Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill C-11.
I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois will support sending this bill to committee so it may be studied more thoroughly, along with all issues pertaining to immigration and refugees.
This bill raises a number of concerns. We have already pointed out several inconsistencies relating to refugee status.
I would like to talk about two people I know personally from my riding. A man and woman, now married, are refugees from Tanzania and they are still waiting for their children. They have been fighting to bring their children to Canada for five years. They were asked to submit to DNA testing. The UN even had to intervene to do a comparative study and ensure that these children really are the children of this refugee couple in Canada. Now that we have received the results, we hope things will speed up, but there are still some obstacles.
When the children of legitimate refugees in Canada spend five years in refugee camps, we have every right to wonder if the measures proposed by the minister are rigorous enough to ensure that refugee claims under the family reunification program are being assessed correctly.
A number of countries are considered safe. We have a major problem with this provision in the bill. Who can determine with certainty whether or not a country is safe? Apparently Mexico is considered a safe country. However, on the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website, Canadians travelling to Mexico are discouraged from visiting certain regions of the country because doing so would put their lives at risk.
If it is too dangerous for the lives of Canadians and Quebeckers, is it not too dangerous for the Mexicans living there? Why are Mexicans who want to be free from the shackles of the drug wars and power struggles throughout their country not allowed to claim refugee status? Are we perhaps underestimating the safe nature of that country?
Yesterday, a new government was elected in Hungary. At first glance, that country seems safe. The right wing government has two thirds of the seats. With that many seats, it can implement measures to advance its program without having to consult other political parties. Hungary may have been considered safe yesterday or today, but tomorrow human rights there might not be respected the same way and the situation might change.
The House has passed a bill on free trade with Colombia. And yet there is a call for greater respect for human rights in that country. If a Colombian citizen applied, could he be considered a refugee in Canada if we have a free trade agreement with his country? We have to wonder.
In Colombia, abortion is illegal and punishable by a prison sentence. In more than 70 countries around the world, homosexuality is illegal and even punishable by death in some countries. What would happen if people from those countries came here? We know what our Conservative colleagues think about homosexuality. In a country where homosexuality is legal and part of our daily lives, a minister who offered a subsidy for Toronto's gay pride parade was rebuked and put in her place.
Therefore, we have good reason to ask whether giving the minister the latitude to designate safe countries without consulting this House is an acceptable measure.
On the other hand, we are pleased that the minister wants to speed up the refugee claim process. However, we must not move too quickly and we must be careful. We all know that a refugee is often someone who has left their country in a hurry with nothing, without documents or money, and is truly destitute. When a person leaves their country with absolutely nothing, it takes a little more than eight days to obtain the necessary documents.
We might be able to do something, to make some changes to the bill so that the person's first appearance is scheduled more than eight days later. This would allow the person to obtain documents, think about what he wants to do, how to do it and better understand what is happening. The person would have the opportunity to consult the various organizations in the community that could help him.
It has also been noted that there are some changes in the bill with respect to the refugee appeal division and we are pleased that it is finally being implemented. In fact, the Bloc Québécois has introduced two bills to create and implement the refugee appeal division, even though it was contained in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that this House voted on. Neither bill was successful. One version even died after being adopted by the Senate. When it returned to the House, the bill died because, if I recall correctly, the House was closed for an election.
It is unfortunate because, since 2005, the number of people applying for refugee status has more than doubled, from 20,000 then to 60,000 today. That is truly a lot of people claiming refugee status.
On the weekend, I got a call from a psychologist who works with victims of rape, incest and sexual abuse. She told me about a woman who had been imprisoned last week because she claimed refugee status and was not believed. This woman is from Guinea, where customary marriages are still common. She was married at a very young age to a much older man, who abused her sexually and physically. She had very obvious signs of torture on her body, and even a scar from an iron on her breast. The hospital here in Canada was able to determine that this woman really had been abused.
This woman claimed refugee status, and after having lived in Canada for some time, she met a man from her country of origin, fell in love with him and married him. After getting married, she pursued her claim for refugee status, but she was told that her marriage with this man was not genuine and she was accused of fraud. She was told that she had only married this man to obtain refugee status and sponsorship, although they had been legally married in front of the entire community. They are together, they are married, and they are now expecting a child.
Last year, at the beginning of the economic crisis, the Minister of Labour said that if there was no work in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, workers should go out west, where there is work. This woman's husband listened to the minister and went out west to support his family. The couple was then told that their marriage was not genuine because he went to work out west to support his family. That is unbelievable.
Last week, this 42-year-old woman, who has type 2 diabetes, was put in jail. She is now at the immigration detention centre in Laval. On April 28, she is going to be sent back to her country, where nobody will take care of her or her soon-to-be-born baby. Yet this very day, G8 ministers are in Halifax talking about maternal and child health, and the Prime Minister wants to introduce a maternal and child health initiative.
We cannot even take care of people here who are suffering and who could die if they return to their home countries because they will not receive adequate care. They could die. In Guinea, there are no doctors to provide the care that this woman will need until she gives birth because she has type 2 diabetes and is obese.
In reviewing the immigration system, we have to begin by making sure that public officials and judges have solid reasons for turning down applications from all individuals who have legitimate claims.
People have all kinds of reasons for wanting to stay here. A claimant might be a man who just wants to support his family. In contrast, a claimant might be a woman who says that she was forced to marry and will be found guilty by her ex-husband's family if she goes back to her home country. In these countries, women are held responsible if their husbands die. They can be charged and may suffer greatly.
How can we justify sending people back to countries like those whose values differ so dramatically from our own? Why would we support women in developing countries and save their lives when we do not support women and save their lives when they come here to ask for our help? I would really like to know. I am really confused about this, and I would like an answer to that question very soon.
I hope that this woman will be allowed to stay here. I hope she will not be sent away before her baby is born. It would be inhumane to send a woman in such a high-risk situation back to her country.
The refugee appeal division should have been implemented earlier so that this women could really appeal the decision made against her. Unfortunately, we are told that the refugee appeal division will come into effect by 2013 or 2014. That is three years from now, three long years for people who are suffering and wondering whether their claim will be heard. I hold out very little hope that this will happen.
I have often heard the minister talk to refugee, immigrant and other groups, and I believe he tells the truth. But I would like that honesty to extend to the measures he introduces.
I know that it is not as easy for a party to be in government as in opposition, because it has to take budgets and other factors into account. But the government members also have to consider what their colleagues are saying and calling for.
I hope this minister will do what he needs to do to ensure that all genuine refugee claimants can obtain refugee status. Too many people around the world are suffering. Moreover, we signed the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which means that we must not take refugee claimants' sexual orientation or country of origin into consideration, or what they are or what they do.
All we must consider is what they need.
We will support Bill C-11 so that it goes to committee and we can suggest amendments and correct measures that we feel are slightly random, unjustified or unjustifiable. I hope that everyone who is watching today will support what the Bloc Québécois is doing so that all refugee claimants can obtain refugee status.
In conclusion, the men and women who sit in the House have ideals and values similar to our own in some areas. I am certain that we will make the right decisions. We will do everything we can to ensure that the parts of the bill that we are not happy with are amended. Otherwise, the bill will not meet our expectations or refugee claimants' needs.