Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for the time I have been given.
I would like to take this opportunity to speak out against the direction that is being taken with Bill C-43 and the Conservatives' attitude when this bill was examined in committee.
The Conservatives are incorrectly implying that we have certain motives. We will never support those who commit serious crimes, but we are concerned about this bill, which once again gives the minister more arbitrary power.
I would also like to remind members of the importance of democratic debate. The use of the time allocation motion, which is once again muzzling us, is a shining example of this government's closed-mindedness. The Conservatives have adopted a completely uncompromising attitude, which we also noticed in committee.
The implementation of Bill C-43 will make significant changes to the way newcomers to Canada are treated. It is inconsistent with the Canadian justice system, our country's precepts of compassion and our humanitarian mission. Many of the measures in this bill will have a major impact on the current system.
First, the government is intensifying deportation procedures by limiting the barriers that act as a counterbalance. On one hand, any crime carrying a sentence of over six months in prison will result in automatic deportation. The government is therefore imposing a double penalty because the prison sentence will be combined with deportation. The Conservatives have also introduced a logic whereby people are not allowed to make mistakes. That is a shameful attitude.
On the other hand, Bill C-43 puts an end to appeals in cases involving sentences of over six months, which goes against the principles of our justice system. What the government is telling us is that people are not allowed to make mistakes and that they will be deported. And, under this bill, their families will be deported along with them.
This bill also gives the minister discretionary powers without requiring him to be accountable or transparent. He will now have the authority to declare somebody a threat because of public policy considerations. The minister will be the only counterbalance to himself because of the lack of appeal process, and the concept of public policy considerations is not defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
In addition, Bill C-43 indiscriminately lumps all of the consequences for misrepresentation together. As a result, whether the misrepresentation is intentional or not, the individual would be inadmissible for five years.
According to the Canadian Council for Refugees, not only is Bill C-43 inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it also deprives people of fair consideration of their applications. It denies them access to the principle of fairness before the law and to an independent legal process.
Furthermore, the organization is critical of these new measures whereby someone who fought against an undemocratic regime would be prohibited from entering Canada. Would people like Nelson Mandela constitute a threat to Canada's national security? I doubt it.
A number of issues in this bill that we wanted to fix with our amendments are problematic. We pointed them out to the government, and we were backed up by witnesses in committee. We wanted the government to use common sense and look at the potential impact of Bill C-43.
By agreeing to go to committee, our parliamentary wing showed a willingness to be open and to compromise. We wanted to work on improving the bill. What we were asking for was warranted and realistic and would have improved the bill. Unfortunately, the government refused to listen to our suggestions and improve the bill. Instead of being pragmatic, the government insisted on justifying an ideology and regressive measures and on promoting division.
The Conservatives' statements have done everything to paint refugees and permanent residents as dangerous people, potential terrorists or people who come here only to take advantage of the system. These days, anyone who is not a full-scale citizen will not be recognized and will be considered by the Conservatives to be a foreigner with no room for error.
All along, the Conservatives have used extraordinarily rare exceptions to justify their bill, forgetting the majority of applicants, forgetting the people who will be directly affected by Bill C-43. When we expressed concerns about the impact of the bill, the government accused us of being soft on fraudsters.
When a witness stated that because the police in the country engage in racial profiling, Bill C-43 would disproportionately affect visible minorities, the expert was accused of siding with criminals. Our work in committee was constantly marred by these kinds of demagogic and poisonous comments.
This attitude must be brought to light and condemned. We wanted to debate the bill and discuss it. We were proactive and submitted proposals. But the government wanted to advance its political agenda. The Conservative ideology, which is focused on security, is helping create a system that functions by exception. This system will severely limit the fundamental rights of certain categories of immigrants.
We tried to help improve Bill C-43 while it was being studied in committee. We proposed nine reasonable amendments that addressed previous criticisms. Unfortunately, all of the opposition's amendments were flatly rejected.
In keeping with the ethical principles that guide Canadian parliamentarians, we proposed that the minister act transparently and report any decisions made through the use of his new discretionary powers. This request was rejected by the Conservatives. In so doing, the government refused to make the minister accountable to the people. It objected to the idea that the minister should provide details about the discretionary decisions he makes.
In accordance with the overarching legal principles of the Canadian system, we proposed reinstating the right to appeal, which Bill C-43 does away with. The Conservatives rejected our proposal, thereby rejecting a fundamental principle of our justice system: judicial appeal.
The Conservatives seem proud of the fact that the minister will have the power to review cases, but they neglect to mention that, as a result, he will be judge and jury. To limit the scope of Bill C-43, we suggested that the government clarify the notion of public policy considerations, which is not defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. We wanted to clarify the factors involved in the minister's discretionary decisions. Once again, the Conservatives refused to listen to reason.
Lastly, we wanted to clarify the procedure for interviews requested by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. We suggested that the government allow individuals to be accompanied during these meetings. The government has done away with the right to legal advice and the presence of a lawyer. We wanted a fairer process for applicants, but the Conservatives rejected our amendment.
In conclusion, our party will not support Bill C-43 because of its impact on the immigration process, the government's unwillingness to consider our amendments and the fact that this measure is at odds with our legal system. Contrary to what the Conservatives would have everyone believe, we do not support criminals. We support immigrants and Canadians. The Conservatives' stubborn determination to go it alone, to decide unilaterally, to avoid debate and discussion, will have consequences. The first of these will be a defective policy whose flaws will soon become clear.
Like Bill C-31 and Bill C-38, Bill C-43 is yet another stain on the Conservatives' immigration record. Once again, the government's actions are out of touch with reality and it is failing to consider the consequences of its actions. Once again, this government has refused to improve its laws in the interests of immigrants and Canadians. Once again, this government has taken a backward approach that conflicts with the interests of Canadians.