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40th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 089

CONTENTS

Thursday, October 28, 2010





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 145 
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NUMBER 089 
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3rd SESSION 
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40th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Public Accounts of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Public Accounts of Canada, 2010.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act

    Mr. Speaker, I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2009-10 annual report on the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
    As recorded here, people will find that 248 disclosures came forward from public servants with areas of concern that they wanted looked at. There were 218 acted on, 36 led to corrective measures and 7 led to findings of wrong-doing. All of that is documented in the report.

Individual Member's Expenditures

    I have the honour to lay upon the table a document entitled, “Individual Member's Expenditures for the Fiscal Year Ending March 31, 2010”.

[Translation]

    The Board of Internal Economy has implemented a new style of report to make it easier to understand members' activities and expenses. The information is presented in columns and rows that are easier to understand, and each expense category is more detailed.
    The report is available online on the parliamentary Internet site. It will be available soon.

[English]

Committees of the House

Health 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Health in relation to Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.
    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Transport, Infrastructure and Communities  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in relation to Bill C-509, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials).
    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

Petitions

Bullying  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of constituents who note that bullying has become a very significant problem in Canada. With the Internet and other modern communication systems, it has become an even more prevalent and damaging problem.
     The petitioners call upon Parliament to consider introducing legislation that would target the problem of bullying.

Passport Fees  

    Mr. Speaker, my petition calls upon the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees. The number of American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest levels since 1972. It has fallen by five million visits in the last seven years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.
    Passport fees for an American family of four can be over $500 U.S. While 50% of Canadians have passports, only 25% of Americans do.
    At the recent Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council and State Governments, attended by myself and over 500 elected representatives from 11 border states and three provinces, the following resolution was passed unanimously, which reads:
    RESOLVED, that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further
    RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited two-for-one passport renewal or new application;
    To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and finally promote a limited time two-for-one passport renewal for renewed application fees on a mutual basis with the United States.

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present three petitions today. The first petition is with regard to medical benefits.
    The petitioners point out that there are a number of severe, potentially life-threatening conditions that do not qualify for disability programs because they are not necessarily permanent or because the waiting list for surgeries could lengthen recovery time.
    The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to adopt legislation to provide additional medical EI benefits to at least equal to maternity benefits.

Skin Cancer  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with regard to skin cancer, particularly melanoma.
    The petitioners point out that one in seven Canadians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in Canada and the second most common cancer in young adults.
    The petitioners call upon Parliament to support a national skin cancer and melanoma initiative to provide much needed access to newer drug treatments and funding for research and educational programs.

Firearms Registry  

    Mr. Speaker, the last petition is with regard to the long gun registry.
    The petitioners point out that the long gun registry was originally budgeted to cost Canadians $2 million but that the price tag spiralled out of control to an estimated $2 billion a decade later and that the registry has not saved one life since it was introduced.
    The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to support any legislation that would cancel the Canadian long gun registry and streamline the Firearms Act.

  (1010)  

Child Care  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to submit to the House this morning. The first petition relates to child care.
    As members of the House know, for decades Canadian Parliaments have been promising to end child poverty and provide, in a complementary fashion, excellent child care. The petitioners want to ensure that all children living in Canada have access to excellent child care. In particular, they support the passage of Bill C-373.

Oil and Gas Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, my second petition is about gas gouging and it has been signed by people in my riding of Thunder Bay--Superior who are definitely getting hosed, gouged or whatever metaphor one wants to us, more than most of Canada, certainly more than Ottawa or southern Ontario. Most of these people are from Terrace Bay and Schreiber and they pay the highest prices of all.
    The petitioners call upon Parliament to give speedy passage to Bill C-286, which would deal with gas gouging in Canada.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Preventing Human Smugglers From Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act

    The House resumed from October 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    When this bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina had the floor for questions and comments consequent upon her speech. I therefore call for questions and comments. The hon. member for Mississauga South.
    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could refresh the House on the concerns that she expressed on Wednesday in her questioning of the other hon. member and the shared concerns that she has about this bill.
    Mr. Speaker, when I left off yesterday I was talking about the plight of refugees and how difficult it would be for them if they were detained for at least a year, especially children.
    Once individuals have been determined to be genuine refugees, it would take them another five years before they could apply for permanent residence and another three or more years for them to bring their sons, daughters or spouse to Canada. These people could be separated from their children for at least eight years. If a child is left to languish in a refugee camp for over eight years, who knows what will happen to that child.
    We do want to punish smugglers but this bill really attacks refugees rather than punishing smugglers.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her impassioned speech regarding this very problematic bill. I would like to hear about something she referenced.
    What does the government's approach mean in terms of perhaps contributing to that dark history of immigration and the way we have treated refugees and immigrants in the past? Is this not part of a very dark series of encounters and actions that we have had toward refugees and immigrants? Will we come to regret this later on?
    Mr. Speaker, in Canada we have had two approaches. One approach is a welcoming and caring approach to refugees. If we look at the Vietnamese boat people, their arrival to Canada was very much celebrated by church groups, by the government and by Canadians. They settled well in Canada and have made tremendous contributions to the well-being of Canada.
    Another approach has been that we did not want them and we would detain them. If we look at the Somali refugees, for example, we detained them for an extensive period of time. Further back in history, we have turned boats away, whether they were from India or from Europe. As a result, we have caused deaths and suffering, whether they were Jews or Sikhs.
    We have also interned Italians and Japanese because of their ethnic origins. The internments, for peace especially, is what I really am concerned about.
    If this bill passes the way it is written, we will see children being interned in jail and detained for at least a year, if not a year and a half. The psychological impact that would have on these children would be devastating. Let us give serious thought to this because detaining a child for more than even a few weeks is very problematic. I doubt that many of them would even recover after being detained for more than a year.

  (1015)  

    Mr. Speaker, I just wonder if the member would comment on what appears to be a deferential sort of treatment.
    I remember that before the fall of the Berlin wall, there were thousands of individuals who would just simply get off a plane in Gander, Newfoundland, on a trip from eastern Europe to Cuba, and would be automatically granted refugee status and looked after. There was no talk of refugee detention centres.
    One of the most horrific images in our world today is refugee camps where thousands of people sometimes spend many years in the same place without any recourse. With these detention centres, are we potentially looking at being in the same kind of boat? What does the member think the government thinks about that?
    Mr. Speaker, we already know that the government is spending $9 billion to build prisons. It will probably need to spend quite a bit to build more detention centres also.
    I also recall when 50,000 Irish refugees arrived in Toronto at the turn of century and they were welcomed by 30,000 Torontonians. It was called the city of York at that time and they created Toronto. A lot of them were sick and starving after their long journey from Ireland. They were leaving the famine at that time and Torontonians opened their arms to help them and cure them. That part of the creation of Toronto is a proud history. I wish all of us would remember that our history in Canada is very much opening our arms to refugees, most of the time.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House in support of Bill C-49, the preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act.
    From the day our Conservative government was first elected, we have made strengthening the criminal justice system a consistent priority. We have told Canadians that we would take action to crack down on the activities of organized crime groups and others whose activities undermine public safety and destabilize our communities. We told them that we would help build safer neighbourhoods for everyone and ensure that our streets and homes would be places where families could feel secure.
    Ours is a government of action. We have consistently delivered on these promises time and time again. We have passed legislation to stiffen penalties for crime, and violent gun crimes in particular. We have provided law enforcement agencies with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. We have taken steps to ensure that violent offenders are kept behind bars, not in their living rooms.
    We are here today to take decisive action again.
    In August, Canadians were reminded that this country is not immune to the global activities of organized crime groups intent on making a profit from the smuggling of hundreds of foreign nationals. The arrival of 492 Sri Lankan Tamils aboard the MV Sun Sea came less than one year after the arrival of 76 Sri Lankan Tamils aboard the Ocean Lady. The fact that two such vessels have reached Canadian shores in less than 12 months clearly demonstrates that large and growing human smuggling ventures are extending their reach and expanding their logistical capabilities and that these human smuggling networks are increasingly targeting Canada.
    Human smuggling is a despicable crime, and abusing Canada's generosity for financial gain is utterly unacceptable.
    Canada has an obligation to crack down on dangerous criminal enterprises that benefit only those who organize such large-scale ventures and do so little with regard to the human cargo which they transport.
    We also know that human smuggling routes can be used to traffic narcotics and firearms. This poses a threat to public safety and erodes our communities.
    The profits from human smuggling may also be used to fund other illicit criminal activities.
    Our government is committed to protecting the safety and security of Canadians. We are committed to maintaining the integrity of our borders and our immigration and refugee programs. We are committed to ensuring that Canada's immigration system remains fair. That is what the legislation before us today is about.
    Bill C-49 is focused on giving officials additional tools to better respond to human smuggling.
    First, we are proposing targeted amendments to the smuggling offence to ensure that it captures the various ways in which smuggling can occur.
    Under the current regime, prosecutions for human smuggling require proof that the accused knew the individuals being smuggled did not have the documents required by law to enter Canada. Today's amendments would expand this to include any violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, including for example bringing people into Canada in a way that avoids their presenting themselves for examination as required by the act.
    Currently, only situations where the smuggler knew that the smuggled persons did not posses the documents necessary to enter Canada are captured as an offence under the act.
    What does this mean in the context of smuggling? It means that a prosecutor could prove this offence by showing that the accused was aware of the substantial risks if the smuggled person was or would be entering Canada in contravention to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act but simply did not care.
    We believe these changes would improve our ability to investigate and prosecute those who contribute to human smuggling ventures.
    Second, we are proposing an escalating mandatory minimum penalty scheme for persons convicted of smuggling, reflecting our government's intention to more effectively deter and denounce this criminal activity.
     Under the proposed legislation, the number of people smuggled and the presence of aggravating facts would determine which mandatory minimum penalty would be imposed upon conviction. The two aggravating facts are: the offence was committed for profit or for the benefit of, at the discretion of, or in association with a criminal organization or terrorist group; and the person, in committing the offence, endangered the life or safety or caused bodily harm or death to any of the persons smuggled.

  (1020)  

    The mandatory penalties would be, where less than 50 persons are smuggled, three years' imprisonment if one of the above aggravating facts was present, or five years' imprisonment if two of the above aggravating facts were present. The mandatory minimum penalties would be, where 50 or more persons are smuggled, five years' imprisonment if one of the above aggravating facts was present, and ten years' imprisonment if two of the above aggravating facts were present.
    These amendments send a clear message. We will not tolerate smuggling operations in Canada and such conduct will be met with strong sanctions.
    We are also proposing amendments to the Marine Transportation Security Act. For example, this bill would increase the penalties for anyone who fails to comply with the ministerial direction to not enter or leave or to proceed to another area in Canadian waters. Increased penalties will also apply to anyone who fails to submit required vessel pre-arrival information or who provides Canadian officials with false or misleading information.
    The irregular arrival of a large number of irregular migrants all making refugee claims can pose significant challenges for border officials who are tasked with identifying each applicant in determining whether the individual is inadmissible to Canada and whether the individual poses a risk, due to the individual's association with organized criminal or terrorist organizations.
    The sheer number of applicants combined with the increased complexity of examinations and investigations can and does overwhelm existing resources. This is why we need a new approach to the processing of irregular migrants, or one that will ensure Canada remains fair but also vigilant.
    Bill C-49 accomplishes this by allowing the Minister of Public Safety to designate those who land on our shores in a way similar to those aboard the MV Sun Sea or the Ocean Lady as an irregular arrival. The minister will be able to make such a designation when he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that establishing the identity or admissibility of individuals who come to Canada as part of the arrival or other investigations cannot be carried out in a timely manner, or if he or she has reasonable grounds to suspect that the arrival of the group involved organized human smuggling activity.
    Under the current rules, any foreign national or permanent resident may be detained on entry into Canada. People can be detained if an immigration officer considers such an examination necessary in order to continue an examination. They can also be detained if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that they are inadmissible to Canada, are a danger to the public or are unlikely to appear for an immigration proceeding.
    The reasons for such detention however, must be reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Board within 48 hours, and subsequently reviewed within seven days, and then each 30-day period that follows. In many cases this provides a reasonable system of checks and balances to help prevent unreasonably long detentions.
    In the case of irregular arrivals however, the current system of detention review does not provide officers from Canada Border Services Agency with sufficient time to properly interview and identify each individual, or to determine whether the individual may be inadmissible to Canada or pose a risk to Canadians.
    Too many resources are expended in meeting the demands of the detention review schedule rather than focusing on the required investigations and verifications needed to ensure the integrity of Canada's immigration and refugee program as well as the safety and security of Canadians.
    Bill C-49 addresses this by providing for the mandatory detention of persons who arrive in Canada as part of a designated arrival until such time as they are found to be refugees by the Immigration and Refugee Board, or until 12 months have passed since they were first detained. Those persons still detained after 12 months will have a detention review hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board to determine whether there is a basis for their continued detention. If the Immigration and Refugee Board continues detention, there will be subsequent reviews every six months. The minister will be able to order early release where exceptional circumstances exist.
    Under our proposed amendments, individuals who come to Canada as part of a designated arrival will, for a period of five years, be prevented from applying for permanent resident status and sponsoring family members. Restrictions on travelling outside Canada will also apply during this period. They will also be prevented from accessing a more generous health care plan than the average Canadian currently receives, something they can do at the present time through the interim federal health plan.

  (1025)  

    These are practical and sensible provisions. They address the need to properly identify individuals who come to Canada as part of an irregular arrival. They will help to keep Canadians safe by helping to ensure that dangerous criminals and terrorists are not released into Canadian society. They will also help deter human smuggling operations from targeting Canada.
    We also need to deter other kinds of abuse of Canada's immigration and refugee protection program. Refugee status can be revoked when it is proven before the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board that an individual had lied to support his or her claim for protection and that the remaining credible evidence is not sufficient to support the individual's need for refugee protection. This is referred to in the act as the vacation of refugee status.
     Bill C-49 amends the Balanced Refugee Reform Act to prevent such persons from appealing decisions of the refugee protection division with regard to the vacation of refugee protection to the refugee appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The bill also eliminates appeals to the refugee appeal division with respect to the decisions the division has made that a person's need for refugee protection has ceased.
    All these measures substantially enhance our ability to crack down on those who engage in human smuggling. They strengthen our ability to protect the safety and security of Canadians from criminal or terrorist threats, and they respect our international obligations and commitments to provide assistance and sanctuary for genuine refugees.
    Before I end my speech, I want to address the comments made by the NDP's public safety critic last week. He compared the selfless act of those who helped slaves escape persecution to the criminal human smugglers who prey on vulnerable individuals and who only care about profit. That member should be ashamed and he should apologize to this House.
    Human smugglers are clearly targeting Canada and are treating our country like a doormat. The problem is growing and must be stopped.
    Canadians expect appropriate measures to respond to the challenges associated with such large-scale arrivals, such as those we have recently witnessed. They want to help those in need and those who need our protection, but Canadians are not naive. They know that threats exist and that we must remain vigilant.
    That is why our government is committed to taking action on many fronts, both domestically and internationally. That is what we have done, and that is what we are going to continue to do in the future.
    We are proud of this bill. I encourage the member for Vancouver Kingsway and all members to recognize that the serious problem posed by human smuggling is growing and must be stopped.

  (1030)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety referenced two vessels, the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady. I would like to take him back in time and reference two other ships that arrived in Canadian waters.
    Back in 1939 the SS St. Louis arrived in Canadian waters with 937 European Jews on board. Unfortunately, that ship was turned away. Those unfortunate Jews were returned to Europe, and in the subsequent years virtually all of them lost their lives in the Holocaust.
    There was a similar incident in 1914 with the SSKomagata Maru. There was 354 people on board. They were turned back. Many of them lost their lives when they returned to India.
    I ask the parliamentary secretary, under this legislation, what sort of sanctions would the ship's captain and owners of the SS St. Louis have faced?
    Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague opposite is very interested in a number of immigration issues, and I respect him for that.
    Let us be honest, we are not talking about 50 or 60 years ago, or even 80 years ago. These are different circumstances, different people. These are human smugglers who are doing it purely for profit. That is what we are talking about here, human smugglers who are doing this purely for profit. The intention behind this legislation is to take that issue out.
    We understand the need for legitimate refugees to be able to come to this country. We have processes that are able to handle that.
    In this situation, these are human smugglers. Large sums of money are being expended by these folks to come here. We also hear a lot of things are occurring after the fact, after some of the folks come here, about their returning to their country of origin.
    I think my friend has to recognize that these are different circumstances, different times. We are not talking about something that happened 60 years ago. We are talking about something that happened in the last few months.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the point raised by the previous member is a very important one. Will the government acknowledge that a ship can be leased to transport legitimate refugees, and that these refugees may agree to pay a reasonable amount of money so that the ship can reach foreign shores? Will it also recognize the fact that the captain would be remunerated?
    How do we make a distinction between a captain who receives reasonable remuneration for the risks he is taking and the expenses he is incurring, as opposed to a captain who is doing it for profit? An investigation would have to be done after the fact. I think that the government member knows very well that in the past our welcome for refugees has been an example for the world. We have had no complaints about the refugees, because they have truly enriched our country.
    Now, in different circumstances that may appear similar, how will we distinguish between those who are charging a fair price and those who are exploiting refugees? The second kind has neither the government's sympathy nor ours, I should add.

  (1035)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I know my friend is interested in immigration issues and I respect him likewise for that. But these are different circumstances. I do not think we can deal with the what-ifs and all those other things. We do know certain things are occurring in our world, and Canadians expect members of Parliament to take a stand.
     I hear in my riding, and I am sure my colleagues do, from people who have legitimately followed all of the rules and have immigrated to this country or have come as refugees in the normal sense of how these things occur. What they are not happy about is people who are paying huge sums of money, lining up on foreign shores and coming here in ships. Seemingly, in their minds, the ship owners and the captains have been immune from any prosecution. This is just putting it on the table that all of these people need to recognize before they leave their shores, if they are paying large sums of money, that the captain is going to face sanctions when he gets here, and those people who are buying their way, so to speak, into this country are going to face this process of dealing with the refugee system. It is a fair process, quite honestly.
    Canadians do not want Canada to be seen as a welcome mat for everyone who wants to come here and uses this as a reason for getting into the country.
    Mr. Speaker, the current law in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, in section 117, provides for punishment of 10 years if people are smuggling in 10 or fewer people, and it provides life imprisonment if they are smuggling in more than 10 people. A life sentence is very severe. Why are those terms already in the immigration act not enough to deal with smugglers? I can see that if Conservatives want to amend the Marine Transportation Security Act, that could be possible. Why is it not introduced separately, and why is it mixed in with the immigration act, because the immigration act already has severe punishment in that section?
    Mr. Speaker, again, my colleague is another member of the House who has immigration files she is interested in. I think she has a private member's bill before the House that would allow additional immigration to this country.
    If what the member is saying is in fact what she believes, she should support the bill because typically the NDP supports less in terms of sentencing than other parties. The bill is fair and reasonable, but it sends a clear message around the world to those who would engage in human smuggling for profit that they are going to be sanctioned and there are opportunities when they get to this country to face Canadian laws that deal with this. So I would ask all members to talk to their constituents. I think they will find that most of their constituents find this fair and reasonable and they expect Canada to stand up for some of these principles.
    Mr. Speaker, the government attempts to create fairness, and one of the great mediators of fairness is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Would the parliamentary secretary be prepared to table in the House an opinion by the Department of Justice as to whether or not all provisions within this bill will meet the test of the charter or a charter challenge?
     Would he provide that to members of the House, so that we can review as to whether or not these provisions do indeed meet the test of fairness as prescribed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the floor would know that I do not have such a document with me. Whether it exists or not, I do not know, but that is frequently an argument we hear from the opposite side, that it will not pass the test of the charter.
    We can always stand back and say it will not pass the test of the charter, and we will not know that until a court has ruled on it. However, as he knows from when his party was in power, the drafters of these bills come from within the legal branches of Justice and other branches. They have vetted it. They have brought it forward. This bill was not written on the back of a napkin or anything of that nature. It has been drafted properly, and I am sure my colleague is quite well aware of that.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate. I want to do so by concentrating really on two aspects of the legislation and on the situation that the member who has just spoken and others have talked to.
    This bill causes me a great deal of concern, not because it is illegitimate or inappropriate for governments to be concerned about the security of Canada. In fact that is a primary responsibility of the federal government and a responsibility that all of us take very seriously. However, I am concerned because the methods and definitions used in this bill would significantly impact a number of people who are not smugglers, the term used by the government, but people fleeing for their lives from difficult situations.
    In particular I want to discuss, at this point in time, the situation in Sri Lanka because we would not be having this discussion if two boats had not arrived over the last several years on which a number of Sri Lankans of Tamil origin came to Canada. It is important for us to stop dancing around the issue and understand that, were it not for that particular circumstance, we would not be having this debate, we would not be having this discussion and the government would not be presenting this legislation.
    To talk about this legislation without talking about what happened in Sri Lanka and what is taking place there today would be a bit like talking about Moby Dick without mentioning a white whale.
    As members know, I have spent many months in Sri Lanka over the last several years. Together with a number of other Canadians and international constitutional experts, I was involved in advising in the negotiating process that came out of the ceasefire in Sri Lanka that took place in 2001 and was negotiated by the Norwegians.
    In the course of that work, I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in that country. I met on several occasions with political leaders on all sides and have had an opportunity since then to follow on a regular basis the events that are taking place in the country.
    I am not going to go over the entire political history of Sri Lanka except to say that the period in which I was there, the period of the ceasefire, was a brief interregnum of non-violence during a 25-to-30 year, very difficult and violent civil war in which literally tens of thousands of people were killed, mainly in the north but including civilians in the south. Yes, acts of terrorism were carried out against civilians. Very significant bombing and damage and destruction and death occurred as a result of the war carried out by the government of Sri Lanka as well as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as they are called, better known as the Tamil Tigers.
    The ending of that war was a subject of considerable debate in this House. Many questions were raised in question period about it, not only in this House but in parliaments and legislatures around the world.
    There are questions about what actually happened at the end of that conflict. Certainly by any estimation, several thousand people were killed in the last few days. Estimates range anywhere from a few thousand to as high as 30,000 or 40,000. Those numbers are contested and debated by all sides, but nevertheless, it is clear that there was a significant loss of life at the very end of the war.

  (1045)  

    It is also interesting that as recently as the last few days, Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom called for an investigation into possible war crimes that may or may not have taken place at the end of that war.
    The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has appointed a panel of experts to advise him. It is to look into the question of what happened and what the possible consequences would be with respect to the conduct of the government of Sri Lanka as well as the conduct of the LTTE. That panel has not been welcomed by the government of Sri Lanka. In fact, its very existence has been challenged. It is the subject of considerable debate in Sri Lanka. The government of Sri Lanka has also appointed a commission that is supposed to look into the question of what happened in those last days.
    From the perspective of the government of Sri Lanka, the war is simply over. The conflict is at an end. There are still several thousand people in large refugee camps, but many of them have been rehoused and moved out, away from the 300,000 people who were in the camp at the end of the conflict.
    At the same time, it is fair to say that political power is being consolidated at the central level. As colleagues will certainly know, the government of Sri Lanka not only has not been particularly enthusiastic about allowing in the members of the panel from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, it also, despite the fact I had a valid visa issued by the High Commission of Sri Lanka, did not permit me to enter the country when I arrived at Colombo airport some several months ago. I am sure other members perhaps in other parties have since been allowed to go, but I regret very much I was unable to go last June.
    I must confess, I do not say these words with even a degree of personal resentment at the fact that this took place. Rather it was the fact that when I was not allowed in, it was because I was deemed to be a threat to the security of the country. When I hear others described as a threat to the security of the country, that is what I was called.
    I hope people will think through very carefully in trying to understand some of the motivation, some of the issues, the human problems, the suffering, the sense of threat to life and limb that has historically led people to flee a country and to seek refuge and harbour somewhere else.
    The minister is sitting in the House. I respect the fact that he is here listening to the debate. I have always respected that approach—
    Order, please. I want to bring to the attention of the member for Toronto Centre and others that it is not a practice to draw attention to whether members are or are not in the chamber.

  (1050)  

    I certainly know that, Mr. Speaker. One would think that after 32 years I would have figured out how to do this.
    I simply wanted to point out the fact that I appreciated there were some people who were here. In my experience, other ministers are not always here when we discuss matters of a bill. I appreciate the minister's respect for parliamentary tradition.
    However, I want to emphasize that it is not possible for the House to debate the question of the appropriateness of this legislation unless we understand what exactly is taking place in the country from which people are fleeing and which are now the subject of the sanctions in the bill. This is why we are discussing the legislation.
    It is not possible to have a serious discussion about the bill without understanding that in Europe, in the United Nations, in the United States, in virtually every country in the western world significant concerns have been expressed, and are being expressed, about the human rights situation, historically, in Sri Lanka, and even today in Sri Lanka. It is an illusion to think that this is not a problem or it is something we should not discuss.
    The Conservative government has remained significantly silent on this topic. We have not heard anything from it with respect to the circumstances surrounding the end of the war. We have not heard anything from it with respect to whether or not it is fully supportive of the decision of Ban Ki-moon to name a panel. We have not heard any response to the call from the British prime minister with respect to the need for war crimes investigation.
    I do not know why there is that reluctance. I do not know why a government, which in many respects from insignificant moments in the life of the House has spoken clearly about democracy and has spoken clearly about human rights, would have such difficulty in this situation. It cannot be that there was a violent conflict and because one party to that conflict was the LTTE. It cannot be that the standard to which we hold the Sri Lankan government can be any less or any lower. It cannot be that we have appropriately designated the LTTE as a group that practised terror, that believed in violence, that believed in the appropriateness of killing civilians or of using civilians as targets and as shields in the course of a war, a group that believed it was appropriate to strap bombs on the backs of young 13-year-old women and send them into a market or into a bazaar. There never can be an apology or an expression of support for that kind of tactic or approach to life. We should be very clear about that. Speaking as someone who has lost dear friends to these acts of terror, I have no hesitation in being critical of that.
    However, that is never an excuse for repression. That is never an excuse for oppression. It is not an excuse for the killing of civilians. We would not be seeing the numbers of people who get on those boats if there was not a problem in Sri Lanka. Anybody who says that we are not worried about that or we will not express a concern about that or that is not part of what we need to discuss is simply not facing up to the reality of the situation.
     I would ask the government to use its offices of investigation and its capacity. I would like the government to remain deeply sensitive to the challenge that the Tamil community still faces in Sri Lanka and to be aware of some of those circumstances and the pattern of increasing the political power at the centre. Every sensible observer from the International Crisis Group to Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch to the United Nations has expressed concern about the underlying challenge of the problem of human rights in Sri Lanka.

  (1055)  

[Translation]

    If there were no civil rights problems in Sri Lanka, we would not be having this problem with refugees right now. We cannot discuss this bill in the House of Commons without discussing the situation in Sri Lanka. We must discuss it honestly and openly. That is essential.

[English]

    The second point I want to make is the government has told us, and the member who just spoke referred to this very directly, that the purpose of the bill is to increase the severity of punishment for what it calls human smuggling. In the history of immigration and in the history of the movement of populations, it is very important for the Government of Canada and the people of Canada to express a strong view about people being paid money in order to bring many others to Canada and to portray them as refugees.
    My colleague from Etobicoke Centre mentioned two of the most dramatic examples of the arrival of boats in the country. The member who was asked about it simply dismissed by saying, “well that is history”. Well, not exactly. It was pointed out that when the Komagata Maru was posted outside of Vancouver, it was not allowed in, people were not allowed to disembark and stay here. Eventually the boat went back and when they arrived in India, hundreds were killed. We know from the plight of the S.S. St. Louis that of the 900 people who were not allowed to land in Havana, or in Miami or in Halifax, probably as many as 300 were killed in the Holocaust. A lot of studies have done on both of these experiences.
    When the member says that we should ask our constituents how they feel, I have to ask how Canadians felt in 1914 and in 1939.
    We always have to say to ourselves that these are not easy issues. I have no doubt at all in my mind that there are a great many of my constituents who, if they were told about this legislation, would say that it is good. It is only when we think it through that we ask ourselves if this is really what we should do. This is where I have a problem.
    I have a problem because the law is not just about smuggling; the law is also about refugees. It creates two classes of refugees. That is the weakness of the law and, in my view, it is the flaw of the law. In my view, it is a flaw which the courts will attack front and centre. It is not just about the charter; it is also about our international obligations.
    We have signed covenants with respect to the rights of children and with respect to the rights of refugees. We cannot simply say that because refugees came over in a certain boat that we will put them in a different category. They would be designated by the minister and they would be unable to do what other refugees could do, or what other people who applied for refugee status could do, or those who sought to be refugees could do.
    It is this creation of two classes that is the central weakness and flaw of the bill. In addition, the legislation as a whole and the discussion as a whole does not in fact deal with where the problem lies.
    It is equally important for us to deal with the issue of queue jumping. There is nothing more basic to a Canadian's sense of fairness than to say that we do not want people jumping the queue, that those people are trying to come in as immigrants when there are other people who are patiently waiting in their countries of origin.
     It has to be understood that there is no queue line for refugees. These are two different things. Again, that is where I think the government has used language, quite creatively I might add, which is intended to tell Canadians that we have to create a situation that is fair to everyone.

  (1100)  

    I agree we have to create a situation that is fair to everyone, but I question legislation that creates two separate categories of refugees, that treats people who come over in certain boats in a certain way and people who come over by plane or in another boat in another way. The government is not being upfront with the people of Canada when it suggests that what is taking place is any form of queue jumping.
    If there is a refugee process that is well managed and that has enough people to manage the flow of people who are coming in and asking to be refugees, if people are not accepted as refugees they go back to their country of origin, and that is it.
    We send back hundreds, if not thousands of people. No one should be under any illusions about that. This legislation is more about politics than it is about dealing with a real problem.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Toronto Centre for his comments. He is always a thoughtful member. In particular, let me say that I agree with many of his comments with respect the conflict in Sri Lanka and the need for a just and durable settlement that respects the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people and that responds to the many serious concerns about human and civil rights violations.
    I spoke to that at the beginning of my speech in introducing this bill yesterday, and I did discuss the ongoing efforts of Canadian diplomats and members of this government's executive branch to do everything we can to ask the Sri Lankan authorities to deal with these issues in a transparent and serious manner. I entirely agree with the member.
    Having said that, I think it is important to underscore that the bill does not deal with any particular source country.
    Second, in dealing with that issue, I wonder if the member would care to comment or reflect on the fact that, since the cessation of hostilities last year, more than 100,000 Tamil Sri Lankan refugees who were under the protection of India, principally in Tamil Nadu, have since returned to Sri Lanka. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said that Tamil refugee claimants can no longer be presumed to have a bona fide claim. The UNHCR has also facilitated the return to Sri Lanka of many Tamil asylum claimants who were under temporary protection in southeast Asia.
    Similarly, a CBC report last week indicated that Tamils living in India had paid smugglers to come to Canada, in part for economic reasons, in their words. Finally, according to a CBSA survey, a significant majority of successful Tamil asylum claimants in Canada have subsequently returned to the country from which they claimed to flee for reasons of fear of persecution.
    Could the member comment on the fact that the situation according to the UN and other international observers has improved appreciably from the point of view of safety? However, I agree with him that there continue to be very serious issues that must be dealt with.
    Finally and very briefly, the analogies to the St. Louis and Komagata Maru quite frankly border on demagoguery. Neither of those situations has any relevance to this. We would—
    Order. The hon. member for Toronto Centre.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister is very kind. At one point in his speech he says how thoughtful I am and at the end of his speech he calls me a demagogue, so I am not sure which it is. I wish the minister would make up his mind. I can handle the praise and the criticism, either one, but I just wish he would make up his mind. A thoughtful demagogue, I guess, is the average.
    On the first point the minister is absolutely correct, that of course the situation has changed, but let us be candid. The situation has changed because there has been a considerable consolidation of power in Sri Lanka, significant centralization of power and continued repression. It is still a very dangerous place to be a journalist. It is a very dangerous place to express opposition and differing views, but it is also a constantly evolving situation.
    I am not suggesting for a moment that there is an automatic presumption that any one of the people, who came over in the circumstances of the last 18 months in two boats that are the subject of this legislation, is a refugee. I am simply saying there is a need to consider their claim. There is a need to make sure we have a sufficient number of officers and people who can review the case in time to get it done. That is the approach that needs to be taken to regulate that situation.
    We can debate the question of the other boats in our history. The one thing I would not want the minister to ignore is the comment that was made by former Prime Minister Mulroney at the time that the boat came to Newfoundland. At that point the government of the day decided it would grant almost immediate resident status to the people who claimed, and Mr. Mulroney said it was done in a spirit of generosity, realizing and remembering the historic traditions of the country. If I may say so, this was quite a significantly different tone than the one struck by the current Prime Minister.

  (1105)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his thoughtful commentary on a very important bill. He made a couple of points, which I hope all members will recall, that we cannot paint all refugees and refugees' circumstances in countries with the same brush.
    I listened carefully to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, and I was a little disturbed that he invoked a number of images of gun crime, violent offenders, profits and funds used for illicit criminal activities. He tended to paint a picture that what we are talking about in the bill is about refugees and all of these terrible things that are associated with refugees.
    The member read that speech, and that means it comes from the minister's office, which means it comes from the Prime Minister's Office. Is there a sense that maybe the government is not being totally forthright with the House with regard to its attitude toward refugees generally?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the central flaw in the bill, as I have tried to suggest, is this. First of all, the government did not invent the offence of human smuggling. Human smuggling is an offence that is now punishable by up to life imprisonment. We have not had many convictions of it, but nevertheless to suggest that this is some new law, some new crackdown that is taking place, is more illusion than reality. The reality is that we already have a law in place.
    The other flaw is that the bill has much more to do with how refugee applicants who come over in boats of this kind are treated, that is to say detention for up to a year and being treated in a separate channel, a separate class. It creates a new class of people who have been designated by a minister because of the circumstances in which they have come. It gives extraordinary power and discretion to the minister to label a group or to label a particular circumstance, and it then puts those people in a separate stream and they are treated in a completely separate way that is entirely discriminatory in comparison to how other refugee applicants are to be treated. That is why I do not believe this meets the test. It does not meet the test.
    Mr. Speaker, there are 18,000 internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka and 89,000 widows in the north and the east. They are in a desperate situation. They talk about struggling to live each day. They have no jobs and no men to help them out.
    Would this be one of the definitions of refugees, people who have no livelihood, who live in camps and who are stuck in a desperate situation with respect to food and shelter?

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am not here to give a definition of who is or is not a refugee. That is a determination that is made in law.
    I am here to say that we all have to understand how serious the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka remains for a great many people. One should not forget that, and one should not ignore the nature of that circumstance.
    Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour and a pleasure for me to rise and speak in favour of Bill C-49, Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act, and I would certainly like to commend the hon. Ministers of Citizenship and Immigration and of Public Safety for the good and timely work they have done in getting this legislation before the House.
    Hon. members will know that in recent years the smuggling of human beings across international borders has become a multi-million dollar activity that is actually global in scope. Some estimates place the number of people who are smuggled across borders every year at 800,000. The United Nations notes that it is one of the fastest growing areas of international criminal activity.
    The precise number of people who are smuggled across international borders is difficult to confirm, given the clandestine nature of these operations, but there is no doubt that human smuggling is big, big business. People can be smuggled by land, by sea or by air. Human smuggling may be perpetrated by organized crime groups or by individuals with links to terrorist organizations. This fact in itself should spur us all into action. Like many of our international allies and partners, Canada today is a target for the global activities of organized criminal enterprises that engage in this reprehensible act of human smuggling.
    Canadians have recently witnessed the arrival of 492 Sri Lankan Tamils aboard the MV Sun Sea, less than one year after the arrival of 76 Sri Lankan Tamils aboard the boat the Ocean Lady.
     Earlier this month, a number of people were discovered in a container at the Port of Montreal in a possible case of human smuggling or human trafficking.
    Last year, the RCMP's Atlantic region immigration and passport section, working with the Integrated Border Enforcement Team in New Brunswick, arrested four people alleged to have facilitated illegal migration. Two of these individuals have since pleaded guilty and were convicted of offences under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, including human smuggling and misrepresentation.
    Finally, Canadians previously witnessed the seizure of four cargo ships that appeared in remote west coast waters, carrying nearly 600 migrants from southern China. Many of these individuals were children and teenagers whose parents had paid sums equivalent to 10 years of their salaries to so-called snakeheads that specialize in human smuggling.
    Human smuggling is a serious crime. I think all members of the House would agree with that, and the international community has taken decisive action to respond to it. The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplemental Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air provide a broad international framework to respond to the varied threats posed by organized crime and their smuggling ventures.
    Canada was among the first countries to sign and ratify these important international crime treaties, and the tabling of this bill today reflects Canada's ongoing commitment to strengthening our responses to migrant smuggling.
    Human smuggling undermines the integrity of Canada's borders and our immigration and refugee programs and system. It poses a threat to public safety, since the identities of smuggled individuals are often hard to establish, and in many cases, it poses a threat to national security or public safety, since human smuggling ventures are also being used to traffic narcotics and/or arms, to secure safe haven for criminals and terrorists, and to raise funds for a wide range of illicit activities, including the aforementioned terrorism.
    Bill C-49 will give law enforcement officials much needed and additional tools to investigate and prosecute these individuals who organize and engage in human smuggling ventures. It will also enhance law enforcement's ability to investigate the potential national security and public safety risks posed by unidentified migrants who come to Canada as part of an irregular arrival, among whom there may be individuals with criminal and/or terrorist links.
    More specifically, Bill C-49 will amend the current human smuggling offence, about which the last speaker spoke, in section 117 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The proposed amendments would make it an offence to organize, induce, aid or abet someone to enter Canada, knowing that or being reckless as to whether that entry would be in contravention of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

  (1115)  

    Currently, only situations where the smuggler knew that the smuggled person did not possess the documents necessary to enter Canada are captured as an offence under the act.
    It is clear, at least it is clear to the members on this side of the House, that by broadening the offence in this fashion our laws will now better reflect the different methods that smugglers utilize to bring persons into Canada.
    In addition to amending the offence, the bill also proposes tough mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment ranging from 3 to 10 years, depending on the particular facts that are proven in court. This sends the clear message to smugglers, criminals who have little concern for smuggled persons and immigration laws, that Canada will no longer tolerate these illegal activities.
    The bill also proposes increasing the penalties for the operator of any vessel who fails to comply with ministerial direction to leave or not enter Canadian waters or who fails to provide required pre-arrival information, and who provides false or misleading information to officials.
    Today, vessels of 300 gross registered tons or more that are bound for Canada must fill out a pre-arrival information report at least 96 hours before arriving at a Canadian port. The Minister of Transport has the authority to direct any vessel to not enter Canadian coastal waters or to travel to another area in Canadian waters when and if there are reasonable grounds to believe the vessel in question may pose a security threat.
    It is an offence under the Marine Transportation Security Act to knowingly make a false or misleading statement or to provide false or misleading information. Currently there are fines and a maximum one-year prison term for failure to comply with the ministerial direction or for making false or misleading statements and a maximum six-month prison term for not filing the requisite pre-arrival information report.
    Bill C-49 also proposes significantly stiffer fines as a further deterrent to those considering mounting marine human smuggling ventures into Canada. Indeed, the amendments the government is proposing will mean that the operator of any vessel who fails to comply with a ministerial directive to leave Canadian waters or one who provides false or misleading information to officials will be hit much harder in the pocketbook and will face a longer prison term.
    The proposed penalties for failing to comply with certain requirements of the Marine Transportation Security Act will be raised from $10,000 to $200,000 in the case of an individual on conviction on indictment. In case of a corporation, on conviction on indictment the penalties will be raised from $200,000 to $500,000.
     The penalties will be even higher in the event of subsequent offences. Again, in the case of individuals, maximum potential prison terms will be raised from six months to a maximum of one year for those who fail to file the pre-arrival information report.
    Stiffer consequences, stiffer fines and stiffer sentences will all send a signal to human smugglers that Canada will not tolerate their illegal and highly dangerous activities. Canada will not sit still while human smugglers calmly sail into our waters, travel across our borders or even land at our airports.
    We will take action. We will work with our international partners to deter, detect and prevent these illegal activities. If they do get to Canada, we will take every step possible to hold these persons accountable.
    In addition, Bill C-49 will ensure that border officials and police have the time to properly identify and investigate the organizers of human smuggling operations, as well as smuggled individuals who may pose a threat to our safety and to our security.
    In particular, the bill that the government has put forward will provide for the mandatory detention of persons who arrive in Canada as part of a designated arrival until such time as they have been determined to be refugees by the Immigration and Refugee Board or 12 months have passed since they were initially detained, with exceptions for cases that involve exceptional circumstances.
    This measure will prevent potentially dangerous or inadmissible persons from being released into Canada before their identity and the level of risk they present to Canadians can firmly be established. As the minister has mentioned, these amendments proposed are tough but they are also fair. They will help to make Canada a much less attractive target for human smugglers. They will help to make sure that the organizers of human smuggling operations are better held to account for this reprehensible crime.
    I therefore urge all hon. members to support this legislation before us today and to work with the government to ensure its speedy passage.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, the legislation is so broadly drafted that it does not differentiate between those who would smuggle humans for humanitarian reasons and those who would do it for profit.
    Also, it does not differentiate between those who smuggle people and land them in Canada and the individuals smuggled are determined to have been genuine refugees and those who are strictly economic migrants.
    Would the member not agree that there should be a different approach for these various categories of people, and would the government be amenable to see amendments to the legislation that would differentiate between those who are involved with human smuggling of genuine refugees and those who are strictly just economic migrants?
    I do not agree, Mr. Speaker.
    Recently there have been high-profile cases of human smuggling, and Canadians are rightly outraged by these incidents and are demanding action.
    The legislation is aimed at the smugglers. If individuals are legitimate refugees and are determined to be such by the Immigration and Refugee Board, they will be dealt with according to law, but this legislation is aimed directly at the smugglers. We know that too often it is a profitable enterprise to smuggle people into Canada.
    With these measures and the increased fines and the added mandatory aspect of jail time, individuals will have to calculate that in their business plans before they decide that this is an appropriate venture to smuggle people into Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I notice in clause 4, proposed subsection 117(3.2) says:
    A person who is convicted of an offence under subsection (3) with respect to a group of 50 persons or more is...liable to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of
(b) 10 years, if both
(i) the person, in committing the offence, endangered the life or safety of, or caused bodily harm or death to, any of the persons with respect to whom the offence was committed, and
(ii) the commission of the offence was for profit, or was for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal organization or terrorist group.
    I wonder if the member would agree with me that obviously the bill seeks to protect the individuals who are preyed upon by individuals for profit, as such simply to earn some money and take advantage of these people. Would the member agree with me that this sends a very big message to anybody who would do something like this, that if they come to Canada they are going to be treated very severely. Finally the Government of Canada is taking steps to go after these people who would profit on the backs of these poor individuals who are trying to come to this country.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for all the good work that he does on this file and others.
    Certainly I would agree with his supposition. Similar to my response to the last question, this legislation is aimed directly at the human smugglers, those who are involved in this enterprise, individuals who own the boats that are used to operate these types of enterprises.
    There are many victims and it is conceivable that the people who are actually being smuggled in under certain circumstances are victims. This legislation allows the department to assess who are legitimate refugees and who are part of either criminal enterprises or perhaps individuals who are trying to masquerade under the pretense of refugees to try to gain entry into Canada.
    In any event, the hon. member is correct. This legislation will make it easier to prosecute human smugglers and will impose mandatory prison sentences for those convicted of human smuggling. That is the target of the bill and I think it is very much needed and timely legislation.

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, I find the discussion interesting. There is some concern about the time it takes to process persons.
    The member will know that people coming on boats would not expose themselves to that kind of situation unless they were, and believed that they were, legitimate refugee claimants in dire straits.
    I am concerned that the timeframe seems to be inordinate. Children could be in detention in excess of a year and then every six months thereafter.
    The member is well aware that in a number of countries from which people have come, documents either do not exist or are refused. We are not changing this law simply because of the Tamil situation. It would apply to all countries.
    Is the member at all concerned that children might be the victims of some unintended consequences?
    Mr. Speaker, we should all be concerned and sympathetic about children being smuggled. This legislation takes direct aim at those involved in smuggling. There is often an overlap between human smuggling and trafficking in individuals. We have all heard the horror stories about individuals ending up in the sex industry.
    I do not agree with the premise of my hon. colleague's question. Refugee claimants or people on the boats cannot be characterized in one category. The member said that he did not think that people would put themselves in that position unless they believed themselves to be legitimate refugees. Although that is true in some circumstances, it is not universally true. We have heard anecdotes that individuals pay large sums of money to board these ships, and one becomes suspicious about how dire a person's plight can be who is able to pay $50,000. Some individuals are not as bad off as others.
    The point is that individuals have to be individually assessed. Some are legitimate refugee claimants, and some are queue-jumpers who are trying to enter our great country without going through the normal process. Detaining them for an appropriate time would allow immigration officials to determine who is legally admissible as a refugee and who is not.
    We have to send out the message, to potential refugee claimants as well as those who smuggle them, that Canada will not tolerate this type of activity.

[Translation]

    It is important to clearly understand the objectives of this bill. One of the objectives is to allow the public safety minister to designate as irregular an arrival in Canada of a group of persons, who are categorized as “designated foreign nationals”. Designated foreign nationals who claim refugee or protected person status will be treated differently from other asylum seekers.
    That is the reality. My Conservative colleagues are trying to tell us that this bill is meant to crack down on human smugglers, but its real objective is to create two categories of refugees, or rather a new category for designated foreign nationals. That is the reality.
    Again, the Bloc Québécois will not support Bill C-49 and will vote against it, because it aims to do more than just crack down on human smugglers. It will punish people who are fleeing persecution, including children. Once again, the Conservatives are using a specific example from recent events—which made headlines in Quebec and Canada—to advance their law and order agenda, even though the measures they are proposing will not change the situation. The reality is that these people have arrived, they are here and the bill will not change anything in terms of the situation that unfolded when the last boat arrived in British Columbia.
    The Bloc Québécois therefore opposes any new refugee category that would be justified only by the manner in which refugee claimants arrive. The fact that claimants arrive in a group does not mean they are not legitimate refugees. The Bloc Québécois believes that a new category that puts even heavier burdens on refugees would be prejudicial. We also deplore the fact that this government is backtracking, after a compromise had been reached on refugee reform. For years now, we have been calling for the refugee system to be updated and for the creation of an appeal system. We had nearly reached an agreement with the government, but instead it has decided to push ahead with its agenda rather than a compromise, because of a media event.
    We in the Bloc Québécois believe it is simply inconceivable that all refugee claimants who arrive in a group can automatically be imprisoned for a maximum of 12 months, with no possibility of disputing their arrest. Worse still, according to the bill, that period can be extended indefinitely. This is a matter of fundamental human rights and democracy, specifically, the right to liberty. No human being should have to face such a situation.
    This bill on illegal immigration goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as Canada's international obligations under the 1951 refugee convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Bloc Québécois believes that it would be completely irresponsible to vote in favour of a bill that flies in the face of at least three treaties meant to protect fundamental human rights.
    For years, the governments, Liberal and Conservative alike, have allowed the current refugee system to get bogged down without doing anything about it. The thing that should be noted about this alarming statement is that this is not the first time the Conservative government has tried to resolve the problem by tightening the rules around asylum seekers coming to Canada. Take, for instance, the decision to require visas from Mexicans and foreign nationals from the Czech Republic, or the government's unwavering desire to develop a list of safe countries of origin as part of the refugee system reform. We do indeed detect, in the development of immigration policies, a discriminatory tendency to want to close the borders, including to those who are seeking refugee status. The proof is in the targeted range for total protected persons, which went from between 26,000 and 31,800 in 2008 to between 19,600 and 26,000 in 2010, not to mention the growing use of propaganda rhetoric that, in the name of national security, is used to justify taking a hard-line approach to this category of immigrants.

  (1130)  

    Although the government is saying it wants to punish human smugglers with this bill, it is instead punishing people who are fleeing persecution, including children. Once again, the government is being utterly discriminatory toward these refugees and is putting words into action to separate what it considers to be good refugees from bad refugees, as though their lives were not equally threatened.
    The current system is bogged down because no one wanted to modernize it. When refugees arrive in large numbers, the government's tendency, which was solidified under the Liberals and confirmed by the Conservatives, is to tighten the system and prohibit them from entering the country. Under international treaties that Canada has signed, refugees deserve at least to have their file reviewed. Will we keep them all here? Not at all. Far from it. We will offer hospitality to those who truly need it and who are being persecuted in their home country, but we have to develop an effective file analysis system that respects human rights.
    The Bloc Québécois has repeatedly shown the House that the existing system should be updated. The Liberals did not want to do it. The Conservatives appeared to want to do it—we hoped so, at least—but the Minister of Immigration was rebuffed with this bill, which flatly rejects everything he had put in place through discussions and negotiations to change the existing system. By creating a new class of refugees or foreign nationals requesting asylum, they are rejecting all improvements to the existing system.
    I will now turn to security. When the MV Sun Sea arrived, the government issued a barrage of public statements positioning the arrival of boats as a threat to the security of Quebeckers and Canadians. As it turns out, those statements were unfounded. True to their ideology, the Conservatives used a widely reported event to promote their own political law and order agenda. There was no reason to believe that the arrival of the MV Sun Sea posed a threat to the security of Quebeckers and Canadians.
    Under the existing law, any asylum seeker arriving by boat must be fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed. Canada's waters are under the authority of the Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA, which has the power to detain asylum seekers if there are any doubts about their identity and to oppose their release before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Immigration Division.
    Some of the other 76 Tamils from Sri Lanka who arrived last year aboard the Ocean Lady and requested asylum remained behind bars for more than six months. None of them were found to be members of the Tamil Tigers or any similar organization. They were eventually released once the CBSA found that they were not a threat to national security.
    Let us not forget that the 492 passengers aboard the MV Sun Sea accounted for less than 2% of the asylum requests received annually. The record, 5%, occurred in 1999, when four boats arrived carrying 600 asylum seekers. In 2010, the number of requests should be around 25,000, the lowest average in the past 20 years.
    Arguments to the effect that the arrival of huge numbers of refugees poses a threat to public safety do not hold up. They certainly do not justify passing a bill that treats refugee claimants so harshly. We are not saying that smugglers should not be punished. However, this bill punishes legitimate refugee claimants. That is the problem. In addition, we feel that the existing act has all the mechanisms required to manage the arrival of these boats.
    Why create a new category? The Conservatives simply decided to advance their ideological agenda.

  (1135)  

    Let us examine the compromise struck by Bill C-11. The Conservative government seems to be obsessed with classifying refugee claimants based on their numbers or origin. Such a measure was widely denounced when Bill C-11 on reform of the asylum system was studied. Initially, the federal government wanted especially to implement the concept of designated countries. Failed claimants from countries deemed to be safe would not have had access to the new refugee appeal division, a measure deemed extremely discriminatory by the Bloc Québécois.
    The Conservative government insisted on this country classification. It said that, if this measure was not accepted, it would scuttle its own bill. Imagine. By making a strong case for refugee rights to the government and the other parties, the Bloc Québécois helped members reach a last-minute compromise designed to produce a reform that was truly effective and, even more importantly, fair to all asylum seekers.
    Once again, it is important to understand that under international treaties that Canada has signed or recognized—and that Quebec would have signed if it were a country—all refugee claimants are treated with respect and have the right to be treated fairly, no matter their country of origin.
    Even though the concept of designated countries still exists, this division will be accessible to everyone, including claimants from the designated countries. To compensate for that, two other expediting mechanisms were put in place. That was the compromise with Bill C-11. If the Refugee Protection Division rejects a claim for refugee protection, it may state in its reasons for the decision that the claim is manifestly unfounded if it is of the opinion that the claim is clearly fraudulent. Unsuccessful claims submitted by claimants from the same country that are referred to the RAD would then be expedited. There will be regulations regarding the processing times for refugee claimants from a designated country. They will be shorter than for regular claims so that claimants who file unfounded claims can be deported as quickly as possible.
    The Bloc Québécois cannot believe that the government has decided to take a step backwards, when a compromise had been made regarding the reform of the current refugee system. In fact, with Bill C-49, the government is creating a new category of refugee, based solely on the way the refugee claimant arrives. That is what is unacceptable.
    The Bloc Québécois agreed to make compromises on Bill C-11. The government wanted safe countries. For those arriving from these countries, there was no division that applied, while for those not arriving from safe countries, there was a division that did not apply. All the government said was that the same standards apply to everyone, but for certain countries, the processing time would be shorter. Obviously, that was a compromise that the Bloc Québécois could accept, given the Conservatives' intransigence. Now, the government has changed its mind and is ignoring all of the debates and forcing Bill C-49 on us, because there was a story in the news that gave the government the opportunity to advance its ideological agenda, whether it will admit it or not. Once again, I was listening to the Conservative member who spoke before me. He made it clear that the goal was to combat illegal smuggling, but the real goal is to create a system that treats refugee claimants differently when they arrive by that means.
    So there is a new category. The Minister of Public Safety, citizens of the world—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I understand the minister because those people, obviously, are not Canadian citizens. But they are still citizens of the world who have a right to benefit from the treaties that Canada has ratified and that allow them to seek asylum.
    Once again, what we are seeing with Bill C-49 is that the public safety minister can designate as irregular an arrival in Canada of a group of persons, who then become designated foreign nationals. Designated foreign nationals who claim refugee or protected person status will be treated differently from other asylum seekers. The fact that different applicants would be treated differently is what we found to be unacceptable in Bill C-11. In Bill C-49, a different status is created for these designated foreign nationals.

  (1140)  

    If they are denied refugee status, they have to wait five years before they can apply for permanent resident status. In the meantime, their claim could be re-evaluated to determine whether they can return to their country.
    They cannot travel outside Canada or apply for permanent resident status or citizenship for five years. Consequently, they cannot sponsor members of their family, such as their spouse or children. Designated foreign nationals who have been denied asylum cannot appeal to the new refugee appeal division, only to the Federal Court. They also will not have access to health benefits that other refugees can access through the interim federal health program.
    And so, not only is the principle of fairness—which says that all refugees have access to the system—being called into question, but asylum seekers who arrive in a group will be in a sort of legal vacuum for five years, which will strip them of the same rights given to asylum seekers who follow the usual refugee process. Just because a group of people arrives, that does not mean that they are not legitimate refugees, and the Bloc Québécois feels that this categorization would be extremely prejudicial to them.
    The acceptance rate for refugee claims by Sri Lankan Tamils is 80% on average, and there is no indication that the situation in Sri Lanka will change and that it will be deemed that their lives are not in peril.
    It must be understood that the Bloc Québécois' objective has never changed and has always been to oppose categories based on the origin of claimants or how they arrived here, because Canada has signed international treaties. Therefore, these people can make a claim, but that does not mean it will be accepted. We need an analysis process that is effective and quick. For that reason, the Bloc Québécois asked for the current process to be revised and for an appeal division to be set up so these individuals would have the opportunity to assert their rights. It must be effective, and we have to invest the money needed to do that.
    The Conservative ideology was bolstered by the arrival of a large number of refugees, which received extensive media coverage. The Conservatives decided to make this their priority and to set aside all the opportunities they had to modernize the current process through Bill C-11.
    This does not bode well for future discussions. In fact, the legal vacuum created for this category of designated foreign nationals, who are not yet classified as refugees, keeps these designated foreigners in legal limbo for five years, when they file a claim for refugee or protected person status. During that time, they cannot apply for permanent residence or family reunification. Consequently, they cannot sponsor members of their family or their spouse. Furthermore, they are not free to move or to enjoy all the rights that other claimants may have.
    As I mentioned, Canada's international and constitutional obligations are important. Not only does this bill run counter to its international obligations under at least three treaties it has signed, but it also contravenes the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states in subsection 15(1):
    Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
    Which includes how they get to Canada.

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, I find the comments by the member from the Bloc Québécois to be completely disconnected from reality and certainly from the will of their Quebec electors, who want an immigration system that is managed well according to reasonable and fair rules. The hon. member did not say a single word about the concern with regard to human smuggling. He says it is not really an issue and that we can ignore the fact that boats have on board thousands of illegal immigrants who are coming from very dangerous situations in their country. He talks about this issue with no knowledge of the situation in Southeast Asia.
    Why would someone from Southeast Asia pay $50,000 to come to Canada, when there are in that region a number of signatory countries to the convention relating to the status of refugees that could offer protection? Why are these people not going to India?
    Is he not aware that last week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast an interview with some Tamils from India saying that they paid human smugglers to come to Canada? Does he believe that these people are subject to persecution in India? Does he have a solution to combat human smuggling or does he think we should ignore it because it conflicts with the political correctness of the urban elite and the left-wing ideology of the Bloc Québécois?

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, the minister can look at the blues. I said that the Bloc Québécois would be prepared to support a government bill that punished human smugglers. The problem is that, because of these smugglers, we are creating a new category, designated foreign nationals. That is the Conservative philosophy and ideology that the Bloc Québécois has always opposed. We should not create different categories of refugees based on their country of origin or the way they arrive in Canada. They all should be treated the same way.
    That is why we were prepared to support the government's Bill C-11. We would also be prepared to support Bill C-49 if it addressed only human smugglers. The Conservatives are taking advantage of the problem with human smugglers and the media attention around the arrival of a boat to push their right-wing ideology. We will always be opposed to this Conservative right-wing ideology, under which they are incapable of treating all human beings, especially children, the same way.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, a picture gets painted very quickly in this place when questions are asked and concerns are raised, and we get responses from a minister who shifts the attention to another member who is raising questions.
    In his speech, the member raised a couple of very important points. Some have been raised before, particularly the issue of creating two classes of refugees. Our system must be a universal system in which all refugees are accorded the same treatment.
    It would appear that although the bill deals substantively with smugglers, the provisions of the bill really deal with people who are ostensibly outside the reach of the government in being able to enforce this legislation anyway. I think the only people it could touch would be a boat's captain and crew who have some other problems.
    The government was aware of that ship last April, I believe it was. A lot of Canadians probably are interested in knowing whether there is a way in which we can address the issue of not being able to deal with a boat that we are observing and we know is coming. We wait until it hits Canadian waters and then we have the problem which the government says it is trying to solve. It is almost as if the government created a problem so that it could claim it has a solution.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I appreciate my hon. Liberal colleague's question. I know he is very conscientious, but the situation needs to be examined closely. By no means do I wish to protect the Conservatives—the members heard my speech—but nevertheless, they did inherit the situation that was created by the previous Liberal government. On several occasions we asked the Liberals to update the entire immigration and appeal system. They ignored our requests. Of course they are willing to be more conciliatory now than when they were in power.
    Thus, asking the right-wing Conservatives—whose ideology makes them more inclined to turn everyone back, regardless of the individual situation—to update the legislation, feels like quite an uphill battle.
    We had nearly reached an agreement with the Conservatives. I understand that the media situation gave them an opportunity to further their own right-wing ideology, but once again, they inherited the situation from the Liberals, who were unable to improve and update the system. If it had been updated, if we could have welcomed these people and processed their files quickly, we probably would not be in this situation.

  (1155)  

    Mr. Speaker, “It is time for Canada to send a clear signal to the world to discourage and fight human smuggling. That is why the Coptic community supports new federal legislation to protect human life, Canada's security and the integrity of Canada's immigration policy as a whole.” Those were the words of Antoine Malek of the Association of the Coptic Orthodox Community of Greater Montreal, as we just saw.
    The Montreal Syrian Arabic community, the League of Ukrainian Canadians, the Canadian Druze Society and the Lebanese Islamic centre have all said that the government has done what needed to be done and has taken the bull by the horns, as they say.
    I am disappointed in the Bloc member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel's position. It troubles me to see a Quebecker speak out against the Quebec consensus, which is to ensure that Canada does not become a conduit for organized crime and human smuggling.
    My question for him is simple. How can he go against the Quebec consensus, which supports making Canada a place that welcomes immigrants but keeps criminals out? As I just explained, cultural communities support this measure.
    Mr. Speaker, this gives me another opportunity to clarify our position. Regarding human smugglers, we agree with the government. We do have a problem, however, with the government's decision to introduce this bill to deal with the issue of people who arrive here and make claims. That is what it is doing. It is using this as an opportunity to promote its ideology. Will anyone go along with them? Yes, some people agree with the Conservative ideology. The Conservatives will always find people to go along with them. The problem is that the Bloc Québécois does not agree with the Conservative ideology of creating several categories, which is like saying that people from a certain country are allowed and people from another country are not allowed. What we are saying is that all refugee claimants should be treated equally.
    The current system is overloaded and poorly managed. The Liberals managed it poorly and now the Conservatives are doing the same thing. Can it be modernized so that everyone has the opportunity to be heard? This does not mean we will let everyone stay. Those who do not deserve to stay will have to return to where they came from. Today, however, because it is advantageous from a media standpoint to further their ideology, the Conservatives are using this as an opportunity to say they are going to solve the problem of human smuggling. However, the problem we are currently facing is that some people who arrived in Canada should have had the right to have their files processed quickly, but that was not the case.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today in support of Bill C-49, an act to prevent human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system.
    Human smuggling is a transitional criminal enterprise that spans the globe and Interpol says that it is a growing global phenomena. This form of illegal commercial migration is very dangerous and it exploits those individuals who are captured within it. Human smugglers consider their passengers to be little more than cargo and the boats on which they carry their passengers are like nightmarish prisons.
    Migrants are typically stranded at sea, on an overcrowded boat, with unsanitary and unsafe conditions. These conditions often lead to severe illness or cause fatal accidents. As a result of these inhumane conditions, people die in human smuggling operations every year. Nevertheless, many illegal migrants decide to risk their lives and undertake this perilous journey for their destination country.
    By charging people large sums of money for their transportation, human smugglers have made a lucrative business out of facilitating illegal migration, often by counselling smuggled persons to claim asylum in the country to which they are smuggled. Once they arrive in their destination country, these migrants are often at the mercy of their human smugglers and forced to work for years in the illegal labour market just to pay off their debts to their smuggler.
    The arrival of the MV Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady in a period of less than 12 months is a clear indication that Canada is becoming a favoured destination for these human smuggling networks. Interpol says that human smuggling syndicates benefit from weak legislation and low risk of detection, prosecutions and arrests compared to other transnational organized crimes. If we do not take strong action now, more vessels will arrive and more lives will be put at risk. We cannot just stand by and allow these exploitative operations to continue.
     This legislation would enable us to crack down on the despicable human smugglers who prey on these vulnerable migrants, but it also aims to stop those tempted to use this perilous form of migration by introducing several disincentives.
    A key disincentive is that those arriving as a result of a designated smuggling event would not be able to apply for permanent residency for a period of up to five years. This would apply whether they are found to be in need of protection or not. During this five year period, persons found to be in need of protection would be restricted from travelling outside of Canada and would be unable to apply for permanent residency to Canada through other means. As a result, they would not be eligible to sponsor family members into Canada or become Canadian citizens during that time period.
    The legislation also proposes mandatory detention for up to one year, which would also help ensure the safety and the security of Canadians.
    When these migrants arrive on our shores, we have no idea who they are or where they are from. Often, they arrive without proper documentation and we do not whether they are criminals or terrorists who pose a threat to our safety and our security. Mandatory detentions would allow us to properly verify and confirm the identities of individuals to determine whether they are in fact admissible to Canada or whether they are involved in some form of illegal activity. This proposal is entirely within reason and it is fair.
    The government's priority is, first and foremost, to protect the safety and the security of Canadians. This is the least that Canadians can expect from their government.
    We are also taking measures to ensure that these individuals have access to fewer Canadian benefits. As we all know, Canadians enjoy health services that are among the best and most generous in the world. We need to ensure that illegal migrants are not receiving health coverage that is more generous than what is offered to other Canadians. It certainly will not happen under this government.
    Currently, asylum seekers, resettled refugees, failed asylum seekers awaiting removal, detained individuals and victims of trafficking are provided with temporary health coverage through the interim federal health program.

  (1200)  

    Under these proposed changes, the scope of the services provided under the IFH program would be limited for those who arrive in Canada illegally via human smuggling operations. They would receive only basic coverage, including medically necessary care and immigration medical exams that refugee claimants must take upon their arrival in order to ensure they do not pose a risk to public health or safety.
    Canada's generosity should not make us a target for criminal activity such as smuggling operations. We must remove the incentives for people seeking to come here by way of human smuggling. In doing so, we will uphold the integrity of our immigration and refugee process and our programs and ensure that the safety and security of Canadians is put into place.
    This has certainly taken the attention of the public over the past 12 months. We have seen two ships arrive in our country for the purposes of smuggling, which is why the scope of the bill needs to be implemented. I have heard opposition members claim that this bill is some sort of a knee-jerk reaction to what has happened. I find that compelling in a way because, if this were a reaction to what had happened, then they would have to argue that we are actually about 11 months late introducing this legislation.
    This legislation was put together over the past series of months to ensure that we have legislation that is strong, that is certainly consistent with the charter and with our Constitution, and, most important, that is consistent with the feelings and the positions that Canadians have held on this issue across our country.
    There is no doubt that the issue in itself is a difficult one. We all know and, as members of Parliament, we have listened to the positions, arguments and stories in our ridings of refugees who have claimed asylum. We have heard them say that they needed to come to Canada in order to escape the perils they faced in their country. There is no question that the reason these ships are here is that our system is so generous and open and we want to ensure that those who need protection and those who are truly refugees have a place to come to in safety where they can become Canadians, find employment, find a new way of life and raise their families in a country as democratic and open as Canada.
    However, the fact remains that the only answer to solving this problem of ensuring those who are clearly refugees, clearly want to be here and clearly need to be here go through the process that we have in place.
    The previous speaker mentioned Bill C-11, which is exactly what this country needed in terms of reforming our refugee legislation. We took great pains to get through that process. I know, as the parliamentary secretary, we worked hours upon hours and days upon days to get that legislation back to the House of Commons so it would be supported at third reading. When it did come back here, it in fact received support from all parties. We now have a new system in terms of refugee reform legislation that will be implemented over the next 18 months.
    Bill C-49 is so well augmented with Bill C-11 that we will have completely reformed and changed the direction that this country needs to take when it comes to refugees and those who need to seek asylum here. They will need to seek asylum in a way that follows the system that we have in place, not to jump the queue and not to be forced by smugglers, who take advantage of every person on that boat, to pay for their freedom rather than earn that freedom through a process that we have in place, which is one of the most generous in the world. We cannot have it.
    The Canadian people have spoken loud and clear on this issue. The one thing that we need to continue to come back to is fairness, because this is what the Canadian people understand so much better than the rest of the world. No Canadian wants to see individuals living in peril in their country. If it is important enough for us to understand that freedom of security, of governance and of democracy needs to happen here in this country and they deserve that, then our arms are wide open to them, but we have a process and a system.

  (1205)  

     There are people who are taking advantage of these individuals, charging them more money then they could ever afford in their lifetime, to get on to a boat and somehow find a way to come here. They make promises and claims. They literally push those individuals onto the vessel to get them here to Canada. They tell the individuals that Canada will accept them, that Canadian laws are so generous and in need of so much repair that when they land here they will be given the status they so want.
    Those refugees who have a rightful claim and a rightful place for freedom will get that here in this country. However, those who do not are standing in the way of those who actually do.
    This process of human smuggling, of bringing people into this country by crowding them onto a ship and having them land on Canadian soil, is not the way Canadians want this to happen. Canadians want to know who is on that ship and who is going to claim refugee status here.
    Simply turning these hundreds of individuals loose on Canadian soil has the potential to put Canadian lives and health in peril. We do not know where these individuals have come from. We do not know if they are true refugees. We do not know if they are terrorists. We do not know if they are criminals in their own country. That is not the type of environment we want here in this country.
    This bill changes all of that. It sets in place a process that will show respect for those who truly deserve refugee status. It will send a loud and clear message to countries and smugglers who live off the proceeds of these individuals that we will not be in a position as a country to accept this any more.
    The Minister of Public Safety, the President of the Treasury Board, and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Multiculturalism made this announcement in front of one of the ships that arrived here. They made the announcement on the west coast, but that message travelled to the east coast of our country almost immediately. There is page after page of endorsement. Group after group, editorial after editorial, Canadian after Canadian have said that this legislation is right, it is timely, it is good, it is fair. It is something that everyone in this House should be supporting.
    One headline reads, “Ottawa tightens rules on human smuggling”. The Headline News article states:
    The bill, titled “Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act,” shows that Ottawa will not tolerate abuse of the system by getting ahead of the immigration line, but stresses that the federal government of Canada will continue to welcome legitimate immigrants who could contribute to the country.
    An editorial in the Calgary Herald stated:
    Tough anti-smuggling legislation aimed at stopping boats of illegal migrants from showing up on Canadian shores, places the punishment where it belongs, on the smugglers.
...It's a welcome crackdown on a crime most Canadians would agree is heinous.
    The list goes on. Another editorial on human smuggling stated:
    The government must act to safeguard the integrity of Canada's immigration system, which welcomes 250,000 newcomers a year. Polls show that the public's high level of support for immigration dipped by 20 per cent after the arrival of the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady -- even though asylum seekers and skilled immigrants are two very different streams.
    That is a very important point to realize. We are a country that accepts, at the present time, per capita more immigrants than anywhere else in the world. We are open to skilled immigrants. We are open to low-skilled immigrants. We are open to seasonal workers. We are open to immigrants who want to come to this country to build a new life for themselves and their families.

  (1210)  

    What we are not open to is those who want to come here to take advantage of our system, those who in fact want to move to the front of the line. Smugglers know this. They know that in their hearts Canadians want to help these people so they take advantage of it.
    By passing this legislation, we would at least be putting ourselves in a position where we no longer would be that country where terrorists and smugglers simply say, “We will dump them all in Canada. We will make millions and millions of dollars, and we will dump them all in Canada because Canada does not have the laws in place to prevent this from happening”.
    Canadians have spoken loudly on this issue. They want to welcome new immigrants to this country. Many of us in this House have parents or grandparents who came to this country as immigrants. There are members in the House who came to this country to become Canadians. All of them have done it in a way that respects the rule of law in this country and that respects the system of fairness that all Canadians have come to accept.
    The opposition is trying to say that this is something it is not, that this is a position we hold because we want to hurt people. It is the exact opposite. That type of rhetoric has no place in this House of Commons.
    There are individuals and families who need our help, but those families and individuals are not just those who seek refugee status in our country. They are the very families and individuals who are Canadians and are here right now.
    We need a system of fairness. We need a system of equality. We need a system of acceptance. We need a system that protects Canadians, but says to those who claim refugee status that we are a country that is open, we are a country that is free, we are a county that is accepting, but let us make sure that we do it with fairness and that we do it through a system that protects the individuals who are truly refugees and that protects Canadians here.
    This is legislation we need. This is legislation that Canadians want. This is legislation that will actually put our country in a position not only to promote why this is a great country to come to, but why this is a great country in which to live.
     There are smugglers and others who take advantage of the most down and out in an attempt to profit, and there may be those in the opposition who would allow that to continue and will vote against this legislation. However, there is no one on this side of the House who will do that. We are going to make sure that we fight as long and hard as we need to in order to put this legislation in place and bring our system up to where it needs to be.

  (1215)  

[Translation]

    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.

[English]

    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.

[Translation]

    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.

  (1220)  

[English]

    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”.

[Translation]

    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;
    or
(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.

  (1225)  

[English]

    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.

[Translation]

    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.

[English]

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

[Translation]

    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.

[English]

    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—

  (1230)  

    Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I just want to correct the member. William Lyon Mackenzie King was a Liberal prime minister, not a Conservative prime minister.
    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.

  (1235)  

    Madam Speaker, one of the reasons I wanted to correct the reference to William Lyon Mackenzie King was that he was the prime minister who put innocent Italians in jail, and I wanted to make sure that was recognized as being a legacy of a Liberal prime minister, not a Conservative prime minister.
    With respect to this, I find it troubling that somehow we are supposed to be proud of the fact in this country that our laws have allowed individuals to seek out vulnerable people, treat them terribly, risk their lives coming over here and sell them a bill of goods that somehow they can come in this fashion, be smuggled in, pay $25,000 and spend the rest of their lives trying to work that off to a criminal syndicate. Somehow we are supposed to be proud of that in this country. Are we not supposed to do whatever we can to ensure that real refugees come to this country and that they are treated properly and with respect?
    Now, specifically in the bill, in proposed paragraph (3.2) it talks about the penalties with respect to people who commit human smuggling. It states that if:
(i) the person, in committing the offence, endangered the life or safety of, or caused bodily harm or death to, any of the persons with respect to whom the offence was committed, and
(ii) the commission of the offence was for profit, or was for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal organization or terrorist group
     a minimum penalty would be 10 years.
    Surely the hon. member could agree that people who commit this type of crime should not be treated with kid gloves, that they should be put in jail, that we should do everything in our power to ensure that these human smugglers pay a steep price and that our focus should be on the people who want to come to this country properly and who demand and need the help of Canada as they have for so many years in the past.
    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.
    Madam Speaker, perhaps we could check into the cost of detaining a large number of refugee claimants for over a year. I wonder if the member has considered this. Some of these refugee claimants might be able to find jobs, or might be able to rely on a family member if they have one here in Canada. This bill, however, says that the minimum detention would be at least a year.
    What does the member think of the cost to taxpayers of detaining these refugees, who come in through “irregular” methods?
    Madam Speaker, I listened intently when the member for Trinity—Spadina participated in the debate yesterday afternoon. She talked about that very concept. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time, and I tried to concentrate on something else.
    It is clear that those 10 years in limbo will mean 10 years of suffering for these families. It also means that this will cause many Canadians to suffer financially.
    There is a lot to be said about the financial costs of this bill. Bill C-49 itself says nothing. It is absolutely silent.
    Madam Speaker, I found the speech of the member opposite very interesting. She referred to two ships that were turned around in 1914 and 1939. If this legislation had been in place at the time, those ships would have stayed there. They would not have been turned around. That shows why we need this type of legislation.
    There seems to be a feeling on the other side that somehow this system of smuggling people into this country is not upsetting our system. Some of the people wanting to come to Canada have been found by the UN to be clear and true refugees. But smuggling stops these true refugees from being able to set foot in our country.
    Why does the member oppose a system that works instead of one that does not?

  (1240)  

    Madam Speaker, I find what that member says just incredible. I mentioned some numbers. Numbers speak. They cannot be transformed. Twelve sections in Bill C-49 affect refugees. How many sections affect smugglers? We were told by the minister that this is a bill about smugglers. But only five sections in the bill affect smugglers. I would like to know where the focus is in this bill.
    I and my party are all for change as far as the smugglers are concerned. Absolutely nobody on this side has ever said that it is a good thing for smugglers to smuggle. What we are saying is that they have to be punished, not the refugees. This bill would actually persecute would-be refugees.
    Madam Speaker, the member was involved in immigration. Just recently, Parliament approved a balanced refugee reform act. We worked together, that is why it was balanced. It was not balanced when the Conservatives introduced it, but we balanced it together. The House of Commons is much stronger when all members of Parliament work together.
     Instead of implementing the bill so that genuine refugees can get decisions quickly and start a life here in Canada, and so that bogus refugees can be deported quickly, we are faced with an unbalanced refugee bill that does not treat refugees equally under the law.
    Perhaps the member could talk a bit about why one refugee would be treated vastly differently than another. What kind of treatment would the so-called second-class refugee be subject to if such a refugee came into Canada irregularly?
    Madam Speaker, I would not call them second class. I would call them no class. That is clear.
    At the beginning, I said that this was really three bills. The first part of the bill, the one called An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, seems to be intended to propose amendments to Bill C-11, which is the bill that my colleague across the floor just mentioned. This was a bill in which we tried to bring balance to the way that the bill was going forward.
     What Bill C-49 does to Bill C-11, under the guise of catching smugglers, is to change how Bill C-11 works. It changes how would-be refugees are accepted into the system in Canada; it changes this radically and people ought to know.
    Madam Speaker, recently the Prime Minister addressed a number of new Canadians at a citizenship ceremony in Ottawa, welcoming these newcomers into the Canadian family.
    Canada welcomes thousands of new immigrants and refugees every year through one of the most generous and fair refugee systems in the world. This is a source of pride for our government and a reflection of the generosity of our nation. However, there is a serious problem right now that threatens the safety and security of our communities as well as the integrity of our welcoming and generous immigration system.
    Last August, the illegal arrival of the vessel, MV Sun Sea came less than one year after the illegal arrival of the Ocean Lady. The fact that these two vessels reached our shores less than 12 months apart clearly demonstrates that human smuggling networks are targeting Canada as a destination, and that they believe our generous immigration system can be exploited for profit.
    Canada welcomes and will continue to welcome those who wait their turn and come to Canada in search of a better life. Such brave and industrious people from around the world have enriched the wealth and culture of our great nation for hundreds of years.
    Our government has clearly stated that we cannot tolerate the abuse of our immigration system, either by human smugglers or by those who are unwilling to play by the rules. That is why our government has recently introduced an act to prevent human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system.
    Under this act, our government is making it easier to prosecute human smugglers, imposing minimum prison sentences on convicted human smugglers, and holding shipowners and their operators to account for using their ships in the human smuggling operations.
    I would like repeat some quotes that have been in the media of late.
    Logan Logendralingan, the editor of the Uthayan newspaper, a Tamil newspaper, states in an October 21 news release that he “supports the measures of government introduced today to crack down on human smugglers”.
    In the same document, on behalf of Uthayan Publishers, he goes on to say, “We believe that the government should have the tools it needs to defend our borders and protect the fairness of our immigration system. That is why we fully support the new legislation. The mandatory minimum sentences for convicted human smugglers will deter those who profit from putting human lives at risk.... We want to encourage proper immigration channels and we do not want new immigrants to be victims or to pay large sums of money for their dreams of coming to Canada.”
     Mr. Jim Daikos, director of Canadian operations, United Macedonian Diaspora of Canada, said, “We are pleased to see the Government taking strong action to deter human smugglers from coming to Canada's shores and abusing our country's generosity. Those who take part in human smuggling make our immigration system less fair for legal immigrants”.
    The people who are waiting in line patiently and abiding by Canadian laws are being punished because of this illegal activity.
     Recently, the executive director of the Toronto Community and Cultural Centre said, “Human smuggling is a criminal activity that puts people's lives at risk. It involves a network of international criminal organizations and Canada has become their target because of our compassion and fairness”.
    A news release from October 21 stated, “We support the government's proposals as we need to send a strong message that criminal human smuggling will not be tolerated. Smugglers need to understand that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible and these proposals will make this easier to accomplish that”.

  (1245)  

    He further stated that those who paid to participate in human smuggling operations needed to understand that Canada would not be a willing participant, that we would take action to protect our borders and to ensure the stability of the immigration system. He said that it was unfair to those who waited years to reunite with family members because others who arrived through illegal means jumped ahead of them. Arriving in Canada through illegal means was not an automatic ticket to staying here. He went on to say they were pleased the government was sending this message.
    Our government is taking action to ensure the safety and security of our streets and communities by establishing the mandatory detention of participants in human smuggling events for up to one year to allow for the determination of identity, inadmissibility and illegal activity.
    Coming back to my law enforcement years when I spent 18 years with the RCMP, one of the key components in homeland security was identity. People could not be released from custody unless they proved their identity. I had to deal with individuals who had altered or changed their names illegally, and we had to hold them for a weekend. For some individuals, it was up to a week. These were Canadian citizens.
     Under the act, our government is also reducing the attraction of coming to Canada by way of an illegal human smuggling operation. This includes measures such as: preventing those who come to Canada as part of a human smuggling event from applying for permanent resident status for a period of five years, including those who successfully obtain refugee status; ensuring that the health benefits participants receive are not more generous than those received by the Canadian public; enhancing the ability to terminate refugee applications of those who return to their country of origin for a vacation or demonstrate in other ways that they are not legitimately in need of Canada's protection; and preventing individuals who participate in human smuggling events from sponsoring family members for a period of five years.
    In addition, our government is also appointing a special adviser on human smuggling and illegal migration who will coordinate a whole-of-government response to human smuggling.
    Are these measures tough? Yes, undoubtedly. However, in order to make human smugglers and fraudsters think twice, they have to be. They are also fair to those who legitimately and legally wait or have waited in line for a better life in Canada and they are fair for all Canadians who rightly expect that our borders and shores are protected and secure and our generous systems protected from abuse.
    People in my constituency of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River repeatedly have asked me why we do not just turn the boat around and have them go back. In working to address this problem, this government considered all the options. The policy measures that we have chosen are some of the strongest, most effective measures possible. We will not play the smugglers' games, which is to intentionally scuttle their boats and cast their passengers into the high seas when approached by one of our vessels.
    We are working with our partners abroad to help keep these boats from departing for Canada. We are taking decisive action to combat human smuggling and those who abuse Canada's generous immigration system.
    I have other constituents asking if anyone can board a ship to come to Canada unimpeded. On the contrary, with this new action we are sending a clear message that human smugglers will not be tolerated and those who are considering using human smugglers should think twice before doing so.
    We will continue to actively work with our domestic and international partners to crack down on human smugglers who take advantage of our generous immigration system.
    These measures will enhance our ability to crack down on those who engage in the smuggling and who try to exploit Canada's generous immigration system. They will strengthen our ability to protect Canadians from criminal or terrorist threats. They will respect our international obligations to provide assistance for those legitimate refugees who need our protection and help to start a new and better life.

  (1250)  

    Canadians want tough but fair measures to stop those who abuse our generosity from becoming part of Canadian society. We know threats exist and we must remain vigilant. That is why our government is taking action and that is what our government is doing today. We will continue to do this in the future.

  (1255)  

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments, especially as someone who has been in law enforcement and has dedicated so much to the country and his community for so long. He has first-hand knowledge of how important it is to change all aspects of Canada's criminal justice system.
    Would he agree that one of the things we are hearing is the difference between this side of the House and that side? We believe that if people break the laws, if they commit a crime and take advantage of vulnerable people, they should be punished severely for doing that. The opposition always seems to feel that if people break the law, have committed a crime, they must have been forced to do it and that we have to something for them such as coddle them.
    The bill imposes very stiff minimum mandatory sentencing for people who take advantage of potential refugees. Should we not seize the vessel if that happens? Does he agree that it is absolutely about time that we got tough on the people who take advantage of vulnerable people and break our laws?
    Madam Speaker, the principle of this government for safer homes and safer streets is the underlying principle of Canada and our government is trying to enforce that. We do not what refugees' criminal ties are. Do we have anything to discriminate? No. We just want safer homes in Canada. Canadians demand that. Since taking office, our government has delivered on our promise to increase the number of boots on the ground to protect Canadian communities.
    For example, we promised 1,000 new RCMP officers and we have delivered 1,500. I recall how difficult it was trying to recruit new RCMP members and to find suitable candidates. The RCMP reported that 2009 was the most successful time in recruiting in its history.
    Human smuggling carries stiff penalties, up to life imprisonment and fines of up to $1 million. That does not sometimes seem enough to deter the criminal organizations. That is why this government is protecting Canadian homes and making safer streets.
    Madam Speaker, does the member realize that in the immigration act there is already a very stiff penalty for people who have been convicted of smuggling? It is called a life sentence. What else can we do in terms of stiffening the fine? Life sentencing is as stiff a fine as it can get. We are not talking about capital punishment; we are talking about a life sentence.
    How are we letting criminals run free, if we are saying that if they are convicted, they will go to jail for their entire life? Surely he is not suggesting that refugee claimants are terrorists and criminals, or is he?
    Madam Speaker, the question is kind of ironic coming from NDP members who have voted against every bill we have introduced to try to protect Canadians. I do not think they really like safer streets or safer homes for Canadians. They have opposed every motion we have brought forward to protect Canadians.
    An individual arriving as part of a human smuggling event would be detained up to 12 months. That is very key. That will help law enforcement officials and Canadian border officials to determine the identity of people at high risk from entering Canada, putting our the safety of our communities in jeopardy.

  (1300)  

    Madam Speaker, what concerns me is that virtually every member of the Conservatives who have spoken to the bill have talked about refugees as being the smugglers and somehow they are the ones who put public safety at risk.
    The member does not even give the facts about the bill and about the detention periods. It is after one year of detention and then it goes every six months thereafter. However, he is using the Immigration and Refugee Board.
    Does the member believe that when we have detention periods that long, many of those refugees being children, that there are consequences and impacts on those children and those families of being in detention for such long periods of time?
    I think our generosity, Madam Speaker, speaks for itself, allowing people to come into Canada, to immigrate legally.
    Between April 1, 2005 and March 31, 2010, there have been 21 human smuggling convictions under section 117(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This number has been confirmed by the Public Prosecution Services of Canada. While there have been a number of successful convictions of migrant smuggling in Canada, there is more to do. It is important to continually strengthen our laws to ensure we have the tools necessary to hold the offenders accountable.
    We are talking about organized crime and trying to keep our streets safer for all Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, I want to go back to my colleague's personal experience of 18 years as an RCMP officer.
    Since I have been a member of Parliament, one thing I have seen is any time we talk about mandatory minimum sentences for criminals, no matter what the crime, we just get a tremendous amount of push back, a lot of stalling and walls are always put up. There seems to be a real aversion for some opposition members to mandatory minimum sentences.
    As a law enforcement officer, what did he find was the experience when people knew that if they committed a crime there would be a consequence? In this case we are talking about human smugglers and about people who want to come to Canada illegally. Could he comment on what kind of impact that makes?
    Madam Speaker, going back into my policing history, I remember one community in which I was patrolling. We talk about deterrence and the proper utilization of criminal laws. which this government and past governments have brought forward in the Criminal Code of Canada.
    I was patrolling around in a northern community of about 1,500 people. Crime and alcohol abuse was rampant in the community. It was almost to a point where the community was screaming for more visible policing on the streets.
    We listened to the people's concerns about trying to protect their homes and their streets. What we did was a visible policing policy, being on the street, enforcing those laws and deterring the criminals from committing offences. If a person was out walking around and was found committing a crime, he or she was arrested and detained. In one year alone we had a 40% decrease in criminal complaints. That is because the laws are there to prevent people from committing those crimes.
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the debate today on Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act. In the tradition of the government, it has given it a nickname, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act.
    Once again, as has been the case with all of the nicknames that it has come up with, it is a very misleading nickname because this bill really affects refugees far more than it will ever affect those who engage in human smuggling.
    It is unfortunate with this bill that we have seen a real setback in the kind of progress we have made in this Parliament on immigration and refugee issues. We had a great example of co-operation, of cross-party co-operation, and government and opposition co-operation, with Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which passed unanimously in this House back in June. That was a place where the government introduced a bill to address issues it saw with the refugee determination process in Canada, in an attempt to make it more efficient, to speed it up and to address some of the problems existing in that process.
    The opposition had trouble with that bill, but because there was an openness to dealing with the questions that the opposition had, a better bill was created. Unanimity was found, a rare thing in this minority Parliament, and I was hopeful about that kind of process. We saw, in one of the few occasions since it has come to power in the last two Parliaments, the government's willingness to actually work with others to craft a better bill, and that is what we ended up with.
    Now we are set back with Bill C-49, which takes us back and tries to reopen some of the issues that the government apparently resolved back in Bill C-11. It is trying to reopen some of the issues on which it forged a compromise with the opposition parties back in the spring in this place.
    That is very troubling. It seems that when we do the job that Canadians sent us here to do, to talk to each other, to do the things that are best for Canadians, when we finally have that opportunity, the government wants to turn its back on that development in a very dramatic way by reintroducing another bill that reforms a piece of legislation we just dealt with in June.
    An hon. member: It isn't even in effect yet.
    Mr. Bill Siksay: It has not even been proclaimed yet, as one of my colleagues points out.
    This is really problematic and a very sad day that we are here to do this.
    Bill C-49 is a piece of legislation that is extremely unfair to refugees. We just listened to a speech from a Conservative member that had a completely confused understanding of what it was to be a refugee or a refugee claimant in Canada. The member seemed to believe that all of these people were criminals or potential criminals and talked about them in that way. Nothing could be further from the truth, and even in the situation where a refugee claimant may lose that determination, I would think there are very few, if any, of those people who any Canadian would reasonably define as a criminal. It is very sad that this kind of confusion can exist on the Conservative bench amongst government party members about the intent or the need for this piece of legislation. That is a very serious confusion and misleads Canadians about the situation of refugees and refugee claimants in Canada.
    Even if we look at the situations that seem to have given occasion to this particular bill, the arrival of the boats on Canada's west coast with largely Tamil refugees, that is not a fair descriptor yet. Many of the people who have arrived in Canada in boats, recently and in past years, have had successful refugee determination cases. They were not criminals. They were not queue-jumpers. They were in fact refugees, as determined by the established process here in Canada. That characterization of them is false and misleading, and it is very sad that it continues to be promulgated.

  (1305)  

    Bill C-49 is a deeply flawed bill and deeply unfair to refugees. It does not honour Canada's obligations under our own equality law, under the charter, or under international law. It is a sad departure from Canada being, in 1986, a country that was honoured by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees with the Nansen Medal for its refugee work as one of the outstanding countries in the world in terms of refugee resettlement and support for refugees. This is a far step from that point in our past history.
    This bill would deprive refugees of an independent review. Because it moves to the detention system, which we have largely avoided in Canadian refugee determination and Canadian refugee law, it goes to the expensive alternative of detention. Detention is hugely expensive when compared to the value of a refugee claimant living in the community while his or her case is being determined. This is a serious departure.
    The reality is that the bill, despite all the bravado about it, would really not do much about human smuggling. More Canadian laws are not going to catch human smugglers, the people who organize the kinds of things that the government is apparently concerned about.
    Mandatory minimum sentences are ineffectual in most criminal situations and I cannot imagine how in this circumstance there is even any hope of them being any kind of deterrence. The only reason we would have a mandatory minimum sentence is for the deterrent value. I think they are almost useless. I doubt that any of the criminal organizations that the government says are out there organizing and switching from arms shipments to human shipments are writing memos to the people they work with saying, “Beware. Canada has just introduced a mandatory minimum sentence for human smuggling”. Mandatory minimums are not going to stop any of those people. They are not even an issue. They are not even a consideration in those circumstances. In this case, a mandatory minimum sentence would be completely ineffectual. This is one of the places where it would be least effective anywhere in criminal law.
    Overwhelmingly, mandatory minimum sentences are ineffective throughout most aspects of criminal law. It is a government fantasy to think that they would somehow address the human smuggling situation.
    Refugees are usually people who are in desperate circumstances. One of the criteria for determining whether people are refugees is if they fear for their life in their country of origin, if they have been persecuted and are seeking safety. It is our duty to receive those people and make a determination about their case.
    In Bill C-11, we made decisions about how to expedite that process. It was taking too long in some cases. The Conservatives did not help the speed of the refugee determination process by their actions when they became government, by the fact that they would not reappoint anybody to the immigration and refugee appeal boards. The backlog increased because of their refusal to reappoint anybody that the previous Liberal government had appointed. They were slow making their own appointment. The Conservatives are directly responsible for the backlog that exists in refugee determination in Canada right now.
    But we did take some extra measures to make sure that it was a more effective process in Bill C-11. We did take measures to ensure that when someone is determined not to be a refugee that they are removed from Canada. I have always said that a key aspect of our immigration and refugee policy had to be an effective removals policy as well. If we are going to have any respect for our refugee and immigration regime, that has to be an effective part. There has been a real experience that it is one place where we have fallen down in terms of enforcing immigration law in the past.
    I want to talk about some of the specific aspects of this legislation.
    I really believe that Bill C-49 punishes refugees. My remarks are drawing fairly heavily on the work of the Canadian Council for Refugees, in whom I have incredible confidence. This is an umbrella organization of almost every refugee- and immigrant-serving organization in Canada. It does excellent and detailed work on immigration and refugee policy and speaks loud and clear for the people it serves from coast to coast to coast in Canada. Whenever I speak on immigration and refugee matters, I draw heavily on its work.

  (1310)  

    Bill C-49 has been presented as legislation that would target smugglers, but in fact most of the legislation would not target smugglers but refugees and changes the circumstance for refugees. I think the previous Liberal member did a count and said there are 12 sections of the bill that deal with refugees and only five sections that deal with smugglers. So it really is an unbalanced piece of legislation in that sense.
    Refugees, in this bill, including refugee children, would be mandatorily detained for a year without the possibility of an independent review and denied family reunification and the right to travel for over five years under the terms of this legislation. These are very serious restrictions. Mandatory detention is something that we have not used extensively in Canada and I think it would be a real departure from the success of our refugee legislation.
    Many people believe that under Bill C-49 refugees could easily be victimized three times: first, by the people who were persecuting them in their country of origin; second, by smugglers who are often the unscrupulous people they have to use to escape their persecution; and finally, by an unfair process here in Canada. This is totally contrary to what we should be doing. We should be seeking to reduce the victimization of refugees and of people who have been persecuted and who fear for their lives in their countries of origin. The bill would only add to that victimization, unfortunately.
    As I mentioned earlier, this legislation seems to violate Canada's commitments under international law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is another one that is in play here and is of great concern. The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the refugee convention, is another important international commitment that Canada has made. I think under all of those international agreements and also under the charter there will be challenges to this legislation, because in one way or another it is problematic. When we look at the Convention on the Rights of the Child, for instance, a delay in family reunification is an incredible violation of the rights of a refugee child. If a parent is here in Canada making a refugee claim, if the possibility of reunification for that child is delayed by five years, it is a very serious problem for that child and I think a very serious violation of that child's rights.
    The most serious aspect of Bill C-49 is that it would create in our refugee legislation two classes of refugees: one class that is designated by the minister based on their mode of arrival, who would have different treatment compared to other refugees who land on our shores in Canada, who arrive in Canada by some other means. I think this is a clearly discriminatory provision.
     In fact, it goes back on the commitments that we thought we had received from the government when the negotiation happened around Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act. In that legislation, there was also an attempt to establish two classes of refugees and to have a designation system. It was based on the country of origin, on what were considered safe countries that could produce refugees and countries that were not considered safe, and we know that it is almost an impossible designation to make.
    So in negotiations with the government we got that changed and we did away with that classification of refugees that was a key part of the previous bill, Bill C-11.
    Now the government, in this bill, is trying to reintroduce that kind of designation system. This time, it is not based on the country of origin of the refugee but on how that refugee got to Canada, on his or her mode of arrival. I think that is just trying to get it back in when we thought we had dealt with that issue very clearly in the previous negotiations, in the previous legislation.
    I think, too, the discretion that is afforded the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in making these designations would be way off the scale. It would be too much. It would go way too far in allowing an individual minister the ability to make these decisions about who would be this designated refugee who loses some of the rights established under Canadian law for refugee determination. I think if there is any reason to have serious questions about this legislation, it is because of the establishment of these two classes of refugees and because of the incredible amount of discretion that it would afford the minister.

  (1315)  

    There are places for discretion for ministers of citizenship and immigration around humanitarian and compassionate considerations, for instance, because refugee and immigration cases are often reflections of people's very complex lives and that is a place where there needs to be some discretion for a minister, especially in this portfolio. However, I do not believe that allowing a minister to designate who is a first-class refugee and who is a second-class refugee or a no-class refugee is an appropriate addition to our immigration and refugee law in Canada. It is a very serious problem.
    This bill, as we has mentioned, talks about mandatory detention of people who are designated by the minister as second-class refugees. There is mandatory detention without independent review. This kind of arbitrary detention is likely contrary to the charter and international law. Children will also be detained under this proposal. Unless they are accepted as refugees or released on discretionary grounds by the minister based upon exceptional circumstances, designated persons will remain in detention for a minimum of one year before having access to a review of their decisions. There are examples in Canadian law where that kind of process has been shown to be in contradiction of the charter.
    The bill also talks about mandatory conditions being imposed upon release and for persons to be indefinitely detained beyond 12 months without the possibility of release if the minister is of the opinion that their identities have not been established. These measures seriously deprive people of liberty, without the opportunity for an independent tribunal to review whether they are necessary to their particular situations or to their particular cases.
    The bill also denies refugee claimants in the designated class the right to appeal a negative refugee decision to the Immigration and Refugee Board's Refugee Appeal Division. It is frustrating to no end to have to be debating the need for a Refugee Appeal Division yet again in the House of Commons. The Refugee Appeal Division, an appeal of the decision of the Immigration and Refugee Appeal Board on a specific refugee case, was part of the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that came into effect in 2001. In fact, with the Liberal government of the day, the establishment of the Refugee Appeal Division was a compromise, worked out with all the parties in the House, that garnered support for that legislation.
    Sadly, even though we won the Refugee Appeal Division in an important appeal in the refugee process, the Liberal government of the day and subsequent Conservative governments never put it in place. It was passed and was part of the law but was never implemented. This was a serious problem. We even had private members' legislation, committee reports and other motions that called upon the government to actually implement the established law of the land but to no avail.
    Recently, in the debate on Bill C-11, again we thought we had won a victory where finally the Refugee Appeal Division, this important appeal of a negative refugee decision, would be implemented. However, now we see that the government is proposing, in Bill C-49, to remove that again. We think we have it but we do not implement it. We think we have it again and now we are going to limit it.
    Every organization has said that this is an important aspect of refugee law and that it needs to be here in Canada. International organizations have commented that Canada needed to have this level of appeal, that Canada needed to uphold its existing refugee act, and that this was a crucial piece of what we should be about in our refugee laws. I am really disappointed that the government has again moved to limit the Refugee Appeal Division.
    Family reunification is an issue. I mentioned the issue of blocking families from being reunited for five years and the issue of refugee integration into the community. This slows that process down, and that has been one of the successes of Canadian immigration law. We have moved new immigrants and refugees into positions of participation in society, of feeling that they belong in Canada, that they are valued members of the community, better than any other country, and yet here again in this legislation we are putting forward barriers to doing that, and we do that at our peril. We are turning our backs on what we have proven works and what other countries agree have worked.

  (1325)  

    Madam Speaker, to be quite honest, I am dismayed with a number of the comments made by the member.
    As a person whose family is not far removed from being new Canadians, I think all Canadians, including myself, are very proud of Canada's very giving and gracious immigration system. I think immigrants have added so much to Canada and I know that is speaking from my own family's history.
    This past summer I was inundated with people from my riding, including new Canadians, who felt that what we were seeing was an egregious violation of Canada's very open immigration and very open refugee laws. We must respond to it.
    It appears that what the member is suggesting is that Canada's immigration laws should be behest to some unknown international community that thinks it should be something other than what the government feels it should be. It also appears that the member is suggesting that the people in my riding, the thousands of people who objected to what we saw this summer, apparently are not prepared to help people in need. I reject that entire line of dogma from the member.
    Madam Speaker, I am dismayed with the member as well. If he is dismayed with me, I can be dismayed right back to him.
    I wonder if he engaged any of those constituents in a discussion of what the actual refugee process is in Canada and what has happened in previous occasions when boats have landed on Canadian shores of people who risked their lives to escape persecution, who went through the refugee determination process and who have largely been found to be refugees.
    I do not think people in my riding want me to turn my back or us in this place to turn our back on legitimate refugees, on people who have had their lives at risk in their country of origin. No one in my riding wants us to do that. They want us to find a process that tests those cases. They do not want us to have bogus refugees in Canada. I do not want bogus refugees here either. I said that if a person is a bogus refugee then we should have a removal process that works. I said that we have had governments that did not have that process working in the past.
    This is not a question about lack of respect for our immigration law. This is a question about respecting the immigration law that we have and respecting the refugee process that we have as well.
    We have a good process and we should let it work. We have a process that if the government had appointed the people to do the work, and had not let the refugee system fall into disrepute because of its own partisan considerations, we would have a system that was functioning effectively.
    When the Conservatives came to power, the Immigration and Refugee Board had almost eliminated its backlog. That took a lot of hard work and determination by the folks who were involved in that organization. When the Conservatives came to power and refused to reappoint members of the board, it dramatically increased the backlog. That was irresponsible.
    Madam Speaker, when the hon. member referenced Bill C-11, which passed the House with the support of all parties and all members of Parliament, he referenced it in an interesting way. We worked collectively on that bill and we passed a bill that we all thought was pretty good. Were we 100% happy? No one was absolutely happy but we thought it was good.
    All of sudden, this bill gets dropped on us out of the blue that seems to go back on that sort of consensual collective way that we were able to arrive at results. The result of dropping a bill without any consultation with other parties are issues that were raised.
    My goodness, have we ever allowed for the incarceration of children for one year in detention centres in Canada? What are we thinking of doing here? How can we separate families for five years? The people who are determined to be refugees, we will not allow them to travel back to their country to bring to Canada the rest of their families who also are in harm's way as refugees in camps, perhaps. Even though they have been determined as refugees, we will not allow them landed status, so they cannot bring over their families.
    We will have sometimes husbands, wives and children of determined refugees in harm's way. Could the hon. member tell us if Canada has ever treated some of the most vulnerable on the planet in that manner?

  (1330)  

    Madam Speaker, as I said, this is an incredible departure from Canada's past practice in terms of the increased use of detention and it is a totally inappropriate direction for us to be going in.
    The member raised the effects of detention on refugee children. I think what happened in Australia is a good example of that. Australia did a very significant study on the effects--
    Are you calling everyday Canadians bigots?
    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but I would ask other members to take their conversations outside in the lobby please.
    The hon. member can complete his answer.
    In Australia, a study was done by the Australian human rights commission, a parliamentary organization created by the Australian parliament, to look into the effects of detention on refugee children in Australia. Australia uses detention far more than Canada does and it uses it, I think, in a very troubling way. However, Australia has a different set of circumstances from what Canada has, so we need to consider that.
    Australia held a national inquiry into children in immigration detention and it found all kinds of serious things. It found that the kind of traumatization that refugee children experienced was only exacerbated by continuing detention once they got to Australia. It found there were repeated breaches of human rights under Australian law. It is not only a very serious matter to detain children, but it is also a very serious matter to detain refugees once they arrive on our shores. Canada, to its credit, has avoided that. I do not think we can make the argument that we have not had a successful policy that has protected Canadians and has protected immigration policy in Canada.
    Madam Speaker, earlier today, I believe a government member said that about 65% of Canadians supported this legislation. Clearly the government has done polling and held focus groups on Bill C-49.
    The bill would give the minister great powers that future ministers may not actually want. To that effect, what is the purpose of having an immigration system if the minister will be making all of the decisions? What happens if a ship of migrants arrives and it is populated by a group of people widely supported by the public? How will they be treated? Will they be treated in the same way as the current group of refugees are being treated? Will the government at that point take a poll and, if those refugees are supported by 65% of the population, will it somehow make a different decision and treat those refugees differently?
    Madam Speaker, that points out why we need a fair system in place. We need a single class of refugee so that any refugee arriving in Canada is treated the same way, equally and with fairness and justice. Giving too much discretion is a serious problem.
    One of the aspects of the bill is to give the minister retroactive designation powers back to March 2009 to designate a special class of refugees who will be treated differently and who will have fewer rights in the system. That is a very troubling aspect of the bill. That retroactive power has to be gone because it is totally inappropriate. We should not go back that far and revisit cases that have already begun their process under the existing refugee law.
    Madam Speaker, the member said that this government created a huge refugee backlog at the IRB. In point of fact, when we came to office there was a backlog of 20,000 and then we received huge waves of claims that were about 20,000 more than the full capacity of the IRB to process.
    Is the member really suggesting that when we get a year like two years ago with 38,000 asylum claimants, more than any other country in the world as a geographically remote country, 60% of which claims are rejected, that we do not have a problem with bogus asylum claimants taking advantage of Canada's generosity?

  (1335)  

    Madam Speaker, I will say that the Conservatives created the mess by letting the number of appointments on the Immigration and Refugee Board lapse. That was a serious problem that they created. It was totally their own creation and it is something that should not have happened.
    I am glad the minister qualified by saying geographically isolated country but that we have the largest number. People should listen very carefully to his words. Canada is not getting the same refugee numbers as many other countries because of our geographic--
    Order, please. The hon. member for Papineau.
    Madam Speaker, the arrival on Canadian shores of the latest two boats filled with Tamil refugee claimants has generated many concerns from the public. Opinion polls suggest that the vast majority of Canadians want future boats to be turned away and the Tamil refugee claimants to be deported for fear that our generous system is being exploited by criminal elements.
    As always, the government has not missed the opportunity to turn public concerns into bad legislation that torques up the issue and promotes fear and misunderstanding in the hopes of electoral gain.
    Bill C-49 is a terrible piece of legislation but a very effective announcement. It is effective because the government gets to talk about getting tough on vile human smugglers who criminally take advantage of extraordinarily vulnerable people fleeing persecution and oppression. It is always effective to be able to stand up and talk about defeating the evildoers while protecting the innocent and the just.
    The problem is that is all this is, talk. This legislation actually does very little to go after the evildoers, and far from protecting the vulnerable, actually goes after and punishes asylum seekers.
    Allow me to be very clear on one thing, Liberals and indeed members of all parties in this House are deeply committed and concerned with our capacity to crack down on human smugglers and protect the integrity of our refugee and immigration systems.
    It is just that it is apparent there is little in the new legislation that actually cracks down on smugglers. There are provisions the government is quite pleased with that provide for mandatory minimum sentences of up to 10 years, but those are very unlikely to be an effective deterrent given that smuggling already carries a potential life sentence.
    There are some minor provisions against shipowners who disobey ministerial orders, but nothing that is truly likely to put a dent in the multi-million dollar human smuggling business. Indeed, many of the provisions will just drive up the cost to asylum seekers and put them on more dangerous sea routes.
    Rather, most of the legislation's provisions are directed at trying to deter refugees themselves. Many of the provisions may be inconsistent with the charter. Others are in direct violation of our obligations under international law. All will cause great hardship to refugees who have come to Canada to seek protection.
    The legislation represents a complete reversal and backtracking on Canada's proud humanitarian tradition toward refugees and the displaced.

[Translation]

    This government bill would create two classes of refugees based on the means of transportation they use to get here. Consider this: our system assesses, questions and judges people to determine whether they are legitimate refugees, but they will be treated differently if the minister does not like the way they arrived in Canada. That has nothing to do with the refugees' merit. It is entirely arbitrary. These people are recognized as refugees because they have good reason to fear for their lives because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinions. These are legitimate refugees, but because we do not like the way they arrived here, we subject them to harsh punishment that is no doubt unconstitutional and certainly violates our international obligations.
    We cannot judge people on the basis of how they get here, because refugees use unorthodox means to reach their chosen land. In most cases, people have found unorthodox ways to get to Canada. The government judges these people on the basis of their country of origin. Designating people who arrive illegally means the government can judge anyone it wants.
    In addition to keeping designated refugees locked up, the government would impose a five-year probation, during which time they would be forbidden from leaving Canada or from applying to sponsor other family members, who are most likely suffering. The government would also have the power to hold asylum seekers for up to a year.
    The president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, Wanda Yamamoto, said:
    Measures keeping some refugees longer in detention, denying them family reunification and restricting their freedom of movement are likely in violation of the Canadian Charter and of international human rights obligations. People who are forced to flee for their lives need to be offered asylum and a warm welcome, not punished.

  (1340)  

[English]

    That is what is so worrisome about this capacity to create two categories of refugees depending simply on whether or not the minister approves of the way they got here.
    The thinking behind it, I assume, is that if people know that the minister might not approve of their way of coming here, they are not going to get in those leaky boats and risk their lives in a heavy crossing. But when we look at the pressures on them when they got on, and their willingness to shell out to criminal elements extraordinary amounts of money that they do not have, the suspicion that perhaps the minister will disapprove of them is not going to keep them away.
    When we create two classes of refugees because we like their way of getting here or we do not like their way of getting here, we are creating divisions among the very people who are most vulnerable, people whose rights Canada has sworn to uphold and protect. It is a complete discarding of the Canadian principles of fairness and justice that have defined this country for decades.
    The Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention to be informed promptly, to retain and instruct counsel without delay, and to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.
    On top of that, the fact that refugees would have no right to apply for permanent residence for five years after determination of their claim is inconsistent with the principle enunciated in article 34 of the UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees which provides that states must make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings for people determined to be refugees. We are tossing international obligations and Canadian law to the wind with this bill.
    The Geneva Convention states:
    The Contracting States shall issue to refugees lawfully staying in their territory travel documents for the purpose of travel outside their territory...
    That is fairly clear. Again, the proposed legislation goes against that by banning them from travel for up to five years. Even once they have been recognized as refugees, they have to wait until they become permanent residents to get travel documents.
    The Geneva Convention also states that the contracting states, of which we are one:
...shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings.
    That is one of the things Amnesty International recently declared in an open letter violates the rights of these refugees. It ignores the reality that many of these refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution turn to smugglers for assistance because of desperation, because of a lack of other options, because of a lack of a willingness of their host government which is busy oppressing or maligning them to help them get to another country.

[Translation]

    Neither a just society, nor the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor international agreements are safe from this government.
    We have good reason to be very concerned about this bill. I—we—understand that the problem of human trafficking needs to be dealt with, but the Conservatives' approach lacks refinement, subtlety and respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are classifying people not according to the dangers they face at home, but according to how they get to Canada. That is not the right way to do things.

[English]

    The Tamil boatloads of 2009 and 2010 represented a new wave of boatloads of refugee claimants. The government's response to the first boat was relatively muted. There was not a tremendously strong public outcry against these refugee claimants.
    However, well before the second boatload arrived, the public safety minister was already warning the Canadian public that the boat was filled with terrorists and criminals, before these people were evaluated, examined, interviewed, judged on their individual merits, as our obligations require us to do in the case of every single refugee.
    This coming out against them soured public opinion against the claimants before they even arrived in Canada, and has produced a dramatic backlash. The effect of this short-sighted reaction has been to create a strong anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiment.
    That is not typical of Canada. That is not typical of Canadians. We are a country that has consistently stood up open to immigrants, to refugees, and to drawing from around the world people who wish to come here, build a safe and secure life free from persecution. Now we are busy encouraging that persecution and hyping up the tensions between Canadians and potentially new Canadians.
    It is extremely important that a Canadian government be responsible in how it defends our immigration and refugee system, how it makes Canadians understand that we are strong because of, not in spite of, diversity. Our differences are what define us and make us the flexible, open, confident, powerful country that we are in the process of becoming more and more every day.
    The government needs to be much more responsible in how it chooses to elevate and enervate the Canadian public's level of debate on an issue such as this one.
    It is important to mention that when the minister and the Prime Minister talk about making sure that the immigrants who go through the normal process do not get unfair treatment because of the queue jumpers, it is actual misinformation.
    Let me share a secret that the government does not want anyone to know. There is no queue for refugees. There are no queue jumpers in the refugee system. We have a process around refugees. Anyone who comes to Canada and seeks asylum falls into an evaluation process that has nothing to do with the quotas we establish for refugees, family class immigrants, economic migrants. It has nothing to do with the legitimate immigration process, the queue and wait times.
    A refugee is evaluated on the merits of his or her individual case. Unfortunately, as we have seen in the case of the American war deserters and many others, the government is choosing to interfere with the process in which refugee claimants are evaluated on the merits of their claim. The government is choosing to prejudge. It is choosing to frame the debate in such a way that people are blending immigrants and refugees. They are two very different things.
    By stoking our fears and concerns and the frustrations of legitimate immigrants who have been here but who followed the queue, who see these people as queue jumpers because the government says they are queue jumpers, we are not serving Canada. We are not living up to our international responsibilities to be a fair and just country. We are falling by the wayside of the rights and principles for which Canada has always stood.
    Instead of misinforming and holding press conferences in front of boats, we would have liked the government to consider an alternative approach.
    The first and most obvious one, in the case of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers, is to aggressively pursue a peace settlement in Sri Lanka.
    Tens of thousands of Tamils still remain detained in detention camps. The government is being investigated by the United Nations to see if crimes against humanity were committed by the government during the civil war. Tortures and disappearances unfortunately continue.

  (1345)  

    However, there is no doubt that there is a genuine opportunity for peace. The Tamil minority wants some form of autonomy. This can be addressed within a federal state. More and more Tamils are involved in the Sri Lankan government. There is an openness toward improving the relations between the Tamil community, the international community and the government.
    We are making headway on that and Canada can play a role in helping shape that peace, in helping encourage that peace. We know what it is like to live within a country where there are distinct cultural, linguistic and religious identities and to make it work. We are living proof of that here in the House of Commons. We need to build on our capacity to work with international partners, to work with the UN. Unfortunately it is an area in which the government has not been particularly successful.
    When we called upon the government to work with international partners, to cut off human smuggling, to decrease the likelihood and the possibility of engaging with human smugglers, to go after human smugglers, what did it do? The Conservatives went after them. They worked with local police forces. But instead of rounding up human smugglers they rounded up potential asylum seekers. That is not the kind of work we need to do if we are going to really crack down on human smuggling.
    People have been talking about turning around boats. I am pleased that the government has not chosen in this bill to encourage the idea that we should turn these boats around before they land on our shores, because that is a violation of any number of international conventions and puts people who are extraordinarily vulnerable at tremendous risk.
    Since the diversion of the ships is not legal, the only alternative is therefore to provide expeditious determination of refugee claims. It is well known that the most effective mechanism for deterring frivolous or irresponsible or unfounded claims and slowing down refugee movements is to subject persons to fair but expeditious determinations and to quickly deport persons whose claims are rejected. Unfortunately, Bill C-49 does not address that and does not encourage that.
    The process of seeking the detention of refugee claimants, coupled with expedited hearings while providing them due process is an effective response to try to deter claims. In the case of the Sri Lankan Tamils, given the current situation, it may well be that some of the claimants will be accepted. However, all should be expeditious, fair determinations.
    This, coupled with efforts to resolve the situation in Sri Lanka and with efforts to stem the flow of boats by working with governments in the region, is the most effective long-term response. It can be done without inflaming anti-immigrant feelings in Canada and in a manner that will ensure Canada complies with its obligations under international law and the charter.
    Speaking of this legislation, there is something else that worries me. As we have heard speaker after speaker in the opposition get up and highlight all the real legal challenges and convention challenges with this bill, and as experts have come out time and time again with real concerns about this, the thing that really bugs me is that this legislation, which is filled with ineffective and illegal measures, was drafted by the good people in what is generally considered to be the best immigration ministry in the world.
    Our fine bureaucrats put together this piece of legislation that is not worthy of the kind of work and the kind of balanced approach that was even available and visible in Bill C-11 that we passed unanimously in the House. That bill was supposed to balance and improve our process of evaluating refugees and providing fairness for refugees.
    Under the guise of legislation to deter smugglers, or smuggling, the government has introduced broad changes to our refugee determination system and to the rights of persons recognized as refugees.
    Let us be perfectly clear. There is very little in this legislation that is designed to crack down on smugglers. Instead, this legislation takes reprisals against the refugees who use those smugglers—

  (1350)  

    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. I would ask all hon. members to take side conversations outside the House rather than shouting across to each other. Out of politeness and to maintain civil debate, I would ask that very respectfully.
    The hon. member has one minute to complete his comments.
    Madam Speaker, this ultimately is the kind of bill that is being presented here.
    We have indicated that we have grave concerns about particular pieces of this legislation. The government has indicated that it is a very important piece of legislation. Canadians have indicated that they have real, founded concerns about human smuggling and its impact on our immigration and refugee system. Because of that, we are considering this bill. We are looking to see if there is anything in it that is salvageable. We are hopeful that we will be able to determine measures that will actually crack down on smugglers and be fair to refugees. So we are going to look at that.
    Members heard me say this before and they will hear me say it again just about every time I get up in the House to speak about the government and the ineffective legislation it continually puts forward. Canadians deserve better and so does Canada.

  (1355)  

    Order, please. I ask hon. members on all sides of the House to be a little more respectful to those members who are speaking.
    For questions and comments, we have five minutes before the top of the hour. The hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
    Madam Speaker, allow me to congratulate my colleague from Papineau on his appointment as the official opposition critic for immigration and citizenship. However to quote him, I do not really think that speech did anything to “enervate” this debate, or elevate it for that matter, because it was a heavy dose of demagoguery.
    What I found most disturbing about that speech was the odious suggestion that Canadians who are concerned about this prima facie violation of the integrity of our immigration system, of our laws of the principle of fairness, are somehow “anti-immigrant”.
    He has seen the same polls as I have. I am sure his constituents have the same view as most Canadians. Two-thirds of Canadians have told pollsters they think Canada should not even allow the boats to enter our territorial waters if they are carrying people being smuggled here illegally. Some 55% of Canadians say we should return even those who are deemed to be bona fide refugees.
    I do not believe that two-thirds of Canadians are anti-immigrant, and in point of fact, new Canadians, those Canadians who were born abroad, feel more strongly about this violation of the integrity and fairness of our immigration system than native-born Canadians.
    I would challenge him to be very careful before he casts aspersions on the motives of those who are open, who maintain support for the most generous immigration and refugee determination system in the world but believe it should actually be governed by the rule of law and the principle of fairness.
    I would ask him this. Apart from giving speeches in Colombo and talking to other foreign governments, what concrete actions would the Liberal Party take to stop the smugglers from bringing people here illegally?
    Madam Speaker, I am glad to defer to the hon. minister's expertise on demagoguery.
    What is odious about this piece of legislation is that it is dividing Canadians into two Canadas. He is talking about new Canadians who have one particular perception of things and other Canadians who may not. As soon as we start distinguishing who is what type of Canadian, we are falling onto a slippery slope that, unfortunately, the government continually encourages when it blends the distinction between immigrants and refugees, when it talks about queue jumpers for refugees. It is being entirely irresponsible and it is not worthy of the minister who is responsible for upholding and defending the integrity and the respect for the law and convention of our immigration system.
    There are about seven minutes remaining in the time allotted to the hon. member for questions and comments consequent on his speech, but we will have to resume that later since it is now time to proceed with statements by members.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to inform the House that my private member's bill, Bill C-465, An Act respecting a National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day has been approved by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and sent back to this House for third reading.
    Hunting, trapping and fishing are some of the oldest practices in Canadian society. For the first nations, the coureurs de bois and the Inuit peoples of the north, hunting, trapping and fishing have played a vital role in the sustainability of past and present communities.
    I would also like to thank my hon. colleagues from across the aisle who supported this bill at committee. Their support and contribution have improved this bill's overall scope and clarity.
    I would also encourage all of my hon. colleagues to support this bill at third reading, so that we may have a day to honour those who have contributed so greatly to our society, history, economy and conservation efforts.

  (1400)  

National Occupational Therapy Month

    Mr. Speaker, October is National Occupational Therapy Month, a chance to celebrate the contribution of occupational therapists as people who help others live healthier, more satisfying lives. They provide people-centred solutions that contribute to the overall well-being of all Canadians.
    The work that OTs do is varied and constantly changing. They help people adapt to changing circumstances and abilities. A woman who has had a stroke finds new ways to manage daily activities. An autistic child learns new ways to deal with difficult social situations. A young man has his workplace adapted after a motorcycle accident and he goes back to work. This is occupational therapy.
    OTs help family caregivers. When dementia strikes, they tell caregivers about behaviours to expect, about how to make their homes safer and about helpful community resources.
    OTs help soldiers return to work, with outcomes that fit the demands and culture of the Canadian Forces. They help veterans cope with PTSD and live meaningful, productive lives.
    Occupational therapists change lives. Let us celebrate their contribution.

[Translation]

Salle André-Mathieu Theatre

    Mr. Speaker, the Corporation de la salle André-Mathieu in Laval is nominated in two categories at the 32nd ADISQ Gala 2010: “venue of the year” and “entertainment presenter of the year”.
    The first category “honours the quality and suitability of the equipment, the acoustic properties, the skill and initiatives of the technical staff, the reception facilities, the relations with tour teams, the quality of administrative services, and the volume of activity.”
    The Félix for “entertainment presenter of the year” is handed out in recognition of the “evolution of the presenter, the diversity and quality of programming, impact on the community, succession planning, promotion and communications, as well as professional ethics.”
    The Bloc Québécois congratulates the entire team at the Salle André-Mathieu and would like to wish them good luck on November 1, when the winners will be announced. With these two important nominations, it is clear that Laval is, without a doubt, a cultural landmark in Quebec.

[English]

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, Corporal Stuart Langridge served Canada proudly at home and abroad until he died from injuries he sustained while serving.
    In 2008, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he took his own life after being refused the help he desperately needed.
    Military officials not only failed Stuart; they continue to fail his parents, Sheila and Shaun Fynes, whose grief has been compounded by bureaucratic ineptitude. The Fynes asked me to speak out because they do not want anyone else to suffer the way their family has.
    I am joining them today in asking the Minister of National Defence to intervene and provide the answers they have asked for. Through Motion No. 592, I am asking the government to review its practices in light of Stuart's case to guarantee that soldiers with PTSD and their families get the support they deserve.

Universities and Colleges

    Mr. Speaker, Canadian universities educate more than 1.5 million students annually, perform more than one-third of Canada's research and development, and remain this country's critical centres of learning, discovery and innovation.
    The Government of Canada has always played a strong and important role in supporting learning and innovation. As part of Canada's economic action plan, we have invested over $2 billion in the knowledge infrastructure program, supporting infrastructure enhancement at universities across the country. Going forward, universities and government must continue to work together in the development of the talent that will ensure Canada remains a very prosperous nation.
    Today I am very pleased to welcome the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and more than 40 university presidents from coast to coast who have joined us here on Parliament Hill.
    They are here to discuss ideas on research and innovation, international education, copyright reform and aboriginal access to higher education. I ask all members to join me in welcoming them to Parliament Hill.

  (1405)  

Tamil Community

    Mr. Speaker, I want to speak about the contributions made by the Tamil community to the fabric that makes up our multicultural nation.
    This cultural community has forged roots across the country and has excelled in all areas of Canadian endeavour. Since the 1940s, when the first Tamils immigrated here, the community has grown to about a quarter million. Tamils are teachers, entrepreneurs, bankers, doctors, researchers, lawyers, engineers, professors, athletes, corporate executives, and other such occupations. Education is highly revered in the community, and more than 5,000 Tamil Canadian students are currently pursuing post-secondary education in Ontario alone. Their businesses are a part of the infrastructure of our communities and provide good services and jobs.
    Recognizing the burdens imposed by a violent 30-year homeland conflict, we believe it is time that this important community's full contribution to our country is acknowledged, and that steps are taken to ensure that the image of Tamil Canadians is no longer tarnished by hurtful and false stereotypes. Such negative stereotyping in our media and in political discourse is hurtful and unhelpful in our grand Canadian enterprise.

North Korea

    Mr. Speaker, our government has taken a firm, principled stand against the North Korean government's continued reckless and unacceptable behaviour, including its aggressive weapons program and the sinking of the South Korean vessel Cheonan.
    The imposition of tough, targeted economic sanctions and the adoption of a controlled engagement policy limiting our bilateral relations with the North Korean government sends a clear message that its aggressive actions will not be tolerated.
    These new sanctions are targeted specifically against the North Korean government and not the people of North Korea. We will not block remittances or humanitarian aid from reaching the people of North Korea.
    We strongly believe that North Korea must take tangible steps to improve its behaviour and comply with its obligations under international law.
    Our government continues to fight for the values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world.

[Translation]

Quebec's Agri-food Industry

    Mr. Speaker, a Léger Marketing survey conducted from September 27 to 30 confirmed that our agricultural products are a source of great pride for Quebeckers, and for good reason. Be it because of their variety, their freshness or the role they play in our economy, Quebec products are a unique treasure.
    Quebec's agri-food industry is made up of 500,000 passionate people who work every day to provide us with a smorgasbord of delicious food, from lamb to berries to ice cider. Their expertise contributes to the sterling reputation of our products, both at home and abroad.
    As the member for Compton—Stanstead and the deputy critic for agriculture and agri-food, I am proud to represent hundreds of agricultural producers. I applaud the fact that Quebeckers find a source of pride on their plates at every meal.

[English]

Municipal Elections

    Mr. Speaker, this week, we saw democracy in action. People of all ages, backgrounds and political stripes stepped up and did something honourable. They put their names forward to represent the citizens of their towns, cities, and municipalities.
    In this House, we have all done this. We know first-hand the challenge of throwing our hats into the ring and trying to do something good for the regions we love.
    Today, I would like to congratulate all who ran in these municipal elections.
     To the people who were acclaimed, elected, or re-elected: great job and good luck. The road they have chosen can be difficult at times, but it is also very rewarding.
    To the people who were not successful: my hat is off to them as well. We need more people to do what they have done. That is what makes democracy work.
    I ask all members in this House to join me in congratulating all the candidates who participated in these municipal elections.
    I would also like to wish our newest politicians the very best as they embark in public life.

[Translation]

Democracy and Human Rights Throughout the World

    Mr. Speaker, all members of the House agree on an important issue: promoting democracy and human rights throughout the world, and especially supporting elected representatives and members of parliamentary assemblies who are threatened for expressing their political views.

[English]

    On September 23, Mr. Sam Rainsy, an opposition leader in Cambodia, was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, along with fines and damages. If this prosecution, coupled with a number of other prosecutions of outspoken opposition members, is allowed to stand, Cambodia's democratic process will be seriously hampered.
    The Inter-Parliamentary Union met on October 6 and passed a unanimous resolution calling on the authorities to explore all the issues surrounding this prosecution and attempt to solve them through political dialogue, so that Mr. Rainsy might be able to resume his parliamentary activities.
    I urge all members of this House to stand together and encourage the Cambodian authorities to accept the resolution passed by the IPU, the recommendations of the UN special rapporteur, and to ensure the—

  (1410)  

    Order, please. The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

[Translation]

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are promising to cancel the F-35 program, thus jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs. However, our government is reaffirming its support for the more than 80,000 men and women working in the aerospace industry.
    While attending the annual general meeting of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, president and CEO Claude Lajeunesse indicated that the Liberal Party's ambiguity on the purchase of F-35 fighter jets is hurting the Canadian aerospace industry.
    He also said:
    If the contract is cancelled, and even if there is ambiguity surrounding the contract, it is clear that some Canadians will suffer because jobs will not be available...Some jobs will eventually disappear if the contract is cancelled.
    If it were up to the Liberals, the F-35 program would be cancelled and tens of thousands of jobs in the aerospace sector would be in jeopardy.
    The economic recovery is fragile, and the hard-working men and women in this sector can count on our government to defend them.

[English]

Avalon Peninsula

    Mr. Speaker, National Geographic Traveler had a panel of experts rate 99 of the world's great islands, coastlines, and beaches for sustainability and authenticity.
    I am happy to say they ranked Newfoundland and Labrador's Avalon Peninsula as number one. The Avalon was extolled for its “stunning natural and cultural integrity”, “home to one of the oldest English cities in North America--the provincial capital of St. John's--and a winding coastline dotted with picturesque and accessible fishing villages that look out on the Atlantic Ocean” with “unspoiled scenery ranging from stark moonscapes to crystal-clear lakes to open land where caribou roam”.
    This is in competition with the world, with Wales, New Zealand, Chile, and Hawaii, which were also in the top 10.
    B.C.'s Gulf Islands and Nova Scotia's South Shore were rated in seventh and eighth place respectively, and Prince Edward Island ranked seventeenth.
    We are proud of the recognition given to the Avalon Peninsula as number one and encourage all Canadians to come and visit the Avalon and all Newfoundland and Labrador. We hope they will see for themselves what the excitement is all about.

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government supports Canadian aerospace jobs.
    While the Liberals play politics with the F-35 program, a plan that will cost 80,000 Canadian aerospace jobs, we stand with Canadians and their families.
    Claude Lajeunesse, president of the AIAC, is concerned about the coalition threat to kill the program. He said, “Uncertainty about this decision is hurting us.... It is jeopardizing the creation of value-added jobs that Canadians need. Any uncertainty around Canada's decision or signals to our partners in the program that Canada may not proceed with this acquisition will jeopardize our sector's ability to secure our maximum share of this enduring and value-added work”.
    In these times of global economic uncertainty, we cannot risk having the coalition cost Canada tens of thousands of jobs. We cannot risk taking the best equipment away from the brave men and women of our Canadian forces.

[Translation]

Decorum in the House

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives promised they would do their part to improve decorum in the House, but they keep spouting nonsense as a diversionary tactic.
    The Conservatives are in hot water these days, what with rumours of patronage, collusion with contractors and backroom financing deals swirling around their heads. In an effort to deflect attention and avoid facing the music and answering the allegations against them, the only thing they can come up with is to try discrediting the opposition with low blows and cheap shots. They are making unfounded statements out of pure demagoguery with a distinctly Conservative flavour. It is unfortunate that the person who should be leading by example, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, is contributing to this overheated environment.
    Instead of looking for problems where there are none, the Conservatives should take a good look at their own caucus. There is an elephant in the House.

[English]

Brain Tumour Awareness Month

     Mr. Speaker, October is Brain Tumour Awareness Month in Canada.
    Over 55,000 Canadians are currently living with a brain tumour. Over 10,000 more will be diagnosed with a tumour this year, one-third of which are children like my little buddy, Trevor.
    Brain tumours do not discriminate. Adults, seniors, children are all vulnerable to the prospect of this form of cancer.
    These tumours can sometimes go undetected for months, even years, making early diagnosis and treatment especially crucial.
    In the past few decades, great strides have been made in learning more about this unique form of cancer, but much more work and research remains to be done. This research not only helps those in the hunt for a cure; it also helps those afflicted with the disease to live richer lives under often difficult and debilitating circumstances.
    The motto of the awareness month is “Imagine a Cure”. It is up to us to make sure that in our lifetimes we not only imagine a cure, but also realize one.

  (1415)  

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Liberals held an invitation-only event asking women to make a big donation to join the Laurier Club, a high-dollar donor group with privileged access to Liberal Party insiders. They sold the night as an event to “build your networks in the capital”.
    Selling access to female Liberal MPs, is that how the Liberals reach out to Canadian women? Why are the Liberals interested only in women who can pay $1,000 at the door?
    Our government cares about all Canadian women. We have listened to the concerns of Canadian women. That is why we have taken action to toughen our crime laws. That is why we have given families a choice in child care through the universal child-care benefit. While the Liberals only care about the chequebook in the women's handbag, we have taken action to protect the jobs of Canadian women and the safety and economic well-being of all families.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
    In the case of the Chinook military helicopters, the Conservative sole-sourced, untendered, non-competitive process caused overruns of 100% and at least five years' delay. The Auditor General says that fiasco could well be repeated on the F-35 purchase: sole-sourced, untendered, non-competitive.
    Why will the government not listen to Sheila Fraser, define the specifications and get competitive bids?
    Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. We are following a process that was put in place by the previous government. The previous government put it in place because it understood that at the end of this decade we would have to replace our CF-18 fighters and we would have to be part of a world consortium and get the best of that here, not just the best planes, but get the work to be done in our country.
     That is why the previous government did it. Now the Liberals want to play coalition politics to scrap this deal. This government will not play politics with the men and women of the armed forces or the Canadian air force.
    Mr. Speaker, the previous government preserved the right to tender.
     When the typical Canadian family is struggling to care for an elderly parent, trying to put their kids through school and carrying $96,000 in debt, when they are counting every penny just to make ends meet, it is hard to fathom their government buying fighter jets by a process that is bound to overspend by at least $3 billion.
     Former senior officials in the Department of National Defence say that the government is wrong and reckless. The Auditor General says that it is high risk. Why can the Conservatives not do what is right for the air force and right for the taxpayer at the same time?
    Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we are doing. When the party opposite was in government, it understood this was exactly the right thing.
    However, when it comes to managing taxpayer money through a recession, I will not make any apologies to a party that cut the military, that cut health care, that cut education and that raised taxes. We are on a very different track in this government.
    Mr. Speaker, the previous government in fact made the biggest investment in the Canadian armed forces in more than 20 years. It is not just Alan Williams, the former assistant deputy minister, or the Auditor General. It is also the Pentagon that says the system managing the F-35 project is a mess. Other countries, such as the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom are all scaling back. It is only the Conservative government that insists on being reckless, that demands a blank cheque, that says to satisfy the air force, it has to break all the rules and waste $3 billion.
     Do the Conservatives not know what an insult that is to the Canadian—

  (1420)  

    The right hon. Prime Minister.
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals can talk all they want about investments they made in the military. We are not going to find a single person in the military anywhere in the country who believes that. People know about the decade of darkness.
     The party opposite and its coalition friends use every attempt, every piece of misinformation to try to oppose anything we do for our men and women in uniform. It is absolutely disgraceful.
     The member named several other countries, all of which are going to buy the F-35 and so are we, because our air force is going to have the best equipment in the world to do its job.
    Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister was the policy director for the Reform Party in 1993, he had this to say about the replacement of the Sea King helicopters, “the best approach is to defer the replacement beyond the year 2000 and to re-evaluate the role of a ship borne helicopter”.
    Why will the Prime Minister not apply the same judgment he had in 1993 at the beginning of his so-called decade of darkness, stop the irresponsible sole-sourcing of the F-35 and have an open Canadian competition in the interests of taxpayers?
    Mr. Speaker, when the member was on this side of the House and was the parliamentary secretary to defence, he used to extol the virtues of the F-35 project. He used to espouse the benefits that would come to the Canadian aerospace industry. He has completely turned himself inside out.
    As the Prime Minister said, we will move ahead with the purchase of the best plane on the planet, to give the best protection to the men and women in uniform and bring tremendous benefits to the Canadian aerospace industry. Jobs in Canada, benefits to the Canadian air force, this government is all about that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is ignoring Alan Williams, who literally wrote the book on defence procurement. He is ignoring the Auditor General, who has said that the purchase of the F-35s is too risky. He is ignoring the actions of the Pentagon and the British Conservatives and even his own comments in 1993.
    Why is the Prime Minister going along with such irresponsible spending? What does he have against good management of taxpayers' money?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, what does the member opposite, the defence critic for the Liberal Party, and the interim leader serving for the Liberal Party here today, have against giving the men and women in uniform the best equipment that we possibly can? Why do they continually oppose efforts to build up the Canadian Forces so they can do the important work that we ask of them?
    All of the experts know that this is the best aircraft. This is the best opportunity Canada has to replace the CF-18 with the aircraft that the forces need for the next 20 and 30 years.

[Translation]

Omar Khadr

    Mr. Speaker, at the centre of the scandal that is the treatment of Omar Khadr is the Conservative government's stubborn refusal to acknowledge that he is a child soldier. The UN's special representative on children and armed conflict recently said, and I quote, “In every sense Omar represents the classic child soldier narrative, recruited by unscrupulous groups to undertake actions at the bidding of adults to fight battles they barely understand”.
    Will the government finally acknowledge that Omar Khadr, who was captured at the age of 15, is a child soldier?
    Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to answer that question on numerous occasions. I repeat: this government decided to comply with the American authorities and let them to try Mr. Khadr, who has acknowledged his guilt. The American trial is under way right now. The court is hearing from witnesses, and until this process is complete, we will refrain from making any other comments.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Khadr was forced to plead guilty because the government abandoned him. Not only should Omar Khadr have the rights provided for in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but the government had and still has the obligation to ensure that his constitutional rights are respected. These rights are currently being violated, as was pointed out in decisions from the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
    Will the Conservative government finally take responsibility, ensure that Omar Khadr's rights are respected, and have him repatriated?
    Mr. Speaker, he is guilty. Mr. Khadr answered the charges. He testified and said that he was guilty. As soon as he said that he was guilty of murder, the Bloc Québécois was convinced that he was exonerated.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie's mandate was to trim 5% of the Canadian Forces’ $19 billion budget immediately. In the meantime, the Conservatives want to spend $470 billion on military procurement over the next 20 years.
    Does the Prime Minister realize that without a real foreign defence policy all these cuts and all these purchases will be totally improvised and inconsistent?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I could have sworn I saw the member opposite's comments in the paper today supporting contracts such as the F-35.
    With respect to reserves, we are going to continue to value their service. They are doing an extraordinary job in Afghanistan, as they have around the globe in previous missions.
    I find it a little ironic that we are getting advice from the Bloc, a party that does not want the country to succeed, let alone our foreign policy to succeed.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for a comprehensive military procurement policy for years. Unlike the Conservatives' F-35 purchase that the minister just mentioned, the Bloc Québécois is asking that all military procurement come with minimum economic spinoff requirements. In aerospace, for example, the government should make sure that Quebec receives its fair share, 55% of the spinoffs.
    When will we have a policy that responds to Quebec's priorities?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, what we will do is ensure that all companies across the country are given fair and equal access to these incredible contracts that can be awarded up to $12 billion worth of benefits. That is billions of dollars and thousands of jobs that can result from Canada moving forward on the MOU that was started by the members opposite.
    The coalition parties better get their message straight on the F-35. The member opposite is veering a little off script.

Potash Industry

    Mr. Speaker, sources in the media are telling us that the government apparently is starting to get it when it comes to the whole question of selling off a strategic resource like potash to the Australian multinationals.
    The Liberals never rejected a foreign takeover and the Conservatives rejected only one when they listened to the NDP advice from Peggy Nash, the member of Parliament from Parkdale, and stopped the sale of MacDonald-Dettwiler.
    When are the Conservatives going to simply get it and say no to the sale of the Potash Corporation?
    Mr. Speaker, the NDP never saw a foreign investment that it liked, just like the Liberal Party has never seen one that is has turned down.
    The truth of the matter is this government, according to the act, evaluates all investments on their merit. The Minister of Industry will be announcing a decision on this in the not too distant future.
    Let me assure the House that when we announce this decision, the criteria will be clear and the decision will be taken in the best long-run interest of the Canadian economy.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, what is unfortunate is that the government does not take the advice of the NDP often enough. The same arguments put forward to save the Canadian potash industry apply to steel, nickel and aluminum. However, the government did nothing for those industries.
    Rather than dithering, why does the Prime Minister not send a clear message right now?
    Potash is Canadian and will remain Canadian.

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, according to the law, the government is required to listen to all sides in this matter. I know that it is the NDP's position to oppose any foreign investment, and it is the Liberal Party's position to approve all foreign investment. The government will announce its decision in the near future. Our decision will be in the best, long-term interests of the Canadian economy.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the lesson from potash is the government has to wake up and do a proper job of evaluating foreign investments in our country. One cannot do that in secret. That is the fundamental problem.
    The government's approach to foreign takeovers is a tragic joke that makes Canada a sitting duck for any of these multinational operators to come in, because they know a sucker when they see one.
    When will the government strengthen the Investment Canada Act to include public hearings, transparent decision making and real penalties whenever takeover artists fail to deliver?
    Mr. Speaker, as I just said, the government is obliged to listen to all of the perspectives on this transaction before taking a decision. That is what the government will do without bias, but also without the kind of ideology of the NDP that would oppose any foreign investment under any circumstances. That is the kind of anti-market view that party has. It is not in the best long-term interest of the Canadian economy.
    We will evaluate these bids fairly and on their merits. The decisions we take will be in the best long-term interest of Canadians.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, Alan Williams confirmed that Canada could save 20%, up to $3 billion, if there were an open bidding process for our next fighter jet. That $3 billion could be used to help our veterans stay in their homes by increasing the veterans independence program or creating more hospital beds for veterans.
    Why will the government not open up the bidding process?
    Mr. Speaker, there was a competition and in fact it was the F-35 that emerged from that competition, and members opposite should know that. How was the process started? It was started under the previous government.
    Let us look at what the current assistant deputy minister of materiel in charge of the program has to say. He says:
    Let’s state the obvious: you must have more than one viable supplier to have a competition, and there is only one fifth-generation fighter available.
    That is the one we are getting.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, Sheila Fynes, a mother of a dead soldier, made 22 phone calls trying to sort out her son's pension. The Canadian Forces legal adviser told this grieving mother to stop calling.
    Maybe if the government listened to the Auditor General, it could find the money to get a single person to call Mrs. Fynes back.
    Mr. Speaker, I have instructed our senior officials to do just that. No one shares the member's outrage more than I do, with the exception of Mrs. Fynes herself. We will look into this matter and we will be speaking with her directly to address these issues.
    It is unacceptable to refuse access to the Department of National Defence or to counsel others to do so. We will remedy this matter.

[Translation]

G8 and G20 Summits

    Mr. Speaker, security for the G8 and G20 summits was planned around the Conservatives' decision to hold two summits in two places.
    Because of this, more than 40 sites had to be secured.
    The head of the RCMP said, “This undertaking was the largest deployment of Security Personnel in Canadian history.”
    Will they eventually realize that their decision to hold the summits in two different places, without regard for taxpayers, is exactly what caused this mess?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are proud of our accomplishments at the G8 and the G20 summits. Canada is leading the global economic recovery, as well as international efforts to aid developing countries.
    As we have said from the beginning, these were legitimate expenses, the majority of which were for security. There were approximately 20,000 security personnel on the ground during the summits. The violence and the destruction that occurred proved the need to ensure that those who attended the summits were protected.

  (1435)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, other countries organize summits as well—we are not the only ones—except that the Conservatives managed to multiply the bill by 50.
    We learned this morning that the budget coordination was entirely centralized in the Prime Minister's office. He was the only one who had an overview of the costs. He was the only one who could have prevented this spending spree.
    This is a financial mess. All Canadians are paying the bill. The Prime Minister could have stopped it, but he did not do anything. Why not?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the members opposite continue to put false information on the record. For example, yesterday a member opposite raised the Seoul summit and indicated that it would cost 2% of what it cost the Conservatives. In fact, when the South Korean ambassador was asked if the total security bill would climb above $1 billion, he said, “probably yes. With this kind of indirect contribution by Americans, yes”.

[Translation]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities once again demonstrated the federal government's arrogance when he said that Quebec was not providing enough information about progress on infrastructure projects. He said that he would grant the necessary extensions on a case-by-case basis if Quebec can provide justification.
    Given that the economy needs stimulating, does the government realize that it makes no sense to put an end to infrastructure projects for bureaucratic reasons?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I was before committee this morning and I was very clear. We have a good and respectful relationship with the Government of Quebec. The minister said as much in the national assembly this week.
    I have communicated to the Government of Quebec that we are being very respectful of working through the provincial government, not directly with municipalities on these projects. That means that the Government of Quebec needs to give us the details of the Preco projects in particular, so that we can work together to find a fair and reasonable accommodation.
     We are working well with the Government of Quebec and respecting both provincial and federal laws as we are doing so.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, despite the minister's assurances that the deadline is still five months away, I should point out that some kinds of work are difficult to do in Quebec in the winter.
    The federal government's obsession with red tape is putting one-third of Quebec's projects at risk. Quebec's municipalities could be on the hook for an extra $200 million because of the Conservatives' inflexibility.
    When will the government extend the deadline for all of the projects?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is correct. The deadline is still five months away, which means that we have time to sit down together with the Government of Quebec to talk about ways to deal with the projects. We have already been working closely with the Government of Quebec.
    About a week ago, in working with the Government of Quebec, I helped to re-profile some money for projects that it said just could not be done because there was not enough time. It said that it would rather do other projects. We said that if the Government of Quebec wanted to do that, then we could work together to make that happen. We have been working on that.
    We will be fair and reasonable but we need that data. Just throwing out 30% numbers without any data is anecdotal.

[Translation]

Public Works and Government Services

    Mr. Speaker, very disturbing things are happening at Public Works and the former minister refuses to take responsibility. For three weeks now we have been hearing about questionable practices in the awarding of contracts to Conservative cronies, as well as dubious ties to the biker gangs and mobsters involved in the construction industry. The minister denies everything.
    Will the former minister of public works, the current Minister of Natural Resources, appear before the committee and tell us what he was doing at a cocktail fundraiser organized by a construction contractor who won a contract from his department, an event at a restaurant frequented by mobsters?
    Mr. Speaker, that is not the case at all.
    I have a question. Yesterday I said the Bloc member had participated in an event organized by the Réseau de Résistance du Québécois. I have the invitation here with his name on it. I also have a photo from another RRQ event he attended. The RRQ's manifesto states, “The RRQ will also rehabilitate those who fought for the Front de libération du Québec...”.
    I have a very simple question for the hon. member for Sherbrooke. Does he plan to rehabilitate the people who murdered minister Pierre Laporte?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, the minister cannot deny that Paul Sauvé enjoyed a great deal of preferential treatment to obtain the West Block contract.
    Does the minister not believe that we have serious cause for concern, given that the criteria for awarding contracts was modified to accommodate a contractor who had hired a Conservative lobbyist, and given that his business managed to pass security screenings even though it was controlled by the Hells Angels?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear that that was not the case.
     Yesterday, I reported that the Bloc Québécois MP for Sherbrooke spoke at an event organized by Réseau de Résistance du Québécois. I have the invitation and promotion of this event here. I also have a photo and a YouTube clip of an event that he spoke at for the RRQ.
    The RRQ's manifesto is that it aims to rehabilitate the combatants of the FLQ.
    I have a simple question for members of the Bloc Québécois. Do they want to resurrect the ideology and the tactics of the murderer of Pierre Laporte?

[Translation]

Potash Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister recently tried to raise doubts about PotashCorporation by saying that it would make no difference to him if this company were no longer the Canadian champion it currently is. And the Minister of Industry is starting to stall.
    Who decides? Is it the Prime Minister who controls the process?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if the member had actually read the Investment Canada Act, she would realize that the Minister of Industry has statutory responsibilities under the Investment Canada Act.
    I intend to discharge those responsibilities to determine, under the net benefit to Canada test, whether this particular bid passes muster or not. I will exercise my responsibilities with due regard to the bidder's opinions and to the opinions of other Canadians, including those involved with the Government of Saskatchewan. I will make my decision shortly.
    Mr. Speaker, we need to ask where the 11 Conservative members of Parliament and 2 Conservative cabinet ministers from Saskatchewan are. Are they afraid? Are they muzzled? There is only one member of Parliament for Saskatchewan who is speaking out for the interests of the people of Saskatchewan.
    When will those 13 Saskatchewan Conservative MPs stop being afraid of speaking out in support of Saskatchewan?
    Mr. Speaker, I thought I had heard it all in this place, but the member for Willowdale thinking she knows what is in the best interests of the MPs from Saskatchewan is certainly a new high or a new low, I am not sure which.
    I would also remind the hon. member that if she wants to talk about people looking out for their own interests, the hon. member's party had 13 AWOL MPs for the Bill C-300 vote yesterday. That shows that the Liberals are trying to suck and blow at the same time, which is a typical Liberal tactic.
    In our case, we will do the best thing for Canadians because that is what we do.

International Co-operation

    Mr. Speaker, we have now learned from CIDA documents obtained through access to information and reviewed by the minister one year ago, that KAIROS' objectives are in fact “strategically aligned with our country program objectives”.
    On September 20 of this year, the minister for CIDA, in absolute contradiction of her own department's findings said, “KAIROS was recently refused funding as it did not meet the government's priorities”.
    Now that we know the minister's pretext for the KAIROS cuts is false, will the minister now finally restore funding to this organization?
    Mr. Speaker, our government has been very clear. We have an international aid effectiveness strategy and we are acting on it. We are getting results for people in the developing countries and all projects by CIDA are assessed against our effectiveness standards.
    After due diligence, it was determined that KAIROS' proposal did not meet government standards.
    Canadians want to make a difference in developing countries and that means more food, more education, more help, more security and more opportunities for women and girls.

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, the government cannot hide from the truth. KAIROS was described by CIDA as being strategically aligned with our country's program objectives, and its programming would have benefited 5.4 million marginalized people. Canadian embassies and senior public servants said that KAIROS should be funded. The minister for CIDA, however, without any explanation, ended 35 years of support by suddenly penning in the word “not” before the recommended word “approved” on the report.
    What really prompted the minister to add the word “not” to an otherwise glowing recommendation for funding for KAIROS?
    Mr. Speaker, as the House knows, we want to ensure that we are making a difference in developing countries and we are reducing poverty. We do receive many worthwhile proposals.
    I want to assure the House and all Canadians that this government will ensure that we are making a difference for those we intend to help. We are accepting and considering proposals from various people and organizations, including members of KAIROS.

Government Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians were shocked by the Liberal sponsorship scandal and decided that it was time for a change. They decided to put their trust in the Conservative government to bring accountability back to Ottawa.
    In 2005, Canada ranked a shameful 14th on an international corruption scale. Thanks to our government's Federal Accountability Act, this week Transparency International ranked Canada the sixth least corrupt country in the world.
    Could the President of the Treasury Board please tell this House why Canadians can feel good about their government?
    Mr. Speaker, this is a very important improvement in credibility. Canadians, quite rightly, felt embarrassed and somewhat ashamed when they saw Canada as a nation being rated so poorly on an index of corruption. With the Federal Accountability Act and the areas of transparency that we have brought forward have improved our rating incredibly, and we can now stand proud about that.
    I should also add that today, as the public accounts show, it is clear that there is still money missing from the sponsorship fraud. We have been able to get back about one-quarter of a million dollars. I wonder if our Liberal friends would help us to get that money.

Harmonized Sales Tax

    Mr. Speaker, finally the government listened to New Democrats and veterans and removed the HST from Remembrance Day poppies. The people of British Columbia are hoping the Conservatives will listen to them too.
    The people of B.C. do not want the HST. This government ignored the people in small business and rammed through this tax. Last night, Premier Campbell said that it was the Prime Minister who drove the agenda to ram through the HST.
    Will the Conservatives stop ducking the truth and finally accept responsibility for their role in this fiasco?
    Mr. Speaker, decisions with respect to the HST are for the provinces to make. What the federal government can do is what we have done, which is to reduce the GST from 7%, to 6%, to 5%. What the NDP has done in this place every time we have reduced the GST is voted against it.
    This is the party that reduces taxes. The NDP is the party that likes to raise taxes, along with its coalition partner, the Liberal Party.
    Mr. Speaker, like it or not, last night the Prime Minister was outed. Premier Campbell said it was the Conservatives who forced B.C. to ram through the HST without any consultations. The Conservatives will not admit the HST was their agenda. They have been misleading their constituents. Now they are refusing to call a byelection in Prince George--Peace River because they are too scared to face the people of B.C.
    When will they finally admit responsibility for the HST and when will they let the people of Prince George—Peace River have their say?
    Mr. Speaker, when all else fails, the NDP can just make it up, which is what it did with that question.
    The decision on these issues relating to the GST are for the provinces to make. The Province of British Columbia made a decision. It is up to that government about what it wants to do with respect to the HST.
    The decision of this government was to reduce the federal sales tax, the GST, by two full percentage points.

  (1450)  

[Translation]

KAIROS

    Mr. Speaker, according to an internal memo, the Conservative government ignored advice from CIDA officials who recommended that funding for KAIROS be maintained. The decision to cut funding for this organization, which promotes human rights, was therefore a political one made for purely ideological and partisan reasons.
    How can the minister explain that the organization was good enough for CIDA for 35 years, yet all of a sudden, under a Conservative government, the organization apparently no longer did meaningful work?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I have clearly said before, our government instituted an effectiveness agenda, which means getting more value for the money that we are putting forward to support a number of worthy organizations that are making a difference for those living in poverty. That means there will be fewer children who are dying under the age of five. That means there will be more mothers who will survive childbirth. That means there will be more farmers who will be able to feed their own families. That means more children in school. That means more teachers who are properly trained.
    Canadian dollars are making a difference where they are intended to go.

[Translation]

Rights & Democracy

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government took control of Rights & Democracy on the pretext that it was poorly managed. However, the forensic management audit of the previous administration still has not been made public.
    By refusing to release the report on the alleged abuses, is the minister not confirming that the financial issue was just a pretext to take control of Rights & Democracy and to impose an ideological shift on it?
    Mr. Speaker, Rights & Democracy is an independent organization that is funded by the government and is charged with promoting human rights and democracy internationally. The Deloitte & Touche audit was requested by Rights & Democracy, which has received the final report. My understanding is that the board of directors has come to a decision and is ready to make it public.

[English]

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, here is the Conservative government's shameful record on crime: a more than 50% cut in funding to the National Crime Prevention Centre; a failed promise to fund 2,500 more police officers across the country; and an abysmal record in moving its own crime legislation through Parliament, including a two and one-half year wait to address auto theft legislation so important to Manitoba, and a Prime Minister who prorogued Parliament three times.
    When will the Prime Minister take responsibility for the delays and failed promises?
    Mr. Speaker, it does not surprise me the member does not check her facts at all. No government has done more to support victims in this country than this Conservative government has done.
    Mr. Speaker, I am hoping you will give the member another question so she can get on her feet and explain why she gutted the bill on conditional sentences to ensure that people who commit arson in this country can serve their time in the comfort of their own home. Perhaps she could get up and explain that if she is so interested in fighting crime all of a sudden.

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, I am interested in all of the Conservatives' failed promises. It is more failed promises when it comes to immigration.
    Under an agreement achieved with the Liberal government in 1995, Manitoba welcomed more new Canadians than ever under its provincial nominee program. Since then it has been reported that the province has been asked to lower the limit on the number of people it welcomes under the program.
    Why is Manitoba being asked to do with less? Is this yet another example of what the senior minister from Manitoba thinks is more than its fair share?
     Manitoba has seen a fourfold increase in the number of provincial nominees going to that province under this government. When the Liberals were in office, Manitoba got about 2,000 provincial nominees in a year. Now it is over 10,000. Manitoba represents about 3% or 4% of the country's population but is getting 30% of the provincial nominees.
     When it comes to immigration, this government is delivering for Manitoba.

  (1455)  

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, Corporal Stuart Langridge served proudly, with distinction, the Canadian Forces in both Bosnia and Afghanistan. From his time in Afghanistan, he began to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder that tragically led to his death by suicide in 2008.
     What should have been a time for honouring his sacrifice and grieving his loss has become for his family two and a half years of bureaucratic hell and indignity. It is shameful that Mrs. Fynes, a grieving mother of a proud soldier, should have to come all the way from Victoria to Ottawa to publicly seek justice after the Minister of National Defence and the CDS have known about this for months.
    Mr. Speaker--
    Order. The hon. Minister of National Defence.
    Mr. Speaker, first I want to extend my sympathies to the family of Corporal Langridge.
    I want to set the record straight. I learned about this matter this morning and as a result, I have instructed senior officials at the Department of National Defence to be in direct contact with the mother of Corporal Langridge.
    We intend to address this situation in a timely fashion. This is unacceptable. We should never refuse access to members of the military or their families when addressing these important matters. We will move post-haste with compassion and respect to address this matter to the best of our ability.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister needs to meet with her.
     It is because of what has happened to families like the Fynes and veterans like Sean Bruyea that a national demonstration has been planned for November 6 for people to demonstrate their concerns over the treatment of those who have served our country. We have heard reports of RCMP officers, Canadian Forces members and DND employees being told by their superiors not to attend these demonstrations.
     Will the Minister of National Defence assure Canadian Forces members and civilians that it is perfectly okay for them to attend this demonstration in civilian attire to show their support for the concerns raised?
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure that members of the military who wish to attend any public demonstration at any time are protected by law and perfectly able to do so.
    What I would like from the hon. member is some acknowledgement and some respect for the members of the Canadian Forces by supporting the important initiatives that we have taken to improve both their places of work and the equipment with which we are affording to protect them. All of the efforts that we have made to support the men and women in uniform have been singularly opposed by the member and members of his party. Every time there have been votes in this House, he has voted against them.
    Mr. Speaker, in 1996, under the former Liberal government, tax relief that in effect existed for the Royal Canadian Legion when it acquired poppies and wreaths was eliminated. That took money away from the legions to support our veterans and their programs. When veterans and legions raised the issue with the previous Liberal government, nothing was done.
    As a member of the Royal Canadian Legion and a proud son of a veteran, I am heartened that our Conservative government not only has listened but has acted. Could the Minister of Finance please inform the House of what our government announced today to support our veterans and our local legions?
    Mr. Speaker, in advance of Remembrance Day, our government is taking an important step to support the great work of the Royal Canadian Legion on behalf our veterans. Effective for this year's purchases and going forward, a 100% rebate will be provided for sales taxes paid when the Royal Canadian Legion purchases its Remembrance Day poppies and wreaths. This is the right thing to do and the least we can do for our veterans and their families who have given so much for Canada's freedom.

Disability Benefits

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday in response to my questions regarding Canadians on long-term disability who are about to lose their benefits, we were led to believe that this issue is in the hands of the highest level of the government. Maybe that is the problem. For more than 215 days, the Prime Minister has been using his influence to block a bill that would help the sick and disabled stay in their homes.
    Will the Prime Minister just admit that he really does not care about these sick Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, that is absurd, wrong and ridiculous.
    We are working in the best way possible to deal with issues that involve long-term disability and the failure not of the individuals but of the companies they had worked for.
    That is why we are skeptical of the bill that the member supports because it actually would not help the people that she purports to care about.

  (1500)  

[Translation]

Quebec Bridge

    Mr. Speaker, six months ago, the House of Commons adopted a motion calling on the federal government to resolve the Quebec Bridge matter once and for all. The Quebec National Assembly unanimously, Quebec City, the Communauté métropolitaine de Québec, the Lévis chamber of commerce, the Quebec City chamber of commerce and even CN are all calling for the same thing.
    Why is it that the only people who are refusing to accept their responsibilities, who are hiding behind legal proceedings, who are abandoning the people to face this critical situation and who voted against the motion are the Conservative members, including those from the Quebec City region?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have been clear and people should be clear as well that the bridge to which they are referring is a bridge which CN says is safe. It has done an inspection on it. It claims that it is safe.
    There are some outstanding court cases between CN and the federal government on some other matters. Some of those court cases have to run their course.
    However, the travelling public can be sure the bridges are safe.

International Co-operation

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians need to know that reason and not ideology dictates which foreign aid and development NGOs receive public funding for their work abroad.
    After hundreds of hours of meetings and glowing evaluations, four years of funding was approved for KAIROS but someone hastily wrote the word “not” before the word “approved”. With literally the stroke of a pen, the aid effectiveness agenda of the minister has lost all credibility.
    Can the minister tell Canadians when she first knew that the Prime Minister's Office had deselected KAIROS?
    Mr. Speaker, I have a responsibility that I have been honoured to have been given by the Prime Minister. Our cabinet and our government work together.
    What we want to do as a government and a party is to make sure that our international assistance is making a difference in developing countries. That means getting results for people who are living in poverty. That means actually making a difference, seeing results and making sure we are having an impact.
    With the leadership that we have shown on maternal and child health, we will see a difference. We have garnered the support of all--
    The hon. member for Niagara West--Glanbrook.

North Korea

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are concerned by North Korea's ongoing reckless and aggressive behaviour, including the sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan in March.
    We are also deeply disturbed by the ongoing human rights violations and overall humanitarian situation in North Korea.
    Earlier today the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced new sanctions and diplomatic actions against the North Korean regime.
    Could the minister elaborate on the actions our government is taking with respect to North Korea?
    Mr. Speaker, this morning we were pleased to announce that the government has adopted a controlled engagement policy toward North Korea, limiting our bilateral contact with that regime to certain topics of Canadian interest, such as regional security concerns and human rights.
    In addition, Canada will impose tough new sanctions that will target the Government of North Korea while allowing humanitarian assistance to still reach the North Korean people.
    These measures will send a strong message to the North Korean government that its acts of aggression will not be tolerated by this government.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, volunteer firefighters are critical in protecting lives and providing fire safety in small communities like Simcoe--Grey.
    On average, each volunteer gives 443 hours of service, the equivalent of 60 workdays a year. Small communities are under severe financial stress. Replacing these volunteers with paid staff is not an option. One solution proposed by firefighters across the country is for a tax credit to help offset their personal costs.
    Will the government stand up for our brave volunteer firefighters with a $3,000 non-refundable tax credit to help address the problems of retention and recruitment?
    Mr. Speaker, emergency service volunteers do receive a $1,000 tax exemption for amounts received for their duties, and that includes emergency firefighters, of course.
    That said, we listen to the concerns of volunteer firefighters across the country and take them under review.

  (1505)  

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, there are two specific points I want to raise in anticipation of the work going on this week and the balance leading into next week. The first question I would like to put again, I think it is the second or third time, to the government House leader is, can he inform the House and Canadians when he intends to bring the government's second budget implementation bill to the floor of the House of Commons to have it debated to give opportunity to all members of the House of Commons to respond to the government's priorities going forward?
    The second question, more specifically, simply is, when is the government intending to bring the next opposition day to the floor of the House of Commons?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly in the course of my comments I will answer both of those questions. We will continue debate today on Bill C-49, the preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act.
    Tomorrow we will call Bill C-36, the consumer product safety bill. Since it was only reported back from committee today, we will need to adopt a special order, which I will propose after my statement. This is a bill that will help protect children, help protect families, and I think it speaks incredibly well of all four political parties that they put politics aside and are seeking speedy passage of the bill. So I would like to thank everyone in all parties for their support on this important initiative. It is a good day for Parliament.
    On Monday, we will continue debate on Bill C-47, the second budget implementation bill. I know the member opposite has been waiting for this and I hope he will have the opportunity to speak to this important piece of legislation.
    That would be followed by Bill C-49, the preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act; Bill S-2, regarding the sex offenders registry; Bill S-3, the tax conventions; Bill C-41, strengthening military justice; Bill C-48, the protecting Canadians by ending sentence discounts for multiple murders act; Bill C-29, safeguarding Canadians' personal information; and Bill C-30, on the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Shoker.
    On Tuesday, we will call Bill C-32, copyright modernization. At the conclusion of debate on the bill, we will call Bill C-48, protecting Canadians by ending sentence discounts for multiple murders. Following Bill C-48, we will return to the list for Monday, starting with the budget implementation act, which again speaks to one of the member's questions.
    On Tuesday evening we will have a take note debate on honouring our veterans and I will be moving the appropriate motion in a few minutes. I think it again speaks well that we are having a take note debate. I know the member for Vancouver East joined members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party in supporting this.
    Thursday shall be an allotted day for the New Democratic Party, an opposition day as requested by the House leader for the official opposition.
    Therefore, consultations have taken place among the parties and I am pleased to move:
    That a take-note debate on the subject of the courageous contribution and service to Canada by Canada's Veterans take place pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, on Tuesday, November 2, 2010.
    The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

Bill C-36  

    Mr. Speaker, I do have a second motion, as I mentioned earlier. There have been discussions among the parties and I think you will find there is unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion. I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, be deemed concurred in at report stage and, when a Member from each recognized political party has spoken to the motion for third reading of Bill C-36, or when no Member rises to speak, the Bill be deemed read a third time and passed.

  (1510)  

    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, during question period, my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre asked a question of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. I understand that the minister wants his place in the sun and wants to leave a legacy, but he said something completely wrong. He said that the Liberal government at the time did absolutely nothing for Manitoba, and he tried to take credit for the skilled worker program between the governments of Canada and Manitoba.
    Not only did the Liberal government initiate that program, but yours truly signed it, Mr. Speaker.
    I would like the minister to make amends, acknowledge that he made a mistake, and apologize.
    Mr. Speaker, I think that is a matter of debate. It is not a point of order.

[English]

    Order. The minister knows he has to speak from his seat in the House.
    Sorry, Mr. Speaker.

[Translation]

    I think that is a matter of debate. It is not a point of order. That said, the member does not know what he is talking about. We were not talking about the skilled immigrant worker program; we were talking about the provincial nominee program. This government has increased the size of the program tenfold. Manitoba in particular is grateful for the great strides that have been made in immigration as a result of the leadership of this government, and particularly the leadership of my predecessor, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.
    Mr. Speaker, that is what I was talking about, provincial nominees. We started with 10,000, and that was done by a Liberal government. So we will do our homework together.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to express my disappointment to you. When the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons was appointed by the Prime Minister, he told us he was mandated to restore a certain decorum to this House. For the past two days he has been doing exactly the opposite. He is the troublemaker causing all this disorder. I think he is being totally irresponsible. He is causing trouble by making misrepresentations about associations that do not exist.
    For the past two days, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has been suggesting that the hon. member for Sherbrooke attended a meeting of the RRQ, the Réseau de Résistance du Québécois, which is absolutely not true. Today—this is extremely offensive—he tried to make a connection between a statement about the FLQ by this network, to which the hon. member for Sherbrooke does not belong, and that we agreed and that we condone what the FLQ did during the October crisis, which is false. I have taken the opportunity, in this House, to make a statement to reiterate the importance of the letter signed by René Lévesque in the Journal de Montréal, expressing the sadness felt by all Quebeckers.
    I find this outrageous, especially since the only video he made reference to was filmed during a march to honour the memory of the Patriotes of 1837-38. That is a statutory holiday in Quebec. A motion was moved in this House to recognize the importance of this event in the history of Canada and Quebec. Activities are organized in a number of Quebec's cities to celebrate this holiday. I am calling on the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to apologize and I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that this does not happen again.
    I can understand that yesterday perhaps the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons slipped back into his former role as minister of transport, but now that he has greater responsibilities, he should understand, once he is reined in, that what he is suggesting is not true, that the association between the hon. member for Sherbrooke and the Réseau de Résistance du Québécois is false. He should behave himself.
     I am calling on the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to apologize and I am asking you, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that this does not happen again.

  (1515)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let me say at the outset that I have great respect for the hon. member for Joliette and his impressive work on behalf of his party. I would like to go over the issue as he has raised it because I think it is an important one.
    I will say at the outset that the Bloc Québécois repeatedly, over the past two and a half weeks, has tried to imply a criminal association, with organized crime, with criminal activity, with the Mafia, with the Hell's Angels, to a number of members of the public, including one member of the House, a minister of the government. If the hon. member wants to talk about associations and connections, I think it is only fair that, as we say in English, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
    I will state what I said. I quoted a newspaper article, and I have it here. I raised questions yesterday and quoted a newspaper article by the well-respected journalist Denis Lessard, which appeared in La Presse on October 19. He spoke of how the hon. member for Sherbrooke, whom I believe to be an honourable person, attended an event that was organized by members of the FLQ.
    I did not say organized by the FLQ or on behalf of the FLQ. As a matter of fact, there are a number of members of the RRQ, which is really the neo-FLQ. The RRQ's constitution, its manifesto, states that it aims to rehabilitate the combatants of the Front de libération du Québec.
    I would be pleased to table this in the House. The hon. member opposite is advertised as a speaker at an event put on by the RRQ. I am happy to table that in the House. He has participated in events organized by the RRQ in the past. I am pleased to table a photo and a link to YouTube where he is addressing.
    In fairness to the hon. member for Joliette, it is, as he said, la marche des patriotes le 24 mai, which is organized by the RRQ, I am told. I am very happy to table these two documents in the House.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have before me the comments made by Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. I would first like to point out that the march to commemorate the 1837-1838 Patriot uprising takes place on National Patriots Day, a statutory holiday in Quebec. I do not see anything subversive in that. Our member for Sherbrooke attended the march, which is completely legitimate. That has nothing to do with the statements made by the Leader of the Government yesterday and today. The office of the member for Sherbrooke tried to correct the error in Denis Lessard's article.
    I would remind the members that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons asked the following question: “Mr. Speaker, the question is clear: did the Bloc leader approve of one of his Bloc members attending a cocktail party organized by the FLQ? Yes or no?” That has nothing to do with what we are discussing. That is completely false. I would like him to apologize to the hon. member for Sherbrooke and the leader of the Bloc Québécois.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am fully pleased to correct the record that it was not on October 2 that the hon. member for Sherbrooke attended an event organized by the RRQ. It was in fact on May 24.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, May 24 is National Patriots Day, which is celebrated everywhere. There are even people here in Ottawa who celebrate it. Frankly, it is completely ridiculous and, I believe, a false association.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I say with great respect to the hon. member for Joliette, and I do have regard for him as a parliamentarian, that he talks about association. I am talking about an association.
    I seek to remind the Bloc members that they have talked about associations, that somehow someone had dinner or had a drink at a restaurant owned by so-and-so, who once met so-and-so or sat beside so-and-so on a bus once. He has said that about association.
    I would like to say very clearly that I make no suggestion that the marche des patriotes is somehow subversive or anything of the kind. What I did say are the facts. I am told that march was organized by the RRQ. This is a quote. The RRQ's aim is “to rehabilitate the combatants of the Front de libération du Québec”. I think that is regrettable.

  (1520)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is just sad and pathetic. Perhaps the minister is feeling cornered and is trying to create a distraction because he feels trapped by the detailed and provable questions asked by the member for Terrebonne—Blainville and the Bloc Québécois leader.
    I responded to his question clearly yesterday, No, I did not go to the meeting he referred to. I was not there. And I found out that Denis Lessard was not there either.
    How can he say that I was there when I was not? I could swear on the Bible.
    The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is being intellectually dishonest. He is doing the work of the RCMP, which hunts for terrorists in a patriots' march.
    It is unacceptable to say such things in the House, things which are not proven and that he is unable to prove. Earlier, I watched a video that someone filmed of the May 24 Marche des Patriotes on YouTube. No subversive speeches were made.
    The leader needs to apologize and check his sources. This shows a total lack of responsibility, professionalism and even honesty on his part.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I chose my words very carefully. I have stood in the House and corrected the date, October 2, with the date of May 24.
    The member opposite says it is pathetic. He says the government obviously must be very uncomfortable. I suggest, in all fairness to the member for Sherbrooke, who I know to be an hon. person, that if he does not like some unfair associations, perhaps they should look at the strategy and the really regrettable and deplorable attacks made against the Minister of Natural Resources.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not think that fingers should be pointed at me just because I am asking questions. I would ask you to call the member to order. I will not stand for this.
    I did not see or hear anything. The problem here is that there is obviously a disagreement over the response given by the minister to a question asked during question period.
    As all of the hon. members know, the Speaker has no authority over the content of answers given by a minister or parliamentary secretary in response to a question asked during question period.

[English]

    I note that there is a motion currently under study before the committee on procedure and House affairs dealing with question period. If members wish to have a discussion in the committee about the content of questions or answers and giving the Speaker some authority in respect of either, they can have that discussion in the committee and come back with recommendations to the House.
    The disagreement in the House today centres on facts, which are not within the jurisdiction of the speaker. They arose out of question period, where it was suggested the answer was inappropriate, but over which the Speaker has no authority.
    Accordingly, I think the matter is not one I am able to deal with as a procedural matter in this House at this time. I suggest we leave the issue.

  (1525)  

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans wants to raise a point of order about this.
    Mr. Speaker, this is another point of order. It would appear that the Bloc Québécois members are asking you to apply a double standard. During her cut-and-dried statement moments ago, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville provided an excellent example of that double standard.
    About 15 minutes ago, the opposition members criticized the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism for not being at his seat when he spoke in the House. He was a few feet away from his seat. There was a point of order, and he was obliged to return to his seat.
    Then, when she made her statement, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville was about 10 seats away from her assigned seat, but that was okay. The Bloc members are always trying to get away with a double standard in the House. They are always so self-righteous. Just now, we even heard threats of a witch hunt to find people in the party whose views are not politically correct.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not want to get involved in their debate, but I have an important request to make of the government House leader.
    I understand that debates can get heated, but on behalf of Pierre Laporte's family members, who do not appreciate the incident being used as a diversionary political tactic or for any other purpose, I would ask members of the House not to play politics with the memory of Pierre Laporte. His family and his children have suffered enough.
    Mr. Speaker, first I would like to apologize for losing my temper a few moments ago. However, I would also like to add that I will never, ever allow a member opposite to point his or her finger at me because I asked a question that the member did not like. I call that intimidation and making a threat.
    No, I was not in my seat. However, I will not be intimidated and threatened in that way just because I am a woman. Earlier, the member, whose riding I do not know and who was seated beside the parliamentary leader, wagged his finger at me and said that I would not be asking any more such questions. I will not tolerate that.
    Mr. Speaker, henceforth, I am asking you to provide some protection for female members of Parliament here in this House.
    I am not quite sure. The problem is that such things happen from time to time in the House. I have seen it often over the years that I have spent here and other members have also witnessed it. This must not happen all the time, but it does happen from time to time.
    I believe we had a discussion this afternoon. I suggested some things that can be done to somewhat resolve these problems and I encourage discussions about this matter at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. All members are certainly entitled to attend these meetings and to make suggestions to the committee members.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    The hon. member for Papineau had the floor before question period, and he has about seven minutes left for questions and comments.
    Since there are no questions, we will resume debate. The hon. member for Abbotsford.

  (1530)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is great to get back to matters of substance.
    It is an honour to have the opportunity to rise today in support of Bill C-49, an act to prevent human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system.
    Canada has a history and a tradition of welcoming immigrants who wish to start a new life here. On a per capita basis, we now welcome more newcomers than any other country, nearly a quarter of a million last year alone.
    Through the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, introduced by our Conservative government, we have committed to resettle 2,500 more refugees living in refugee camps and urban slums. This is a source of pride for our country and a reflection of the generosity of our nation. It is part of our national character.
    Unfortunately, Canada's immigration system and our generosity have become a target for human smuggling operations. The arrival of the MV Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady in a period of less than 12 months clearly demonstrated that human smuggling networks are extending their reach to our borders. Our intelligence indicates that these voyages, organized by criminal syndicates, will continue.
    This form of illegal commercial migration is dangerous and exploitive by nature. The journey of these migrants is treacherous, and every year people around the world die in human smuggling operations.
    The ringleaders of these smuggling operations are ruthless profiteers. They are vile, despicable criminals who consider their passengers to be little more than cargo. Those profiteers cause misery and suffering, and risk the lives of those they purport to be helping. Human smugglers and those on board their vessels also provide financial support to dangerous international criminal networks.
    Many who use these types of smuggling networks are economic migrants. When they use this unlawful behaviour to arrive on our shores and then claim to be asylum seekers, they abuse our country's generosity.
    These operations are unfair to those seeking to come to Canada by legal means. Millions of people around the world aspire to come to our great country, and it is gross unfairness to allow others to jump the queue through illegal means and co-opt those who use legal means to come to Canada.
    Those who use illegal means take up space and resources in our immigration system, which should be focused on those who have applied to immigrate legally. They deprive true refugees of the opportunity to be granted protection in this great country of ours. When genuine refugees use these illicit networks to get to Canada, they put themselves and their families at risk.
    If we do not take strong action now, more vessels will arrive in Canada and more lives will be put at risk. We cannot just stand by and allow these exploitive operations to continue. We must act now.
    We must act to avoid a two-tiered immigration system: one tier for legal immigrants who wait patiently in the queue for the privilege of coming to Canada; and a second tier for illegal migrants and queue-jumpers who pay human smugglers to get them to the front of the line.
    Canadians have reacted strongly to these unwelcome arrivals. More than 50% of Canadians polled agreed that this type of migration is unacceptable. These events have put at risk public support for immigration in general and refugees in particular.
    We are a generous country. We welcome immigrants and refugees from around the world. I would hate to see our national support for that program decline because illegal migrants and smugglers are abusing the system.
    We need to maintain public confidence in our immigration and refugee system, since immigration will soon become the source of all our labour-force growth and a critical part of our economic growth.

  (1535)  

    The legislation before us will help prevent abuse of Canada's immigration system and goodwill. It will help us prevent human smuggling operations. It will provide disincentives to would-be migrants, so that they do not place themselves at the mercy of human smugglers on these treacherous ocean journeys.
    I would like to outline how this legislation will do just that. First, the law before us proposes to introduce mandatory detention for up to one year. This will allow for determination of identity, admissibility, and illegal activity. As I am sure most members of this House are aware, people who arrive on these vessels often do not have proper documentation, whether by design or not.
    We do not know who they are or whether they might have been involved in criminal or terrorist activities. We as a government need to have time to confirm their identities. This becomes particularly difficult in the case of mass arrivals, as we have recently experienced, when hundreds of people arrive at the same time without the proper paperwork.
    As we are now learning, some of the migrants onboard the Sun Sea have already claimed refugee status in other countries such as the United Kingdom, and have already been found not to be in need of protection.
    Detention will allow us to verify and confirm the identities of these individuals. This way we can determine whether they are admissible to Canada, or whether they are, or have ever been, involved in illegal activity.
    That is fair and reasonable, and Canadians agree with us. Our main priority is to protect the safety and security of Canadians. We need to know who these people are before they are released into our Canadian communities. This is the least that Canadians can expect of their government, and we are delivering on that expectation.
    Second, this legislation aims to introduce several disincentives to stop those who are tempted to use this perilous form of migration. A key disincentive is that those who arrive as a result of a designated smuggling event will not be able to apply for permanent residency for a period of at least five years. This applies whether they are found to be in need of protection or not.
    During that five-year period, persons found to be in need of protection would be restricted from travelling outside Canada and would be unable to apply for permanent residence to Canada through other means. As a result, they would not be eligible to sponsor family members into Canada or to become Canadian citizens during that time.
    For those who received protected-person status, reporting requirements would be put in place. This will allow our government to be able to initiate proceedings before the Immigration and Refugee Board to remove their protected-person status if there is evidence that the individual no longer needs protection. This would apply, for example, if the individual returns to his country of origin or if conditions in that country change.
    If someone is able to return safely from a holiday to his country of origin, the country that he claims to be fleeing, then he is clearly not in genuine need of Canada's protection. In such cases, the existing legislation would allow the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to make an application to the Refugee Protection Division for a cessation of the individual's protected-person status.
    These legislative amendments would ensure that while an individual is subject to a cessation application, his application for permanent residence would be suspended and would not be processed until a decision is made on the minister's application. If the Refugee Protection Division upholds the minister's decision and the application for cessation, the individual would be removed from Canada.
     An individual would be allowed to apply for permanent residence only after five years, if he is determined to be in further need of protection. This means that people in this category could apply for permanent residence only if no cessation proceedings had been initiated as a result of changed country conditions, or if they had not returned to their country of origin, or if the minister's application for cessation was not positively decided by the IRB.

  (1540)  

    If there is evidence that the protected-person status was obtained fraudulently, if, for example, an individual has directly or indirectly misrepresented or withheld material facts relevant to his situation, then the Minister of Public Safety would be able to apply to the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB to revoke the individual's refugee protection status. If the original decision is cancelled and no other grounds for protection remain, the individual would be removed from Canada.
    Once in force, the bill would also eliminate access to the Refugee Appeal Division for people who want to review a negative decision on their claim. While they would still be able to ask the Federal Court to review a decision, they would not benefit from an automatic stay of removal from Canada while their application was being considered.
    These measures that our government has proposed are firm but reasonable. They are exactly what Canadians have been calling for. They would maintain our Conservative government's goal of faster protection for those who truly need it and faster removal of those who do not. This will be achieved through the balanced refugee reform act, the bill before us today.
    To further discourage individuals from coming to Canada as part of a smuggling operation, we are also taking measures to ensure that these individuals have access to fewer Canadian benefits. Canadians enjoy health services that are among the best and most generous in the world.
    Currently, asylum seekers, resettled refugees, failed asylum seekers awaiting removal, detained individuals, and victims of trafficking are all provided with temporary health care coverage through the interim federal health program.
    Under the changes we are proposing, the scope of services provided under the IFH program would be reduced for those who arrive in Canada illegally by way of human smuggling. They would receive only basic coverage, including medically necessary care and the immigration medical exams that refugee claimants must take upon their arrival in order to ensure that they do not pose a risk to public health or safety.
    We need to ensure that illegal migrants are not receiving health coverage that is more generous than that offered to hard-working Canadians.
    Canada is a fair, generous and welcoming country for those who want to work for a better life, but our generosity should not make us a target for criminal activities such as smuggling operations. In order to avoid becoming a target, we must remove the incentives for people seeking to come here by way of human smuggling.
    These measures before us today are right. They are fair. And they are necessary. We know that Canadians agree with us. Poll after poll shows that Canadians want firm action taken on human smuggling, on cheating the system.
    Cultural groups across the country have endorsed our measures. The Peel Tamil Community Centre stated that it was “pleased to see the government taking action to deter human smugglers who charge victims enormous sums of money”. The Taiwanese Canadian Association of Toronto said, “We need to know the identities of these individuals before they are released into Canadian society. That's why we also support the mandatory detention of illegal migrants who use human smugglers”.
    Our government is committed to protecting the integrity of our immigration and refugee system. We are committed to upholding our laws. We are committed to protecting the safety and security of Canadians.
    Taken together, the changes we have proposed will help safeguard our fair and generous immigration system. Moreover, they will help ensure that Canada is not an easy target for criminal organizations involved in human smuggling.
    As I mentioned before, this legislation has won the support of virtually all key stakeholders. The legislation has resonated with Canadians at large. In fact, recent polls show that 60% of Canadians want to send ships back without allowing them to land on our shores. Yet we know that as a compassionate country we have to leave room for legitimate refugees. It is the abuse of the system that we object to.

  (1545)  

    Canada is a compassionate country, but because we are compassionate and generous, there are people around the world who will abuse that generosity, and Canadians do not tolerate abuse. In fact, I am shocked to hear the opposition parties in this House actually criticizing and opposing this bill. It is very clear that they are still not listening to Canadians.
    We have consulted broadly with Canadians on this bill and we know that Canadians support it. My invitation to the opposition parties is to join us in doing the right thing for Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that I come from a riding that is one of the most ethnically diverse ridings in all of Canada.
    One of the things I heard loud and clear this past summer was that people wanted us to stand up for Canada once and for all. People wanted to ensure that our immigration system and our refugee protection system put Canadian interests first. They wanted to ensure that the people who needed help were getting help but they did not want us to see our system and our generosity abused.
    I wonder if the hon. member received the same type of reaction in his riding that I received in my riding, not just from Canadians who have been in this country for many years, but also from new Canadians who came to me and said that we needed to do something about this, that we needed to ensure that people are not abused and people are not taken advantage of by human smugglers.
     I wonder what reaction the people in his riding had over the summer. I wonder if he could, in some way, explain to me and to this House how any of the members of the opposition could possibly, at this point in time, be contemplating going against what I think are the wishes of most Canadians, certainly the wishes of the people in my riding, to finally, once and for all, put Canada first when we are talking about immigration and refugee protection.
    Mr. Speaker, I, like my colleague, come from a riding that is very diverse. In fact, I believe the city of Abbotsford is the fifth most diverse community in Canada on a per capita basis.
    Do members know where the support for this legislation is the strongest? It is in the immigrant communities. They understand because got to Canada by following the law. They are law-abiding citizens. They do it right.
    What they object to are the human smugglers around the world who see Canada as a soft touch and then have people pay them, in some cases, $50,000 per person to smuggle them into the country and essentially, by extension, jump the queue that many other immigrants are prepared to legally immigrate to Canada through.
     It is disgraceful that we would have opposition parties in this House actually opposing these kinds of reforms. It is so puzzling to me that the opposition parties, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc, still are not listening to what Canadians are saying.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.
    It confuses me when I hear certain things from the opposition on occasion. This bill deals with both sides of the equation: the smugglers and those who are taking advantage of the situation. I relate it to those who are thieves. A thief will steal something and sell it to somebody else. Those persons who have those stolen goods are still breaking the law by having stolen goods.
    Why is it important that this bill deals with both the smugglers and those who are being smuggled? If he could possibly answer that question, I would really appreciate it.

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague from Burlington is a great MP who gets the issue, unlike members of the opposition parties who continue to whine, criticize and oppose what Canadians are demanding we do.
    He is right. It is a matter of balance. First, we are going after the smugglers themselves because they are part of international criminal organizations. They earn millions upon millions of dollars every year on the backs of the human suffering of others. We are targeting them and imposing much tougher penalties on them if they do arrive in Canada. We are also working with international authorities to interdict them before they ever leave their countries of origin. We are working very hard with our domestic and international authorities to ensure we go after human smugglers before they ever get here.
    Second, we are also going after the customers because many of the customers are actually illegal migrants. They are coming to Canada for purposes other than true refugee reasons. They are coming here because they may be economic migrants or they may be escaping criminal or terrorist activity elsewhere.
    This is a balanced bill because it goes after the human smugglers and their customers.
    Mr. Speaker, given my colleague's experience in law, his extensive international experience and the different cultures that he interacts with on a regular basis, would having a law that appears to clamp down on human smuggling enforced increase or decrease the interest of qualified people who would like to immigrate to our great country?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has touched on the key element of this bill, and that has to do with the integrity and credibility of our refugee system in Canada.
    If legitimate immigrants and refugees from around the world think that if they use legal means to get to Canada to make a new life here that they will be in a long lineup and others will be jumping the queue by cheating, then they will be discouraged. Those very people who are prepared to be law-abiding will not come to Canada and we will be stuck with those who abuse the system.
    In Canada we want immigrants and refugees who are in need of genuine protection. We want them to be here in Canada, build new lives for themselves and become law-abiding citizens. This bill would ensure that the credibility and integrity of our refugee system is maintained.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, unlike my colleagues from Oak Ridges—Markham and Abbotsford, the riding I represent is not known for the number of immigrants it welcomes, or for being ethnically diverse. On the contrary, Lévis—Bellechasse is a typical region in Quebec. The people are proud and happy to welcome immigrants, but they are against organized crime groups that smuggle migrants in ahead of everyone else and, even worse, exploit them.
    I have a quote from Antoine Malek, the president of the Association of the Coptic Orthodox Community:
    It is time for Canada to send a clear signal to the world to discourage and fight human smuggling. That is why the Coptic community supports new federal legislation to protect human life, Canada's security and the integrity of Canada's immigration policy as a whole.
    My question for the member is clear: will this bill allow us to preserve the integrity of our immigration system by preventing the entry of illegal immigrants, and by ensuring that organized crime groups do not bring people to Canada illegally?

  (1555)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am actually the son of an immigrant. My mother came to Canada through legal means after the second world war and, boy, was she grateful for the opportunity to come to this country. My mother and father are law-abiding citizens who worked hard to build a life for themselves and to provide us children with an education knowing that Canada was a country that gave their children so much opportunity.
    However, that opportunity is dependent upon the rule of law and the assumption that every Canadian citizen and permanent resident will follow the law and be a law-abiding citizen.
     This legislation is absolutely critical to ensuring that tradition carries on in Canada, that the refugee system has credibility and integrity.
    Mr. Speaker, my question is much simpler than the tough questions put to him by his own caucus colleagues.
    Could the hon. member tell me how many refugee claimants he has met with, how long has he talked to them, how many sponsored refugees has he called as friends and how well does he know them?
    Mr. Speaker, it would take me hours to regale the Liberal member with all the individuals I have met with over the years who have been refugees and who have been immigrants There are some 30,000 immigrants in my riding alone.
    What we need to focus in on is collaborating within the House.
    I have a question for that member. Why will he not support this legislation that is demanded by Canadians? Polls show that over 60% of Canadians want our government to get tough on human smuggling. We are doing that. Why is that member not on side?
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-49 today.
     During question period today, the member for Winnipeg South Centre asked a question about the nominee program in Manitoba. This has been a very successful program, developed under the auspices of the NDP under former premier Gary Doer's leadership in 1999. In fact, the program became so successful that the province of Nova Scotia approached Manitoba to study how to replicate it. I hope and believe Nova Scotia has a similarly successful program at this time.
    In answering the question, the minister made the point that Manitoba's population represented 10% of the population of Canada and that Manitoba received 30% of the nominees under the program. He pointed out that while the Liberals were in power, Manitoba only received 2,000 nominees per year. Under the Conservatives, it gets 10,000 per year. We like to think that the 10,000 we get in Manitoba each year is a result of the initiatives of the Gary Doer NDP government, which proved to be so successful.
    I also want to point out that the Minister of Immigration has provided some of the only true leadership we have seen from his government in the last five years. In June he brought all parties in Parliament onside with an agreement on Bill C-11 to take care of the mess in the immigration system, which had developed over the years.
    The argument rages still in the House as to whether the mess was in fact left by the Liberals or created by the Conservatives. The NDP has stayed out of that fight. They can continue to fight it out as to who is ultimately responsible, but the fact is it is a mess. As I said, the minister was able to get all party agreement in June to make big improvements to the immigration system.
    What the minister did is something the government should replicate. There is a schizophrenia in the government. It seems to be incapable of going back to the last long period of minority government, the Lester B. Pearson years in the sixties, when we got a new flag, we amalgamated the armed forces, we brought in medicare and a lot of other things. The Conservatives have literally wasted five full years trying to fight its way through Parliament with no real effect.
    However, there is one good example with the minister getting all parties together and getting a new immigration act in place. The government should be doing more of that. Instead, what has it done? The Conservatives have done some polling, and we are very clear about that. They keep mentioning the 65% public support for Bill C-49.
    The bill is not being promoted by the Minister of Immigration. It is being promoted by the Minister of Public Safety. Once again, the Minister of Public Safety trumps the Minister of Immigration and the polling of the Conservative Party. The appeal to public sentiment is the overriding concern behind this bill.
    We feel we should give some time for Bill C-11 to be implemented in the country. It was only passed in June. It has not had time to do what it has been designed to do. Now the government is trying to amend the bill before it even has its current legislation in place.

  (1600)  

    It is interesting to note that Bill C-49 has 12 clauses that deal with refugees. Only five clauses actually deal with smugglers. I think all parties in the House agree that human smuggling is a very bad thing and that it is a criminal enterprise. In fact, the government points out that it is a criminal enterprise that spans the globe, that human smugglers facilitate for a profit individuals entering Canada illegally. The figure of $50,000 is being mentioned.
     Our party is totally opposed to this. We think the government should take measures to root out these smugglers. We know the smugglers are not here. The smugglers are in foreign jurisdictions. Therefore, the government has to bring in legislation to deal directly with an effort to get at these people in other countries. It has indicated it is dealing with that issue through diplomatic means and policing means. It is going to have to deal with the police in Thailand, in Southeast Asia and other countries around the world.
    It has also been pointed out that there already is a life sentence under the immigration laws of the country for smugglers. Therefore, what is this all about? Why is the government bringing in a new bill with a graduated penalty system and minimum sentences when we already have a life sentence for people involved in this kind of activity, if they are caught.
    By charging large sums of money for transportation, human smugglers have been making a lucrative business out of facilitating illegal migration around the world, often counselling smuggled persons to claim asylum in the country in which they are smuggled. Human smuggling can take place in many forms, including by boat.
    Once again, as has been pointed out by many members, the government is making a separation as to how people arrive in Canada. It will deal with people who arrive by boat differently than people who arrive by airplane.
    In terms of human smuggling undermining Canada's security, large scale arrivals make it difficult to properly investigate whether those who arrive, including the smugglers themselves, could pose a risk to Canada on the basis of either criminality or national security. The public security minister made pronouncements about criminals and terrorists, speaking about the recent arrival of the boat, stirring up public sentiment against them. The people who are brought in will be investigated. That is the whole idea behind what we are doing right now.
    In addition, the government wants to give the Minister of Public Safety more powers. I do not know if that is such a good idea. In the short term perhaps with the current situation it might seem like the popular thing to do, because 65% of the people are against acceptance of the people on these boats. However, if we were to take it two or three years down the line and a boat load of people from another country showed up, perhaps the polling then would show that 65% were in favour of the people staying. What is the minister going to do? What is the point of having an immigration department in the first place if the minister is going to be overriding it and making decisions along the way? That measure may be wise in the short run, but may not be wise in the long run.

  (1605)  

    The government also wants to make it easier to prosecute human smugglers, but it has to catch them in the first place and they have to be caught overseas. Foreign governments have to be involved in the process as well.
    I believe the government already knows who these smugglers are. The minister has indicated there are three or four groups at least in Sri Lanka that were previously involved in other criminal activities. These groups have now transferred their activities over to human smuggling. Half the battle is knowing who the enemy is.
    The bottom line is we should be enforcing our existing laws as opposed to dreaming up new laws to become more popular with the public.
    The government also wants to introduce mandatory minimum prison sentences on convicted smugglers. It wants to hold the owners and operators of the ships to account for the use of their ships in human smuggling operations.
    The government is ensuring the safety and security of our streets and communities by establishing, and this is a good one, the mandatory detention of participants for up to a year or until a positive decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board, whichever comes sooner, in order to allow for the determination of the identity, admissibility and illegal activity of a participant.
    We have some experience with Australia. My colleague from B.C. indicated earlier that he thought there were probably 20,000 refugees in the Australian system. I recognize it is a little warmer in Australia than here, but where will Australia put these people?
    The government has announced that it will spend $9 billion on new prisons in the country. Will the government use these prisons as detention centres? Is it the government's intention to put people into detention centres? That is one of the initiatives in the bill.
    The government hopes to reduce the attraction of coming to Canada by way of illegal human smuggling by doing several other things. It is going to prevent those who come to Canada from applying for permanent resident status for a period of five years.
    I may be running out of time quicker than I anticipated so I do not know if I will have time to get to all the studies that have been done.
     Studies done in England show that most immigrants do not have a clue of the rules of the country to which they go. They go to that country regardless of the rules. Are we expecting smugglers to start reading the new rules? What is the government going to do? Is it going to send the smugglers a list of the new rules and all the regulations that are promulgated through the bill?
    The government is going to hold a refugee back from permanent resident status for a period of five years should that individual successfully obtain refugee status. The individual will be prevented from sponsoring family members for five years. I will have a lot to say about that at a later point.
    The government is trying to reduce the attraction of coming to Canada by way of illegal human smuggling operations by ensuring the health benefits participants receive are not more generous than those received by the Canadian public.
    The government is enhancing the ability to terminate the protected person status of those who return to their country of origin for a vacation or demonstrate in other ways that they are not in legitimate need of Canadian protection.
    Another point raised by other speakers was whether the bill would survive a charter challenge.
    The government is planning to detect and deter human smuggling overseas through the appointment of a special adviser on human smuggling and illegal migration. That may be a good idea. I do not know who that will be and what he or she might do, but hopefully there will be a way of monitoring or getting some sort of report from this individual as to progress being made. We would not want to add onto a bureaucracy that produces very little results.

  (1610)  

    In terms of increasing the presence overseas through operational activities, diplomatic outreach, partnership with other affected nations and engagement with multilateral bodies, anything that can track down the smugglers and put them in jail is probably a good idea. I indicated that we already have life sentences for smugglers. If we apply life sentences and put them in jail, the House will have our full agreement on that, but the preponderance of the bill actually deals with the migrants themselves and that is what the government is looking at.
    Bill C-49 is called the “preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act”, but it is really basically an act to attack and punish refugees. As I indicated before, we would rather attack the criminals, the traffickers, the smugglers, and not the victims. The bill will concentrate absolute power in the hands of the minister to decide which refugees will be subject to these measures, with no clear definition of irregular arrival. It can apply to any group of refugees, immigrants or visitors.
    Also, as I have indicated, Parliament already approved a strong and balanced refugee law a few months ago. The Conservatives should basically concentrate on enforcing Bill C-11, the law we have right now, and allow genuine refugees to stay and deport the bogus ones as quickly as possible. We are fully in agreement with that. Once again, we were part of the development group behind Bill C-11 in the first place.
    We have also long called for the refugee determination process to be sped up, because it has taken too long in the past, and increased RCMP resources and secure immigration status of trafficked and smuggled victims so that they can testify against the real criminals. That was a concern that was indicated as well, that even if we do catch the smugglers, what are the realistic chances that witnesses would be willing to testify against them? We need to make sure that we have RCMP resources and proper safeguards to make sure that when we do catch these people, the witnesses are able to testify against them to put them away for those long sentences.
    Our members have indicated that the bill will hurt legitimate refugees and those people who help them. It will prevent refugees from bringing their spouses and children to Canada for at least seven years, and women and children will be detained for at least one year, repeating the previous sad history of punishing and interning refugees and their children.
    Bill C-49 is basically very deeply unfair to refugees because it fails to honour obligations under Canadian and international law, and other speakers have mentioned that. It deprives individual cases from the independent review that justice requires. It will involve huge costs and unnecessary detention. We talked about the $9 billion in prisons that the government will have sprouting up across the country over the next little while. It will do nothing to prevent human smuggling. More laws will not catch the smugglers who are overseas. Mandatory minimum sentences will not deter them.
    Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, smuggling is already punishable by life imprisonment and mandatory minimums have been shown not to work as deterrents. If we already have the possibility of life imprisonment, then how much further do we want to go in this area?
    I recognize that my time is up and I would be willing to answer questions from members.

  (1615)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member from the NDP's speech, but it is completely naive to think that smugglers would not read the new rules. Does he think that smugglers and thieves, criminals, do not understand why they come to Canada, that they just pick Canada because it is on the map? They know what our present rules and regulations are regarding refugee status and how they can get away with smuggling human beings here. They know what the rules are. They know what is available to them.
    It is important for us to send the message through this bill, to make changes that would make the mass immigration of refugees much more difficult so that we are not a solution for the customers they are smuggling here.
    The member is upset about the potential one-year detention when they arrive here. We deport 14,000 people a year. We have about another 10,000 or 15,000 people who we do not even know where they are. They were refused refugee status and they are out on the lam. Why would we allow people coming to Canada in boatloads to be on the lam for a year until they get approval? We need to stop this now.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member is very excited about his bill. The fact of the matter is that we are certainly determined to track down the smugglers. That is the real problem here. However, we do not believe that we should be punishing the migrants in the process. Let us put whatever efforts we can into tracking down these smugglers.
    I already indicated several times that we have the availability of life sentences under the current legislation. Let us put some effort into finding the smugglers.
    I have given the government credit. It has made some initiatives to deal with foreign governments and it has appointed a special adviser on human smuggling and illegal migration. Let us give this system some time. The problem did not just develop yesterday.
    Australia has been dealing with this problem for several years. It has had detention systems and they do not work. The migrants keep coming.
    The government, once again, wants to do something that does not work.

  (1620)  

    Mr. Speaker, somewhat in response to the last question and answer, I wonder if the hon. member knows whether these smugglers actually ever come on these boats. Do they come and have a sign on them that says, “I'm the smuggler”? Or is it more likely that they are actually somewhere in a third country, operating an odious business that takes advantage of vulnerable people?
    I am questioning whether this act could actually help track down those smugglers or do anything with them, really.
    Mr. Speaker, I invite the member to read the minister's speech on this subject. I thought I heard him say that they knew where the smugglers were or who the smugglers were, that there were three or four organized criminal gangs from Sri Lanka that had been involved in the drug trade and in arms deals and whatnot in the past, and now that the war has more or less come to and end they have decided to embark on human smuggling. So if they know who the people are, it should be a simple matter of having our police forces, and so on, talk to the foreign governments and try to do something about it from that end.
    Clearly, the problem is over there. That is where the boats are being bought. That is where the boats are. They are recruiting the people over there. The money is being flushed through bank accounts in these foreign countries. So it is incumbent upon these countries to help us catch these smugglers. The government itself has indicated that it is going to appoint a special adviser on human smuggling and it is going to increase the presence overseas through operational activities, diplomatic outreach, partnership with other affected nations, and all those other great things that would catch these smugglers. So I invite them to get out there and catch them.
    In the meantime, we have Bill C-11, which we put together through a co-operation of all of the parties in this House. Let us get it implemented and let us deal with the backlog in the immigration system.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona touched on a point that I would like him to address.
    In the recent Auditor General's report, the Department of Immigration came under serious criticism from her. A couple of points she specifically raised was that in many cases the department itself had no standards for service delivery, it had no comprehensive way to monitor performance, and out of 35 different service areas, only four had service targets. In addition, they provided no consistent way to communicate with clients who were waiting.
    On the one hand, we have this bill that is before the House, but on the other hand we know that there are serious problems within the department itself. Again, this is not about the employees in that department. I would argue that they do not have the tools and resources they need to adequately do the job.
    I wonder if the member could comment specifically on the problems within the department itself in terms of quality and service standards.
    Mr. Speaker, clearly the Auditor General has a unique way of investigating and determining what is or is not going on in government departments. None of those observations would surprise me in the least.
    We had a system that was broken under the Liberals and was not appreciably improved under the Conservatives until the last little while when the current minister was able to get all the parties in this Parliament together and come up with a big success. Trying to get four parties in this House to agree on anything is almost impossible, but he did the impossible. He got everybody together. Everybody here was reasonably happy.
    I listened to all the self-congratulatory messages here in June and I was really impressed. I thought it was too bad that we could not do this again. This is what we did collectively in this House through the auspices of Bill C-11.
    I do not know why we do not just leave it there and work on this smuggling issue separately through law enforcement and the procedures currently in place. Again, we have life sentences for smugglers.
    Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is, why do they not listen to Canadians? Why are they blindly going ahead and not listening to Canadians?
    Canadians do want to have this problem solved. It was one of the major things I heard this summer. Canadians were not happy.
    Canadians also said to the NDP, Bloc, and Liberal coalition, “no” to a carbon tax. Now they are trying to sneak through the carbon tax, through a litigation bill also known as Bill C-469, a Trojan Horse that wants to bring a carbon tax on every Canadian. It is a job-killing tax.
    I would like to know from the member why they do not listen to Canadians. Why do they try to do things sneakingly? The message from Canadians is clear. Why are they not listening to Canadians?

  (1625)