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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Laval—Les Îles (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2008, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Preventing Human Smugglers From Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act October 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I think what happened is that my colleague must have come in late during my speech because that is exactly what I said. So, we absolutely agree on that, that smugglers must be persecuted, must be put in jail. I said that. I thank the member for reminding everyone.

I would like to bring my colleague's attention to the number of articles in these three bills, because in fact as I said earlier there are three bills. The total sections that impact refugees are 12. The number of sections that actually impact smugglers in this bill are 5. The number of sections that concern marine transportation are 9. So, is this a bill about refugees, 12 articles, or is it a bill about smugglers, 5 articles? I leave it for members to decide.

Preventing Human Smugglers From Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act October 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for that correction. It is very kind of him. I am even happier. I had hoped that it was a Conservative because I hoped that there was at least some good in the Conservative Party with regard to immigration. But what can I do?

Let us go further back in time, to the arrival of 151 Tamils on the shores of Newfoundland in 1986. They were immediately granted landing until their refugee claims were processed by, and I hope this time I am right, the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney. Two years later, that government enacted a complete overhaul of the refugee system, in 1988. Both the Conservative prime minister and his immigration minister, at the time, continued to stress Canada's humanitarian commitments to the dispossessed.

How ironic that Bill C-49 should reverse this humanitarian tradition of which Canada is so proud.

I think and hope that every member in this House remembers what happened in 1914 when a ship full of people from the Punjab, Sikhs, was refused landing. I hope people remember that in 1939 the St. Louis arrived on the eastern shore, and Jews fleeing Nazi Germany were also refused. We know what fate awaited them.

I would like to end on a more positive note.

I would like to quote Jeanne Sauvé, the then Governor General of Canada, who said in 1986 when Canada was awarded the Nansen Medal:

...this celebration cannot allow us to forget the harsh reality of the millions of displaced people and their tragic journey through solitude and abandonment.

Finally, I would like to quote from an article in the August 14 edition of the Calgary Herald, written by Don Martin, referring to the Sun Sea refugees who arrived recently off the coast of British Columbia. He said:

Only when it's women and children trapped in the hold, potentially trying to reunite with husbands or fathers who were on the Ocean Lady, is there a sudden screech for a security clampdown, revised laws and public safety campaign. It's a classic political diversion tactic.

These are not my words. These are the words of a journalist.

Preventing Human Smugglers From Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act October 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am rising in the House once again, this time to participate in today's debate about Bill C-49, which affects three laws: first, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act—which means revisiting Bill C-11; second, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act—and I wonder if it really is balanced; and third, the Marine Transportation Security Act.

This bills aims to correct an illegal situation. It really is a government's responsibility to protect its border security. Security is clearly a critical issue for the entire world.

I would like to refer to certain international documents, agreements that Canada has signed, thus agreeing to be fully accountable for implementing their contents.

First, I would like to remind members that Canada signed the 1951 Geneva convention. It is also signed the protocol stipulating that individuals who have been victims of persecution since 1951 must also be subject to the Geneva convention. I will obviously come back to this during my speech.

The Geneva convention and the protocol that followed are the reasons why our refugee acceptance system was created. This system, despite its faults and weaknesses, and there are some, has become a model for industrialized countries.

This bill proposes a number of clauses that would punish smugglers, those who profit from the poor people who are trying to flee their country and come to Canada to live a life free of terror, discrimination, rape and killing. These smugglers receive enormous amounts of money and they violate international laws as well as our own Canadian laws.

In response to that, Bill C-49 proposes a substantial fine, for example a fine of $1 million for any criminal organization guilty of inducing, aiding or abetting a group of people to illegally enter Canada. That is from subclause 117(3), as it would be amended by the bill.

This amount depends on the number of people arriving in the group. The offenders could also receive a life sentence.

That is an improvement, in my opinion.

These clauses can certainly act as a real deterrent for smugglers hoping to bring groups of people illegally into Canada. Still, I would suggest that impounding the vessel or ship on which they come would be an additional deterrent to these smugglers. The price of smuggling then would become exorbitant and the loss of the vessel a real economic loss.

We also wish to congratulate the minister on his intention to work with local police forces in the home countries of human smugglers.

That aspect is not included in the bill, but is an important part of any concrete action.

Refugee claimants are not criminals. How many times must we repeat this? However, Bill C-49 treats them as if they were guilty of crimes, and again, this is what the bill suggests throughout the first part of it. Why are there only five sections of Bill C-49 that impact smugglers and twelve sections that impact refugees? We thought it was about smugglers. In fact, it is about changing the Canadian law, after study, which admits prospective refugees.

Another question I have is, why is this bill sponsored by the minister responsible for public safety and national security? Is it because the Conservative government wants to give Canadians the impression that refugee claimants pose a security threat? It tried to do this with the ship that arrived off the coast of British Columbia a few weeks ago, when in fact we see several weeks later that not one person has been held because he or she is a terrorist, yet the rumour goes on.

The people who are on these ships, or whatever mode of transport they use, are seeking safety and a good life in Canada. It is not their intention to break any international or Canadian law, yet the government presumes that they do so when it decides, through a bill like Bill C-49, to detain all the individuals designated as irregular arrivals. Irregular arrivals are those people who arrive in groups larger than, one would suppose, just a man, his wife and his children.

In this way, Bill C-49 is in direct violation of section 11(g) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that an individual is “not to be found guilty on account of any act or omission unless, at the time of the act or omission, it constituted an offence under Canadian or international law or was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations”.

These refugee claimants, these people who flee in exile, include women, elderly people, young children, men and quite often, as we have learned, even pregnant women.

As a signatory to the Geneva convention, Canada is duty bound to protect these claimants. But instead, Bill C-49 would have them immediately detained. Let us be clear: “detained” is a nicer way of saying “imprisoned” or “incarcerated”.

This is contrary to article 31(1) of the Geneva convention, which states, “The contracting states shall not impose penalties...provided [the refugees] present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.”

Even if we agreed that detention is required, the length set out by Bill C-49 also goes against article 31(2), which states, “The contracting states shall not apply to the movements of such refugees restrictions other than those which are necessary and such restrictions shall only be applied until their status in the country is regularized. The Contracting States shall allow such refugees a reasonable period... ”

I would like to emphasize the word “reasonable”.

But this bill proposes keeping these people in prison, until their identity can be proven, for up to one year.

Those of us who have worked with refugees and for refugees know that quite often, these vulnerable people have had to leave very suddenly and cannot always bring their official documents to prove their identity.

I should also remind hon. members that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, of which we are all so proud, protects any person present on Canadian soil, regardless of their citizenship.

What about the negative consequences of detention on these people? As I was saying earlier, among these refugees we often see older people, very young children and pregnant women. Often they have been tortured, raped or abused in their country. They received no protection in their own country and they fled.

They did not receive protection from the smugglers during the dangerous voyage, but they had hope. When they arrive in Canada, despite what they might expect, they are not entitled to protection from the Canadian authorities either.

How do we explain to these young children why they are prison? What crime did they commit?

I would like to read from the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989. Section 40(2)(a) of this convention stipulates that:

No child shall be alleged as, be accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law by reason of acts or omissions that were not prohibited by national or international law at the time they were committed;

How do we explain this clear violation to them?

Section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:

Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

However, under clause 20 of the new Bill C-49:

The Minister may, by order, having regard to the public interest, designate as an irregular arrival the arrival in Canada of a group of persons...

And, under clause 55 of the same bill:

If a designation is made under subsection 20.1(1), an officer must

(a) detain, on their entry into Canada, a foreign national who, as a result of the designation, is a designated foreign national;


(b) arrest and detain...

This is clearly an arbitrary detention.

It is regrettable that under clause 110, no appeal may be made by a refugee claimant in respect of a decision of the Refugee Protection Division. In Canada, even common criminals have the right to appeal a judge's decision.

Our humanitarian tradition that allows individuals the right to appeal decisions is entrenched, or I thought it was. Even Bill C-11, tabled in Parliament by the same minister, respected this right.

Bill C-49 also has hidden consequences. For example, section 11 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, as amended, would state that the designated foreign national may not make an application for permanent residence until five years have elapsed. Subsection 25. (1.01) of the same amended act would also state that the foreign national may not make an application until five years have elapsed. It is clear; it is stated twice in the bill.

Let us figure it out. When people arrive in Canada they are held for one year to prove their identity. The applicant may become a designated refugee, if all goes well. At that point, he must wait five years before making an application for permanent residence. Why? When the Immigration and Refugee Board establishes that someone is a refugee, that person is permitted to apply immediately for permanent residence in Canada. After the five years, if all goes well, the person applies but does not immediately become a permanent resident. We know it, I know it and everyone with immigrants in their riding knows it as well: two or three years may elapse before the government responds to the application. I estimate, and I do not believe I am exaggerating, that someone could wait up to 10 years before receiving permanent residence status in Canada.

During these 10 years not only he but his entire family will be in limbo, not knowing how life will unravel.

An irregular or designated refugee will therefore have to wait 10 years before being able to sponsor his or her family. Those are the hidden consequences of Bill C-49. Refugees cannot sponsor their families before becoming permanent residents of Canada. Given that they will not have the right to travel outside Canada during the entire period, they also will not be able to visit their spouse or children. That comes from a government that boasts about protecting family values. These family values are certainly not protected. Quite the opposite.

Amendments to the current immigration law proposed under Bill C-49 further consolidate the minister's legal authority to suspend an application for the consideration of any type of status, for example refugee status or even to be heard on humanitarian and compassionate grounds for access to Canada's protection, for a full five years. Let us not forget the individual would have already spent 12 months in jail, called detention, even before the government would look at the case. All these delays would be based on whatever the government deems to be the grounds for public policy. This amendment would then become part of section 25 of the IRPA as amended under Bill C-11.

This means that the timeline we just suggested, these 10 years, is the best-case scenario. It is not the scenario where the person is sent back or is refused anything in Canada. It is a scenario where he thinks he is going to stay, 10 years of limbo if the minister decides not to intervene.

Let us go back in time. Bill C-49 brings us back to the time of the Chinese exclusion act, the act that caused Chinese men to live their lives here in Canada without their wives, without their families. In fact many of these men never saw their families again. It caused economic hardship.

This is what caused the Canadian people to say they would not continue this, and this is when the concept of family reunification came in, when Canadians decided it was cruel to allow people, men and women, to stay here in Canada as Canadians and yet separate them from their families, wives, husbands and children, for we did not know how long.

Lo and behold, it was a Conservative prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, who had the act repealed in 1947. How unfortunate that the present Conservative government cannot continue this humanitarian tradition.

Let us go back in time again to 1986—

Foreign Affairs October 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Prime Minister has made a number of diplomatic blunders on the international scene. First came the humiliating loss of the UN Security Council seat, then the government was nowhere to be seen at the Sommet de la Francophonie.

When will the Prime Minister take on a leadership role on the international scene, and when will he start behaving like the representative of such a major player as Canada?

International Co-operation October 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, Canada was nowhere to be seen at the Sommet de la Francophonie, and in deciding to remove five of the poorest countries in Africa from CIDA's priority list for international aid, the Conservative government abandoned some member states of La Francophonie.

How could the Prime Minister have the nerve to appear before these countries, considering the fact that he did not fulfill his responsibilities to the poorest countries in the world?

Census October 20th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives want to spend $30 million more for a lower-quality census.

The data will be based on a response rate of about 50%, which is a far cry from the previous rate of 94%. We can imagine the consequences.

The Prime Minister's anti-scientific action is even being condemned by the union representing government scientists.

Why abolish the long form census? Is it to bury the government's lousy socio-economic record over the past five years?

Democratic Reform October 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of Persons Day, the organization Equal Voice, whose mission it is to promote the election of more women to all levels of government and ultimately change the face of Canadian politics, has put together guidelines on how to behave in the House of Commons. The rules tell us to be tough but not rough, avoid catcalls, insults, name-calling, jeering and needless interruptions.

We must demonstrate the respect Canadians want to see in the House by elevating the debate. As a society, we expect civility in the boardrooms of the nation, in the classrooms of the country and in this House.

Canada ranks 50th out of 189 countries in terms of the number of women elected on a national level. It is high time to restore balance and give Canadian women their rightful place. It is also high time to show young women that they have a place here in the House of Commons.

Government Contracts October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, that is very hard to believe.

Paul Sauvé was told to organize this cocktail party because it was the thing to do when you won a construction contract from the Conservatives. At the party, the minister himself congratulated Mr. Sauvé on his big $10 million contract. That was not a very subtle nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

The kickback is obvious, and we do not even know who benefited from the $140,000 pocketed by organizer Gilles Varin.

Will the minister tell us who in the Conservative government had their palms greased?

Government Contracts October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, two days ago, the Minister of Natural Resources said about the famous cocktail fundraiser, “At no time was there any discussion about government business.”

Yet the contractor who organized the cocktail party and from whom Conservative organizer Gilles Varin extracted $140,000 confirms that they did talk about the $10 million contract.

How much longer will this charade go on? When will the Conservatives release the findings of the government inquiry into this contract, as the minister promised 10 months ago?

Global Handwashing Day October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, October 15 marks Global Handwashing Day.

Here in Canada, handwashing is an effective way to protect one's health, but the situation in the developing world is similar to what it was here a century ago: some 3.5 million children under the age of five die of pneumonia and chronic diarrhea, deaths that could be prevented if people had access to clean water.

Handwashing is one of the most effective health interventions for women and children living in poverty. It reduces chronic diarrhea by 50% and respiratory diseases by 25%.

Yet the Conservative government dedicates less than 2% of CIDA's $5 billion budget to building basic sanitary facilities.

On behalf of the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, I call on the federal government to abide by the 2005 Paris Declaration and increase Canadian investment in the Global Sanitation Fund.