Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the wonderful member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner.
It is always a pleasure to rise in this chamber to speak to legislation. Today, we are talking about Bill S-8 to ensure that foreign nationals who are subject to economic sanctions are not able to enter our country.
Since we are also talking about human rights, I did want to take a moment to address an incident that happened this weekend to a very important person to Parliament, Irwin Cotler, who was at the premier of a documentary of his life and tireless work for human rights across the world. He was openly harassed and criticized at this event, which disrupted it and made quite a mockery of the whole thing. It made people very uncomfortable. Everyone should be open to public criticism and debate, as Mr. Cotler has always been and has never shied away from, but we are losing our decency as a society if we think it is acceptable to treat fellow humans this way.
In many circumstances, criticisms of accomplished Jewish people are often rooted in some form of anti-Semitism. It is okay for us to disagree with each other and we should encourage that at all times, but free speech also comes with a responsibility to treat one another with respect and decency.
We are now 10 months into Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine, but it was back in 2014 when Russia took actions and annexed Crimea. This egregious step was a blatant violation of international law. These attacks have caused the widespread devastation of Ukrainian infrastructure and property and the deaths of a number of civilians, notably women and children. These actions are a continuation of accelerated aggressive steps taken by Russia against Ukraine, and they threaten the international rules-based order. Canada responded, in part, through the use of economic measures, as did many of our allies. These sanctions are contained in the Special Economic Measures Act, and they affect about 1,000 individuals in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
The bill we have before us seeks to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, or IRPA, as we just heard the minister refer to it, in order to do several things, as I understand it.
First, the bill seeks to reorganize existing inadmissibility provisions relating to sanctions in order to establish a distinct ground of inadmissibility based on sanctions that Canada may impose in response to an act of aggression.
Second, it proposes to expand the scope of inadmissibility based on such sanctions to include not only sanctions imposed on a country, but also those imposed on an entity or a person. This is important given we have listed individuals as part of our economic sanctions, not just countries.
Third, it would expand the scope of inadmissibility based on sanctions to include all orders and regulations made under section 4 of the Special Economic Measures Act.
Last, it would amend the immigration and refugee protection regulations to provide that the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Emergency Preparedness, rather than the immigration division, will have the authority to issue a removal order on the grounds of inadmissibility based on sanctions under a new paragraph of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That will provide Canada with the needed ability to better link government action with economic sanctions for those who are seeking to come into Canada and experience a wonderful life here.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act defines when a person is inadmissible to Canada and establishes the applicable criteria for all foreign nationals and permanent residents who seek to enter or remain in Canada. However, its inadmissibility provisions do not align with the basis for imposing the majority of economic sanctions. This means that an individual who has been sanctioned economically can still show up to Canada and claim refugee protection. They are then able to be here in Canada to experience the life we have built. This is quite clearly a loophole that undermines confidence in our system and laws, and Canadians will not accept that these sanctioned individuals get to remain in Canada.
This loophole matters not only to Russian actors. Let us not forget about other countries with citizens who have been subjected to some of these sanctions: Belarus, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea and, of course, Iran.
With Iran, I will also mention that we should be doing much more than we are. We just heard an exchange between members of the opposition and the minister on that front. It is important to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization. That was the will of the House constituted back in 2018 and was again reaffirmed by the House just recently. We must act much more forcefully with respect to the IRGC. Canadians expect that of us.
Canada is often behind when it comes to some of these international actions. This is becoming part of our international reputation, and it is not a good one. We have been late with Magnitsky sanctions. We often wait to see where the political winds are blowing. We are too careful not to offend anyone.
Let us consider the government's official response to the Iranian protests, as we have discussed, or the treatment of the Uighur population by the Chinese Communist Party. We have been calling on the government to do more and it continually shies away from its responsibility. We are not being taken as seriously by the international community as we once were.
All too often, Canada's position is not substantive and not principle-based. It is slow to act, and often with half measures. Take, for example, the government's frenetic position on China. If we do not like the government's policy on China, we just have to ask another minister and we will eventually get the answer we like. Often the government is caught without a plan and requires significant public shaming to get some action.
Let us take, for example, the international commitment to fight money laundering through introducing a beneficial ownership registry and regime. This is exactly connected to preventing individuals who are sanctioned economically from hiding their assets across the world. Canada has one of the weakest laws for identifying assets in beneficial ownership. We are one of the only countries that has yet to introduce the beneficial ownership registry. The government promised to do it all the way back in 2019, then it said it would not get to it until 2025. Now it says that it will be bringing it in at the end of next year, but we are still waiting to see the legislation.
Yes, the government has agreed to fast-track it, but there is still much more to do. All the other countries are moving so much further ahead of us when it comes to fighting global money laundering. Again, it is connected to this legislation because these individuals have assets all across the world. It might be the case that we will not allow sanctioned individuals to come into Canada now, but those individuals could still hide their assets here because we do not have a way of finding out who owns what in our country. We need to do much more, much more quickly on this front.
Once again, the government says all the right things, but fails to execute on much of it. Yes, we see some action here, but I guess, as the saying goes, a broken clock is right at least twice a day.
I look forward to the committee discussions on Bill S-8. It is important legislation. We have already heard members in the chamber on the opposition side ask why it is taking so long. We look forward to moving the legislation through to committee, addressing perhaps some of the amendments that were brought forward by the NDP. It is an important step for our country to put in place measures that make it harder for individuals who have violated human rights and international laws to come here, to remain in a wonderful country that we have built and get the advantages of the political and legal systems that we have built.
It is with great pleasure that I speak in favour of the legislation and I look forward to it going to committee.