer CancerStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Conservative Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this weekend I, along with thousands of other Canadians, will participate in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer to raise money for cancer research at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Princess Margaret Hospital is one of the top five cancer research hospitals in the world.

Over the course of two days, we will ride in excess of 220 kilometres. In 2011, 11,000 riders participated and raised over $43 million. In five years of existence, the ride has become Canada's perennial cycling event and has been its most successful fundraiser.

This year, I will ride in honour of my father and my mother, both of whom passed away from cancer. As my own family proves, two Canadians in five will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

I encourage all Canadians to get involved in their communities to raise money for cancer research.

Children on the Hill DaycareStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the one and only place on Parliament Hill where manners, politeness and respect for colleagues remains the norm. Where is that?

It is the Children on the Hill daycare. For 30 years, the dedicated staff at Children on the Hill have served our community on Parliament Hill. The children frequently walk the halls of power on the Hill. They share their toys and respect their nap time. Many of them have come to Centre Block today to mark this special day.

Let me congratulate the Children on the Hill daycare on their 30th anniversary, and thank the child care workers and directors for all their hard work over the years.

The children in Children on the Hill daycare do not refer to each other as “kids” but as “friends”. Let us take a lesson from them. It is an important lesson for us all. Let us look up to them.

Emergency ResponseStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I express my sincere congratulations to a young girl in my riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

Nine-year-old Rebecca Baas responded with maturity beyond her age when she called 911 and directed responders to her father, who was injured on their farm. Rebecca showed great courage that day, and she deserves our admiration.

I would also like to congratulate our local firefighters, who volunteer their time to provide 911 training to the students in my riding. They give our youth, including Rebecca, knowledge and confidence to properly respond in an emergency situation.

One example is the Russell Fire Department's annual fire safety checklist program, which encourages children to bring fire safety messages home and complete related tasks with their families.

In conclusion, I express my sincere congratulations to our local hero, Rebecca Baas. She is a hero not only to her family but also to her community and to me as well. We are all proud of Rebecca.

Saint-Léonard FCStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, on May 6, 2012, I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural game of Saint-Léonard FC, a new soccer team in the new semi-professional Quebec Premier Soccer League.

This game between Saint-Léonard FC, from the Bourassa regional soccer association, and the team from Blainville impressed spectators with its high level of play. This new team will offer high-level soccer to the people of Saint-Léonard and the eastern part of the island. At the same time, the creation of this league will be a huge source of inspiration for our young players across the province, who will probably dream of playing like their idols.

I would like to personally thank Angelo Scarano, president of Saint-Léonard FC, for his work that will benefit everyone in Saint-Léonard and the entire province. Congratulations to Victor Montagliani, the new president of the Canadian Soccer Association, who also attended the game. I would also like to wish the best of luck to the team's head coach, Andrea Di Pietrantonio, and the assistant coach, Mike Vitulano, who will lead our team to many victories.

Best of luck to Saint-Léonard FC. I wish all soccer fans a good season.

Republic of the Philippines Independence DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House on one of the most significant dates in the history of the Philippines, its Independence Day.

The nation's independence from Spanish rule is dated from June 12, 1898, and it is a nation that I am happy to say has had a great relationship with Canada.

Canada has been very fortunate to have such a large number of people in our Filipino diaspora. They have made great contributions in building our nation. The single largest number of immigrants to Canada is from the Philippines. They take positions such as caregivers and nurses and enhance the lives of Canada's aging population.

I congratulate the Filipino community in Don Valley East, and I invite all members to come and celebrate Independence Day with the ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Leslie Gatan, in room 256-S on June 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Okill StuartStatements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to acknowledge the dedication, self-sacrifice, humanity, warmth and commitment to other people's freedom demonstrated by Okill Stuart, who, I am proud to say, lives in my riding. He is one of the brave Canadians who risked his life for the freedom of others.

Mr. Stuart, a pillar of the Saint-Lambert community, fought as part of the Normandy invasion.

In 1946, after returning to Canada, he founded a charitable organization to help those less fortunate in his community and on the south shore of Montreal. Mr. Stuart also contributed to the founding of Canada's war museum in Normandy and the corresponding museum in Ottawa. He is involved in many organizations in my riding and is a founding member of the Saint-Lambert curling club.

These are just some of the reasons the entire community of Saint-Lambert, myself included, is so proud of Okill Stuart.

Here is hoping that his example will serve to inspire many future generations of Canadians.